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Parenting: Fun Over Time

Posted by Barbara Farland on OA8er @ 8:47 AM

The Bible is full of stories about festivals to celebrate what God has done, parties to praise God, and so much more. We were created to have fun. Fun draws us deeper as a family no matter the age and connects us to the God who loves us unconditionally.

At Calvary, we know and profess the importance of relationship—our mission statement even bears testimony to this. And according to Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, youth ministry experts and authors of Playing for Keeps, “fun” is God’s desire for our relationships with each other—and with Jesus!

Somewhere along the way, we [got] confused and [started] thinking, “It’s a sin to have fun.” But maybe the truth is “It’s a sin not to have fun”

No, fun doesn’t trivialize our mission. And yes, we are called to self-discipline, suffering, and sacrifice.

Just make sure you don’t leave out the joy. We are also called to celebrate, fellowship, live fully, and enjoy.

It’s more than just okay to have fun. It’s actually a command—or at least a strong suggestion. The word “fun” may not be in the Bible, but all its relatives are there.

Consider the story of Ezra, Nehemiah and their fellow Israelites as portrayed in our text for this coming weekend (Nehemiah 8:5-12). After Jerusalem was rebuilt and those who had been in exile returned to be among their kin, the whole community came together in celebration around God’s Word. But the mood turned south fast. As the deeper meaning of the words entered their hearts, the Israelites grieved how they had not upheld God’s Law. They wept over their brokenness. But Ezra, Nehemiah and the other Levites reminded them of what we also often need to be reminded of: “...the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Not piety or contrition, though these certainly have their place in our journey as God’s people. No, instead God says joy is the overwhelming reaction He wants us to experience as we live out His Word. This means parties, laughter, dancing and all kinds of fun born out of our response to the gift and hope of the Gospel. This means meeting kids and offering them opportunities to grow in their faith in ways they know and love well!

Joy and fun is where we can find common language and experience together—where we can help kids know they are loved, they belong and they are not alone. In this final week of our parenting series, we’re going to delve into this incredible responsibility of leading kids into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ... and we’re going to consider the fun we all can have in the process!

Parenting: Stories Over Time

Posted by Barbara Farland on OP2er @ 2:28 PM

In Harry Potter by J.K. Rowlings, there is something captivating about an orphan boy who should never really have a chance in life being selected and watched over by people who care deeply about him. At the same time, he has no clue it is happening. The stories of the adventures Harry goes through and the challenges he faces allow the reader to escape to a different world and imagine what it would be like to play Quidditch. This story pulls at our heartstrings when we realize that Harry’s mom gave her life in order to save her son’s life out of her unconditional love for him.

Stories speak to our hearts in ways that nothing else can. No matter our age, we all love a good story. God has wired us to respond to story and uses stories as a way to communicate with us. God chose to reveal His plan for us in a book we call the Bible—66 books written by 40 different authors over 1,600 years. It tells of different people from kings, priests, prophets, nomads and fishermen. All of their stories connect to one story about God and His love for us through time. Jesus told parable after parable to help explain the kingdom of God to people. God connects His people to truth and to Himself through stories.

Reggie Joiner, the founder and CEO of Orange, asks the question, “Have you ever wondered what grandparents, fiction and the Bible have in common? Probably not. But if you think about it, they represent at three three different kinds of stories that shape a child’s perspective about the world.” We would add that as we tell stories over time to our kids, we help them understand more of who they are, where they belong and we give them purpose for the life they have been called to live. Stories over time, just like words over time, give a kid identity, belonging and purpose.

As parents and as a church family, we have the incredible opportunity to tell stories to the next generation. Stories of how we have seen God work in and through us. Stories of our life experiences and the fun and trials we have been through. We get to share with them the stories of the God we love in the Bible. Finally, we get the incredible privilege of inviting them into God’s story and helping them grow to know the promises of Jesus in their lives. We can’t just tell the story once. We have to keep telling kids stories over time.

The power of stories over time give kids a chance to see a God who is bigger than anything they are going through, a God who loves them no matter what and a God who wants to be in a relationship with them. We hope you can join us this week as we dive into the story of Scripture together for the sake of the next generation.

Parenting: Words Over Time

Posted by Barbara Farland on OP1er @ 1:42 PM

Time. It’s the commodity that we are always spending, usually running out of, often wasting, underestimating and wishing we had more of. There are seasons of life where time seems to move simultaneously at a snail’s pace and, at the end of the day, we ask where it went. Being intentional with how we steward our time is a biblical practice.

When it comes to parenting or leading kids, it’s easy to forget what matters most. Time seems to move at a particularly fast pace. We may feel like taxi drivers most of our day, managing schedules and keeping track of what time we need to be where. Kids move through developmental life stages at a rapid pace. One day, they can’t talk or walk or be alone for more than five seconds and then the next day, they are packing up their car and leaving home.

In Psalm 90:12, the Psalmist writes, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” As parents, we have approximately 936 weeks with our children from the time they are born until they graduate from high school. For small group leaders and church leaders, the time is even less. We only have around 30 weeks maximum, and a very limited number of hours. Don’t panic. There is wisdom in paying attention to how much time we have with our kids. Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of Orange, writes, “When you see how much time you have left, you tend to do more with the time you have now.” This is a reminder that what we’re doing now matters more than we think it does.

Anyone who has influence in the life of a kid (and this applies to everyone) has the opportunity to make a difference. What we do over time in the life of a kid matters. During the next three weeks, we will be walking through three things that every kid (and really, every one of us) needs: words, stories and fun. Each of these are clearly modeled in Scripture and have the capacity to dramatically affect the trajectory of a kid’s life. We can’t make kids love God or have faith, but we can give them words, stories and fun that helps to show them why they matter to God.

This first week, we will look at the power that words have in the life of a kid to shape identity, create a sense of belonging and determine direction. We see the power of words to help answer questions about who we are, whose we are and what our purpose is throughout the Bible. In Genesis, God speaks and His words create: “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Jesus comes and He is the Word made flesh. At Jesus’ Baptism, God speaks words of identity, belonging and purpose over His Son: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). When Jesus leaves earth to return to His Father, He doesn’t leave without first giving words of direction and mission to His disciples: “Go, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Words over time matter.

How might our interactions with one another change if we began to speak, intentionally and over time, words that impact another’s understanding of him or herself from God’s perspective? What if we spoke words that saturated a kid’s soul with the reality that there is a family of God that they belong to? What if every kid believed that they had a purpose and it was to participate in the work of God’s Kingdom on earth?

What you do this week—and every week—as you lead kids, matters. Join us this weekend to learn more!

Joy Ride: Marriage Part 3

Posted by Barbara Farland on OP3er @ 3:17 PM

One of the fascinating things about Jesus’ life and message is that He never shied away from talking about hard things. He also was not afraid to put Himself in situations that others might question in order to advance the Gospel message. This week we will be doing our best to reflect Christ’s example as we engage some of the Bible’s most difficult and misunderstood passages on marriage.

In Genesis 2, we see God establishing marriage and designing it to be a covenant. A covenant is different from a contract. The difference can be clearly seen in the following statements (Source: covenantmarriage.com):

Contract: I take thee for me.
Covenant: I give myself to thee.

Contract: You had better do it!
Covenant: How may I serve you?

Contract: What do I get?
Covenant: What can I give?

Contract: I’ll meet you halfway.
Covenant: I’ll give you 100% plus.

Contract: I have to...
Covenant: I want to...

The site goes on to define covenant marriage as “intended by God to be a lifelong relationship exemplifying unconditional love, reconciliation, sexual purity, and growth. A covenant is an eternal commitment with God.” Paul (Ephesians 5:21-33) and Peter (1 Peter 3:1-12) speak similar messages to the broken world in which we live. The truths brought forth in these passages are counter to what our culture believes. They make us uncomfortable, most likely because they require us to move outside of our comfort zone and give up control of our lives. Ultimately, they force us to wrestle with whether or not we believe the words of Jesus in John 10:10 when He says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” This is Jesus’ promise to all of those who choose to follow Him. Do we believe these words are true, even in the area of marriage?

In the third and final week of our marriage series we will examine the differences in the roles God has given to husbands and wives. We will discover how we can trust God’s design for marriage as we learn to trust, love and respect our spouses more. These are powerful truths whether you have been married for 50 years, five years or five months. If you are not married we hope that these truths will create a solid foundation for what your marriage will look like in the future or offer insight on how you can better support the married couples in your life. Marriage may not be one of the easier or most comfortable things to talk about in church. We recognize that no two stories are alike. However, we hope all of you will join us as we learn together what God’s Word holds when it comes to this very important topic.

Joy Ride: Marriage Part 2

Posted by Barbara Farland on OA10er @ 10:36 AM

Our “Joy Ride” series continues this weekend with a special message featuring insights from Karen Stevensen, a long-time full-time pre-marriage and marriage counselor who has also served in pastoral ministry. Using God’s Word as our guide, Karen, along with Pastor Carol Skjegstad, will help us understand the communication issues that affect marriage.

God created men and women with different sets of expectations and different ways to see the world around us. Many marriages begin with a heightened sense of passion, love and hope, but it might not be too long before our differences become more of the focus. It might not be too long before we deny Christ with our actions towards our spouses, resorting to our old ways of life versus celebrating the new creations He intends to make of us through our marriages. But by His strength, the truest forms of passion, love and hope can reside between husbands and wives throughout all their years together!

Karen has been described as down to earth, real and realistic in her work with engaged and married couples. No matter how heavy the issue, her suggestions and ideas are easy for couples to incorporate into their lives and effective in bringing their relationships under the authority and care of Jesus. This weekend’s message will include a video interchange between Karen and Pastor Carol—we hope you are looking forward to the conversation. Single, engaged, married or divorced—everyone is invited to glean new information on why God created marriage, designed it as He did and calls all of us to honor it.  

Interested in learning more beyond our message series? The following resources are recommended by Calvary’s pastoral staff:

NOTE: Consider Amazon Smile
If you choose to purchase any of the books listed above—or anything else for that matter—please consider setting up an Amazon Smile account so that a portion of your purchase may be donated to Calvary. Simply go to smile.amazon.com to set up or log into your Amazon account and to choose your beneficiary (Calvary is listed as “Calvary Lutheran Church Of Golden Valley”). Thank you!

 

Joy Ride: Real Life Is a Journey

Posted by Barbara Farland on OP4er @ 4:32 PM

The journey of life is full of ups and downs, trials, and hardships. However, when we follow Christ, God promises His joy in the midst of whatever we are experiencing. Wherever you at on this journey, we want to invite you to come and see the joy that is available to all who believe. Please join us over the next few weeks as we discover together the "Joy Ride" God has for us when we choose to follow Him.

The world and culture around us have a lot to say about marriage. However, the Bible has a lot to say about marriage as well. As we look at marriage, its purpose and God's plan for it, we need the voices of people in all places on the journey—those married, single, divorced and widowed.

God desires for marriage to reflect the harmony He enjoys in the Trinity, yet humanity has labelled marriage as a certain source of conflict and resentment. We can see this in the imagery of Ecclesiastes 4:12: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." When we invite God into the marriage covenant, we deepen the value we place on marriage as followers of Christ.

God yearns for marriage to demonstrate a commitment that reflects His own generous and loving Spirit, yet humanity often ridicules marriage for the sense of obligation and supposed lack of freedom it brings into couples’ lives.

God presents marriage as a metaphor for Christ and His church, yet humanity remains blind to His will across all of our relationships, be them with our spouses, children, community and world.

Though “happily ever after” has never been part of God’s vernacular around marriage, it’s clear He designed it to be more than what we’re willing to receive from it. Taking a cue from our recent celebration of Easter, we have the opportunity to look at all facets of our lives with resurrection power—not to settle for what the world has conned us to believe about marriage and other life priorities, but instead, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to accept and seize the joy that God has woven into every fiber of His plan. We hope you’re looking forward to the ride!

 

Easter & Holy Week: “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Posted by Richard Knopf on OP5er @ 5:18 PM

Throughout our Lenten journey, we’ve focused on who Jesus says He is: “the bread of life,” “the good shepherd,” “the gate” and everything the world’s great “I Am” claims to be. Now, in Jesus’ darkest hours and in preparation for the Good News of Easter, God asks us to respond to the most important question of all time: “Who do you say that I am?”

This was the question posed to Jesus’ disciples as the revolutionary purpose of His life and ministry became more widely known and challenged. This was the question that settled deeply into the disciples’ hearts as they continued to follow and learn from Jesus from the hills of Judea to the Galilean seashore. And this was the question that proved to be their breaking point as the cry for Jesus’ death overwhelmed the courts of Jerusalem and tested the disciples’ trust and devotion.

If we’re honest with ourselves, would we have stood firm in our faith as part of that scene? Even today, do we boldly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Risen Savior of the world? We know we fail and that reality breaks our hearts but, just as it did with the disciples, may our repentance and Christ’s forgiveness embolden us for our next steps in loving and serving Him!

This week, we have the opportunity to contemplate our own tendencies to reject Jesus—our own sin that led to His torture, crucifixion and death. But Easter’s coming! As Jesus rises from the dead and conquers death for all time and all humankind, we are given the chance—over and over again—to say, “Yes, I receive Jesus as my Savior. I believe! He is risen indeed!”

Calvary exists to support and strengthen you and all people for that very thing. May our Holy Week Art Show inspire you to join fellow believers in expressing your faith in profound, beautiful ways. May our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services bring the reality of Christ’s obedience and suffering into very personal perspective. And may the joy of Easter give you continuous hope and reassurance that Jesus is who He’s always claimed to be: alive and almighty forevermore!

Holy Week Art Show schedule>>

Easter & Holy Week schedule>>

 

Giving Generously Within & Beyond Calvary

Posted by Richard Knopf on OA11er @ 11:38 AM

From Pastor José Macías, Associate Pastor

Palm Sunday commemorates when Jesus enters Jerusalem on His way to offer Himself for our sake—by far the greatest gift of all time. It’s this gift that propels our own giving to the work of the church and for the sake of the world.

Though Christ’s journey to the cross is not what God expects of our lives, there are qualities within Jesus’ generosity that should inspire our own. First, Jesus’ giving was intentional. Throughout His ministry, He constantly examined His current actions and next steps with the will of His Father. He knew His existence on Earth was preordained to accomplish a God-given purpose and He allowed the truth of Scripture to direct His path. This kind of intentionality is also our calling as we serve as Christ’s disciples.

Second, all that Jesus gave to the world was to glorify His Father in Heaven. And “all” means all! When it comes to giving, many of us tend to think of our offerings as our gifts to God, with the rest being up for grabs. But God asks us to be prayerful around all we have, entrusting everything to His plans. Of course, His plans often involve blessing us in special personal ways, but all glory is His when we surrender our desires to His leading and respond with gratitude versus greed.  

Finally, there’s the matter of sacrifice. Jesus endured betrayal, mocking, brutality and death, not for His own profit or pride, but instead with all of humanity’s salvation in mind. Sacrifice is also a quality that God asks us to emulate in our giving. Google defines “gift” as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment.” May our own giving consider the debt that Christ’s pain, suffering and ultimate sacrifice pays on our account.

Among our six priorities as a congregation is to “give generously within and beyond Calvary.” As we continue our journey to the cross over the coming week and anticipate the miracle of Easter, may we understand and demonstrate giving in ways that honor the gift of Jesus’ life, death and eternal kingship. May our “hosanna” ring clearly and loudly through our generosity every day of the year!

 

Jose Macias said...

Posted on OP2er @ 1:38 PM -
Rachel,

I am so glad that you were able to hear God's voice through my message. I wish you the best as you prayerfully look for direction.

Bendiciones,

Rachel Recknagel said...

Posted on OP10er @ 9:32 PM -
I was really touched by the message last week, I had been wondering if I made the right career choice by taking a position as a supervisor in my department. Wednesday before Palm Sunday I was considering a career change. it was bad. So my prayer for guidance was answered in the message Pastor Macias delivered. The phrase "if you want to make people happy.. sell ice cream." has resonated with me all week. I have shared this with several co workers and when one co worker today commented on how joyful I was, I said "I'm filled with God's love!" with all sincerity. I love my church!

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Working with Local & Global Partners in Christ

Posted by Richard Knopf on OP2er @ 2:30 PM

From Pastor Carol Skjegstad, Associate Pastor

Most of us have seen evidence of it firsthand: God creates a holy synergy through the connections we make and the partnerships we form with other individuals and organizations who, like Calvary, commit their work to the glory of Jesus.

Take, for instance, our Hope for the Hungry packing event in January. Without Feed My Starving Children, their recipe and ingredients for “MannaPack” meals, and their worldwide distribution network, we wouldn’t have been able to provide more than half a million meals to people who desperately need them. On the flip side, FMSC needed us to invest our time and money to accomplish their life-saving ambitions around the world.

Another example? Our Calvary Works day. Like last year, on May 21 of this year, we plan to scatter across the city to serve dozens of organizations that help us put our mission into action. They offer opportunities for us to enjoy the camaraderie of working side by side in service for Christ. As a result, we get to bless them with fresh coats of paint, newly planted flower gardens and all manner of fulfilled needs.

And Calvary’s commitment to partnership goes well beyond annual events. Every day we nurture our bonds with local organizations like PRISM, Redeemer Center for Life and Plymouth Christian Youth Center. Every day we pray for and do our best to expand the impact of our missionaries across the globe. Every day we honor our kinship with other congregations who join us in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to people from all walks of life.

There seem to be two important factors in building and maintaining effective Christian partnerships:

Uniting around what we have in common
When it comes to different Christian groups, our ministry priorities and strategies may be all across the board. Our rituals and practices may look very different in comparison. And our theological slants may lean this way or that. But all of these factors are insignificant in light of our shared God-given goal: to bring the hope of Jesus to all people. All together, we share in God’s mission, and God’s mission matters!

Give and serve sacrificially
Two weeks ago, Pastor Jason Roton helped us explore Calvary’s priority of uniting in outward-focused community. Calvary exists for the sake of the world, not for the sake of ourselves. One can definitely claim with confidence that, if it wasn’t for a spirit of partnership, our efforts in this vein would bear little impact. Thus, we strive to be generous and give well beyond what it takes to “run Calvary.” Pastor José Macías will speak more to this kind of sacrifice next week. Generosity is not just good practice—it’s yet another one of our main priorities.

If you are not acquainted with our main roster of local partners, global partners and missionaries, I encourage you to take a look. Let’s continue to pray for the great work they do to represent and lift up the mission of Christ. And let’s continue to celebrate how partnership allows us the privilege to know them, love them and work together!

Local ministry partners>>

Global ministry partners>>

Missionaries>>

 

Pastor Carol said...

Posted on OP2er @ 1:51 PM -
Amen Lisa! We are indeed blessed to be a blessing in this world! We are to be the hands that serve; the arms that embrace the broken-hearted; to feed the hungry; and to be a beacon of hope and light to the world! Thank you for being a beacon of Christ's hope and light to the children in Haiti.

Lisa Paulson said...

Posted on OA10er @ 9:22 AM -
So very true. We all have the capacity to reach out and help others from wherever we are. It was such a blessing for me to be able to see the complete circle of giving with Feed My Starving Children. From helping at the mobile packs.and giving money; and then overcoming my fear of going to a 3rd world country where I helped distribute the food to the missionaries, and then to actually serve the food to the child of Haiti. Wow!

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Equipping God's People to Serve

Posted by Richard Knopf on OP1er @ 1:19 PM

From Pastor Jason Roton, Associate Pastor

What do you look for in a church? Are you feeling challenged to stretch yourself and serve others beyond what you ever dreamed possible? As the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:12, it’s the responsibility of the church to “equip God’s people to do his work” (NLT).

Do you remember the first time someone trusted you to do something really important? Maybe it was your first time babysitting? Or your first job? The first time your parents left you home alone? Maybe it was the first time you were given the keys to the family car? Those keys meant freedom, trust and ownership. Jesus gave His disciples the keys to ministry when He sent them out. He gave them “authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness” (Matthew 10:1, NLT). The church has to be a place where we are giving away the keys to ministry to people of all ages based on their gifts, talents and passions. This is what Martin Luther meant when he talked about the priesthood of all believers. If Calvary is going to move forward and reach this generation and the next, we have to become a place that gives the keys of ministry away.

Of course, right now I can’t help but think of Lenten mentoring as an example of such equipping and such growth as a church body. It started with a call on the hearts of our mentors to invest themselves in our youth, perhaps in a way they had never considered or tested before. Then, back in February, we assembled as a group to prepare for the work ahead—to anticipate what it might feel and look like to be in faith conversations with kids. Then, after a kickoff celebration, the mentors were launched into ministry much as Jesus’ disciples accepted by faith how He would use them on the mission field. I’ve already heard great stories of what this year’s Lenten mentoring has meant to the spiritual lives of both mentors and mentees. To me, this only confirms that God’s promises are true and the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 are real—they’re ours and we’re living them today!

Again, Lenten mentoring is just one example, and you’d probably do much better than me in listing the countless ways we reflect Jesus’ plans for ministry at and through Calvary. I look forward to our gathering around God’s Word this coming weekend and processing together the invitation and the challenge to equip and to be equipped for His service. I’m certain that we have a lot to learn from each other, but most importantly, I trust that the Holy Spirit will inform our understanding and application of how we are to live confident and equipped in our mission for Christ. It’s an amazing privilege to be on this journey with you.   

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