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Lenten Devotionals

On March 1, 2017 in Front Page, Pastor's Blog

Welcome to the Libertyville Covenant Church Lenten Devotional.  People from our church have written devotions for each of the 40 days in Lent.  These devotions are based on our sermons’ weekly theme and a set of verses connected to that theme.  May you be blessed as you read and ponder these thoughts from your brothers and sisters this Lenten season.  To access the devotional, click the picture to the left.

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Reflections on Being the Church in this Election Season

On November 13, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

A moment to address the Elephant (and the Donkey) in the room:

Since the election on Tuesday, I’ve counseled with people in their tears over what the future may hold, and I’ve counseled with people in fear of  being ostracized from their friends, their families, and even this very church because they voted for President-Elect Trump.  We all have feelings about this and a myriad of other topics, and our feelings are legitimate.  Feelings are not sinful.

But how we express them can be.  Folks, we are the church.  And whatever our feelings about this or any other topic we may discuss, we must be different than our society in how we discuss it.  We listen more than we speak. We don’t tear down those who disagree with us.  And while we don’t ignore the issues of this world, seeking instead to bring God’s worldview to bear on them, neither do we let them take precedence in our minds and lives, a place where only Jesus belongs.

So people of God, show the love of God to each other, especially to those with whom you disagree.  And remember that life continues.  This week we celebrate new life in our church family with the birth of a new baby girl, and we mourn with another family at the untimely death of their father.  So we will continue to be the church to them and to each other.  We will continue to call this nation to worship Jesus Christ and Him only.  We will continue to stand up for the least, the lost, the last, and the littlest among us.  And we will continue to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

Be the Church, people.  And may God be blessed in all we say and do.

Pastor Steve

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Mar. 19 – Silence No More

On March 19, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

Every Hebrew person knew what would happen when the Messiah came.  He would be a King among the Jews, and there were certain realities about Kings and the King of Kings that were sure…

1)  A king can take whatever he wishes; it is all considered his in the first place.

2)  A king never uses anything anyone else has used; it must be new

3)  The Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9)

4)  The Messiah would enter Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives (Zech 14:4)

5)  A king entering Jerusalem enters hailed by the people parade-style with banners, branches and song

6)  Previous kings, when riding donkeys, had those donkeys covered by the cloaks of those around him (2 Kings 9:13).

7)  When the Messiah came, he would be greeted with, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

8)  A king would enter Jerusalem and go directly to the Temple either to worship or bring reform

With these in mind, reread the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry in Matt. 21 or Mark 11, and see where these things play out.  You see, this entry into Jerusalem wasn’t a random act, a spur-of-the-moment decision.  This was a public proclamation of Jesus’ identity as Messiah and King of the Jews.  So often during His ministry, Jesus had asked people to remain silent about Him, explaining that His time had not yet come.  But in this single act, Jesus proclaims to the entire city, filling up with Passover celebrants, who He is.

The time for silence about Jesus’ identity is past.  With the disciples and onlookers, we much proclaim, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

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Mar. 18 – Fasting

On March 18, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

Today, we hear from Vicki Herrick, who has been attending LCC for 33 years …

“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to
people that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what
is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17-18)

These verses were a continuation of the scripture that I read on January 3. At that time, I was
reminded that the words of Jesus were “when you fast” and not “if you fast.”
I have followed the Lord since I was a young child. When I was in elementary school, I noticed
that my classmates who were Catholic “gave up” something during Lent—meat, chocolate,
Coca-Cola, etc. I didn’t realize that their abstinence was a type of fasting. Fasting was a
mystery to me because my family never practiced that spiritual discipline. As an adult, I found
out that fasting does have a place in a believer’s life.

Fasting helps me to take the focus off myself and to make God the priority. My fasts are usually
24-hour periods of not eating. I find my prayer time to be much richer when I am fasting.
However, fasting doesn’t have to be denying yourself food. Fasting can be giving up any
physical fulfillment such as TV, computers or cell phones. If you have never considered fasting,
this Lenten season might be a good time to try this spiritual discipline as we remember the
sacrifice that our Lord made.

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Mar. 17 – In Control

On March 18, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

One of the most fascinating things about the Passion Story in John’s gospel is that Jesus is completely in control throughout.  We are used to the plucking of our emotional heartstrings on Holy Week, from the exuberance of Palm Sunday to the darkness of Good Friday to the joy of Resurrection Sunday.  We’ve seen movies and heard stories of the cruelty of the crucifixion and seen the suffering and pain on Jesus’ face.  But when you read John’s account with a first-time reader’s eye, you notice that Jesus is in complete control of His emotions, but also of everything else.

From the Garden of Gethsemane to the moment of His death, Jesus seems unfazed by the activity going on around Him.  Rather than cries of anguish, we find theological and philosophical debates going on.  Rather than soldiers mocking Him on the cross with a vinegar sponge, we find Jesus saying, “I’m thirsty” and receiving a drink.

But nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to His mother Mary.  As Jesus hangs from the cross, He makes arrangements for His mother’s care.  As a widow, Mary would have had nobody to look after her once her children were gone.  Where Jesus’ other siblings were we don’t know, but here on the cross, Jesus entrusts Mary to the care of John this Disciple.  As one of the youngest of the disciples, Jesus also turns the care about and offers His own mother to care for the boy.  “Woman, here is your son,” He says to Mary.  And to John, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26).

When life seems out of control, remember that this same Jesus, who was in complete control even over His own death, can be in control of your life as well.  But He won’t force Himself on you.  You have to give up your own control and allow Him to take the wheel.  It’s not easy, but once He has control, you will find that life becomes a million times more peaceful.

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March 16 – Paul’s Story

On March 16, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

Lent is a time to remember and reflect.  So we’ve asked a number of people to share their stories with us.  Today, we hear from Paul Couleur, our Associate Pastor to Youth…

My faith journey has been precisely that, a journey. Growing up, Winnetka Covenant Church was my spiritual home. I am blessed to have been raised by Christian parents who had me baptized as an infant. My journey was shaped by spiritual formation at church, retreats, covenant camping experiences, and other church actives.

Many summers I would spend a week at Covenant Harbor Bible Camp and it was during one such a summer that I gave my life to Christ. During a Wednesday evening worship service in the Carriage house I had raised my hand in response to the invitation to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. However, that wasn’t the only summer I raised my hand to do so. Each year when the time came to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior my hand was raised nice and high. In response my counselor who was with me the previous summer asked, “why did you raised your hand again.” My response was to explain that I invited him into my heart and I wasn’t always sure he was there. However, I really did want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. This kind counselor assured me “Paul, he’s with you, Always!”

The journey of faith didn’t end there.  If anything, it really started to pick up momentum. In response to these meaningful experiences at camp I would return to church with a desire to know what it was that God intended for my life.  What does a life well lived look like to God? Each day I continue to seek to live a life pleasing before God.

In one way or another, each day I ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and in response I offer my self to Him.

I once was lost and now I have been found.

Praise be to God.

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March 15 – The War for Truth

On March 15, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

When I see a title like this, I tune out.  It usually means someone is going to go on a rant about some specific belief of theirs, whether political, religious, social, or personal.  So why would I risk turning everyone off with a title like this?

Because I believe we are facing just this, a war for truth; not for “a truth” or “your truth” or “my truth”, but for Truth itself.  For decades we’ve discussed how postmodernism is relativising Truth and wondered where it would lead us.  I’ve watched as my youth classes have ever increasingly answered the most basic questions with, “It depends” to the point that it has become a joke among us.  And now I listen to our presidential candidates who say something one day and then say the opposite the next, and then on the third day deny they said either of those things, even when faced with a recording of their own words.  When Truth is no longer consistent, we have lost the ability to communicate.

As Jesus stood before Pilate on the day that He died, they had a conversation about Truth.

 “…The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.  And then he left Him…    – John 18:37

I don’t know about you, but I am on the side of Truth, and I define Truth by Jesus’ words.  The Truth is that we were created for relationship.  The Truth is that when we fight the truth, there are consequences.  The Truth is that Jesus came, fully God and fully Man, to show us the way back to Truth, and then to die in our place, to take on and pay the price for our Truthlessness.  The Truth is that by following Jesus, we can live with Him forever.  This is the Truth, not an opinion.  It won’t change tomorrow because it’s politically convenient.  It won’t ever NOT be the truth, which means we can count on it.

What is Truth, Pilate?  Jesus is the Truth.  If only you’d realized that sooner.

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March 14 – The Power of a Phrase

On March 14, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

A simple phrase can impart a whole gamut of emotions if shared with those who understand.  If I simply say the phrase, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” I conjure up a plethora of emotions in those who have seen the movie Jaws.  A looming crisis, danger, fear, lack, the permission to try crazy solutions… all from a simple phrase.

On the cross, as Jesus died, He uttered a phrase that did the same for those who heard.  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  It’s a heart-wrenching cry to be sure, but when you know your Old Testament as the Jews did who heard Him say it, it is packed with so much more.  It is a quote form Ps. 22, and the entirety of this psalm, all it’s emotion, fear, pain, and despair, are packed in to this small reference.  The Psalm says this…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

On the cross, Jesus was living out the truth of this Psalm, written 1000 years before Christ was born.  He faced this pain, loss, fear, and loneliness, and He did it for you and me.  He not only died for us, but He faced THIS for us.  What wondrous love is this.

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March 11 – Remodeling Reflections

On March 11, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

We are having two bathrooms overhauled at our house right now. What was 1.5
baths will soon become 2 baths. This will be a fabulous, daily quality-of-life
improvement. It will be. It will be. My new mantra. Thank You, Lord, for what it will
be.

These improvements are turning into a pretty big project with the moving of
plumbing and walls. All this work has meant having men in and out of my house–
and my bedroom!!–for several weeks now. The whole family is now using one little
guest bathroom downstairs for all of our pottying and bathing needs. You wanna
talk about “First World Problems”? Only ONE bathroom? DOWNstairs? We’re fine.
We are. But this big project has altered our daily routines, and not just the bathroom
kind. I pretty much do all the same things I used to do, but when and where I get
them done has changed. Shifting my routine was difficult for me at first. It turns out
I’m a little more stuck in my ways than I thought. I have a curmudgeonly streak.
Who knew?

These changes have made me notice things I had been overlooking before. It has
given me a new appreciation for our home, for our family. The change in routine has
helped me do some decluttering, too. Discovering junk that hasn’t been touched in
forever that was right under my nose, unnoticed.
I think this is part of the lesson of Lent. A change in routine–it seems most Lenten
practices require an altering of the routine–helps us become aware. We notice the
good, we get rid of some bad; we shift our focus for 40 days. We fight any tendencies
to be a curmudgeon in our following of Christ.

– Julie Dahlberg

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March 10 – Wrong reaction

On March 9, 2016 in Pastor's Blog

I’ve been wronged in my life.  You have, too.  Most all of us have at one point or another.  Someone has said something untrue which caused us grief.  Assumptions have led to broken relationships.  Many of us know the truth of the old saw, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  The disheartening thing is that its a pretty sure thing that we will face it again.  But if this is so, the question becomes “how will you react?”

As Jesus hung upon the cross, the ultimate symbol of unjust punishment, His reaction MUST inform ours.  The only human in history without sin dies a sinner’s death, the only perfect man is charged with every kind of evil.  God Himself is wronged by humankind, and His reaction to it?

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they have done.”

This is not my usual reaction.  When I’m wronged, my reactions move from self-doubt (“maybe they’re right and I’m wrong”) to fear (“what else might happen”) to anger (“how dare they accuse me of that”).  But seldom is my initial reaction that of Jesus: forgiveness.  And so I live this faltering life attempting to grow in my Christlikeness to the point where I can react to personal injustice with forgiveness.  It’s not easy and I’m no where near that yet.  But the act of sanctification, becoming holy and Christlike, is a life-long process, so I cut myself a little slack and continue the journey of learning.

May we all find the humility to forgive our wrong assumptions, then the slights, then the gossip, the lies, and finally the punishments we don’t deserve.

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