Sunday, January 29, 2017

We Can't Help Ourselves

Pastor Terry White welcomed us with a cheerful "Good morning," and proceeded to share a few announcements.

New Membership Classes begin February 1.
Next Sunday, February 5, will be Installation Sunday for Pastor Terry White
Also next Sunday, a Souper-Bowl Sunday Potluck... Soups, breads, bars only.

Terry read Psalm 118 to open the worship. We sang several worship songs after kicking off with "I Saw the Light." During the offering the worship team sang Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), a song about living in trust.

We then shared a time of prayer before the sermon.

We Can't Help Ourselves

Terry noted that in addition to the Membership Class for those desiring to be new members, other non-members  are welcome to join us to learn more about the Covenant Church denomination and its special role in the world.

* * * *
Next week Jeff Burton, director in the Northwest Conference of the Covenant Church, is coming for the installation of Pastor White. For the six weeks following, Terry will be preaching about family leadership, with lessons based on I & II Timothy.

* * * *
Last week we talked about how people like to identify with something bigger than themselves, and there is nothing bigger or more significant than being part of the Kingdom of God.

Today Terry wanted to visit the topic of worship again, but the wrong side of worship, beginning with Exodus 20, which is the Ten Commandments. "You shall have no other gods before Me...."

The exodus was an incredible period in Israel's history that included many miracles from the parting of the Red Sea to the provision of food every day. Despite all that, when Moses went up to the mountaintop and he delayed coming down, the people were already forgetting God, pressuring Aaron to make them a golden calf. You can find the story in Exodus 32.

Why do people have a need for something physical to see when they worship?

Terry shared how primitive peoples make little symbols for their gods. For some, these symbols are essential in some way, and when they become Christians they throw out those symbols and replace them with "Christian" symbols.

What is the function of these images? Why a golden calf?

Perhaps the golden calf helped the people feel O.K. in some way. It gave them a reference point for the confidence.

Terry then asked, "What do you require for your lives to feel safe or confident or O.K.?

He then quoted from Tim Keller's message,  The Opportunity of Disenchantment. Writes Keller:

Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols. Each has its "priesthoods," its totems and rituals. Each one has its shrines—whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios, or stadiums—where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster. What are the gods of beauty, power, money, and achievement but these same things that have assumed mythic proportions in our individual lives and in our society? We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image. We may not actually burn incense to Artemis, but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige.*

Anything that becomes more important to us than God has become an idol. These are the things that give the appearance of making our lives worth living, but which really are not.  

As Keller asserts, Most people know you can make a god out of money. Most know you can make god out of sex. However, any thing in life can serve as an idol, a God-alternative, a counterfeit god.

It's when we lose our false gods that we discover what things in our lives have become idols. It can be family or children or social standing, saving face or a career. It could be our success, or hobbies. "An idol is whatever you look at and say with your heart, 'My life has meaning.'"

Idolatry is misplaced worship. What things in life are the heart of your identity?

I'm a valuable person because ____
I'm an important person because _____

The truth is, your are valuable and important because God loves you... enough to send His Son to die on a cross for you. God loves you enough to do something about the situations you find yourself in.

Terry then read for us Isaiah 44:6-20.

Your idol can't hear you. Your idol can't see you. And at some point in time it will let you down. The worst part is it distracts us from the one thing we should be worshiping.

Terry was once a coach. His motivations were right at one point, helping his kids become the best they could be. When he was winning, all was good. But winning became his idol. And when he was losing... he began to blame his team, ceased to nurture them.

Every person in this world was made for worship. God placed this desire in our hearts. It's innate, and a basic need of humanity.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Keeping It Simple (And Guess What? We Have A New Pastor)

Today is theoretically the last day Interim Pastor Terry White will be with us. After the service there will be a congregational meeting in which the church members will vote to have Terry become the actual, official pastor. Before the service we gathered in the Fireside Room for an informal time of Q&A regarding Terry's faith, life, vision.

During the Sunday school hour we had a special time with Terry White in which he shared some of who he is, how he came to Christ, and what makes him tick. Two verses which have been important in his life are Galatians 2:20 and the first verses of Isaiah 61.

Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me." Isaiah 61:1-3 was the passage that Jesus read from when He began His ministry.

We talked a little bit about music, music styles and worship. A question was asked about books and authors. A.W. Tozer was listed first. I also like authors in different periods in history and from different countries. Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster... You can look at the bookshelf in my office.

When you thnk of what your family needs from us... what is your prayer that we can give back? "I love movement..." He described his motorcycle. It's mean to move. The church is meant to move. What's tired for me personally is when a church is stagnant so it becomes like having to move an 800 pound motorcycle around in a garage.

What is your vision? That we all come and worship together on Sunday... Also needed is a place to speak honestly about one's life. Small groups give us a chance to connect and grow. Third, that we each find our gifts and begin to use them to contribute. Leadership is certainly a need.

Are we going to be a church inwardly focused or outwardly, an inny or an outty? Terry suggested that one good way to see our focus would be to read the bulletin.

We asked what he reads? "Check out my bookshelf." Solid.
How comfortable are you with family/marriage counselling? Terry does counsel people, but some issues require specialist skills and he would be able to make referrals, but he has done plenty of listening and counselling. Our lives are the sum total of all the choices we have made.

Structures and muscles... Some churches have so much structure, but there is not enough muscle to make it work. Other churches are growing, have strength but not enough structure.

A question was asked about missions. Terry had yesterday talked about Mission Friends, a concept that came out of Scandinavia. There's always a possibility of getting out of balance. What does it look like to be involved in Mission? Terry told the story of Cornelius, a godly man who wanted to hear more and sent for Peter. In many of our lives there is a Cornelius who is hungry for more, who we could share with.

God invites us to live a life of faith, to live trusting Him. God does different things in different ways, and ultimately it is a faith walk, not a matter of learning answers to all the questions. The questions come at us in different ways and yesterday's answers don't always work today.

* * * *
Pastor Terry and the worship team welcomed us and our service commenced in the sanctuary with a time of worship. After an offering was taken, and a time of prayer Terry came forward.

Keeping It Simple

Pastor Terry began by noting that sharing one's testimony is not necessarily just "how I became a follower of Christ" but can also be about what God is doing in one's life now.

Eight years ago Terry experienced a time in his life in which he was feeling winded and out of shape spiritually. There are times when life gets weighty and you feel like checking out. What he learned was a little about worshiping even when you don't feel it. Psalm 16:5 "Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places..."

A lot of times we try to convince people about the Gospel with facts. But a better approach might be to begin this way: "It's been my experience..."

The topic for today is worship. What does it mean to worship?

Terminology creates theology. For example, many churches call this a worship center. But does that imply that outside the church building it is not a place for worship? Some churches have "worship pastor."

Definition of "worship": Worship is a response to God.

Terry elaborated on how football fandom operates. Based on the way people spend time and money on the fave teams,

-- We all want to identify with something bigger than ourselves.

-- We want to identify with winners.

Isaiah 26.8 declares, "Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."

If you really want to identify with something bigger than yourself, the Kingdom of God is just what you are looking for. And if you want to identify with a winner, the Kingdom of God is the thing.

Praise the Lord.

All through the Psalms the exclamation is repeated. "Praise the Lord!"

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord,
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

The worship team was invited forward and we concluded the service with worship.

* * * *
At the end of the service we remained in the sanctuary to conduct a congregational meeting. Pam Johnson opened the meeting, and then Walt was called forward to explain the process that that resulted in our pastoral search team making a unanimous recommendation to the congregation to elect Terry White to serve as our pastor.

After Chuck read to Terry the requirements and responsibilities of the position, Carol then read the nomination. Ballots were handed out while an invitation to discuss the process was invited. A few explanations followed regarding compensation.

After we broke for snacks, including pie and ice cream, Walt announced that the votes were overwhelming in favor to extend the call to Terry to become our pastor. There was much applause. An official installation service will be held in two weeks.

Congratulations, Terry.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Correct Change

A perfectly unblemished blue sky greeted us this morning. At the beginning of the service Chuck welcomed us and shared this week's announcements.

Wednesday is Adventure Club. Dinner and youth activities for all
Membership classes coming soon.
This Friday come explore your inner artistic qualities... Painting, crafting, potluck. Contact Paula Saxin or Darlene Vanderscheuren. Painting classes and more.
Next Sunday, Pastoral Candidate Q&A during Sunday school as well as Saturday from 1 - 2:30. There will be a variety of pies served and shared Saturday.
Please join us next Sunday the 22nd if you are a member. We will need a quorum to vote.

Chuck then read a passage from the Psalms and the worship team then led us in a time of worship. The offering was as the son I Need They Every Hour was performed.

We spent time in prayer for some heartbreaking needs and praise for answered prayers.

Correct Change

Pastor Terry greeted us and encouraged us to be here next weekend to get to know him and his family better. He also encouraged us to keep reading the Psalms every day this month as we work through God's Word.

The sermon today is Correct Change. But he began with a word problem and illustration of a quick change scam.

The real aim here is to help us think the way God thinks.

To be a good police officer you have to be able to think they way criminals think, so you stay one step ahead of them. The real point being to actually pay attention to how we think, and not just live unthinkingly as we go through life.

The message today would be from Ephesians 2:1-6

Terry then drew a pair of images that looked like doughnuts. He then illustrated how this hole in the middle is filled with deadness. Then he drew arrows to illustrate the pressures that push on us from outside. Our aim is to meet the expectations and conform to what is expected of them.

And then there are others who don't do so well at pleasing everyone and conforming the their expectations.

In the New Testament, the one group is best represented by the pharisees. The other doughnut illustrates the tax collectors, Samaritans and other outcasts...

In our modern time the same issues are going on.

One problem with parenting occurs when we make out goal to get our children to be good conformists, all the while neglecting the important thing going on in the heart, on the inside.

People who perform well

In Ezekiel 36, the prophet paints a picture of the future.

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

People who live to perform get their strokes by trying to make everybody happy. But there's pressure from trying to please everybody.

On the outcast group there are all kinds of failings and issues people have, but where does one begin in the process of change? The real starting point is to get people to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 41  "Heal me because I have sinned against you..." It goes on to express the pressures David is under, not only from his enemies but from a close friend.

At the end of the day, I want to honor my Lord with my life. And the only way this will happen is through internal changes.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Backwards Brain

Chuck welcomed us by asking who had the coldest thermometer reading this morning. He had a 24 below, but someone else shared that they had 25 below. Brrr

Covenant World Relief Soup Can Colleciton, Jan 22 & 29
Prayer Team: Call Pearl Harmon or Nancy Peyton
Looking for drama queens... to participate in short skits. See Cheryl Borndal
Ladies Bible Study, 10-Noon Tuesdays
New Members Class will be held in January...
Paula invited everyone to come Friday for a Craft Fun Day here at the church. Paula will teach paintinng classes ($15 includes supplies) Friday January 20.
January 22 is Candidate Sunday...

Terry and the worship team opened with a song followed by a second during the offering. Sue Jessico gave a children's talk this morning. "What are some of the ways you, your family and others do to help other people?" One child shared, "Giving money." Another said, "We give Bibles." Other things mentioned included giving food and clothing and shoes. In Matthew 25: 25 & 26 Jesus said in the parable of the sheep and goats, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

The Backwards Brain

Pastor Terry thanked us for the gifts and cards we gave over Christmas. He then read Isaiah 55.

In verse 11 God says His word, when it goes, will accomplish God's purpose.

Terry began the year last week encouraging us to get into God's word and read a Psalm each day. Today is the 8th so he read Psalm 8 for us next. "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?... Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name!"

God is good and it is a great day to be alive.

Sometimes, however, sometimes life is like Psalm 38.

We were then shows a YouTube video about the Backwards Brain. It was an object lesson on how hard it is to change our thinking. He was given a bike that had been re-engineered to go the opposite direction of where you intend to point it.

The video shows the problems of cognitive bias. Our brains become rigid in how they perceive and behave.

Rigid ways of thinking need to be changed, but it is not easy. This is why we need to wash our brains with Scripture. By being washed over with the truth day after day we are being changed.

We all look at the world with a bias, the one we've developed within and the Biblical world view.

Terry ended by inviting us to ride the bike of faith that is at odds with the world as it is.

So we entered into a time of communion as he asked us, "What is the backwards brain moment in your life? In what area is God wanting to change you?"

We closed the service with Communion and a time of worship.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

A New Year's Day service. Chuck welcomed us and shared how they went downtown to listen to the symphony.

Next Sunday the regular service hours will be in place, with Sunday School.
January 20 there will be an artistic event here in which there will be a day to learn how to paint. There will also be crafts or whatever you bring.
Next Sunday Covenant World Relief jars will be handed out.

How neat it would be if the Holy Spirit were in control all the time, Chuck said, leading into a reading from Psalm 51 before taking time for worship. The quartet sang Give Them All to Jesus during the offering.

Prayers for the needs in our church family preceded the message.

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

Terry had us turned to Psalm 1. It's on his heart to get us reading the Scriptures this year. To get to know God, reading the Bible is one of the best ways.

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.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

God makes things new. Change is often difficult even though we often like it.

When was the last time you tried to change something about yourself... dietary or money spending or exercise. Significant life changes are hard, because we are so used to what our former habits were.

Embracing change is a commitment. God calls us to be like Jesus, which means making changes in our lives because we are not yet there.

Romans 12:1, 2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Reminder: the therefore is there for a reason. All of us fall short, Therefore we need to be transformed.

So Terry showed us a Transformer that comes in one form and get transformed into another. The Greek word "morph" is the basis of our word for Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a complete change from one kind of thing into another, best exemplified in what caterpillars do when they become butterflies.

A lot of people ask "Why do so many kids go off to college and lose their faith?" What Terry said was that we have not done a good job of getting our kids to embrace faith from within. Too often our young people have only been taught to conform to rules and how they are supposed to be, and when they go to college they conform to a new set of peers.

What we need is transformation within, not conformation of external behaviors.

What we need is to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit. And this is what our kids need to learn how to do...

Conforming is like saying, "Cloneliness is next do Godliness." But this is not the same as real transformation.

One cause of chafing in marriage is when we try to be the Holy Spirit for our spouses. What we need in our marriages is to each listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves.

My thought for you this week is for all of you to be reading. Tomorrow, Psalm 2. Tuesday, Psalm 3. This year we will experience a gradual becoming that is good.

Note: God is on your side. You be on God's side. And this week, whatever God prompts you to do, take the step and see what surprises God has in store for you.

* * * *
Here are some photos from last week's Christmas service.