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Thursday  Update

There’s a message flashing on our Church sign. First the bad news: it says, “All Gatherings Postponed”.  The next message that scrolls on says: “Let’s Stay Connected” and it’s followed by our church phone number.  Let’s stay connected. I very much like that invitation. 

For at least the foreseeable future,  we won’t be having services together.  That is hard to fathom, isn’t it.  These last two weeks have brought changes that we didn’t see coming.  Our lives are disrupted in so many different ways.  So the sign outside carries a very important message. 

Let’s Stay Connected.  We are working very hard to get our “on-line presence” up and running, and we will let you know as soon as we can how that will work. The staff are all thinking creatively about staying connected with our children,  our youth, the families we care about so deeply, and of course our most vulnerable and precious seniors. 

 I would love to hear your suggestions about staying connected.   But I also want to know how you are.  I want to know how you are praying, or what you are learning, and yes, what is making your heart heavy.  Call the church office, send emails, text me. 

Can I ask you to also put this week’s  lent practice to work?  Remind yourself, that you are precious to God, you are one of the beloved. Listen to last Sunday’s message.   Read the Word.  Then you will be reminded of God’s amazing care for you.  God has called you by name, and you are his.  Feast on that, when times are hard, disappointing or downright dangerous.  God’s love for you will not fail.

So let’s stay connected.  The Lord is with us.

One more note: how are you feeding your soul? 
Here is a song that is speaking deep encouragement to me.  God is Sovereign over us, and we will actively put our trust in him. 

Click to Listen and Actively TRUST GOD DEEPER – Sovereign Over Us

Lets Stay Connected!

Pastor Renee

 


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God wants to give you Spiritual Strength!

God wants to give you Spiritual Strength!

What an unusual time. PLEASE KNOW our church staff and leadership are all praying for each of you and for our community and all people world-wide.

Coronoavirus, COVID-19 virus, is a world-wide challenge that smart people have not yet figured out how to protect us from, cure the sick, or stop from spreading.

But we must know in our hearts this Coronavirus does not have our mighty all-knowing God confused. Go is not worried. God is not confused. So, we take heart and all talk to God and listen to the Holy Spirit as we pray great love for one another and in thanking God for always being in control.

This is the time WE as the church of Jesus Christ must gather (using social distancing of course 😊) together in PRAYER and in SPIRITUAL STABILITY and SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.

Pastor Renee recently reminded us during worship, Jesus says

“And I tell you, … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

‎If you watch the news feeds and the reports Coronavirus, now labeled a pandemic kind of feels like “gates of hell” as we wonder how to stay safe and help each other. So lean into what Jesus promises “the gates of hell shall NOT prevail against His church”. Lean into God with a SPIRITUAL STRENGTH and ENCOURAGE yourself and one another.

Remember we have been Fasting and Feasting in this season of LENT as we anticipate Jesus moving intently with great love for us toward the cross, dying and powerfully rising and conquering all sin and evil. Let’s back up to our first fasting & feasting.

Fasting on distractions and Feasting on the Word of GOD.

What a wonderful spiritual practice to challenge us at such as time as this. I don’t want you to miss out on the power of solidarity with God, even if you are feeling alone or isolated or uncertain about: all this social distancing, stores with empty food shelves, and unsuccessful valiant searches for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Seriously, we have present challenges.

As you feast on the Word of God I want to bring your attention to the spiritual gift of the Spiritual Armor of God. See Ephesians 6, where apostle Paul tells us how to put it on.

                      

Ephesians 6

9 And… since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

[How do you read the above message from God?
Do you truly believe you are God’s favorite? God’s favorite!
There is no favoritism in God’s heart and in God’s Kingdom
because EVERY PERSON, including YOU, just as you are, YOU have been chosen by the LORD and YOU are His favorite, His special possession
(1 Peter 2:9).]

God loves us so much, He gives all of us daily His protection, provision and wisdom through the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Now, if you are having more time at home due to the Global, national and state restrictions to contain the spread of this Coronavirus. Or if you are concerned and do not feel well or are sick, having trouble sleeping, or just fit into the high risk categories for this virus, God loves you and wants you to put on this Spiritual Armor so you can guard your heart, be calm and stand firm in faith in Christ our LORD.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

[Do not be fearful in your thoughts, instead choose to believe God’s promises and put on each piece of spiritual armor with God. Spiritual armor is something you do with God. He is always present.]

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

[Keep your faith, love your family and friends and keep your joy. God does not want you to worry. Today God is inviting ALL people world-wide into the challenge to trust God deeper. How is God inviting you to trust Him?

How does God want to grow and stretch your faith?]

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

[God loves simple honest truthful prayers. What do you need from God? David cried out to God for help, and God showed up every time!]

with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 

[Forgive yourself, you are already the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, because God loves you.]

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

[Who does God want you to share your spiritual confidence with?
Will you tell someone you] are praying for them and ask them how to pray for them?]

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

[Faith or fear?
You must choose. Each of us must choose. This is why we should connect and pray for and with each other. During this pandemic and time of uncertainty, fear is a sneaky tactic of the evil one and comes as flaming arrows. What are your thoughts, do you have fears sneaking in your thoughts about your health, health of your loved ones, travel, finances, food availability, your job, your children out of school, being exposed to the Coronavirus, what the next weeks hold, loneliness. Sometimes fear starts with only a spark! God’s spiritual armor of the shield of faith is to shield your heart from any of these fears.
FAITH will bring you peace and solidarity with God. God promises to guide and we will all need a whole lot of guidance going forward.
Faith is what God gives you, that’s why we must “take up” the shield of FAITH. This honors God and gives God all the Glory.
Do you realize fear is the opposite of faith?]

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

[Truth, Sometimes I put that helmet of salvation on backwards! Yup. 😊
Suggestion make sure you put on the mind of Christ, (God’s words) first before your helmet so your helmet will be sitting front to back. I get in trouble with my own mindfulness. The Helmet of salvation is knowing Jesus already has the victory in any of your struggles.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

19 Pray also for us

[us including God’s family at Brookdale Covenant Church, all of God’s people both believers and not yet believers, and of course pray God guides and provides for all our leaders, scientists, researchers and medical professionals that are passionately challenged to beat and conquer this virus]

that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains.

[Suggest repeat “I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel”, then speak out loud “for which I am an ambassador in chains”. We are given the amazing gift of being God’s ambassadors! Yes you are. God will give you the words to speak in faith. I got to this part of God’s Word, and heard the spirit whisper to me to write this blog.

Chains! Well this Coronavirus pandemic is the biggest world-wide chains to bring a unity to all people everywhere under heaven I have ever seen! We have world-wide problems but not that stop everything and can not be contained. What is God opening our eyes to?
Who will you be an ambassador for God and God’s Kingdom to?]

Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Final Greetings – are Blessings that God releases

23 PEACE to YOU brothers and sisters, and LOVE with FAITH from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[We as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have this powerful-privilege that we can at any time ASK God for wisdom and to “increase our faith!”, just as Jesus disciples asked at a time of uncertainty.
Simple prayers release God’s power into our circumstances.]

24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Stay strong, pray often, be good to yourself, be calm you are loved by a wonderful God and put on this spiritual armor because you are called to be part of God’s army. Your prayer is powerful, Jesus says so. I pray your prayers are answered so you see God is for you and God is for all of us.

Put your hope in God my friends!

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A Monday Morning check-in

Hello Brothers and Sisters!

Right now I’m sitting in my office at church.  Denise is down the hall in her office, doing all the things she normally does on Mondays.  But as I sit here, and as you read this wherever you are, we all know very little feels normal.

Yesterday we had what will likely be our last service together for several weeks.   Many, if not most churches were cancelled, and I was glad to see that many of our folks opted to stay home. But I was happy to be with you as well.   We have cancelled our Sunday and Wednesday night programs until further notice.  Our tech team is working to get online or streaming connections made.  The staff and leadership will be meeting to make specific plans for how we stay connected when we cannot meet.  We will be using every form of communication we can think of to stay in touch and to keep you updated.

But remember: This week our lent practice is  to feast on the knowledge that we are the beloved.  You can listen to the sermon on line for an explanation of that.  Truth is, it feels like everything has changed!  But this is what the Lord reminded me of this morning: it’s found on page 751 of your pew Bible.
 
 
Lamentations 3:22-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 

You know what I am going to be singing to myself now, don’t you.  That’s right: from the Blue hymnal, #78, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  Hum it, sing it, listen to it on YouTube.  It was written by Christians going through extremely hard and uncertain times.  Like us.

I want to hear from you!  How are you feeling, how are you doing, what are you thinking about?  Call, email, or text.  Remember: The Lord is with you!

Talk to you soon,

Pastor Renee

 

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New Decade, Old Things

As the Brookdale church family we now have the privilege of entering our 120th year of ministry.  On November 28, 1899, in a private home on 41st and Dupont Avenue North, a group of 20 or so Swedish immigrants covenanted together to form what would become Camden Covenant church. And then when they outgrew that building, they relocated in 1956 to our current location in Brooklyn Center. 

 

So altogether we have 120 years of history in North Minneapolis and in Brooklyn Center.  Our church home since 1956, at the intersection of Highway 100 and Brooklyn Boulevard, is about a mile and a half from the home where 20 immigrants first met, sang, read scripture, and prayed together.  This apple didn’t fall far from that tree.

 

I’ve been thinking about this long history a lot lately.  I have been thinking of that small group of people, probably all non-English speakers, and wondering what they would make of us–indeed of the world today!  Our two worlds, though only separated by one mile, seem light years apart.  There is no way they could have predicted much of life as we know it in 2020.  Could they advise us?  Would they have wisdom to share? Would they just shake their heads in total confusion?

I often find myself looking at the wonderful pictures that Diana Lundquist hung on the hallway across from the Prayer Chapel.  Every time I come out of that chapel there is a trio of black and white photos from 1927, 1939, and 1949.  Some of us long-timers can still name some of those faces in the 1949 photo.

If you enter church through the handicap entrance, you see the brass plaque on the wall dedicated to those charter members who sat in a house on 41st and Dupont and felt the call to begin a church.  At the bottom of the plaque is this verse: “I have a goodly heritage”. It comes from Psalm 16:6.

Psalm 16:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    I have a goodly heritage.

I think it’s interesting that this verse uses geographic language.  I read it in several different translations, and they use words like: lot lines, boundary lines, and houses and neighborhoods.  Location, location, location.  I think we are exactly where God wants us to be.

It’s a serious thing to be entrusted with a building, a lot, or a history.  But we do have a good heritage!  Our founders may be flabbergasted by the world we inhabit, but I know we could find some common ground!  We could sing that new hymn they were learning, our #78,  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”.   (It wasn’t written until 1923 after all).   We might not be able to sing it all in the same language; they would be singing in Swedish, and we might have a mishmash of English, Lao and Spanish, but we could all agree on the truth of it.  Only because of God’s faithfulness are we still here.

Great is thy Faithfulness, O God my Father!

There is no shadow of turning with thee

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not

As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be

 

So as January unwinds we will begin with prayer.  We will renew our commitments. We will ground ourselves once again in the Word and the work.  And with God’s help, we will be faithful.  Not perfect.  But faithful.

 


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Are We There Yet?

This Is Thanksgiving Week: that week that kicks the holiday season into high gear. The fact that Thanksgiving is a little late this year only increases the pace of everything Christmas and everything Advent.

 We concluded our Fall Road Trip with Jesus last Sunday.  I hope you enjoyed these parables as much as I did.  Thank you for coming along.  Special thanks to Julie Fick for dressing up the stage with all the travel props each week!  I liked coming into the sanctuary and wondering what she’s been up to this week!

The question that always gets asked by kids and impatient adults on any road trip I have ever been on is, “are we there yet?” It fits with last week’s review of the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated.  Is the Kingdom here yet?  I remind you of the words from Kline Snodgrass, and his commentary that served as one of our guidebooks: Stories With Intent.  He writes that when Jesus was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, or was present, he did not mean that the end of the world was present.  “It means that all the promises of the Old Testament scriptures, especially the prophets, had begun with Jesus’ actions and words”. 

So that’s where we’re headed next: back to the beautiful Advent promises from the book of Isaiah.  If there is one thing I have come to realize in these weeks, it is that we followers of Jesus straddle the two Kingdoms: the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of heaven.  Christmas: with all of its wonderful and terrible cultural traditions and Advent: the Churches’ Holy season of Waiting co-exist.  But while we are in the House of the Lord, we will seek first his Kingdom.  Because that is at least in part, what we are waiting for. 


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Only God knows the future…

In July, our Brookdale youth attended a Pulse Revival Night outdoor worship at Minnehaha Falls Pavilion.  It was a beautiful night! Minnehaha Falls were flowing fast and fantastic praise songs flowed from the pavilion and pulled onlooker in. This worship gathering is student led, a Minnesota based outreach mission with purpose to connect today’s student generation and awaken culture to the reality of Jesus. The praise songs in the park were amazing!

Some of our wise and curious youth student’s captured notes on their smart phones during the event. These notes directed some great questions and allowed us to explore and dive deeper into important truths about who God is and how God wants to be in every moment of our lives.

Sharing a couple highlights with you from our youth. These takeaways are from the message shared in the park…

1. First fun Smart Phone Student Note we explored.

The evangelist speaker boldly asked us all this question. I think we all leaned in to hear with blank faces. So glad our students were curious.

Wise Question:

          “Do you know why the devil always brings up your past?”

           God’s Answer:  Because the devil doesn’t have a future.

Only God knows the future… this we can celebrate. The devil does not know what God has planned. God guides us in the present and into our future. This shows how powerful God is and how much He loves us and desires good for us all. God will not lead you toward an opportunity that contradicts what he clearly says in his word. God will give you strength and courage and the power to do good. (Joshua 1:9)

So, we must ignore the self-critical thoughts (from a sneaking devil speaking). The devil will always try to stop you from doing good or being joyful. Any unkind names or things people, coaches, teachers, adults or even strangers have said to us in the past, we must speak God’s truth and blessing into. The devil may want us to keep thinking about them or keep holding us back because of a mistake or sin we did or was done to us. But we as believers is Jesus must Stop! Pray, ask God for truth about who he created us to be. Stop thinking untruths that limit us or keep us from joy and doing good. And we must Believe the truth that each of us, we are good because God created us and God looked back and said, “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Jesus has already forgiven us and Jesus forgives others so we need to find our best attitude, forgive ourselves and others and ask God about our futures and what he desires for us as we walk joyfully, humbly, love mercy, and do justice. We believers should remind each other to seek God to equip us, and knock for God to open new doors for us because as Christians we are sons and daughters of a mighty God who loves us, forgives us and makes a way (even when we can not see the way or we can not see all the amazing good God has created in each of us).

We decided that every time the devil brings up our past, makes us think less of ourselves, we will just speak firmly God’s promise over it:

“For I know the plans I have for you (speak your name),”
declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you (speak your name)

and not to harm you (speak your name),

plans to give you (speak your name) a hope and a future.”

(Jeremiah 29:11) 

Remember, how does God increase our faith?
Faith comes through hearing, hearing the word of God (hearing Jesus). (Romans 10:17, Hebrews 4:2) What happens when we hear our name in the Words God speaks? Spiritual transformation where God changes our thinking, creates new perfectness in our hearts and makes new things start happening!

Only God knows the future… Believe. How wonderful is this truth for you? I invite you to stop and pause, breath deep and know in your heart God hears the devil speaking about your past, God is with you, God is always speaking and the holy spirit is guiding because God has a wonderful word for your present moment and an amazing plan for your next step into your future.

Only God knows the future… (quite simply the devil does not know your future).
Thanks be to God.

 

2. Second fun Smart Phone student Note we explored.

What is Fasting? What did he mean fasting in today’s times?

The speaker was talking about how even in difficult times where his parent failed in leading the family and mentoring love, healthy guidance and faithfulness. He shared about having a dad who believed in God but made a cascading series of some poor choices leading to drug addiction and a separated broken family. He knew his dad loved him, but some things are too hard for us to understand in why people leave good people or fail in relationships. Deep, moments where I am sure everyone walked with God into some part of their own story paralleling with a deep need for God to come in and smother with love. So the speaker spoke of how he prayed with fasting.

Students read this smart phone note back to me and asked, “What is fasting?”

Fasting as a spiritual practice with God, the speaker explained is different from old testament days where fasting is what the people of God did in prayer when they need God to come down.

The speaker confidently claimed we live with Jesus here, our reality today is after Jesus has powerfully conquered death on the cross and for us as believers Jesus forgives all sins and blunders. So fasting today …. He said is that practice where we give up something we love and desire purposefully to direct us to seek God to focus on how powerful, almighty and loving God is and ask God for help every time our body or thoughts desire food or whatever we are fasting from. What we select to fast from, in honoring putting God first, can be a good thing like eating, or can be abstaining from a tempting not so good thing like swearing, drinking, complaining, murmuring… Maybe God loves to see what we choose to give up each time we fast to honor loving Him!

Smart phone interesting note with fasting…

Fasting is about “believing” and increasing our faith. The speaker spoke about how God so deeply desires for us to believe.

 

Did you know that the Bible Gospel Book of John is focused on the theme of believing in Jesus? The speaker said something jaw-dropping, he said the word “Believe” is mentioned 90 times in the book of John!” No kidding, we thought “What? 90 times!” so we googled it on the way home, we tested the evangelist and sure enough, he is right.

Activity you may like to do…
Challenge part one, if you choose to accept it, is to read the book of John in the bible and count occurrences of “Believe”.

Fun Faith building Facts:

  • John, Gospel book of John, used the verb believe at least 90 times which is more than all the uses in the Synoptic Gospels … through the reading of the Gospel of John than any other book in the Bible!
  • The main purposeful message in the book of John is so that,
    “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, also John 19:35).
  • The Greek verb (pisteuo means believe) ‘believe’ is used about 90 times, the adjective pistoV ‘believing’ twice. But interesting is the noun pistiV ‘faith’ is not used at all in the Gospel book of John. Aside from the Bible books second and third John, the Gospel book of John is the only book in the New Testament not to use the noun form of believe “faith”, but by far the Gospel book of John has the greatest frequency of the verb “believe”. Faith as a verb implies faith is an action, something the holy spirit helps us do.
  • No wonder John boldly called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in the book of John (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 20:2 and John 21:7, John 21:20)

Do you call yourself “the one whom Jesus loves?

Challenge part two, if you choose to accept it, Go a whole week and for a minimum of 3 times each day speak out loud, “I (speak your name) am the one whom Jesus loves”. Remember faith grows through hearing, hearing the word of God. Wonder what the Lord your God might speak to you.

Quick Summary, we learned that fasting for in today’s times is different than before Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Today, we fast as a spiritual practice to help us put God first and believe in Jesus. When we believe in God the eyes of our hearts open up and we see more, we see God is faithful.

Believe. Remember praying and fasting for people who love God is cool and life-giving and faith muscle building!

We are all called into the mission of awakening culture to the reality of Jesus. We must remember we are all needed, and our youth and children are a key part in this mission.

The mission of awakening culture to the reality of Jesus, starts with self and believing!


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