From the Pastor’s Desk – September 2018

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It’s time to turn another page. Seems like I just bought new shorts for the long, lazy summer ahead and this morning the feeling of Fall in the air led me to reach for the sweatshirts. That’s what life is, though. We’re heading into the next fall season with Sunday School and Wednesday Nights just around the corner. I look forward to getting back to a weekly rhythm. But I’m wired in such a way that I can’t anticipate what’s ahead without thinking about what’s behind.

As the fall quickly makes itself known I look back with wonder at the summer we just had. Summer was a whirlwind of CHIC, MUUUCE, VBS, Mom & Kids Days, Youth Group, and Heritage Days. No wonder it seemed to go so fast! It was also, for me, an unexpected time to sit quietly, move slowly, listen and simply receive as I spent so many weeks healing from my bypass surgery. God hasn’t told me why this happened to me at this time, as if there is one specific reason. I never asked him that. Instead, He’s used the time we’ve had together to help me think more deeply and critically about what it is to be a Pastor and a congregation living out this Christian walk together.

I’m seeing more clearly that our relationship is a mutual one where you bring your gifts, talents and passions to serve where you’re uniquely wired to serve. I have a specific role to play as your Shepherd providing opportunities for you to be fed and grow. We celebrate our joys and victories together and together we weep and grieve our losses. When any of us needs picking up after getting knocked down, when we struggle in our faith, when we question or doubt, we’ll be there for each other without hesitation and without judgement. We do this because we’ve all been there at some time, because we can’t expect each other to live up to some standard of Christian “perfection” and because th

is is what love does. Jesus teaches us that everything in the Bible and being his follower comes down to love.

Not only are we at the end of the summer but this month also marks the end of the first full year of me being your Pastor. I’ll be reflecting on that as I start preaching again in September. I’ve missed sharing messages with you and I’m very ready to be back. I’m also so very thankful for everyone who filled in to speak and care for each other in my absence.

Are you ready to turn t

he page? Where I’ve already been with Jesus gives me great confidence to look forward to where I’m going next. I’m thankful for the things I’ve heard from him this summer and the past year. The next chapter begins now and I know He’s got His very best in store for us.

Pastor Mark

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34

Article: Summer 2018 Pastor Mark Chapman

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“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

When I was a kid and the school year would come to an end it seemed the summer was stretching out endlessly before me. I could look to the horizon in my mind’s eye and all I could see was summer. Next school year didn’t show up anywhere as far as I could fathom. The next three months would be all about my blue Schwinn Sting-Ray bike, playing box hockey at the warming house down the block and buying Bubs Daddy bubble gum at the PDQ store. (If you don’t know what any of these are, just Google it.) By the end of the first week of summer vacation the soles of my bare feet would toughen up, so I’d be able to walk across the sharp stones in my driveway without flinching and my first sunburn of the year would be in full peel, so my back was ready to tolerate the full, unfiltered blast of the sun for the rest of the summer. Endless summer, here I come!

Naturally, the fantasy of the perfect, unending world of summer vacation always ended up running into real life. Things like cuts and stitches, poison ivy, older kids bullying us over box hockey games and getting grounded for raiding the neighbor’s vegetable garden during backyard sleepovers would end up being part of the summer. And before we knew it, Mom was taking us to Sears to buy new clothes from the back to school sales. Suddenly there were new notebooks, pencils and crayons sitting on my dresser to remind me the summer was going to end. But this didn’t send me spiraling down into self-pity and depression. Instead, along with sadness over the summer ending there was a new excitement in anticipating the new school year. I’d have a new teacher, friends old and new and a whole new grade level to experience. Everything that I was so ready to be done with 90 days ago is brand new once again!

As we head into the summer of 2018, I pray you can enter into the season like a wide-eyed child filled with the wonder of possibility. When the poison ivy hits and the sun burns your skin, know you’ll never have to go through it alone and that one thing doesn’t define your entire summer or who you are.  As you move deeper each year into the journey that is your life and the summers seem shorter and change seems accelerated, remember that Jesus will never be caught by surprise by the unexpected or even the unfair things in your life. He wants you to live life and live it to the fullest in Him and he’s there to walk through it all with you. The changing seasons are one of the gifts of living in this part of the world. I pray a blessing to you all as we begin this endless summer of 2018 together with Jesus and all He has for you.

In it together, Pastor Mark

 

Article: May 2018 Pastor Mark Chapman

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Is it safe to say the snow season is over?  I sure hope so!  It was a crazy long ending to the winter this year.  As I write this in the final days of April I don’t see any sign of anything green or even much in the way of buds on the trees yet.  But I know they’re coming. God is faithful!

 

My calendar is full of signs of spring, however.  It’s loaded with things like the Prom Grand March, Spring Cleanup Day, Confirmation and Graduations.  Hallelujah, Spring is in the air!  Like most of you, Linda and I have enjoyed getting outside a lot more since most of the snow melted just a few days ago.  We enjoy taking drives and walks to explore the area and learn more about where we live.  Our bicycle built for two hasn’t come out yet but watch for it real soon.  We’ve been here nearly 8 months already and are looking forward to our first full spring and summer in Upsala.

 

I love the seasons and the endless variety of God’s creation.  Whether it’s a walk in the woods with Linda, time with my telescope under a star filled night sky or watching birds at our feeder I continually rediscover a sense of awe at the mighty and creative God we serve.  And to think this Creator of everything sent His only Son, Jesus to live and die for me in a very personal way brings me to my knees.  This time of year brings us so many reminders of new life.  It’s God’s design to be so obviously present that we can’t miss Him if we only open our eyes to see.  Now, go take a walk, ride a bike, get in a boat or just look out your window and tell me what you see.  Spring is here.  God is present.

 

In It Together,

Pastor Mark

 

Article: “Jesus is my Anchor” Pastor Mark Chapman

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I can tell it’s been spring for a full week already because the snow that keeps coming has been melting a little faster. I try to appreciate those little things as the Minnesota seasons change. With all the chaos that seems so dominant in the world, I find comfort in the regular rhythms of the seasons. As I look out at my mostly white lawn I anticipate the coming green. I await with assurance the budding of leaves and the opening of flowers. There will be colorful birds at my feeder and the North Two River will start running again. I know these things will happen.

How different from what I get when I read the news or check into social media. Lately, I’m caught off guard nearly every day by something I couldn’t have anticipated. It might be politics, it could be a natural disaster, or there may have been an act of mass violence. Whatever it is, I didn’t see it coming and it somehow throws me off. Thankfully, I don’t get totally derailed by these unexpected happenings. I know that’s only because I have a firm anchor in this ever-changing world. Without Jesus, my anchor, I could do nothing else but get tossed back and forth by the world’s events.

I still get sad, angry and even outraged at the world’s happenings, but I can always get back to my center which is Jesus. But I’m also changed with each incident. Jesus doesn’t change and the longer I walk with Him the more I change toward being more like Him. I feel more strongly about injustice than I did when I was younger. I feel deeper sorrow at natural or man-made disasters that destroy lives wherever they occur in the world. I experience these occurrences less as news items and more as events happening to real people just like me.

This chaotic world could be too much for any of us. That’s why I love the rhythms of life that God gave us, beginning with a weekly pattern of Sabbath. The seasons of the church calendar also remind me that God has all this in the palms of his hands and ours is not to worry or fret. We just came through the season of Lent where we are reminiscent of Jesus’ intentional journey to the cross. In that remembrance we are reminded that Jesus’ life looked like a chaotic one that was tossed about by the world, yet he was fully in control. Remember that as you open the headlines and notice the world turning green at the same time. Allow that reassuring pattern of new life emerging once again out of a frozen landscape to speak God’s peace and assurance to your soul.

In it together, Pastor Mark

 

Article: “Jesus is being made known.” Pastor Mark Chapman

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This month I’m writing this on a Wednesday night. After finishing another amazing supper prepared by a kitchen full of volunteers and getting to know a few more parents I like to check in on all activities going on. As I was walking toward my office about 15 preschoolers from Adventureland were “swimming” down the hallway. I got caught headed upstream. Upstairs in J-Team it’s “Loud” night. In case there was any doubt of this, the volume in the great room confirms that it is, indeed, very loud night. There are also a lot of loud and wild shirts being worn. Up in the sanctuary there are pushing battles going on among the youth. Each is trying to knock their partner off balance and the last one standing wins a t-shirt.

It’s easy to see why so many youth and kids want to be here Wednesday nights. What a great place to be with friends to play and get loud together! But there’s so much more going on. Young people are having a positive experience in church. For some, this is the only church they know. They get to know and be known by adults. So how do food, fun and games make a difference in their lives? I walked around the church once more to find out. As I went from room to room a second time I saw something more happening. The little swimmers were now building models of the Red Sea and learning about the miracle God performed when He parted the waters. J-Teamers were coloring and discussing Bible stories.  They were learning that God thinks they are so valuable that He drops everything to find them when they are lost. And the youth? They were discussing what it means to be responsible for yourself and for watching out for each other in Christian love. They heard how they can sharpen and encourage each other and even help carry the burden of a friend. Everyone was learning something about who God is and who they are in Jesus.

I’m going home now. All the younger kids are gone and the youth are still hanging out, talking and playing games. A few groups of adults are still visiting in the building. It feels good to be here. Good things are happening in young people’s lives. Jesus is being made known. This matters.

~ Pastor Mark

 

 

 

 

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Article: “Another New Start” Pastor Mark Chapman

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Another New Start

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

~Isaiah 43:18-19

It seems so very human to sometimes think, “If I could do that over again I’d …”.  Is there anything in your life you’d go back and do differently if you had the chance?  If you said there isn’t anything, I’m sorry but I have trouble believing you.  We’ve all made bad choices that have hurt ourselves or someone else.  In an emotional state we’ve blurted something out that we wish we could take back in.  We decided to go along with the crowd when the crowd was doing the wrong thing.  I think you get the idea.

Unless someone invented a time machine since I wrote this there’s just no way to go back and get things right.  Aren’t you glad we don’t serve a God who expects perfection?  Back in the time of Moses the Lord gave us a set of rules to live by that would make us perfect if we could actually live by them.  None of us could even get past the first 10 of those rules!  Honoring your parents … no telling  lies … don’t steal.  How are you doing so far?  If this is where God’s word left us we might as well throw in the towel right now.

Thankfully, as we enter into a new year we can reflect on the truth that our God is a God of second chances.  (And third and fourth …)  The new year is often a time of reflection and resolution making.  Our thoughts turn to how I can do things better or make positive changes.  Under our own willpower we usually end up disappointing ourselves.  I took a survey and found out that most resolutions last until about January 3.  I was the only person I surveyed but that seems like a pretty fair average.

As you enter 2018 and think about what you might do differently I want you to think about the God of many chances who wants you to bring your mess-ups, your poor choices, your sin to him. He didn’t create all his rules to put us to shame.  He did it to make us realize how much we need a Savior, Jesus, who is the very embodiment of forgiveness, love and grace.  It’s time for a fresh start.  God meets you right where you’re at and gives you everything you need to go a new direction.  And he’s not looking for your perfection, he’s looking for your heart.

— Pastor Mark

 

 

Article: “In it Together”

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The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy.           ~Isaiah 9:2-3

This month the holidays hit us full speed ahead. Are you ready for it this time around? The season always seems to catch me off guard. I have a vision of myself being calm, moving slowly, enjoying the change of season and all the sights, sounds and wonder of it all. Instead, I usually find myself dumbfounded by how little white space there is on my calendar and just hoping I don’t forget anything.

And even with all the traditions and the routines of the Christmas season, no two years are ever the same. Life is always in a little different place than it was a year ago. Some years there are new family members. Other years someone is sadly missing. Some years we’ve moved to a new place and in others the old place has radically changed.

As predictable and ideal as I would love life to be sometimes, I’m so thankful to be reminded in this season that God is in control. Those who were awaiting their Messiah all those centuries ago didn’t know what life was going to bring day to day. But God’s promises never changed. The words from Isaiah 9 were not referring to something that already happened. This promise of a light coming into a dark place and joy returning to the land were written 700 years before Jesus was born. The promise never wavered and God’s fulfillment came.

My prayer for you is that you can spiritually thrive this month because God’s promises are as sure today as they were in Isaiah’s time. I pray you won’t be overwhelmed by the full calendar, the family gatherings or even the loneliness of this season. He’s given you his Spirit and promised to never leave you alone. Rejoice in the coming of Jesus and may you be mightily blessed as we worship and remember together.

In it together,
Pastor Mark

 

Article: “Attitude of Thankfulness” Pastor Mark Chapman

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If you’re like me you often find yourself thinking about the next thing coming. My personal calendar is just one swipe away on my phone and it loves sending me pop-up reminders throughout the day. There are calls, meetings, sermons and lessons to prepare and appointments to keep. I love what I get to do as a pastor so this isn’t a complaint. But I realize that I must be intentional to simply live in the moment. When I’m in a meeting I often acknowledge in my prayer that we all have things going on in our lives that can distract us and pull us away from the tasks in front of us. I ask the Holy Spirit to help us to leave those things at the door that we may be present to each other and to Him as He leads and guides us.

It’s normal and natural to have our minds on things we need to be prepared for and to process and reflect on those that have already happened. The problem comes when our thoughts lead to anxiety, regret or fear over what’s been done or what’s coming our way. The Bible tells us that we can “take every thought captive to the Lord”. This means with the Holy Spirit we have control over what our minds choose to linger on. Being in the present with Jesus helps me to gain perspective over the things that can seem so big, scary and uncontrollable in my life.

In Isaiah 43:18 God tells us to, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” And Jesus reminds us how useless it is to worry when He said in Matthew 6:24, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Something we are reminded to do in this fall season is to practice an attitude of thankfulness. When our thoughts become fearful and anxious it’s hard to be thankful. In this month of November can you think of one thing to be thankful for each day? You’ll be surprised at what little things come to your mind when you prayerfully practice this discipline. You’ll start to notice blessings in the present moment you would have overlooked in your rush to take care of the next item that pops up on your calendar.

The Apostle Paul challenges us in 1 Thessalonians 5 to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I pray for you a season of thankfulness that will free you from the worries and anxieties in your life. For me, I am so very thankful to be your pastor and to work and live with you in making the Kingdom of God known in this time and place.

With a Full Heart,  Pastor Mark

 

Article: “Dear Friends” Pastor Mark Chapman

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Dear Friends,

This is my first time writing to you officially as your Pastor. Just saying that feels so good. Linda and I have been in Upsala a little over one week now and our hearts are filled. We began with what seemed like a great multitude showing up to welcome us and unload our moving van. Thanks to all the hands involved we could start settling into our new home right away. We spent the rest of the week unpacking, setting up my office, walking the streets and trails of Upsala and enjoying your heartfelt hospitality. I also had a couple of meetings sprinkled in and my sides still ache from all the fun and laughter at the CW Auction Saturday night.

Sunday (September 24th) was a very special day for all of us. What a joy to see so many of you who came for the installation service along with our family and several friends and former parishioners who made the trip to Upsala. The worship, fellowship and many gifts were overwhelming in the best possible sense. Pastor Jon Kramka’s words choked me up as I was reminded of my calling and what it means to be a Shepherd of God’s Church. I recalled one of my favorite verses, 1 Peter 5:2 which says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be.” For me, that is both a humbling and a high calling to serve the church.

Following Jesus is a journey that will take us places we never would have guessed we’d go, physically and spiritually. (Can I get an amen?) I’m so happy that He has led Linda and me to Community Covenant Church and to be your Pastor. Now the journey continues.

With Great Love,

Pastor Mark

 

Article: Responding to a Shifting Culture Youth Pastor Josh Hodgson

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This August I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit for the first time. I heard from over a dozen world-class speakers, authors, and Pastors about various leadership issues. They provided quality teaching for both Christian and non-Christian leaders, but nothing was compromised in the effort. The Gospel was presented on two occasions and over 132,000 people from over North America worshiped and prayed together via simulcast in 550 locations. Over the next few months it will be rebroadcasted in over 59 languages in 125 countries to twice as many people. Throughout the GLS, different stories were highlighted about how God is using leaders from various parts of the world who are committed to Biblical leadership principles and submission to God’s leading, to transform communities and even entire countries.

One of the core beliefs of Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek and host of the GLS, is that “the local church is the hope of the world.” It is his goal to empower leaders who can carry out the mission God gave us: To care for others and bring them to Jesus.

None of us have to look very far to see how much the world is hurting. There is terrorism, domestic violence, this year’s political race, poverty, human trafficking, deadly natural disasters, and many other issues displayed for all to see on the news. Some of these problems feel so big and overwhelming that we don’t see how we can do anything about them. As our culture drifts further from God’s truth it is easy to feel discouraged.

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús was the closing speaker at the GLS. His recent book, Stay the Course: Finding Hope in a Drifting Culture, gives a solution and hope for us Christians as we try to make sense of our times. Here’s some of what he had to say.

There are four responses to culture drift:

  1. Accommodate
  2. Oppose
  3. Withdraw
  4. Engage

When we Accommodate for the shift in culture so that we don’t step on anyone’s toes or to stay politically correct we lose truth. This is not the solution Jesus modeled and it is not how we should respond.

When we Oppose the shift it becomes a battle to be fought; lines are drawn and in the process we lose grace and love. This is not what Jesus taught and it is not what he did. This is not the correct response to a shifting culture either.

If we Withdraw from the culture to avoid the conflict, we are like the hired hand who buriedthe talent he was given. We lose connection with the very people we are meant to reach and limit our ability to be fruitful. This is not the response God wants us to make either.

The correct way for us to respond is to Engage. When Jesus taught that we are salt and light, he was telling us what our responsibility is as the church. He told us to be salt because the world is decaying and to be light because the world is in the dark. Evil prevails when salt and light are absent. The church is the salt and light of the world, so the church needs to be present.

Now if we engage unprepared, we can put ourselves at risk. There are three things we must do to stay the course and be effective at engaging the culture in order to make an impact.

  1. KNOW WHO WE ARE!

Don’t let anyone else define or determine who you are. Your identity is in Jesus! Let us allow him to define who we are as individuals and who we are as the church.

  1. WATCH THE UNDERCURRENT!

Keep alert for anything that is against God’s Word or God’s will. Think about this: The American dream is to gain it all; Jesus’ plan is to lose it all.

  1. KEEP COMING BACK!

Make corrections whenever necessary to stay the course. Repentance is uncomfortable because it means admitting you’re wrong. No one wants to be wrong! To repent requires humility.

May we stay the course! Let’s engage the culture!

An optimist and a pessimist went into business together. Trade flourished. “Well,” said the optimist, “we’ve had a wonderful month. It’s been one constant run of customers.”

“Yeah,” agreed the pessimist, “we have had some good business, but look at those front doors! If people keep shoving through them, the hinges will be worn out in another week.”

Are you going to engage the culture like the optimist or like the pessimist? There is so much work to be done. Let that fact motivate you, not defeat you.

Another speaker at the GLS coined this phrase I’ve recently adopted:

THE IMPATIENT OPTIMIST.

Let’s believe in God’s ability to transform lives, the culture, and our world. Let’s get to work. None of the problems in our world are too big for God! The fact that they aren’t solved yet shouldn’t make us pessimistic, but make us impatient to solve them.

Joshua Hodgson