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We Are Unleashed!

We Are Unleashed! Sermon Audio Here

Acts 1:8

Last weekend was the 64th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.

2018 NACCC Annual Meeting Highlights:

Council Reports

  • Approved recommendation of 3 new churches
  • Consolidated two offices into one
  • Approved 2018-19 budget
  • Our churches donated $116,000 to churches who faced disaster needs around the world
  • Started regional convocations around the country – Midwest and Northeast
  • Developing a lay ministry training program – distance learning with mentors and cohort
  • Adopted new mission statement: “To nurture fellowship among Congregational Christian Churches and support ministries of the local church in its community and to the world, all in the name of Christ” AND vision statement for the NACCC: “Vital and healthy Congregational churches, sharing the love of Jesus the Christ”

Bible Lectures by Terry Lindvall: M.Div from Fuller; doctorate thesis on CS Lewis. Ordained in Congregational Church in 1973. President of Regent University. Fellow at William and Mary. Author.

Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth”

• Witness is a noun and verb
• What is a good witness – from a lawyer

  • Remember what was seen
  • Each witness has their own style and sight
  • Power of witness is in the details – what happens when we see and hear
  • Witness answers truthfully and without guile or agenda

• Three areas of witness in Scripture

  • Torah and Law as first witness
    o Jews set up stones along the way as a witness for their return.
    => Ex: Finding Dory – shells lead back to home. All of us are ‘like living stones’
  • Creation Itself as second witness
    o The heavens declare the glory of God – Psalm 96 –
  • Witness of the saints
    o People in Scripture were passionate livers of God’s grace. We are surrounded by this hall of witnesses – they are eccentric, sort of crazy, and strange.

Three Take-aways:

  1. we recognize we are witnesses of God’s love. Deuteronomy 6.
  2. we recognize God’s glory in creation and bear witness
  3. we learn to witness the odd and flawed characters of God’s people.
  • How do you witness of Jesus?
  • How do we bring forth Christ?

Life in Spring

pretty flowers In the words of one of my favorite musicians, “Spring is Here, Spring is Here! Life is Skittles… Life is ________ …” (thank you, Tom Lehrer)

Well, I won’t fill in the blank for you, because everyone views life a little differently. For those who are going through a season of loss, life can be more than difficult. With those, we join in mourning. For those who are experiencing times of triumph, due to the completion of a goal (congratulations again, graduates!), or perhaps the anticipation of a celebration, life can be filled with wonder and expectation. With these, we join in joy. For those who are dealing with planting crops, or raising children (and having them underfoot now that school is out), or spring cleaning, or any number of things that we walk through on our journey, life can be a series of ups and downs, twists and turns, expected events and shocking surprises.

It’s such a privilege to walk with you all on this journey of life in which the Lord has lumped us together! I was incredibly blessed to look out the parsonage window the other day to discover a church family (with a gift for gardening) making the church grounds look incredible. They were pulling leaves, planting flowers, trimming back what needed trimming and bringing order to chaos. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures which are now on the church website as a photo gallery of some of the work that they’ve done. Thank you so much to Curtis, Mary, and all the kids and helpers that made this place look like a park.

And speaking of work that has been done, a big thanks as well to the trustees and the painters who are in the process of transforming our church building with a new coat or two of paint. When the sun hits it just right, it’s as if the building is shining with God’s glory… just as we, the church body, are intended to do as we yield our lives to the work of God in us. Here’s to a lovely spring, and the anticipation of summer!

KFJ – Pastor Ed

Prayer for Independence Day

Combination of the Christian Flag and the flag of the USA
I wrote this prayer in preparation for the Sunday before American Independence Day, celebrated on July 4, 2011.

God our Lord, as we approach Independence Day, we remember our country in prayer.

As a nation, we declared our intent to be ruled not by a foreign power, but only by looking to Your for guidance. We still pray that prayer today, Lord; but we acknowledge that all too often, we exchange Your eternal guidance for earthly distractions. For the times when we decide to live as citizens of our own personal domain instead of following Christ into the Kingdom of God, please forgive us.

As a nation, we often talk of Rights and Privileges of our citizenry. Remind us, Lord, that living and moving and having our being all comes from You; You give us so much more than we deserve – the very definition of Grace. We thank You that we can’t ever earn the freeing gift of salvation through Christ.

As a nation, we can focus on Rules and Responsibilities and our civic duty. This is good, because it causes us to relate to others in our community. Remind us, Lord, that our first rule of living is to Love You – and prompt that love for You to spill over and affect how we function in our greater community and our own families. Use us to be Your reconcilers among others, Lord.

As a nation, many place high value on Reason as a means of making good decisions. Lord, we ask not for greater intelligence or superior argument, but for ever-deepening wisdom and faith to come from You. Prompt our leaders to be followers of Your agenda more than their own; direct the choices we make as a people to be glorifying to You.

We ask for constant guidance of how we are to live as citizens of Heaven in this country of America: faith in You to provide for our needs even while we work hard to support our families; hope that Your Kingdom will be seen in our lives and will change the lives of those around us even as we seek to better our community; loving You first and above all even while we care for others as You would.

Make us like Jesus even as we pray together, saying: OUR FATHER…

Interesting Times

From the Pastor's Desk It’s certainly been an interesting month. As in “May you live in interesting times”… which is (supposedly) an old Chinese curse. I say “supposedly” because no one really knows the origin of the phrase, and we don’t really know if living in an interesting time is truly a curse or not.

We *do* know, however, that this month has had more than its share of events: our family was very involved in the musical at the high school, as well as volunteering to participate in other school activities. I even got to “host” the 2011 Miss Warden pageant, and get to know some really wonderful young people in the process. This is my one-year anniversary month: the church ordained me on May 15, 2010, and it’s been fun getting involved in the life of the community.

We also confirmed seven students in my first Confirmation class. I am so proud of the work these students did in exploring their own faith, and learning tools that will help them find their place of service in the Kingdom of God. The personal projects that each student put together to show their faith formation were very encouraging to me as well. I must confess, it’s pretty gratifying to see a new Confirmation Class photo up on the walls with current faces in it!

Easter, of course, is a highlight of the entire church calendar. It was good to be able to worship the Risen Lord with so many of you, and I was even more gratified that I recognized almost every face: I was a bit concerned that my first Easter with you would feel like my first Sunday here with a bunch of faces I didn’t know. Blessedly, that didn’t happen.

We also had a nice visit from the Ugandan Orphans Choir – their concert was inspiring, and I was really blessed by your generosity towards these kids and their organization. You really embodied what St. Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 9:12-13: “This service [of generosity] that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

We also had two funerals this month: Pam Larson, of Pamela’s Pantry, went to be with the Lord after a very short bout with cancer. I spoke at her potluck-service on the first of May… and less than a week later, I did the funeral service for Jim Rauter, Royal and Elsa’s son. These deaths were unexpected and a shock to the families involved; it was my honor to help them gather together and support one another in their time of grief. As a church family, we also experience times of grief when sudden trials make themselves known.

As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonian church, the experience of suffering can threaten to derail us, to take us off track in our spiritual journey. This is why he sent Timothy, his disciple in the faith, to help the church in their time of trial. He was to “strengthen and encourage” the believers, and that is our current privilege as well – to strengthen and encourage one another in our faith as we are being shaped to be like Christ.

As always, Keep Following Jesus – Ed

Pastor Ed Backell

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