Written by : Chaplain Chris Belfield
In a previous encouragement, specifically last week, the subject was signs of the season. This is almost a natural follow-on. A sure sign of summer is a good rain, followed by an uncomfortable hot spell and suddenly the world is a distinct and lustrous green. How did that happen so quickly? Regardless, there is now new growth everywhere. Another one of the sure signs of new life is the unique presence of motorists stopping in front of our house to take pictures. Now, I'd like to think it's because Cathy and I are so photogenic, but the truth of the matter is that it's our foliage, and we had absolutely nothing to do with it. It's the lupines. This year they are everywhere, even where we don't want them. The front of the property is covered with so many purple, and a few pink lupines that people stop to take pictures. In years past, a few even stopped to assist us in culling the abundant harvest, without our consent. I think this year I will put out a free-will donation box and see what happens. Maybe not as I may have to declare the proceeds as earned income. Last year, Cathy spent many hours toiling to produce a beautiful tiered garden that promised a wide variety of colorful plant growth for this year. To quote a familiar line from the movie, Christmas Vacation, "Cathy, I can see it in my mind." That's what was said all winter. Then the lupines showed up and had a family reunion in Cathy's garden. They have sealed their fate and will soon be a historical footnote. As though lupines were not enough, there were the other not-so-welcome signs of new life. The state bird, the mosquito, has declared our property to be the convention gathering site for this season. I’ll guess you are hosting them as well. I prefer to give my blood donation to a worthy source, and a mosquito does not qualify, but still manages to extract a sample…multiple times. And then there are those small gnats that seem impervious to any man-made repellants. Just remember that all winter we anxiously waited for this time. Last fall we spent lots of hours and sweat equity clearing undergrowth and brush to make passable trails through the woods. We should have taken pictures. You guessed it – new growth has once again reclaimed its natural domain. We are just interlopers battling nature. Then of course there is the lawn. Didn't we just cut it last week? No matter as it is due again. There is something almost Zen-like about cutting the lawn, trimming, and admiring the finished product. It almost seems appropriate to stand on top of the hill and proclaim, "Yep, we did that!" Another sign of new life is new construction to make life better and safer. We were impressed to read about the new road change proposal for the Stewart River at Betty’s Pies beginning this fall: New turn lanes to enhance safety and still let through traffic proceed with minimal delay. There are also new sidewalks being put in along South Avenue in town. And finally, there is the emerging new life for the community as we continue the steady exodus from COVID-19 restrictions. This is a testament to what can be done when a community pulls together for the mutual benefit of all. Now is a great opportunity to support our local businesses as they come back up to full capacity operations. It is also the perfect time, as is every day, to appreciate and thank God for the new life that he has given us through his Son, Jesus. Any time is a great time to just say, thank you, father. Our encouragement verse for this week is: Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” May you be blessed by God's word. ~Chris
First Lesson: Genesis3: 8-15
Responsive Reading: Psalm 130: 1-8
Second Lesson.2 Corinthians 4 :13- 5
Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
After spending several weeks in the book of John we are now back in the book of Mark. Remember that Mark’s gospel moves right along, Jesus is baptized, then is tempted by Satan in the wilderness and then off He goes – casting out demons, healing many – curing them of diseases, forgiving sins and even doing these things on the sacred Sabbath day of rest. Never once is Jesus accused of being a fraud or a fake – his power was evident for all to see. But where was his power from? I mean after all what kind of holy man hangs out with sinners and tax collectors. What kind of holy man breaks the sabbath to heal people
Jesus is on a mission – to set captives free. Way back in Genesis ch 3 Satan enticed Adam and Eve and lured humanity into a prison filled with sin, disease and death. Now Jesus is on the scene. Mark demonstrates throughout His gospel the power of Jesus. He was more powerful than demons, more powerful than thousands of demons (in Mark chapter 5 he cast a legion of demons out of a man), and he is more powerful than Satan himself. Ever since the fall in Genesis, Satan had plagued God’s children – in a way he kidnapped them and put them in prison. Some, in particular, those with demons or disease were almost in solitary confinement. Because of their affliction – their uncleanness - they were cut off from the temple and from others in the community. And now God himself, in Jesus, had come to set them free. And by healing them and setting them free – they were once again able to participate in worship and be a part of the community.
Have any of you heard of the radio program – unshackled? It is the radio ministry of Pacific Garden Mission – a rescue mission in downtown Chicago. The Old lighthouse as they call it has been a beacon of hope for Chicago’s street people for over 70 years. And by way of it’s radio program - Unshackled - the Lord has reached millions of people around the globe. The program broadcasts modern stories of people set free by Jesus. They are people very much like the people that Jesus ministered to when he was on earth in the flesh. They are the outcasts – so lost to drugs, alcohol, violence and prostitution that they lost any sense of worth or any connection with society long ago. They are shackled and imprisoned by sin and evil and they know it. I’d like to share the testimony of young lady named Kimberly Golphin. She describes being unshackled. It may not be as dramatic as other testimonies that you have heard but let’s listen her story. Kim writes her testimony and then shares some thoughts about faith. She begins
Before I experienced [real] Life, I was the cool type; hanging out, getting high and in trouble.
One day in April I was sitting in the back of my school with a friend when another friend asked me if I wanted to go across the street with her to get high. I said sure, why not. So I went. I noticed that all the while I was there I did not feel at all comfortable, I felt very dumb and out of place. I could not understand what was wrong with me. It seemed like the more dope I smoked the more out of place I felt. I tried lighting up a cigarette to see if it would help but I could not smoke away the deep conviction I [felt]. After returning to school I felt very sick. I told my friends that I would be back and that I was going to the nurses office to lie down. As I reached the nurses office, I ran into the bathroom and closed the door. It was pitch black in there, and I ran my hand up and down the wall trying to find the light switch; but it was of no use, the light switch was simply not there. Then I began vomiting all over the floor and all over myself, and I also began to shake uncontrollably. [I felt that] I was in the very presence of God. I heard a voice say where are all your friends now? Who can help you now? I said, You [can] God! She continues with some thoughts about her faith…She writes…There is more to Christianity than going to church every Sunday, singing in the Choir, and being on the usher board. Salvation Produces LIFE. this life [comes] Through Christ, for he said in John 14:6 I am the Way the Truth and the Life, No one comes to the Father but by me. I am now nineteen years old, and living my life for God. Oh Friend, I have peace that no party, joint, beer, sex or anything else could give [me]. For Christ said in St. John 14:27 Peace I leave you, My Peace I give unto you. The Scripture says in (2 Corinthians) 7:10 For Godly sorrow brings Repentance. [Once we are] tired of sin, tired of being mean and evil, tired of telling lies, tired of stealing, drinking, .. tired of being jealous and hating. Once we have reached this point [we recognize that] God is willing and able to help us and give us a brand new life. … The Scripture says in Romans 10:13 Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And In 1 John 1:9 it says If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, Romans 10:9-10 reads If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ..That is the end of Kimberly’s testimony and her comments
Those that have reached the bottom of the barrel or the end of their rope know very well that they are shackled and imprisoned. Every 12 step group for every addiction includes recognizing that a person is unable to free themselves. They know they need God to free them. Jesus is powerful and he has come to plunder – that is to thoroughly rob - Satan’s prison – Satan has trapped humanity and Jesus is setting them free. Maybe you are one of those folks that have been shackled. Oh shackles can look deceptively fun and harmless to begin with - but for many it leads to destruction, despair, and death. Jesus having the power and authority to set people free from Satan and evil is the main point of this passage but there is more. In addition to Jesus and Satan there are four groups that are mentioned – the disciples, the crowd, Jesus’ family and the scribes. The crowd was captivated by this powerful miracle working Jesus. As news about Jesus spread the crowds grew – so much so that he could hardly enter a village without being mobbed. Jesus’ family hears about his claims, his miracles and the crowds and they think he has lost his mind.
The scribes from Jerusalem are powerful religious leaders and since Jesus does not fit their idea of a holy man so they assume his power is from the devil. So Jesus goes about his work of freeing those that know they are captives – those shackled by sin or by living in a sinful world -the sinners, tax collectors, demon possessed and the sick. But how does the story unfold? If we jump to the end of the gospel, we know it is these scribes and other religious leaders in Jerusalem that lead the crowds to cry out crucify him. In the end we see that all suffer from sin – all are Satan’s prisoners. Whose sin nailed Jesus to the cross – the sin of all of them – the sin of all of us. Whose sin did He forgive – all of their sin – all of our sin. Most Americans think there is a hell but only ½ of 1% are concerned about going there. Almost 90% of people believe there is a heaven and 85% of those believe they are going there. Why do so many think they are going to heaven and why do they have little concern about hell? Many believe that they are going to heaven because they are basically good and surely a good God will let good people into heaven. The notion that people are basically good is a human idea. And it’s partially true – each of us is made in the image of God – but it overlooks the fact that that image was forever hopelessly distorted by sin. The Bible says in Romans ch 3 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In our passage and throughout the gospels the crowd looks on curiously and sees all the sinners being freed but I doubt that they thought they were imprisoned and in need of a savior. Maybe it’s kind of like people today listening to a radio program like unshackled or hearing a testimony about someone set free from drugs, alcohol, violence, or sexual addiction. We can look, like the crowds did in Jesus day, and think wow they really needed Jesus and this Jesus is really something look how he transformed their lives. But we can miss the fact that we are plagued by sin. I know what it’s like to be shackled. I know what it’s like to know that I need a savior. I know the joy and new life that there is in returning to God and it has been a joy to discover that I need Jesus every day to live free. There is a contemporary Christian song titled Mighty to Save – I’d like to read some of it’s lyrics to you
EVERYONE needs compassion ,Love that never failing ,Let mercy fall on me
EVERYONE needs forgiveness ,The kindness of a Savior The hope of nations,Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is Mighty to save,He is Mighty to save
Forever, Author of salvation,He rose and conquered the grave,Jesus conquered the grave
I don’t know where you find yourself in our gospel this morning - maybe in the crowd - maybe one of those that has been unshackled - set free - but wherever we find ourselves - we need a savior not just to be set free but so that we might live free. And we can take comfort knowing that our God is mighty – He is mighty to save. amen
Signs of the Season
Written By Chaplain Chris Belfield
Well, here we are at the unofficial beginning of summer. I say unofficial because there has been the misnomer that Memorial Day weekend begins summer. Forgive me, but summer does not officially commence until Sunday, June 20th – which also just happens to be Father’s Day this year. However, that being said, Minnesotans do not acknowledge summer but only the two certain seasons of the year: winter and road construction. It is for certain that road construction season has begun as the presence of orange is becoming prevalent along roadways in the form of cautionary signs and cones intruding at the most inconvenient locations. At least it's inconvenient when I am at the same location and my otherwise trusty cellphone GPS has failed to appraise me of the delays. In addition to road construction, there is the construction of a different type – building construction. This is good news as it signifies a returning economy with new, or updated business opportunities. Three noteworthy items are worth mentioning. There has been the anticipated grand opening of the Burlington Depot and Callie’s Sweet’s shop on the eastern edge of town. A Facebook posting even showed an impressive tour inside the new business which highlighted a sparkling interior and friendly staff. Up the shore on Highway 61, in Castle Danger, the new owners of the Rustic Inn have already begun new modifications to the building to enhance your dining experience. And finally, ground has been broken for the new Black Beach Mini-Golf Course in Silver Bay, which is anticipated to open later this summer. I am sure that there are many more local community events to be enjoyed, in addition to those mentioned here. Of course, there are other signs as well. There is the ever-popular and free semi-annual Two Harbors RV and Boat Show, otherwise known as Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. The traffic through towns sometimes is of almost historical proportions, but also a sure sign of a return to some semblance of normalcy. It is also a time of significant transition for high school seniors graduating. The photo banners around town are a great way to know who these proud graduates are. The local Dairy Queen is doing a brisk business dispensing a vast array of delights to meet the needs of ice cream aficionados. I am partial to strawberry sundaes, almost as much as the strawberry pie at Judy’s Café, which has also been enjoying a full parking lot. In amongst all of these noteworthy and appreciated signs is one that is a little more subtle, but ppreciated. There are fewer and fewer masking requirements. Patience, vigilance, and practicing sound safety precautions have brought us to this way station towards the conclusion of the pandemic. To be sure – we are not at the finish line yet, but so very close that we know we will hopefully celebrate it soon. With all of the signs of the season already considered, what is left? Plenty! Just a short preview of some of the exciting events we can look forward to including Grandma's Marathon is back and being held June 22nd. The Duluth Airshow is June 26-27 featuring the U.S. Navy aerial demonstration team, the Blue Angels. Closer to home we have our own Two Harbors Heritage Days, July 8-11, and the companion Silver Bay Days, July 9-11. Among these notable events is the season for camping, hiking fishing, traveling throughout the area, excursions on Lake Superior, and memories to be made with family and friends. It is also a season to take time and be thankful for what we currently have and the ability to share with others. A shared meal. A kind word of appreciation. A friendship rekindled after a long absence. Even just being present during difficult times, all go towards sharing the blessings that we have been allowed. Our encouragement verse for this week is: Psalm 146: 5-6 (NIV) “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them- he remains faithful forever.”
May you be blessed by God's word.
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
One of the inevitable signs of getting older is forgetfulness. Well, at least that's my excuse and I am going to stick to it. I readily admit that there are times that I need help remembering upcoming tasks and events. Years ago I developed the habit of putting down all the important events on a desk calendar so that I could refer to it as a memory jogger and also help with scheduling my time. I reasoned that if it was not written down in the calendar, I was not responsible as I didn't know about it. You can already imagine how well that flawed logic train worked. Now. With the technological advances over the years, it is easy to add events and tasks to home computers, tablets, and even cell phones so that there should be no excuses. There are programmed reminders when these devices are turned on.
What could be easier? Well, you have to take the time to enter the information first. I am old school and find it much easier to write it down on the paper desk calendar. I like the convenience (at least to me) of being able to flip through weeks and months at a time to see what I have done, am doing, and will be doing. There have been times, few thankfully, here I was supposed to do something or be somewhere and missed it. I checked the calendar and it was not there. Turns out I forgot to write it down.
Before you ask – I will already state that I am not so old school that I still have and use a Rolodex. I have made the leap to the 21st century and readily appreciate and embrace the use of the computer and phone to store all of my contact information. The only deficit noted is when there is a severed internet connection, which happened recently. Both the computer and home phone were disabled. Thank goodness the cell phone still worked. What did people do 50 years ago before all of this advanced technology? Oh, that's right – I was there, and we somehow managed to do just fine.
That brings us to the present and this week in particular. It is marked on my desk calendar that Monday is Memorial Day, so I don't have to write that down. If there was any doubt about it, the TV and radio have been extolling the great bargains that can be realized during this holiday weekend. Advertisements are telling us to have a happy Memorial Day. Why? Memorial Day is not a national holiday. It is a national day of remembrance. It is to pause and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that so many men and women in uniform made while serving to protect our country –you and me. One of the regrets due to COVID-19, and there have been many, was the activities we could not do publicly. In 2019, the students at the Minnehaha Elementary School hosted a Veterans Day Program for the area's veterans. It was one of the most moving and appreciated programs I have ever attended. Among my fellow veterans and myself, there was hardly a dry eye when done. These children were sincere in their appreciation and visibly showed it. As veterans, we will never forget their service to us.
Now it is Memorial Day weekend. How will you visibly show your support for those who died in service to our country? What will you be telling your children and grandchildren about this solemn day? The local newspaper last week listed the different activities occurring around the county on Monday. Do you have time to attend one? On Friday morning, volunteers will be placing small American flags at the graves of veterans. What a great way to pay respect. We have plenty of flags and can always use the help. This is a time not to forget what so many others have given to us through their sacrifice. It seems little enough for us to take the time to honor them appropriately. See you on Monday. Our encouragement verse for this week is: John 15:13 (NIV) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” May you be blessed by God's word.
First Lesson Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Psalm 139” 1-12
Second Lesson: Acts2: 1-21
Isn’t spring wonderful. It is busting out all around us. It seems that one day the trees were bare and the next they had leaves. There’s all the shades of green signifying new life. Things have been dry for a while and so the outpouring of rain from above is welcome.
Rain brings life – it is necessary for life. Much of the Middle East – including Israel is arid. it was particularly dependent on the outpourings of heaven. The Bible talks about a different kind of outpouring of heaven – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The rain pours down from the sky and gives new life to the land. It causes even the arid land to be fruitful. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is poured out giving new life that causes us to be fruitful. This is the outpouring that we celebrate today – Pentecost.
We think of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. But it wasn’t the first Pentecost. The Jewish people started celebrating Pentecost long before the Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Pentecost or in Hebrew Shavuot was one of the three annual festivals when people would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Shavuot was known as the feast of weeks – (or a week of weeks) starting 7 weeks after the second day of Passover. It was also known as the festival of first fruits.
It began as an agricultural festival as noted in Ex 23 and Deut 26. So that when the Israelites entered the promised land – the land promised to Abraham they would bring the first fruits of their harvest and offer them to the Lord – saying ‘I declare today to the Lord our God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ and then they would pray a prayer describing the bondage of their ancestors in Egypt, their deliverance and their dependence on God, who brought them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9). Jews were also required to give of their harvest to any poor dependents on Shavuot (“the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow”), so that the holiday served as an occasion for mercy and social equality. (https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/jewish-holidays/shavuot/)
Celebrated God’s faithfulness God’s deliverance and acknowledged their ongoing dependence on God. As they celebrated God’s blessing of fruitfulness – they recognized that the blessings were not just for themselves They were to share those blessings with those that couldn’t provide for themselves
Later there was less agricultural emphasis and more a celebration of the giving of the law – that time when the Lord had led them out of Egypt and gave them the law on Mt Sinai. Even though there is no clear biblical basis for the association of Shavuot. a number of rabbis calculated and believed that that was when the Law was given.
With time there was more and more Jews living outside of Israel in Greek speaking regions. In those areas Shavuot became known as the feast of the fiftieth day and the way you say fiftieth in Greek is pentecoste (pen-tay-kos-tay')
You may remember that the people got impatient with God and Moses during the giving of the Law and decided to make their own god – a golden calf. Moses came down the mountain and told them to repent and return to the Lord. 3000 refused and as a result died.
Over a thousand years after Moses - God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples while Jews from all over were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost/ Shavuot. The scene was wild – there was the sound of a rushing wind the Holy Spirit descended and filled Jesus’ followers. It appeared like tongues of fire were on each one. A crowd gathered - they were from many different places and spoke many different languages. And each one heard the disciples speaking in their own language. Even though it was morning they thought the disciples were drunk. Peter explained that that which the prophet Joel prophesied was happening right before their eyes. Peter’s Spirit filled words convicted them of sin and 3000 were given salvation – new life -on that day.
On Shavuot – Pentecost - ages apart the Law was given and 3000 died and the Holy Spirit was given and 3000 came to new life. Pentecost links the old and new covenants. Death and life. Law and Spirit.
Pul writes in 2 Cor 3 the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
All of our texts highlight the Holy Spirit bringing about new life. Ezekiel speaks God’s Word over a lifeless bunch of dry bones and by the power of the Spirit those dry bones come together – they take on flesh and then God breathes life into them He speaks To Israelites in exile God is the God of the God of the impossible – death -> life – fools -> children Word has power to re-create Eph 2.1 – dead in trespasses and sins. Dead ppl cannot do anything to make themselves live. Breathes life God brings life through His Word in the power of the Spirit. Preached word – Water n word – bread n wine.
Who’s doing the verbs in Ez I have spoken n I will do it. We too can experience drought despair
No matter how far we have strayed God is in the business of bringing us back to life – regenerating. NO one is too far gone Dead -> new life. The impossible being brought back. Eph 2.4 – 10 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead [i]in our wrongdoings, made us alive together [j]with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the [k]boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [l]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Skeletons when brought to life didn’t say look what I did. God alone doing the saving the regenerating the renewing Law we r hopeless in a dreadful condition dry bones w no hope of regenerating ourselves God is in business of bringing about New life God is the God of the impossible. Don’t trust what we see – don’t see whole picture what we feel.
Trust that God by His word and Spirit is creating new life
Word Spirit and Water - Word Spirit Bread n Wine - Preached word and Spirit
God is giving new life this morning Amen
Pastor Tom Summerfield
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
I readily admit that I have always had a fondness for instructions and checklists. I mean, they give direction and purpose and at the completion, there is peace and harmony within the cosmos. OK, maybe not that grandiose, but they do help us complete a task in a specified order. I remember as a youth building model airplanes from the included instructions. Somehow mine never came out looking like the box art. My first real accomplishment with instructions was in 1974 when I installed air shocks on my 1967 Plymouth Fury Commander. Bright yellow with a black hardtop, 4-speed, and 318 engine. It was so cool. So cool that a Maryland State Trooper noted that my rear bumper was eight inches too high. That took the air out of my shocks real-quick.
A few short years later I learned of the military’s love affair with checklists for almost every facet of life that can occur from sunup to sundown. However, to be fair – the checklists ensured not only the proper
functioning of multi-million-dollar systems, but also personnel safety. Think about the last time you were on a commercial aircraft and watched the crew go through their pre-flight and safety checklists. Checklists are good. Checklists are our friends.
So it is that my penchant for checklists has carried over to the present time. Last Fall was a perfect example. I had recounted in a previous encouragement all of the steps taken to prepare for the inevitable Winter and highly anticipated Spring. This included meticulous preparation of the veteran snowblower for another season of conquests and the lawn tractor for the Spring Beautification Program. And then reality reared its ugly head. Sure enough, the snowblower, after 18+ years of faithful service decided it was time for eternal rest as it was coming to the point of diminishing returns to keep it operational. The good news was we supported our local merchants with the purchase of a new blower, which got used a total of three times. Never fails. But there was the assurance that the preparations for Spring would prove fruitful. Wrong. Here comes reality again. The lawn tractor fired right up on Monday so that on Tuesday, I could vanquish the miscreant grass and weeds that detract from an otherwise beautiful landscape. Full of anticipation for a successful foray into the yard, I climbed aboard my trusty 18-year-old John Deere and engaged the starter. Nothing. Dead as the proverbial doornail (never quite understood that one.) After over an hour of multiple attempts and YouTube searches, nothing. Never fails. We spent the next three hours with a push mower taking care of the lawn. This unexpected physical exercise was instrumental in convincing us to once again support the economy with a new purchase. We
also supported our local economy through purchases of incredibly cold and delicious strawberry and pineapple sundaes. We ordered a new machine from the big box store with an orange roof but were surprised to learn that the new machine won’t arrive for 3-5 weeks due to an acute shortage as a result of COVID-19 limited production for the past year. Never fails.
Well, OK, checklists are great for planning but don't take into account the unexpected. That's a fact of life. Sixteen months ago, we were just at the threshold of learning about COVID-19 and what the possible impacts could be. Instructions and checklists were developed as we learned more each passing day. And along the way, we learned to not only adapt and carry on but in some circumstances, to even excel beyond our expectations. We did not give up or lose hope. And now we are eagerly anticipating the gradual changes that will permit us a return to a semblance of the normal activities that existed in 2019. We are so close, but not quite there yet. It reminds me of running track in high school. A distance runner knows how many laps are required to complete the event. The hardest lap is not the last lap, but the next-to-last lap because the desire is to just finish now. Here’s the insight from that experience: the end is in sight and just
requires the disciple that training has taught us to see this race through to the finish.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” May you be blessed by God's word.
Last evening as I was finishing up the sermon, I got a call from Brazil. It was my friend and brother in Christ Kevin Brinkman. He is on our prayers for the sheep. His family were missionaries to India and his wife had a severe and sudden bout of MS. They are in Brazil to be with his wife’s family so they can help with the care and support of her and their three children. His wife is making some progress, but it is slow. It was fun because I told him I would be preaching on John 17 and he said wow Tom I was just praying and meditating on John 17 a half hour before I called you. It got me to thinking how he would answer the question - where’s your home. He grew up in Iowa lived for many years in India. Married a woman from India whose mother still lives in India and father lives in Brazil. Where is home for Kevin. How about his children – how would they answer the question – where’s your home?
Children of missionaries aren’t ever truly at home in their missionary country nor are they truly at home in their “home” country. They are called “third culture kids.” Often the only place they feel at home is among other missionary kids.
Our ancestors were immigrants and often the first and second generation of immigrants would talk about the home country. My mom’s family had been in the US for many generations and yet she always dreamed of going to her homeland of Norway
The nation of Israel lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. Generation after generation was born and raised there and yet they never considered Egypt their home. Their homeland was the land that God promised to Abraham.
These missionary kids, our immigrant ancestors and the Israelites who lived in Egypt all had a sense that where they were living was not their home. Do you ever get that sense? We’re born into this world and we’ve never been anywhere else. And yet we never really feel at home here. We’re never at home with the pain and sorrows, with the growing old and dying, with all the losses, imperfections, darkness and evil. Nothing lasts here - everything is decaying and passing away. Even in the best of circumstances we have this sense deep down inside that something is not quite right in this world - that something’s missing. This place, as wonderful and beautiful as it can be – is not our home.
Chapter 1 through 12 in John’s gospel records Jesus public ministry John 13 through 17 records his ministry to his disciples during the evening of the Last Supper. Chapter 17 records Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays to God the Father and the disciples get to listen in on it. It gives them comfort, hope and assurance as Jesus prepares them for his betrayal, crucifixion, and departure.
Jesus prays 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from [e]the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 Just as You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world.
We are not of this world. But we are not to live apart or away from the world. For hundreds of years some Christians were so fed up with the evil in society and the evil even in the church that they set up separate places and communities to live holier lives. That’s how monasteries were formed. And guess what – the evil isn’t just out there it’s in here. You can’t run away from it no matter how hard you try. Monasteries just invented new ways to sin – namely trying to attain righteousness – trying to earn salvation by their own efforts.
Jesus prays to the Father for those whom the Father had given Him,
Out of all the people in the world you and I are the ones that the Father has chosen to give to Jesus. We are each special and unique creations of God and at the same time ordinary sinners – just like the fishermen and tax collectors that God the Father chose to give to Jesus 2000 years ago. God gave them faith He gave them the Holy Spirit and He gave them His Word. Jesus prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil one and then sends them out. God gives us those very same things - the same faith, the same Holy Spirit the same Word and just like the original apostles - he sends us into the world – We have been entrusted with God’s Word and God’s message of good news. And God empowers us to proclaim this good news with our words and deeds – all for the sake of this world that God loves so much.
We are in the world not of the world. God picked you and me out of this world and gave us a new home. And one fine day we’ll join Pr Stew and all the saints that have gone before us. We’ll no longer be missionaries in this strange land. We’ll be home. Amen
First lesson Acts 10 34-48
Responsive Reading Psalm 98
Second Lesson 1 John 5 1-8
Gospel Lesson John 15 9-17
This week’s gospel lesson is a continuation of last week’s and so as we look at today’s gospel lesson we want to have last week’s in mind. Last week was all about the vine and branches and how we must stay connected to the vine if we are to bear any lasting fruit. This week Jesus explains how abiding or remaining in Christ and bearing fruit are tied to love. Last week’s passage didn’t mention love once and now love is all over the place - 11 times in our passage and 5 times in verse 9 alone. Jesus ties his love for us to the Father’s love for him – AS the father has loved me SO I have loved you. He commands his disciples to abide, remain - rest in his love.Then he goes on to say IF you keep my commandments You WILL abide in my love JUST AS I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love – again Jesus ties our obedience to his commandments - to his obedience to the Father’s commandmentsJesus makes his command very clear - love one another AS I have loved you. Isn’t that incredible? – AS I have loved you. Jesus didn’t avoid those that were difficult to love, he didn’t politely tolerate them, he didn’t love us in a patronizing way. He tells us and shows us what it means to love – laying down one’s life for another. While we were still sinners Christ died for us – we were enemies of God and enemies of the cross and yet Christ willingly stretched out his arms and poured out his blood for you and for me. Seeing as we are celebrating Mother’s Day today I’d like to share an example of the self-sacrificing love of one mother. On December 7, 1988, 55,000 people were victims of the worst earthquake in the history of Soviet Armenia. Susannah Petroysan and her 4 year old daughter Gayaney, had gone to Susannah's sister's apartment. It was on the 5th floor of a 9-story building. When the earthquake struck, Susannah just had enough time to gather her daughter in her arms before the floor gave way beneath them and they fell into total darkness. The entire building collapsed, and when Susannah regained consciousness, she was in complete darkness. She heard her daughter crying in her arms and reaching above her head she felt a concrete panel 18 inches above their bodies. Hours passed without any sign of rescuers coming to their aid. Gayane began to cry incessantly - she was thirsty. As time when by, the little girl's cries began to grow weaker until her mother realized it was likely that her child would die of dehydration before rescuers could find them. In desperation she felt around in the rubble and miraculously found a jar of Blackberry jam. Hours later the jam was gone and the little girl was still crying. "Mommy I am so thirsty, please Mommy give me something to drink." But there was no juice, no water, nor liquids of any kind available to save the life of her child. In desperation she cried out to God to help her save her daughter. At some point, Susanna had an idea. She remembered a television program about an ex- plorer in the Arctic who was dying of thirst. His comrade slashed open his hand and gave his friend his blood.“I had no water, no fruit juice, no liquids. It was then I remembered I had my own blood.”Her groping finger, numb from the cold, found a piece of shattered glass. She sliced open her left index finger and give it to her daughter to suck.The drops of blood weren’t enough. “Please, Mommy, some more. Cut another finger.” Susanna has no idea how many times she cut herself. She only knows that if she hadn’t, Gayaney would have died. Her blood was her daughter’s only hope.Eight days after the earthquake they were rescued. Susannah had saved her child's life through the gift of her own blood. This is a great example of selfless agape love. It portrays the way that parents often lay down their lives for their children. Not many of us have the opportunity to lay down their lives in such a dramatic way but day in and day out parents and caregivers lay down their lives to nourish the children entrusted to their care.Mother’s day is a wonderful celebration of motherhood. It’s got to be one of the busiest phone days of the year. Everyone is calling Mom. But when we mention the word mom, mother or Mother’s Day it triggers a wide range of emotions. For many it brings to mind an image of mom straight from a Norman Rockwell painting – mom the caregiver, the one we run to when we are hurting whether it is a scraped knee or a wounded heart – the word mom conjures up memories of warm hugs, incredible fragrances pouring out of the kitchen – turkey dinners, pies and cookies. At the same time, we recognize that human life is fleeting, and that human love and relationships aren’t perfect. So, while the mention of mom may bring a broad smile to one person, to another it may bring tears. Maybe it’s tears for a dear mom that has recently passed away. Or tears to a mom that has lost a child. Or tears for someone that would love to be a mom but hasn’t had the opportunity. Maybe thoughts of mom cause us to cringe from the hurts that we suffered or from guilt for the pain that we inflicted as a child or as a parent. We live in a fallen world and yet sometimes we are blessed to experience a taste of selfless love.I love the story of Susannah and her daughter. It is such a graphic picture of selfless love. And the corollary to Christ’s love is so apparent. By her blood she saved her daughter and by Christ’s blood we are saved. So we celebrate all the glimpses of selfless love that we have known, particularly today those of mothers. And at the same time we lift up to our God – in the name of the one who shed his blood for us -all the pain and guilt that we have suffered as children, as mothers, and as those that have longed to be mothers.The Bible tells us of a number of different mothers and I’d like to refer to these various mothers as we pray.
Let us pray We remember the mother and grandmother of Timothy - Lois and Eunice. They raised him in the faith. Faithful God, we thank you for mothers who teach us your Word and encourage us in our faith by example; fill us with your Spirit and empower us so that we might also teach your Word and proclaim our faith with our lives.We remember Abraham’s wife Sarah who was taunted by others in the household because of her inability to have children. And we pray for those who have struggled to be moms and feel left out this day when we celebrate mothers.Lord we remember Esther, who was raised by her cousin. and we give you thanks for children that come to parents in a variety of ways. We give you thanks and we pray for foster mothers and those that have become mothers through adoption.We remember the mother of Moses, Pharaoh demanded that all Hebrew boys be put to death and so she placed him into a raft on the river. Saving God, we pray for parents who struggle to raise their children in oppressive circumstances.We remember Hannah, who loved her child so much she handed him over to another to raise. Loving God, we pray for parents who have entrusted their child to the care of another.We remember Ruth’s mother in law - Naomi, who grieved the death of her sons. God we give you thanks for the children that have been entrusted to us for a time and we pray for parents who mourn the death of a child.We remember Ruth, who gave up her family to be family to another. and we pray for those who choose to be family to those isolated by culture, language or distance.We remember John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth, who had a child in old age and we remember Mary the young mother of our Lord. And we pray for mothers of all ages We remember Rachel, crying for her children. and we pray for those mothers whose children are victims of evil and violence. We pray that you might keep children from evil and that they might live safely in their communities. We remember other mothers, not named in the Scriptures, like the mother of the prodigal son. and we pray for mothers who wait for a phone call or a visit, cut off from family and friends by distance or disagreement.
Nurturing God, we give thanks for those who enrich our lives by their presence who teach us about your abundant love who encourage us in our faith. amen
Susannah gave her blood to save and sustain her daughter. Christ gave his blood to save and sustain us. In the blood there is forgiveness, in the blood there is healing, in the blood there is love. Amen
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
Where has the time gone? An often-heard phrase but for some over a certain age, it has more meaning to reflect on just how quickly the years have passed. Well, at least it seems that way. True, there are still 24
hours in a day and 365 days in a year, give or take a day courtesy of leap year. It seems just like yesterday that I was taking my driver's license test in a 1968 Ford Fairlane fastback. No, the car was not brand new and I am not quite that old…yet. And then in what seems a very quick succession, two full careers, a family, a lifetime of experiences, and now into the leisure of retirement. Retirement is probably more active than during the working years. One of the regrets, and there have been many, is that I did not take the time to find out about relatives near and distant as I was growing up.
Both sets of grandparents, paternal and maternal, had been born either in the 19th century or shortly after the new century began. I have no memory of ever meeting my maternal grandparents and know so little about them. I never gave it much thought. I know that my grandfather was career Army, served during World War II, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. I know nothing about my grandmother. My paternal grandparents raised me so there was much more connection. One of my cherished possessions is an old photo of them in the early 1920s as they were on a date. What is so interesting is that they are in a horse-drawn buggy. In the early 1920s, very few people had automobiles. Now I am curious as to what life was like for them before I was born. How did they react to all of the local and world events that occurred during their lifetimes? I can’t ask as they have been gone for several decades. I just didn't make the time and then it became too late.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Autumn years of life and to enjoying the grandeur that is the North Shore and being part of the local community. It is not hard getting to know people here as generally everyone is friendly and always up for a good conversation. Unfortunately, getting to know about some of them has been through helping with the Friday morning Memorials radio segment, and also by attending funerals as part of an Honor Guard. It is too late then. However, there are sometimes unique opportunities not to be passed over. You may have heard about a special lady who had a special birthday on Wednesday. It was a special birthday for Alice because she celebrated her 101st. She is a special lady because she is a World War II Marine veteran. Think about that for a moment. We did not draft women in WW II, and she volunteered…to be a Marine. Happy birthday again Alice, and Semper Fidelis.
Alice is not the only neighbor available with a wealth of history and life experiences to share. There is also Robert. Robert is a resident of a local care facility. Robert started working with lumberjacks when just a
young teen and did that for 20 years, to be followed by a 30-year career working for Reserve Mining on their locomotives. Just imagine the stories he probably has. These neighbors and many more are all about us. They are in the various nursing home facilities, neighbors we may not have really gotten to know over the years, and even relatives, near and far that we have sort of taken for granted.
If we want to know what it was really like, we will have to take the time and initiative to ask the questions and have those conversations. If we don’t then we risk having revisionists, who were not there, and did not
live those experiences, tell us what it was like and what happened. Two other observations I have made. There are several excellent eateries in our local communities where people love to share a cup of coffee and a story or an opinion. And I have yet to go to someone's house where an offer for coffee and something to wash it down with, i.e. cookies or cake wasn't offered. It's understood that that kitchen chair is being offered for an opportunity to share and get to know each other a little bit better. Ready to meet new friends and share experiences? I certainly am.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
May you be blessed by God's word.
Did you ever wish you had more power? Power to do things that you can’t do. Laurie loves to ride bike, but it has become such an effort lately. That effort has taken all the joy out of it, But she has been saving and saving and like millions of Americans she has bought an electric bike. Now when we ride up those long steep hills, I’m huffing and puffing and my leg muscles are burning while Laurie is smiling, breathing easy and enjoying the scenery as she effortlessly gets all the power she wants from her bike's electric motor. The bike's power is wonderful. It has brought joy to her cycling. I think she is enjoying it more now than she ever did.
The bike’s power is amazing, but it is limited isn’t it. The battery will only take you so far. In the world there are many powers –
The powers in creation - sun, wind, rivers, oceans, fire – sometimes we really see these powers rage and roar.
There’s nuclear power – the power of atoms.
There is political power and military power – of kings, presidents and nations. and there’s the power we have as individuals and groups.
We can recognize all these powers as God’s gifts which can be used to create and sustain life. Each of these earthly powers has conditions and limitations. The temptation for us as sinful human beings is to try to reach beyond our limitations – to use our power to control. Even to use our power to grasp heaven and haul ourselves up there by our own effort. But what if there was a power beyond all these powers - beyond limitations. A power that we can tap into even without reaching beyond our own creaturely limitations.
Today’s passage is Luke’s account of Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to the disciples. In these appearances the disciples are given a promise as well as a task – often referred to as a commission. Luke points out that Jesus had appeared to two followers who were on their way to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize Jesus as they walked along with Him. Jesus opened the scriptures to them and they finally recognized that it was Jesus when he broke bread with them. These two followers are excited and rush back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples and while they are telling them what happened Jesus appears in their midst. Jesus demonstrates to them that it is indeed him in the flesh. He shows them his hands and feet. He shows them that he’s not some spirit or ghost by eating a piece of fish. And, as with the two on the way to Emmaus, Jesus opens the scriptures and shows them that he fulfilled the Old Testament – the law, the prophets, and the psalms. That the messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. And now repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to all nations – to all groups of people - beginning in Jerusalem. And then Jesus tells them that they are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
So, there is the task or commission – proclaim repentance and forgiveness and they are to witness. And here is the promise – the promise of the Father – being clothed with power from on high. The Greek word for power here in this passage is dunamis. The meaning is to be able. Jesus gave no condition, no qualifier, no limitations concerning the power that was to be given. As we read Luke’s second book – Acts – we see clearly that this power is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The power given to us in the Holy Spirit is the power to become able to do what we could not do before. It is the power to do that which is above our ability to do. Dunamis means to make possible. So in the power of the Holy Spirit we have the power to make possible that which was not possible. Naturally, the Holy Spirit is power for holy purposes not for selfish unholy purposes – It is the power to fulfill the will and calling of God. Earthly powers are limited but God’s power is limitless. Dunamis also means can as in I can. The power of the Spirit is the power of I can or maybe better to say God can working through me. Paul writes of this in Philippians when he says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Then again in Ephesians 3 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
God may give us some tough assignments – more than what we can do or endure in our own strength, But when we are tempted to say I can’t – remember God’s promises and the promised dunamis power that we have been clothed with. We just might find that we can’t but God can. Amen.
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
April showers bring May flowers. If that’s the case then there’s been so much rain that we will have enough May flowers to open our own business. The signs are all about us that Spring has finally sprung on the North Shore. The temperatures have finally warmed up to a tolerable level. This was reaffirmed by the local electric cooperative bill which significantly went down from the previous month’s bill. Then there’s the fauna which is starting to abound in green. Small perennials planted last year are making their presence known. And let’s not forget the local wildlife. The deer are scampering about, porcupines have been noted, and skunks still have not figured out how to safely cross the local roadways. However, perhaps the greatest indicator is the traffic increase in just the past week – weather notwithstanding. Once again travelers are abounding to take in the beauty that is unique to this part of the country. Ah, Spring. Then there was this morning.
True to form, while transforming to the delights of seasonal change, is a stark reminder that anything is possible up here. We woke to find ourselves in a nice little snow event. I mean it was coming down pretty
good and was sticking to the ground and vehicles. Not to worry. The snowblower is all tuned up, gassed, and ready to go. Bring it on. Not really. So, when someone says Winter is done, don't you believe it. But then again, this is all just part of living here and adjusting to the slow changing of the seasons. I looked at the Weather Channel forecast for next week, and sure enough, there is still a possibility of snow showers. A month from now who will even remember?
Then there was another change that no one was anticipating and that was last month's heating bill for those living in Two Harbors. Due to the unexpected severe cold down in Texas, prices were up to four times, or more, higher than usual. This could not have happened at the worst time with so many already financially impacted by COVID-19. This increase affected all the residents of the city. Of course, there was a great deal of concern, and some expressions of anger over what had happened, but this is the North Shore and problems are taken care of a bit differently than in other areas. There were no protests, no riots, and no demands for public officials to resign. There were rumors to be sure, but don't believe everything you hear. Questions were asked and answered. Most concerning was what happened, and why? A local reporter for the North Shore Journal went to the city administrator and got the information everyone needed. The city understood the impact on the residents and immediately affected
means to have the payments spread over 12 months to alleviate the immediate financial hardship. When we hear something that doesn't sound quite right, we are always free to ask questions.
I had heard that my favorite eatery location had been sold and that there was a massive corporate conglomerate that would change everything to pursue profit. Well, I had a chance to speak to the owner and ask if the rumor was true. I was informed that yes, the business had been sold, but that the same family-friendly atmosphere was to be maintained. Also, the new owners will be doing structural changes the current owner had been planning to do for several years. I was assured that this was indeed a win-win
situation for the community, patrons, and staff.
Now we are in the midst of one of the most acrimonious times in our nation’s recent history. Rumors are abounding and we are being inundated with news items meant to influence rather than inform. I pause here to reiterate – don't you believe it. Granted, some will be true, but it is incumbent on us to ask the questions directly and check the facts rather than relying on someone else to do it for us.
I would like to offer for your consideration a Biblical example – the Bereans. Take a look at Acts chapter 17, verses 10-15, and study the background. Biblical wisdom is sound wisdom.
Our encouragement verse for this week is: Acts 17:11 (NIV)
“ Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
May you be blessed by God's word.
First Lesson: Acts 4: 32-53
Responsive Reading: Psalm 148
Second Lesson: 1 John 1:1 - 2:2
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 19-31
Have you had an encounter that changed your life? Maybe you remember the moment that you saw the love of your life for the first time. It was just an ordinary day at the office but as I came walking in, I caught a glimpse of our new technician for the first time. Laurie had big -almost Texas big -hair – it was bright reddish blond. She had a white long sleeve blouse with a wide black elastic belt that hugged her skinny little waist. She had a long red skirt and black high heels. Her big eyes and broad smile were captivating.
As you can tell I remember the moment well. Mel Schlatter told me that the first time he saw Irene it was like a jolt of electricity. Maybe you’ve had similar life changing encounters too.
Encountering Laurie changed my life –. I was headed in one direction and then I encountered Laurie and my life took a whole new path.
The first encounter that the disciples had with Jesus way back at the beginning of his ministry they had been going about their usual day - and then all of a sudden their ordinary day became extraordinary -Jesus came walking into their day and called to them – come follow me. By His Word Jesus commanded and they left their work and their homes and followed this extraordinary rabbi named Jesus. They encountered Jesus and their lives were never the same.
They had extraordinary moments – amazing teachings – witnessed miracles – and then Jesus began to talk about leaving them and then it happened - all their hopes and dreams had come crashing down with Jesus’ crucifixion? Maybe some of them were wondering why Jesus had them leave their old life behind in the first place.
Now here they were huddled together frightened over what might happen to them – when Jesus breaks into their lives again. This time his message is peace be with you.
Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus explained to the disciples that he would be leaving them but that he would not leave them alone that he would send the Holy Spirit who would teach them and remind them of everything that Jesus had said to them. And then Jesus said 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
And then a little later Jesus said to his disciples ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 ….You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy……. then Jesus goes on to explain “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus had prepared them – he had given them his peace – he explained things to them so that in HIM they might have peace. And yet here they are huddled together in a room the door is shut and all of a sudden Christ comes to them – in the midst of their troubled hearts - in the midst of their fear - Jesus meets them.
They have an encounter with the living Christ, and they are never the same. He breathes the Spirit into them. Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam in Gen 2. Jesus breathes new life into the disciples, and they become new creations.
All the disciples were there except my favorite – Thomas. The Bible doesn’t give us any idea about why he wasn’t there or where he was. Can you imagine the excitement when the other disciples were shouting to him, we have seen the Lord?
But despite all their excitement Thomas says, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Can you relate to Thomas at all? Don’t you wish sometimes that the resurrected Lord would just appear and let us see him, poke him and feel him? Jesus comes to Thomas and Thomas falls to his knees “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Blessed are we who have not seen and yet believed. Sometimes I think I would rather be blessed to see and believe. But faith enables us to see.
The Bible seems strange sometimes the way it talks about things that happened so long ago – it was a completely different time and place. As strange as it can seem it is a record of God’s action in history and particularly among his people. God’s action and humanity’s reaction. Over and over, we see how the actions of God and the actions of people reveal the nature of humans and the nature of God.
God loves creation and from his creation he chose to reveal himself to a particular people – the Hebrew word that God used for his people –is segula – which means his treasured possession. God looked after His people – he gave them commandments - boundaries so that they might enjoy life – so that their relationships might be special and sacred. And throughout the Bible we see how life goes when His people listen to him and trust him and what happens when they did not.
Over and over, we see that people are stubborn rebellious self-centered unforgiving unmerciful. And all the while God is righteous, just, holy and yet patient and merciful.
We have not seen and yet we believe and by believing we come to see. We see creation differently – pounding surf, majestic mountains, breathtaking sunsets and cloud formations, new life in springtime – they all become God’s handprints and evidence of God’s grace through the eyes of faith.
We see people differently – each life becomes a precious creation - one of God’s segulas. And at the same time, we see the brokenness of a fallen world in each person as well. But with eyes of faith our gaze becomes more compassionate more loving and less judgmental.
And by believing we come to see the truth of God’s upside kingdom. A kingdom that is so different than this world – a kingdom where service, forgiveness, and love rule. With eyes of faith, we come to see Christ coming to us by way of the Word by way of the bread and wine as well as by way of one another.
And each time we encounter Christ we are never the same. Our life becomes less and less our own. Somehow our agenda seems less and less important and we are more and more caught up in the things of God.
The first time the disciples are encountered by Jesus, he compels them with His Word - follow me – but now when they meet the resurrected Lord His first message is Peace and the second is GO. Did you catch that? Jesus says to them “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into them – empowers them making them new creations and then he sends them – as the Father has sent me, I also send you.
And so each time we read or hear God’s Word – Jesus comes to us, gives us forgiveness and His very self. Now that we are forgiven. Now that we are nourished, now that we are strengthened, He sends us – back into our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods with new vision to see creation and others in a new way. It is not seeing to believe - it is believing so that we might see. Amen
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you just want to request a do-over and avoid what has already occurred? I am guessing we have all been there at one time or another, and hopefully no more than one time. That is usually enough. However, I am right in the middle of such a week and am almost ready to shout "uncle" to anyone who cares to listen.
It started four short days ago – less than 100 hours. I was building Cathy a mobile sewing machine storage cart for her sewing machine collection. This is where I refer you to a previous weekly encouragement regarding her hobby. BTW – she doesn't just collect them - she uses them. Now, how thoughtful and thrifty is that? I was cutting various materials on the table saw and had transitioned to cutting a 2x4. I had done these dozens of times before, but always with the safety hold down in place – until this time, that is. I can already feel some of you cringing at what happens next. Yep, I pushed the wood into the blade and it immediately did an about-face and came right back and met my wrist at full force, driving my 35-year-old POW/MIA bracelet into my wrist. Lesson learned: Safety devices and cautions are there for a reason and no more shortcuts.
Next was the semi-annual visit to the dentist. The highlight of my week to be sure. The good news was that I was complimented for my concerted efforts over the past six months. The bad news was that a tooth needed the professional attention of the dentist at a future date. Lesson learned: No matter how good we do; sometimes it's just not enough. OK, enough for the past three days. Not so fast. Then there's today.
It started with a lost wallet, included a minor fender bender, and ended with a blessing. All of that in only 90 minutes. Misplacing keys is one thing as there is usually a spare set. But a wallet has so many one-of-a-kind items: driver’s license, other forms of identification, credit cards, and occasionally, on rare occasions, cash. It was finally found after looking in areas where it seemed impossible to be, but there it was. That in itself generated enough stress and anxiety that while backing out the vehicle little thought was given to the realization that another vehicle was parked right beside it. No major damage was done to the receiving vehicle, which paled in comparison to the embarrassment and frustration that the accident even occurred. Lesson learned: An immovable object will, by the laws of physics, naturally resist a movable object intruding into its space. This was the point where I just wanted to finally say, “uncle” and somehow move on. But that did not happen. Why? What good would saying, “uncle” do? None, but it might have felt good to vent a little frustration. Instead, there was the resolution to move on and make the best of the remainder of the day. Then there was the unexpected reminder that God is always watching over his children. And I surely did need a reminder today.
Less than an hour after the vehicle mishap the phone rang. I did not recognize the number and was prepared to let the voice mail message speak for me. However, I felt compelled to answer the call. Glad I did. The call was from my chaplain endorser, mentor, and friend, Ron. He felt the need to reach out and see how I was doing today. Talk about a God moment. His call was the calm in the storm and the bright sunshine I needed this cloudy and rainy day. Here was an affirmation that I am never alone and that God knows exactly what is needed and when. Oh, there are still two more days in this week yet, but I am confident in God's presence. How about you?
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Psalm 121:8 (NIV)
“ The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
May you be blessed by God's word.
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
I need help. I am so confused. I have always heard – and believed – the old axiom regarding March, "In like a lion and out like a lamb." Well, somebody forgot to tell nature that up here on the North Shore. I mean the wind was blowing so hard here that I began to wonder if the flag pole warranty was going to have to be put into effect. No worries as the warranty guarantee up to 70 mph. Still, it was windy enough that I had to hold onto the door when opening the truck door. And driving was an exhilarating experience, especially when exiting the tunnels up the shore and the wind hit full force. Still, that's what makes living up here interesting. I saw someone fly fishing in one of the stream beds. Now that's dedication. Interesting that the last of the month should be more like the first.
The sad news about the last is the last time I remember seeing Stew. It was December 2019, at our monthly Bay Area Ministerial Luncheon at the Northwoods. Stew Carlson, the former pastor at Sychar Lutheran Church in Silver Bay, was ever the gracious friend to all. I always ordered a double cheeseburger and fries, and Stew would always order his special sandwich. When asked if he would like fries or chips, Stew would mischievously grin and tell the waitress, “No, Chris will have enough fries for both of us.” And he was right, as usual. Many of you knew Stew as a dedicated - almost to the point of obsession - William Kelly High School Mariner fan. He not only loved his community, but he loved everyone in it. Stew also was not one to pass up an opportunity. I remember shortly after joining the ministers' group in Silver Bay, how Stew was able to "volunteer" me to assist in services at the Veterans Home and contribute articles to the Chronicle. There was no arm twisting. Stew had a God-given gift for inspiring others. He was also passionate about sharing his faith and had the blessed ability to relate to everyone he met. He will always be remembered for his eternally youthful and engaging smile. You just knew you were with a friend. Stew, you will always be missed.
Then there was also noted the first. That being the first ship of the season into Two Harbors port last week – the Indiana Harbor. We know it as a “thousand-footer” that regularly plies the Great Lakes. Actually, it is only 989 feet long, but who’s counting? Built in 1979, and can transport over 35,000 tons. What makes it special is that the ship’s arrival signified the beginning of a new shipping season and we got to see it as it passed our house. It can be the small things that give us hope and encouragement. The ship was a sign that normal shipping has begun again and everyday activities still go on.
Now we transition from the last week of March into the first week of April. I still think about the lion and lamb but in a different context. Particularly during this week, I think about the Lion of Judah and the Lamb
of God. This is the time we focus on the strength and sacrifice of Christ for all, and the message his resurrection has for all of us. Stew knew this message. He believed it, lived it, and shared it. If you also believe, then share this with others. If you have not heard this before, then ask someone to share it with you. You both will be encouraged.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
John 11:25-26 (NIV)
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
May you be blessed by God's word.
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
When growing up on the east coast, trips to visit relatives in Virginia were always looked forward to. This was referred to as going to the country. After so many times of taking the same trip, familiar landmarks were anticipated to determine how far we had come and how much longer the trip would last. One of those significant landmarks was the bridge from Maryland into Virginia. It seemed to a 10- year-old like the demarcation line between two different worlds. Things in that part of Virginia seemed quieter and less hurried. There was so much more to see with the small farms and historical locations. There was Washington’s actual birthplace, James Monroe’s birthplace, the Lee family mansion where Robert E. Lee was born, and of course the state park where so many memorable family reunions occurred.
Through the succeeding decades, to the present time, there have been hundreds of different trips for many reasons. Some were actual vacations and others were military assignment related. There was always a choice to be made – how to get from point A to point B. When I was younger, expediency was the overriding concern. How to get there the quickest with the least number of interruptions or distractions. After all – getting there was the point of the travel, right? If only I had known then what I realize now. As I got older and seemingly wiser, I realized there was so much more to be seen and experienced by taking the less-traveled roads.
So it was that when I retired to Minnesota in 1997, I was determined to see as much of the back roads as possible. Being a volunteer chaplain with a county sheriff's department was a great way to do this during ride-along with the deputies. A side benefit was discovering the best fishing and hunting areas. This desire to see the best of the state has only been enhanced since our final retirement to the North Shore. There are so many unique features to this beautiful Arrowhead Region, that I will only state those recently observed in our local area. Feel free to add those you think I should get out and see.
Let’s see, there’s the always picturesque drive from Duluth either up the scenic highway along the shore, or Highway 61 itself. Both speak volumes to a wealth of culture and history to be enjoyed. You know things are a little different as you come into Two Harbors and there is a statue of Pierre, the Voyageur. It was a long time until someone pointed out that Pierre is wearing a long shirt and no pants. Watch out or someone will try to cancel Pierre for his lack of clothing decorum. Pierre has been seen with a mask during the pandemic. There is also a car wash that features a pet was as well. First time I have ever seen one of those. Just a little further east there is Lou’s, whose sign advertises world-famous smoked fish cheese ice cream. Yep, a North Shore delight. However, I am a little particular about how many different flavors are combined in my ice cream. Cathy wisely pointed out it's how you read the sign. You read it your way and I'll read it mine. Next up the shore is a well-known resort, right on the lake. Unique is that it is only flying the Canadian flag. Now, I call that real diplomacy to let our northern neighbors know they can feel right at home here. Then there are two tunnels on your way up the shore. The first is the Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel. The other is unnamed. Well, it is named, just not on the tunnel itself. It is the Lafayette Tunnel. Now you know. Finally, the lady using a leaf blower on her lawn when there are no leaves. OK, that was Cathy. Why rake when you have an industrial-strength leaf blower? Not only did the blower take care of dirt and small rocks, but every branch and twig that dared to fall since last Fall. It should be noted that the blower requires a seasoned, trained person to handle it properly. Alas, I am still in training and hope to stretch that situation out for several more seasons.
These are some personal observations from the North Shore. No matter where you live there are roadways and people just waiting for you to discover. I use the same thought when referring to our relationship with God. Every day is a new opportunity for discoveries and memories. Don't hesitate to read the Bible, pray, and see where God will take you.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
“This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
May you be blessed by God's word.