Friday, December 7, 2018

The Secret of all Failure is our Failure in Secret Prayer by Pastor Charlie Handren

     “We may be assured of this—the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer” (12). So writes the anonymous author of the classic little book on prayer entitled, The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1971). He means that the reason we so often fall into sin or live in discouragement or fail to bear fruit is because we do not cling to God in Christ above all things. We do not diligently seek him or lean on him or plead with him or draw on his strength. We give ourselves to busyness over communion with God and in this way we seek to accomplish in our flesh what can only be accomplished in the power of the Spirit.
     Giving first place to what our dear author calls “secret prayer” is indeed a key to the Spirit-filled life but let’s be clear: prayer is not magic, rather, it’s a relationship. It’s not as if we simply have to file requests with God, being careful to use just the right words so that we can get him to respond as we wish. God is not a vending machine. Rather, prayer is communication between the Father and those who have become his children in Christ. Prayer is conversing with our Father in Christ, discussing every circumstance with him, tackling every problem with him, celebrating every victory with him, growing in love with him. Prayer is one means of communion with God.
     When we approach prayer this way—rather than seeing it as magic or some sort of duty—it is indeed the key to victory and fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. It is the pipeline through which the power of God is delivered to the child of God. When we fail to tap into this pipeline, we guarantee our failure. Indeed, “the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” The secret of all failure is our failure to pursue communion with our Father above all things.
     For this reason, our dear author issues a call to prayer in his first chapter. “And today I pass on that great call to you. Will you give heed to it? Will you profit by it? Or shall it fall on deaf ears and leave you prayerless?” (17) His desire is not to criticize or condemn, he makes that clear earlier in the chapter (13-14). But his heart is to encourage, even to prod, us down the road of communion with God that we might come to know the power of life in God. May we reverence the God who inspired this prodding by heeding the call to secret prayer.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Take The Quiz on Generation Z By Pastor Kevin

Parents and church leaders...test your knowledge on Generation Z. Those born between 1995 and 2013 belong to what is known as Generation Z. If you are like me you are intrigued by studies on generational distinctives. By no means is this authoritative or exhaustive (or true of each and every individual), it does help us to understand sweeping trends that will help us to understand the contours of doing ministry to the next generation, which God very much cares about (Psalm 78:7; 145:8).

Take the quiz and then respond to me and ask me for the link to the article put out by a ministry called CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ). I interacted with some of the leaders of the ministry at a national conference I recently attended in St. Louis.

Quiz (Worth 20% of your overall grade). Remember, contact me for the link to the article if you would like the answers and more info on Gen Z. 

   1.    What percentage of Gen Z’s internet users own a smartphone? 
  
   2.    The emerging, non-negotiable value among Gen Z is: _____________________.

   3.    Most American teens say their family upbringing is/is not central to their identity. 

   4.    More than half of American teens say this is the most important thing in life: _____________________________.

   5.    Two Thirds of U.S. Teens report the following as their goal by age 30
a.    Start a career and become financially independent
b.    Pursue/Realize their dreams
c.     Enjoy life by traveling and experiencing the world
d.    Get married and start a family
e.    Both A and D
f.     Neither A nor D
g.    Neither E nor F
h.    Only H
i.     Only J

   6.    Researchers point out that Gen Z is (increasingly/decreasingly) risky? 

   7.    True or False. Gen Z is Entreprenuerial and self-motivated? 

   8.    True of False. Researchers are starting to notice an emerging willingness among Gen Z to vocalize negative effects of an always-connected digital life?

   9.    What percentage of U.S. teens say they are either currently taking a break from media or have done so in the past? 
a.    8%
b.    15%
c.     33%
d.    66%
e.    Both A and D
f.     All of the above
g.    None of A through D
h.    B but not C

   10.Gen Z appears so far to be the ____________________ religious generation we have ever seen.  
  
   11.Of the 58% of U.S. teens who claim to be Christian today what percentage of them have a biblical worldview?

   12.Barna reports that 13% of teens today call themselves atheists. This total is __________________ the rate among adults.
a.    Half
b.    Double
c.     Triple
d.    Single
e.    Home Run

   Again, if you would like to find the answers and read the article on Gen Z from CRU please contact Pastor Kevin (kevin@gcfmn.org) and ask him for the link. 



Monday, December 3, 2018

Worship Songs - December 9, 2018

We post these worship songs leading up to the worship service so that parents may listen to them in the house or in the car within the days leading up to the worship service. Our hope is that children will hear the songs prior to and it will prepare them to participate in worship on Sunday mornings.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Here In Your Presence
How Great Are You Lord
Glory In The Highest
Heaven Came Down
I Wonder As I Wander
Mary Did You Know
Resurrection Hymn
Hope Has Come

--
Sermon Title: Woman, Why Are You Weeping
Sermon Text: John 20:11-18

Making Disciples For The Glory of Christ

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Looking Up To Our Teens: What Mary and Joseph Teach Us About Living Lives of Faith by Pastor Kevin

Looking Up To Our Teens: What Mary and Joseph Teach Us About Living Lives of Faith

If you go through my advent devotional titled Getting Ready To Get Ready you will glean some of the very same thoughts I am expounding on here, particularly as we get to Mary and Joseph. 

The reality is there is a lot of intrigue around the way God worked in and through this couple. For starters, it is probable that Mary was between 12-14 years old and Joseph just a few years older. Isn’t it a little bit of a wonder that God would choose someone so young to carry such a huge responsibility? Perhaps it is fitting with the overall narrative: Jesus was born in lowly town of Bethlehem in a stable that was cold and smelly and noisy from the animals. Oh, and he was carried by a young teenage girl who didn’t even have her drivers license yet. And the shadiness and difficulty doesn’t stop there. Let me point out a few more things surrounding the birth of Christ that might help us to appreciate the meaning of Jesus entering the world. 

Jesus Inherits A Bad Genealogy

You probably wouldn’t like it much if your genealogy was recorded as clearly as it was for Jesus and published for the world to see. Interestingly, Matthew records Jesus’ genealogy and there are five women that are included. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. The Bible isn’t sexist, as some people say. The reason women were excluded from genealogies is simply that Jewish custom was to record family lines through the fathers. Yet there are five women mentioned when it isn’t customary to do so. 


You will also notice that all five women highlight controversy. Tamar was raped, Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was not an Israelite, Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah) was an adultress, and Mary was blameless yet mistaken as a fornicator. In other words, you wouldn’t go out of your way to include these women, especially when it wasn’t customary to do so in the first place. One is left wondering why? Was Matthew trying to paint Jesus in a particularly unflattering light? How would you like to find out your family tree included rape, prostitution, adultery, outcast and controversy? Ignorance is bliss, as they say. If those things are a part of your family tree you would probably rather not know about it. 

Yet Jesus, the Savior of the world, inherits a genealogy as ugly as this one probably because he was going to save people from their sins. And this salvation extends to all, even the sexually broken, the untouchables, the outcasts, the people who were not invited, the ones who nobody understands or believes but God alone. 

Mary And Joseph Demonstrate Surrender to God

Why select two youngsters and subject them to public shame, scorn, possibly death? It doesn't seem safe to impregnate a teenage girl without a job, without an education in a culture that carried the death sentence for someone who would get pregnant out of wedlock. This is Mary. At least she could say that the baby wasn't Joseph's offspring, that it was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Surely that would solve her dilemma, right? Oh wait. Nobody would believe her. If they didn't stone her she would probably wind up in a psych ward...and I'll bet dollars to donuts (whatever that means) that first century psych wards were dodgy at best. 

So Mary and Joseph were completely cornered...and it was God's design, not their sin that got them into this mess. It leaves us to wonder, why would God do it this way? Jesus was supposed to be good news of great joy...how would Mary and Joseph think about this? Would they receive this as good news? 

Mary's response in Luke 1:38 is intriguing: "And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her." It didn't dawn on me until recently that it would have taken great surrender to God for Mary to say, let it be to me according to your word. Until recently I assumed her response was more akin to someone winning the lottery..."let it be to me according to your word." However, she probably would have realized the trouble this would cause her and Joseph and yet she says, "let it be." What a lesson from the teenager, rather than questioning the goodness of God she simply surrenders to his will. 

Mary and Joseph Demonstrate Faith In God

Most of the time that I battle faith in God it isn't that I don't believe in God. Since becoming a believer I have never struggled believing that God exists. The battle to believe has more to do with believing in the goodness and wisdom of God. When God calls us to believe in him he is asking us to trust his wisdom above our own, especially when things don't seem to add up. Nothing added up in Mary and Joseph's situation and yet Mary surrendered and believed that Jesus truly was good news and that God was good. 

Joseph Shows Courage and Faithfulness

You might say Joseph decided to divorce Mary quietly, therefore, he wasn't faithful? Well, this was no easy decision and if you look at it carefully we can see Joseph wanted to do the best thing possible for Mary. In some ways, this whole thing hinged upon Joseph's response. What would it have been like for Joseph to learn that his soon to be wife was already pregnant? How believing was he that she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? Could you imagine how difficult it would have been for him to make sense of this? Even if he does believe Mary's story they still have a problem, his betrothed wife was pregnant. There are only a few options and none of them are good: A) Divorce Mary publicly (and by so doing she will likely face death). B) Stay with Mary and let people assume they sinned together, putting them both in danger. C) Divorce Mary quietly, avoiding a scene in hopes that both of them come out safely. He is a teenager and he had some big decisions to make. If he would have reacted strongly he could have caused some real problems. 

Eventually the angel of the Lord comes to him and tells him what to do, which was the most dangerous path and most sacrificial one for him: stay with Mary and do not fear. Joseph's willingness to obey God shows his courage and faith and faithfulness. 

Good News!

The birth of Jesus is good news of great joy. It is the birth of the Savior of the world who inherited a sinful family line so that he could save all mankind who has inherited a sin nature and sin legacy from their family line. It is the good news to believers that God's purposes always transcend our immediate circumstances. It is the good news that God indeed always works things together for good and in the gospel there is always a plan to redeem our lives from any pit, no matter how deep. Perhaps none of this would be true or could be true if Jesus had an ideal entry into our world? We can speculate. One thing we can be sure of, his ways are always higher than our ways (Isaiah 55). And we can look to Mary and Joseph, a couple of teenagers, to show us what it looks like to put our trust in this great God. 

In Christ, 
Pastor Kevin

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Sovereignty Of God & The Call To Prayer by Pastor Charlie Handren

     Even after thirty-two years of following Jesus Christ, I am still amazed by his sovereignty. When he determines to issue a message to his Bride, he sees to it that the message is articulated by the right man at the right time, and that the message reaches all for whom it was intended. Nothing stops him from accomplishing his purposes. 
     The Kneeling Christian (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: 1971) was written by an anonymous author “by request, and with much hesitancy” (7) and it was first published in England. Some years later, not long after brothers P. J. and Bernard Zondervan founded the Zondervan Publishing Company, P. J. stumbled across the work as he made a sales call in Seattle, Washington. The bookseller there had been blessed by the book and therefore commended it to Mr. Zondervan who in turn secured the rights to distribute it in the United States. 
     However, due to the devastating effects of World War II upon England, the publisher was no longer able to print the book and thus Mr. Zondervan secured the rights to print and publish it. Between the years 1945 and 1971, Zondervan executed twenty-four printings and sold over 100,000 copies. This is how a little book by an unknown author came to have such a massive impact on the body of Christ both in England and the United States. 
     This story is not primarily about an author and his publishers. Rather, it is about a sovereign God and his Bride. When God chooses to speak to his Beloved nothing stops him from doing so, not even a great world war! As Isaiah declares in 55:10-11, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 
     The message of this little book is as clear as it is profound: learn the joy of secret prayer. It is not a book designed to inform our minds about prayer so much as to inspire the practice of prayer. Therefore, we would best honor the God who issued the decree by joining our author in saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Worship Songs - December 2, 2018

We post these worship songs leading up to the worship service so that parents may listen to them in the house or in the car within the days leading up to the worship service. Our hope is that children will hear the songs prior to and it will prepare them to participate in worship on Sunday mornings.

Hope Has Come
O Come All Ye Faithful
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
The Gospel Song
Grace Flows Down
How Great Is Your Faithfulness
Resurrection Hymn

--
Sermon Title: He Saw And Believed
Sermon Text: John 20:1-10

Making Disciples For The Glory of Christ

Friday, November 23, 2018

Seven Bible Disciplines: Applying the Word By Pastor Charlie Handren

     On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gathered with his disciples in an upper room of a house in the city of Jerusalem and taught them many things. He was about to take up his cross and die in obedience to his heavenly Father and for the salvation of all who would believe in him. In other words, he was about to display the fullness of his love by loving his Father and his friends all the way to the end (see John 13:1; 15:13).
     Since he wanted his beloved disciples to receive eternal life and learn a way of life from him, he taught them, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). With these words, he was inviting them into his way of life, namely, carefully listening to the Father and then faithfully applying the words of the Father by doing his will in the world. This is the path to joy and fruitfulness in life, and Jesus longed for his loved ones to know and trod this path.
     Evidently, the Apostle John understood and applied his Master’s teaching, for many years later, he wrote these words to his beloved friends: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:3-6). In other words, love for God is expressed through obedience to God. It’s displayed by applying his words to life.
     Now, as critical as obedience is in the life of the believer, it’s designed by God to come about in a particular way. The details of this are very important, so please pay careful attention. First, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by obeying his Father’s commands all the way to death on a cross. As the second head of humanity, he did what no other was able to do. Second, by his grace, God the Father applies the perfect obedience of Jesus to everyone who believes in Jesus so that they stand righteous before him as though they themselves had perfectly obeyed him. Third, based on the grace of God in Christ and their standing before God in Christ, the children of God learn to walk in his ways. They learn to obey. They learn to express their love by applying his words to their lives. 
     But even this third step flows from the grace of God in Christ, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Beloved, Jesus accomplished perfect obedience for us, he applied it to us by faith, and he works it in us by faith. So our part is simple: to surrender to him and allow him to work his obedience in us that we may share in the fullness of his joy!