Below are the covenant group questions for week three - "Our Father":
Read Matthew 6:9 and Ephesians 3:14-19
How do you understand the opening phrase of “Our Father?” What does making the first word of prayer “our” mean for the way we are to understand the prayer?
What are some ways earthly fathers fall short of what being a father is supposed to be about? Some who’ve had less than a wonderful experience of their earthly father struggle with addressing God as Father with trust and warmth. What would you say to a person who was vulnerable enough to share this problem with you?
How might our prayers of intercession change if we kept the focus on “our” instead of “me and mine?”
In all of the prayers of Jesus he uses the familiar “abba” when addressing the Father in prayer. How does this practice of feel close enough to God to call him “Daddy” affect our prayer? How does it guard against bad feelings about our heavenly Father?
Note how in his Ephesians prayer, Paul lists petitions to the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. What does he ascribe to each? Why might we be wise to bring our prayers to the fullness of the Trinity?
What does Paul mean by praying that the Ephesians “be filled with all the fullness of God.”
The Lord’s Prayer has five themes:
Below you will find the Covenant Group questions for the week of September 8-14.
Well, many of you have heard that my heart has been giving me trouble. I thought I would bring any readers of our church blog up to date.
A few weeks ago I had some general symptoms that were easily recognizable of heart issues. Not a heart attack, but warning signs to be sure. The first EKG was not done right and a week later when I did the remake, my regular doctor said it looked pretty troubling and he scheduled me to do a stress test with a cardiologist. This too produced results which seemed to indicate my heart wasn't doing well. So this Tuesday I went to Providence Hospital where a cardiogram was done. This is a procedure where a catheter is inserted into the heart to release a dye which shows up on a live action X-Ray machine to see what is going on. When I awoke I was told that all three of the major arteries which supply blood to the heart are blocked. Five to six blockages ranging from 70 to 100%. Not so good. The only real recourse is by pass surgery. Too much damage for angioplasty (a simpler procedure where a stint is inserted into the artery to expand the opening). By-pass surgery will mean splitting open my breastbone, rerouting my lung and heart functions to a waiting machine for a few hours, taking out the blocked artery pieces, and substituting vein tissue taken from one of my legs. After the heart is repaired with good "plumbing" they will restart my heart and lungs and sew me back up. The whole operation usually takes about 6 hours. Amazing isn't it!
I am so grateful for all the people who have been praying that we be guided to a good decision. The last two days Helen and I have been learning more about our options and what all is entailed. Eventually we settled on two good possible directions. In our former home of Berkeley, California, Alta Bates Hospital has one of the best cardio surgery departments and also has on staff several of the top 50 heart surgeons in America. I have family and friends there, so some of my recuperation could begin surrounded by people who care. They could schedule me for surgery next week. The second option is to do the operation up here. But this means waiting a few weeks till the one surgeon my insurance will accept returns from moose hunting (how Alaska is that!). While there is some small medical reason (by numbers and statistics) to go down to California, today I found real peace that I was supposed to stay here. Alaska is my home and we have good people here, both in hospital care and in prayer care. I have chosen to stay in Alaska.
What does this all mean? Well after recovery I should be feeling much better than I have in a few years. Some of the "slow down" in my physical life which I had thought was just old age was the decreased function of my heart. The new arteries should mean more energy and stamina. My surgery is scheduled for October 3. Until then I will reduce my work load at church, take my new medications, and keep myself as relaxed as possible. I will be in at Alaska Regional for maybe a week, then recuperate at home and eventually start rehabilitation. Sometime in November I hope to be fully engaged again in my work and ministry at First Covenant.
So many have already expressed prayers and well wishes and Helen and I are so thankful. It has also been a blessing to have my daughter Leana here with us during this unexpected crisis. If you have questions about anything regarding our church, please feel free to contact Associate Pastor Phil Cannon, or our Chair; Stan Summers. Any questions personal can be directed to me or if you want a quicker answer perhaps contact Helen. Between now and my surgery I plan on attending church services on Sunday mornings.
My faith in God is strong and secure. Although I expect a full recovery, I am mindful of death and have no fear. God is with me, with my family and with my church. To Him be all glory and honor now and forever.
Below is a description of two exciting Sunday school options for you at First Covenant Church! Please consider where you feel led to attend and invite others to come and join you for this meaningful time. Sunday School begins September 9th for all ages! 11:15-noon. See you there!
Alive in Christ
Led by Helen Cepero
What does it mean to live “in Christ?” What are the characteristics of Christian character that mark us as Jesus followers? Through story and scripture we will explore these questions and others for the next eleven weeks during Sunday school hour after the worship service. Bring your coffee and your questions. Come to listen and to share.
Week 1: What is Christian formation and why does it matter?
Week 2 Choosing life—receiving God’s love
Week 3 Forgiving as we are forgiven—forgoing the revenge due us
Week 4 Compassionate availability—letting our love flow out to others
Week 5 Following Christ—bringing our desire and God’s desire together
Week 6 Embracing our vulnerability—finding strength in weakness
Week 7 Living with integrity—letting our yes be yes, and our no be no
Week 8 Paying attention to God—finding the holy in the ordinary
Week 9 Seeing Blessing—looking at ourselves with God’s eyes
Week 10 Improvising a life in Christ—responding to God’s presence
Week 11 God working in us—the role of discipline and spiritual practices
Week 12 God working through us—being fully alive in the community of faith
September “Second Look” on Modern Idolatry Series
led by Pastor Max Lopez-Cepero
“Second Look” is an open forum to discuss the morning’s message with the pastor and with others who would like to take a “second look” at the Scriptures, the ideas and the application of what was presented. After having just finishing a summer sermon series on feelings, we will be switching our attention to thinking. Our first four weeks of Second Look promise to be interesting and perhaps controversial. We will likely be pushing some personal “comfort zones” as we consider Modern American Idolatries.
Often we think of idolatry as an ancient problem which does not impact us today. After all, who in Alaska worships Baal, or puts a pinch of incense on an alter to Caesar? In fact, idolatry is always an issue for people. We always seem find it difficult to worship the true God and no other. The issue for God’s people through the ages has always been that other “gods” creep into our lives and to which we give allegiance.
Our sermon series following Labor Day will deal with four modern idolatries which we in the American church face. They represent commitments which are good in their proper place, but to which we sometimes give godlike power to shape our thinking, feeling and behavior. As such they compromise the First Commandment; “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). Here are the topics of our series:
September 9 Extreme Individualism
September 16 Extreme Capitalism
September 23 Extreme Nationalism
September 30 Extreme Militarism
Come with your Bibles and your best attention as we consider biblical insight into American temptations in the 21st Century. We will begin immediately following the morning service—up font under the cross of Jesus.
The following is a reflection submitted by Julie Diercks based on her time in ministry at First Covenant. As of June, Julie's position will have come to an end but we rejoice that we get to keep her around in the coming year as she continues to live and work in Anchorage and is a part of our church community. Thank you Julie for all you've given in Christ's name to serve our church and our youth.
Three years ago I was invited into something. I was invited into a group of people who wanted me to be a part of their family. Their community. Their Church.
And in these last three years, I have been reminded time and time again, that I am a part of something. Something old. Something new. Something...together.
First Covenant Church has shown me generosity, hospitality, love, and grace. They have shared their kids with me and entrusted them to me, as I entrust them to God. They have shared their resources with me. They have built me rooms in their basements and literally “welcomed me into their family.” They have given me a couch. They have invited me to be their neighbors. They have allowed me to preach and paint the Jr. High youth room orange. They have prayed for me. They have encouraged me in so many ways that I cannot even list them all.
An image that depicts how a church should work is a group of gears in a clock or other mechanical device. When one moves, it empowers the other to move, which empowers the other to move and in that forward motion, are all moving. All the parts move together to make sure that the clock or mechanical device is functioning the way it was intended to function. And we are not solitary moving gears. A gear can move by itself, but what would benefit from that? We move, not just to move, but to move others.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hebrews10:24
At First Covenant, I have seen many “gears” move together. Some gears keep the building running smoothly, repairing appliances and mechanical problems. Other gears build things for the church. Other gears use their resources and gift the church with things for the church to use. Other gears share their time with the Whole and spend a Sunday morning in the nursery, Sunday School or Kids Time. Other gears use their creativity and make beautiful banners that draw us into worship. Other gears use their musical talent to lead the worship team on Sunday mornings. Other gears show their love for relationships and teaching by leading a small group. Other gears share their home and practice hospitality on a regular basis. It is the reason why I love potlucks so much. It represents the different elements and gifts people bring to benefit the Whole.
These gears move to move others.
In the past 3 years, I have been moved by these gears. I have been moved in generosity, hospitality, love and grace. And I hope that my forward motion will “spur” others on, move others on, towards these things as well. And that together, we will represent the Church, and all that it was intended to be.
Here is a blog entry written by Amy Kimble, our CYAK youth leader, written from her blog in November 2011. It's a good testament to God's provision and the faith we can have in his goodness. Enjoy!
Last week I took a walk with my mother-in-law, Helen, on a beach in Rhode Island. This beach is her favorite spot to take us when we come home, and she's made a point to bring all three of us (Jordan, his brother Chris, and me) to this place this year.
Helen and I talked a lot on this beach, as well as took over 400 pictures. I should mention she loves to capture all of us on film, too :) She asked me about everything: our new life in Alaska, new friends, new job, and grad school. I shared with her how peaceful I feel about living up here and how much God has blessed Jordan and I since we moved. Although it has been such an emotional year, looking back, I definitely see God's provision through and through. I shared about how much my trust in God has grown this year as I've left a job, moved across the country, and started a new job that doesn't pay until I fund-raise. In every aspect, God has placed me in situations where I am left with no choice but to trust Him with the next step.
As we were walking back, I started opening up about how sometimes I feel pressure from outside sources to get a teaching job, to earn a retirement, to start "thinking about the future". I feel inward pressure that I'm not doing the right thing because I am not earning any money, and yet I want to go to grad school debt and loan free. I sometimes feel guilt in my gut that I am not contributing to our marriage financially, and I should be. I'm sure some of you have had these feelings before, as they are valid to the world we live in today.
But if I am truly going to claim I am a Christian and minister to people, I need to ignore all doubt and guilt in my life. They are not from God, they are from Satan. Point blank. So as we're walking I share with her how I am just trusting that God is going to provide for my future. That He is leading me to places that are good and fruitful, not harmful. He is opening my doors, as I ask Him to, and He walks beside me as I go through them. I have no reason to doubt that fundraising support will come in, that people are praying about CYAK right now and deciding whether or not they want to give, that tuition is going to be taken care of, and some day, so will my retirement. I just have. to. trust.
And then Helen and I look down in the sand... and there is a quarter. Not a shiny quarter. A quarter that has clearly been soaking in the salty ocean and washed ashore. I pick it up, thinking, "huh, that's unusual" but not really anything more. Until about 20 feet later we find another quarter.... and then a dime. "What is going on?!" we say to each other. Helen grabs my arm and tells me we have to stop and pray right now. That God is showing us something and we need to pray for God to open our eyes and hearts to whatever it is He has in store for us. She prayed for prosperity, that God would bless us, that we would be faithful and trust. After she finished praying we continued our walk and found two more quarters.
Friends, let me be so bold as to say that I do believe God was with us on that beach last Monday and He was listening to our hearts and showing us how much He loves us. I know that $1.10 we found that day will multiply beyond imagination in my lifetime. And I am so joyful that He is walking beside me today, tomorrow, and every day. And He can walk beside you, too. You just have to invite Him.
We used to have a regular newsletter that was published and mailed out to the membership of First Covenant. Maybe this blog can be something in the same vain... occasional devotions or articles written by our staff and by the people of our community... photos or art that communicate something about following Christ... poetry, information, announcements, etc... In some ways, this is a trial run. I hope that following this blog becomes something worth doing and something that adds to our life together in some way.
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.