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.

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.

~ 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.

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.