Pastor's Notes and Updates
Dear Friends at Living Waters:
Have you ever made resolutions for New Year's? I don't know where that custom came from. I don't even know why the beginning of the year comes in the middle of our Northern winter, but I've watched people try to start new habits at New Year my entire life. I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to try new spiritual habits when the Church Year changes. That's just around the corner. The new Church year begins with Advent, which starts November 27. In that season, we're all getting ready to celebrate Christmas, which often involves surprising family members or friends with something special. It's gift-giving time. If we could make spiritual changes in our lives, those might work as gifts for others, too, couldn't they?
Of course, designing a better model of ourselves would be a foolish thing to do on our own. Consulting with the Lord of life would give us more useful direction. Why not spend some time asking him what his idea of a new, improved you might look like? He's got the resources to make it happen, and his vision for our lives is bigger than we can ever imagine.
Just a thought for getting ready for the New Church Year.
In His Peace,
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
Memories can be great, providing moments of warmth and pleasure. Memories can also be a nasty hook we get stuck on, remembering our low points, failures, and major disappointments. Paul is talking about letting go of those memories of things that have separated us from God or damaged our relationship with him. We can let go of them, because God himself already has. When we received Jesus, all the forgiveness we needed for our lives was applied. The guilt no longer exists.
Now, a lot of people think that sounds too good to be true, because it would only make people feel free to keep sinning. Paul's answer is, keep your focus on God's goals for you. His plans are so much better than the promises of temptation, that looking to him will keep you growing and moving along the lines of divine destiny.
That's a lesson that needs to be practiced and learned many times over, but when you expect the word of God to work, change will happen. The past can lose its ability to haunt a believer.
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
The expected Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs Wade came down today. Whatever your take on this decision may be, you have to recognize the potential for unrest and even violence that might come of it. Pray for peace in our nation. The rule of law requires civil expression of all the varied points of view. The expression of rage that has become a norm must come to a halt. Seek God's peace for us.
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
We'll pick up where we left off, right after "on earth as it is in heaven." The first part had to do with directing our thoughts toward God and his purposes for us. The second part has to do with our own lives and the kind of assistance that the Lord thought we should be seeking.
"Give us this day our daily bread" is not so much a reminder to God to provide for us as it is a reminder to ourselves that everything we need and receive as a life giving blessing comes from the hand of God. No matter how hard we work in our gardens, only God can make life spring forth from the soil to sustain us. We need to remember that and live in constant thanksgiving.
"...and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." The blood of Jesus paid for our forgiveness long ago, but forgiveness is like breathing: if something is coming in, something has to be going out. Forgiveness being the most obvious act of grace in our relationship with God, we ought to be most eager to imitate him and extend forgiveness when that opportunity arises. Once again, we need constant reminders of this because our bruised feelings are a powerful force to interfere in that process. When forgiveness gets choked up inside us, it can stop flowing, and we all know how unpleasant backed up pipes can become.
"and lead us not into temptation." Scripture clearly states "God...tempts no one" (James 1: 13), but he often brings us in contact with people in need of various kinds and the ancient enemy is ready to try and spoil opportunities for service by bumping us off the narrow path. So, God can lead us to places where temptation is likely to happen. Our spiritual eyes must always be open so that we get to the next petition when needed:
"deliver us from evil" (or "from the evil one"). Our best defense is recognizing the enemy's work quickly, so that we turn to our Lord for his help on the spot. In the conscious company of our Lord, the enemy has no power over us. In fact, "submit yourselves to the Lord, resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4: 7)
The key to all of these petitions is that we are seeking to live within the relationship God has extended to us through Jesus. When we are consciously functioning like that, it is simple to avail ourselves of the aid our Lord has for us.
The Lord's prayer is a model, not so much for how to construct our own prayers, as how to construct our lives.
Dear Living Waters:
Prayer may well be the most underrated gift in life. Most of us started using it pretty early, because Mom and Dad taught us bedtime prayers. Over the years, we've probably felt like we've learned a lot about praying, but it's such a foundational part of a life of faith that we need to go back and review different aspects of it regularly and notice what kinds of habits we've developed. I'm going to do a short series by looking at the model prayer Jesus taught: the Lord's Prayer. Jesus may never have intended for this lesson prayer to get repeated endlessly by his followers, but he did expect us to learn from it.
“Our Father, who art in heaven,” shows us to whom prayer is addressed. The Heavenly Father is the source of life, salvation, and the Holy Spirit who dwells among us. “Hallowed be thy name.” For something to be hallowed, it is set apart, treated as holy. The Jewish people took the commandment against profaning the name of God so seriously that they quit using God's name. Yahweh (the name God spoke to Moses, when he asked) was not spoken aloud, even in worship. The word for Lord was substituted when Yahweh appeared in a Biblical text. In some Bibles you can tell that's been done because LORD is spelled in all capitals when it's a substitute. In any case, this petition is asking for help for us to remember to treat God's name as holy. OMG! doesn't usually work that way.
“Thy kingdom come” asks for fulfillment of what Jesus was doing, bringing the kingdom of God into people's lives. That kingdom isn't arriving all at once. It comes in moments when God's love and grace become real to someone here on earth. That might happen during an actual miracle or during a moment of insight when God's truth is recognized.
“Thy will be done” is a direct request for God's goodness to triumph over everything that is less than holy or perfect. There are great big evil things out there and there are moments of hardly noticed sin in our own lives. While we have hopes for the prayers of millions to be answered in this way for the big issues, seeking change regularly in our own lives is important.
“On earth as it is in heaven” applies to all three petitions we just looked at. The whole story of Jesus' gospel is about reuniting heaven with the earthly realm.
Next time we'll look at the direct requests for help in this life.
Dear Living Waters:
By now you've probably all heard about the leak of the Supreme Court's first deliberations on the abortion case before it. You've probably seen footage of people in the streets protesting or supporting it, even though the final decision is far from being made. The way things have been going in this country the last couple of years, our only proper response is prayer.
Clearly, we are facing a moral crisis in America. The Judeo-Christian values which were assumed by our founders have been attacked in every way thinkable. Family life has suffered in myriad ways, and without strong families, no culture survives. We need a nation in which life is respected and valued. That only seems to happen when life is understood as a gift from God, one that needs to be carefully stewarded. I hope you've been praying for revival—a new breakout of faith—for our country. In these days, please pray for the safety of our Supreme Court Justices and wisdom for them as they work in the midst of so much consternation and confusion. Pray for decency and respect in the public debates going on. Pray for peace in our streets and homes. And pray that God's love for people will become known to millions of new people, and that its power will overcome foolish political wrangling.
The “ball is in our court”. Let's join with God and make a winning play for the future of our country.
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
Have you noticed how much effort is going into “re-explaining” Thanksgiving lately? It's like people at the top are embarrassed to have a national holiday with a religious root. Well, in my understanding even the 4th of July has spiritual roots. The founding fathers wouldn't have risked their very lives without a strong belief that the author of life was supporting the founding of a new kind of nation. And Thanksgiving has as clear a spiritual foundation as anything ever has.
The holiday itself has had its ups and downs. Clearly there are many Americans these days who never give thanks to their Creator, who deny he even exists. We can be grateful we are not in that group. What do they even have to hope for besides worldly success?
Our horizons are so much broader than that. So let's give thanks for so much more than our worldly blessings. Let us give thanks for living as followers of Jesus Christ, who makes all of life more meaningful for us.
Hope your holiday (holy day) is great!
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
This pastor’s note is probably a little different from most. It's not so much a devotional piece intended to help you think differently about some aspect of following Jesus. It's a personal note from reflecting on what you all did for us on Saturday.
Get togethers of any kind have been sort of rare since the Covid thing started, so it was just a pleasant experience to gather with you to share a meal and sit around the fire. The program of little speeches about the way different individuals value our efforts in our church was really quite touching. In the normal events of life, there isn't a lot of feedback. I often wonder about the usefulness of sermons and the more casual conversational things that happen, so making the effort to share about those things really affected me. I do, in fact, feel loved by this congregation, and that's a very nice thing. It really reflects well on you, because while my wife is the kind of person most people love, I'm really not that sweet, so if you love me, you're obeying our Lord's command.
That is really what keeps me going at his point: knowing how many of you are actually living out your faith. The testimonies and stories about what goes on out there in the world let me know that the gospel is working in our midst. After 40 years in ministry, that's all I can ask for.
Thank you all for being living parts of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11: 9-13
I dare say that probably all of us have asked for the Holy Spirit at some point in our lives. There is no need to question about whether or not we've received him, based on the passage above. The question is, how often do we take advantage of that relationship? It was one of the main reasons the Son of God came to earth, to make it possible for God to work through the general population of believers in a personalized, individual way. The thing is, we take a lot of what the Spirit does for us for granted, We don't thank and praise him for all he does in our lives. We don't make special efforts to get to know him, even though we have become his landlords, since he's made our bodies his temples. I wonder how often the work he plans to do through us gets stymied by our lack of attention.
Restudy some of the scriptural passages about the Spirit's work in our lives (John 14, I Cor 12, 14). Spend time in prayer addressing your relationship with him, Ask daily for guidance and opportunity to be used in kingdom work. Our willingness to be used is the biggest trigger for that happening, and working with the Spirit is the most exciting thing that tends to happen in our lives of faith.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130: 5-6
Why did watchmen wait so eagerly for the morning? Well, in part because it was the darkness of night that hid dread surprises like approaching enemies, so there was tension for them in the night time. Another part might have been that daybreak meant the changing of the guard and they'd get off work, be able to go eat and sleep and let someone else worry about the safety of the group. Whatever their thinking, they really looked forward to the coming new day.
The psalmist suggests that we need that kind of expectancy in our lives as we look to the Lord, knowing that he will be the source of good news coming our way. It doesn't matter what kind of worries or struggles we have in life, their solution is always an enactment of grace, God's love overcoming what's wrong for or with us. Because of Jesus, we have all kinds of promises from God about his desire and willingness to help us. When we pay attention to those promises, it's much easier to live in hope while the struggles go on.
Hope is a great gift for making life manageable, and hope is our rightful possession when God's Spirit is present in our lives. (Check out Romans 5:1-5) Make use of what God has given you and life goes better.
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
You've undoubtedly heard about the violent unrest in Minneapolis. We need to be in prayer for an outpouring of peace and renewal in the relationship between the police department and minority communities. For peace to exist, justice, freedom, and respect between community groups must be in place. Pray for community repentance and forgiveness.
There will be news coming about resuming worship services at the church. Watch for it.
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
You've undoubtedly heard that Governor Walz has made it possible for faith based organizations to have meetings again. That was announced over last weekend and the state health department put together some guidelines for what congregations have to do to keep things as safe as possible during the pandemic. This is a big deal. I don't know if you've heard, but a couple of congregations in Wright County have passed Covid 19 around already, so the risks have become local. While we want to put our trust in God's loving grace to protect us, we will not be risk takers to do that.
The state's guidelines are long and involved. The board will meet today (Tuesday evening) to start working with them. Right now, there's no guarantee of when we'll be ready to have church services together. We do know that there will be a limit of about 29 people in the building, using the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. We can put the service on the screen in the fellowship hall. We will have a signup system when we're ready to go, and if more than capacity want to attend, we'll schedule a second service.
All those details will come later, assuming we get an acceptable system in place. Keep praying about this whole corona virus thing. Our Lord cares.
The National Day of Prayer is older than I am, having been established legally in 1952. It has been observed on the first Thursday of May since 1988. Over the years, it has been observed in a lot of different ways. Some communities hold gatherings to pray for our country, while others just remind individuals to take some time to pray for our nation on the day.
In this year of the virus, gatherings are rare, but there will be a national TV broadcast this evening from 7-9, featuring a number of well known preachers and performers.
Whether or not you watch that, please take some time to pray for America today. Some of the needs of our country are obvious and in the news, others are not. Pray for repentance and revival as well as healing and recovery. Ask the Lord to give you insight before you begin your intercessions for our country and he will guide you. As always, give thanks for the freedoms we have all taken for granted in our lives of faith.
Thank you for praying,
Dear Friends of Living Waters
"We know that God works all things together for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8: 28
In days like these, we have to remind ourselves regularly of God's intentions toward us. There is continuing bad news every day and no end is yet in sight for the disease called Covid 19. Yet we have promises in God's word which we can hold onto for protection in the midst of all the uncertainty. Those are found throughout scripture and the wise believer will hold onto them and repeat them regularly. (take another look at Psalm 91, in which "pestilence" is named as a thing our Lord will protect us from).
Use these promises from God in your devotional life daily and peace will be your companion. Continue to support each other in prayer in these days when we cannot meet together and we will find that our relationships will continue to be strong and healthy. Church is not a set of meetings. It is a relationship with the Lord which we share with each other. He makes all things new, and in the days to come we will be able to look back and see how he kept his hand upon us during these strange times.
Stay healthy with Christ,
Dear Friends of Living Waters
We hope as many of you as possible will be participating in Holy Communion tonight at home. It'd be great to do it together, even if that's just gathering around the video we made at 7:00 pm. For Good Friday, we're not putting anything up on the website, but hope we'll all be reading the passion history from Matthew 26:36 to 27:66. Spend a little time meditating on what Jesus endured for us.
Easter will be very different for all of us this year, so seek the Lord's presence. It's our relationship with Him that gives value to the day. His grace toward us is what matters, and it is present no matter what else is or isn't happening. We hope the pieces we put online will be of benefit for this year's private celebrations.
You've no doubt heard that our oldest member has passed away. Vee and Darrel Frisbie made the long drive home from Georgia so that she could die at home. She passed away in her sleep. Darrel says he was inundated with food, so the expression of condolences has gone on despite the limitations of sheltering at home. However, the limitations of the day mean that there will be no public funeral.
Vee's passing is a kind of historic marker for me. She's the last person I knew who was actually involved in WW II, since she was a youngster in London during the blitz. Before the war ended, she was a driver for home services. Time continues to march on. We will miss Vee's stories and her expression of faith.
She left this earth during Holy Week, when we are putting time into thinking about how death has lost its sting. Celebrating Easter with the Lord himself will make this year's event very special for her.
Blessings to you all,
Dear Friends of Living Waters
I hope you've all found ways to enter into Holy Week with celebration and thanksgiving. Don't let the complications the world is throwing at us rob you of joy or a full appreciation of everything that Jesus did on your behalf.
On Thursday night we hope to have as many of us a possible participating in Holy Communion together, even though we can't do it in the same space. At 7:00, you can tune in on our website to a brief celebration of Holy Communion and share in it at home. You don't need to have the "official" elements that we use in church. Any bread or cracker will serve just fine. And you don't need special wine. Some fruit juice would be nice, but even water can serve in odd circumstances (remember Jesus' first miracle at the wedding in Cana). It is receiving in faith that makes communion work, and we will share a few moments of faith on Thursday.
For Friday's observance there will be nothing recorded, but we're sending out the passion history from Matthew (26: 31--27: 66) Please take the time to read it and meditate on Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.
God bless you with deepening faith this week!
Dear Friends of Living Waters
I hope you were all able to take advantage of the worship pieces we put on our website over the weekend. Those will continue to be there for as long as our quarantine system stays in place.
Obviously, there will be no in-home Bible study on Wednesday night, but the questions for the last session are below. Look for a way to use them in conversation with someone else from Living Waters.
Midweek Bible Study for April 1 Read Luke 23: 26-56
By this point, how do you think Jesus is faring? Why would someone have to help Jesus carry the cross? Why would Jesus rather have no one weep for him? (vv. 28-31 see 21: 20-24) Is he addressing these women as followers or as citizens of Jerusalem? What do you think he meant by the proverb in verse 31 (green vs dry tree)? What aspects of the gospel message do you see in vv. 40-43? How do you view the crucifixion: Necessary evil? Cruel and unusual punishment? Sacrifice for sin? Triumph over injustice? Other? Why? How would you explain the crucifixion to a non-Christian friend?
Dear Friends of Living Waters
Yesterday our governor ordered a “shelter in place” rule for Minnesota. That means that all people who are not working in designated necessary jobs have to stay home, starting Friday, March 27, at ll:59 pm. People can leave their homes for certain necessary tasks, but going to a church service is not on the list, nor are any other group functions at church. That means, that for at least the next two weeks, we cannot meet for worship, Bible studies, MOPS, Alpha, or band practice.
We will be making certain parts of Sunday morning worship available on our website. That will include some singing, prayer, scripture and the sermon. Tonight we will be recording some of that before restrictions take place.
This shelter in place precaution is just to spread out the rate of infection for people who will need hospital care for COVID19. It is for the public good and is the law, so we will be good citizens and live under these temporary restrictions.
While you're at home, please take a little extra time to pray for our state, nation, and world as this new disease is being dealt with. Hold onto our Lord's promises for your own health (check out psalm 91) as we do our part to help slow down the spread of this scourge. You might also join in on the minute of prayer at 8pm each evening. It's a group effort to pray together for the well being of state, nation, and world in this crisis. Hopefully, millions will end up praying together.
We're thankful to be living in a time when electronic communication is available to us so that we don't feel the full brunt of isolation. I will try to keep everyone updated as we move forward with plans to stay connected..
As always, if there are any needs, please let us know how we may help.
In His Peace,
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
Well, at any moment of any day, you can turn on your radio or TV and hear that we are living in unprecedented times. The new virus making its way around the world has upset a lot of different apple-carts. Big medicine hasn't even been able to make adequate testing available to the general public as of yet. Panic buying is happening in all the stores, so that certain shelves are empty most of every day, even though there is no shortage of supplies at this time.
Meanwhile, we are continuing on at church with little change. We've got more hand sanitizer around and are cleaning up a little differently, but we're not letting fear of this in our door. Read Psalm 91 and take the promises of protection in it seriously. Our Lord has promised to be a “shield and buckler” to us, such that we needn't fear the “pestilence that stalks in darkness or the destruction that wastes at noonday.”
We need to take these statements in scripture seriously and declare them over ourselves daily. Speaking the truth of scripture out loud builds up our faith and keeps us connected to the one who made the promises. Take the steps the health department suggests (like washing hands thoroughly and often, disinfecting frequently touched objects, keeping some distance from people you're not sure of, coughing into your elbow, and staying home if you don't feel well), that's just practical. But live in faith.
The public health department called and asked if we would have any members who'd be willing to help sick neighbors by doing things like delivering groceries to their doors. They want a list like that in case things get bad. If you think you'd be willing to help like that, let me know and I'll turn in a list.
Of course, we want to help our own quickly, so if somehow the virus were to get to you, let us know so we can be of help to each other.
The times may be unprecedented, but our Lord is on top of it, and he's got us covered when we let him. Seek his peace!
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32: 8
The challenge that went out on Ash Wednesday was to talk with the Lord daily about some area in which you feel the need for growth in your life of faith. Then listen with pencil and paper in hand and take notes on whatever impressions or leadings you notice Keep a journal (however brief) over the course of Lent and we'll look at doing something with it after Easter.
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
Hope the holiday finds you overflowing with thanksgiving. All of us are continually blessed in so many different ways. Give thanks for your relationships, give thanks for your faith, and give thanks for the opportunities you have to spread God's grace, gifts, and love in this world.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Dear friends of Living Waters,
The fall season is upon us and we're gearing back up for full ministry after the summer slow down. This coming Sunday, September 8, is rally day. After worship, everyone is invited into the fellowship hall for a brunch that a group is putting together for the rest of us. Then, around 4:30, everyone's invited out to the celebration dinner for Alpha. If you've been praying about whom to ask, now is the time to make those invitations. Remember, you're not asking them to sign up for the program, but to come check it out. The dinner actually starts at 5:00, with a social time up front. If at all possible, offer a ride to those you've invited.
Sunday School will pick up on September 15. The youth will be studying identity. Who are you? The younger group has a class for developing a Christian world view, and the adults will continue seeking adventure in directed Bible study, with leaders taking turns.
The youth will be planning a Bible fund raiser for some time in October. It's going to be a spaghetti dinner and comedy night. Keep watching for that information.
One new ministry starting is a MOPS program. That stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. There are a lot of young families in Waverly, and this program offers help for raising kids with a Christian perspective. Marissa Goede and Marylou joined forces to start this program to benefit the town, and we are officially sponsoring it as a congregational ministry to the community. Sorry guys, this is a women only program.
There will be other groups doing their own things as the fall season swings into gear. Let us know about those meeting events, times, and places.
Remember to keep praying for Living Waters to fulfill our purpose in our corner of God's Kingdom.
It's Holy Week, but I don't think we've discussed Easter decorating. Of course, we remove all decorations for Good Friday, then on Saturday we get the worship space looking sharp for Easter. If you have any flowering plants that would help things look festive and you'd be willing to lend to Living waters for the Easter celebration, you could bring them on Thursday or Friday evening and put them in the fellowship hall.
Please do remember those special services. Easter is not a stand-alone holiday, but is the triumphant finish to commemorating all Jesus accomplished for us. Both Thursday and Friday beginning at 7:00.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit." I Thessalonians 5: 16-19
For the believer, thanksgiving isn't meant to be a special day, but a way of life. The reason for this isn't that God needs a continual expression of support, but that giving thanks keeps us in the proper attitude toward the Lord so that our lives can more simply and smoothly coordinate with his good plans for us. When we approach our Lord in a continual state of gratitude, the Spirit who guides us has access to us and we tend to notice him better. I don't believe our Lord ever stops talking to us, but our attitudes often determine whether or not we'll recognize his voice. Giving thanks is the simplest exercise plan we can follow to be in shape this way.
A happy and blessed day to you all,
Sunday was a good day at Living Waters. We had a great visit from Darwin and an update on what's happening with VVMI in the the Philippines. Talking to Colin later, he gave us a very big compliment. He said of the 800 congregations that support VVMI, only about four really "get it." We are one of those four, so he's always happy to come visit us.
Then we all joined together in one of the most fun mission projects: packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Once again this year we owe a big thanks to Kylee Fie for organizing this project. She kept after it for months. It's still not quite done, as there will be a few of us going to help the shipping center get things organized for the big sending. This is one of the most heartwarming things we get to do under the category of missions. We know that children far away will be filled with laughter and excitement as they open these surprise boxes. Making a child happy is still one of the best things we ever get to do, and knowing that they'll be receiving the love of Christ as part of the shipment makes it even better.
We also owe thanks to the rest of the Fie Family for organizing lunch for all who participated in packing. Eating together at church is still a special occasion, isn't it?
One advance note. The community Thanksgiving service will be at the Montrose Methodist Church this year. Because they put on a Thanksgiving dinner on the actual day, they're pretty busy on Wednesday night, so the service will be on Sunday the 18th at 7:00. They'd like a pie festival, and ask if our congregation could provide three pies. Anybody especially proud of a particular recipe you'd be willing to make for that?
The theatre of seasons marches on.
Dear Friends of Living Waters,
I wanted to rush a thank you out before I take a few days off to visit my mother in Illinois. The Pastor appreciation gathering was a great time again, and I thank you for making a point of expressing your appreciation for what I (we, actually) do. I also want to say a word of thanks for the stack of gift cards that came officially from the congregation. They were for a variety of eating places spread around this central Minnesota zone. Marylou and I will have to do a number of date nights to use them up. I'm sure we will enjoy each stop.
God bless you for your kindness and generosity,
Joel (and Marylou)
Dear friends of Living Waters,
Well,we couldn't have pulled off this year's VBS without a dedicated bunch of volunteers. More kids showed up on a rainy Saturday than we've ever had turn out before. The weather didn't quench anyone's spirits and a high time was had by all. Thanks to everyone who helped in any way.
Friday night we'll be doing a house blessing for Fies. Hope to see you there. Things start at 6, we'll expect the blessing to happen about 7. And it's a traditional pounding (lb.ing?).
Not much summer left. Enjoy it as much as you can.
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
Next week will bring the midpoint of summer. Summer time moves fast. Most of us have plans for things we do in summer: trips to see things, visit friends and family, fish some new waters. Summer is also a good time to stretch the horizons of faith. That can mean taking in a special conference somewhere, reading a book that guides us in a area of faith we're not expert in, or taking the plunge to talk about faith with someone we know, but have never had that conversation with. Everything worth doing isn't a great big project that needs months of planning. Growth in life with the Lord isn't just about huge revelations and breakthroughs. Little steps matter.
I hope when this supersonic summer ends you'll be giving thanks for growth our Lord has given you. He considers each of us to have the potential for good harvest. You know that because of how much seed he has sown in you. Pay attention to some of it and see what happens.
"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9
The message of Ecclesiastes is pretty much that even wisdom, when sought apart from God, is useless. Over and over there are things that can be heard and thought of as deep, but upon closer examination, they don't hold up. The verse quoted above can be argued with, since technology has brought us many things this ancient preacher never dreamed of. However, there is still some truth in it. None of us has ever suffered through a unique or new human problem. Everything that can go wrong in human relationships has happened before. So when we have troubles we have no idea what to do about, our Lord always has experience helping someone else through it already.
There are no problems too big for God to be able to handle, and no problems too small for him to care about. Whatever troubles our hearts is of concern to him. "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." (I Peter 5: 7) The greatest wisdom is to never go it alone.
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
The 5 year anniversary celebration was great. There were a lot of moments that came back to mind, enriching my picture of what God has been up to among us in that time. Thank you to all who celebrated, to all who shared memories, and especially to those who put in the effort to make it all happen. I'd have to single out the Bonnies (Schultz and Utecht) , Fran Roux, and their husbands (who got roped into a lot of things). Sandy Fleischman did her usual yeoman work that we all looked at. Since I wasn't part of the group putting things together, it's possible I've overlooked someone. If so, my apologies, and thank you for your service.
Some wonderful things have happened in these last five years because God has been present in our midst and used us. That is the proper order of things in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. His Spirit be with you in all the days left to you to serve in his Kingdom.
I was glad to hear about things happening at the Wednesday evening gatherings last week. It's always a good thing to get to know our brothers and sisters in the faith better, and learning from God's word is one of the best ways to do that. Improving our lives is the purpose of both halves of that equation. If you didn't get a chance to do that last week, give it a try this week. If you've lost your slip that tells you where they are, the three meeting homes this week are Utecht, Schultz, and Roux.
Take advantage of this once a year opportunity.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you." John 14: 15-16
The greatest privilege we can have on earth is God abiding with us. That word, abide, doesn't mean God watches from far away and knows what's going on with us. It means he stays with us, making his home within us. That, of course, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it was to our advantage for him to go away, because that would make it possible for the Holy Spirit to come minister. He is called Advocate, or one who works on our behalf. See, our Lord was never content just to save us from sin, guilt and damnation. He wanted to make us important parts of his kingdom, his plan for the rest of the earth.
On our own, we'd never have much impact on the world. When the Spirit is working through us, God can transform anything he's of a mind to. If you know the Spirit is within you, talk with him daily and get his guidance to live for Jesus. If you're not sure if the Spirit is within you, ask the Heavenly Father to finish Jesus' work in you and give his Spirit. (Luke 11: 13) Winter will surely be turning to spring, and we all want to be part of God's growth projects, don't we?
Dear Friends of Living Waters:
It's hard to believe that another attack on a worship service has taken place. The very idea of someone firing an automatic weapon at people gathered in a house of prayer is just hard to get the mind around. There is so much hatred and violence demonstrated in our world on a daily basis that one doesn't know whether to panic or just quit exposing ourselves to the news.
I'm not sure that either of those options is practical, so let's think about what we can pull off. One thing we can do is focus on our source of peace so that we live in it no matter what happens in this world.. Our peace won't come from armed guards at the church doors. It can come only from God. His promise to us isn't that he will prevent all bad things from happening. His promise is that we can have peace within us just by coming to him in thanksgiving and talking about what troubles us. (Philippians 4: 6-7).
This should be an easy month to be practicing thanksgiving. It doesn't require that we suddenly feel thankful for something good. It only requires us to have a realistic picture of the relationship we live in with God. It was all his idea and designed his way. It's perfect, so giving thanks ought to be an easy response.
Give it a go and sleep better tonight.
One of the fields of life that our faith in Jesus calls us to is compassion. Compassion is sharing the suffering someone else is going through and extending some aid. Hurricane Harvey has become the largest natural disaster in U.S. history. Life in Houston, our fourth largest city, has ground to a halt. Relief efforts will be continuing for a long time. Church Council decided to call for a special offering over the next three Sundays which will go to Samaritan's Purse, a relief organization that is headed up by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. Please consider this prayerfully.
The disaster season has not ended here yet. Hurricane Irma is bearing down on south Florida with some of the strongest winds ever recorded. We can't do everything, but we can certainly do our part.
We make his love known.
I'm guessing that the summer zoomed by for most of us, and there being less than two weeks of it left (for practical purposes) many of us are rushing to finish things or get them in before it's gone. Enjoy the end of the season, but don't neglect your life with the Lord by getting too busy. It's easy to let things with him slide, sometimes, We've probably all been guilty of that at various times. And the truth is, we may never know what we missed out on by taking a spiritual time out. Taking that time out, however, can't add anything significant to life, and it can cause shortfalls in places we couldn't predict. Consider your time with the Lord precious and make use of it.
VBS was fun and we hope the kids got something of significance out of it. We only have three member kids in this age group, but visitors brought our number of participants up to about a dozen. I'm quite sure we had more than that many adults putting in some effort for it. A word of thanks to all who were part of the event. Childhood experiences can shape us for years.
Other notes have filled you in about our hospitalized members--keep them in your prayers.
We've got a big weekend coming. Financial Peace University starts on Saturday evening. Dave Ramsey has ferreted out what the Bible teaches about using money. His teaching approach is direct and humorous, and everybody who's ever put it to use says it works. If money is ever a problem for you, this class may just be the perfect thing. You can visit Saturday night with no commitment, so it's a safe check out.
Secondly, on Sunday night Paul Anderson is coming to share some good stuff in the most important area of life: hearing God. It's an interactive approach that should help all of us. Paul was the director of Lutheran Renewal for many years and helped start up ARC, which we belong to. the gathering starts at 6:30. Hope most of us can be there.
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'" John 8: 12
We see a lot of darkness in the world. Sometimes it encroaches on the lives of Christian people and they wonder how God can let terrible things happen.
The promise that our Lord is light to us has more to do with what goes on within us than anything else. Even when the world is doing its worst, if our hearts are stayed on Christ, we reap the benefits of peace and joy right in the middle of everything. When we can see clearly who we are and how much God loves us, nothing can bring despair into our lives. That kind of strength gives us an attitude that will never give up, will keep moving forward, expressing God's love.
To the world around us, that might make us look crazy. That's only because they haven't seen the light, yet. We are the ones who will make it known, by living its reality.
Thank Jesus every day for his reality, which is better than anything the world has to offer.
I hope you are continuing to celebrate the good news of Easter as the season continues. The resurrection of Christ brings a lot of joy our way. We know that, as people who have received him as Lord and Savior, his resurrection is a guarantee of our own life beyond death.(I Cor 6:14) We also know that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. We rejoice in the presence and companionship of the Holy Spirit and the many ways He is is able to keep our lives moving forward.
It's a Wednesday as I sit and write this. I hope you're all remembering to pray for our church on Wednesdays. (There is a a prayer meeting on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00.) Only by our Lord's guidance and protection are we able to have a worthwhile existence, so we never want to take that for granted.
Friday night this week the ARC has a meeting for anyone who's interested. It's at 6:30 at Bridgewood Community Church,11670 Lexington Ave NE in Blaine. We were well represented at the last one of these, so I hope to see a few familiar faces.
Well, it's Holy Week again. The most important week in history gets pulled out and remembered every year because we benefit from what Jesus did every single day of our lives (and forever after that.) It's important for us to recall, relearn, and learn anew from what happened in those days. I hope everyone will be taking advantage of some of the special events for that. Thursday and Friday will both be happening at 7:00. Sunday worship is at the usual hour. There will be no Sunday School on Easter.
On Saturday there will be some decorating done at 9:00. All hands are welcome. If you're intending to provide flowers for Easter decorating, please bring them either Thursday or Friday evening. Fresh growing flowers are an ancient symbol for new life and that's why we use them to celebrate our Lord's resurrection. You'll be free to take them home after the Easter worship.
I expect things to be a little crowded on Easter, so think about arriving a little early.
I know you've all received the full color reminder about the Wednesday night gatherings in homes during the Lenten season. These are wonderful opportunities to get to know each other better as people of faith. The questions in the Bible study aren't designed to show how much you know about the Bible, but how much you're willing to share about your own walk of faith. None of us are unique unto ourselves, none of us is meant to live our faith alone. We use Lent to try and strengthen the bonds in our congregation so that we can all be healthier in our walks with the Lord. Take advantage.
A personal request: please pray for me that the Lord will provide inspiration for the Easter message this year. We all know that old, old story, but we seek the Lord's help to bring it alive in new ways each year.
A blessed Lenten season of reflection and growth for all of us,
How often do you feel like you need help? I'm not talking about carrying the groceries in from the car or getting the driveway cleared of snow. I'm talking about the times you need someone to listen to you,or pray with you, or point out the cockeyed way you're thinking about something. Those are spiritual functions of help, and we may not admit to ourselves how often we're in a place like that. If we're not admitting it, we're probably not getting the help, either. When we're not getting help we need, we're missing out on one of the basic functions of church life.
St. Paul uses the analogy of the Church being the body of Christ. (I Corinthians 12: 12-31) God sets each of us up to do something a little different. He uses our personalities, talents, and the gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit to make us useful to others who don't have the same set of resources. His goal is to make us interdependent even as we all live in dependence upon him. A side goal would be to get us to value each other as having useful and necessary functions in each other's lives.
Obviously, we actually need to know each other this way and trust each other to risk exposing our needs to each other and helping each other. That's all part of the function of love in the church,(which is, of course, the very next chapter in this letter).
Life can be better for us when we use the strategies God puts in place for us. We just have to dare try them.
I'm dealing with a major computer frustration today, practically driving me crazy. Seems like a good time to review the resources our faith offers us for such things. Scripture never says, "Don't get mad." It says, "Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger."
What are we supposed to do instead? Well, basically step into an experience of our relationship with the Lord. Talk with him about the problem, keeping focused on him and our privileged position with him rather than on what's frazzling us. That gives him the opportunity to work on us, which is where the real problems in life are usually located. Only our Lord can restore our peace.
Imagine what it must have been like for Isaiah, whose job as a prophet meant he saw things in the future that no one he knew was ever going to see. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah felt compelled to write poetry about what the Savior was going to accomplish. He didn't talk in little terms, like "he'll go from village to village healing the sick and preaching good news." He spoke in big terms, fitting for the universal nature of Christ's ministry."With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth...Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist and faithfulness the belt around his loins." Then he'd throw in images of perfection, with the lion and the lamb lying down together in peace. (See Isaiah 11)
Who was there to appreciate what Isaiah was writing? Probably no one. They just thought he was a dreamer. But he was doing the job God had called him for, and thousands of years later we appreciate his work on many different levels, even though we're still looking forward to its fulfillment.
I just bring this up as encouragement for the work God hands out to you. You maybe can't see the significance of a particular task you feel nudged to do, but God is planning a future based on our willingness to do what he gives us. We don't have to know how, where, or why it's all going to work together. God doesn't have to show us his diagrams. We just have to be willing to give it a go and trust that our Lord uses it all to work out his own plans. Let's find our satisfaction in the relationship our Lord is continually working on with us. When we're paying attention, we've all got stuff to do in the kingdom, and it matters, or our Lord wouldn't be bothering with it.
Try to pace yourself in the Christmas rush.
Been a long time for one of these. This summer was incredibly busy and we're still not moved entirely in. Oh well, life goes on.
Last Sunday we saw a request from the Waverly Food Shelf organization to contribute toward a backpack program for kids who aren't getting enough to eat at home on weekends. The flyer will be repeated in this Sunday's bulletin, and we want to make a meaningful contribution. If you took that home with you, look it over and see what you might be able to bring in. Hunger among children is a serious issue and September has been designated as National Hunger Action Month.
Hope the summer gave you some time time to rest and reflect on life. The theatre of seasons is about to open its next act. God remains faithful and is calling on us to do the same.
Summer time is here, and we have one thing in common with all other congregations in summer: people are running off to do things more so not as many of us are together every Sunday. That means that if there are important things going on, we've got to keep track of them in other ways. Keep checking your emails and looking at the church calendar.
One thing I'm hoping to do this summer is to have a personal visit with each household in the congregation. On Sunday I'll have a calendar with different possibilities you can put your name on. I'll happily come to everyone's home, but you won't have to entertain me. Please don't put on coffee for me. I'm just looking to see how congregational life is working for everybody and if you feel like you're getting what you need to grow in Christ.
Keep practicing listening for the Lord's voice in your life. We get better at everything when we practice.
Springtime is like a message from God. It is an illustration of how our Lord gives to us over and over in ways we can usually appreciate, but often not understand. It is an illustration of being born again and raised from the dead. I guess we have to call this message a homily, though, because it's awfully short in comparison to the eternal truths in his word and in the parts of the natural order that are not cyclical. We're still getting a little spring. Praise God and enjoy it.
Note about the Healthy and Free class on Saturdays. It won't be meeting this Saturday, May 28. Holiday weekend, you know. It will have its final session on June 4. That one will conclude with a carry in brunch. Bring something to share that fits into the healthy and free lifestyle.
Sunday May 15 is Pentecost Sunday. It's one of the three big festivals of the church year, commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower followers of Jesus to continue his ministry on earth. This year it has something a little extra in it for us. We'll be signing our charter as a congregation. You know, none of us are officially members of Living Waters at the moment, even though we've been participating right along. Our constitution has only been in place since our annual meeting, and it calls for the roster of charter members, or starting membership, to be designated by each individual signing the charter document.
We'll do that as part of the service this Sunday. Members who can't be present for the formal signing will have the chance to add their names for a bit, because we don't want to leave anybody who wants to be part of Living Waters behind.
I think this is the first time I've ever been part of any real start up. Fun to be a pioneer, isn't it?
"Come near to God, and God will come near to you." James 4:8
It's a generally accepted thought that all Christians are supposed to have daily devotional time, a quiet time set aside for God. It's not always easy to make it happen, though, is it? Some days, it's just hard to concentrate, and some days get so hectic. Life is busy. So rather than go through the struggle of listening to God, sometimes we'll let other people do it and take advantage of what they've picked up. Isn't that why we have so many preachers available on tv and radio?
If you've ever tried it that way, ask yourself this. Are there other areas of my life that I let other people experience for me? Would I do a vacation like that? Is reading about romance a good substitute for having a loving relationship?
There are some things we need to do for ourselves, and getting to know our Lord better is at the top of that list. Find ways to spend time with him, and you will benefit every day.
"Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in Heaven."
Ever experience the post Easter let down? Or is that just a pastor thing? There is so much that goes into getting ready for the Easter celebration, then in the course of one morning, it's over. Christmas lasts a lot longer than that.
Well, the up and down cycle of life is a little like waves on the ocean. It never stops, but if we get tangled up in it, we can get stuck in a down place. Funny how nobody ever seems to get stuck in an "up" place unless they're actually bipolar.
Even the disciples had their ups and downs following that first Easter. The ups came, of course, when they got to see Jesus and hear from him. The downs were in between those times, when they realized they weren't ready for their mission. They still had to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
We don't have that wait, and if we get stuck in a down place, it's because we play in the muck at the bottom of our rut.
We have to learn to "lift our hearts" toward God and give him access to maintain the temple he has created within each of us. If you need peace, find it in Philippians 4. If you need joy, start praising the Lord. With what we have already received from him, there is no reason or excuse for us to ever stay down.
It's Advent. The church space has been decorated. The kids are practicing for a Christmas program. We've adopted a family as a congregation. Many of us have done some special giving for a favorite charitable work. Out in the world, we've all begun our preparations for Christmas celebration with family and friends. Only one other area to look at at: our hearts.
Christmas is all about celebrating the greatest gift ever given: God's own Son, who presented us with the offer of joining his family. As people of faith, we've all accepted that offer. Question is, how best to celebrate our new life in Christ.
Trying to be generous in a multitude of ways is one step, but might our Lord be looking for an expression of love aimed directly at him? The special worship services of the season are great, but doesn't it often feel best when you get a private moment to express your love to someone?
In this season, find those private moments to talk to our Lord about what he means to you, just the two of you. He will express his love back and you'll have memories to treasure of a living faith in a living Lord, whose love is bigger and better than anything else we will ever receive.
"And in this matter I am giving my advice; it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something--now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means." 2 Corinthians 8: 10-11
Paul was talking about a stewardship project here, getting a collection together for relieving the Christians in Judea who were experiencing famine. Stewardship is often thought of as a money issue, but it's really about the use of all of life's resources. The time and ability aspect is much more obvious in a small group like ours.
The remodeling project is getting underway, and it needs lots of our time and ability. While not everybody has building skills, anybody who's able to get up and move can do something for this project. We're hoping everyone will get involved and take some ownership in our next "home". We need to complete it, so that our work in our Lord's Kingdom will be enhanced.
There will be regular updates and announcements coming about this. Keep your eyes and ears open so we can all follow Paul's advice to finish.