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 Steve Larson, one of our pastors…

Born in Livonia, MI, my parents raised me in the church on 8 Mile Road which eventually moved to Farmington Hills and became Faith Covenant Church.  I have no “conversion moment” because church, God, and my relationship with both was simply part of life from the very beginning.  Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights and the occasional event in between were set calendar items for our family.  With Dad chairing the church, or the C.E. Board, or the Sunday school program, and with mom teaching, singing in the choir and baking, baking, baking for church events, “family” and “church” were in some ways synonymous.  And through the church family, I grew.

From the age of 5 through the age of 8, we spent our summers (dad was a teacher, mom was home raising us) managing Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp in Onekema, MI.  Being the “camp kid” was a joyful thing for me.  I got to experience church, God, and my relationship with both outside the building and scheduled times.  And through our camp experience, I grew.

It wasn’t until high school that I truly began to make my faith my own, however.  In 9th grade, my English teacher soon learned that I would be fitting my faith into every public project she assigned.  Whether “Share Your Talents Day” where I sang Christian music, or a report on “The Most Important Thing in Your Life” where I preached my first sermon, Mrs. Bauer always shook her head and graded me down, but continued to give me opportunities to share my faith in class.  This was not easy for a shy, introverted, uncomfortable kid like me, but I never considered doing anything else.

A thespian and choir geek, I learned (sometimes the hard way) how to be comfortable in front of an audience.  A leader in my youth group, I learned the organization it took to pull off a really fun event that still made a difference in people’s lives.  And so through my high school years, I grew.

My call to ministry came just after CHIC ’88, our triennial youth conference.  And I’ll tell you all about it… tomorrow.


It’s been a few days since our last devotional due to the men’s retreat at Covenant Point.  With no cell service, I chose not to post.  Today, we’re back.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38

Today is leap day, that special day every four years that is added to our lives.  Sure, its there to make sure our calendars line up correctly (who knew in first grade that there weren’t really 365 days in a year, but 365 1/4), but today I choose to receive it as a gift.  Too often we complain about not having enough time to do the things we must or want, and many have rhetorically asked me if I didn’t think it would be fantastic to have an extra day.  Well, here you go!

As I think this Lent about Jesus’ gifts of salvation and resurrection, about giving things up, and about the call to give our own selves away as gifts to others, this passage came to mind.  “You’ll receive gifts in the same way you give them,” is how I read this.  Too often we’ve read it as, “You’ll receive the same level, amount, or kind of gifts you give,” but that can’t be right.  I know that I receive so much more from God than I give to Him.  You can’t “out-give” God.  You can’t even match Him.  So this can’t be about the amount of the gift, or even the value of it.

I believe this is speaking to the attitude of the gift.  If we give begrudgingly out of a sense of duty, we will receive less because one of the great gifts we receive is the joy of giving itself.  In fact, elsewhere the bible tells us, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”  When we give out of the joy of gratitude for what we’ve received, then not only do we receive more, but the very act of giving is a gift.  When we give, we get the opportunity to join with God in His amazing plan for His people.  What could be a better use of our money, our time, our talents, ourselves than that?  What else do you want to spend it on or save it for?

What is your attitude when it comes to giving?  Take some time this Lenten season to sit quietly with God and ask Him and yourself that question.

What is your attitude toward the gifts you receive from Him?  Are you a “cheerful giver” like God, or are you giving your time and talents and tithes to church because you have to, because God won’t love you if you don’t, or because “if I don’t, nobody will so I guess I better”?  When we recognize our giving as an opportunity from God, a gift in and of itself, then we’ll begin to see that God’s gifts come, “pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

Lord, this Lent, may we truly comprehend the lavishness of your generosity and respond with an equal joy in the gifts we give.  Amen.

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 Claudia Nauman, Chair of our Deacon team…

Paul and I arrived at Libertyville Covenant Church in 1991, both from denominations other than the Covenant. We knew no one nor anything about the Covenant, but we saw a loving group of people sharing life as a healthy Christian family. The following year we became members. I came to the Covenant as a Catholic, intimidated to be amidst those who loved and knew the Bible, for I knew next to nothing. Every Bible study that was offered at church I attended, and every opportunity to soak in more about our Triune God became a place for me to sit and learn. I am thankful that I found people in our church who were interested in walking the Christian walk, and I casually looked to a few of them to mentor me in the ways of the Bible. They taught me that disciplined studying and reading of the Bible is an expression of my love for God, and that He’s always there for me. They also taught me about prayer, both the simple act and the profound triune mystery attached to it.

In 1992 I began to read through the entire Bible for the very first time, and it was exciting but really hard.  I needed some sense of familiarity, one day while commuting downtown, and turned to one of the few OT passages I knew: Psalm 23 and across from it I spied Psalm 27, which spoke to my heart, and past hurts, and became my very first memory verse: The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? My being held that verse ever so closely, leaning on it to help me to break dependence on pains of the past and uncertainties of my future.

24 years later I know that verse, though I’m in a different time and a different space in life.  I’ve walked, ran, and at times hid  from my God of Psalm 27, but His promise to be my light, strength, and salvation has never changed. I, however, have. I’m His. Forever.

A Prayer of the Puritans: “A Cry for Deliverance”

Save me entirely from sin.
I know I am righteous through the righteousness of another,
but I pant and pine for likeness to Thyself.
I am Thy child and should bear Thy image,
Enable me to recognize my death unto sin;
When it tempts me may I be deaf unto its voice.
Deliver me from the invasion as well as the dominion of sin.
Grant me to walk as Christ walked,
to live in the newness of His life,
the life of love,
the life of faith,
the life of holiness.
I abhor my body of death, its indolence, envy, meanness, pride.
Forgive, and kill these vices,
have mercy on my unbelief,
on my corrupt and wandering heart.
When Thy blessings come I begin to idolize them,
and set my affection on some beloved object –
children, friends, wealth, honor;
Cleanse this spiritual adultery and give me chastity;
close my heart to all but Thee.
Sin is my greatest curse;
Let Thy victory be apparent to my consciousness, and displayed in my life.
Help me to be always devoted, confident, obedient, resigned,
childlike in my trust of Thee,
to love Thee with soul, body, mind, strength,
to love my fellow man as I love myself,
to be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts,
slanderous words, meanness, unkind manners,
to master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.
Fill me with grace daily,
that my life be a fountain of sweet water.

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 Bruce Thorson, a member of our Deacon team…

I was raised in a Christian home – Christian in the sense that we went to church.  Christian in the sense that we said grace at meals. We believed in God.  But I’m not sure growing up that I ever really heard or at least understood the message of God’s love in a way that I could relate to personally.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I came into a personal relationship with Christ through the work of Campus Crusade for Christ. A friend of mine had come to faith and was meeting with the Crusade students and it seemed to me something was different about him. He had changed – and he had a new and hopeful outlook on life. A new joy in his heart. I met some of the other students in Crusade and they had the same thing.  They were different and I wanted what they had.  They told me in a way that I could relate to personally of God’s love and plan for my life. I surrendered to God’s love and asked Jesus into my heart.

It wasn’t long before I noticed a change in my own life and heart. A new quality of love and a desire to talk about God’s love to others.