Pastor Efrem's sermon was based around the sixth commandment: Do not murder.

The sermon wasn't so much about the obvious not killing someone, but about valuing life. And probably more so, about knowing who we are. The premise was that we have to have a low view of ourselves to devalue someone else enough to take their life. We forget that we are created in God's image--and so is everyone else we come in contact with.

We may not kill, but we devalue through the way we treat others, the things we say about them, the way we act around them. And Jesus (in Matthew 5) says that this is just as bad as murder. If we could just see the value in each person (including ourselves), the mess of this world would be a little bit less.


His Name is All That

One of the songs we've sung a few times in church lately is "I Call You Faithful" written by Bobby Price and Kevin Walker. The basic song goes:

I call You Holy, Your name is Holy.

You are so holy to me.
I call You Holy, Your name is Holy.
Holy You are and Holy you'll be.

The song goes on replacing "holy" with righteous, awesome, faithful, healer and savior. But it ends with "I call You All That, Your name is All That."

It's a new name for God for me. But I like it. It's a good reminder. I was reminded today during the sermon, that it's one thing to call Jesus "Savior", which is what I think most of us tend to do (and that's good), but in only calling Him Savior, we focus on the fact that He has saved us and that's good enough. But we are also to call Him "Lord." And Lord means that He has rule over our lives--that we live according to how He has called us to live. We aren't to forsake Him for the things of this world, because Jesus is all we need. He is All That. And more.


Minnehaha Falls

We've had a reprieve on Autumn here: last week was quite cool (I think places north of here experienced frost), but this week is back in the 80s. A few weeks ago, we found Minnehaha Park, but didn't get to the waterfall, so yesterday we went back to find it.

The waterfall is mentioned in Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha. President Johnson visited here in the 60's (that's his footprints in picture 2). The falls are a bit dry this time of year, but the 53-foot fall is still picturesque.


Shabbat Shalom

Today's sermon was on the 4th commandment: Keeping the Sabbath. We've done a fair amount of reading on Sabbath-keeping around our house and try to keeping up as best we can, seeking the freedom and blessing in it rather than legalism.

Pastor Efrem at one point read from Hebrews 4. It ends with the oft-quoted "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (4:12, NIV). It's a good verse--we usually throw it out there as a reminder that we need to be reading and memorizing the Bible (which is true). But today, the context of it really caught my attention for the first time. This verse is at the end of a chapter that talks about rest and Sabbath.

It seems to me that for God's Word to be living and active in our lives, that we need to be mindful of keeping the Sabbath. Not just in taking a day out of our normal routine to meet with other believers, take our focus off ourselves and desist from our regular occupation; we need to take a day each week to connect with God, to remind ourselves of what He has been doing in our lives (as the Hebrews were told to remember how God brought them out of slavery) and to be about His business.

Creation care and stewardship are even at the heart of the Sabbath (let's not let this be an environmental thing or a liberal political thing--it's a biblical thing). God told his people to give the land a rest every seven years--to let it renew as well. No farming or harvesting or other use of the land was to take place. Beyond that it's a justice thing, for every 50 years there was supposed to be a Year of Jubilee when all debts were released.

God made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. It is a gift. He intended His people to keep the Sabbath and let it be a blessing to the world. It is about rest. It is about worship. It is about stewardship, creation care and justice. And it is about a God who loved us. A video that Pastor Efrem showed today gave this insight: God gave us 6 days to go about our work and do what we need to do for ourselves and our family, but he set aside 1 day out of 7 to have a date with us. That's how much He loves us.


Someday, He'll Be A Great Star Wars Geek

We took the boys to a "Meet the Star Wars Characters" at Pottery Barn Kids today. Anders' anticipation and expression on his face when he got to see the characters was fun to watch. Nils, however, isn't so sure about Darth Vader as you might be able to tell in the picture.


Understanding God

"How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be His counselor? And who could ever give Him so much that He would have to pay it back?" (Romans 11:33b-35)

I sometimes wonder why God does the things He does, why He allows us to go through certain situations, why things can't be easier. I was just reading in Romans and can across these verses. We can't know. And that's a good thing. Would I want to serve a God I--as a weak, stupid and limited human--could understand? I need a God who is more than I can imagine. Who has some mystery to Him.

"For everything comes from Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. To Him be glory evermore. Amen.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is" (Romans 11:36-12:2, NLT).

The last two verses there are quite familiar to most people (though maybe not from the translation I quoted). But they follow (notice how chapter 12 starts "And so"--or "therefor" in other translations) the thoughts form the end of chapter 11 that we can't understand everything God does. But Paul says that everything God does (including the commands He gives, and the Son whose life we are to imitate) is for His glory. Therefore, we need to think and act and live differently, constantly being transformed into Christ's image. That's what we need to know: not why God does what He does, but how God has called us to live.

It's easy--I'm a witness to it--to copy the behavior and customs of this world. But we are meant for so much more. It's not an easy road, but down it we find the depth of God's love for us.


Another Weekend with Family

This was earlier in the week, but we took a walk and the boys fed some ducks (I remembered to bring some bread with this time).

My parents, sister Amy (and her dog Bella--who is Nils' favorite cousin) and my Grandma Trumper came up this direction as Beth, Amy & Mom were putting on a baby shower for April. We went up to Maple Grove Saturday morning for it. During the shower, my Dad & I took the boys a few blocks over to explore Osseo Lions Roar Days. We ended up staying through the parade. I'm still impressed that most of the towns around here have parades remniscent of the ones we'd see in small towns growing up (though with far fewer floats and far more politicians--we saw Al Franken--he'll still always be Stuart Smalley to me). And of course, they got a large amount of candy, despite Ander's meekness in getting all he could. Later that afternoon while Beth & Nils accompanied my parents to Ikea, I took Anders to his first movie theater movie: Wall*E. He enjoyed it--and was able to sit through it well.

Today, everyone came down to our place for lunch after church. They all had to go home right afterward, but we decided to go out and explore a new park. Anders was in a photographic mood (as you can tell).


Our church lately has been doing a series on Obedient Living from the book of Exodus. One of the unique things I've heard is that the 10 Commandments ( in Hebrew they're the word just means 10 Words) are set up like a marriage covenant between God and His people. About a year ago I encountered the Lord's Supper having elements of a Hebrew wedding to it as well. It can become a powerful image.

Today, Pastor Cecelia filled in and preached on the 3rd Commandment: not taking God's name in vain. She discussed how we've often looked at this as being not cussing or taking an oath that we don't intend to keep. She pointed out however, that the word (at least in this translation--I haven't had time yet to go through my reference materials to check this out further) "take" is more about us, as believers, bearing witness to God's name. Much like an army uniform denotes that the wearer is enlisted and serves in a certain troop under a certain commander. His behavior is determined by what the officer tells him to do. As believers, we bear Christ's name (Christians). We are not to take than on ourselves in vain. We should live so that others recognize God's name on us and give Him the glory. Even Christ took on Christ's name: Jesus--Yeshua--means "God saves".

Those who lived during biblical times believed names had meaning, and that the one who was named had value as well. What's the meaning behind your name? Do you live it? Mine means "beloved." Sometimes I forget that. God loves me. He loves all His creation--everyone created in His image. And He wants us to bear His name well. Don't take it in vain.


Happy Brithday Grandma

Saturday night we drove down to Des Moines for my grandmother's birthday. It's hard to believe that she's 90. After a little celebration at church Sunday morning, the family all gathered together for a picnic. Grandma celebrated her 90th birthday with a ride on a Harley. We hadn't seen most of the family for a while (many of them hadn't met Nils before), so it was nice to be gathered together again.

We got to spend some time with my brother and his family, too. The boys really enjoyed some time with their cousins for the first time (except for a weekend with Ethan) since we've moved back. Trampoline jumping, ATV riding and fishing (Anders caught two small bass) were on the agenda for the time together.

And now we're back, hopefully ready for the week ahead.