Sunday, December 18, 2016

Shalom

Temps of minus 30 were seen on many thermometers this morning as the arctic chill of the upper atmosphere descended overnight on a crisp early winter morn. Music and warmth from the hearts of our church family soon dispelled the chill as we gathered here today. Christmas cheer spilled everywhere.

Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and began by sharing these announcements.

Announcements
--Christmas Eve Worship  4:00 p.m.next Saturday.
--Christmas Morning service will be in the Fireside Room and you are all welcome.
--If you are interested in becoming a member, contact Chuck, Pastor White or Pam Johnson.
--The Covenant World Relief Offering (soup cans) will be collected in January.
--Pastor Terry invited us to read a chapter a day in the new year, starting with the Psalms.

This being the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the Mehle family came forwad to light the advent candle.
After reading Isaiah 52:6-9 the candles were lit and a passage read about the meaning of this candle: Shalom, which is "Peace."

Chuck read from the Book of Matthew about the birth of Christ followed by a song -- beautifully performed by Chuck, Ken and Darlene -- about Mary and the birth of her son, "Mary Did You Know?"

Ed sang a medley about the Lord's birth in a manger as the offering was taken. This was followed by a time of prayer for needs in our church family.

Shalom

Introductory notes: Terry White began by thanking us for the many ways our church family serves our community. "It's a great thing to be a part of it." He also shared some of the things we're looking forward to in 2017, including two of the items noted in the announcements above.

Pastor While also invited the young people to share about their Holly Jolly experience. Hayden stood and shared how this touched him because the core of it is about giving. Another gentleman stood and shared how he was moved by it and how it gave him a fresh perspective on giving, and that it wasn't just for the kids. A third stood to share how it was exciting to be part of the youth group as they experienced the power of giving together.

God's invitation is to walk alongside Him and be part of what He is doing. When you enter into these kinds of projects there's a reason why we experience peace and feel inwardly "I'm on the right track. I'm doing exactly what God would be doing if He were here in this moment." When we align ourselves with the way God lives His life, it is good for our lives.

* * * *
Today's theme: Peace.

It's a tricky word. Peace to dictator means, "Do what I ask."
Peace to an alcoholic is when people don't call him an alcoholic.

But peace is not simply the absence of conflict.

Terry stated that peace is ironic. Peace comes through truth, but truth seldom brings peace.

Jeremiah 6:13-16 "They cry 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace."

What does peace really men?

Verse 16 is one of Pastor Terry's favorites....
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the Peacemakers." But peace has an ironic aspect to it. Peace comes through truth, though truth rarely brings peace.

The message today revolved around Ephesians 2:14-22. "For He Himself is our peace who has made the two groups one...."

It's not easy to be one, in part because we are so different.

In math, when you add fractions what you have to do is find the lowest common denominator. When it comes to our human existence, the lowest common denominator is this: Every single one of us has the same exact problem. That problem is sin.

If we have other things determine what is in and out, such as being united only if we like the same football team, or have the same age group.... these are limiters.

The passage in Ephesians 2 is about making two things one. Our lowest common denominator is Jesus. This is how we become one.

The word peace comes from the Hebrew word "Shalom." Shalom is a word that doesn't translate well because the word is a concept that is much more than peace. The word contains this sense of "Completeness" and "Fullness." That my life is healthy and full and whole, and safe. Shalom speaks of prosperity, rest...  and fully paid for.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men is something more...

Ephesian 1:22-23  I can't wait to be not afraid of the dark, to not be afraid of the future I don't know.

What does peace look like in your world?

Hope, Love, Joy and Peace are not based on circumstances. Jesus Christ is our peace. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Joy

On a snowy Sunday morn....

Important dates of note:
--Christmas Program this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Dinner to follow
--The following Saturday: Christmas Eve Service 4:00 p.m.
--Salvation Army Adopt-a-family: Sign up sheet on the information table.

Joy

A mom was preparing pancakes for her young sons. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their Mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, "Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait." The oldest boy turned to his younger brother and said, "You be Jesus."

Joy (According to Webster): A feeling of great pleasure or happiness.

There is a certain measure of this… There are events for which people in the Bible express joy. Marriage, birth of children, gathering of a harvest, military victory, deliverance from Egypt, return from exile, the restoration of Jerusalem, happiness associated with salvation and life in Heaven.

There are a variety of words to convey the same thought. Joy, gladness, mirth, rejoice, rejoice and be exceedingly glad. In the Old Testament there is the idea of being bright, shining that carries this idea of joy. When you see someone with Joy, what do you see.

• Amazing Grace: When we’ve been there 10,000 years
• Be Thou My Vision: High King of Heaven, When Victory’s won, May I reach Heaven’s joys
• Great is Thy Faithfulness: Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
• How Great Thou Art: When Christ shall come, with shout of acclimation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
• It Is Well: Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, even so it is well with my soul.

Along with many other qualities we associate with God, Joy is one of those qualities.
How do I know that? The Fruit of the Spirit. When you and I are attached to this vine of Jesus, we will bear fruit. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

These are qualities that God grows in us. They are His qualities, not a random selection of qualities separate from Him.

One of those qualities is joy. Now for some of us this seems problematic. I know people for whom an expression of Joy seems pretty easy. For me I was shocked that being a cynic wasn’t on the list of spiritual gifts. For me, I’ve been gifted by God with an ability to see things as they are, and to see where things need to be. If you’re a developer personality like me, joy seems to be harder to come by, because I can never be satisfied where I am, I want to get to some place I’m not, at some point you begin to lose, a sense of contentment, a sense, of thankfulness, you can begin to lose hope, and then peace, and joy seems like a distant memory as well.

The Christmas Story
Pastor White then read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. It’s hard to mention a character in those two chapters without hearing about joy, rejoicing or good tiding s of great joy. Joy has gone viral in the Christmas story, it’s contagious, it’s infectious, by the end of the Christmas passage joy has been on the lips, in the ears, or caused a physical reaction to almost everyone in the story, There shall be good tidings of great JOY for all the people. Luke is conveying a message that stands in stark contrast to the way his world sees things. This is a story of Joy and it is rooted in the story of Jesus.

To me it’s a lot like Pilate in the Easter story. Pilate is a footnote in the story of Jesus. If Jesus came to a different place or time, none of us would know anything about Pilate, we know him because we know Jesus.

Pilate is known because Jesus is on the scene. In the same way Joy in known because Jesus is on the scene.Here’s a lesson we learn about joy verses happiness.The joy in the lives of these people all falls under the category of being connected to Jesus. Happiness is fleeting, happiness is genuine, there is nothing better than a good enjoyable emotional response.

But joy, hope, love, peace these waters run deep in us. They are to be unshaken by circumstance. In moments when they are shaken, it’s a reminder to trust God more, know God more, yield to God more.

A couple of years ago we started singing a song with these words.”I’ve let my hope fail.” Those words really struck me as I was considering where I was at. I have some responsibility to choose hope, choose joy, choose peace, it all has to do with having Christ at the center of our hearts to gain his perspective about life rather than our own.

Increase your Joy
1. Count your many blessings. Choose how you see things. We live in a day where we love the dramatic tale of woe. Critic is actually a job title. If you got together with your friends, families or fellow church members and shared your joys how would that get received?
2. Find joy in other peoples’ joy!! Rejoice with those who rejoice.
3. Joy is found in the challenge of God’s Kingdom.

Hebrews 12:2 New International Version (NIV)
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. Joy is linked to obedience. John 15:9-13 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

You know that moment in your life when you know all is well and you’ve done the right thing in the eyes of God. This is a place where joy is born. All is well between God and I, reconciled, one, nothing between us.

What is a Biblical definition? To be honest, I haven’t really found a very good working definition. I think it looks a lot like happiness, I think there is a physical expression. A deadpan robotic statement of my joy in not convincing. But a real deep abiding sense of joy is a heart confident in God, satisfied in God, thankful to God, recognizes the blessings of God, lives in an unwavering trust of God, willing to do/go/say what God asks of me and has a deep sense that regardless of the circumstances of my life that all is well with my soul.

When Peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Don’t be afraid of laughter, it’s good medicine.

Standing on the Promises of God, not Standing on the falleness of News.

Where does happiness end and joy begin? Joy begins when the circumstances of our life can’t shake this internal quality.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Incarnate Love


Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us this morning. After a few opening remarks he noted that the Salvation Army would benefit from having children's clothes shared. New or slightly used clothes for children 5-9 can be brought to the church the next two Sundays.

The Brewers lit the Advent candle today and then we entered into a lively time of singing, beginning with Feeling Mighty Fine and closing with O Come, All Ye Faithful.

The light snowfall this morning reminded us that it's December here and the sanctuary is nicely decorated for the season. Important dates to remember this month include:
-- Due date for the St. Louis County Prison Ministry Cookie Donations is December 14. Please send your cookies in containers that do not need to be returned. RuthAnn Schelinder will make sure they are delivered.
-- The New Life Christmas Program is Saturday, December 17 at 4:00 p.m. with dinner to follow.
-- December 18 will be Sunday School cocoa at 9:00 a.m. with special music from the Christmas program during worship.
-- The December 24 Christmas Eve Candle Light Service is at 4:00 p.m.


Incarnate Love

Pastor Terry White began by telling a story about a man who was walking around in a field with a large butcher knife. The police called Terry to go talk with the man as an intervention in case something were developing. It turns out the man was purportedly using it to harvest mushrooms.

* * * *

"God so loved the world that He gave." Love is a word that is used in a lot of different ways. We love pizza and sports and puppies. If someone came to earth and heard all the ways people talk about things they love, what would be their conclusion about what love is.

Love is... patient, kind, doesn't envy or boast. I Corinthians 13 is a familiar passage that spells out the meaning of love and and its attributes.

God doesn't "have" love. God is love. Love is not a commodity that God stores in a warehouse in heaven. Nor is it something we can measure.

John in his first letter wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God...  God is love."

The truth is that we not only love God, but God loves us.

Terry then explained that the love that we share with each other is actually God's love flowing through us.

"Dear friends, since God so loved us we ought to so love one another. God lives in us and God's love is made complete in us when we love one another."

God's love is made complete when we take the love that God has poured out into us and we share it with others.

When children crawl into our laps we often feel like they are showing us love. But often it is because they themselves need love. When we show love and share love, those whom we love have the same need as these children. Because we're grown ups we don't say it.

Terry then took the butcher knife he brought to the pulpit and cut a large onion in half. He then pulled out the tiny heart of the onion and held it up. As he displayed it he compared it the kind of love a 7 month old knows... relatively undeveloped. He then produced the next layer and compared it to five-year-olds. The next layer from the center outward was compared to teen love, which is still immature. The next layer he compared to young adults and early marriage. Commitment is another layer of love that is another step in our journey of what it means to love.

Finally, in displaying the last layer comes, he shared loves full flower after a lifetime together. It's only later we fully appreciate what sacrificial love is about.

Philippians 2:3-8

Life is a journey in which we're figuring out what it means to really love.

G.K. Chesterton once spoke of the "furious love of God." Furious, Terry noted, is something of a strange word for love. When he investigated, he discovered that there are several definitions for the word furious. The fifth is this: A frenzy of being inspired.

Rich Mullins, a songwriter who was himself inspired by Chesterton, once wrote about the love of God with these words:

There's a wideness in God's mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God
Now I've seen no band of angels
But I've heard the soldiers' songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it's never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love

"I hope that you're caught in the reckless raging fury of the love of God," Pastor White said.

We ended the service by sharing Communion.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Expectations

(L to R) Emily, Pastor Terry, Joe & Megan led worship today.
Pastor Terry White welcomed us, and began by talking to us about the meaning of Advent, this time of year when we think about the meaning of Christmas and the coming of Christ. Hope, love, joy and peace are the themes during the four weeks leading to Christmas.

Announcements
--Salvation Army shoes and clothing items barrel is still in the hall outside the sanctuary.
--Ladies Bible Stud, Tuesday 10:00 a.m.
--Wednesday night dinner and youth groups resume January 11
--It's not too early to think about the Father-Daughter Ball the two weekends before Valentine's Day

The Ringger family came forward and lit the Advent Candle for today, the candle of hope. The prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah, our Hope, who would redeem the people from their sins.

Pastor Terry noted that though this is a message of hope for us, we can't help but be aware that much of the world remains in darkness and without hope. The Good News is that "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light."

What was it like in the time of Jesus when He was born? For 600-700 years the people of Israel had not had any freedom. It had been 400 years since God last spoke through a prophet to His people. Terry gave us a brief history lesson of this period, from Alexander the Great to the Seleucid Empire to the coming of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire gave a lot of freedom to the lands they conquered but dealt with people in the most severe manner should they cross them, cause disruption to the Empire.

In the midst of despair we need to be reminded that we are not alone and that hope shines brightest in the midst of darkness. This has been a reality all through history, even from the first days of the church.

After sharing these thoughts we entered a time of worship followed by some very special, special music featuring McKenzie during the offering.

Cheryl Borndal led us in a time of prayer for the various needs in our church family.

Expectations

Death has died, God has won. Hallelujah!

Hope and peace do not rely on circumstances.

Herod learned early in his political career that the way to make someone happy is to give them money. So to please Rome he gave them money acquired through taxes. Hence, Jesus frequently talked about taxes. Herod also divvied out land to people he liked, and the political injustice was the norm.

Financially powerless, the poor had been afraid to dream. They lived in a period of oppression. Israel had been oppressed for generations.

It was in this context of tyranny that many of His peers had hope that Jesus would overthrow their oppressors. These were the Zealots. It was not the approach Jesus had in mind.

What is your expectation? What would bring you hope? When you listen to Jesus, what do you hear?

The kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world.

Here are some verses about hope that were shared. You can look them up at BibleGateway.com.
Proverbs 13:12  "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Psalm 146:5
Psalm 147:11
Psalm 130:5
Where do you place your hope?
Jeremiah 14:22
Jeremiah 29:11
We then turned to the book of Lamentations, which begins with Israel's truly harsh sense of abandonment. Reading chapter three is heartbreaking, leading into... "He has broken my teeth with gravel... my splendor is gone, and all that I'd hoped for... I remember my affliction.... and yet, because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning...

But the Scriptures have much to say about hope, including Romans 15:13 and I Corinthians 13:13.

After reading each of the above passages, Pastor Terry ended by re-reading Lamentations 3:16-26
The Lord is good. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Faith or Fear

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 
Psalm 95:1-2 NIV

Announcements
~Salvation Army is looking for bell ringers
~Budding actors and actresses: We are seeking volunteers to participate in skits and sketches during worship. See Cheryl Borndal if interested.
~No Christmas program practice this Wednesday.
~We are adopting a family again for Christmas again this year, a mom and dad and two small boys.
~Thanksgiving day there will be dinner at the church for those who have no place to go or desirous of extra fellowship. 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Covenant World Relief soup cans will be collected next week.
~Throughout the month of November we are filling a barrel with shoes and new underclothes for needy in Duluth.
~Christmas is on a Sunday this year. The Christmas Eve service will be at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday the 24th.

Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and after announcements invited the children to help carry the shoeboxes to the front of the sanctuary for Operation Christmas Child.

After a time of worship the ushers came forward to take the offering. This was followed by a time of prayer.for needs in the church family and praises for all good things God have given us.

Faith or Fear

Pastor Terry White began by giving us a Covenant Park update. The camp is a great camp for young people but it has not been successful at covering costs to remain open year-round. The costs to operate the camp have been exceeding the revenue being generated by participation. Terry is chairman of the board at Covenant Park, hence his involvement in the center of this ministry.

* * *
Mother's Day is one of the busiest days of the year for police, primarily due to free flowing alcohol and families gathering together, often generating sparks. Anxiety and fears bring out tension... and frequently conflict.

Pastor White shared a little bit about coaching girls basketball when he was younger. Their approach was to always keep the pressure on their competitors with a full court press. When under pressure, mistakes happen. When the pressure is relentless the other team gets flustered, anxious and makes mistakes.

Fear and anxiety will do damage in your life. This is why Jesus calls us to a life of faith.

Today's message centered on Philippians 4:5-8.

Throughout the Gospels you will notice how Jesus is a non-anxious presence in the midst of stressful situations.

"Be anxious for nothing... but in everything, in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God."

This is the perfect response to anxiety. Deliberately bring our thoughts captive to God. God's peace will be ours in the midst of this whirlwind of circumstances.

Here's another great passage to memorize and reflect on:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

II Timothy 1:7 is a companion verse for this one.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

You can have fear, or you can have faith, love and a sound mind. Are we going to live in fear or love? True love casts out fear. If you live in love you will have a sound mind.

One of the ways to get to know strength in life is to life in faith. Trusting God.

Joshua said, "A for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It's an unwavering trust that God is in control. Even if it is not ideal, I can trust God.

It's amazing to take one little verse and decide to live that truth out for the next six weeks. Here's one: "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all."

Be a non-anxious presence with your family this week. Or at your place of work. People will notice.

The peace of God transcends all understanding.

* * * *
What are some of the anxious moments in your life right now? What is bringing anxiety to you? Terry closed by having us take a few moments to pray, to lay before the Lord our anxious concerns, with thanksgiving.

Our God is a God of hope. Let's trust Him.

We closed with the classic hymn Trust and Obey.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fiduciam

"Good morning, everyone!" Pastor Terry While welcomed us and then dove right into announcements.

1) The Salvation Army is seeking socks, shoes and underwear for the needy. There's a barrel in the Fireside Room to collect items for giving.
2) We will be doing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes this Wednesday.
3) Saturday is a Covenant Park fund raiser dinner and auction Saturday at Salem Covenant Church from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
4) There will be a Thanksgiving Dinner here at the church for

An offering was taken, and then we spent time in prayer.

Fiduciam

This week was a good week to have discussions. We don't see eye-to-eye on some things, and it raises the question of how to walk hand-in-hand when we don't see eye-to-eye?
Also, how do we see a bigger picture than the one directly in front of us?
Political season brings some interesting moments. The thing that caught me by surprise was my pastoral friends that expressed things that demonstrated more fear than faith.

Do I believe God will take care of us, regardless of what goes on around us?
Is my faith in God or a political system?

If you want to have an impact, live your life out the way God has designed us to live our lives out.

It's worth remembering that very few Christians throughout history have had the privilege of living in a nation which is in accord with their beliefs and faith.

Terry asked us to take a few minutes for prayer for healing for our nation.

* * * *

Pastor White asked several youth to come forward to do a "trust fall." Then he called for a bunch of strong men to volunteer to become catchers. Four girls climbed the ladder to fall back into the arms of eight men.

This was to illustrate Ruthless Trust, which is the title of a book by Brennan Manning.

In Hebrews 11:6 it is written, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Do I really believe? Do I really trust? It is in those moments of falling that we find out if we have trust.

Falling is scary. The outcome is uncertain. We're vulnerable.

The starting point for the message was Luke 17:11-19, the story of a healing of ten men with leprosy. Leprosy is a scary disease. Terry explains the consequences of leprosy. Once the priest has pronounced that you have leprosy you must live outside town, must never be a participant in the affairs of life, must never be close to others.

The lepers called to Jesus from a distance because they were forbidden to draw near. Nevertheless, Jesus said to these men, "Go, show yourself to the priest," implying,"and on the way you will be healed." Which they were.

Only one returned to the Lord and thanked him.

We were then asked, "What goes on when fear overwhelms us and we don't trust God?"

Anxiety. Miss out on things. Lost. Get short with others. We try to control things. Lash out. Emotions override clear thought. Blame God.

When overwhelmed with fear, we say things we shouldn't.

What are some of the seemingly crazy things God asked people to do in Scripture?
Build an ark.
Sacrifice your son.
Walk around this fortified city seven times, then blow a horn.
Throw your nets on the other side of the boat.
etc.

We turned to Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith. (Read it!)

Faith is actually difficult. Do I trust God? Can I really trust Him?

Therefore... (Chapter 12)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Bottom line: Just do what God asks you to do. Do what these people did, and walk in a life of faith. Ask God, "Lord, what do you want from me?"

Terry closed with prayer and led us in the classic hymn, "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Heart Motivated By Grace

The clocks were pushed back an hour last night and our bodies will have to adjust to a new sleep schedule as Daylight Savings Time is put away for another winter season. The weather remains surprisingly kind though, unseasonably warm with pristine blue skies again today. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and invited us to join the adult Bible study on Wednesdays.

Other announcements and reminders included....
1. We have a mission barrel in the hall outside the sanctuary for shoes, new underwear, socks and other clothing items for Christmas to be distributed by the Salvation Army.
2. Also there is a need for new or lightly used toiletries for women.

There was also a building update.
The outside lights are now up and all that is left is for these to be wired. The garage will be started this Monday. Someone will be coming to determine where and how to install the bell. A sound system upgrade and a dishwasher will be coming soon.

We then entered into a time of worship, which was followed by the receiving of our offerings and a time of prayer.

A Heart Motivated By Grace

By way of introduction, pastor Terry White noted that despite the frenzy of activity surrounding the election, God is in control. Do you believe God is in control?

Pastor White then shared about a free car wash another church he was part of used to do. People often tried to pay for the free car wash and hot dogs. They had a hard time receiving something good absolutely free.

Today's sermon would be based upon and extracted from Romans 3:21-26

Pastor White brought a couple object lessons. A law book, a robe and cross. In the Old Testament righteousness was given through the law. But now, apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known.

In Galatians 3:21 Paul amplifies this.  Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

In the old way, obedience was the only route to righteousness, though we were incapable of fulfilling it. But In Galatians Paul goes on explain that the Law was like a tutor to help keep us in line till grace was revealed. The goal is not to have a tutor, but rather to live a righteousness that comes from Christ.

There are two ways to live, under the law or under grace. The former is an enormous burden; the latter is liberation.

He then read snippets from The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book designed to bring hope to the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out, the marginalized folks to whom Jesus ministered.

Christian life, living fully in Christ, is not a game in which we try to "appear" good. What would your life look like if it were truly motivated by Jesus Christ?

The Gospel, the Good News, is not about avoiding hell or to avoid feeling shame.

What is a life of faith? Answer: it is trust. Faith means to trust God. Terry stated that you could replace the word "faith" with "trust" in the Bible and it would not change a thing.

He then addressed the matter of accepting grace. It is hard to receive grace when we are not honest with ourselves. The first step is recognition of how fallen we are. This is the heart of the Gospel. Once we realize how fallen we are we can then appreciate the free gift of God's mercy and the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

The most gracious people are those who have grown the most to understand how dark their hearts are.

What does a heart look like when it's been thoroughly immersed in grace.

The irony of this freedom is that it was bought with a price. It was only free for us; it cost Him everything.

Returning to the passage in Romans 3:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

There is much more that can be said, but at the end of all here's the question: Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ?

Finally, the sweet sound of amazing grace of Jesus Christ frees us from the necessity of self-deception.

The moment our focus shifts from my badness to His goodness, it means I no longer dwell on "what have I done?" and so I can focus on what He has done.

In Romans 2:4 Paul asks, "Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"

We then celebrated Communion together.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Healthy Roots, Healthy Shoots

Your faithful blogger was unable to be present this morning, so Pastor Terry White sent this summary of the message that was shared. As you who have been attending know, Terry raises Bonsai trees. Bonsai is a traditional Japanese art form using trees grown in containers. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees. 

Healthy Roots, Healthy Shoots

The number one thing I have changed in my bonsai hobby in the last 12 years is soil. My trees are more eager to grow, less disease, more certainty about corrective measures I need to take. Healthy roots, healthy shoots, when you take care of the part you can’t see, the part you can see will do very well.

This same attitudes lives in us as we place great trust in some of Christian heroes, new, old or ancient. Because they had great roots, there was fruit born in their lives. It’s easy for us to mistake taking some of this fruit for ourselves and thinking it means we have grown our own roots.

Sometimes in the spring, I get fooled about the health of a tree because I see some growth, sometimes that last bit of growth that a tree tries to put out is it’s last ditch effort to survive. There is no lasting fruit apart from the tree. John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Much of this discussion about roots seems a lot like our consideration of the heart. The difference is the link that that the Bible makes between this unseen root. We see people, we make judgements/assumptions based on what we see, we don’t think much about what lies beneath the surface, without roots we have nothing. But there is this link between roots we don’t see and the fruit we do see.

Ezekiel 31: 1-9...   not unlike a more familiar verse:
Psalms 1:1-4 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Two steps to this well-rooted tree:
1. Guard your heart, don’t walk in step with wicked, get in way of sinners, be in good company with mockers.
2. Delight in God’s way of seeing the world, meditate on that so it becomes your way of seeing the world around you.

Over time, the branches get bigger, the roots grow deeper, fruit grows, not only does our life change, but we end up as part of the resource for the lives of others.

Luke 13:6-9 A parable of roots and fruits: What we all need in this journey…
Truth: Fig trees bears figs.
Grace: A plan, here is what we need, don’t write it off, give up.
Time: Fig trees provide two crops per year, this is more grace and time than we might be expecting.

Our roots feed our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

The Bible speaks about these roots:
Ephesians 3:14-21 I pray that you being rooted and established in love… may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Christ

When I transplant/gather trees we talk about three seasons in getting established. Survive/ Alive/ Thrive. When that tree is established it really begins to take off. What does it mean for us to be established in love, this root of ours sunk into the love of God?

As a contrast, Hebrews 12:15 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

This root of bitterness. It’s possible that we allow other kinds of roots to feed our life. What happens when you and I allow a root of bitterness, a root of anger, a root of shame, a root of envy, a root of pride, to feed us. Roots feed us. Part of the discipleship process is to eliminate those other roots that are feeding our hearts.

From a plant standpoint, there are root I want to get rid of, roots I encourage. What happens when I take away the thing that feeds me?

Some people get used to chaos, feeding their life, if they don’t have it, they’ll manufacture it. Some people allow their busyness to feed their life, if they don’t have enough to do, they make more to do. Some of us have allowed our shame about ourselves to feed our life, when we cut that root out of our life for a time, it seems to grow back and we say…”hello old friend.”

God’s invitation to you and I is to be rooted and established in Him. That the life God offers to us would be received by us, this picture of a tree growing strong and mighty would reflect these fruits of the Spirit and we become blessing to the world around us, and all of this would all be for the glory Him who is making it happen in us.

Here’s the question for you this week… What roots are feeding your life? How are you helping your kids, friends, fellow church members develop deep roots in Christ? What would it look like if our roots were established in Christ and we were thriving?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Moving Targets

The Sound Team
Those who arrive early can capture the flavor of our worship themes as the worship team practices beforehand. As the sanctuary fills there are many new faces, and pastor Terry White has instituted the habit of having us write our names on name tags so we get to know one another by name and not just by face. (My name is Ed.)

After a sound check Pastor White invited us to come in and take a seat so we can begin our service. "Good morning," he exclaimed, and after

Announcements
Fall craft and quilt retreat, October 28 & 29. Contact Amy D or Darlene.
Men's Iron Sharpening Iron is next Saturday at Clyde Iron, 9-12
Next Sunday there will be a Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting after the service.
And don't forget to keep in mind that Daylight Savings Time will end November 6. "Fall Back" one hour at 2 a.m.

The Worship Team
Pastor Terry stated, "Some people think we go to the Bible to find Truth, but I believe we go to the Bible to find Jesus." Then invited us to worship. The music team, comprised of Terry White's daughters and son-in-law Joe, led us in a special heart-felt series of worship songs rooted in Scripture and history.

After the offering and a time of prayer, Terry began his message.

Moving Targets

A Weekly Object Lesson
Pastor Terry shared how getting know us as a congregation helps his sermons become more on target, hence he enjoys taking time after the service to interact with us. He also noted that conversations are a way he can get better at liberating us from the things tripping us up or trapping us.

Another point he made was how life is sometimes a jumble because our head knows the truth but our hearts are cold or hurt.

The congregation was given an assignment last week: research the heart. Last week's message gad to do with the heart.
"If you're headed in the wrong direction, no point being in a hurry." As Jeremiah once wrote, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and there is no cure."

The Good News of the Gospel is that a stony cold heart can be removed and replaced with a heart of flesh.

Life is a difficult battle between having a thick skin and a soft heart. We live in a rough world and it would be easier if we could just harden our hearts to the pain, but what God wants is for us to keep our hearts tender as we thicken our skin.

A disciple is a fully devoted follower of Christ. Since Jesus calls us to "make disciples" we should understand what a disciple is.

It's important to be disciples ourselves, but also learn how to help others become or be disciples.

When our hearts are wounded we can wound others.

It is really important to understand where our hearts are at. This is very different from legalism where we wear a shell that lets people know we are Christians. God wants us healed and healing others from within, from the heart.

The challenge of being a true follower of the light is that the closer we get to the light the more messed up we discover we are. Yet this gracious God loves us as we are and invites us to draw nearer still.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

In Psalm 32 David wrote, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven." Terry went further and this passage should be read and internalized.And then we looked at Psalm 51.

When we fail, when we sin, we can seek forgiveness and it lifts us up. But when we continue in sin it's a downward spiral, causing shame and heaviness. Pastor Terry encouraged us to know the condition of our hearts.

He then talked about growing up in Kansas. He showed us a purple clothing item that initially led us to think it was a Vikings jersey, but turned out to say K State, short for Kansas State. Kansas State, where his uncles attended college, did not have a good football team. In fact they were very weak. But on one occasion when he was eight years old he went to a game between Kansas State and Kansas that was very dramatic, which their team looked to potentially win. In his excitement, young Terry exclaimed that that's what he wanted to do when he grew up. His father's response cut deep. "You'll never be good enough."

Terry wasn't looking for sympathy here. He was illustrating a point. Words can be powerful, and hurt us very deeply. We all carry painful moments in which something that was said simply crushed us.

He reminded us of the Beattitude: "Blessed are those who mourn will be comforted."

And then he shared the key to healing. Our hearts are filled with little things that gnaw at us. Forgiveness is a big part of getting our hearts straight and whole.

Lake Superior is a great parable. At times it is crystal clear. But other times there are storms and the water is murky, muddy and a swirling dark.

In closing he shared a song called Martyrs and Thieves that begins "There's place in the darkness I used to cling to..."  I strongly encourage you to read the lyrics here.

The Christian life is one of paradox, in which we are asked to give up something worthless in exchange for something of infinite value.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Believer's Hope In Troubled Times

There's a crispness in the air these days. But the sky is a pure crystal blue with streaming sunlight reflecting off the bright colors of our autumn leaves. Pastor White is on vacation and Pastor Galen Call is preaching this morning. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and shared a few announcements.

Announcements
Adventure Club has started again, Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m.
There is a sign up sheet in the back for a Quilting/Crafting Weekend October 28-29.
Ted Sexton announced an Iron Sharpening Iron men's group meeting at Clyde Iron Works October 29. Contact Chuck or Jeff if you plan to attend.
Other items of note include our Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting which is slated for October 30.

The quartet led us in worship this morning, adding a new song to the mix, "To Worship You" after which Susan was invited forward with the kids for a "children's moment." She began by sharing that when she thinks of Sunday she spells it Sonday. She then shared a few facts about Sonflowers and how the real sunflowers always face sunward (Sonward) ending with a song about this interesting life insight.

The ushers took the offering while our quartet sang a beautiful song about the healing power of the Great Physician's touch, One Scarred Hand.

Cheryl led us in a time of prayer for the various needs in our church family.

The Believer's Hope in Troubled Times

Pastor Call began by noting that it doesn't take much to see we live in troubled times. Our divisions as a nation, our 20 trillion dollar national debt, the international threats we face all hang over us like a cloud. Then we also have our personal battles and struggles.

The text he chose today was drawn from chapter 9 of Hebrews, beginning with verse 24.

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

As is readily apparent, the key word in this passage is the word "appear." Pastor Call did not discuss them in the order of their appearance however. He began with the second.

Verse 26 points to Christ's appearing at the end of the ages. This moment of time was the goal of all previous history, His appearing was here on earth, as a man, to become one of us.

We were reminded that Jesus was one person with two natures. He was 100% man, 100% God. He appeared in human form not only to live among us, but also to die among us. This passage addresses the nature of this death.

The Hebrews, well acquainted with the history of the temple, understood well the meaning of this sacrificial death. The Holy of Holies in the temple was so holy that the High Priest would enter one day a year to make this significant sacrifice. It was in the Holy of Holies that the shekinah glory of God was visible enshrined between the cherubim on the mercy seat.

This passage states that Jesus "appeared... to do away with sin." Sin has a legal claim against us, but Jesus came to nullify this claim.

Pastor Call went into detail of the Old Testament sacrifice of the two goats, one put to death and the second carried off into the wilderness, a symbol of God's freeing us from our sins so we no longer need to encounter them again.

In verse 24 the word "appear" is used to describe what Jesus is doing in the present on our behalf, interceding for us before God. Jesus is our advocate before the Father, praying on our behalf. He is praying for you today as your high priest.

In the Old Testament the high priest sacrificed goats and bulls. Our great high priest sacrificed Himself, and intercedes on our behalf.

"When I do not know what words to use, He knows what words to use. Jesus, our Savior, is there in the Father's presence, praying on our behalf," Pastor Call explained.

The third use of the word is in verse 28, a promise of Christ's second appearing. One day, future, Christ will appear a second time for those who are waiting for Him. He has not forgotten us.

This appearing will be different from the first. He will return with a shout. The trumpet of God will sound and the dead in Christ will be raised from their graves. This is the believer's hope.

The reality we live in is this: the world is not going to get better until Jesus returns and makes it better. This last appearing will bring the consummation of our salvation. One day the clouds will open up and Jesus will appear to receive us. This is our anchor and hope in troubled times.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Growing Together

The day began with overcast skies that quickly converted to a steady rain. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and quickly turned to announcements.

Announcements
Next Sunday there will be a potluck dinner after the service. 
Prayer Team: If you have a request for prayer, contact Pearl Harmon or Nancy Peyton.

Our worship time began with the reading of Psalm 23. After several worship songs, Gail played a flute solo as the offering was taken.

There were many prayer requests this morning that we shared and lifted up to God. After the prayer time Cheryl and Darlene performed a skit dealing with the importance of staying connected with the church family, addressing today's sermon theme.

Growing Together

There are seasons in life. Sometimes it's spring and everything seems to be budding, blooming, bursting with life. There are other times when it seems like winter and simply staying alive is the goal.

Today's message used Ephesians 4:11-16 as its springboard. 

There are many passages in Scripture that speak of our individual walk with God, but this letter addresses our community of faith. Paul writes about the oneness of the body in this letter and our call to serve one another that the body of Christ may be built up, that we might achieve the unity of faith and attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ.

There are many ways to be a healthy body of believers. One problem that occurs is a drift in values. When we drift away from our mission and make "fun" and "safety" our aim, we've lost our focus.

For this reason, Pastor White created a handout that outlines our Covenant affirmations, the founding values of the Evangelical Covenant Church of which we are a part. The aim of these affirmations is to produce a healthy, missional body of believers.

Our place in the worldwide Christian Church...
We are an apostolic church. We confess Jesus Christ and the faith of the apostles as recorded in the Holy Scriptures. We believe the authority of the Bible is supreme in all matters of faith, doctrine, and conduct, and it is to be trusted. “Where is it written?” was and is the Covenant’s touchstone of discussion with regard to faith and practice.
We are a catholic church. The word catholic literally means universal. This means we understand ourselves to be a part of the community of believers that began with Jesus’s first followers, is alive today, and will continue until Christ comes again.
We are a Reformation church. We stand in the mainstream of a church renewal movement of the sixteenth century called the Protestant Reformation. Especially important is the belief that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, not by anything that we can do. The Covenant Church is also shaped by Pietism, a renewal movement that originated in seventeenth-century Europe and emphasized the need for a life that is personally connected to Jesus Christ, a reliance on the Holy Spirit, and a call to service in the world. We are an evangelical church.

For Covenant people, our essential beliefs are summed up in what we call Covenant Affirmations:
We affirm the centrality of the word of God.
We affirm the necessity of the new birth.
We affirm a commitment to the whole mission of the Church.
We affirm the Church as a fellowship of believers. It is a family of equals: as the New Testament teaches that within Christian community there is to be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
We affirm a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit.
We affirm the reality of freedom in Christ.

 Conclusion... The Evangelical Covenant Church is a pilgrim church.

>>Read the document in its entirety here.<<

Here at New Life Covenant our aim is to be both Healthy and Missional. Healthy in the sense that we are pursuing Christ. Missional in the sense that we are pursuing Christ's priorities in the world.

The beauty of being a healthy, missional church is that it's not formula-based and not related to size. It's not musical styles or programs. It's about choices we make and being rooted in advancing God's Kingdom. In short, a healthy, missional church is comprised of healthy, missional people.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Growing Young

Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us on this beautiful autumn morning. It's the first week of Sunday School. Chuck said they will talk about being addicted to God in our Adult Sunday School class this year.

Announcements 
~ Adventure Club will be starting in October.
~ The fish fry went really nicely yesterday, raising $1500 for Sunday School.
~ Ruth Ann thanked everyone who gave blood yesterday, a gift that will save lives.

Interim pastor Terry White read a passage from Ephesians preceding our time of worship. After a set of worship songs an offering was taken as Darlene accompanied on the keyboards. A time of prayer followed.

Growing Young

Rocky Mountain Juniper
Terry White began by sharing the subtitle of a Max Lucado book: God Loves You Just the Way You Are, But He Refuses to Leave You There. It's a paradox. God loves you today just as you are. There is nothing that you can do to make God love you more, or less. Yet God wants us to grow.

The text is from II Peter 1:3-8.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. 5 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse five, Peter states, "make every effort"... not "a little bit of effort."

Supplement your faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge.This is just a starting point. Getting educated is not necessarily going to change you without persevering through self-control, steadfastness applied godliness and love.

Orthodoxy is "knowing correctly." But we need to also "live correctly" which is orthopraxy. Not only must we have the right beliefs, we need to live aright as well.

How do we live this kind of life? To illustrate, Terry brought a Rocky Mountain Juniper, which may be over 200 years old. This tree has been through hard things, and as it ages it gets more interesting. It has a story to tell. You can see places on the tree where life had been but is gone. Even through the hard times the journey continues.

Good soil also plays a role in growth.
We are on a journey of growth. God is a master planner who is doing this work within us.

Terry explained the wisdom literature to us. If you took all the commands of the historical parts of the Book and did them, the wisdom literature is what you would be. Proverbs shows us examples of what life becomes for the one who chooses life and the one who does not, the wise and the foolish.

God invites us to make progress. Growth is a deep-seated alignment with God's way of looking at things. "I've spend so much time with my Master that I forget where I end and He begins."

This message is about individual growth, and next week will be about corporate growth.

"I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lives out in the lives of people who know Him." When the Word becomes flesh it is a compelling witness.

We're commanded to grow not only for ourselves but for the people around us. My prayer is that we would be committed to becoming more and more like Christ.

God loves you just the way you are, but He is not willing to leave you there. There's a better place.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Uncommon Friends

Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us on this beautiful autumn morning which is also Rally Sunday. After welcoming us he reminded us to the Fish Fry next Saturday. We quickly went into a time of worship with some classics, led by the quintet that now includes Pastor White on drums.

Susan Jessico was invited forward to share a Children's Message related to this time of year as we transition into fall. Susan brought a variety of branches to show and then asked if any of them would grow if they were stuck into the ground and watered. The answer, obvious to many of us, was that no, they would not. The branch will thrive when connected to the tree, and apart from this connection would die. As Jesus declared in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

The ushers came froward to receive the offering as the kids returned to their seats. The quartet sang Worthy of Worship in accompaniment. Chuck then led us as we took a little time for prayer.

Uncommon Friends

Terry White welcomed us with a potent "Good Morning" and re-introduced himself and his wife Leah for those who were not here the first weeks he preached.

Connect, Grow and Become is the mission of this church, so for the next few weeks his themese will connect to ours.

Today's message is about Accepting Acceptance. When we truly realize that God has accepted us, it makes a difference.

The Bonsai trees that have been showing up in the front are object lessons Terry has brought to share. Today's tree is a set of trees, a forest setting. When it started out, the five little trees did not appear to go together. And so it is with ourselves...

Relationships aren't easy. Selfishness, anger and other things become barriers to our becoming one with others.

Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship. Unfortunately we live in a world of broken relationships. Often, the relationships we want most are the ones most broken.

At this point Terry introduced the text for this message, Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector, not respected by the Romans and hated by his fellow Jews. When Jesus came through his town there was a mob scene. Because Zacchaeus was short he climbed a tree to try to see Jesus. While Zacchaeus was in the tree Jesus came over to him and said, "Zacchaeus, come down here, I'm staying at your house today."

The people grumbled, "Look, he's gone to be the guest of a sinner."

But in response to Jesus' acceptance, Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Learning to respond to the love of God, rather than the fear of hell, is the true way to repent. In a world motivated by fear, we need to present the Gospel as something beautiful to embrace.

Terry concluded by sharing a song called Good Good Father. "I'm a big fan of the simple truths that God has embedded in my heart," he said in closing.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Two Becoming One

Interim Pastor Terry White welcomed us on this gorgeous summer Sunday morning.

Announcements
Nursery volunteers are being sought for the coming year. Sign up sheet in the back.
Next Sunday is Rally Sunday. Note time change: service begins at 10:15 p.m.
Fish Fry Saturday September 17. An opportunity to minister to people in our community by just being friendly.

"The introit is a time in which we move into a listening to God." The call to worship was from Psalm 34:1-3 as Terry invited us to listen to the music and learn how to be in the presence of the Lord as we worshiped the Lord in song.

An offering was taken and blessed, and then Chuck led us in a time of prayer.  (Some members of our church family visited Arline Stapleton in Rochester and brought back a report that she's doing well and thinking of us. "What a beautiful woman," one said. )

Two Becoming One

Today's message revolved around II Corinthians 5:11-21.

Pastor White began by sharing how the meanings of words have changed over the centuries.
Awful used to mean full of awe. Egregious is another word that got transfigured over time. He then instructed us to tell someone they were nice, then he said "nice" used to mean ignorant. The word has had a number of unkind definitions over the years before arriving at its present usage.

Meanings of words change.  In the days following the Resurrection people who were followers of Christ were called Followers of the Way. It wasn't till later in the book of Acts that they were called Christians.

Nowadays the word Christian means different things. Sometimes it means you grew up in the church or other meanings. Terry prefers to say he is a follower of Jesus, which is more descriptive.

In a world where words have fuzzy meanings, what language can we use that speaks to broken people? "Living forever" may not cut it. Terry likes the word "reconciliation."

We read the passage from II Cor. 5 and then Terry asked us what makes reconciliation so hard? A number of reasons were given, but the point he brought us to was how difficult it is for two people to become one.

We live in moments where it is difficult to live in agreement and reconciliation. Nearly all of Christian life is learning to talk like God talks, love like God loves.

What advantages do we get by not being reconciled? None. What do we gain by being reconciled? Everything.

What does it take for two people to be one? It's rewarding only when we are both reconciled to God.

What does it look like when your relationship is broken? It is a weighty thing. And when you see all the brokenness in the world, the root of it is the lack of reconciliation with God.

At the end of this passage Paul wrote, "We implore you... be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Key thought: To want what God wants, this is the path out of our brokenness that leads us to the hope and life we long for.

After singing Jesus Messiah we shared the Sacrament of Communion.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Can't See the Forest..."

The late summer morning is overcast, but hearts are warm and bright here as we gather at New Life Covenant. There's a liveliness in the sanctuary that is welcoming. Upon entering we put on name tags to make it easier for us to get to know one another, especially with all the new faces. Chuck Vanderscheuren greeted us and invited us to say hello to interim pastor Terry White and his wife Leah after the service here this morning. There will be a 9:30 coffee and conversation opportunity to informally meet with Pastor Terry and Leah on Wednesday this week.

Other announcements included Rally Sunday on September 11. Saturday the 17th will be a Fish Fry with the new Sunday School season beginning the 18th.

The worship team included Pastor White's accompaniment on drums.

During the offering Chuck & Darlene's grand-daughter Scarlet played The B-I-B-L-E.... That's the Book for Me. From here we went into a time of prayer for needs in the church family.

Our worship time followed and then Pastor White was introduced.

"Can't See the Forest..."

Terry White began by sharing that he felt compelled to introduce himself and share his life story briefly so as to give a context to who he is as he is beginning a relationship with the New Life church family.

Part of being an interim here is to help carry on the work that is already going on. He also mentioned that part of being an interim is that he is filling in after the loss of our previous pastor, which includes honesty about our mourning. Some mourn quickly and for others it takes a little longer. Terry's candor in all this was refreshing.

The good thing in our situation is that there is no big drama that led to this current set of circumstances.

* * *
The sermon topic is an expansion on Paul's prayer that the Ephesians would know God better. Hence, this message would be a broad overview of all that God is as revealed in Scripture.

Exodus 3:10-15 is about the call of God to Moses to lead God's people out of Egypt. It's the story of the burning bush, and God explains to Moses that when the Egyptians question his authority, Moses is to say, "I AM sent me."

God is. This is the first thing to know about God. He is. He exists. And He's bigger than we can comprehend.

There are images of God that we are comfortable with and hold on to. He is kind, faithful. He is love.

But there are other features of God that are uncomfortable. He sometimes hides Himself.

God has many names...
Elohim... the all-powerful creator.
Emmanuel... He is with us.
And many others...
The Lord who provides.
The Lord who is my peace.

How can God be both merciful and just?
How can God be sovereign yet give us free will?

He's our Savior.... and He's our Lord.

Many of these faces of God are two sides of the same coin... Justice and mercy present an especially good example.

Terry said he wants us to be moved by knowing God's love, not to be moved out of fear. Could it be that God is bigger than any box that your imagination can construct? Absolutely.

He is servant and savior. He's the Ancient of Days... and more attributes and names still, an author, potter, redeemer, the uncaused cause.... our strength and shield, Messiah, fire from heaven, freedom from the curse of sin, suffering servant, coming king, great high priest, faithful pastor, everlasting covenant, Good Shepherd, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.... He is. The Alpha and Omega, the Great I Am.

Why does all this matter?
There's a name that is above every name....

Isaiah 6:1-5
1 In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; 
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

On the day when you and I have the most clarity about God, it is still a minimum. There is so much more to know.

The service ended with this video about the names of God.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Living from the Inside Out

Blue skies and a beautiful summer day. Chuck Vanderscheuren welcomed us and led the first portion of the service.

Announcements
Gail announced a Fish Fry  is slated for the 17th of September, noon to five. Volunteers welcome to help with this event.
The Bloodmobile will be coming that same day...  Eat Fish, Give Blood.
The church director is being updated. See Nancy to verify your information.
Pastor Terry White is excited to be coming to minister to our church family as interim pastor. He feels like he's coming home. He will begin the last week of August.

The quartet ushered us into worship with a beautiful rendition of The Midnight Cry. After an opening prayer by guest preacher Jeff Hagen the quartet then sang Dallas Holm's "I'll Rise Again." A time of worship, the offering, and a time of prayer followed, and then Jeff Hagen was invited to speak.

Living from the Inside Out

Our speaker brought a baseball to show us as an object lesson. He asked if we knew what was inside a baseball. Underneath the leather coating there tightly wound layers of different material, of yarn, twine and felt... but it's very core is a solid ball. He then asked what was at Paul's core? What is at our core?

Paul's letter to the Philippians was written while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul recognized that challenging times served to drive our roots deeper into Christ to draw more strength. James also underscored the same when he wrote "Count it all joy when you encounter various trials" because testing produces patience and deepens us.

Testing forces us to draw on God's resources. In Phil 3:10-11 Paul writes about his desire, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

He followers by declaring, "I press on to the goal..." (see verses 12-16)

In Philippians 2 Paul points to Jesus as our model, He who stepped down from Heaven to accept being humbled even to the point of death on a cross.

About Jesus, the Gospel writer John wrote, "In Him was light, and this light was the light of men."

Paul himself has seen this light, and embraced it and is devoted to sharing this light.

Jeff Hagen noted that people are like trees, and we need deep roots. Trials deepen our roots, as does meditating on the Word of God.

In conclusion, here's the question. Do we want to transcend our circumstances and change the people around us? It is dependent on our learning how to deepen ourselves with intentionality.

He ended  with Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.