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.

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


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?

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.


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."


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.

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.