Sunday, April 26, 2015

God's Presence with Joseph

It won't be long....
While the bright sun is busy burning off the crisp morning chill, Brad greeted us with his usual greeting, "I'm grateful you're here this morning." Today's message is designed to underscore once again that God's blessing is available to each one of us.

-- Next Sunday is our Spring Rummage Sale at Grand Lake Comunity Center/Twig Town Hall & Fire Hall. Sale will run from 9:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. But don't be afraid to come early as there will also be a Car Wash and Bake Sale as a fundraiser for the CHIC Youth Conference.
-- Men will meet Saturday night May 9 to prepare next weekend's Mother's Day breakfast

Chuck introduced our time of worship with a few words about home, followed by a passage from the book of John. "I am the bread of life." The trio then sang a Gaither song about feeling at home in the presence of Jesus, followed by the easy-listening tune "Jesus we just want to thank you." Then we all joined in singing a few pieces from the silver songbook.

The offering taken we turned to the Lord in prayer.

God's Presence with Joseph

Brad began by reading from Genesis 48:10-22, a story about the blessing of Joseph's sons. Why did Israel bless the younger rather than the older? What is God's blessing about?

The sermon today was a series of insights taken from the story of Joseph, and though the message was easy yo listen to and nourishing to the soul, it was not as easy to write about today, and these notes are but a pale shadow of the real thing.

Birth order continues to have relevance in some ways, but in the ancient world it was even more significant. It was an agricultural world, and the firstborn got the land because it was important to keep the land together for future generations.

Yet over and over in the Old Testament, things didn't work that way. For some reason it seems the youngest got the blessing. Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, etc. The stories continue to have surprising twists.

In our modern world who seems to be the ones with the blessing today? Athletes who make 12 million a year. Smart ones, attractive ones, wealthy ones are the ones who seem "blessed" in our current culture.

But God's ways are not our ways. And Joseph spends a lifetime learning about the meaning of God's blessing. He began at the top of heap, being his father's favorite son. Joseph had a beautiful coat of many colors that set him apart from his brothers, and it only made his brothers jealous. But it gets worse. He tells his brothers about a dream his had in which his brother's sheaves of wheat bowed down to his. And another dream in which even his parents bowed down to him. They were more than indignant. The brothers so hated him they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery where he ended up in Egypt.

Despite no evidence of Joseph's character being humble and worthy of blessing, God is with him. Joseph did not earn God's blessing. Yet God did not abandon him there. In fact, everything Joseph put his hand to in Potiphar's house was blessed.

Unfortunately, in a turn of events in which he kept his virtue, he ends up in prison. It would appear not to be a blessing, yet God is at work in him, and present even there.

Brad then interjected: This week I want you to ask God to reveal Himself in your hard place.

While in the prison Joseph notices others there and is no longer self-absorbed as in his youth. He has softened, become more sensitive.

We picked up the story in Genesis 39 and 40. Joseph was given a wife in Egypt. Joseph's wife was Egyptian so that Joseph's sons were half pagan. But when Israel blesses Joseph's sons in Genesis 48, the meaning is this... everyone is available to blessing. Old, young, insider or outcast.... it makes no difference to God.

Brad noted that when the Promised Land was split amongst the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph was not one so allotted. Instead land was split for his two sons, Ephraim and Manassah, parcels for the half-tribes.

The blessing is for everyone, and at any time. Brad closed with the story of Jesus on the cross, blessing one of the thieves on the other cross. God was there. And Jesus was in the tomb, He went in confidence that God would be there to bring Him back.

* * * *
After the service we had a semi-annual meeting in which we discussed status of the new church building, budget matters, and elected new officers. The most exciting news was that we are ready to transition into the new building at the end of May. are you ready?

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Brad welcomed us and noted that his wife Brooke will be giving the message today.

Next Sunday, our semi-annual meeting after the service will assemble after the service.
Shanda is going to Haiti and is seeking women's dresses to bring. See Brooke.
VBS will be here in less than 60 days. You can register online.
John said that the softball season is here. Sign up in the back of the church.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a piece based on the theme 'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus. Brad and Darlene led us with three songs from the hymnbook, beginning with Trust and Obey.

After the offering Brooke invited all the youth and children to the front for an object lesson about trust. The youth group demonstrated a "trust fall" in which a volunteer stands up high on a chair and chooses to fall backward, trusting that the others will catch him or her. Trust can be scary, but our God is sure. The verse Brooke had us all learn was from Proverbs... "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and He will direct your path."

We then had a time of prayer. Brad and Darlene sang a duet to prepare us for the message.


Today's message was a well-crafted weaving together of three separate stories designed to illustrate the theme of trust. One strand of this message was about climbing a mountain in Colorado called Eagle Peak in the Sangre de los Cristo mountain range. The second strand was an object lesson involving rocks of various sizes and sand. The third strand included insights from her own life experiences. The whole of it formed a message that would have been much better experienced in person than you will get here.

Having grown up in Colorado Brooke always had a good sense of direction because you always knew where West is because it was always toward the Rockies. How different to be here in the Midwest where roads wind around lakes and you never know which way you're going. Even when you are on a Northbound road it is sometimes going south as it curls around our many lakes.

How well do you trust? Brooke pointed out that our current world teaches us to trust no one, to be self-reliant. Trust is "a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something."

When I think of trust, Brooke said, "I think of assurance, confidence, reliability."

Brooke showed some photos of Eagle Peak where she went to camp in her youth. When we're young we think of ourselves and try to make a go of it on our own. She then poured white sand into a clear glass vase to illustrate what she felt she could accomplish in her own strength. It filled nearly half the vase.

Her story of growing up begins with a story of when she was in seventh grade. Her parents got a divorce and she was told to make a decision who to go with. She was given an hour, and she had to make the decision by herself. At the end of that hour all she could bring with her had to fit into a large plastic bag.

Then she returned to the story of mountain, and the challenge of climbing this mountain by ourselves. Self-sufficiently can get you so far, but even when you reach the peak alone, it's not as rewarding as it might have been because you have no one to share your victory with.

Often we let people into our lives but not really letting them wholly in. We go through the motions of relationship, and people are part of our lives, but this could be more fulfilling. It's a shared experience that brings us together.

Brooke showed photos from the mountain climb she did later with a group of people when she was eighteen. The mountain climb begins with winding through a forest, obscuring the view of your destination, but essential. Then, we pass the tree line. Crossing the meadow is beautiful even if it takes energy. After we climb across the seemingly endless meadow we finally reach the boulder field. Then we reach the top only to find out it is the false peak. It's not the real peak, which is still ways up there.

A lot of times in life we reach false peaks, have our hopes dashed and sometimes even give up.  But when we're in a group we carry one another along. Everything is easier.

To illustrate the others in our lives Brooke pour in a bowl of small rocks the size of limestone gravel. The vase itself was on a pedestal surrounded by about eighteen large rocks. By the time the sand and small rocks were in the vase, she could only fit two large rocks into the vase.

To the amazement of all (or at least to my amazement) when she emptied the vase and put the large rocks in first, followed by the small rocks, the sand sifted into the cracks and the vase still wasn't even full (see illustration on the right above.)

"What if we reverse our thinking? If we start with God first," she said.

Psalm 18:2 states, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

I am confident that God is who He says He is, that we can rely on Him, trust Him.

When I climbed that mountain, it was a lot more fun to do it with our friends, to share the experience, to help one another when we stumbled or had blisters.

Brooke applied this to our church building project, that by doing this together we have a stronger church body.

We all come in different shapes and sizes. And together, in Christ, we can do more than we could as individuals apart.

I trust God with my life, but also with my family, my church, our community and our world.

Brooke noted that mountaintop experiences can be exhilarating, but  we all live in the valley of reality. Nevertheless those mountaintops give us perspective. We trust God that He is bigger than we give Him credit for, and we let Him in.

She ended by noting that Eagle Peak, as she stated in the beginning was located in the Sangre de los Cristo mountain range, which translated means "The Blood of Christ." God is our rock, and as we trust in Him we will soar as eagles. It is by the blood of Christ that we have this assurance in Him.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lord of the Harvest

Wonderful weekend weather made it possible for a lot of us to work in our gardens, garages and other general projects around the house yesterday. With the sun shining into our sanctuary it appears another similar afternoon awaits us. Pastor Brad welcomed us enthusiastically, as is his custom. Our God is a God who meets needs, and it's a privilege to be in His presence today.

Brad began with some thoughts about driving: "What is it that drives your life?"

Chuck shared an update on the new church building as there's been some great progress. Anyone who wishes to come up and do some cleanup on the exterior these next two weeks would be most welcome while the electricians and other professionals address internal projects.

The music team will be at Edgewood Vista at 3:00 this Tuesday. If you wish to join us to help turn pages in hymnals or help be part of it, you're invited.

The Trio led our worship this morning, leading off with "Till the Storm Passes By" followed by several songs from the new songbook.

There were many prayer needs plus a story by Mick about a young man who was killed while texting and driving, and died with his cell phone in his hand.

The Trio sang "Until Then" as the offering was taken.

Lord of the Harvest

Last week was Easter, and we talked about the fact that it was the greatest act in all the world. The Resurrection was the greatest event in history.... and should be the driving force in our lives.

For many people it's money, ambition or fear that drives us; it could be ego, security or something else... and that something else is what I want to look at.

Same question applies to our church. What drives our church? Budgets? Spiritual consumerism... or something else.

Pastor Brad then read Matt 9:35-39. When Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion on them. Not judgment, no superiority.... All kinds of people came to Him, blind, lame, untouchable, broken... "harassed"... They were like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus went everywhere telling people the good news. "You can have a fresh start every morning. You can have a hope." But the scale of human need was so great that it broke His heart.

Jesus turned to His disciples and said, "Do you see it?"

He wanted them to understand that we are not here for us. People are alone, people are afraid. But we could see a harvest. A harvest of righteousness in which marriages are being restored, character restored, broken lives restored.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few. Too often we spend more time worrying about food going bad in our refrigerators than we do about the great needs in our community and world. Jesus needs workers, not consultants.

In John 9 Jesus said, "As long as it is day we must do the work the Father has given us."

Jesus was on a mission, and He invited the disciples to follow through and be a part of it. (Matthew 10:1)

Brad told the story of a ship that was designed to be a troop carrier that ended up being a luxury cruise ship, never used for what it was intended. This is a danger in the church, missing the mark as to what we were designed for.

Today, if Jesus went out into our community what would he see? And He would ask, "Friends, do you see what I see?"

Brooke was called forward to share about our youth group going to the Twin Cities for Friday and Saturday event call M.O.V.E. (Mission Outreach Venture Experience.) This was a rich experience for the dozen who went and participated in both group worship and outreach with 20 other churches.

"There's nothing like the church when it shows up. It's not extravagant, it's just being there with a heart of compassion," Brad said.

We're not called to judge it. We're called to serve it, nor scold it. Jesus is the one who saves. Love them, for in so many ways we are side by side with hurting people, in the marketplace and in the streets and wherever we find ourselves.

There are way too many sheep without a shepherd.

Today, the fastest growing religious group according to polls is "no religious affiliation." It used to be 7% and today it is 20%.

We have a mission. There is a harvest out there waiting to be found.