Living HOPE in Christ, when 2 months ago, becomes a Lifetime ago…

What an uncertain, unexpected and interesting time we are living in. None of us began this 2020 year expecting to be social distancing (6 ft from others) or quarantined in our homes, unable to travel or live life normally. Many people are asking,

How do we, as Christians, respond during a time like this?

and
How do we, as Christians,  stand firm in our faith, and not fear when we are told this pandemic (Coronavirus COVID-19) will be spreading in contagion more rapidly in the upcoming weeks…, as we hear of tragic global experiences in other people populations of whom we care about?”

If you are not asking God directly these questions, about what you should do, Why not?
(the Bible says in Proverbs 2:6-8, ”All wisdom comes from the LORD and so do common sense and understanding, God gives helpful advice to everyone…”)

There are three things that we, as Christ-followers, can and are called to commit to doing, (this is what God has brought for me to share with you):

  1. Proclaim the expectant Living HOPE in Christ (Resurrection day is Coming Soon!)

In all circumstances, we remain committed to pointing others to the hope found only in Jesus. That’s our calling and privilege as believers, and we must make every effort to offer others hope that only He can provide. Our God is able. During this crisis, we have a great opportunity to share the truth of Christ with the world, and surely you must agree and think people are more open to receive Jesus and seek the One True God than ever before.

  1. Trust Jesus Christ with our worry, fear and anxiety.
    This means, yes God knows we as humans do experience fear. But we can hand (cast, 1 Peter 5:7) cast all your cares, fears and anxiety or stress directly up to God, and listen to the Wonderful Counselor.

A verse that comes to mind is Joshua 1:9 where God assures and commands us: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

As followers of Christ, we are called to be His living example in the midst of any worldly storm. We can submit our fears and anxieties to Him, knowing that He will be with us always (Matt. 28:19-20). He is God over this storm, over this pan-de-mic (panic is not of the LORD), over every situation in our lives. How we trust Him in this crisis is a powerful testimony to the world, do not panic, trust God and call or message your family and friends and speak and proclaim the living Hope in Christ our church is feasting on during this LENT and Holy Week – stay Spiritually Connected and Spiritually Strong! Remember God helps us stay Spiritually Strong, we are blessed so that do not need to do this alone.

  1. Remember our communities
Today, an overwhelming number of people are ruled by stress, anxiety and depression. This is a reality, with finances, food supply, health, education and real needs. We can remind others (as our inner self) that they are not alone. As believers, we are called to fellowship and to love one another. Though we are encouraged to stay in our homes and practice social distancing (6 feet apart a distance to protect from touch, talking coughing…), God has given us amazing technology — our smartphones, FaceTime, Instagram, Snapshot, Skype, Zoom and other platforms — to be able to connect with, support, and show Christ’s love to others.
Yes, you can even WORSHIP from home with our Brookdale Covenant Church family online via video or the audio (God speak to us through our hears and eyes directly to our hearts) – check Brookdale Covenant Church page on FaceBook or on our church website SERMONS page www.brookdalecovenant.org, and the let the Holy Spirit connect us in a twentieth century kind of way.
 

Think of the people in your life that you can encourage during this unprecedented time. Be like Jesus and reach out; take notice of those in desperate need of community just like Jesus stopped for the lame man by the pool and many others to bring real living Hope. Offer them hope, not a weak message but an expectant hope and ask them to pray with you. As God says many times, relationships matter. When we deepen our relationships with God and others, we begin to learn where they need Jesus, and how we can share our faith with them. End your call with a praise or thanks to God, this is what God has the Psalmists teach us (thanks Renee for teaching me the Psalms are tools to pray.)

During this crisis, our ministry at church is praying for your safety, your peace in Christ, your faith and about how to be a resource for you. We’d be honored to pray for you personally, reach out to any of us to bring your prayer requests. Do not be shy, because you are important! Do you know that the truth is, your problems are really not your problems, they are your church’s problems to share! This is how God works and God’s Family functions, when we are One with God, we become one with each other through the amazing interconnecting Holy Spirit. (YES, one of my amazing deep learnings in a walk with God an North Park Theological Seminary and some time in Renee’s office that is really a living room). We at Brookdale Covenant are here to encourage, pray, serve and help in any way we can. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, even though you are in Stay-at-home executive orders. God never gives these kinds of orders, because God is the Waymaker! 😊

We are each uniquely called as the Church of the LORD Jesus Christ to Pray and release our faith into this reality that is affecting lives around the world. You are a leader for others when you pray. YES, YOU ARE A DISCIPLE, and YOUR PRAYERS are more than adequate, they are PERFECT and NEEDED. God loves us and when our hearts join God’s heart for our good even with tears or joy and confidence…God Guides and God releases his powerful ways of creating new and bringing deliverance and healing!

Let’s Bless God by Praising God in Prayer and Praying for others around the WORLD and our dear family and friends.

As a lover of all our crazy fun youth and children, will you please commit to sharing God’s Good News and truth about what Easter really is about (Just Jesus) with our youth and children? And will you please cover them all in prayers! God loves all his children and we are to have child-like faith and child-like joy. Be joyful when you pray, even in suffering we can be filled with the Holy Spirit to exude joy!

Let’s Bless God and ask God to bless us!

May the GOD of HOPE (who loves you and knows you)
fill YOU with ALL JOY & PEACE as YOU TRUST in HIM.
So that YOU MAY OVERFLOW with living HOPE by the POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT. (Romans 15:15)

May we all continue Fasting on desperation by faith in Christ and
                                    Feasting on receiving the living Hope in Christ
Remember Jesus sent you the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit to be present in you at all times!  Yes, You are really never alone!

Share the GOOD NEWS, Jesus has already Risen from the dead & He lives so that we live!

Until the whole world hears,


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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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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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