Sunday, May 31, 2015

Animal Kingdom

Today was the first service in our new building. The sky blue, the sun beaming and a very full parking lot, the buzz in the building almost deafening when we arrived.

Brad began with his usual, "I’m so grateful you’re here today" but his introductory remarks were longer than usual as he continued, "for this inaugural service of our new building. This is a 'soft opening' so any number of things can go wrong this morning."  Brad expressed his gratefulness for all the people who helped make this happen. Then he shared that people from all over have been watching us and a missionary friend from Japan sent this message: “Brad and Brooke… just wanted to say we’ll be thinking of you. It must be so exciting to see how God has opened doors for you along the way.”

"One of the things it reminds me of is when my dad gave me the keys for his car the first time," Brad noted. "There is an excitement and a responsibility associated with the privilege."

He went on to say, "We’re so far ahead in our capital campaign because of your generosity, and not just giving but the time and talents…. Labor donation, land donation… over $400,000 in donated time and services. There are so many to thank, but I'm especially thankful for the Building Committee… not just hours but years, debating, decision-making, negotiating." Brad singled out Walt for special recognition, now nicknamed “The Bulldog.” And then there was an acknowledgement of how the Design Team contributed so much.

Brooke noted that there is also a new church website:

Other announcements included this one, that Monday there will be another cleaning day at 5:30 in the old building.

Darlene and Brad sang an introit to transition us into worship… “In This Very Room.”

Chuck read a passage from Psalm 118: Give thanks to the Lord…. After three hymns of the faith an offering was taken and we entered into a time of prayer.

Karen read the Scripture passage today from John 17:14-18 with a piece of special music that they also sang back when the new building project was initiated. Gwen, Chuck, Darlene, Brad, Carol and Ken…. “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Animal Kingdom

Brad opened his remarks by noting that a lot of things people say that are assumed to be from the Bible actually are not. "All things must pass" is a common one…. Not in the Bible. "God helps those who help themselves" is another we hear all the time. Not in the Bible. "Be in the world, but not of the world," is another.

Pastor Brad said he's not sure he agrees that this is what Jesus taught and he cited the following prayer of our Lord:  “As You sent Me into the world, I sent them into the world.”

"The world" refers to our planet sometimes, but sometimes other things… For example, “God so loved the world” means the people of the world. And then there is another way the word is used…. the areas of life where sin swirls and dwells… Jesus says that His disciples ought to be different from those who drift without any purpose in the world system.

The question is, in what ways should we be different from the world. It doesn't mean that we're meant to be weird.

Jesus said His plan was not for His followers to avoid the world, not to live in Christian bubbles, listening to only Christian music and read Christian books. Rather, His desire was for us to be in the midst of the world, living out the values that set us apart.

Jesus said, "Just as My Father sent Me, so send I you.” That is why we’re on this planet.

Brad shared how as much as he enjoys watching a good sports program, he would rather be a player than a fan. And that’s what we’re called to be, players in God’s plan. When we go to our work places, or whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we are to exemplify His life.

Then he shared the verse upon which the title of this sermon is based, Matthew 10:16. “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”

In other words, I want you to go out like sheep. Humility, vulnerability…

Wise as snakes… discerning, creative ….

Doves exemplify innocent, redeemed and transformed people.

At the close we shared in a special communion service.

It was a very special service.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Vision for the Future

Now only two weeks away.
Grey misty morning, but no dampened spirits here as we gather to worship with the people of the Word. Brad smiles while tuning his guitar as he gets ready to welcome us. "Hey, good morning!" Then he reminds us that this is one of the last two services in this building as we prepare to move across the street.

Next week worship will be at 9:30 a.m.
In two weeks we will begin worshiping in our new facility. This is a transition period and we would benefit from those who can help carry things across the way to the new building.
Next week is the last week that we will be collecting shiny paper. We have successfully raised the $7500 needed to send our kids to CHIC.  
VBS is coming quickly and we still need volunteers to sign up for our various needs.

Brad stated he would be talking about the way forward today. Even though the candidates are already coming forward for the 2016 election, the purposes of God will not be advanced or thwarted by whoever is elected. God has a plan that transcends the plans and politics of man.

After leading us in a number of hymns and songs Brad led us in a time of prayer.

A Vision for the Future

Pastor Brad opened by asking how many of us remember the three words that make up our mission statement. This would be the object of our discussion today. The three words are: Connect, Grow and Become.

Community, not isolation. A community that is not just assenting to intellectual truth, We want to become the incarnation of Jesus here in this community.

Brad cited The Screwtape Letters (Great book, worth reading) about a demon and his underling in a dialogue on how to keep an individual from become a fully committed and growing Christian.

Jesus said, "I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The second half of this, unspoken, is that hell may not prevail but it will certainly try to derail us.

The evil one will whisper in your ear many lies, primarily to get us to just accept our boundaries, our limitations and don't expect too much because it will just disappoint you.

The Bible is full of stories about people who walked with God, who experienced God's presence even when in Eqypt and the Wilderness. The idea of being connected to God is available to anyone and everyone. That is why His name is Emmanuel, "God with us."

Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches." We're connected to Him. It's all about being connected to Him.

The evil one says, "You can't do that."

The biggest way the evil one gets to us is when we get used to living as if He isn't there, taking God for granted.

What God wants for us to experience are rivers of living water rushing through our souls. All too often we're content with a trickle. Yet Jesus says the Spirit of God is available to us without limit, without measure. Anyone can come to Jesus, can be connected to Jesus, and can experience those rivers of living water.

Isaiah 26:3 says "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Another translation of this verse states, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."

This is the path to life, being connected to God, our thoughts reaching out to Him continually. Brad stated that more than anything he wants God to cleanse us and free us and give us this kind of life.

The second word is Grow. The enemy is out to trip us up on this one, too. "A little gossip never hurt anyone. Being judgmental is OK," the enemy says, "because they deserve it anyways and you can see that so clearly." Mercy is the ruling principle in the Kingdom of God.

What God aches for us is to do is to get beyond just being "fine" and unruffled, but to actually go deeper, get out of our comfort zones. Becoming who we're meant to be may include some messy moments. It's easy to play it safe, but Jesus didn't play it safe and he expects the same from His followers.

Becoming is not some kind of "strategy." If we walk with God and stay connected to God, we will experience His power and become what He wants us to become. Trying to change the world is not changed by our trying to change the world, but by we ourselves connecting to God and thereby discovering our supernatural influence. People who walk with God change the world.

"May Heaven bestow its best blessings on this house and all who inhabit it," is a prayer someone once hung in the White House.

And as Jesus taught: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Communion Sunday
"Good morning!" Pastor Brad said. "How grateful we are for mothers and for the love of mothers." This morning he would be talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her own faith journey.

~ This Friday we're going to begin the final cleaning across the street beginning at 9:00 a.m.
~ Paula shared that she brought the handmade blanket to the Lighthouse this week.

Chuck and Darlene were back from their trip to the Smoky Mountains in the heart of the Bible Belt. While on their vacation he shared that they went to the Creation Museum, and saw how at the heart of our faith is trust. The trio then sang Worthy of Worship, inviting us to stand and join them on the second and third verses. Brad asked God to bless our tie together and the trio then sang another lovely classic, "Yes I Know."

Today we sang from the silver songbook.

During the offering the trio led us in an upbeat "Heaven On My Mind." Afterward we shared some of our prayer needs and blessings, including Leonard's announcement that he is going to be a grandpa.

Mother's Day

Brad began by saying he wanted to tell "mom" stories and spent time this week trying to find a suitable representation of the sacrifices mothers make, because being a mother means making sacrifices. Ultimately found himself looking to the story of Mary.

Mary's story begins with an angel coming to her to tell her she will be with child and despite the issues this will cause she says yes. This kind of event would have a bad outcome normally. She was engaged to a man, but made pregnant not by this man. The usual outcome would have been stoning. She did not know what the end of the story would be, but she accepted this fate and trusted the messenger of God.

The next scene Brad shared is found in Luke 2:43ff. This is the story of the boy Jesus getting separated from His parents when they had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. On the third day they find Him back at the Temple with the teachers of the Law. Mary and Joseph were real parents, and had the anxiety of real parents who lost their child.

When they find Him, these are the first words recorded that came from the mouth of Jesus. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

This experience must have caused pain and confusion for Mary. There was going to be a distance between her and her son.

The next story is the wedding at Cana. As John 2 tells it, Mary comes to Jesus because they have run out of wine. But His reply is surprising. “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replies. “My hour has not yet come.”

She turns to the servants and instructs them to do what He says, but again there's a gap between her and her son.

Some of what Jesus did must have made no sense to Mary at all. The Messiah was supposed to cleanse Israel of sinners, but He was a friend of sinners. Messiah would liberate Israel from Rome, yet he healed the son of a Centurian.

On one occasion, Jesus was teaching in a crowded place and his brothers and Mary were outside. He was told this, and He replied, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?"

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

It's a profound thing that we are all invited to be an intimate part of the family of God.

On another occasion a woman cried out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!"

He replies, "Blessed, rather, are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

How do you think Mary responded to Jesus' teaching when He made statements like this?

51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53

And yet, she believed. She trusted her God. Mary was the only person who was there at the beginning, at the manger, and at the cross at the end. She knew depths of pain that we can only imagine as she watched her son dying a brutal death. Yet when she stood there looking up at Him, He said "Here is your son," referring to John. She was not abandoned. In the family of God no one is left alone. We are all taken care of in God's family. And to John He said, "Here is your mother."

Mary went from being the Mother of Jesus to being a follower of Jesus, something greater... with an invitation for all in the great plan of God for each of us to be part of His family.

After the message we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Jesus Is Ready

Brad welcomed us warmly on a lovely, warm Sunday morning. Yesterday's car wash and rummage sale at Twig Town Hall raised a lot of money for the new building. May 31 we'll be worshiping across the street, and final prepping has been fun and exciting.

1. "We enjoyed the semi-annual meeting so much that we are having another after the service today," Brad said. He wasn't kidding though. There has been an offer made on our current buildnig and we need to vote about whether to accept this offer.
2. Brooke excitedly shared that VBS is coming and the theme is Everest: Conquering Challenges with God's Mighty Power. An insert for Volunteer opportunities was included in today's bulletin. VBS will be June 15-18 this summer.

After a time of worship, during the offering,  Brooke came forward to share a video of what God is doing through our Covenant churches throughout the world. "We believe the local church is God's basic strategy to impact the world." 850 Covenant churches, 2.5 million people impacted. Brad wanted us to see where some of our resources go.

Jesus Is Ready

The message is based on the story of a simple woman who anointed Jesus' feet, found in Luke 7:36-50.

Brad began by noting that Jesus was always getting invited to parties. Jesus must have been likeable, fun to be with, Jesus was a blessing to be with because He loved people. That's who He was. People longed for His company.

Jesus enjoyed being in the presence of all kinds of people, including sinners and outcasts. This made religious leaders mad, but Jesus said, "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but it's the sick."

In this story Jesus was at the house of Simon, a pharisee. It was crowded, with all kinds of smells. But at one point an uninvited woman showed up and came in, bringing yet another fragrance.

The Scripture describes her as a woman who was habitually immoral. Likely she was a prostitute.

So she hears that Jesus will be at this house and she shows up, though it is certain that she was not welcome. If you've ever been the victim of small town gossip you know what courage it took for this woman to show up here.

She showed up with an alabaster jar of perfume, and it is clear she had somehow met Jesus previously and had a powerful encounter with the Lord. It doesn't say who she was, but some say it may have been Mary Magdalene. When she arrives, she's here to explode with gratitude.

In His presence she comes unglued, tears pouring from her, sobbing. She falls at Jesus' unwashed feet, washing his feet with her tears. She undoes her hair and washes His feet, kisses His feet, then pours the contents of this jar onto His feet. The perfume fills the room with its fragrance.

As this woman does all this, Jesus doesn't say, "What's this woman doing here? What's going on here?" Rather, He was basking in the presence of a changed life.

Another smell in the room was the smell of judgmentalism. Simon sat there disgusted, thinking, "If this man were a prophet, He'd know what kind of woman this was." This woman was dirt.

In verse forty, Jesus responded to this man's thoughts. Jesus knows our thoughts, too. In response to Simon's thoughts Jesus tells a story.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”


43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Jesus makes it clear it isn't her love that saved her. And He doesn't downplay the seriousness of sin. But her sins, which are many, have been forgiven. That's why she's crying. She knows she has been forgiven for so much. And you think you have so little to be forgiven for, and that's a trap all of us can fall into.

Simon knew the right words, but this woman understood profoundly the deeper truth behind these words: "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength."

What about you? Do you still find His grace amazing?

And your second question... how is your love for other people? Love is not a "strategy" for reaching the lost. We love people because God loves them.

We have to remember that we've not been forgiven for a little something. We've been forgiven for a lot.

When you know that you have been forgiven lavishly you begin to love lavishly.

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus has the power to clean any stain, to make pure any life. And we ourselves are made right with God when we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins.

The religious leaders grumbled, "Who is this who even forgives sin," but Isaiah already addressed this. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

* * * *

Pam Johnson led a meeting after the service detailing the offer that was made. The offer for $95,000 is being voted on. The offer is contingent on the purchase of their home. This will be an "As Is" sale. The council is seeking freedom to negotiate a few items that were discuss. The vote was unanimous.