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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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."

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.

~ 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.

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

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.