Everything listed under: Devotions

  • Not By Works

    I’ve enjoyed watching 60 Minutes for decades and a couple of weeks ago there was an interesting story on billionaire businessman, politician and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York).  As part of the interview he shared some of the impressive things he has accomplished with his charitable foundation to which he has donated billions of dollars over the years.  In general he came across as a likable and humble guy.  However, after talking about his philanthropic achievements he said “I like what I see when I look in the mirror....We’ve probably saved millions of lives, and certainly we’ll save tens of millions of lives going forward. There aren’t many people that have done that. So, you know, when I get to heaven, I’m not sure I’m going to stand for an interview. I’m going right in.”

    Even though he has given great sums and done wonderful things to help and save many lives, I think we need to be careful we don’t deceive ourselves into thinking we can somehow earn God’s love or his salvation.  If this was the case, then why did Christ die on the cross?  If this was the case, why would we need Jesus at all?  Isn’t it pure folly to think we can somehow make God be indebted to us for the merit of our accomplishments and that he somehow owes us salvation?

    This reminds me of what Paul said in Galations 2:16  – “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

    Lord, thank you for your love, your forgiveness, your mercy and your grace for it’s not that we first loved you, but that you loved us.  Amen.

    Brad Gauen

  • Witnessing the Wonder

    Earth Day, 2014! 

    Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.  It is all we can offer in return  for the mystery by which we live.  Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers — wiser than all alphabets —  clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting.  Suddenly we feel ashamed  of our clashes and complaints in face of the tacit glory in nature. It is embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world,  and how presumptuous our doings!  Only one response can maintain us:  gratefulness for witnessing the wonder,  for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness  which makes the soul great.  

    ~ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel 

  • Prayer

    Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you. God, I thank you.         For this day, freshly created, I thank you. For the sun, faithfully burning, for gravity that keeps on working, for the earth that holds me so securely and feeds me so abundantly, I thank you.                    For all my ancestors, who saved my life millions of times, for all the love that has shaped and blessed me, fort hose who bless me without my ever knowing for this body, this whole universe of miracles that live inside me, I thank you. For every moment, the unfolding of your grace, for every day, a gift beyond measure, for every person, a work of your love, I thank you. For all my troubles, in which you meet me, for grief and pain, which keep my heart alive, for all loss and abasement, that move me closer to you, I thank you, for they, too, are gifts. May my heart be alive with gratitude, with your deep, deep “yes,” with your new-making hope, with trust that everything is a gift because you are in it, everything is a gift, and I thank you. Deep Blessings Pastor Steve ______________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net
  • It's True

    “But what is truth? Not easy to define; we both have truths, are yours the same as mine?”                                                          –Pontius Pilot, Jesus Christ Superstar

    What do Whole Foods, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings have in common?

    Two weeks ago, I found myself whisked away to Philadelphia. The trip had come about sort of last minute, but the opportunity it presented was flattering. My business law professor had stopped me on the last day of the semester, as I was just seconds from getting in my car and speeding home for the summer. He offered to send me to a conference in Pennsylvania for the Center for the Public Trust (CPT.) CPT is a non-profit made up of leaders from across the country that work to promote ethical management and accounting practices in business. Just a few weeks later, I found myself sitting in a room with business leaders who had more letters after their names that you would find in a can of Alphabet Soup.

    And that was when I learned the answer to the question I presented above. Whole Foods, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings have been voted three of “America’s Most Trustworthy Companies” by Forbes Magazine.

    “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

    But as I sat through the conference, I began to get a little disgruntled. One of our speakers made a comment to the extent of, “Business ethics is easy! Just don’t lie! Ever!”

    Don’t lie? Ever? It seems like something out of a kindergarten ethic course or a third grade Sunday School lesson. But to me it seemed too simple. As cynical as it sounds to say, isn’t the old adage “everybody lies?”

    “Whether it's to yourself, or lookin' at someone else…buried deep inside, Everybody lies.”                                    ~Jason Walker, song: Everybody Lies

    Colin Powell said in an interview with Time Magazine that, “A soldier always wants to do what he's supposed to do. But there is not a morning when I put my feet on the floor and [absolutely] say, ‘This is right.’” I think that there is a lot of truth to Powell’s statement. Sometimes the line between “right” and “wrong” is not as easy to find as we think it should be. The black and white often shows up between the shades of grey.

    Jesus himself makes an interesting statement on “right choices” vs. “grey areas.” In the story where he is staying at the home of Mary and Martha, his two hosts make different choices. Martha chooses to busy herself readying the house and serving her guests while Mary sits down and talks with Jesus. When Martha becomes frustrated with this, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.” Luke 10:41

    So often, I’ve heard this text used as an example of slowing down to be with God. When I read this verse during my time in Philadelphia it stuck out to me in a way it hadn’t before. After spending a day listening to people say “just make the right choice” Christ’s words jumped out to me. He doesn’t say “Mary made the right choice.” He says, “Mary has chosen what is better.” Mary made the “better choice.”

    In my mind “never lie, ever” is unrealistic. If we made spirituality about following the rules all the time, we’d be in a lot of trouble. After all, in the first five books of the bible there are 612 commandments. That’s a lot of rules to never break ever!

    But that begs the question of what is a realistic ethical line. According to Forbes Magazine, Whole Food, Progressive Insurance, and Buffalo Wild Wings all had some common practices that made them “trustworthy.” CPT founder David Costello says that each company used tools such as “moral reminders,” codes of conduct, conflict of interest statements, frequent employee meetings, “truth and transparency in their communications to employees, vendors, customers, and stockholders,” and promoting a “continuing, constant awareness of what [they] stand for and how they want to be viewed.”

    Costello’s last line there jumps out to me: “continuing, constant awareness of what [they] stand for and how they want to be viewed.” Do we as the church think about this? Do we as people practice this?

    We live in a world that tells us to “Understand the game…command respect…bring bigger dollars…learn the unspoken rules.” We live in a world that says “conform: just lie!” But as the high school and middle school youth have shared with us these past two weeks, Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed through the renewing of your mind.”

    If we follow the example of Whole Foods and Progressive, then we need to find ways to seek a constant reminder of what we stand for. When we look to the bible for guidance on ethics there is a verse in which Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6. If Jesus is the “truth” then living like Jesus is the way to live an honest life.

    Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely easy. In fact, it means taking a fairly counter cultural approach to just about everything. It means being kind to the people society labels as outcast. It means giving your time, money, and resources to causes that many people consider lost. It means spending a few more minutes in that awkward conversation, lending a non-judgmental ear to someone in need. It even means giving your life to help people you’ve never met, but love unconditionally.

    Of course we are going to make mistakes. We will fudge a little and we will probably screw up at some point. But the continuing, constant reminder that Christ gives us is that if we are to err, we should always err on the side of love. For as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of them is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

    Special thanks to David Costello and his blog centertrust.blogspot.com.

    Zach Herzog

  • God Has Our Back

    Well, here we are and once again I do believe I have put the "pro" in procrastination -- in just a few hours the sun will be coming up and I will be headed to the airport to begin the "travel" chapter in the journey to Nicaragua.

    The previous chapter, I will call "preparation."  As always, I thought I had plenty of time to gather the items necessary for my trip, along with time to cross off items on my lengthy "to do" list.  Well, I do believe that while I did accomplish everything I "thought" I needed to, God had other plans for me ...

    As I spent the later part of last week with my parents shopping and getting ready, I was pleasantly reminded that God constantly has our backs.

    My dad and I were down to the last item for our trip -- our carry on luggage.  Sounds simple enough right?? All we needed was a simple piece that would carry some of our things for the week.  We looked at a few stores and found one we "thought we could live with" but of course we couldn't just buy the first one we found that we liked, we had to "shop around" ... was there something better or cheaper out there??

    We literally drove a loop or two or three as we tried to find the "right one."  One store only had one ... another had two but both were defective.  This simple task had turned into a tiresome frustrating adventure.  I got lost in the "what" we were trying to accomplish and started to lose sight of the "why."  God had my back tho ... he sent me a few signs along the way ... here's the one's that stuck out and I remember ....

    We were at the check out and I was visiting with the cashier.  I asked her if she was having a "good day."  She smiled and replied, "No, I'm having a GREAT day, you are present here in my moment."  WOW!!!  That's not usually an answer I receive to that question.  We had a quick conversation and I was reminded to take a deep breath ... don't think about the past and don't worry about the future ... enjoy what's in front of me at this very moment.

    In November 2011, Maureen Herzog shared a devotion with us entitled "The Penny."  When you find a penny (or any coin), take a moment to remember that "In God we Trust."  It's a subtle reminder to trust God, that God has our backs.  At least twice, I found a penny on the ground.  They just seemed to "pop up" when I least expected it.

    The final sign that I remember from that afternoon is the voice of those before us.  As we drove around, my father told us a story of how my grandfather would shop at the Samsonite Outlet store in downtown Denver. To make a long story short, we ended up finding a Samsonite store in Colorado Mills.  It wasn't the store we set out to find, but a few wrong turns in the mall, a consultation of the directory and there we were.

    We did find our piece of luggage at that final store.  What was suppose to take only a few hours took us a few more.  It was a long day, frustrating at times ... fun at times.  I enjoyed time with my parents, as we don't see each other too often. So all in all, it was a day full of reminders that God has our backs, we just need to trust and listen. Oh and that piece of luggage we finally decided on ... a rolling backpack.

    So as I close, the sun is up ... it's another beautiful day and my "to do list" is now complete.  It may not have gotten done in the time frame anticipated, but it all got done.  God has my back ...

    I look forward to what this week will bring and the next chapter in this Nicaragua journey.  I ask God to help keep my heart and mind open and to allow myself to just be in the moment with all that God has to offer.

    May you all find your moments and remember, God has your back.

    April Schauer

  • Even Jesus Cried

    Psalm 8:1 “O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

    Have you ever been in a rush where things are going faster than you are comfortable with and, yes, even faster than you can control?  I find myself in that place from time to time and it is, to say the very least, uncomfortable and scary, it makes me angry, it makes me anxious, guilty, it makes me worry more.

    Psalm 8:3 “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

    I used to wake up with worries and fears of what had already happened or what I was going to have to choose, or would have no choice in.  I tried solving my problems at 2 or 3AM in the morning, but that didn’t work, and I tried counting sheep, but that didn’t work.  So I did something I had never done before…I started saying the Lord’s Prayer… over and over…and I started to listen to the words… and I started falling back asleep.

    I, Jim, do not have easy answers.  You can read books, go to family and friends, or seek out counseling… or you can give your worries, give your fears, give your anger to GOD.  I do believe GOD has easy answers, but they are harder than anything we have ever done before.  GOD loves you and GOD says give it to him, just let it go… just let it go.

    It helps me to know that even Jesus cried when Lazarus died.  GOD doesn’t say we won’t have the pain of loss, or the pain of friends who turn against us, or any other pains this world can and will send our way.  So if you start to cry, know you are in good company, because even Jesus cried.  And know that GOD loves you as you are with all your worries, fears, anxiety, and guilt… GOD LOVES YOU.

    Psalm 8:9 “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

    Precious Father, Loving God, Holy Spirit I pray that I realize how great you are.  That I can’t even comprehend how awesome and powerful you are and that I don’t let my limitations limit my thoughts on what you can do in my life.  But most of all Lord, let me know deep in the marrow of my bones that I am loved by you and there is nothing I can do to make you love me any less.  AMEN!

    Jim Dietvorst


  • Learn to Love ?

    Mark 3:1-19

    Mark 3:1-6 “Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, Stand up in front of everyone.  Then Jesus asked them, Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger, and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, Stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

    This story in the bible is written in a way that we can choose to take the side of the people in the synagogue or take the side of Jesus.  And of course we choose the side of Jesus… right?  It is easy to do it while reading from the perspective of Mark, but it couldn’t have been that easy or obvious for those in the synagogue or they would have chosen the way of Jesus.  Are there places in our lives where we don’t see what Jesus sees?
    Where we put our work before our family?
    Where we put our play before the support of friends?
    Where we put our worry before love?
    Where we put our will before his?

    This isn’t something we should feel guilty about or worry or get angry, but would it be possible in the start of the new year to allow each of us to realize there are areas we are uncomfortable with or about… and can we try to allow GOD to love us as we are?  And with the understanding that GOD loves us as we are can we let go of our worries and doubts and fears… and learn to love?

    Our dog Dutch taught mailmen to play ball.  Let’s understand that dogs and mailmen don’t naturally go together.  For some reason, there has always been some sort of strain or stress or fear between the two, but Dutch taught mailmen to play ball.  He didn’t run excitedly up to them or leap and lick at them, Dutch would go into the garage, grab a tennis ball and walk slowly out to the mailbox and drop his ball by the feet of the mailman then step back about three feet and sit down.  The mailman, not wanting to disturb his route or delay his day would lightly shuffle the ball off to the side a few feet and get back to work putting the mail in the boxes.  Dutch would slowly go get the ball and drop it by the feet of the mailman and go back and sit down… and after several times of delivering the mail the mailman would pick up the ball and throw it down the street allowing Dutch to play ball.  The second mailman was more uncomfortable with dogs and refused to play the shuffle the ball trick so Dutch picked up the ball and put it into the open door of the mail truck then backed up about four feet and sat down.  The mailman then went into the truck and kicked the ball out and went back to putting mail into the mail boxes and Dutch slowly went to the ball picked it up and put it into the mail truck and in a few weeks the mailman would stop for lunch by our mail boxes… and play ball with Dutch.

    GOD loves us as we are, whether we want to play ball or not, and GOD knows that in life we will come across mean and angry in threatening situations, but if we put our hearts, and our minds, and our strength in GOD then anything is possible …even dogs playing ball with the mailman.

    Precious Father, Loving God, Holy Spirit, open our eyes, and our hearts, and our hands to seeing where and when and how you see us in this beautiful world.  AMEN!

    Jim Dietvorst

  • A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

    I received a special gift this December, the chance to join the wonderful volunteers from God’s Grace who go to lead a bingo game at the Gathering Place.  My contribution was making some gingerbread men and some sugar cookie stars.  While the cookies were a hit, I felt like I was an observer as I watched Linda and her joyful smile comfortably breeze through the room reconnecting with what appeared to be old friends. Claudia, Diana, Jim and their leader Debbie all greeted women by name and visited with them as though they were catching up with their neighbors.

    Debbie asked me if it was what I expected. I said no. I’m not really sure what I expected but I saw women who could easily be me sitting in their place, the difference was I have a family network that has supported me through the rough patches life inevitably brings.

    Jesus was born homeless. He arrived without the fanfare of even excited neighbors coming to check on his family and welcome him into the world. He was born in a barn, with only the animals and his parents as witnesses to the birth of a King among Kings.

    I hope I can go and participate with the bingo crowd again someday. If you haven’t yet had the chance, I encourage you to tag along and see for yourself. Jesus is there among the women who live on the streets. They all just need a place to get warm, a place where people know their name and greet them with the warmth and love of a dear friend.

    Matthew 25:34-40

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 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.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Julie Weldon

  • Sunday to Monday | Conversations

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave’s sermon was titled…“Conversations With God (The Problem with Unanswered Prayer)” based on the text from 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Habakkuk 2 and John 17.

    Some questions to ponder as you go through your week…
    · What might Jesus be saying to you about prayer in John 17?
    John 17 contains a critical point of the “High Priestly Prayer’
    John 17:1-5 – Jesus prays for himself
    John 17:6-19 – Jesus prayers for the disciples
    John 17:6-19 – Jesus prays the church into existence
    John 17:24-26 – Jesus prays for the unity of heaven and earth

    · How might Jesus be challenging you to spiritual growth through unanswered prayers?

    · Attempt to pray each day this week for a constellation of God’s saints who Jesus used to gift you with faith. You will be formed anew by God (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5)

    · What “truth” is Jesus desiring to speak to you in prayer? Forgive an enemy? Hand over a worry(s)? Serve the poor?


  • Sunday to Monday | Living Abundantly

    “I (Jesus) came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave spoke on the topic of “How to Live Life to the Fullest.” He reminded us that followership is of the utmost importance in living our lives to their fullest, not leadership. Our sin is washed away by the blood that Jesus shed. Sing along to the song “Nothing but the blood…” and think about those all important words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtsxdtEN_G4&feature=watch_response_rev




    A couple of questions to ponder as your week begins…

    -As people of the suburbs, how do you bridge the gap to biblically rural images like sheep and shepherds?

    - Do you like to “follow” (John 10:4)? Is leadership possible without followership?

  • Possibilities

    I recently watched a documentary called 'Possibilities.' It followed Herbie Hancock as he worked with other artists to record the album aptly called 'Possibilities.' If you like jazz music I recommend it. The thing that struck me most though was something that Hancock said toward the beginning of the movie:

    "I like the word 'possibilities'. As children we have that sense of 'anything is possible', we have that understanding, we're not jaded. The older we get the more opposive we get, the more frightened we get, the more set in our ways we get... because we're afraid of the unknown. As a child everything is unknown. What a beautiful place to reside in... where you still have the wonder of a child." He went on to explain that this is why he named the album possibiltiies. Because we need to be continually reminded of what we knew as children, that the unknown is a good thing, and that possibilities are everywhere.

    This got me thinking about the Psalms. I always think of that book as one of the books of possibilities. There's a lot of lamenting and sorrow, but then there's also a lot of rejoicing...."You turned my wailing into dancing;you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever." Psalm 30: 11-12. 

    I love how verses like this express childlike wonder; wailing into dancing, clothed with joy, my heart may sing your praises. We don't always understand why certain things are happening, or what will happen next. I think that is how it is supposed to be though. If we felt like we had everything under control we wouldn't have to rely on God. God wants us to trust Him. He wants us to have to humble ourselves and continually come to Him in prayer and reliance. He wants us to be like children, and have faith in Him despite what goes on in our lives. When we have this faith we see the world differently. Things aren't as frightening. And the unknown can even be exciting. He will provide and we will see things in a new light. As children, most of us had a blind faith in our parents- that they would provide what we needed. God wants us to have that kind of faith in Him no matter how old we get. And then, with that faith of children, He wants to show us possibilities and wonder.

    Dear God, as children we understand so much about the world. As children, we spend much of our time in awe. Then we grow up, life gets in the way, and we have a tendency to lose what you love about the childlike spirit. Lord, as adults, may we have faith like children. May we trust You and rely on You. May we see all that you want us to see as possibilities. May we live in wonder of Your love and Your creation. Amen.

    Amanda Jensen


  • Mothers

    Mothers have been on my mind a lot lately. The length to which some mothers go to nurture, defend, and assist their children is amazing to me. (Not to take anything away from fathers, but right now I’m thinking about mothers.)

    I know a mother whose 3-year-old son is battling cancer. She keeps others updated through an online journaling site. She is juggling keeping life “normal” for her older son, while tending to the myriad of details with the cancer treatment. Her comment that “my life is some odd sort of sideways for now...” struck a cord.

    I know another mother whose 20-year-old son was recently released from prison. She has tirelessly worked to help him settle into some form of “normal living” while dealing with a rebellious 17 year old at home. During a heartfelt conversation several months ago, she admitted to me that she sometimes daydreams that she and her husband never had children and how “stress free” their lives might be. Then she quickly added that she knows God gave her these sons for a reason.

    With the terrible tragedy in Arizona this past week, I think of all the mothers affected by those events. There is the mother of the young girl victim, the mother of the Congresswoman, the mothers of the heroes, the mother of the shooter. No doubt, there are thousands of different emotions playing out with these many mothers.

    There was a time when my kids were little and we had moved to a new neighborhood. I was working outside the home, so had less opportunity to get out and meet the neighbors. When I did, they would often say,”oh you’re the mother of the triplets.” During our kids’ school years, we are often known for whom we are the mothers of …good and bad, depending on what the kid may have done or not done! How do you feel if you’re the mom of the kid who started the playground fight? Maybe different than if your kid was the one who was awarded the Good Citizen of the month award.

    As kids get older, there are even bigger achievements and bigger disappointments to mother. You don’t stop being a mother when your kids go off to college or when they get married or when they turn 50. Things just change. Often times the issues and problems you encounter with the “babies” are far more difficult than you could have ever imagined when you held that newborn in your arms for the first time. If I had a quarter for every time a mother has asked me to pray for her (strength, mothering skills, etc.) I would be rich indeed!

    Dear Gracious and loving God, I pray that your loving touch reaches out over all the mothers of the world. May you guide us not to pass judgment on other mothers because of their circumstances, but rather to offer support and a willingness to open our hearts to their situations. May we love our earthly children as much as you have loved all of your children. Please help all mothers know that we can do our best to raise our children, but that some days we will do better than other days. Amen

    Andrea Heshmati

  • Sunday to Monday | The Big Picture

    "Every artistic medium has its own unique merits. The medium of live painting seems to have the potential to engage the heart of the viewer in a way that words or music alone cannot. It's as though the audience sees the Word of God come to life before their eyes, and they experience His revelation in a fresh and profound way. My hope is to present the church with something that goes beyond sentimentality, and to help people become intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually engaged with God and His revealed Truth."            ~ Scott Freeman

    On Sunday, artist Scott Freeman, presented his Big Picture Art Theatre in the auditorium at RCHS. Titled, A Brief History of the World, his presentation followed God's history of relationship with man, beginning with creation and the fall, and culminating with the bride of Jesus, the church. What a visual "treat" this was for all who watched and anticipated the amazing outcome. Special thanks to Cindy Baker from RCHS arts department, who was present to help with lighting, as well as our own Randy, Ed and Amy who added to the presentation with their awesome music and vocals.

    Some questions to think about this week...

    · What are the ways you experience God? Which one(s) moves you the most?

    · Recall a time when a work of art revealed to you something about the nature of God.

    · Read Psalm 19. Reflect on God as the artist of all creation.

    · What artistic gifts has God given you? (Consider the variety of artistic gifts…not just those in museums, concert halls or the stage.)      How might you nurture this artist in you to connect anew with God?

  • Thanks to the Veterans

    Praise God for our veterans!

    "For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers." Proverbs 24:26 (NIV)

    Today we honor those fearless soldiers who have defended our country against conflicts and wars. We give thanks and praise for your hard fought efforts. You have demonstrated amazing courage and sacrifice that is unimaginable to those of us who have never served their country. You have taken up the cross of our country’s security and freedom and carried it ever so proudly. Thank you for taking your time to recount the many stories you have to share of your experiences.

    "For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."            Deuteronomy 20:4 

    We are also so thankful for your loving families who have lived through the stress, anxiety and loneliness of their loved ones serving their country far away from home. Trying to carry on life as normal as possible is sometimes hard when a family member is away for a short time, but it must surely be magnified by the undoubted challenges they know their loved ones are enduring in their absence.

    "So do not fear, for I am with you;                                                             
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
    Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

    Dear God, thanks to all our veterans who have faithfully served their country and defended our country at sometimes very high stakes. And thanks be to you, God, for being with our troops during the dark, dangerous, and lonely times. You’ve watched over them, and we are thankful for your presence. Provide courage and strength to military currently serving our country. Bless those returning home from duty that they might be reconnected to friends, family, and life. Bless their families so they might find comfort and peace as they wait and pray for their loved ones to return safely home. Thank you for our continued freedom, and our ability to freely worship You as we choose. Let us not forget the many, many lives that have been lost in battles. May we work hard to sustain our freedoms so their efforts are not in vain.

    In the greatest honor of our veterans,
    Wendy Saathoff

  • Finding Your Sparks

    Who did God create you to be? That’s a question we often spend a lifetime seeking an answer to. The Psalmist tells us that “it was (God) who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) But how do we live out God’s dream for our lives?

    Dr. Peter Benson is the creator of the framework of Developmental Assets and other innovations in human development; a leading authority on children and teenagers and the processes that help them to flourish and thrive. But, his work applies to ALL of God’s children, not just those under 21!

    Dr. Benson writes about “sparks.” A spark is something that gives your life meaning and purpose. It’s an interest, a passion, or a fit. What do you bring to the world that is good, beautiful and useful? If it becomes our practice to identify our own sparks, it will surely become our practice that every young person comes to identify and live into their own sparks.

    Sparks are the hidden flames that excite and tap into passion.
    Sparks come from the gut. They motivate and inspire.
    Sparks can be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic, relational.
    Sparks can ignite vocation and other satisfying activities for an enriched life.
    Sparks get us going on a positive path and away from negative energy.
    (To read more about Sparks go to www.ignitesparks.com.)

    God fills us with the breath of life, sent Jesus to lead the way and the Holy Spirit to encourage and give us confidence. Identifying the spark that God gave us might take time, but when we hit upon our sparks we are filled with joy and hope and courage and peace. As Isaiah tells us, God will renew our strength, we will run and not be weary! (Isaiah 40:31) Identifying and claiming our sparks will create in us a clean heart and sustain us. (Psalm 51:10-12)

    Our sparks will kindle in us the power to be the witnesses – the saints – for those who come after us, those who are searching for heroes and looking for models. Right now, we are planting the seeds for future All Saints Sundays!

    God, help us to be ourselves just the way you created us to be.

    Blessings,
    Vikki

  • Lessons from the Ark

    Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark. 


    One: Don’t miss the boat.

    Two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

    Three: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

    Four: Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

    Five: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.


    Six: Build your future on high ground.

    Seven: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.


    Eight: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

    Nine: When you’re stressed, float a while.


    Ten: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals. 

    Eleven: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

  • Sunday to Monday | Unmasked

    “Some people shy away from religion because they are afraid that they may be trading in one set of chains for another. Religion can do that to people, but not a relationship with Christ. Christ sets us free!”
    -
    King Duncan

    On Sunday, Vikki preached on the theme of being unmasked. We came away realizing the story of Zacchaeus is about much more than the “small dude up a big tree.”

    Some questions to ponder upon…


    -What are the masks you hide behind? What are the trees you climb to view what’s happening from a distance? That risks or hazards are you willing to take to let go of them? Read Jesus’ mission once again in Luke 19:10 and hear him saying it to you.


    -How might you use humor and humility to let down your guard and let Jesus find you?


    -Who do you accept hospitality from? Who do you give hospitality to? What does the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus teach you about hospitality and about relationships?

    -Can love rescue you? Do you need it to? If not, see question #1. We are free to change because of God’s love!

  • 3 Rounds

    In my field of advertising what you really want, is a client that understands that the best advertising results are accomplished over the long term. These agreements are often called “annuals.”

    Round One:
    A former advertising boss of mine was leaving early one evening to lead a church group called “Evangelism Explosion”. The small group of church volunteers went door to door asking people (I am paraphrasing) “If you left the earth tonight, are you sure that you would live life everlasting with Jesus”? “Wow!” I responded “so you are presenting nothing but ‘annuals’ to the people you are meeting for the first time.” Great evangelism on his part, beyond anything I have ever done.

    Round Two:
    One Monday a co-worker asked me, “What did you do this weekend?” “Chores and dinner out on Saturday, and church on Sunday,” I replied. “What else did you do” he asked rolling his eyes at my mention of church. I folded my evangelism “attempt” and rolled the conversation quickly to “how bout those Broncos,” as we finished our weekend recap.

    Round Three?
    On Sunday, November 14th artist Scott Freeman will feature the creation of art “live” during the 9am and 10:30 am service. This service represents a unique and easy (compared to selling “annuals”) opportunity to invite friends, co-workers, and family to a unique experience.
    Here is a sample “Pitch...”
    “We have an artist doing performance art as part of worship, we’re going to pick up Starbucks and then check out the service, want to come”?
    I am going to give this “evangelism” another try, and invite you to do the same. You never know maybe we’ll “sell an annual!”

    Ron Mitchell

  • Apathy or Empathy?

    Yesterday I heard a song with lyrics that said "If only I had an enemy greater than my apathy I would have won." It was a bold statement that stopped me in my tracks. I got to thinking about apathy. How sometimes we maybe have to be apathetic because we don't have enough hours in the day to be fully attentive and whole hearted toward every situation we come across. And how there are also so many times that we are called to have sympathy and empathy opposed to apathy.

    I've been thinking about how fast time is flying. I lay down at night and can't believe how the day flew by. And I find myself having to think again about what all it was that I did that day- and what all I didn't do... the friends whose phone calls I didn't return, the favor a family member asked me to do and I declined, that beating homeless initiative training event I walked past… All the things that I have become apathetic toward because I'm too busy. I know I can't do it all. But, if I'm not living with intention and great love than I don't think there's much of a reason for me being on this earth. There are only 24 hours in a day. And in those 24 hours I make decisions. I decide what I neglect and what I attend to. Each of those decisions lead to how I'm living. The choices I make dictate the life I live. I can't do it all in 24 hours. But, I can do a good amount of it. I can live with intention, and put apathy in the right places, and empathy in the right places.

    Father, please help us to live with intention. Please help us to care about what you want us to care about. Help us to make choices with our time that lead to a life well lived. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make decisions. Thank you for your grace, and for blessing us in so many ways. Amen.

    Amanda Jensen

  • Masks

    What mask, makeup or costume do you plan to wear this weekend? Will it be someone you admire, a declaration of some super-power you wish you had, or an outrageous disguise to hide behind? I’m not much for dressing up at Halloween; my favorite costume was in 3rd grade when my mom created a multi-colored leaf tree outfit complete with birdhouse mask. Halloween has become big business as kids of all ages outfit themselves to the max.

    But, do we wear masks and hide behind costumes the rest of the year? You bet we do. We have an image we like to project. We behave in ways that we hope will affect how others perceive us. Additionally, we create characters for others when we assume certain things about them and place them in categories and roles. You know, when you name people you don’t even know based solely on what you see…the worthless teen, the rich CEO, the homeless man, the lawyer, the athlete, the soccer mom, the bully, etc.

    Jesus has an amazing way of seeing through our masks and the ways we try to hide who we really are. And, Jesus can see through the masks and costumes we project onto others. This is scary and hopeful all at once. I mean, we want in our inner-being to be known, but we’re afraid that others and Jesus won’t like who we really are. We can get lost trying to hide from ourselves, from others and from Jesus.

    All of Jesus’ ministry can be summed up in one story in the Gospel of Luke. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Zacchaeus before? I learned this song as a young girl,

    Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.                                
    He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
    And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree,
    And he said, "Zacchaeus, you come down from there;
    For I'm going to your house today, for I'm going to your house today"

    I invite you to take a look at this story that occurs as Jesus is heading toward Jerusalem in Luke 19:1-10. Learn how Jesus sees beyond the role and life-choices that Zacchaeus makes and how he is known in his community. Read Jesus’ mission statement in verse 10: For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. Know that Jesus will seek you and find you behind whatever mask you wear and that he wants to save you, redeem you and free you to follow him and do likewise.

    Praise be to God!
    Vikki


  • Adopted

    My wife and I spent a wonderful evening with a couple and their 4 year old boy. They were in the process of adoption and for traditional Chinese parents, that subject is almost like drinking poison. They are totally against it and talking about it is like talking to a brick wall. But my friends really have a heart for children and they proceeded. They really want a combination of natural and adopted children. They currently live in their parent’s house and they felt so strong about this that if the parents gave opposition to this, they would move out of their parent’s house. My heart goes out to them. They are an amazing couple dedicated to Christ and God.

    I know another lady at the rec center who has 3 Chinese adopted grandchildren. They are the cutest and most wonderful children you have ever seen. The parents really have a heart for children and it is amazing the sacrifice they made in order to get these children. I think there are many fathers and mothers in this world, but not enough daddies and mommies. It is a Godly privilege to take care of any child. I know another couple that has gone through IVF and many other procedures. The cost is devastating and the pain on the wife is just too enormous to bear. The husband does not believe in adoption and sticks to traditional Chinese ways. They are a good couple and I hope one day they see it is a privilege to take care of any child to glorify God.

    Then I think about God. He has a heart for the children in his family. They say we need to be like Christ and God. Didn’t he adopt us to be the children in his family? We all were supposed to perish because all have fallen short. We all deserve death but Christ sacrificed His life in order for us to have life with an awesome and amazing God. Look at the sacrifice God made in order to adopt us as his children. My admiration and my heart go to parents who adopt children. It is not easy and it is a rough road to live. Their hearts are enormous and overflowing with love. The next time you see parents with adopted children thank them and remember that God loves you the same way. His love is like an overflowing ocean and it will never ever stop flowing. That is why Love conquers all.

    In Christ,
    Stan Yee

  • Sunday to Monday | Braggart or Beggar

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave's sermon was themed “Braggart or Beggar” based on the text from
    Luke 18: 9-17, the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. It was interesting to hear about Pastor Dave's run along the Las Vegas strip last Sunday morning, and his interaction with a taxi driver. This week, ask someone how might you ask God to bless them. You might be surprised at the response...

    Poet Edwin Muir describes the life of a Christian as a mysterious fable in which “we receive more than we can ever give; we receive it from the past, on which we draw with every breath, but also…from the Source of the mystery itself, which religious people call ‘Grace.’”– An Autobiography (Graywolf Memoir).

    Some questions to think about on this cool and rainy October morning...

    ·Have you ever looked at another person and been thankful that God has blessed you more than them (Luke 18:11)?

    ·Have you ever looked at another person and envied their faith? Or asked God for mercy and greater faith (Luke 18:13)?

    ·Let us pray for the humility to see ourselves as equal children of God’s own creating mutually in need of God’s mercy (Luke 18:14).

    ·May we reflect on the serious spiritual business of being playful and childlike in our faith life (Luke 18:15-17).


  • Prayer in Our Story

    “Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.” Colossians 1:22, The Message

    Families, whether they are those you live with, those you worship with or those who take you under their wing and protect and guide you, families are not a community of people who believe in a common cause, but a group of people who have dug deep, who find love and goodness that binds them together. They are a big, messy, laughing group of people who care for each other. They grow one person at a time, one day at a time, they grow and change and stay wondrously the same. When we invite God into our stories anything can happen.

    Below are some thoughts on living your story with prayer. From “Answering God” by Eugene H. Peterson

    “Everyone’s life is filled with conflict and failure and fear, love and betrayal, loss and salvation. Every day is a story, a morning beginning and evening ending that are boundaries for people who go about their tasks with more or less purpose, go to war, make love, earn a living, scheme and sin and believe. Everything is connected. Meaning is everywhere. The days add up to a life that is a story”…

    “All prayer is prayed in a story, by someone who is in the story… Prayers are prayed by people who live stories.”

    Abba Father,
    We thank you for drawing us together in your love. Thank you for Jesus, our mentor and friend. Help us to live a life of love and prayer, to see others with your compassion and forgiveness. We invite you into our stories. We trust your presence and the peace you give.
    Amen

    Lois

  • Grace for Losers

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    In Luke 18:9-14, we have two very different approaches to God. A Pharisee, one of the religious leaders of the day, comes before God and gives thanks that he is not like all the “…thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like the tax collector.” Then we hear from the tax collector who is begging God to “…be merciful to me….” Jesus tells those listening that God lifts up those who like the tax collector humble themselves before God.

    Some years ago, I began a sermon saying “If your marriage is happy, if you have no addictions, if your children are all obedient and respectful, if you say all the words to the creed by heart, and have no major problems with believing the Bible and all of it, then you can leave now. This service is not for you.”

    I meant what I said in that sermon. Too often we unintentionally present the Christian faith as if it is for the “winners,” those who are a success at life and believe. But of course, if you read the Bible, including the text from Luke 18, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is for losers, for those who don’t have their lives together, for those who are uncertain of their beliefs, for those who can’t get by on their own. In short, it is faith for people who need God to save them because they can’t save themselves. We call it grace, and it is amazing.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Radiant!

    Psalm 34: 4-5 (NIV): “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

    What are you afraid of? Shame is a weird word. A standard dictionary defines shame as, “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.”

    What are you ashamed of? A few years ago on Easter morning, my Dad and I had a great conversation. As a child, he was abused and dishonored prior to entering the sanctuary that the Mennonite Children’s Home in Kansas City (an orphanage for displaced children) provided him. He was ashamed. He always thought it was his fault. He looked at himself differently because of his life circumstances.

    As we reflected on the Resurrection that Easter morning, we read Psalm 34. The promise of radiance is clear. The veil has been broken. Light comes in the morning with the resurrection promise. Turn your face to Jesus and he will reflect light into your soul. All we have to do is look to Him – the giver of life. He will take away all shame. Do not be afraid because of life circumstances. Taste and see that the Lord is good. The angel of the Lord will deliver you. Refuge is in God. Seek the Lord and lack no good thing.

    Dear God,
    Turn my shame into radiance. Remove it. Free me from captivity that I’ve stored in my soul without merit. Release the bonds that have shaded me from your radiant light. Remove the shame from my face. Father God, touch those who feel shame today. Remove all earthly fear of harm and replace it with awe and reverence for the complete forgiveness of past transgressions. Help me to radiate your love and to not look back on life circumstances. Keep my face radiant. Amen.

    Carole Schumacher

  • Out of Control

    I am very excited to have a few days off from school. At my school,  we don’t get a fall break- but it doesn’t matter to me. We have today and tomorrow off, and in all honesty, I have never needed a break more than this. Because right now, life just seems to be out of control.

    I think most people would echo my sentiments. Stress seems to be everywhere. Days seem too long—or in some cases, not long enough. We are constantly stuck in situations, choices, moments that lead us into an uncertain future.

    And the future for me is becoming an especially scary place. I sent out my first college application last Sunday. I plan to send out more this weekend. And suddenly, the reality—the future—has really started to sink in. I’m starting to realize that my life is going to change. My surroundings will change. My priorities will change. My friends will change. My relationship with my family will change. And I’m not one of those people who handles change real well.

    But everyone seems to be in this boat. I think we call it “life.” Every day we find ourselves in situations, choices, moments. Some are easy and come and go. Others are hard, and linger over us. Either way, life keeps on happening.

    Some days I wake up and think “I’ve got to try harder to get my life back in control.” Those are normally the days that go horribly wrong. I’ve come to find  that when I try to take control of my life, I wind up messing everything up. I make rash decisions. I isolate people. I become narrow minded. In the end, I get myself into a world of hurt. But there are other days when I wake up and pray, “God, this is out of control. I put today in your hands.” Those are the days that everything just comes together.

    There is no doubt that life is complicated and the future is uncertain. But God is greater than mere complication and uncertainty. When we make plans, we focus on the known and the unknown. But to God, nothing is unknown. He makes plans with all of eternity laid out before him. As Max Lucado says, “God’s greatest creation is not the flung stars or the gorged canyons; it’s his eternal plan for his children.”

    But this leads to the million dollar question: What is God’s plan? We can’t know for sure and we probably couldn’t understand it if we did. But we do know two things:

    (1.) God is good. He loves us. His number one priority is building a relationship with us. He doesn’t want to see us hurt or in pain. He doesn’t want us to be disappointed. At the same time, God knows best. He knows what is good for us even if we don’t. He won’t put in a situation we can’t handle, and he won’t give us what we want if it won’t make us happy.

    (2.) God never fails. Whatever the plan is—rather it involves giant arks, raging seas, ferocious giants, virgin births, or Roman crosses—God will not get it wrong and his plan will always come together.

    So really, it isn’t a question of- is God in control... it’s a question of do we trust God. That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. The best response I can give would be this: If God is your co-pilot, switch seats.

    Prayer: Dear God. Thank you for the opportunities you give us everyday God. We are thankful that you know us and love us. We want to put today in your hands God. We know that you know best and that your plans are far greater than ours. We ask that you will watch over us, God. Keep us each safe and sound, happy and healthy. In your name we pray. Amen.

    Zach Herzog

  • Amazing Silence

    1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
    And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
    2 Day to day pours forth speech,
    And night to night reveals knowledge.
    3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
    Their voice is not heard.
    4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
    And their utterances to the end of the world
    In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
    5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
    It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

    6 It’s rising is from one end of the heavens,
    And its circuit to the other end of them;
    And there is nothing hidden from its heat.  Psalm 19:1-6


    Father Thomas Keating, a wonderful monk that my wife Lizzy and I have met several times, has said "God's first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation." I really didn't know what he meant by that a first, but as I reflected further on what he had said and then read Psalm 19, it became very clear. God’s first language is silence and Psalm 19 says so. Everyday we rise, we see God's handiwork on display. During the day, in a morning sunrise or at sunset the heavens are "telling" the glory of God. Every night sky we see is also "telling" us of the glory of God. This display of God through nature is called Natural Revelation. Through Natural Revelation the universe and all that is in it, bears the mark of it’s God. Every time I see the colors of a sunset, I marvel at the beauty and when I see the night sky I also am astounded by all the magnitude and complexity. I can't help but think that everyone must know in their hearts that God has to exist, on just what we see.

    Living here in Germany, seeing the rugged Alps every morning and evening with the alpine glow at sunrise and sunset is incredible. I think the people here in Bavaria must also agree with the Psalmist because most all the houses here are painted with nature or biblical scenes on the outside of them, and as I've said before- everyone greets each other with Gruss Gott (Greetings from God.) The next time you see a beautiful sunrise, sunset, night sky, or take a hike in beautiful Colorado- remember that God is trying to get your attention and show you He loves you through the beauty that you see that He created especially for you.

    God's first language is silence......but that silence is amazing!

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Sunday to Monday | Forgiveness

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave wrapped up his sermon series on "Spiritual Surgery." The theme of the day was the "F" word....yes, that's right, forgiveness.

    “When you forgive someone, you are dancing to the rhythm of the divine heartbeat…God invented forgiveness as the only way to keep his romance with the human race alive.” ~Lewis Smedes

    Some questions to think about...

    · Who has forgiven you the most? Who have you forgiven the most? (Matthew 18:21, 22)

    · How has “forgiveness” affected your relationships?

    · Can you spiritually imagine a world that practiced the grace of Matthew 18:23-35?

    · When you think of the need for forgiveness, what comes to mind in terms of your relationship with God? Your relationship with others?

  • Be The Life of The Party

    This big “party” of life – where do you fit?  Is your life a constant party or does it tend to exhibit some pretty mundane characteristics?   We might feel as if we lead a pretty ho-hum life style, but through the light and life of Christ, our lives become a party life.  How so?   I believe Christ will bestow on those who believe in the resurrection of the life of Jesus Christ such things as eternal life - a necessity for the biggest and best of parties;  the chance to love and be loved – one of the greatest gifts of all from our Savior Jesus Christ; and compassion for others who need a hand.  From there the list goes on and on, rich or poor, we all have blessings to share and blessings to give.

    So in thinking about the big party, we will most certainly want to include our neighbors in any appropriate party we plan.  In Luke 10:29 a lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus then shared a story of a man who was robbed and left beaten along the road side.  Two different people, one of whom was a priest, passed by him, noticed him, but didn’t stop to help.  Then a Samaritan came along, bandaged him up, and helped him to his feet and even paid for lodging at an inn for the man until he was better. The man had no hidden agenda; he was simply offering his assistance to someone who needed it. Jesus explained, the Samaritan was the true neighbor, since he showed mercy on the beaten man.  Later in verse 37, Jesus tells the lawyer, “go and do likewise.”

    Earlier this week, I read a quote from Eric Butterworth, who was Senior Minister of The Unity Center in New York City, and author of many successful books.  His quote was this:  “Don’t go through life, grow through life.”  Another quote I found interesting from Mr. Butterworth was “Prosperity is a way of living and thinking, and not just money or things.  Poverty is a way of living and thinking and not just a lack of money or things.”  We need to reach out to others to take them from poverty to prosperity.  I thought his concept of how people perceive themselves was interesting, in that their outlook is not based on money or things, but on how they live their lives.



    Dear God, help us see the goodness of your Love and help release those that might be leading a life of poverty into a life of prosperity; life focused on treating others as neighbors and taking care of ourselves and each other.  Please be sure and invite us to your eternal party. Amen


    Wendy Saathoff

  • Life Locked

    My mail had an application for Life Lock this week. I sure would not want the hassle of someone stealing my identity. The need for Life Lock has been around for centuries. Who stole the birthright from their brother? Jacob ended up stealing the birthright from his older brother Esau. Jacob goes on to flee due to the death threat from Esau, but he ends up wrestling with an angel and is given the name Israel – 'one who has power with God.” Although Jacob was fearful of the repercussions he depended on God and his promise. God never interfered with the difficult journey of Jacob, but let his journey open his heart to the Lord.

    We too need to know that God knows our identity and has given us saving power and grace. He has Life Locked our soul for his biding and joyful acceptance into his kingdom. It just doesn’t get much better than that! 

    Heavenly Father, we pray that you “Life Lock” our journey to do your biding and bless us each day to set our path on fulfilling our identity as your children.

    Jane Mang

  • It Can Be Done

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    “Forgiveness”……it is a critical component within the life blood of all relationships. No relationship can be sustained without forgiveness. Have you ever asked yourself what is the limit of forgiveness? How many times do you have to do it? There must be a point at which even a good thing turns toxic and has hit its limit?

    In Matthew 18:21,22 one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter asks Jesus, “ Lord if another member (participant) of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times seven?” Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but , I tell you, seventy seven   times."  The biblical numerology here does not literally mean to count to seventy seven, and then seek revenge. Seventy- seven is seen as a number that represents infinity.

    As challenging as it is, I think forgiveness may be the supreme virtue. Stephanie Dorwick in THE ART OF LETTING GO says,” I will attempt to go on loving the life in you, even when I totally abhor what you have done or what you stand for. What’s more, I will attempt to see you as my equal, and your life as having equal value to my own, even when I despise what you do and everything you stand for.”

    This is, of course, awesome to translate into practice. In emotional terms, it is Everest without oxygen, or Wimbledon without a racket. Yet by the grace of God that has first forgiven us, it has, and can be done.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Inside Out

    Therefore, do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.                        (II Corinthians 4:16)

    My body is wearing out – aches and pains when I roll out of bed in the morning. My mind is not as sharp as it used to be 25 years ago. My skin is getting thinner and I bruise more easily. My hair is grey. I can’t run quite as fast as I did in high school.

    As I get older, I see things differently. The “things” that seemed so important to me have passed away. I used to have my nails done every two weeks because they had to look perfect. Colored my hair for 25 years. (French women don’t shave their armpits, but I can’t go that far). We spend so much time, effort and money on our outward appearance. Do I spend as much time and effort working on the inside?

    What’s on the inside is what really counts. God calls me to his glory and doesn’t care about my outward appearance. He cares about what I believe in. I am a jar of clay. I am frail and can be broken easily, but when the clay shards are re-gathered, they make beautiful mosaics. Perhaps my jar prevents me from seeing the light of Jesus that is tucked on my inside. Perhaps we need to be broken more often. Perhaps our outside shields us from the glory that God wants inside. Fill my jar. Quench my thirst with your healing spirit. When my body aches on the outside, heal my spirit and fill me with joy on the inside.

    Dear Lord, despite my body aging and losing some of its earlier exterior beauty, fill me with joy for eternity. Renew my spirit each day. Give me forward motion to always compel me to walk toward the eternal prize – clothed in the robes of your glory as I break free from this earthly body. This body is not my home. I thank you and praise you and trust that you will continue to turn me inside out for you.

    Let your beauty shine through me to be your light in the world. Amen

    Carole Schumacher


  • Sunday to Monday | Breaking Down Barriers

    On Sunday, the topic of Pastor Dave's sermon was "Breaking Down Barriers...."

    “I believe that in all men’s (women’s) lives…one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local ring and the terror of being left outside.” ~C.S. Lewis

    Forgive us , O God , for thinking we have you all figured out. We pretend we know who is in and who is out of your family, as if your care were not for all of us. We want people to be like us before we help them, and we welcome into our community only those who will benefit us. Forgive us . Reconcile us to those we have treated as worthless or unwanted; mold us into a community where all your children are accepted, included and loved. (Adapted from a prayer of confession by Lavon Baylor)

    Some questions to think about as you start your week....
    · Why might it be helpful to approach Jesus asking for “mercy?” (Matthew 15:22)

    · When have you had a need and been sent away? When or how do we send others away who are in need? (Matthew 15:23)

    · The Canaanite woman never takes offense. She is a model of persistence. How well do you persist without taking offense?

    · What does it mean for you/us that Jesus’ objective is to include and offer grace? (Matthew 15:28) How might we grow as witnesses to Jesus?

  • Sunday to Monday | Less Me

    On Sunday, we heard from the Senior High youth and their adult leaders about their recent mission trip to the Navaho Reservation in Arizona. They shared honest accounts of how they were blessed and how their experiences changed them or their way of thinking. The theme of their time in AZ was "more Jesus, less me" and they successfully related how they lived out that theme. 

    Some questions to think about this week....

    -Have you ever stepped away from your routines and “stuff” and asked God to do something new in your life (Luke 18:18-30)?   If you have, what was it like? 

    -What keeps you from setting aside time to do it now? What might John 3:30 mean for your life? If Jesus truly increased and you decreased, how would the world change?

    -Has Jesus called us all to love all teenagers? If you said yes, you are a youth minister.      How is Jesus “sending” you to serve with youth?                                                                    Let us pray that people of all ages might engage sharing the Gospel with more passion – locally, regionally and globally.

  • Doing the Dishes

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    The young monastic Shane Claiborne says, “Everybody wants to be a rebel but nobody wants to do the dishes.”That quote holds as much truth as anything I have heard or read in a very long time. I run into many people who want to change the world, but they lack full discernment when it comes to how many hours of work is required to implement one rebellious idea for the kingdom of God. Pause to reflect upon the lives of Sister Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or whoever your favorite Spiritual rebel is. No rebel who changed the course of history for the better, failed to understand the importance of being a servant, one who “does the dishes.”

    One of the masters in our culture right now on how to be a rebel-servant is Dr Reggie McNeal. We are blessed that Reggie will be preaching at GGCC this weekend and leading a workshop on Sunday afternoon. A core Bible passage for McNeal’s theology is Genesis 12:1,2 “ That we are each blessed by God to be a blessing to the world”. The mission God has placed before us is to bless others with the love of Jesus. Our task is not to save the world. The call we have been given is to love others as we have first been loved by God.

    First, understanding that you are blessed by God in and of itself can be a radical and rebellious thought. Many of us too often do not feel very blessed or lovable. Know that you are a precious product of God's creation worthy of God's love and blessing. Second, we are offered the opportunity to partner with God in the world and share the message of God's love and blessings for all people. In a world where too many of us are rushing around feeling lost in the crowd, a well placed blessing has eternal echoes.

    If you get a chance to read one of Dr McNeal’s books I highly recommend it. “THE PRESENT FUTURE” or “PRACTICING GREATNESS” or “ MISSIONAL RENAISSANCE”. He has authored others, but I highly recommend these three. If you can make it to GGCC to hear him preach this weekend or if you are able to attend the ministry workshop on Sunday afternoon, you will be blessed to be a fuller partner with God in blessing the world.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • An Intricate Design

    The last couple of days I've been thinking about how we're all created to be great at something. (At least one "something".) God designed us intricately and beautifully. We each have different skills, gifts, talents and personalities. We all have something to offer. We have been blessed and will continue to be blessed. And we're here for a reason... called to this time and place. 

    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139: 13.

    It's not hard to forget that we're fearfully and wonderfully made. It's easier to think about all the things we're not good at. It's easy to lie in bed at night and think about the things we screwed up that day. It's easy to compare, to look at other people and then look back at ourselves in disappointment. And it's easy to sell ourselves short. The harder thing is to figure out what we were created for, and what we're supposed to do with our time on this earth. The harder thing is to use what we've been blessed with, not just for ourselves, but for the betterment of others... utilizing those blessings.

    The other important aspect is to remember we should respect each other's differences, encourage each other to use the strengths and talents our God has bestowed upon us.... that's pretty great too. 


    The wonderful thing, is to do what we were created for... to do what makes you feel alive... to live out what God made you for. Because when you're fearfully and wonderfully made, it's a cop out to do anything less- don't you think?

    Dear Heavenly Father, today I pray that you would show us what you want us to do with our lives and then help us to know that you have given us the courage to live that out. For those of us that are already living that out, I pray that you continue to give the strength to keep it up. I pray that we would do what we were designed to do, and that we would know we each have a purpose. Please help us to respect and encourage each other in our individuality. And God thank you. Thank you for blessing us beyond reason. Amen.


    Grace & Peace,
    Amanda Jensen

  • No Grown Ups Allowed

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    “People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. (Mark 10:13)”

    Through the centuries there have been far too many Christians who have felt that their primary calling in life was that of speaking “sternly” to someone or rebuking somebody. There have been too many who have felt that God wanted them to look around to see if anybody was having fun, so they could stop it. Of course this is not the reputation followers of Jesus have with all people, but it is out there to the degree that I am aware that we have an image problem. Let me give you and example.


    A priest is supposed to have said to the comedian Groucho Marx : “Oh Mr. Marx , I want to thank you for bringing so much joy into the world.” To which Groucho Marx, always quick with on the uptake replied, rather ungraciously, “I want to thank you for taking so much out.” Groucho was ungracious, but he had a point. A lot of religious folks seem bent on bringing their wet blankets to every party.


    Do not get me wrong. I am big believer in discipline. I think discipline is one requirement for making disciples. The challenge it seems is how do we as the “church” with a reputation for “taking the joy out of the world,” bear witness to Jesus who scooped up children and told all onlookers that inside this small person are qualities God has placed there and which people of all age are to nurture if they intend to experience my kingdom.


    When was the last time you turned your imagination loose and played dress up with a child? Or when do you remember taking some old brush or boards and building a playhouse? It is the same skill set of God that imagines ways to play, that imagines new ways for healing, hope, and joy to enter into the world. Allow yourself to be part of creation in ways only the spiritual skill set of a child can do it. For when Jesus "took those children up in his arms and blessed them (Mark 10:16),"  you were blessed with such a skill set that is yours for the ages.


    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Human Resource Dept.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Do you ever ponder what it means when another believer in Jesus calls you a "brother or sister"? Does it seem relevant to you that another follower of Jesus would refer to you as a sibling? Have you given it much prayerful consideration?

    Jesus was inside the house . A large crowd had gathered that was full of questions and giving him a lot of attention. In that crowd was Jesus' mom and blood brothers and sisters.  One member of the crowd said, "Hey your family is out here, your Mom and siblings."

    Jesus responded by saying, "Who are my mother and my siblings?"  Then Jesus looked at the entire crowd and said, "Here are my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my family." (Mark 10:31-35)

    So does this shatter the nuclear family?  If I am at peace and happy with who lives under my roof, do I have it all wrong?  NO!  Jesus is not questioning the nuclear family, but he is giving it more resources.  Jesus is extending to all people the entire "Human Resource Department of God."

    We are each a relative of one another in Christ Jesus.  The good news is we have companions for the journey to share our grief, sorrows and our joys.  No one is alone, we are bonded in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    "Our marriages and families are in great difficulty today. The church offers us a new approach to family, a different way of being in our marriages and families. In baptism, we are brought into a larger "family" than we would of known if we had been left to our own devices."  William Willimon, Methodist Bishop of Alabama.

    When the church is the church at its best, we hold this text central to our community formation.  May we each prayerfully ponder such matters in our hearts.  Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Samoa and American Samoa affected by the devastating tsunami today.

    See you on Sunday!

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Sunday to Monday | Greater Things Than This

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave talked about how God calls us to "greater things." He read this passage from a recliner during worship:

    See a middle-aged man who spends his nights sitting in front of a television set....He was once all fired up with bright plans for the future and strong yearnings to make his mark on this world. But somewhere along the line all the fire went out, and he settled for comfort. His dreams were sacrificed to a La-Z-Boy and flickering images on a screen. He is the story of unrealized potential.

    This is the way that lead to stagnation - unrealized potential, unfilled longings. It leads to a sense that I'm not living my life, the life I was supposed to live....

    To sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed,

    Abilities and giffts that never get clutivated and deployed -

    Until weeks become months

    And months turn into years,

    And one day you're looking back on a life of

    Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;

    Great bold prayers you never prayed,

    Exhilarating risks you never took,

    Sacrificial gifts you never offered

    Lives you never touched,

    And you're sitting in a recliner with a shriveled soul,

    And forgotten dreams,

    And you realize there was a world of desperate need,

    And a great God calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself -

    You see the person you could have become but did not;

    You never followed your calling,

    You never got out of the boat.

     ~ from John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat:

     We talked about how God's Grace is called to Love God, Love People, Serve the World....and what that might mean for each of us. Here's a song we sang together after the sermon.

     

    And here are some questions to guide you through the rest of the week:

    • Has God given you a vision that offers you life? (Proverbs 29:18)
    • Do you trust that God can do greater things in your life? (John 14:12)
    • Are you willing to pray for the courage to step out of the boat and into the raging waves?


  • Extreme Community

    This weekend our church has the opportunity to participate in an Extreme Community Makeover. This will be a rewarding experience for those who benefit from the Makeover, and equally or more so for the faithful stewards willing to serve. Seeing the joy that comes to the faces of those benefiting is such a priceless thank you to all lending a hand. Working side by side, it sometimes feels as if you’re not making much of a difference, but working as a body within a bigger group, you can easily see the difference. That’s how God works through us when everyone works together.

    To you, I offer the following from Psalms 41 v. 1-3 (RSV), “Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness thou healest all his infirmities.”

    My blessings I part on you as you so willingly give of your time. Thanks to you who serve in His name. Your efforts will surely be rewarded. Peace be with you!

    Wendy Saathoff

  • What's Your Name?

    Today is my birthday. Yes, it's true. I'm turning 39 ... again. Birthdays have a way of making me re-evaluate my life, my purpose, the meaning of it all. I'm reminded of an article by Pastor Mark Labberton about the power of naming (click here for the article). We all have lots of different names.
    • There are the obvious names and nicknames (mine have been names like Sugar Pop, Darlin', Kimmy, Babe, Berly, Ace, and Mom). Some of these names are for public consumption. Most are more privately used.
    • Then there are the names that sound like something else but are really names too, the names that let people put you into a category they think they understand. (For me they've been things like daughter, friend, student, athlete, sister, wife, mother, teacher, Ph.D., statistician, church communicator.) The thing about these names is that any one of them standing alone leaves out big chunks of who you really are. But they are the Cliff's notes of your life -- and sometimes the only notes people read.
    You get the idea. You have lots of names too, don't you?

     

     And these are just the surface names. There are so many more names that go closer to the heart. Names like "Good Job!" or "Never Measures Up." Labberton writes, "Every day our naming of the people around us gives life and takes it away." What could be more true? It feels so good when people name us from the inside out, somehow recognizing and lifting up a piece of who we really are. And it hurts so much when people wrongly name us...and when we wrongly name ourselves.

    So on this birthday that's not my 39th, I'm thinking about the names in my life. Some have been nearly erased, and some have not been written yet. But the thing I often forget is this. When you delve down to the core of my life, there's only one name for me that really matters....it's the one name I've been straining to hear all my life... even though it's always been my name. It's the name God has for me....and I wonder what it sounds like in God's mouth? But God knows it, and it's a version of "my beloved child" that is entirely unique to me.

    As I wrestle with all the different ways people name me, with all the ways I name myself...it helps to remember my real name. A name that was written long ago. One that can never be erased. Beloved Child Of God. And that's the only name I need.

    You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. (Psalm 139: 15-16)

    Kim Turnage

     Kim writes devotions on her own blog. You can check out that resource here.


     

  • A Word From Pastor Dave | Greater Things

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father," said Jesus. (John 14:12)


    In my experience of being around the church for 50 years I do not think we take this verse seriously. Our mental models will not allow it. We too often see the world and all that is in it as a machine instead of as an organism.
     
    Machines need oil or re-tuning and they finally just wear out. The machine model is linear, in that the concern is how to get from Point A to Point B with efficiency. The machine model leads to religious boredom. Church becomes an endless series of meetings where we listen to burnt out people who are waiting to retire from church work. This might be an exaggeration, but it contains truth based on my own observation.

    But what if we think of the church as an organism instead?

    Relationships are the key to a organic way of being the body of Christ living in community. The organic model tosses out highly organized strategies if they prohibit the forming of relationships. The organic model of church says that nothing is staked concrete, not even traditions (this of course does not mean that anyone advocates we abandon all traditions, merely that we worship God -- not traditions).

     

    God, in the organic model, becomes even more awesome because God is the only thing that is unchangeable. The great theologian, Dr. Paul Tillich said, “God is the ground of all being.” In the organic model, there is nothing that cannot be transformed. And our unchangeable God will always bring order out of the chaos of constant transformation.

     

    A place I hope to see the church practicing the organic method of ministry is this Saturday in the Extreme Community Makeover in Littleton . We will work together from 9am to 4pm. If you can make it for all or a portion of that time I hope to see you there. Click here for details on how you can get involved.  As we grow in Christ Jesus by the building up of relationships, “….in fact we will do greater works than these…."


    See you Saturday and Sunday

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Sunday to Monday | Following Jesus

    On Sunday, we talked about what it means to follow Jesus and how God gifts and calls each of us to serve. Here are some questions to take you through the week:

    • What does it mean to be “employed by Jesus?”
    • Can you name a time you felt “equipped” to serve the Lord (Ephesians 4:12)?
    • Are you praying God will equip you for new adventures; do you have any idea what they might be?
    • Have you ever heard someone else tell you who they say Jesus is…(Mark 8:27) and your image of Jesus grew based upon the view of another?
    • Where have you been surprised to see Jesus? Where do you hear the voice of God in the poem “For the Garden of Your Daily Living?” 

    Here's a video we watched and listened to as a way in to what it looks like to by employed by Jesus.

  • What Does It Mean to Grow as a Follower of Jesus?

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    "Who do the people say that I am? ….But who do you say that I am?"(Mark 8:27 & 29).

     

    Only after the disciples proved that they could listen to others did Jesus ask them what they themselves thought. Note that first Jesus asks, "What do others think?" Then, Jesus asks "the disciples" what they think. The divine work is done in communities that are diverse not homogenous. Jesus wants to hear lots of views and include lots of people in the mission of expanding the kingdom of God.


    Who do you say that Jesus is? Your observation matters. Who is Jesus to you?


    In the recent issue of the magazine Relevance , Jeff Tweedy of the music group Wilco is commented on who he thinks Jesus is or how we might best find him today.

     

    "I’ve always liked the notion that what Jesus represents  - and what Jesus' spirit represents to a lot of people – would be more evident in a homeless person than in a lot of the places I’ve found people to be looking much harder. It’s my understanding of the Bible that that would be how a lot of His spirit would be overlooked  – because of the packaging."


    Who is Jesus? Do we often miss Jesus because we do not anticipate his "packaging"?


    Another place often underrated for seeing Jesus is in our best of friends and those closest to us. We each possess gifts from God that when offered for God's use reflect the image of Jesus to those around us. Ephesians 4:12  says,

    "…the saints (you and me and all forgiven sinners, that is who the saints are) are to be equipped for ministry and the building up of the body of Christ."

     

    Each follower of Jesus is to be "equipped for ministry" so that all people might be heard and included in God's mission. You are called to be in mission. Pastors like me are just one mere cog in the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. Each person is spun into motion by Jesus to be heard, counted, and included in the work of the Kingdom.


    On September 26th I hope you plan to let Jesus equip you for the Extreme Community Makeover project in Littleton. God desires for you to know who Jesus is and to use the gifts of God within you for His purposes. Come and see on the 26th...as Jesus shows up and shows off in unexpected packaging...as GGCC enters into a world where servants will come in unexpected packages.


    See you on Sunday.

    David J Jensen
  • To Love and Serve

    "What's the catch?" she asked us.
    I said, "There isn't one."
    Dumbfounded she laughed a bit, and then said "No, there has to be a catch."
    "Ma'am I assure you there isn't one. We just want to serve you."

    This is part of a conversation I had with an elderly woman whose home we visited in Littleton with Extreme Community Makeover. We went door to door telling people we (GGCC and other churches) will be in their nieghborhood on September 26th to help with exterior home improvement projects free of charge. We then asked them if they had any projects they would like help with. The general response was shock and then questioning of our motivation. When we explained that our desire was purely to be of service, people were so responsive and deeply grateful.

    This experience led me to reflect upon one of my favorite verses:

    "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18.

    I don't want to be a person that only speaks of love and service. I want to be a person that lives it out. Because that's what really matters. Regardless of whether or not you are able to serve with us and Extreme Community Makeover, I encourage you to find a way today to outwardly love through actions. You will be surprised at the moments in which you will find an opportunity to love and serve another person. (Little things mean a lot.)

    Prayer:
    Lord I ask that you would help us to love in actions and in truth. Please help us to take advantage of the opportunities we find to serve others. God, I thank you for times where we can serve. In these moments we not only help another, but you are also able to work on our hearts and stir our spirits. May we be your hands and feet. Amen.

    Grace & Peace,
    Amanda Jensen

  • Sunday to Monday | Doing Church in a Whole New Way (1 of 2)

    On Sunday, we started a 2-part series on Doing Church in a Whole New Way. The service started with this video from Nickelback.

    Pastor Dave talked about the Vital Signs of a Church....and how each of us plays a part in the vitality of the church through Preparation, Participation, Pastoral Acts and Public Witness. Here are some questions and passages to reflect on this week:

    • "...they devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings..." (v. 42). What might you do to engage in a higher level of spiritual Preparation?
    • "...they were devoted tot he breaking of the bread.." (v. 42). How might you grow in your Participation in the body of believers?
    • "All who believed were together and had all things in common" (v. 44). How might you share what you have to Pastorally care for another?
    • "...they ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having goodwill for all people" (vv. 46-47). What is God desiring that your Public Witness look like?

    And here are a couple of other videos that were part of the service.

    Schindler's List clip on the value of using your gifts to serve others.

     

    Extreme Community Makeover video. Learn more about GGCC's Extreme Community Makeover here.

  • Doing Church in a Whole New Way

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Last weekend I went back to Omaha and played tennis with my friends who I played with 11 years ago. I have not played a competitive tournament match in that time. I noticed that the players I once kept up with were now more advanced than I. So why am I not keeping up anymore? I'm talking about the same guys I played back in the day, so we have each aged the same. The difference is this: 11 years ago I was in better tennis shape and more fit.

     Back in the day I was hitting tennis balls 5 days a week for at least 90 minutes at a time. It was a passion of mine to play and practice. Over the last decade many of my friends continued to engage the sport with the same focus. They practiced and played matches by the dozens. My game had withered away. I had fun in the tournament I played this weekend, but I was not fully prepared to play the good players I used to play or to face the test of the "tough points."

    Our text for Sunday will be Acts 2:39-47. It is a portion of the story of how God called the church into being. The grammar in this text is of interest to me. The words tell of a faith that is active and alive.

    "…they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and prayers..." Acts 2:42

    "…they broke bread at home with glad and generous hearts..." Acts 2:46

    "…the Lord added to the numbers those who were being saved…" Acts 2:47


    Note how active this language is in the verses above. God is up to something and commanding that the people be engaged in what God is doing in the world. The story of Acts 2 was not a one-time vaccine. The call to faith was intended to be fully participatory and actively engaged in every moment.

    God calls the people to Acts to engage the church. To immerse themselves in preparation, participation, pastoral acts, and public witness on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit will gift the people and offer all that is needed for the journey. When we practice our faith with regularity and allow God to grow our spiritual gifts, we will be ready for the tough times that are inevitably ahead. However, to fully embrace the opportunity of God's calling we have to respond to what Jesus is up to in our lives. If we say “Oh, I'm saved. There's nothing for me to do,” we will not be prepared to face the "tough points” in life’s journey.


    John Stott, in his wonderful commentary on Acts, says this:

    "After Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) there were 3,000 Christians in kindergarten! They were learners, they were preparing themselves! The reality is that all of us are always in preparation, seekers after truth, learners. The Christian life is not a one-time event, it is a continuous journey! We must always be growing, always studying because if we quit growing, stagnation comes to you, to me, and to the church!”


    Each day God calls you to live in the church (community of faith ) in a whole new way. May you heed that calling and engage it. GGCC’s website and other communications hold many invitations from God to become more engaged in God's Kingdom and to allow God to fully transform your life.


    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Sunday to Monday | Broken Vessels

    Nobody's perfect. On Sunday we talked about how God use our imperfections to carry the light and love of Jesus into the world....even when we might feel like things are falling apart. Here are some questions to reflect on this week:

    • Are you more attracted to people who are “perfect” or those whose “cracks” are visible? Why?
    • Paul writes in 2 Cor 4:7, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” How can our troubles and problems reveal Jesus to others? Do our troubles and problems reveal Jesus better than our successes and excellence?
    • How do we put the pieces back together when it feels like we’re falling apart?
    • Paul continues in 2 Cor 4:16, that we should not “lose heart” and focus on our inner self, worrying less about our outer troubles. What are one or two things you can do this week to renew your inner self?
  • Broken Vessels

    Do you ever think that when you go through hard times, you’re getting the best of what God has to give you? That’s crazy talk! But that’s exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4.   Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message says in verses 8b-12:

    We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us--trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us--he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best! [emphasis mine]
    Wow – not exactly the Good News I hope for.

     

    I pretty much want my life to be easy: no troubles, no problems, nothing standing in my way to perfection.  I’m looking for good hair days, winning lottery tickets, over-achieving children, no traffic and everything I want to be 75% off.  But life isn’t a fairy tale and from experience I know that things don’t always turn out well and I am rarely the perfect person I think I ought to be.

    So, what’s a broken, lacking, inadequate person to do?  

    Can I remember that God uses imperfections and cracks to shine through?

    “The great mystery of God's love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people's brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse? The great call of Jesus is to put your brokenness under the blessing.” Henri Nouwen

    But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. 2 Cor 4:7

    May you find that God fills your brokenness and that Love might shine through your cracks to reveal the Good News that is ours through our brother, our friend, our Savior – Jesus.


    Vikki

  • Sunday to Monday | Inside Out Living

    Two videos were part of Sunday's worship experience, focused on how Jesus cares more about what's inside, in our hearts and minds, than about how our lives look from the outside.  Watch these videos again (or for the first time if you missed Sunday morning), and think about the questions below each one.

     

    • Does the man on the bench in anyway represent your life?
    • Have you ever been really honest with someone about one of your shortcomings? Was the reaction positive or negative?
    • Jesus' reaction to your complete honesty about your failings is consistently love and grace. 

     

    • We only share our deepest secrets and hurts with the people we trust the most. Does your prayer life reflect a depth of sharing your inner most thoughts that demonstrates a close relationship with God? 

     More questions to help you use scripture to connect Sunday to the rest of your week:

    • Jesus’ best teachings often arise from conflict. Do you avoid a good conflict at all costs? Is Jesus possibly desiring to draw you into a conflict to teach you something? Mark 7:1-8 
    • What spiritual hypocrisies do you maintain in your life? Where are you outer and inner life inconsistent? Mark 7:6 
    • Where do you hold to human tradition that does not allow the commands of God to be alive within you? Mark 7:8 
    • What do you despise in another? Could it be that which you despise is also the inner shadow Jesus desires to acknowledge and take control of? Mark 7:21-23

     

     

  • Time with God

    I’ve been a bit sick lately, and it has taken its toll on my spirit. I was having an especially hard time coming up with something to write for this month’s devotional. After a few failed attempts I went to a book I started reading in the spring and put down for summer mystery fair. The book: “Who Needs God” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. I immediately got exactly what I needed…time with God. The chapter was on prayer and what we get out of it.

    Rabbi Kushner refers to Psalm 73 as a “spiritual masterpiece, …. It is the account of a man who found himself doubting God because of the world’s unfairness and found his answer not in theology but in the experience of God’s presence.”

     

    Psalm 73: 1-3, 13-17, 23-27
    (Translation from the Tanakh, a New Translation of the Holy Scriptures, by the Jewish Publication Society)

    God is truly good to Israel,
    To those whose heart is pure.
    As for me, my feet had almost strayed,
    My steps were nearly led off course,
    For I envied the profligate,
    I saw the wicked at ease….
    [I thought to myself] It was for nothing that I kept my heart pure
    And washed my hands of innocence,
    Seeing that I have been constantly afflicted,
    That each morning brings new torments.
    Had I decided to say those things,
    I should have been false to the circle of Your disciples.
    So I applied myself to try to understand this,
    But it seemed a hopeless task
    Till I entered Your sanctuary…..
    You held my right hand,
    You guided me by Your counsels
    And led me toward honor.
    Whom else have I in heaven?
    And having You, I want no one on earth.
    My mind and my body may fail,
    But God is the Rock of my mind, my portion forever.
    Those who keep far from You perish…
    But as for me, nearness to God is my good.


    There are rich people in the world who seem to have it all. Are they truly happy?  When we find ourselves jealous of their wealth our “steps were nearly led off course….” When it all seems hopeless, all we need do is enter God’s sanctuary. He will take us by the hand and remind us of his love. The answer is not an explanation from God about why good things happen to seemingly bad people. The answer is the experience of being with God.

    “But once we have tasted the presence of God, we will no longer envy the wicked.” Martin Buber

    Prayer isn’t getting our wish list delivered. When we get what the author of Psalm 73 is saying we come to God just to give thanks.

     “As for me, nearness to God is my good.”

     Abba, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for loving me. May I never forget that your nearness cures all! Amen.

    Julie Weldon

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Inside Out Living

    Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

    “Wash your hands!” It is a command that has been taught as long as Moms and Dads have been having kids. It is a simple means by which you can better manage your health. It is good advice. From all that I am hearing in the news regarding the threat of swine flu this winter, we will be hearing it more and more.  "Wash your hands!"

    In Mark 7 the Pharisees notice that Jesus' buddies, the disciples, are eating without properly washing their hands. The text says "…they (the Pharisees) noticed that Jesus' disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them" (Mark 7:2). So if washing hands is important enough that most parents make it a primary teaching of every childhood, why would Jesus let his disciples get by without washing their hands ?

    I really do not know why Jesus' disciples did not wash their hands. What I do know is that it was not a main thing for our Lord.

    Jesus quoted to them the prophet Isaiah, "…people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Mark 7:6). Jesus had nothing against hand washing, it was just not his focus. Jesus was after their spiritual core, the heart. Jesus desired that their hearts be rid of "...fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these things come from within and defile a person" (Mark 7:22:23). Jesus was more concerned with the cleanliness of people's hearts than with the cleanliness of their hands.

    What is within you that spiritually needs to go? No hand washing can take it away. Only Jesus can take away that which is within you that is evil and needs to be cast away from you. Jesus knows what is within you and is well aware of the evil that lurks in all of us. Are you living from the inside out? When did you last lay up before the Lord the darkness that is within and ask for Jesus to enter there, offering forgiveness, hope and transformation? May you this day experience such grace in the path of Jesus.


    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Sunday to Monday | Paying Attention to God

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave talked about how sometimes it takes the unexpected - even something offensive - to help us turn our attention to God. As you go through this week, think about these questions:

    •  Do you desire to pay closer attention to God?
    • What habits or addictions do you practice that numb you to the ways of God?
    • How might Jesus “puncture your heart” to allow you to pay greater attention to your God?
  • Leading Through Fear

    Fear is a wild-eyed beast turned loose, and it's running amok. We hear people talking about it in the news, we may make plans based on it at work, parents discuss it in code if the kids are at the dinner table or in hushed tones when we think they're not listening. 

    There's an old story in Isaiah 36-37 about fear and how one great leader, Hezekiah, responded to it. It goes a little something like this.....

    You can imagine how the news spread....."Did you hear what he said? We'll be eating our own excrement and drinking our own urine!!!" It must have traveled, in hurried whispers, like wildfire. Fear does that.

    Assyria had destroyed many other kingdoms. And the messenger came from Assyria for one purpose -- to strike fear into the hearts of the people of Judah. (And I'm guessing he used words a little more crude than excrement and urine.)

    At age 39, fourteen years into his leadership of Judah, Hezekiah found himself shoulder-deep in a major leadership crisis. Maybe the threat was real, but whether it was or not, the fear could paralyze his people. What would leaders today do in his situation? I can think of a few knee jerk reactions:

    • gather their advisers
    • contact their allies
    • hold a news conference
    • issue a press release
    • mount a military offensive
    But here's what Hezekiah did:
    When King Hezekiah heard the report, he also tore his clothes and dressed in rough, penitential burlap gunnysacks, and went into the sanctuary of God.

    Not long after, messengers from the King of Assyria delivered this message directly to Hezekiah:

    Don't let your God, on whom you so naively lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won't fall to the king of Assyria. Use your head! Look around at what the kings of Assyria have done all over the world—one country after another devastated! And do you think you're going to get off? Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them, even one of these nations my predecessors destroyed?

    But Hezekiah didn't "use his head." He used something a lot more powerful.

    Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God. Then Hezekiah prayed to God....click here for his prayer

    When fear was a wild-eyed beast, running amok in his kingdom, when his leadership was tested...when his God, the source of his leadership, was derided....when his people were looking to him for answers....the first thing Hezekiah did was to seek God.

    Wherever you lead....at home, at work, at church, among your friends.....lead like Hezekiah. What will your prayer sound like?

     

    Kim Turnage


     

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Paying Attention to God

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    In the gospel of John, the 6th chapter, Jesus says some startling stuff.

    "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (v. 56)

    His disciples complained, "This teaching is difficult who can accept it?  (v. 60)

    And Jesus responded, "Does this offend you? ... The words that I have spoken to you are of the Spirit and of life." (vv. 61, 63)

    This is one mysterious portion of scripture. Exactly what it all means is more than the human mind can comprehend. We know that the “Spirit” is of God and allows us to see the truth and to have faith in Jesus. The “flesh” represents what is human.  In this text Jesus is saying his flesh is of God, and is used by the Spirit to guide us into truth.

    When Jesus asks “Does this offend you?” (v. 61), I wonder if offense was his intention. Jesus is trying to communicate himself to them. Sometimes, to get our attention, the speaker must cause offense.

    What would it take? What would it take for Jesus to get us to let go of our close-mindedness, our limited perception, and to pay attention. Perhaps we need to pray for God to step in and offend us so that we might see God more clearly in the world around us.

    People gather in church and listen to sermons for many reasons. Might paying attention to God be one reason? Because in paying attention, we take into account those matters that the world so easily gets to avoid?

    Sometimes Jesus is difficult to understand. Yet his disciples said, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (v. 68)

    See you on Sunday .

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Sunday to Monday | Little Things Mean a Lot

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave used the story of Jesus using a boy's sack lunch to feed the 5,000 to show that, with God, little things really do mean a lot. Here are some questions to help you make little things mean the most as you take Sunday into the rest of your week:

    • Where have you seen Jesus turn a sack lunch into a banquet for many? Where has one kind act or one person transformed many lives?
    • How has Jesus taken something small and served you in a big way?
    • How might Jesus be calling you to take a small step to create a big change?
    • Where in your heart do you harbor anger and resentment? Pray upon how God is calling you to be “…imitators of God, as beloved children, living in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Ephesians 5:1,2)
  • Fully Awake...

    "Wake up, my heart! Wake up, oh lyre and harp!

    I will wake the dawn with my song." Psalm 57: 8 (New Living Translation)

    When I came across this verse I felt the joy and life in it. Then I thought about how seldom I am actually living this way. I got to thinking about how I need to be fully awake so much more often than I currently am.

    This past weekend I went to Heaven Fest, a Christian music festival here in Denver. One of the artists Matthew West talked about living with passion and fire in your soul, and walking away from whatever is "lukewarm" in your life. Such a simple message about living life to the fullest, and it's not a new idea. It is a good reminder though. An unexamined life is a wasted one. God wants us to give this life everything we've got.

     

     

     

    (Listen to Matthew West's song "The Motions")
    Today I hope that you will be present and live in the moment, live in the calling that Christ has for your life. God has designed you for a purpose. Be awakened to the love, life and peace that God wants you to have.

    "Life is a celebration of awakenings, of new beginnings and wonderful surprises that enlighten the soul." -- Cielo

    Grace & Peace,
    Amanda Jensen

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Little Things Mean a Lot

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    “Little things mean a lot.”

    Have you ever heard that phrase? Do you think it's true? Sometimes life’s problems loom so large that they crave a big miracle to satisfy our need, or so it seems. Often the last thing I am looking for to deal with problems is the promise that, “Little things mean a lot.”

    In John 6, Jesus has a big problem. He has been hanging out on the mountain top having some down time only to come down and find 5,000 hungry people. To solve this massive issue he sends his disciples out to triage situation. One of Jesus' disciples, Andrew, comes to him and says, “There's one kid here who came with a sack lunch. He has five loaves and a couple fish. But that is obviously not going to help as there are way to many people here." (John 6:8,9).

    Jesus responds, "Bring me what the young man has and let’s see what happens." Jesus gives thanks for the loaves and the fish and hands them out to be distributed among the people. What happens next, as they say, is history. Everyone -- all 5,000 -- ate as much as they wanted.  And there was food left over (John 6:11-14).


    Jesus likes using small stuff to make a big impact. In the gospels Jesus uses mustard seeds, sparrows, grains of wheat, yeast, sprouting seeds, and children to make some of his biggest points. If Jesus is this into detail and has a strategy for using the small to do good, this is great news for us!


    First, we are each among the small details of God's creation. Jesus loves and cares for each and every one of us! Where do you harbor anger or resentment? Jesus says, "Let it go and embrace the loving ways of your God," when he says

     

    "Put away from you all the bitterness and wrath and anger and slander….(Ephesians 4:31)."

     

    Jesus' first command is that you love God, and Jesus wants to release from you all that is in the way of that! Every little thing (or big) that is in the way of God's relationship with you must go! Jesus has come to take away the sin of the world!


    Second, we each are a small detail in Gods creation that can make an impact and has a purpose.

     

    “….be kind to one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us….(Ephesians 5:1,2)”.

     

    Look around in this crazy world filled with "new normals." Ministry opportunities abound. Look into the faces of the people around you -- your neighbors, your coworkers, your family members -- and you will all too often see fear and confusion. Find a shoulder to put arm around, a deed for another that needs doing, offer a reassuring word or simply your caring presence. In caring for the other in some small way you will be blessed with purpose and the presence of Jesus in your life.


    Little things mean a lot! Thank God!

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen

  • Sunday to Monday | Grow

    On Sunday, Dr. Tammy Heflebower spoke about the roles of effort and attitude in our success. She gave practical examples of how a focus on process and perseverance leads to greater achievement than a focus on outcomes. And she tied those ideas to Jesus' story of the mustard seed....and the way Jesus led his own life on earth. 

    Take Sunday into the rest of your week with these questions:

    • How can you redefine success, focusing more on process than on outcomes? Think of an immediate application to your personal, professional or family life.

    • Think of a time you used effort/attitude statements to compliment another. How might that be more important than the actual completed project or outcome?

    • Our Lord provided a prominent model of strength of effort, character, and attitude. Who else can you regard who signifies such qualities?

    • Think of a time where adults modeled inappropriate behavior for our youth. How might you take a stand?

    • As we consider our young people—how might we continue to be a model of process? Of struggle? Of perseverance? These, truly are the skills for responsible citizens and caring, contributing human beings.
  • A Word FOR Pastor Dave | Rest and Grow

    Dear Friends,

    Rest. We all need it but never seem to get enough of it.

    Pastor Dave normally writes the Wednesday devotion, but is preparing for a short Sabbath time. As he embarks on this, I am reflecting upon rest.


    We live in a time where we seem to work more and harder, while times for rest and quiet become fewer and farther between. We're leaving little room for rest and less time for God to rejuvinate us.

    God designed us for sabbath time. There is a reason why we need to sleep at night, and why we need to take a rest. This is when God can restore us.


    We can't all go on a vacation right now. However, we can find a way to slow down and take a break. After all, even God took a time out on the seventh day.

     

    "By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done." Genesis 2:2-4 (The Message).

    You may not accomplish everything you want to today. Finish the day and be done with it. And take time to rest. Carve out time for your Heavenly Father to restore your soul.


    And be sure to carve out time for yourself to rest in God's grace and mercy in worhsip on Sunday morning. Join us for worship as we hear a message from Dr. Tammy Heflebower about the power of effort and attitude in our success. We'll think about how, at school, at home, and in the workplace, we can encourage growth by focusing on the process, elevating effort, struggle and perseverance above immediate success and gratification. Don't miss it!

     

    Grace & Peace,

    Amanda Jensen
  • Missing You

    At first, when my wife left with her mother and sisters on their annual "Girl's Weekend Trip", this time to Taos, I thought selfishly, "Oh boy, I can rent all the action movies and watch all the baseball games, and I can eat all the bad man-food that I want this weekend!!"

    But as the weekend progressed and I had to do all the chores that my wife always does to keep the kitchen and house and clothes clean, and as I grew tired of the bad B-movies and food, and as I got "sportsed-out", and as I mowed the lawn, and as I did everything else I could to kill time, I started realizing how much I must take my wife for granted, even though I tell myself that I don't. And I almost immediately started missing her, even though I masked those feelings for awhile with the movies and games. Then those feelings grew and became more intense.


    It really isn't better to have all this so-called freedom to do nothing but worldly things... Not that fun things are bad, but it's a matter of degree, i.e., to what degree is my focus and time and money spent on such transient things instead of on lasting and deep inner satisfaction based on relationships?


    That's how it is when I put every worldly distraction ahead of my relationship with God. I somehow convince myself I will be "happier" if I can just avoid all my responsibilities and give in to all the "fun" distractions. Instead, that fun turns out to be hollow and fleeting if it is the main goal of my life. I am not happier when I take my eyes off the true prize. And, yes, I start missing my God -- not that He went anywhere -- but because I have lost my focus on Him. Eventually, I come back to Him with tears in my eyes, asking Him to forgive me, and then I realize He already did! Oh, Lord, "How Great Thou Art"!! What an awesome God we serve!

    Dear God, forgive me for giving in to the distractions of this world, and for taking my eyes and heart off of You. Thank You for welcoming me back in with open arms when my focus wanders away from You! Oh, Lord, may I always Miss You and come back to You!

    Blessings in Jesus' name,

    Randy Weldon

  • Sunday to Monday | Ruptured by Freedom

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave and participants in the Senior High Youth Mission Trip talked about how their lives were ruptured as they got out of their own lives and into the lives of others in San Diego. Here are some things to think about this week as we all think about how to make those short-term experiences of "rupture" have a lasting impact on our faith:

    • In Luke 18 Jesus flips current understanding upside down. The people experience “freedom” to see God in new ways. Old thoughts are “ruptured” by fresh good news. How have the experiences our youth shared and the text of Luke 18 “freed” you, or “ruptured” your spiritual journey so that you might more faithfully follow Jesus?
    • When have you been led by God to leave a well known context and experience God anew in a foreign place? Is God calling you to any new places, people, or contexts now? It could be anywhere from across the street to the other side of the earth.
    • The disciples gave up all they had to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28), and the rich man in Luke 18:22 is asked to give up all he has and to follow Jesus. Jesus is probably not literally wanting you to give your house away. But what might Jesus be asking you to set aside so that God can better reach you and you can follow Jesus more faithfully (habit, pursuit, addiction, relationship, possession, temptation)?
    • With 13 teenagers, 3 college students, and 4 adults, the youth mission trip was truly intergenerational. God's vision for community is blended by age. Pray that God might lead you into your place in Jesus' intergenerational community.
  • God's Hands

    “The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.”
      Psalm 19:1


    Summer is a great time to be out in nature enjoying what our heavenly Father has created. We live in a beautiful country and in one of the most beautiful states. As I marvel at the beauty I see all around, the joy I feel spending time outdoors, I need to remember, praise and give thanks, to the designer and creator of it all. The following is worth sharing. From Bruce and Stan “God Is In The Small Stuff.” 

    "The world in which we live is one of the greatest proofs for the existence of God. The very fact that the universe exists at all points to a creator. There had to be a beginning and if there was a beginning, there had to be someone to begin everything. God didn’t just create the world. He designed it. Whether you study the cosmos or the human body, you will find the systems and cycles and rhythms of life operate with incredible precision. Like many others, including many top scientists, you will conclude that all of it came from an intelligent designer, who is powerful, personal and loving.”

    The apostle Paul put it this way:

    “Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power,  for instance and the mystery of his divine being.” Romans 1:20(the Message)


    Yet in spite of the evidence around us, people have done a strange thing. They have chosen to focus on the creation rather than the Creator. Paul wrote that people worship

    “The things God made but not the Creator himself.” Romans 1:25


    “That would be like seeing a beautiful painting and concluding the artist had nothing to do with it, or that the artist really didn’t matter. We just don’t do that. We acknowledge and praise the artist while showing appreciation for the painting. The same thing goes for God’s creation. We are to appreciate it, protect it, and even manage it while preserving it. But we should never worship creation. All praise should go to the Creator, God Almighty.”

    Take the time to appreciate God’s created world. When you experience beauty in nature, praise the Creator. You can learn a great deal about God by studying His creation.

    God Creator, eternal power and wisdom, may my goal be not to focus on my blessings but on you my Father God. Amen

    (In case you missed it, look carefully at the photo above. What do you see?)

    Lois Autterson

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Ruptured by Freedom

    Today, I am in San Diego on the Senior High youth mission trip. Youth mission trips are clearly one of the most enjoyable points in my ministry.

    It was the summer of 1974, when I was a sophomore in high school on a mission trip in a big Winnebago, with my youth group from St. John Lutheran church in Keystone, Iowa, that I made one of the largest leaps in my life of faith.

    On that trip in 1974 I first began to take this Jesus who dwells throughout the earth and cosmos seriously. All of a sudden Jesus began to take on a relevancy in my life. Up until that trip, I saw Jesus as a person who wanted some songs sung to him on Sunday morning. I had honestly thought that the Christian experience was one contained to the walls of a church facility.

    On that trip across South Dakota in the summer of 1974, the adult leadership team of Pastor Don Berg, Judy Berg and another leader named Milt Jensen (also my father) guided us on an experience of God in the world. We framed discussions around the presence of God in the world. We took on heavy theological issues. It gave us a chance to talk openly about a God who created even acne faced teens in God's image. Pastor Berg would often remind us that "God does not make junk, and you are not junk." We took on real world cultural events and discussed God's presence in them, such as what is God's will of forgiveness and justice toward elected leaders in a world with Watergates?

    Luke 18 is the chapter of scripture I have asked our 13 senior high youth, 3 college aged youth, and 4 adult leaders to ponder this week. It begins with the story of a widow who approaches an unjust judge for justice. Have you ever approached the unjust seeking justice? It is not easy? What we find in the story (Luke 18:1-8) is that the widow's persistence is the greatest gift she has. The widow simply will not give up! Jesus is like the widow, and we are sometimes like the judge. Jesus persistently comes to offer us good news, fresh hope, and forgiveness. Jesus comes relentlessly to bring us an affirmation of our self image, or to remind us that God is King of the universe, and no corrupt politician has the final power over anything.


    Persistence, a great trait to maintain with our youth and all relationships. For ultimately the hope that is ours eternally comes from Christ Jesus our Lord , "...What is impossible for mortals is possible for God(Luke 18:27)."

    I am reminded of the singer Jackson Browne's view of persistence when I imagine the widow, "The stream shapes the rock through persistence not strength." Fortunately in 1974, somewhere along I -90 in a  Winnebago, God literally entered my life in a profound way and ruptured how I had previously seen (or not seen) Jesus in the world. Through experiences such as this I live in the freedom each day to see Jesus in many ways. May you be so blessed this day and often.

    Please pray that we might have safe passage home as we travel this Friday and Saturday. You have prayers rising up for you this day in San Diego.


    See you on Sunday,

     

    Still in one peace,


    David J Jensen

  • Sunday to Monday | Free to Follow Jesus

    This Sunday we heard from several middle school students who went on a mission trip to Wyoming with The Firm,  GGCC's Middle School Ministry. They shared what they learned about how we are free when we serve others using Matthew 5: 1-10 and Galatians 3: 14-15 as a place to start.

    Have you thought lately about how you're Free to Follow Jesus? Here are some questions to ponder this week:

    •  Think of a situation or time in your life when you felt like you had freedom. What made you feel free?
    • What keeps you from being free? What things do you hold onto that keep you tied up? When you read Paul's words (Galatians 5:13-14) what does freedom mean to you? How can you find that sort of freedom?
    • What does it mean to be free to follow Jesus? What does that look like? What would you be willing to give up to do that? Can you even imagine it?
    • Read Matt 5:1-10. How do Jesus' values differ from the world's? How would your life be different if you had the freedom to live this way?
  • You Don't Know What You Don't Know

    You don't know what you don't know. Read that again....you don't know what you don't know. It's clearly true, but it's a fact that often escapes me. When I'm in a situation where I've reached the end of my experience and ability and understanding, I often rely on.....my experience and my ability and my understanding.  I don't know what I don't know.

    I've been blessed by a succession of mentors in my life....parents, coaches, teachers, pastors, leaders. At times those people have told me what I don't know.....so that I could overcome my gaps in experience or ability or understanding. At other times, they've pushed me outside my comfort zone and walked alongside me, right up to the edge of what I don't know so that I could learn it for myself.

    How comfortable are you in your comfort zone? What does it take for you to peer over the edge of what you don't know? Do you go there willingly....or kicking and screaming? And when you go into the realm of what you don't know, who or what do you trust?

    Jesus has a word on that question:

    You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don't make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn't make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father.  (John 8: 15-18)

    There are places in life that no mentor can walk you up to the edge of....losing your sense of purpose, the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, hitting bottom. But Jesus comes to the edge of it....over the edge of it....with you. And he can be trusted because what he has to offer goes beyond the narrowness of one person's experience to the largeness of the One who created it all.

    Lord, I'm thankful today for the people you've placed in my life who have pushed me out of the comfort of my own experience and ability and understanding so that I could begin to know what I didn't know before. But I'm even more thankful for the gift of yourself, in Jesus, that by knowing him and trusting him I can squeeze out of the narrowness of the human experience and into the largeness of you. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

     

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Free to Follow Jesus

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    As a child I loved summers. Summer was the time I was most free to explore and create with my imagination. With nothing but a few sticks, a little costume clothing and a story in my mind, I could go anywhere in the universe and never leave my backyard. I was often the hero defeating impossible odds and saving civilization from countless evil foes, so that you could enjoy the world you know today.

    Matthew 5:1-12 are called the Beatitudes. They are teachings of Jesus that tell of the power of God to bring reversals of fortune upon the world. Jesus is clear that in his spiritual imagination many things are not to stay as they appear. Jesus is saying take note of the world as you see it, but prepare for things to be turned upside down. In the world Jesus alludes to, "…the people who get the greatest blessings are the poor….the mourning…the meek…the hungry…the merciful…peacemakers and the persecuted…"  To see blessing coming to those Jesus references, you have to be free to follow Jesus, free to imagine and see with Jesus' eyes.

    Do you have such freedom? 

    Did you feel free to dream big dreams for God at one time but that seems lost, and long ago?

    When I feel like my freedom to dream is being lost, I do not often times anymore go into the backyard with a stick and costume. However, I do read the quotes of people like Walt Disney.

    “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing (Disneyland) was started with by a mouse.” 

     

    “Too many people grow up.  That is the real trouble with the world, too many grownups. They don’t remember what it is like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won’t do that.”


    Twelve of our Junior High students are currently in Lander, Wyoming with Vikki Luce and two other adult sponsors serving on a Native American reservation. My prayer is that our missionaries might be able to do some good through their service there. Most of all, I hope and ask God to nurture during this time apart a capacity within each of them to see the world anew.  I pray that they come back with renewed freedom to follow Jesus, to be partners in creation with the God who can make all things new.

    Keep our missionaries in your prayers, and come with open hearts this Sunday to hear testimony of the wonderful works of the risen Jesus in the world.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen

  • Sunday to Monday | Fail to Prevail

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave talked about Mark 6: 1-13. Click here to read the entire passage, and spend a few minutes thinking about your own answers to these questions:

    •  Mark 6:1-5 The people of Jesus’ own home town kicked him out and considered him a failure. Have you ever been surprised by the success of someone you had considered a failure? 
    • Mark 6:10 “…stay there until you leave…”  Are we present in the moment? How does technology or worry affect your ability to live in the moment? How would life change for you if you lived in the moment?
    • Mark 6:11 “..shake the dust off your feet..”  How is God calling you to leave something behind and move into the future God desires for you? 
    • What do you make of the term “sacrament of failure”? 
  • Angels Unaware

    Hebrews 13:2-3: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering.”

    Growing up the middle daughter of a Mennonite preacher in the 1950’s and ‘60’s was God’s initial gift to me. I just didn’t ‘get it’ back then.

    We moved often. From Michigan to Pennsylvania, to Maryland, to North Dakota and numerous towns in each state. By the time I was 26 years old, I had moved 25 times.

    Mama taught me hospitality. No matter where we moved to, she would take a fresh pie to the neighbors to introduce herself and our family. She didn’t wait for the doorbell to ring and have someone welcome her. We moved on and I’ve forgotten the names and faces of those strangers who intertwined with our lives because of Mama’s hospitality.

    We would always have guests at Sunday dinner. It never mattered who it was – rich, poor, homeless, missionary, community or church visitor, orphan or someone from right off the street. There was sufficient room at the table and always enough food to feed whoever gathered around it. I never did understand how that one to two pound roast was always sufficient, despite the number of hungry mouths – there was always enough.

    No matter where we lived, Daddy always checked out the local jail. I remember him disappearing many times – Mama simply told me that he was at the jail visiting prisoners. I never went with him to the jail. I didn’t understand why that was so important to him and I often times felt like Daddy was not spending time with his own family preferring to visit jailbirds.

    Fast forward – June 2009. As my sisters and I sorted through Dad’s notes, letters, and sermons from 60 plus years of ministry, God tapped me on the shoulder. Well, actually, God hit me over the head. I found the prison letters. Letters of profound thanks to my father for saving them from eternal hell. Profound thanks for sharing John 3:16. Profound thanks for Dad’s visits to jail. Some letters requested help for when they were freed from prison, “…all I need is a chance to meet someone who may have a job where I can earn an honest living and stay out of trouble.”

    These letters brought me to my knees. My Dad wasn’t a preacher; he was an evangelist. He went into the world and shared Christ with anyone who would listen (and some didn’t). He carried “tracts” in his pocket and always left one behind for the waitress, the gas attendant, the weary traveler, the bus driver, the prisoner – simply anyone he came into contact with.

    Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

    Mama and Daddy taught me the word of God. They lived it. They breathed it. They spread it throughout my entire being. I am clothed in Christ because of their Christian leadership. Today, they are both in a Mennonite nursing home in Aroda, Virginia. Mama has Alzheimers and does not know me. Dad is weak from his stroke and spends most of his time in a wheelchair. Dad’s room is at the end of the hall and Mom’s room at the other end - they meet in the gathering room at the middle of the nursing home and silently hold hands. They still sing together. They still pray together. They have no personal wealth and the state pays for their care through Medicaid.

    But their shelter is the Taj Mahal of their entire life. The nursing home building is about 3 years old and set in a country setting with awesome views of the Allegany mountains surrounded by farmers fields and lush fauna. This facility is the most beautiful nursing facility I’ve ever visited. As I consider the outcome of their life, I am blessed to have such wonderful Christian parents. In the sunset years of their lives, God has surrounded them with angels.

    He is smitten with seizures that have reduced his life to the nursing home. He is confined to a wheelchair and cannot sit upright on his own. He is fed through a stomach tube. He understands conversations, but can only speak a few words after taking 5-10 seconds to form the words in his brain and vocalize them out loud. He sat quietly off to the side of our dinner table on Father’s Day where my sisters shared that day with our parents. What’s your name? ”…..John”. How old are you? “……20”. He smiled. He relished being next to Dad.

    Dad arrived at the nursing home in December last year. Dad and John have become best buddies. Dad reads to John. They have navigated through the Bible with all the stories – Adam & Eve, Jonah and the whale, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath, the Good Samaritan… They’ve shared stories and laughter and tears. They have the time. Although 60+ years separate their lives, God has made them angels to one another.

    Faith? Dear Father God,
    Help me to imitate the faith on my parents. Help me to seek justice for those who suffer. Help me to open my heart and my home to strangers. Help me to bless others like my parents have blessed me. As you send me angels, let me be an angel to those unaware. Let me never forget that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.

    Carole Schumacher

  • Change

    I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    where does my help come from? 
    My help comes from the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. 
    He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber; 
    indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep. 
    The LORD watches over you—
    the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 
    the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night. 
    The LORD will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life; 
    the LORD will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.
    Psalm 121

    Many times in our lives, things change. You may move to a new house or a new city or maybe even a new state. Friends probably come and go. Children grow up. People move on. Time moves forward.

    In many cultures these changes are marked with rites of passage. In Judaism, children participate in either a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat Mitzvah in which they publically announce their faith and become adults. In Latin American cultures, at age 15, girls hold a Quinceañera. This party is celebrated to symbolize the girl changing from being a girl to being a woman. In the Aborigine tribes of Africa, boys between the ages of 13 to 15 spend a year of silence in the desert, alone finding their own food and water. When they return, they are considered men in their society.

    Our culture however does not mark such occasions with dramatic ceremonies, yet we do have some rites of passage within our church. When a baby is baptized…when they receive their first communion…when they get confirmed.

    Our society also has several rites of passage. When a baby gets his first hair cut…when they say their first word…when they take their first steps…when they go to school for the first time…when they lose their first tooth…when they make their first friend…when they move to Middle School and then to High School…when they learn the drive…when they have their first date…when they graduate High School…when they move out or go to college.

    This past Sunday, I turned 16. To some degree, turning 16 is seen as a rite of passage. At 16 you are legally allowed to drive. While being able to drive myself feels freeing, I keep thinking about something they told us in drivers ed. Of the thirty of us who took the class, they said three will die in an auto related accident before they turn 18.

    It’s a huge responsibility to be able to drive. On one hand it is freeing, it feels like I have more control over my life. On the other, it’s a burden. A burden to know that one foul move and I could kill myself or someone else.

    Do you ever notice that? Whenever you get more freedom or more leeway or more flexibility you also get more responsibility. It seems that is the pattern of our world. With change, comes more to do... 
        -At 16, you are able to drive, but you must be responsible. 
        -At 18, you are able to vote, but must become informed to do so. 
        -At 21, you are able to drink, but must not cave to peer pressure. 
        -When you go off to college, you have to take care of yourself. 
        -When you start a new job, you are back to square one. 
        -When you move to a new house, you have to turn it into a home.

    The pattern doesn’t seem to change.

    Psalm 121 is all about change. It tells you that no matter what life may throw at you, no matter how it beats you down, no matter where you go or who you are, God will be there through the thick and the thin.

    Things will change. Friends probably come and go. Children grow up. People move on. Time moves forward. But God’s love is unending and will never change. You can always put your faith in him and he will always deliver.

    Dear God, thank you for being there for us. Sometimes it hard to see or hear your presence, but we can always trust that you will never leave us. We are so thankful for all of the blessings you give us and we have faith that you will continue to watch over and care for us. Be with each and every one of us this week as we come and go. Keep us all safe and sound, happy and healthy. In your name we pray, Amen!

    Zach Herzog

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Fail....to Prevail

    Dear Sinners and Saints,


    The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr points out that the Native Americans have a tradition of leaving a blemish in one corner of the rug they are weaving, because that’s where they believe the Spirit enters.

    I can relate to rugs.

     

    It is my desire that things go smoothly and correctly, as they are "supposed to." Which is another way of saying, "I want things to go my way."

    But I have found that when I am at the end of my rope... when I am at the end of my abilities and energies...that is when God takes over. It is after I have felt like a failure that God often shows up and shows off. 

    It is in the blemish points of my life that I have often seen the Spirit enter in and take control. I think Rohr is onto something with his thoughts on rugs.

    When Jesus sent the 12 out in Mark 6 he told them to be prepared to fail. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you , as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them (Mark 6:11).”

     

    You are going to fail, but shake it off and keep on moving forward...and trust that God will come to speak through the blemish in your rug.


    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Sunday to Monday | Learning to Receive

    On Sunday Vikki Luce, Transformational Minister at God's Grace, talked about we are often too busy and tired to receive all that God wants to give us.

    God still speaks and wants to give us grace and rest and blessed lives. How do we make space in our lives to receive these gifts? Sabbath.

    Sabbath-filled lives admit that God is God and we are not. To do our best, to do all that God created us to do, requires that we follow God's pattern of rhythm for our lives: work and recovery; moving and stillness; noise and silence; fullness and emptiness.

    Sabbath is the "bridge" in the Ten Commandments - the one that bridges the commandments to love God and to love others. When we allow for Sabbath in our days and weeks, we take Jesus' words from Matthew 6:31, 33-34, to heart:

    What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving.

    Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

     Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (The Msg)

    Taking It Home

    • What is your understanding of Sabbath? Why would God command it? (Exodus 20:8-11)
    • Do you agree with the old adage: "It is better to give than receive"? Which are you more comfortable with - giving or receiving? 
    • Is there room in your life to receive God's gifts? What changes might you make to open up space for God?
    • How do you find God? (nature, others, reading, silence, or ...) How coul you create some time to "stop" and find God in that way this week?
    • What could our missional community do to support one another in Sabbath-keeping?
  • Praise God

    Rainer Maria Rilke once said: "The more the soul praises, the stronger it grows."

    I just got back from several blessed days of vacation and time at a conference. It always gives me perspective when I get away. Especially this time. One of the things I came back thinking about is how I need to praise God more, in the good and in the bad.

    Praise God through whatever happens. It's so easy to thank the Lord when blessings come pouring in. But praising God in the midst of turmoil is powerful as well. It calms the soul and glorifies God when you can step back from within the storm, look to Him and say:

     

    "I don't know how to make it through this, and I don't know why it's happening. But I know that you provide, that you are sovereign and that you love me. I praise You God."

     

    Easier said than done, absolutely. But something worth trying? Yes.

    "He is your praise, He is your God, who performed for you those great awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." Deuteronomy 10:21.

    Have a blessed day!

    Amanda Jensen

  • All I Need

    SOMEDAY.....

    Put someone on the spot for a bible verse from memory and, unless you get back a blank stare, you're likely to hear the first verse of the 23rd Psalm: 
    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.                         (King James Version)

    That's a pretty familiar one, but I read a couple of different versions today that are changing how I think about that verse:   The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.             (New Living Translation) 
    God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. (The Message)

    When I think about the version I know by heart, I put a "someday" in there....The Lord is my shepherd; someday I shall not want.

    But when it goes, "I have all that I need.....I don't need a thing".....that's for now! Right now, because the Lord is my shepherd, I don't need a thing.

    And, really, what do I need? I have a family and friends who love me. I have a safe place to live, a bed to sleep in, a safe kitchen to cook in. I have at least a hundred cans and boxes of food in my house right now, plus 3 refrigerators (one just for Rick's homebrew) and a full size freezer full of food. I simply have to turn on the faucet to get all the clean, clear water I need for drinking, washing...even watering my lawn. I have closets and dresser drawers full of clothing, and probably more than half of it doesn't get worn regularly. I have a car. Do you know that 92% of the people in the world don't have a car?


    What do I need? What fuels that "someday"? Why do I still want ... when I don't need a thing? Why?


    When I want, even though I have all I need, I'm living like what I need is defined by what my neighbor has or by what the media portrays as the good life. But that's not the truth. The truth is that in God, I have all I need. Living in that truth is about wanting what I already have....it's about being satisfied now.....knowing that I have all I need .... instead of wanting what whispers in my ear that it will satisfy....someday. Because God IS....right now....and that's all I need. And in my heart I know that someday never comes.

    Prayer:
    Lord, when I let you lead my life, I have all I need. You give me strength when I'm weak, and you walk beside me when I'm afraid. You protect me and you comfort me. Your blessings abound in my life. Let them bubble over onto the people I spend my life with. Your love for me will never end. Help me live in the truth of your love every day, never forgetting that in you I have all I need. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

  • The Calming of the Storm

    Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side. He dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up to the mountain by himself to pray. (Matthew 14:22,23)

    Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said come, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)


    As Vikki returns from her Sabbatical this week and I prepare to leave for mine, I reflect on both of these passages. They remind me of the importance of Sabbath time.

    In Matthew 14:22,23, Jesus is grieving the loss of his friend, John the Baptist. He is tired and needs some time alone with God. He ministered to the crowds and also to his disciples. He took care of the crowds so he could send the disciples away ahead of him and then went away to enter into his time of prayer alone. In Matthew 14:28-33 the storms were strong. Jesus calms the storm, much to the surprise of Peter and all that were worshiping in the boat.

    Our world is hectic - cell phones, computers, lots of people everywhere and storms rocking our boat every day.

     God has created us in a way that we need one another.  Yet he also calls us to get away for peace and solitude. All of us have been in storms. How do you calm the storms in your life? Do you let the water rise above your head or do you take the time to be transformed one on one with God so that you might be spiritually centered and stronger when the storms come again?


    We welcome back Vikki this weekend as she shares her thoughts about her time away. These weeks in Sabbath were well deserved, and I pray she has experienced a time of reflection and spiritual growth as well as a time to reconnect with herself and her family.


    Friday I begin my Sabbatical. I give thanks for this blessing of my time away during my most favorite season of the year. I look forward to my God time at the beach, the mountains, long walks and time with family and friends.

    Cell phones, computers, people and storms will always surround you. Retreat to that place that connects you to God. The place that takes you away from the busy world. The place that helps to restore you in times of troubled storms. Let’s all get out of the boat with Jesus’ help and not be afraid of the wind or the waves, remembering that God is our calming peace.


    Blessings,

    Claudia



  • Judge I Am

    My wife Claire and I decided to drive from Denver to Kansas City for our first year wedding anniversary, and it was quite a trip. Driving through Kansas was like driving in a different world. So simple and flat. Lots of land and farming stuff. So I figured Kansas City was this small dinky town with many backward things. I was totally wrong. When we got to Kansas City, it was so modern and clean. Every convenience you can think of was there like Costco, Home Depot, etc. It really surprised and shocked me. I was thinking back driving there that I would see outhouses and barns with a lot of hay all over the place. I make a pre-judgment, and it was totally wrong.

    Sometimes in life I think we do this. We sort of make a snap judgment on things and it turns out to be opposite of what we think. We look at this run down quaint little restaurant but yet the food is good and the people are quite friendly. We look at this person who is wearing a basketball jersey with gold chains and black cap reversed on his head and we normally assume he is a gangster but yet once you talk to him, he is quite the educated proper mannered fellow. We look at this book that has a huge number of pages and we assume it is long and boring but yet we start to read it and we can’t put it down.

    What is amazing about our God is that he looks through all these things and concentrates on what is real important, and that is your heart and character. Heart and character look no different in each person. Everybody has heart and character but it all depends on how we use it. Man looks at the outside appearance but God looks at the heart.

    In Christ,

    Stan Yee

  • Sunday to Monday | Free to Be Weak

    On Sunday, Pastor Dave talked about how people used to observe Independence Day. It was a time to reflect, in humility, on God's greatness. On July 4, America celebrates her freedom. Followers of Christ can celebrate their freedom too...a freedom to rely on God's greatness, even and especially in our own weakness.

    • Have you ever boasted of a weakness?  On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:5)
    • How might we personally, as a community, or as a country grow stronger through humility?
    • Where do you see in someone you admire a strength that came through weakness?  (In yourself?)
    • This Fourth of July weekend what does Jesus give you the freedom to do?

     

  • The Potter

    Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  Romans 9:21

    The potter’s wheel spins ‘round and ‘round. His fingers form the soft clay into the master’s desired creation. To the potter, there is purpose in each turn.

    At times, our lives seem to spin so fast. We need to take time to slow down and recognize the Potter in our lives. It makes no difference what comes our way. We should be willing to open our lives to be within God’s will.


    PRAYER:


    Lord, you are my Father. I am the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Please help me to become soft and pliable so You can mold me the way You know I should be. In your son’s name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    Deanne Cruickshank

  • Under God

    As a kid growing up I remember our first TV set. It was black and white (of course) and only had maybe three channels. Every night at midnight or so, the programming would stop and the screen would turn to snow.

    There were a few shows that our family never missed; The Lawrence Welk Show, Gunsmoke and Red Skelton. I remember that Red Skelton had a thankful and humble side to him and would end every show with the words “God Bless”.

    As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day I thought it appropriate to recall Red Skelton’s explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance:

    Pledge of Allegiance
    (As originally recited on his TV show)

    I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?"

    I -- me, an individual, a committee of one.

    Pledge -- dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

    Allegiance -- my love and my devotion.

    To the flag -- our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there's respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job!

    United -- that means that we have all come together.

    States -- individual communities that have united into 48 great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that's love for country.

    And to the republic -- a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

    For which it stands, one nation -- one nation, meaning "so blessed by God"

    Indivisible -- incapable of being divided.

    With liberty -- which is freedom -- the right of power to live one's own life without threats
    , fear or some sort of retaliation.

    And Justice -- the principle or quality of dealing fairly with others.

    For all -- which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

    Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance... UNDER GOD.

    Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer and that would be eliminated from schools too?

    God Bless America!

     

    ~Paul Nickoley

  • A Word from Pastor Dave | Free to be Weak

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    When you think of the 4th of July what comes to mind? 

     I see my first parade ever going down the streets of Underwood, Iowa. That little town of just a few hundred put on quite a show. Most Americans think of great pyrotechnics with giant exploding fireworks. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the traditional celebrations. However, there are some other perspectives on how to focus the day which have been diluted or forgotten over the years.

    Truth be told, the early colonial Christians saw the 4th of July as a day of simple prayer and meditation. It was a day to lift up humility and to remember that power comes not from human sources but rather from God. Second Corinthians 12:9 was a verse that described the initial spirit of Christianity, “Jesus said,  'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'”

    “Power made perfect in weakness…” Have you ever experienced that?

    •  Have you ever been thrown into a new situation and found you were capable of doing much more than you ever conceived of? I am sure you have. That is power in weakness.
    •  Have you ever been in a bind that you did not think you could recover from, only to find that, somehow, you were given a fresh start? That is power in weakness.

    On the cross, Jesus became vulnerable to the point of death. Through Jesus' death, God did not stop but kept going, and three days later Jesus rose again in the resurrection.

    Our country has shown great strength over its 225 plus years of existence. Many of those times rose out of weakness, in response to the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the Assassinations of the 60’s, September 11th, face at this time.

    Our God does not stop at weakness. The Lord of the empty tomb stops only at the resurrection. The resurrection is a power that comes up out of weakness to know that God will bring fresh hope and a new day. The power of God that comes up out of weakness is a love that cares more about the welfare of the other than the personal power that might be gained.

    Ultimately the power that comes out of weakness is willing to reach out and offer a second chance when it seems more vulnerable than you want to be. For in that second chance Jesus offers the power of relationship in Jesus' name. Those colonial Christians who spent the 4th of July in quiet prayer remembering the ways of their God may have been on to an element of July 4th God desires to add back in.


    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David j jensen
  • Don't Fake It

    Romans 12:9-10 (The Message Bible)

    9Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it.

     I’m having a hard time fighting back my tears these days. On June 18, my Aunt Carrie died. Friends of mine who knew her told me a beacon of light went out that day and the world seems a little darker without her. She was the kind of person who made you feel like the most important person in the room. My daughter said the world needs more Aunt Carries not one less. She scared my husband when he first met her. He told me later that he truly thought that no one could be that happy, that loving, and that energetic and not be faking it. Carol Ann Wilcox Barr loved from the center of who she was. She makes this verse real to me…I hope I can try and do the same someday.

    9Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

    Aunt Carrie did have what turned out to be a fatal flaw…she smoked for 45 years. They robbed us all of precious time with her. They robbed her of her energy and vitality. She was so addicted that even when she was told her breathing problems were from smoking, she kept smoking. When my cousin was still a kid and she nearly broke some ribs from coughing, he begged her to stop and she didn’t. Cigarettes are evil, run from them. Stop smoking now and get whatever support you need to help you through what I know to be a very difficult process.

    10Be good friends who love deeply….

    Penn from Penn and Teller has an interesting video blog about a gift of a Bible. Penn is an atheist with an interesting question: How badly to you have to hate someone not to proselytize them? If you believe you have the answers to life’s questions why not share? I share my Aunt’s story because she was one who loved deeply and was a friend to all; I don’t think she knew any strangers. She would want you to know that smoking was a mistake. One that had consequences she did not want anyone to have to pay. BE a good friend, share the Bible and take those darn cigarettes out of a few mouths…Maybe we can save a few lives and souls!

    If the video of Penn doesn't appear above on your screen, click here to see it.

     
    Abba Father, Thank-you for taking Aunt Carrie home with you, for that perfect healing that occurs in your presence. Help each of us who loved her carry on her spirit and try and be a little more like her, loving deeply and not faking it! Father help those who want to stop smoking have the strength to hold on to their resolve. And Abba, give me the courage to share your story, your light and your love with everyone I meet. Amen.

    Julie Weldon

  • Sunday to Monday | Sacred Space

    This Sunday, GGCCer Steve House reflected during worship on his recent trip to the Holy Land.  Steve talked about how sacred places, like the Wailing Wall and the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem, seem to be the origin of good. He talked about how other sacred spaces in our lives -- like our wedding vows or the birth of a child -- are also an origin of good in our relationships. And he concluded with the idea that, in Christ, God has created a sacred space in our hearts, one we take with us wherever we go. You can read his reflections here.

    Taking Sunday to Monday

    • What physical places are sacred space for you?

    • As sacred space takes hold in your heart, how is God using it to change you and your world? (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

    • How are you experiencing a sense of the sacred in your heart today? How have you stretched and grown in faith or where do you see an opportunity to stretch and grow in your faith?

    If it helps you to grow, feel free to share your reflections on these questions as comments to this post. And may you experience a sense of the sacred, wherever this week may take you.

  • We Are the Church

    The church is not a building,
    the church is not a steeple,
    the church is not a resting place,
    the church is the PEOPLE!

    I am the church, YOU are the church, WE are the church together….
    all who follow Jesus, all around the world, WE are the church together!


    Remember learning this song as a child? When sung in a group, it seemed like it usually resulted in the last line being sung very loud and happy. That is what we should be, happy that we live in a country where we can come together on Sunday mornings and during the week to worship and praise God. Or we can choose the mountain top experience and praise God with the chipmunks and fresh smelling evergreens surrounding us, and it is all good!

    As the song reminds us, we are the church together as a church family. In Matthew 12.50, Jesus teaches, “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  Our Christian spirit thrives on fellowship with one another, reaching out to share conversation with a different generation than ours, joining our fellow church family together on Sundays, enjoying some great uplifting music, video and sermons, and experiencing the gracious gifts of God with others.

    I am excited for the future of our church. I am certain we will continue to carry out great deeds within the community and reaching into the world. We are at a stage in our ministry as a young congregation where we need to continue to show our neighbors we are the church, both in our words and deeds. We show this not only by attending church but also through our connections with one another, our ministries to those outside our walls, and our genuine enthusiasm for the mission of Christ. See you Sunday!

    Dear God,
    Thank you for all the blessings you’ve provided. Help us to live our lives through our thoughts, words and deeds as part of the living church in your name and honor. Thanks for getting our congregation off to a great start and help us to keep the focus on your glory and mission. And we give thanks to our fore fathers who fought so hard that we might enjoy the freedoms we have today. Their courage, spirit, and endurance allowed our country to become a great and glorious nation by which we have enjoyed the benefits of their efforts. Amen

    Wendy Saathoff

  • Hatred's Burden

    John 15:18-16:4

    John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

    Hate is such a strong word. I used to use it rather flippantly, but I haven’t done that in years. My children use it easily and I don’t think they know what it means or what it does to you. When someone says “I hate…” I always ask… do you really hate it? And I generally get the reply back… “Well it really annoys me or bothers me.”

    My favorite hate quote comes from Martin Luther King Jr. He was talking about being tired of violence and hatred. He said, he sees what hate does to a person and he has decided to take the easy way out and love, because hate is just too big a burden to bear. And Jesus says to John “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

    I hope and pray I have stopped hating! Oh, I have had my issues over the years. Where hatred came easily and seemed to satisfy, but it’s unfortunate that it has taken me so long to realize what a great burden hatred truly is.

    Unlike love, I have found hatred to gnaw at my stomach, prevent healing, prevent relationship, make me lose sleep, lose feeling, lose hope, lose friends, and even lose sight of GOD and how can that be when GOD is in each and every one of us.

    I believe hate stands in the way of and in sharp contrast to love. I don’t believe a person can both love and hate because hatred prevents true love and so I understand and agree with Martin Luther King Jr. when he says “I’m going to love because hatred is just too big a burden to bear.”

    I have a friend at work who tells me he loves the sinner but hates the sin. He tells me this specifically about people who are gay. He spends a lot of time anguishing over the sin and the people. I believe some of his hate spills over onto the sinner. He tells me he doesn’t want these sinners in his church or near his family. Jesus tells John in 16:1-2, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to GOD.”

    In my life I can’t come up with one instance where my hatred of something led to a good thing and I thank GOD for allowing me to give up the burden of hate and to walk on- stretching this old body and soul to learn to love more every day!

    Precious Father, Loving GOD, Holy Spirit, help us to identify those things we hate and help us to let go of those burdens and fall truly in love with all you have given us. AMEN!

    Jim Dietvorst

  • A Word from Pastor Dave: Sacred Space

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    "Sacred Space".... How do you define it? Where is it? What does it do for you? 

    I remember a professor when I was in seminary beginning this dialogue with a roomful of would-be pastors:

    "Do you believe in sacred space?"

    "Of course we do!"

    "But is Jesus not everywhere? Do the scriptures not say that 'Jesus is present wherever two or three gather in his name' (Matthew 18:19, 20)?"

     "Well, yes, it does say that."

    "Is all space then made sacred, so all places are equally present with God? So no space is any more sacred than anywhere else, right?"

    Do you believe in Sacred Space?

    I believe it exists, but I also carry the conversation forward to this day with that Professor.

    If you are like myself and many others I know, there are places you can go where God seems to appear in ways you do not otherwise see God.  In sacred space, God comes to work upon us and tell us,  "In this place and space you are mine with no interruption or diversions."

    Our brother in Christ, Steve House, recently returned from a trip to Israel, a place considered by billions for centuries to be sacred space. He and I have talked about the feeling he had being in the places where biblical events are said to have transpired. Steve has commented to me that he felt the presence of God in that land in a way he had not before. However, he is aware that God transcends place and time.

    In Jeremiah 31 :31-34, God is frustrated with the people that they cannot keep the ten commandments given to them on the"tablets of stone," so God places the new covenant "within their hearts." (Click here to read that passage for yourself).

    I have been blessed to live in the quandary of my seminary Professor's questions now for 26 years. I have no easy answer. What I have come to understand is that specific places and spaces where we can go to dwell with our God are a blessing. The paradox, I suppose, is that sacred space is only a blessing if it expands our understanding of the places, spaces, and situations our God is present with us in, to the point where we see God in all things with no interruptions or diversions.

    I look forward to seeing you on Sunday . It will be my pleasure to proclaim the gospel in tandem with our brother in Christ, Steve House. See you on Sunday.


    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen
  • Coming Down from the Mountain

    Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. (Exodus 32:15-16)

    I've just come down the mountain....literally. I spent two short days around Rocky Mountain National Park with my parents, my husband and my children. On our hikes, I felt bathed in God's creative, abundant love. When I go into the mountains, I sense God's presence in a deeper way than I do anywhere else.

    But I always have to come back down.

    Moses met God on the mountain.....in a way you and I can perhaps only wish for. He came down with the work of God, God's writing on a tablet (on both sides, no less).  He came back with a clear vision for the people, directly from the hand of God and a clear sense of how he was to lead them.

     And when he came back down, he found himself right back in the same situation he had left .... only a little worse since the grumbling complainers he had been leading through the wilderness had, in his absence, gone and built themselves a golden calf, violating the first and most important instruction God gave Moses for those people during his time on the mountain.

    Can you imagine how you would feel if you were Moses?  Angry?  Discouraged?  Defeated?  Hopeless?

    While Moses was on the mountaintop with God, the people lost their way. Their vision faltered. Their faith in their leader waned, and with it went their faith in God.

    But the mountaintop experience changed Moses, solidifying his vision, strengthening his faith in God. His job as the leader of the people of Israel was to keep the vision in front of the people, to renew and refine and re-energize the vision.....and his time on the mountaintop made him a stronger leader.

    • Who are you leading today? Yourself? Your family? People at work? A ministry at church?
    • Where do you meet God on the mountaintop? When did you last go up? How soon do you need to go again to clarify your vision and tap into the power that compels your leadership?
    • How might going to the mountaintop impact your energy and passion and vision for leading what God has given you to lead? For dealing with the fog that clouds the vision of the people God has given you to leave?
    • When will you do whatever it takes to get to the mountaintop? (Seriously....look at your calendar....WHEN?)

    God, when my soul feels dry....when my vision gets blurry....help me hear your call to go up the mountain. Give me the strength to set aside what needs to be set aside so that I can heed the call. And when I am with you on the mountaintop, refresh my spirit, reignite my passion, and renew my vision so that I may be the kind of leader you call me to be when I come back down. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

  • Blessed Be Your Name

    Life teaches us that there is a time for everything, and this wisdom is found in scripture too.

    Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

     There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    We don't have control over the timing of some of life's biggest happenings, and sometimes the timing defies understanding. But here's a great image for how followers of Christ can live in response to that reality.

     

    Prayer:

    Blessed be your name, Lord. Whether I find myself in a time to plant or a time to uproot, a time to tear down or a time to build up, a time to weep or a time to laugh, a time to mourn or a time to dance....help me remember that you are my portion. At all times and in all places, may my heart seek you out, and may you turn your face toward me in mercy and in love. (Psalm 119: 57-58) Amen.

  • North Star

    Imagine being in a boat in the middle of the ocean and having no landmarks visible for navigation. You can float along and hope that you are headed for shore (the one you intend to reach), or you can seek direction. The North Star is the only star in the heavens that never changes. It is always in the same place. It is an anchor. Sailors navigate across deep waters simply by seeking direction from that unchanging star.

    The North Star is the prominent pole star that lies closest in the sky to the north celestial pole and which appears directly overhead to an observer at the Earth's North Pole; currently, this is Polaris. The North Star lies about two-thirds of a degree from the pole at the end of the "bob" of the Little Dipper in the constellation Ursa Minor. A common method for locating Polaris in the sky is to use the "pointer stars" which are the two stars furthest from the "handle" of the easily spotted Big Dipper (part of the constellation Ursa Major).

    The North Star has historically been used for navigation, both to find the direction of north and to determine latitude. It has been used by lost campers to find their way back home. It always appears due north in the sky, and the angle it makes with respect to the horizon is equal to the latitude of the observer.

    If you find the Big Dipper, you might be half way home. But the Dippers change and if you navigate with only those stars as your direction, you may go off course. If you focus on the North Star, it will always provide direction even in the darkest of nights.

    Genesis 24: 10ff (the Message): “The servant took ten of his master's camels and, loaded with gifts from his master, traveled to Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor. Outside the city, he made the camels kneel at a well. It was evening, the time when the women came to draw water.

    So what does a story from Genesis have to do with the North Star? Let’s start with a bit of background. Abraham was getting old. He knew he didn’t have a lot of time and wanted to pass the torch to the next generation – his son, Isaac. He knew that it was important that Isaac find a good wife – one with virtue from his native land.
    Abraham trusted his servant. He turned this task over to his trusted aid and set him on his way. You can read the entire passage in the book of Genesis, but bottom line is this: As the servant set out to find a wife for Isaac, he asked for direction from God.

    Can you hear the plea of his voice as the servant prayed: "O GOD, God of my master Abraham, make things go smoothly this day; treat my master Abraham well! As I stand here by the spring while the young women of the town come out to get water, let the girl to whom I say, 'Lower your jug and give me a drink,' and who answers, 'Drink, and let me also water your camels'—let her be the woman you have picked out for your servant Isaac. Then I'll know that you're working graciously behind the scenes for my master."
    This servant asked for directions (yes, HE asked for directions – men can do that). He turned to the one God that is never changing. The North Star. Never moving and always there. He laid his request on the line and waited for an answer.

    You might know the rest of the story. Rebekah appears out of nowhere with a water jug on her shoulder and the rest is history. She was the answer to the servant’s prayer. God had the map laid out. This humble aid simply needed to ask for directions.

    I taught Sunday School this past Sunday and shared this story with our church kids. I asked them what happened when they tried to play a game but didn’t know what the directions were. You can have all the pieces to a game, but if you don’t know what the directions are, the pieces are just that. If you don’t ask, you will not be able to receive the gift of participation in the game of life.

    Yes, sometimes I hate asking for the directions. I even have a navigational system in my car so I don’t have to ask. Well, I think that just gives me more time to ask God for direction in the game of Life. Answered prayers are true gifts from our North Star, our guiding Light. Already this week, I’ve witnessed answered prayers. The community of Castle Pines North voted unanimously to approve the Lagae Park. Answered prayer. A friend received relief from the courts as it relates to a family issue. Answered prayer. Patience, persistence, and asking for direction is what God requires of you today.

    Dear Master Creator,
    Grant me humility today. Help me to walk along the path that you set in front of me. Help me to not take so darn many detours. After all, you know the way home and all I have to do is ask for directions. Amen.

    Carole Schumacher

  • We're the Same Soul

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    What a Father’s Day it was when the prodigal son came home (Luke 15 1-3, 11-32). He had taken his half of the inheritance and gone off to the Las Vegas of his day to squander it all on fast times and loose living. When his money was gone he turned around and headed toward home hoping his Dad would give him a job as a day laborer in the family business. As the story goes, "while he was far off, his father ran to him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

    Mother's Day and Father's Day are emotional mine fields. Any group of people who surrounds you will run the gamut of positive and negative memories of parents during childhood.  Each of us has been that prodigal, hoping that someone is going to "run toward us while we are yet far off…"  We yearn to be made whole and healed of the brokenness and loneliness that none of us can escape.  It comes to all of us in some portion.

    The rock star Bono of U2 sings of the brokenness in his relationship with his earthly father in the song Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own. One of the lines in the song goes "…we fight all the time , you and I ….that’s all right...we’re the same soul." 

    Have you ever had a tough time with your Dad? Absolutely you have. We all have. The hope that is ours when times are difficult with our earthly father is to recognize that we have "the same soul" in that we share a Heavenly Father

    Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to be a prodigal in some ways to a lost land. A land of the squandered. Think about Jesus. He was accused by the authorities of his day of being a lawbreaker. The powerful chapter of Luke 15, which contains the story of the prodigal son, begins with the authorities watching Jesus for a violation of the law.

    The Pharisee’s and the scribes were grumbling and saying , "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:2).

    What great theological irony.  Jesus the prodigal son came to bring you home. Through the power of the resurrection, Jesus comes running after you to give you a hug, reclaiming you as his own...this day and for eternity.

    See you on Sunday.


    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen

  • Wonder Women

    “Imagine a person who lives well, treating others fairly, keeping good relationships… This person who lives upright and well shall live a full and true life.”
    Ezekiel 18:5, 9 The Message

    I was back in Illinois recently to join in the celebration of my grandma’s 90th birthday. I don’t know what the national statistics on aging and lifespan are, but I am fairly confident that the number of folks living independently in their own homes, driving and experiencing reasonably good health into their 90’s is few. My grandma, Mary Lucille Happel Arp is one of the few!

    If you were at the 10:30 service this past Sunday, you heard Rev. Kelly speak of learning from those who walked ahead of us. He engaged in conversation with Kathryn Ake’s Aunt Florence, who rendered Rev speechless when she told him she was 92! I’m sure many in that family have learned from her, as we have learned from my grandma.

    Without sharing her entire biography, let me just say Grandma has had an adventurous life. Can you imagine starting your marriage (at age 18) by hopping on a bus in Missouri (with your 20 year old husband), heading west, without jobs or housing? Of course times were different then, in 1937…Nine years later, after several moves and two daughters, my grandparents started their farming operation in IL. They had a third daughter and life marched on

    Many of my best childhood memories stem from spending time on my grandparents’ farm. As an adult, reflecting on all of their hard work and sacrifice to make a life and provide for their family, I am humbled. As a child, I thought of them more as Super Man and Wonder Woman!

    Grandma came to our (my brother Mark and I) rescue more than once. There was the time we got trapped in the newly built outhouse for hours…OK, maybe it was just a half hour, but it was long enough for us to start making a plan on how to best sleep there for the night and ration 4 saltines and a pack of Chiclets gum for the duration of our entrapment. Grandma came looking for us and heard our cries for help. Then there was the time I got stuck in the muddy bank of the creek. I was convinced it was quicksand sucking my little rubber boots in as my brother ran miles (ok…a quarter of a mile) back to the house to get grandma. When I saw them pop over the hill, heading to my rescue, I cried in relief!

    My grandma is the only person I know that could do several loads of laundry, round up a hay baling crew of teenage boys from town, join me in an exercise session with Jack LaLane, make a five course midday meal, show me how to embroider, collect the eggs from the chicken house, weed the garden, laugh along with me at a funny episode of Lucy…all in the course of a few hours. She was and is Wonder Woman to me!

    During her 90’s years, Grandma has shown us what it means to stand by your partner in good times and bad…she and Grandpa celebrated their 70th anniversary just a few months before grandpa’s passing in Dec.’07. She has taught us about respect, honor, courage, selflessness, perseverance and many other things…not so much by her words, but by her works. She has never been one to give advice freely, but if asked, she obliges.

    Grandma told me that she really “gets the blues” about missing Grandpa, and sometimes wishes “the Good Lord would have taken us at the same time.” I reminded her that must not have been in the Good Lord’s plan, and she smiled.

    Dear Good and Gracious Lord,
    Thank you for my grandma and thank you for Aunt Florence! Thank you for all of those who walked before us and who have helped us learn important lessons about life and how best to live it. May we embrace their knowledge and respect their stories. Amen and amen.

    Andrea Heshmati

  • Faith in Hard Times

    On Sunday, Reverend Kelly of Open Door talked about what it looks like to keep the faith in hard times. And I got to thinking about Peter.

    Acts is the story of how, after Jesus had left the earth, his followers built the Christian church (not a building....but a movement). In Acts 3, Peter approaches a man, lame from birth, a beggar outside the temple gates and, unsolicited, says, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

    Seriously???? Who does he think he is? Does he really expect to heal this man?

    Early in Jesus’ ministry, Peter was quick to perceive that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus called Peter out this way:

    “God let you in on the secret of who I am. And now I’ll tell you who you really are. You are Peter, a rock. And on this rock I will build my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

    You are a rock. And on this rock I will build my church. Sounds promising.

    But we have lots of stories of Peter’s failures. And some of Jesus’ harshest rebukes are reserved for Peter. Peter definitely had some hard times.

    • Peter steps out of the boat, starts walking on the water toward Jesus, then notices he’s in the middle of a large body of water in a nasty storm, loses heart and starts to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reaches out his hand and says those stinging words, “You of little faith,” (ouch) “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Peter’s faith was tested. Peter failed.
    • Before the Garden of Gesthemane, Peter says, “Let me go where you are going. I’ll lay down my life for you.” Jesus replies, “You? Lay down your life for me? You’ll deny me three times before morning!” And he does.  Peter’s faith was tested. Peter failed.
    • This Peter is the one to whom Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”

    As far as disciples go, Peter seems a far cry from a teacher’s dream! But Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter. And Peter doesn’t give up on Jesus.

    After that first Easter, Peter recognizes Jesus. He jumps out of a boat into the water and swims for the shore. Maybe he's not walking on water, but his faith is taking him to Jesus. He can’t get to Jesus fast enough! The conversation goes like this:

    Jesus asks three times, “Peter, do you love me? Really love me?” And every time Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus gives Peter as many chances to declare his love as he had to deny it.

     Before his death, Jesus said to Peter, “Where I’m going, you can’t come now, but you will follow afterward.” And now Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me….and feed my sheep.” Jesus is saying, "Afterward is now!"

    So again, Peter’s faith is put to the test as he says to the lame man at the temple gate, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

    What kind of faith did it take for Peter to tell the man to stand and walk? Peter is a rock, and on this rock Jesus will build his church.

    Peter preaches outside the temple saying, “Faith in Jesus’ name put this man on his feet – yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole, right before your eyes!” Who did the healing? It wasn't Peter who did the healing.....it was Jesus.

    Peter says, "Faith in Jesus' name put this man on his feet..."  Whose faith opened the door for Jesus to do the healing? It wasn’t the faith of the man who was healed. It was Peter’s faith in the power and promise of Jesus. A faith that had been through hard times….a faith that had failed before…a faith that never gave up….a faith that Jesus never gave up on....and a faith that was the ROCK Jesus would use to build his church.

    Have you ever faced hard times and felt like a failure at faith?
    Peter did too. But he didn't give up on Jesus...and Jesus didn't give up on Peter. We don't have to have perfect faith...only faith that perseveres. Don't give up on Jesus. He won't give up on you.  And he will use you. You will be his rock, and he will use you to build his church....not a building, but a movement of faith and love and healing and hope....just like he used Peter.

    Jesus, when times are hard, I'm tempted to lose faith. Especially when I feel like a failure at faith, help me to be like Peter, never giving up, always trying again to be the kind of rock you need me to be to build your church....to bring love and healing and hope to people who desperately need you. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

  • Make Them Known...

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    Touring the National Holocaust museum in Washington DC  is perhaps the most emotionally disturbing experience any museum on earth can offer. As you stroll through the facility, you revisit the realities of this international atrocity. You see the visual and historical evidence of the human capacity to destroy the other in numbers that run into the millions.

    As most of you have heard in the news, this week a man walked into the museum and opened fire. According to the Associated Press, the shooter is a white supremacist who “runs a racist and anti-Semitic website”. Security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns was killed in the altercation.

    The last thing you experience when you tour the museum is a large room with a flame of fire. In one area of the room you see a large black marble tomb. Contained in the tomb are ashes that were gathered up from those who were killed in the holocaust. Upon return visits to DC, I have actually asked the security guards if I might bypass the entire tour and just have some time for prayer in this final room.

    The truth of the holocaust’s horror is not something that is easily faced, but it is something we must never forget. Etched within the walls of that final room are some biblical quotes from our God. One of the quotes is, “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and to your children’s children---“ Deuteronomy 4:19.

    On Sunday our good friend the Rev. Leon Kelly will address us in the sermon. Over the past couple of weeks, Rev. Kelly has dealt with 5 deaths, most of them from violent causes. There have been over 13 who have been shot or wounded. All of these incidents have occurred in the inner city, mostly within the African American population, and the media has not brought that news to us in the headlines.

    Racism still exists, and there is a portion of it in all of us.

    Rev. Kelly is a passionate African American leader and preacher who craves to see racial harmony. On Sunday we have the opportunity to come face to face with some of the stories of racial violence and pain that continue to permeate our culture. However for there to be a vision of hope these realities must not, “….slip from your mind…..make them known to your children...”

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Seventy Seven Times

    "Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting." ~ William Arthur Ward.

    I love this quote. Lately I have been thinking about how true it is that people say forgiveness is liberating. It's hard though. We live in a world with such tremendous hurt, that it is naive to tell people to quickly forgive and forget. I think forgiveness is a process- a road- a journey. But, how sweet it is when we get to a place where we can forgive those who have harmed us.

    When I think of all the times I have asked God to forgive me, it's rather astonishing knowing that he freely does, that I am made new through His love. It helps me to think more about how important it is to forgive those who I feel have hurt me. No one is perfect, and we all have to ask for forgiveness sometimes.

    God wants us to love our brothers and sisters, and loving them involves forgiveness.

     

    I pray that today may be a step toward forgiveness.

     Forgiving ourselves... forgiving others... for we have a God who has already done it... A God who so badly wants us to forgive and love each other. And I pray that as you forgive, you will feel the peace and freedom that comes from it.

    "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." - Matthew 18:21-22

    ~Amanda Jensen

    ~Amanda Jensen
  • Focusing Upward

    "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3

    In John 14, Jesus has become a friend of His disciples, as well as their Teacher and Lord. They have been with each other for three years but Jesus is now saying goodbye. Jesus gave them this message to calm them and to focus them upward instead of inward and outward. Although He is heading to the cross, His focus is on comforting them.

    Verse one could be translated, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust and believe in God even though you cannot see Him, so trust also in Me when you can no longer see Me." Jesus then continues to explain to the disciples that His task at hand while He is away is to prepare a place for them. The Lord wants them to know that He is coming back for them, but in the meantime, He has some very important things to do for them and for us too.

    There is more to life than what meets our eyes. We need to fix our eyes and our actions toward heavenly things, for heaven is a real place. Heaven is mentioned often in Scripture: Matthew 6:9 says that heaven is where God dwells (and Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father), First Peter 1:4 calls heaven an inheritance, Second Peter 1:11 describes heaven as a kingdom, Isaiah 66:1 says heaven is where God reigns on His throne and John 14:2 calls heaven, home. It is home for God's children.

    A "place prepared" in Greek means rooms or abiding places. Some of us think it means a palace for Billy Graham and a shack for the person who accepts Christ on his deathbed. But that is wrong. Jesus Christ is preparing a place for all His saints and every such place will be beautiful. Life is not a dress rehearsal; our troubles, pains, tears and even our actions will all count when we get to heaven. Jesus told us about heaven so that we would know there is more than just the pain we experience here on earth. He wants us to believe and trust Him with our troubles.

    For James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." And where will we receive that crown? A place prepared in heaven called home!

    ~shared by Mike Heflebower, from Crosswalk Devotional group 

  • Let Your Light Shine

    I was sitting at home watching something on TV at night and suddenly, without warning, the power goes out in the neighborhood. All the houses around me are all dark and it was definitely a quiet night.

    We are so dependant on electricity and energy. I found myself looking out the window for about a half hour, walking up and down the stairs looking through each window in my house. There was really nothing to do but sleep or walk aimlessly around in the dark. I could have read a book, but that would suck the battery power out of the flashlight.

    It is amazing that there is nothing to do but walk aimlessly around the house or just sleep. We really can’t do anything in these current times without electricity. We are totally lost without plugged in electronic equipment.

    I believe it is the same thing with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Without the vine, you can do nothing. People are staying busy, making money, and enjoying entertainment, but they are still walking aimlessly in the dark in God’s eyes.

    The Holy Spirit is the electricity in our Christian lives. It lifts us up and makes us feel great. We are not walking aimlessly or sleeping in the dark. We have the power to shine in such a dark and desolate world. People are really dependent and need the light of Christ, but all in their own good time.

    We have to be that light source. We need to shine our light so that people see how good it is. They need to see that it is useless to walk aimlessly in this dark and desolate world without the light of God.

    The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness will never overcome it. John 1:5

    In Christ,
    Stan Yee

  • A Life of Adventure

    Yesterday Pastor Dave said something that really hit home for me, as a mother of 3 kids who I hope will live their lives as followers of Jesus. He said that one reason 20-somethings may be leaving the church when they leave home is that their parents haven't lived in such a way as to teach their children, by example, that the faith-filled life is a life of adventure.

    That reminded me of a talk I heard by Mike Foster at a MinistryCOM conference last year. Mike talked about how Shamu isn't really a killer whale.

    This is more of a theology issue than a biology issue...but first a little background....

     

     

    Once upon a time, Mike Foster started what he calls the #1 Christian porn site, XXXchurch.com (don't be afraid to click.....it's not actually porn.....it's meant to help people whose lives are being wrecked by porn).  So Mike knows a few things about pushing the envelope and living a life of adventure as a follower of Christ. And Mike believes God wants Christ followers to be killer whales -- not two-legged Shamus. Here are some of the things Mike said:

    • Killer whales live in the ocean and hunt their own food. Shamu lives in a tank and follows the rules to get a reward.
    • God wants us to live in the real world - the ocean....not our little Christian bubble -- the tank at Sea World. That's what Jesus did. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, not the religiously approved.
    • Living "out there" puts us in a position to be who God created us to be. When we're outside the safe confines of the tank, we live in a way that fulfills God's purposes for our lives.
    • Killer whales have no natural predators. What do they have to be afraid of? Where will you put your trust? In fear? Or in God?
    • Shamu has it easy. Killer Whales live on the edge of survival every day. God doesn't promise life as a follower of Christ will be easy or that we'll never fail. But we're called to live in the ocean, not to be tamed and confined to a cage.

    So what about you and me?  What will our lives teach our kids about living as a follower of Christ?

    • Look at your schedule this week. How much time will you be spending in the tank vs. in the ocean? What can you do to spend more time with people who don't already know Jesus, living in the culture and embracing the people you find there?
    • When it comes to finding and fulfilling God's purpose for your life, are you swimming happily inside the tank, heading toward the ocean, or plumbing the depths of the sea?
    • What (or who) do you trust more? Your fear? Or God's promises? Do your choices clearly reflect where your trust lies?
    • Are you willing to risk failure so you can swim in the ocean? Or are you content to live the easy life in the tank of the tamed two-legged Shamu?

    Kim Turnage

  • Open Book

     

    Today is the first day of my sabbatical. The next month lies before me like this picture…a blank page on a fresh morning filled with sweetness and light. It is the vision of GGCC leadership that “sabbatical is a time for ministry leaders to refresh, renew, recharge, reconnect with family, and re-vision for the future of their role in the God's Grace Community Church ministry.” 

    Why?

    Well, sometimes ministry is a 24/7 sport and finding the time to dream, to draw on God’s creativity, to listen to the music of the Spirit all around us, and to rest in God never seems to find its way onto one’s to-do list.

    We all need to just stop once in a while. Not necessarily to change or re-configure ourselves, but to build on our strengths and nurture our sparks – our meaning and purpose. I think that in the midst of the busyness of life, we get all caught up in the doing -- leaving little time for the being. We worry about the what and forget the who. We’re so busy giving, there’s little room for receiving.

    And – God is a giver! God wants to give us rest. God wants to give us peace. God wants to give us God’s Spirit and light and wisdom and grace! But when I’m so caught up in doing, giving, talking, emailing, writing, researching…when is there time to receive? And I’m not particularly good at receiving anyway. It leaves one vulnerable and having to admit neediness.

    My prayer is that this blank page, fresh morning and sweet time will allow me to open myself up to God and all that God wants to give me. And, may you find some time to do the same.

    These words from Psalm 18:20-24 in The Message is what I’m after:

    GOD made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
    When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.

    Now I'm alert to GOD's ways;
    I don't take God for granted.

    Every day I review the ways he works;
    I try not to miss a trick.

    I feel put back together,
    and I'm watching my step.
    GOD rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

    See you July 12! Blessings on your days until then.

     Vikki

  • Funny the Way It Is

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    I was asked this week, "What is the purpose of a youth mission trip?"

    My response surprised the one who asked, "It is secondary that we do missions to others. It is primarily to create the space within the participant who goes for the Holy Spirit to be at work in their in heart."

    Certainly it is great if "mission work" happens and others are served by Jesus through us. However, I think that is merely a byproduct of the Holy Spirit's capacity to first change us.

    When Jesus talks in John 3 about Nicodemus’s spiritual development he says, "Do not be astonished that I said to you, that you must be born from above. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with people born of the Spirit." (John 3:7,8)

    My greatest hope while out in the mission field is this: That the life back home that we have grown to be in rhythm with, and find a routine in, and where we live in a comfort zone…. that it gets left behind enough for the Holy Spirit's winds to have room to roam and flow around us. When this transformation has taken place the richest of mission work transpires in Jesus' name.

    To create this space, it seems to this 50 year old man, becomes more challenging each year. The tethers to our comfort zone of home grow thicker with each passing day. We go everywhere with phones, email, Starbucks, food we know, even home theater systems in the palm of our hand. We limit the potential of what the Holy Spirit's winds might do to reshape our lives anew by our obsession to worship only what we know. The sinful temptation to deny the Spirit ample space is not an act of only the young. We adults, by my observation, are even less prone to cut the umbilical cord to "what is" and risk what the Spirit might do new as we move into the world.

    This weekend Saryn McCune is baptized and we have six 8th graders who will be affirming their faith. I hope the waters of their baptism reclaim them and comfort them throughout their lives. I also hope they find that “surf is up” in terms of their baptismal waters, and they ride exciting waves of adventure that take them to new places in Jesus' name, never leaving them the same, but always transforming them anew in the name of the, "one who always was is and will be," Jesus the Christ.

    I leave for a men’s retreat immediately after the 10:30 a.m. service this week. Our Junior High go on a mission trip to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming July 19-24. The senior high go to San Diego July 25 - August 1. These are the "official" God's Grace mission trips coming up. However, this day God sends you out in mission to a world that is odd and wonderful. Each of us is odd and wonderful in Jesus' name. Find a way this day and every day to make some space to allow the Holy Spirit to work with you outside your comfort zone.

    The Dave Matthews Band was just on the TODAY SHOW. They played their new song “Funny The Way It Is.” Watch it performed here.

     

    The world indeed is funny the way it is, but Jesus has created a place for you in the world where you might be transformed and the Spirit's winds will do mission through you.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David j Jensen

  • Miracles

    Matthew 16:1    “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.”

    Miracles have a very specific purpose. They are intended to glorify God and bring people to faith. When your faith is doubted, the desire to see a miracle is very strong. Jesus knew that even if he performed a miracle, his critics still would not accept his divine identity.

    To have complete faith is to be able to accept the situations you are in, whether good or bad, and know that God has placed you there for a certain reason. Sometimes we do not know what the reason is, but when we have the ability to let go and turn everything over to God the answer will be come apparent. 

    Dear God, I ask for you to help me to not always be looking for the miracle to happen. Give me the faith to know that you are always there to take care of us all during the good and bad times in our lives. In your son’s name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    Deanne Cruickshank

  • A Vision for Peace

    As summer kicks off, peace is the impossible dream of mothers everywhere. Or maybe I'm projecting. But if I am, I can't be alone.

    A vision for peace, for some ideal state so different from our actual state, is as old as time. Here's how I read it this morning:

    A Living Knowledge of God

    The wolf will romp with the lamb,
    the leopard sleep with the kid.
    Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
    and a little child will tend them.
    Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
    their calves and cubs grow up together,
    and the lion eat straw like the ox.
    The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
    the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
    Nither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    on my holy mountain.
    The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
    a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

    Isaiah 11:6-9 (The Message)

    I like this vision of peace. And I like the idea that experiencing this kind of peace will leave us "brimming with knowing God-Alive." Knowing peace is knowing God. Maybe that's why our longing for peace is so deep and wide.

    This vision of peace....peace in a world where divisions are dissolved....persists and inspires generation after generation. Just listen:

     Imagine

     



    World on Fire - Sarah McLachlan

     

    God of Peace, thank you for setting a longing for peace in the hearts of every man, woman and child you have created. Sometimes that longing for the peace that comes from deeply knowing you is barely a whisper next to the clamoring of the world. Help me to listen today to that desire, even as the division and disunity of the world clangs in my ears. And use me as your hands and feet to bring peace in the parts of your creation you've given me to cultivate. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

  • My Generation

    Did you ever hear that song My Generation by the Who?





     

     It’s a song that people of any age gravitate to because of its universal message. Teens see it as a song of rebellion while AARP frequently uses it in their ads to promote youth at any age.

    There are many things associated with a generation. Each generation sets its own social standards in the areas of music, dress, slang, etc. The overall opinion of each generation differs slightly and each generation deals with different issues, politically, economically, and globally.

    Many stereotypes are also associated with each generation. When terms like “cranky old man” or “bitter old woman” are thrown out they stir images of a grumpy, balding man sitting in his rocking chair yelling at the kids to stop bending his grass. And the younger generation is not exempt from these stereotypes either. How many times have you heard the phrase, “oh, he’s in his teenage years” or “she’s acting like a teenager”? Neither of these brings up very positive feelings. Teens are commonly seen as rambunctious and disobedient young people who do nothing but look for ways to defy authority.

    Recently, AARP held a contest for people to creatively express the attitude of the generation of youth in America today.

    em

    This unique poem came in second, but received more publicity than the actual winner. We studied this poem in English this year specifically the last line. “And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.”

    It is interesting to consider all of the dualities in our society. The way everyone believes in “true love” yet 50% of marriages end in divorce. People say teens are the future, yet many people ignore their opinions. We are told that who you are on the inside is more important than the outside, yet fashion magazines are a booming industry. We say that we have our faith in God, yet we let the economy dictate our actions.

    Luckily God is here for all of us; the young and the old. It doesn’t matter if you’re a grouchy old person, a rebellious teenager, or somewhere in the middle. Jeremiah 10:10 tells us that, “the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.”

    Eternal is a difficult concept. Everything we encounter in our life has a definite beginning and end.....

    A year for example is 365 days; it begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st. A vacation is another example; it begins when you leave and ends when you return. A life; begins with a birth, and ends with a death. Nothing in our world is eternal…except God.

    According to Dictionary.com, Eternal is a adjective meaning “without beginning or end; enduring forever.”
    God is the eternal King. He is there year in and year out, generation after generation, looking out for all of us and loving all of us. His reign has no beginning and will have no end. God will always be there and to bless you regardless of the issues or stereotypes that plague your generation.

    Dear God, Thank you for always looking out for us and blessing us. We are so grateful for your eternal love and grace. Help us to remember, that regardless of how bad things may seem, you will always be there to help us, and we can always choose to reverse it. Watch over us this week and keep us all safe and sound, happy and healthy. In your name we pray, Amen.

    Zach Herzog

  • Farms and Air Bases

                

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    Blessings to you this day in the name of Jesus our Lord!

    My cousin’s son graduated yesterday from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. My extended family was kind enough to give my kids and I tickets (my wife, Amy, had to work as she is tasked with supporting the rest of us as we go on such adventures; I guess). It was an amazing day in many ways… The weather was perfect. The 1047 cadets marched in formation to their seats. There were more dignitaries than I had seen in one place before.

    Some reflections on the day...

    My cousin, Judy, and her husband Ron, flew in from where he is stationed in Germany to watch their son, Mark, graduate. Ron is a Colonel in the Air Force.

    My dad loves to tell the story of when, one Christmas back in the 70’s, Uncle Raleigh (Judy’s Dad ) hooked my brother, Mark, up to one of those snow saucers with a rope tied to a 300 pound calf, and how my brother hung on for dear life . That was a great Christmas on the farm in Minnesota. At the post festivities’ luncheon, Dad found a way to tell this story once again.

    Mark, my second cousin once removed, is now commissioned to serve as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. His first assignment will be in San Diego, CA.

    Cousin Judy and her family are flying back to Germany on Saturday where they will live for another 2 months before moving to San Antonio, Texas. Ron will serve there for two and a half years until he can retire with 30 years of service to the Air Force.

    Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the ceremony. Regardless of your politics, he is the Vice President (VP) of the USA, and to say you heard the VP in person is pretty cool. Biden charged the cadets with leading in this global community we all live in.

    It seems much is being said today about “global community” or “worldviews”, but I think God had that perspective long before any politician. In Acts 2:1-14, we learn that people were being pulled together from all parts of the world,”…Galileans, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans, Arabs, on and on...” The Holy Spirit came with tongues of fire and let them each hear what was going on in their own language. There was a “…vision and a dream…” (Acts 2:17) that day that God planted in the hearts of all people.

    This past Monday, Memorial Day, I prayed for soldiers everywhere, as I hope you did, that God might keep them safe, and that we might find a way for peace among all nations.

    May peace start with our loved ones from farms in Minnesota, to air bases in San Diego, Germany, and San Antonio. Each of us is far more global than we know. May we see God’s loved ones in all the folks we meet, and even in our enemies.

    “Above all , maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen

  • Whom Will You Serve ?

    Joshua 24:1-28

    Joshua 24:7b “You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.”

    Joshua was a young boy in Egypt. I don’t know if he remembered all of the plagues. Even I don’t remember everything that happened in my childhood.  But Joshua did remember the parting of the Red Sea and the water engulfing the Egyptian troops and GOD leading his people out into the desert.

    In chapter 24, Joshua is summing up the wonderful things GOD did to him and his people Israel. Joshua says about the people of Israel in verse 12 “You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I (GOD) gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; you live in them and eat from the vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”

    My family immigrated to the United States in 1957. I don’t remember the two week boat ride on the Mas Dam, but I do remember trips into the mountains… all seven of us and a dog in a VW Beetle singing, laughing, and praying. Me and Freckles in the back cubbie hole. Mieke, Tom, and Mike in the back seat and Mom, Dad, and my baby sister Lucia in the front seats.

    My parents would stop along the way and we would marvel at the views and streams and roads going through the mountains, built by those who had gone on before us. My parents were strict and worked hard to make a good life for the family, but there was always an understanding that what we had was a blessing, yes, a gift from GOD. We had sponsors that helped us immigrate into the US. We had neighbors that helped us integrate into the neighborhood and schools and churches and life in America.

    We did not do it on our own! My parents knew it, they made me know it, and I know it even more now!

    I may not reflect on it often enough, but everything I have is a gift from GOD - my wife, my children, my church, my friends, my job - everything is a gift from GOD. And for all of this, GOD asks for only one thing in return… LOVE!

    Joshua says it so well in 24:14-15…

    “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”

    It seems to me the gods were easy to spot in the Old Testament. There were Baal and Asherah, and it is easy for me to say I won’t build an altar to Baal or put up an Asherah pole.  But there were other gods in the Old Testament that stand out for me and draw me into what appears to be their comfort and satisfaction. For me there are money, sex, and stuff! Yes, just stuff! It amazes me how much I want more stuff, whatever it is!

    So I thank GOD my Creator, Lord, and Savior for Joshua and his words of wisdom…

    "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living.”

    It is not some decision way off in the future Joshua is talking about. It is not the meaning of life or what the neighbors are doing or what the Christian right or leftist liberals are doing!

    It is the next decision you make, it is every decision you make “this day for yourself.” Whether it is to love your wife by reading or walking together or hitting the bar for a few beers. Whether it is to love your child by playing baseball or Frisbee or planting a garden or going for a round of golf or an afternoon of fishing by yourself. It is “choosing for yourselves, this day, whom you will serve!”

    And I pray to GOD, my Creator, Lord, and Savior that I can choose as Joshua did over 3,000 years ago to do and to say… “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” Amen!

    Precious Father, Loving God, Holy Spirit, I thank you this day for everything you have given me, for everything is a gift from GOD. I pray that you help me to choose you for myself this day. Help me in every decision I make to serve you my Creator, Lord, and Savior. AMEN.

    Jim Dietvorst

  • It Is Better To Have A Friend

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (Contemporary English Version)
    9 You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. 10 If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.

    I’m shipping this painting to my friend Sharon today. We met in childbirth class 26 years ago. Our daughters were born within 3 days of each other. My daughter Sarah used to proudly say that Megan was her first friend.

    It has been 22 years since Sharon and I have lived in the same state. Last winter she and Megan surprised me with an unexpected visit while they were in town. The years melted away and we basked in the warmth of our cherished friendship. Sharon may not have been my first ever friend, but she is one I will never forget…no matter how many years or miles separate us.

    The title of my Painting is “Sharon’s Garden.” I am one of the flowers in her garden. Like any garden, God creates the flowers, provides the sun and the rain, and we are sent to tend the garden. It is up to us to pull the weeds, cut off the dead flower heads and leaves, and sprinkle in some plant food when needed.

    I was planted in Sharon’s garden 23 years ago. I was suffering a pain that would not end. My body was so tender and sore that it hurt to be touched. I had two small babies and a house on the market. My husband was on a full time out of town assignment. I was in a pit so deep I couldn’t see a way out.

    That is when Sharon pulled me up and planted me in her Bible Study. I was afraid to join. I had never done anything more than Sunday school, and I had never really read the Bible. How could I participate in a Bible Study? Sharon wouldn’t let me out of it, and God made sure I went every week. Sharon’s gentle relaxed manner opened up the joy of being in God’s word. God’s love began to rain down on me refreshing my soul and soothing my pain. The warmth of his wisdom shone like the sun and lighted my path. Sharon fed my spirit with her tender sweet friendship and gave me a safe place to grow and heal.

    Are you in someone’s garden? Do you have someone to pick you up when you fall? Do you have a Sharon in your life that planted you in her garden? I hope so. If not open your heart and let God send a gardener your way.

    Abba, Thank-you for Sharon! May you bless her with your love and renew her spirit every day. May you send her a gardener to nourish her soul as she has nourished so many others in her garden. Help each of us to find a friend in you! Amen

    Julie Weldon

  • Restoration

    A friend of mine had a fire a few years ago. Looking at the damage, he would have called it a total loss. But a restoration company came in, took away the furniture and books and clothing and other stuff that had been damaged by smoke and by the water that put out the fire. After a few weeks, the restoration company brought all those things back....clean and usable and almost good as new. 

    When I think of restoration, that's what I think of.....making things almost good as new.

    But look at the picture Isaiah paints of our God, a God of Restoration:

    Tell fearful souls,
    "Courage! Take heart!
    God is here, right here,
    on his way to put things right
    And redress all wrongs.
    He's on his way! He'll save you!"

    Blind eyes will be opened,
    deaf ears unstopped,
    Lame men and women will leap like deer,
    the voiceless break into song.
    Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
    streams flow in the desert.
    Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
    thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
    Even lowly jackals will have water to drink
    and barren grasslands flourish richly. (Isaiah 35:4-9)

    We have a God who does so much more than "good as new." Our God puts things right, restoring them not just to how they were before they went wrong, but to their ideal state. This is a God of healing and wholeness, and at his touch lame men and women leap like deer, streams flow in the desert, barren grasslands flourish richly.

    • Do you find yourself feeling like a "fearful soul" today? Why? What troubles you?
    • Does seeing God as a God of Restoration give courage to your fearful soul? Which of these images of God's restoration speaks most deeply to your heart?

    Prayer:

    God of Restoration, thank you for being here, right here, on your way to put things right. Help me to trust in your power to restore all the broken places in me. Give me courage and hope in the knowledge that your restoration is so much more complete than the weak "good as new" restoration that might be "good enough" for me. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

  • What Does the Lord Require?

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    What does the Lord require of you? Have you ever wondered about that? My youngest son graduated from high school last night. I can remember when the high school experience started for each of my three children. One of the things they tell incoming freshmen is “here are the minimal requirements for graduation.”

    Knowing what is minimally required of you seems to be a valuable thing.

    Micah 6:8 tell us what God requires of us.

     “….the Lord has told us what is good. What God requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with God (TEV).

    Interesting that the text does not talk about “belief.”

    The text tells us that we are to “do” to "act."  And if you think about what our God has done for us from our creation to our redemption , there is no minimal standard set by God.  Our Lord has gone all out! Micah 6:8 calls upon the people of God to “do” and “act” in ways that surpass all minimal standards which leads to a transformation centered in God.

    In worship this week we will hear from Lois Autterson and Amanda Jensen. They will tell us about the all out full force of ministry they experienced in Haiti a few weeks ago. Click here to see some pictures from their mission trip to Haiti.

    Do you desire a closer walk each day with your Lord? Micah 6:8 is a good atlas. The witness of Lois and Amanda will invite you to one possibility of a path with your living Lord.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Dancing with God

    When I meditated on the word Guidance,
    I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word..
    I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.

    When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
    The movement doesn't flow with the music,

    and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.
    When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead,
    both bodies begin to flow with the music.
    One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back
    or by pressing Lightly in one direction or another.
    It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.
    The dance takes surrender, willingness,
    and attentiveness from one person
    and gentle guidance and skill from the other...

    My eyes drew back to the word Guidance.
    When I saw "G": I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i".
    "God, "u" and "i" dance."
    God, you, and I dance...

    As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust
    that I would get guidance about my life.
    Once again, I became willing to let God lead.
    My prayer for you today is that God's blessings
    and mercies are upon you on this day and everyday.
    May you abide in God, as God abides in you.
    Dance together with God, trusting God to lead
    and to guide you through each season of your life.

    (author unknown)

  • God's Nearness and Remoteness

    The promises in God’s word do accomplish much. They cannot fail.

    “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord.” “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
    Isaiah 55 vs. 8-9

    It’s hard for me to imagine or grasp the nearness and remoteness of God. It seems like a pretty obvious contradiction, confusing and frustrating at least. While I was in Haiti it was a daily question to wrestle with.

    As a group we started each morning in prayer and gathered each evening to pray and reflect on what happened during the day. These times of sharing were wonderful. This time helped us to sort through what we had seen and done during the day. God was putting adults and children on our path daily and we were building working relationships that we could bring home with us. These moments were also a time to witness how God was touching my fellow travelers’ lives.

    As important as this time was to us all, I still had to spend some time daily in my listening prayer mode, this place free from the voices of the world and my own preconceived thoughts. This is where my ahaa moments come. Where clarity and most often a sense of peace seem to flow. This was the place where I could best wrestle with the contradiction of the nearness and remoteness of God.

    The ultra poor have a lot to teach us. The women we met in Milabe, in the central plateau in Haiti, couldn’t get their arms around the help that Gautier, our guide, was offering. Their eyes often vacant said it all… show me, walk through this with me. The poor get it. Didn’t Jesus ask the same of his disciples while he was facing the cross and his own death? There was a remarkable difference in the women who had already been walked through the program. Their eyes said… I now have hope. My life has meaning. I can now walk with dignity. This is the power of the living word. Christ, working it all together for the benefit of everyone. Christ in people, Christ here on earth, binding us all together in some mysterious way.

    Father God,
    We thank you for your life giving word for Jesus who redeemed us from sin. We thank you for your Spirit that has the power to change the world. Grant us the desire and the ability to see with the eyes of your heart. We thank you for the mystery that you are. Amen

    Lois Autterson

  • Spilled Water

    II Samuel 14:14 “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so must we die. But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.”

    Ok. So you really screw up. David did. Many times. He murdered. He committed adultery. That’s two of the BIG TEN. He made a mess of things that he couldn’t take back. He couldn’t clean up the spilled water. Maybe that’s where the saying comes from “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”


    Sometimes you have to spill it to heal it. Get rid of all you have and let it trickle away into the ground. Water is required to sustain life. When spilled on the ground, you cannot recollect it. But, it nourishes the ground and enhances the soil to grow new stuff.

    God doesn’t want to take away. He wants to give me and you everything we need. He wants to draw us to himself so that we can be his children – fully protected.

    The truth is that God makes a way to bring us back into his gentle arms even after we screw up big time. He devises a way. God is pretty crafty. God will make a way. Always.

    Dear Father God,
    As tears run down my face, let them fall to the ground so that my screw ups die today. Cover me with God’s redemptive love so that he will enfold me in his loving arms and nourish me as I come to the throne of forgiveness. Nourish me with your grace and sustain me with the living water that runs from the well that will never run dry. Amen.

    Carole Schumacher

  • I need you to listen

    It’s a beautiful day. But, I’m not feeling it. Don’t know if this ever happens to you, but this morning I am just a wee bit down. Feeling like I’m just not the person God hopes I can be. Deflated.

     

    So, what I do when I get into this mode / mood is turn to the psalms. And, one of my favorite interpretations of the psalms, “Prayers Before an Awesome God – The Palms for Teenagers” by David Haas.

    Psalm 5

    God,
    I feel awful,
    and I need you to listen
    and to help me.

    Every morning I will call on you,
    and I will pay attention
    to what you say to me.
    Throughout the day
    I will wait,
    hoping that you will hear me.

    I know that you hate evil, God,
    so please,
    keep it far away from me.
    I know you reject the snobs,
    liars, cheats, and bullies.
    You despise those who choose violence.

    But you are full of mercy
    and forgiveness,
    and because of this,
    you let me be near you.
    I can hardly believe it!

    Keep me on the right road,
    far away from those who wish to hurt me.
    For you know they are guilty;
    you catch them in the act
    when they disobey your laws.

    But when we trust you,
    you give us reason to celebrate,
    to have a party,
    and to feel your protection –
    safe always
    and so we praise you, God.

    For you are always near
    to those who follow your way,
    and you shower us with good things.


    God, thank you being present in our highs and our lows. May we find your loving, creating presence near us, with us, in us and around us this day. Amen.
    Vikki

  • A Love Such As This

    Dear Sinners and Saints,

    A good rule of thumb for a parent is to teach their children the Golden Rule. “Love others, as you love yourself”. The only thing wrong with that, is it is a partial teaching of Jesus.

     Christ took the Golden Rule to a whole new level. In John 15:12, 13 Jesus says , “ This is your commandment, that you love one another as I first loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for their friends.”

    Simply put, it is not enough to love as we love ourselves. Frankly, most of us do not have enough self love, or know how to love ourselves appropriately, like the old country song "we have been looking for love in all the wrong places…”

    Jesus loved to the depth of giving his life for you and the world he loves.

    To love at such a level is to come face to face with Jesus.

    Win Arn says,” Love is intentionally doing something caring or helpful for another person, in Jesus name, regardless of the cost or consequence to oneself.”

    Do you know such a love? Yes you do, and that love's name is Jesus! Would you dare to try it? Christ will not give up until you do! Jesus has modeled it, lives it, and offers it to you each day! John 15 invites you to explore it and experience it. There is no place this love has not come to dwell, and that includes your heart. Only a love such as this affords us purpose, healing, and transformation.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J Jensen

  • Just A Thought...

    Our perception these days is that there is a lot wrong with our country and the time in which we live. The economy is bad. Our retirement funds are decimated. The stock market is down and our investments are performing poorly. There are draughts in some places and floods in others. Wild fires are burning up vast acreage and people are losing their property. Foreclosures are taking other houses. People are losing their jobs through no fault of their own. There is a scare of a flu pandemic and people are dying. There is no shortage of negatives to hook our victim wagon to.

    Beginning in Chapter 2 of 2 Chronicles we read about Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. The next few chapters deal with how it was built, how it was furnished and how it was dedicated to the Lord. Chapter 6 details a magnificent prayer of dedication by Solomon. Chapter 7 tells us that fire came down from heaven to consume the sacrifices and the “glory of the LORD filled the house.” Solomon and the people then sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. They continued to party and feast for several days. It was a time for celebration and must have been a spectacular sight.

    Chapter 7 concludes with God’s promise and warning.

     

    11Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the LORD and in his palace. 12Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13"If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15"Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. 16"For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 17"As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, 18then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.' 19"But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21"As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?' 22"And they will say, 'Because they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.'" 2 Chronicles 7:11-22


    God honors His people’s prayers. Maybe to reverse this adversity we are currently facing it would be wise to heed verse 14 "and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

    Just a thought . . .

    Paul Nickoley

  • Dangerous Unselfishness

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once told the story of the Good Samaritan as he encouraged people to live in a state of "dangerous unselfishness." He explained it this way:

    And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

    What a small turn of the question.....and what a big difference it makes.

    The priest and the Levite asked, "What will happen to me if I help?"

    • I will be made ceremonially unclean.
    • I will risk the judgment of my peers and the people I serve for putting the welfare of a stranger above my duty to serve them.
    • I might be set upon by the same robbers that hurt this man. Maybe they're lying in wait.
    • I might be tricked. Maybe this person isn't injured at all but is luring me into a vulnerable position so he can rob me himself.

    I will.....I will.....I might....I might.....The answers all revolve around fear. And that fear revolves around "me." 

    The Good Samaritan asks a different question, "What will happen to him if I don't help?"

    • He will suffer more.
    • He will believe that no one cares.
    • He might die.

    The answers are still about fear. But the fear revolves around what will happen to the man who needs help.

    When Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he means,

    "Change the question. Stop asking what will happen to you if you help and start asking what will happen to your neighbor if you don't."

    That's the question Jesus asked. And, in answer, he went all the way to the cross in his dangerous unselfishness for you and for me. He was much more afraid of what would happen to us if he didn't than he was of what would happen to him if he did.

    Do this with me. Keep your eyes open this week. Where will you find the opportunity to be dangerously unselfish? Which question will you ask? What will you fear most?

    And if God puts an opportunity for dangerous unselfishness in your path this week, will you encourage all who read these devotions by sharing your story in a comment to this post?

    Prayer:

    Gracious God, thank you for being a God of dangerous unselfishness, a God driven to action by what would happen to me, to all of humanity, if you chose not to act. Your dangerous unselfishness drove you to live a human life and die a painful, humiliating death to bridge the chasm between you and me. Live in me and work through me. Give me the courage to practice your brand of dangerous unselfishness when I see pain and brokenness and need in the people around me. Amen.

    Kim Turnage

    **original photo from the Billings Gazette

     

  • Let It Be...With God

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

    Mother's Day (as with Father's day) unleashes a variety of emotions. For those who have great relationships with their parents it is a wonderful thing. For those who have a problematic relationship with children or parents it can be a time of sorrow.

    Jesus opened up the boundary of family on many occasions. He moved past the nuclear nest many of us are accustomed to calling family, and pointed toward a larger community parented by the Heavenly Creator. It does not matter if your earthly relationship with “Mom “ is good or bad. We all need the greater maternal love of God. One means by which we gain that love is from the teaching of Mary the mother of Jesus. In the first chapter of Luke, Mary has become aware that she is to be a full participant in the one and only virgin birth. The angel tells Mary ,"For nothing shall be impossible with God."  Then Mary said , "Here I am Lord ; let it be for me according to your word." (Luke 1:37,38).

    Mother's Day is cause for reflection. Memories flow over us both good and bad. We recall when we were both maternally wounded and healed. The good news is, ".. nothing is impossible with God." There is hope for us all.

    The most spiritual piece of music (for me ) that was ever written is the Beatles song ,"LET IT BE". What great lyrics run throughout, "….in my hour of darkness, there is still a light that shines on me speaking words of wisdom let it be....…mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom let it be…"   Paul McCartney and John Lennon both claimed that they did not have a specific Mary in mind. God will bring a Mary into your life. Mary is that one feminine voice of God that speaks with the grandest clarity a word of unconditional love, hope and healing. In the midst of whatever stirs and stresses you, "Let it be" with God.


    Leonard Sweet says , "One virgin birth is not enough." May this Mother's Day be a time of the Christ Child's rebirth within you.

    See you on Sunday.

    Still in one peace,

    David J. Jensen

  • Aerate, Prune, Weed, Fertilize

    From a gardening point of view, this is one of my favorite times of year. New growth abounds! Buds are forming, green shoots are emerging, and the brown lawn is gradually giving way to green. Rather than cutting back perennials in the fall, I like to leave the dried stems and seed pods for “winter interest.” Some may think this behavior of a lazy gardener, but it’s all a therapeutic process for me. Looking out the window at the frozen, brown garden in the middle of January brings a real sense of hope for me, or perhaps it’s a feeling of confidence. Hope, that all the plants will make it through the winter dormancy, showing signs of life come spring and confidence that despite lack of attention to them for months, they will survive!

    Working outside this past week, made me realize how much many gardening tasks mirror habits we should regularly practice to keep ourselves and our relationships healthy and nurturing. Just think of it…we aerate our lawns pulling “plugs” of thatch filled dirt supposedly to give our lawns a better chance to allow air, moisture and fertilizer down to the roots. We prune branches of bushes and trees in our attempts to help them have a better shape and to rid them of dead parts. We weed out those unwanted dandelions and other uninvited visitors of our tidy beds. We fertilize to make our plants stronger and healthier and our lawns greener and more lush.

    I believe God wants us to do those things in our lives….Aerate - pull some “plugs” (bad habits, fear,) to allow the good stuff to have a better chance of reaching our roots and make our lives better. Prune - cut off those dead branches (anger, resentment) of our lives that keep us from experiencing better relationships with God and our friends and family. Weed – rid our “gardens” of unwanted visitors (procrastination, worry.) And last but maybe most importantly, fertilize – (feed your faith, serve others, engage in healthy relationships.) For everything there is a season, and this is the season of new growth, renewal, and rebirth. Let’s get out there and do some aerating, pruning, weeding and fertilizing.

    Andrea Heshmati

  • Why Go To Church

    A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and
    complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've
    gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard
    something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember
    a single one of them.. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors
    are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

    This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column,
    much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone
    wrote this clincher:

    "I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked
    some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire
    menu for a single one of those meals But I do know this.. They all
    nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my
    wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.
    Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be
    spiritually dead today!" When you are DOWN to nothing... God is UP to
    something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and
    receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual
    nourishment! 

    "When Satan is knocking at your door, simply say, "Jesus, could you get that for me?"

    ~author unknown, shared by Maureen Herzog

  • Suffering

    Dear Saints and Sinners,

     

    I was talking with one of Jesus’ better disciples, Steve Koerwitz this week. He said,”Man I just watched the president on TV. I would not want that guys’ job. Two wars, a tanked economy, and now the swine flu? That guy has his hands full.”  The president indeed has ”… his hands full”.

      

    Most of us are new to the word “pandemic”.  Just when it seemed fear had reached the highest level possible. The media puts out word to us of a pandemic. We live in a very unique time when suffering seems to be out of control.

      

    Father Richard Rohr says this about human suffering,” Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as ‘whenever I am not in control.’ If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it”…. From Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr.

      

    If there has ever been a moment in human history where we can safely say we are ,”..not in control..” this ranks as one.  May we receive the gift at this time to,”destabilize from our arrogance and ignorance…”. That we might be transformed in our relationship with Jesus.

      

    One huge step in spiritual growth is to understand that to be human means we will suffer. Human beings will go through times that they feel,” I am not in control”. The only stability at that moment is that which comes in the form of the risen Jesus.  Jesus said in John 10:17,18, “…no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down and to take it up again.” Jesus did what is humanly impossible for us to do. Jesus suffered while under control. Christ maintained his power as he suffered.  Jesus is in control of all things. When we are out of control our hope is in the one who suffers with us. Meaning comes to our lives even in times of suffering as we trust in the power of Jesus power to take control when we know we have no control.

      

    May we pray this day for Jesus to reach into our arrogance and ignorance and offer us the instability we crave to trust in the stabilizing power of the risen Jesus.

      

    See you on Sunday.

      

    Still in one peace,

     

    David J Jensen

  • Looking Up & Looking Forward

     

     

    I’ve been blessed my whole life to see the mountains on the horizon. The few times I have had to be away I have almost ached to see them again. Then when I return, I look up and breathe a sigh mixed with wonder and relief…I am home. The mountains are a God place for me. It is almost as if His presence becomes inescapably tangible in the mountain air. I relish each breath.

     

    I think that is why I am so fond of Psalm 121:

     

    “I lift up my eyes to the hills ~ and where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip ~ he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you ~ the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm ~ he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

     

    Painting is my natural response to God’s beautiful creation. I painted this scene as a gift to our church family, a way to look up at the hills, seeking God’s vision for our future. This will one day be our view! Thank-you for making that happen! The Reunion Dinner on Tuesday, April 14, was a spectacular reminder that we are all stepping out in faith, looking forward to what God will do through each of us!

     

    Abba Father, Thank-you for this community of faith. Thank-you for stirring our hearts into action to build a home where we can build disciples and send them out into the world to feed your sheep!

     

    Julie Weldon

     

  • Managing Change - Why Change Is So Hard and What To Do About It

    Change is hard—so hard, in fact, that most of us avoid it at all costs.

    But by avoiding change, we create even bigger problems, such as lost opportunities, broken relationships, or sometimes a wasted life. Millions of people who need to change are drifting along with no real purpose, no joy, feeling as if they're traveling a dead end street.

    Most of us can relate. We've had to make some major changes in our lives, and each time they were painful. We usually fight these changes until we reach a misery threshold, then we reluctantly did something rash to escape the bad situation.

    Each time we need to make a change, we become afraid because we don't know what’s coming. Like most people, we like predictability. We thrive on sureness. Change means stepping into the unknown and losing your comfortable routine, and that's frightening.

    To a large degree, you know that you have to give up control. That's scary too. Sure, we can prepare as well as we can, but you can’t run everything. Change involves so many factors that you just can't manipulate all of them.

    When you're not in control, you lose your sense of invulnerability. You quickly realize you're not as powerful as you thought. That bravery you put so much pride in seems to evaporate when you realize you're not the one in charge any more.

    Family members and friends can help you change, but they have their own lives to lead and their own priorities. They can't do everything for you. Most of the time they're struggling so much in their own lives that they can't give you all the support you'd like.

    One of the reasons so many celebrities keep going in and out of rehab is that they leave out the critical element to lasting change: God. Change is too hard when you try to do it without him.

    God supplies everything you need for successful change, and when you make changes with his help, you stay changed.

    The unknown can overwhelm you, but God is omniscient, which means he knows all things, including the future. He can prepare you for the future in ways you can't prepare yourself, and he works all things for the good of his followers (Romans 8:28, NIV). God is the guide who is never surprised.

    God is in control as well. The being who created the vast universe and keeps it operating in perfect harmony is also a personal God who intervenes in people's lives. He exercises his control to keep those who obey him in his will.

    When you feel weak in the face of change, God is omnipotent, or all-powerful. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" the Bible says. (Romans 8:31, NIV) Knowing the invincible God is on your side gives you tremendous confidence.

    The most important attribute God brings when you're making a change is his unconditional love for you. Unlike that of family and friends, his love never wavers. He wants only the best for you, and when change makes you suffer, as it often does, he stands closest to you, giving comfort and strength. Sometimes his love is the only thing that gets you through.

    Where are you now? Is there something wrong in your life you need to change?

    Remember this: If you believe you're on a dead end street, you can turn around.

    God will show you how to make a legal U-turn, then he will keep giving you directions through his Word, the Bible. He will gently guide you on the way you should go, and he will stick with you through traffic jams and trouble along the way.

    The Holy Spirit's role is to help you change your character into that of Christ, but he needs your permission and cooperation. He knows exactly what needs to be changed and how to do it.

    The choice is simple, really: unlimited help from God, or no help. Does it make sense to turn down the assistance of the most loving, most powerful being in the universe who has only your best interests at heart?

    Don't make change harder than it has to be. Do it the right way. Ask God for help.

    With assistance from the writings of  Jack Zavada.

    Mike Heflebower

  • It's Snowing?

     

     

    This morning we woke up to snow. Hey, it’s April 27th, it’s not supposed to be snowing. I know the order of the seasons and how it’s supposed to work. Springtime is a mix of rainy & cool days or sunny & warm days. Snow is not on the agenda.

    We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

    And yet…the snow is making me look at things in a new way. 

      I see the buds on the trees that I didn’t see yesterday.

     

    I see the robin showing up clearly against the white snow.

     

     

     

    But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!

     

    I look up and I see the sun trying to break through.

    We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

    The sun is full out now, on this morning of new things. I can see blue sky between the clouds. God invites me to see things in a new way, not just fall back on my boring expectations. The beauty and grace of living in Colorado is that we have a front row seat at the theater of the mystery of God! There are daily opportunities for us to rub our eyes, wipe off our glasses, look outside and see things in a new way. Not just the weather, but the people and circumstances around us.

    I don’t normally see things the way God sees them…but I’m trying to keep my eyes open and wait:

    But for right now, until that completeness (until I can see as God sees), we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of these three is love. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 The Msg

    Thank you God, for mixing up the weather so I can put my expectations and fuzzy vision aside and see things in a new way as you shower us with your extravagant love!

    Vikki

     

  • Their Eyes Were Opened

    Dear Sinners and Saints,

     

    In an article some time back in the Denver Post, Mark Kiszla a local sports writer said, “The measure of a leader is how quickly the failures of yesterday can be forgotten to embrace the promise of tomorrow.” For whatever reason, I have kept that on my desktop so I could glance at it from time to time for several months now.

      

    In the 24th chapter of Luke, the people are dwelling upon failure. Jesus has died. They are in grief. There is mention of hopelessness. Clearly as you read the start of this chapter, the people are looking back upon the failure of yesterday with no hope of a better tomorrow. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus” (Luke 24:31) and “Then Jesus opened their minds to understanding the scriptures.” (Luke 24:45)

      

    If we fill our thoughts with the failures of yesterday, we will never allow Jesus to “open” us up to the possibility of tomorrow. How do the failures of yesterday affect your life? The tomb is empty, and Jesus has “opened” the way to the promise of tomorrow. Let us embrace this risen Jesus!

      

    See you on Sunday!

      

    Still in one peace,

      

    Pastor David J. Jensen

  • Dazzling Toys with Lights Flashing?

    Click here to read 1 Peter 1:1-25

     

    “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!” Toby Mac in his song “Lose My Soul”

     

    Peter says his letter is (verse 1) “To GOD’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout…”  Peter’s letter is about life in the world and touches on our duties in the world.  I think about my duties in the world often, because like Toby Mac says of the things of this world “…life’s demands…chip and they nag and they pull at me.”


     

     

     

    I find it oddly reassuring that no matter when we lived, be it 1000BC, or 60 AC, or 2009 AC or sometime in the future we are all challenged by the things of this world and they are similar over time.  Peter says in verse 6 “… now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold… may be proved genuine…”  And that chorus from Toby Mac echoes in the back of my head “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!”

     

    Peter goes on in verses 13 - 15 to say “Therefore, prepare your minds for action: be self controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do; for it is written; Be holy, because I am holy.”

     

    This is not a secret to me… living in ignorance.  At least I haven’t found it to be.  For me, it wasn’t an aha moment, or a right of passage, or even an ultimate test.  To this point in my life I am challenged daily, if not hourly by the things of this world.  Toby Mac says he feels like he’s “… a little kid at a three ring circus.”  Wow, do you feel like that at times?  I do!  There’s a ton of stuff going on in front of you and then down the aisle comes cotton candy, drinks, ice cream, dazzling toys with lights flashing and… I want it… I want it for me… I want it for my wife… I want it for my kids… and the chorus line echoes in my head “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!”

     

    Again Peter says in verse 13 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self controlled…”  Toby Mac says “…Yo, before we part from the start, Where’s your heart?”  Everything we have is a gift from GOD! Everything!  So if we prepare our hearts and minds we can, with joy and faith and hope and love, go out into GOD’s world and live!

     

    Precious Father, Loving God, Holy Spirit we pray for your living presence with us today in this world, with me, with my family, with my friends, with every man, woman, and child on this GOD given earth.  We pray that you prepare our hearts and minds for action and set our hope fully on our Creator, Lord, and Savior, Jesus the Christ!  AMEN!

     

    Jim Dietvorst

  • Broken, then Rearranged

    “PICKING UP THE BROKEN PIECES”

     

                                                      “Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer;

    And attend to the voice of my supplications.

    In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee;

    For thou wilt answer me.

     

    Teach me thy way, O Lord;

    I will walk in thy truth:

    Unite my heart to fear thy name.

     

    O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me;

    Give thy strength unto thy servant…

    I will praise thee, O Lord my God,

    With all my heart:

         And I will glorify thy name for evermore.

     

                                                                  Psalm 86: 6-7, 11, 12, 16

     

     

              This week of remembrance of a very tragic event in our community reminds us of many times we might feel lost and begin to ask “Why”. When our lives are broken and we don’t know who to turn to, we should remember that God is there for us at all times.  It might not be something we have done or it might be something that has been done to us. No matter what we have done or not done should not keep us from asking for help.  It is comforting to know that God will find a way to rearrange our broken lives so that we can do his work.  We might not even know this is happening to us.

     

    PRAYER: 

    Dear God, I am broken.  I feel so empty.  I have nothing to offer but pieces of my life.  I pray that you pick them up and use them.  Help me to submit as you rearrange these pieces in a new way.  Thank you for the miracle you created from my shattered life.  Help me to accept my new life and use it the way you see best.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.

     

    Deanne Cruickshank

  • Do I Have to Scream....?

    "Do I have to scream for You to hear me?"

     

    No, I don't.  According to the Singing Group named ZOEgirl, "I don't have to scream for You to hear me". 

     

    I think the more appropriate question would be:  "Does He have to scream for me to hear Him?"  Well, in my case, He might just have to do that!  Sometimes, I talk to Him without ceasing, instead of praying without ceasing.   And sometimes I don't take time to listen to God's voice, which is the other half of prayer.  

     

    Have you ever heard God's "still small voice" (not "his still loud scream"...) talk to you directly, in words, I mean in English?  Well, I haven't, at least not very often...well, ok, maybe only once...and I don't admit that out loud to very many people very often.  

     

    Here's how it happened:  I was sitting in a special Friday night prayer service at our former church in Broomfield, minding my own business.  A very nice, quiet lady named Nellie was giving a Lay person talk that night, sort of her personal spiritual testimony.  There were a lot of things happening in my life at that moment relating to losing a job, changing careers, starting a consulting business, etc.  And all of a sudden a giant voice boomed out from the heavens....uhh, No, that's NOT how it happened.  Actually, all of a sudden I saw in my eyes one giant word "JOY!”, in English!  I was amazed, and I realized I had just gotten an Answer, a big answer.  But, then I thought:  what was the Question??  And I realized that one word, Joy, was God's answer to a question that I had been asking for weeks in so many words, something like "God, how am I supposed to respond to all this stuff going on in my life?"  With Joy. With Joy?  Yes, with Joy! 

     

    Sometimes I slip back into negativity or cynicism, but then something (my wife) reminds me I need to remember God's answer--Joy!  And I have a lot to be joyful about! 

     

    Dear God, please help me to remember to listen to your still small voice and remember all the reasons to be joyful that you have given me.  You have given me the Answers to my Questions.  Thank you, Dear Father!

     

    Blessings,

     

    Randy Weldon

  • Not Enemies

    Today is the 10th anniversary of the tragic events at Columbine High School that changed our lives and the lives of our children.   And yet many things have not changed.  I offer you this poem that I ran across in my meanderings as our meditation for the day.

     

    Vikki Luce

     

    Not enemies

     

    "We are not enemies

    though parents told us so

     

    We are not enemies

    though they taught us so at school

     

    We are not enemies

    just because the pulpit insists

     

    We are not enemies

    though strangers toss epithets

     

    We are not enemies

    though even love goes sour

     

    We are not enemies

    just because we can't contain our pain

     

    We are not enemies

    though we meet short of our sameness,

    the best of each of us lives in the other.

     

    If we can forgive ourselves

    we can forgive anyone."

     

    ~ Stephen Levine, from his collection of poems, “Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace”

  • Unique Times

    Dear Sinners and Saints,

     

    I hear many folks talking about “how unique a time we live in.” The impression I get is that no one has ever faced the difficult times that are before us. I suppose that to be true, just as every snowflake is different from all the rest. Yet each flake that falls in my drive needs to be scooped just like all the rest.

     

    We do live in “unique times,” however God has been in difficult times before and found a way to navigate. During the 12th century the ice age swept across Europe.  The 15th century had the bubonic plague. The Roman Empire was destroyed. In the 1500’s the one true church was torn asunder by the events of the Reformation.  Or how about when the powerhouse of the United Kingdom was undermined and overwhelmed by thirteen colonies?

     

    In Joshua 3:15, Joshua stands on the brink of crossing the great river to lead  the Israelites  into the promised land. The text says, “…and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water…”  The reference is to the fact that they are beginning the process of crossing over to the land once promised their ancestor Moses. The people had suffered many hardships and lost hope on various occasions. Yet God would not let them go! God had claimed these people and had full intention to see the journey through with them to the Promised Land.

     

    Let us keep our trust in the God who created us and who has maneuvered our ancestors through various “unique times” in human history.  For God has claimed us and will not let us go. May we have the courage to dip our toes in the water, trusting God to get us to the other side.

     

     See you on Sunday.

     

     Still in one peace,

     

     Pastor David J. Jensen

     

  • We are free!

    God has given his only Son to set our sins free!  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do:  sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”  Romans 8:2-5 (RSV)

    Have you ever set something free?  Last summer, we had a squirrel that got stuck in the pole of our basketball goal in the backyard.  We noticed it when our dog’s attention was transfixed at something within the bottom of the goal.  Knowing our dog, I thought a rock had gotten lodged under the pole that she was trying to engage in play.  I took a kitchen knife and slid it under the pole, hoping to disengage the presumed stone.  I proceeded to wake up the sleeping squirrel that had spent a long night lodged in the bottom of the basketball pole.  Boy, did that squirrel have a story to chatter at me!  My husband and I decided it was best if we tried to free the squirrel from inside the post.  My husband carefully unscrewed the bolts on one side so he could tilt the basketball goal over to a point the squirrel might escape.  I imagined the squirrel would dash away as soon as there was just enough room to escape.  However, the squirrel huddled in his spot until he could fully assess that all danger had passed and the coast was clear.

    That is how I sometimes see our relationship with Christ.  While Christ has set our sins free, we often times are unsure of his unconditional love and we hesitate for various reasons.  However, by accepting the Spirit of Christ, our spirits are allowed eternal life.  With God on our side, there should be no fear.  We need to allow our faith to be led by the Spirit of God and in turn, pass that faith unto others so that they too, might know and trust in God and be free!

    God our Father, thank you for your gracious gifts.  Help us to accept your gifts of grace, love, and mercy so that we can be made free in the Spirit and live our life through Christ.  Amen

    Wendy Saathoff

     

  • Unveiled....

    “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  18 “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  And the Lord, who is Spirit, makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3: 17-18)

     

    The following is from Radical Grace, daily meditations from Richard Rohr.

     

    The Risen Jesus, God’s Hidden Plan

     

    “You cannot see Jesus until you have believed in him (see John 20:16 & 28).  If you accept that there was a Resurrection, that will not necessarily lead to faith.  But if you receive the gift of faith, you will necessarily experience the Resurrection.  And that joy no one shall take from you.” (John 16:22)

     

    “We cannot see love itself, but we can see what happens to those who have been loved.  We can see the power and gentleness of those who let themselves be loved by Jesus.  We know that there is endless life welling up within us.  We know that when we dare to look at others with “unveiled” faces, they begin “reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord and all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit… And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

     

    Abba Father,

     

    You love all your children.  Lord, we know no one and nothing is forgotten by you.  You hold us all in your memory and we are grateful for your tender mercies and kindness.  Father God, it is we who exclude one another.  Would you give us eyes that see others with your heart?  Thank you Jesus for your gift of life and your Spirit that journeys with us.   Amen

     

    Lois Autterson

  • Between Rocks and Hard Places

    Dear Sinners and Saints,

     

    The first Easter began on, “The first day of the week while is was still dark…”(John 20:1)  The dark represents disappointments and fears.  Things were not good as the truth of the resurrection began to unfold.  Mary and the others who arrived at the tomb were in a deep state of mourning. 

     

    Are you in that place?  Has life left you with a shattered dream and the feeling of loss?

    I remind you of the famous first words in M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled.  His first words are, “Life is difficult.”  Then he goes on to say, “This is a great truth but most of us cannot see it.  Instead we moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of our problem.  As if life is supposed to be easy for us, and therefore what has happened to us has never happened to anyone else before, at least not in the excruciatingly painful or insoluble way that it has burdened us.”

     

    Peck says that he wrote that not because as a therapist he hears his patients say that, but because he has been tempted to say it himself.  You could call it the “Law of Exceptionalism,” the idea that this has never happened before, at least not to the degree that it has happened to me. 

     

    The truth is there are now exceptions.  Jesus has come for each of us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”(John 3:16)

     

    Jesus has mourned with others over the loss of the broken dreams, and suffered beside each of us.  Ultimately Jesus the Christ was crucified and cast into a tomb.  Jesus emerged the resurrected Christ, the one capable of navigating out from between “rocks and hard places.”

     

    This Easter if some life situation has you feeling trapped, the resurrected Jesus stands before you scarred and wounded, offering you hope.  The resurrected Jesus spoke to Mary’s darkness. (John 20:15) “Why are you weeping?”

     

    See you Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 at Rock Canyon High School.

     

    Still in one peace,

     

    Pastor David J. Jensen

  • Silver Water Pitcher

    Psalm 66:10 – “For you O God tested us; you refined us like silver.”

    Consider your finest piece of silver. I have a silver water pitcher in my office that was given to me by a previous employer in 1998 as recognition of my community service work. Out of all the awards I’ve ever received, I really like this one. Over the years, I’ve used it to shove business cards into it. Many names have rested within this silver shrine. Yesterday, I looked at that silver pitcher and realized how tarnished it had become over the past few years. I decided that it needed to be refined. Cleaned. Cleansed. Renewed.

     

    So last evening, I commenced the silver cleansing in my laundry sink. Have you ever cleaned silver? I have this really cool cleaning plate. It’s a metal alloy circular disk that you put in really hot water and add Calgon Water Softener. After the granules dissolve, the plate cleans the silver that is up against this plate by creating a low-intensity electrolysis that is just strong enough to attract the negative sulfur ions of tarnish, but not strong enough to remove any of the metal. This method is actually used by museums for cleaning coin collections, jewelry and other precious metals.

     

     After my pitcher soaked in this water for about 15 minutes, it came out sparkling clean. I didn’t have to scrub. I just let it soak.

     


     

    A song began to run through my mind. I know the first verse from memory:

     

    What can wash away my sin?

    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

    What can make me whole again?

    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

     

    Oh precious is the flow

    That makes me white as snow.

    No other fount I know,

    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

     

    As we reflect on the day before Jesus’ gruesome death, I am reminded that Judas Iscariot sold Jesus off for 30 shekels of silver. He was tarnished. He made a bad decision. He even tried to give the money back to the chief priests after he realized he really screwed up. Then he went off and hung himself in despair.

     

    Jesus spent that last day of Passover washing the disciple’s feet, supping with them, praying in the garden of Gethsemane, and accepting the realization that Judas betrayed him, and he would be crucified.

     

    Today, I am thankful that I can be washed in the blood of Jesus without a lot of scrubbing. No matter what tests God lays before you today, trust Him that he is simply refining you. Even though that water pitcher doesn’t look as wonderful as the day I received it more than 10 years ago, it’s clean. It shines. It reminds me that I can be made whole again. Every day.

     

    This is all my hope and peace. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

     

    Dear Jesus, Thank you for giving your life for me. I’m tarnished and stained. I make many mistakes. But your sacrifice on the cross saved me. When I’m dirty and stained, wash away my sins. Cleanse me from the feet up. Wash over me with your cleansing power to be resurrected to new life with you every day. Amen.

     

    Carole Schumacher

     

  • He Will Rise Again

    The headlines the past few days range from shootings in New York to N. Korea launching a missile; from a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Italy to Farrah Fawcett’s cancer; from unemployment and economic woes to the future of the Broncos season. There doesn’t seem to be much hope in the news. Maybe that is the nature of news reporting; I don’t know.

    Last Sunday we kicked off Holy Week by worshiping in a new place, Rock Canyon High School. Holy Week starts with an event that has people filled with hope. The arrival of the King and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem created a hopeful celebration by those who shouted “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10) The week that started out so hopeful ended with such darkness and sorrow.

    But, fear not, Good Friday is not the end of the story. Luke 18:31-33 31Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32“For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”

    THE THIRD DAY HE WILL RISE AGAIN!”

    Now that is real hope we can believe in.

    Lord, thank you that Good Friday is not the end of the story. Thank you that your plan for us is fulfilled on Sunday. Thank you for the hope of your Son who opens the way to eternal life. Amen.

    Paul Nickoley

  • What Holy Week Means

    Jesus fallsThis is Holy Week. Why is this week “holy”? This is perhaps the most sacred week in the church calendar and yet it seems that I just sort of fit it in to my regular, normal week. In the Encarta English dictionary, holy is an adjective defined as:

    • relating to, belonging to, or coming from a divine being;
    • devoted to the service of God;
    • of a devoutly religious character;
    • dedicated for religious purposes;
    • of a unique character, evoking reverence.

    How might I make this week truly “holy” in my life? Good question.

    Holy Week, beginning with yesterday, Palm Sunday, is the time to remember Jesus’ journey from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his last meal, trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection. What does that mean to me? Good question.

    My attention span is not unlike that of the disciples, who when asked to stay awake with Jesus were unable to do so. (Mark 14:32-42) How can I focus my attention on Jesus’ journey to the cross this week? Good question.

    So I begin this week – this holy week – with good intentions to wrestle with these questions and turn my attention to them again and again. I’m a visual person and images can be much more effective to help focus my thoughts than words so I plan to visit some images of the “Stations of the Cross.” This is a faith journey practiced by some that follows Jesus’ trial and actual journey to the cross. The image above is one image from the Stations of the Cross.  Here’s a link to view all of them on a hillside in San Luis, CO.

    May your week be holy: may you find moments of time to be devoted to the service of God; may you wrestle with the questions of faith; may it have a religious aspect; and may you find reverence,

    Vikki

  • A Love Stronger Than Death

    Recently, our granddaughter celebrated her first birthday. Our son and daughter in law, being the creative and thoughtful parents they are, asked everyone attending the party to write a note to Paloma. These writings were collected and carefully placed (along with a newspaper of that day and some other things) in a “time capsule” of sorts to be opened on Paloma’s 16th birthday.

     My letter to Miss P. was lengthy, no surprise there! I had so many thoughts…hopes and dreams I have for her, things I hope we will have experienced together, wishes for her in the world of 2024! Gosh, doesn’t that sound odd…2024! I ended my writing with assurances…things I knew to be true. Assurances of her family's unconditional love for her and that she is and would be the child (teenager!) of a gracious, understanding, loving and merciful God. I also commented on the possibility that all of us present that day may not be with her 15 years from now…but that our love for her would continue and she would always carry us in her heart and her in ours.

    I now want to share the daily Lenten devotion, from Christ Our Hope, by Henri J.M. Nouwen for Thursday, the Fifth Week of Lent. Some of you may have the booklet at home. For me, it is a powerful reading…

    A Love Stronger Than Death
    Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death. John 8:51

    It was a very intimate event: a work here, a gesture there and a gradual awareness that something new was being born…The five of us, sitting in a circle around the table with a little bread and a little wine, speaking softly about the way we were recognizing him in our lives, knew deep in our hearts that for us too all had changed, while all had remained the same. Our struggles are not ended. On Easter morning we can still feel the pains of the world, the pains of our family and friends, the pains of our hearts. They are still there and will be for a long time. Still, all is different because we have met Jesus and he has spoken to us. There was a simple, quiet joy among us and a deep sense of being loved by a love that is stronger, much stronger, than death.

    I have met you, dear Jesus, and all is different now.


    Andrea Heshmati
  • 3:16 | The Numbers of Hope

    This past month I started reading Max Lucado’s book 3:16 The Numbers of Hope.

    We live in a very unsettled time, a frightful and stressful time. No matter who we are or what we do, we all have issues we are dealing with. These numbers are calming numbers, they are our lucky numbers. Our numbers of hope.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. 
    John 3:16- 17

    Our trials and tribulations come in many forms, and are unique to our own lives. As I read this book and particularly these verses, I feel calmer, more restful, less anxious. These numbers are numbers of hope. They calm the inner storm and ease the fears.

    Prayer:

    Heavenly Father, hear our prayers today and everyday. Give us peace, give us hope, calm our storms. We know through you all things are possible. Amen

    Maureen Herzog

  • The Lion and the Lamb

    This year March came in like a lamb and appears to be going out like a lion. What does that mean exactly?
    • The “lamb” is good and the “lion” is bad?
    • Lamb weather is beautiful, warm, sunny and sweet?
    • Lion weather is stormy, cold, cloudy and nasty?
    Which do we prefer? Which do you prefer?

    There are many lamb and lion images in scripture. Here’s John the Baptist:

    The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

    Jesus is the blessed lamb, our blessed shepherd and all that is good. Jesus became the sacrificed Passover lamb for us. Richard Rohr writes that he didn’t become the sacrifice to take away the bad as much to show us that sometimes “the things that appear good and make us feel strong, secure and superior is the “lamb” that must be sacrificed, an apparent good.” (Things Hidden Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr, pg 195.) It’s the “good” that can lead us into forgetting our own mistakes and sins that separate us from God. Our gift through Jesus is that our whole self – the good and the bad — is who God saves, loves, forgives and wants to be with.

    March needs both the lion and the lamb to be a complete month. The beautiful start to the month was fun to enjoy, but it let us forget the semi-arid climate we live in and the need for moisture. The “lion” side of March is much needed and completes the holistic creation of everything God has created – the shadow side as well as the good. Can I really stop and recognize my lion and lamb sides and love them both? Can I see that whole as the person who God loves, forgives and offers unconditional mercy and grace.

    “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:1-9

    May your Lion and your Lamb come together in God’s love and grace through faith,

    Vikki Luce

  • Sunday Sneak Peek

    Dear Sinners and Saints,

    We worship a risk taking God. When God created the universe, God took risks by creating a world endowed with freedom. God didn't make automations. God gave us freewill, which meant God risked our rejection, and risked our refusal of righteousness. And God continues to take risks by forming ever more complex structures of organization. The unfinished nature of creation, and God's invitation to us to join the continuing creativity of the divine, means that God also must endure the risks of our creativity.

    "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say- Father save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour." (John 12:27)

    We indeed worship a risk taking God. God's own son Jesus faced off with his troubled soul and went to the cross for you. Jesus risked his own personal comfort zone and life for you!

    What fears have you prayed through this week to grow your trust in God? For fear is a threat to risk. A life without risk is a life that cannot grow. Your God calls upon you to risk in Jesus' name so that the Kingdom of God might be expanded.

    Let us gather together Sunday, at the feet of this wondrous risk taker of a God named Jesus the Christ.

    Still in one peace,

    Pastor David J. Jensen
  • From Inside the Fish

    Click here to read Jonah 2:1-10 

    From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his GOD.

    I love the story of Jonah! I can relate to Jonah on so many levels. Today's reading takes place after Jonah is thrown into the sea (at his own request) and it starts with "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his GOD." And I realize sometimes for me too, I don't truly reach out and pray to GOD until I am deep, deep within the fish.

    We don't know much about Jonah before his trip. Was he a spiritual man? Did he follow all the rules? What we know is found in chapter 1 verse 1..."The word of the Lord came to Jonah." ... and what we know is Jonah ran from the Lord.

    I too have found myself running from GOD at times in my life. I may not have known I was running from GOD, but I was running away and not towards... and running away for me is generally a sign I am not headed toward GOD. While I have never found myself in the belly of a fish, I have found myself bottomed out seemingly without friends, estranged from family and wanting so... so badly for things to be different.

    I left home after high school on less than friendly terms with my parents. I joined the navy entered the submarine service and didn't speak with my family for quite a while... They don't have pastors, priests, rabbis, or even mullahs on submarines, but on mine we had about 4 or 5 people who would hold a service on Sunday morning in the mess hall. At first I was hesitant, but my parents had always made me go to church and it was a habit I still yearned for... and slowly with the help of these 4 or 5 shipmates I came to realize what Jonah realized in chapter 2 versus 5-10.

    "The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me, seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my GOD. When my life was ebbing I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs, But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord."

    Don't ever underestimate the power of your family, your friends, or your relationship with GOD. When you feel like your being swallowed by a fish... reach out in prayer, reach out in love, reach out in hope, but whatever you do...REACH OUT! GOD is, GOD was, and GOD will be there for you! Amen and Amen!

    Prayer:

    Precious Father, Loving God, Holy Spirit I reach out to you with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength. I pray you are in my thoughts this day, in every action I take, every breath I take, every thought I have, whether it be on a mountain high or in the belly of a fish...I pray! AMEN!

    Jim Dietvorst
  • Grief: A Loved One Has Gone

    The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever.  Isaiah 40:8

    The last few weeks have been really hard for our family. A classmate of my son's passed away and brought the realty of how short life is on this planet. A lot of questions are asked about why such a thing has to happen to a young person who still has so much of his life left to live. It is hard for young people to understand that it is not God's will to take a life, but sometimes it is the circumstances we as humans put ourselves into. The grief of such loss remains deep and sharp with no solace in sight.

    On the day of the funeral it was not raining outside, but in our hearts it poured. I tried to remember God's everlasting promise by thinking of the colors of a rainbow:

    • Red, for his love
    • Orange, his warm healing and comfort
    • Yellow, the sun that will shine again
    • Green, his help for us to grow
    • Blue, his unending faithfulness
    • Indigo, we are children of the King
    • Violet, a new song to return in his time. 

    As we focus on His love and word, in time, He will fill our void and loneliness and heal our pain.

     PRAYER:

    Dear God, we all miss loved ones or friends that were once in our lives. Please grant us the energy to reach out to friends and family. Help me to accept the love they give as well as to give my love to them. Comfort and help me to find my way through all of this. Let me recall and cherish the good times and to let the bad memories go. Help me to accept that they are with Jesus now safely home in Heaven. In your son's name, I pray.

     Deanne Cruickshank

  • With Intention

    A friend recently shared the words below, saying she has this on her refrigerator door in order to "intentionally see and read" everyday...These are some great thoughts, some great "intentions"! Webster says intention is "determination to do a specific thing or act in a specified manner" while intentional is "done purposely."


    I will intentionally think about spiritual truths.

    I will intentionally look forward with joy and confident hope to Christ's return.

    I will intentionally choose to be self-controlled - mentally, verbally, and physically.

    I will intentionally decide not to conform to ways I behaved in the past.

    I will intentionally live as a stranger in this culture- gripped by reverent fear.

    I will intentionally remember I was redeemed at an unimaginable cost. Someone (God's Beloved Son) died so I could be free of guilt and shame.

    I will intentionally love others (not according to my moods or opinion of them), but sincerely, deeply, from the heart.

    I will intentionally rid myself of old stuff: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander.

    I will intentionally crave what makes me strong - God's Word and work in my life.

    I will intentionally seek God's help for this.


    Gracious God, May we all strive to be more intentional...with our personal relationships as well as our relationship with you. Amen and amen.


    Andrea Heshmati
  • Living in the Light

    We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we're obviously lying through our teeth-we're not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God's Son, purges all our sin. If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins-make a clean breast of them-he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God-make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.

    1 John 1:3-10 (The Message)

    Read verse 5 again: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him. And this isn't made up. It's the message from Christ, passed on to you and me.

    God is light...without a trace of darkness. That darkness in your life? Not God. That lost friend, lost job, lost opportunity, lost loved one? Not God. God is in it, and God can work through it, but God isn't the author of it. We are. You and I and all of humanity, when we choose to live as if WE are God, when we act like WE know it all, when WE try to control it all, when WE don't trust God.....that's our sin. And only darkness can come from it.

    Living in the light is so much easier than stumbling around in the darkness, but it requires of us one of the most difficult things of all - surrender. We have to surrender what is most precious to us - the idea that we know best and can make life work best on our own. And when we do, we see how backward that idea was all along.

    But every morning we wake up in the darkness and have to struggle all over again to admit how, in our darkness, we drive a wedge between ourselves and God (that's sin....driving that wedge in and pounding it deeper and deeper). Every day we have to pull that wedge out, and it goes in a lot easier than it comes out, especially if we're trying to pull it out on our own.

    We have to admit our sin - make a clean breast of it - bring it all out into the light where God can bleach it clean with the power of His light. And an amazing thing happens. Somehow when we let God's love and light dissolve the wedge between us and God, the wedge we drive between ourselves and other people gets dislodged too. When we trade the darkness in us for the light that is God, the gates are suddenly wide open for God's love and light to move through us and into and around and through other people.

    And that's the joy that drives the authors of this passage to write

     

    We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

    Truly our joy is complete when we give up the wedge and experience that sense of communion with the Father and the Son. But when we experience it with each other, incredibly, our joy is doubled. May our joy be doubled today!

    Things to think about:

    1. Do you believe what the gospel says about God's nature....that God is light, and that there is not a trace of darkness in him? In your heart of hearts, where do you believe the darkness in your life comes from?

    2. What's the biggest wedge between you and God today? How can you take the first step toward dissolving it?

    3. What are the wedges between you and other people? Fear of rejection, past hurts, misunderstandings? What can you do to take a step toward dislodging those wedges today?

    Prayer:


    Lord of Light and Love, today and everyday I want to live in your light. When I stumble in the darkness, pick me up and draw me back to you. When I'm ready to start pulling out the wedge I've driven between myself and you, I trust you to be true to yourself and purge it from our existence together. And I pray that as the light of your love comes into my heart, it will melt away the darkness of my insulation and isolation from other people. May my joy in you be doubled as I share it with others. Amen

    Kim Turnage