MARCH FROM OUR PASTORS
Our Need for God
We are entering the season of Lent, a season of the church year in which God calls us ever more deeply to stop and consider our sinful ways, to deny ourselves, and to meditate on the gift of Christ’s death on the cross that brought us salvation.
The season begins with a Scripture lesson from the life of Jesus in which the Spirit called Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. During this trial, Jesus fasts from food and drink for forty days. The devil then comes and tempts Him with all the comforts of the world. The experience pushes Jesus to the max, but in the end He denies all the devil’s attempts to snatch Him away, declaring boldly to the face of the enemy, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Author Maggie Combs questions what we often consider to be a need for an “escape” in our lives. It could be a vacation, a sneak-away to our cupboard for a piece of chocolate, a bubble bath. All these can be good things, she says, but the problem comes when we elevate these “escapes” to a need. Considering them needs, we start to fight for them. When we don’t receive them, we get angry, short-tempered, bitter. These needs, Combs argues, come to take the throne in our lives in place of our need for God.
Jesus’ departure to the wilderness is a challenge for us. It’s a challenge for us to look deeper at what we think our needs are. Yes we need food; yes we need clothing; yes we need rest. Our Heavenly Father knows we need these things (Matthew 6:32). But what other things, what other so-called needs, have come to take the place in our lives for our need for God? While Jesus may have hungered, while He may have had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:19), while He was betrayed and rejected, Jesus was never lacking. He was never alone. Why? Because He had God (John 16:32). “And my God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). There are some things that the human heart requires to survive that only God can provide.
What “need” has come to take the place of God in your life? This Lent, consider putting it aside so that you might find all that you truly need met in God.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Garritt and Sanette Fleming
FEBRUARY FROM OUR PASTORS
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members, though they are many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
A Body Working Together
If you have ever been in a tandem kayak before, then you know how essential it is for you and your partner to be paddling in the same direction. If one of you paddles forward while the other paddles backwards, then you aren’t going to go anywhere. Not only that, but your paddles are bound to collide like swords in a sword fight.
This is what can happen on the lake or the river on a kayak, but so often this is what happens in the church. Jesus calls us to be one body, working together for His glory, but so often we find ourselves unaware of what others are doing or even in competition against each other rather than working together toward a shared goal and moving in the same direction. The lack of synchrony can also lead us to a place of stagnancy, of not really knowing what we’re supposed to be doing as a church.
And yet we’re reminded again that Instead of many different “bodies” each doing his or her own thing, Jesus has called us to be one body, all working together in the service of our Lord. When God’s people live in unity it is a blessed thing (Psalm 133:1). Great things can be done that could not have been done otherwise.
This year, our prayer and objective as a congregation is to move from being a just collection of people who might know each other, gather in the same building, and serve God in our own individual ways, to being a family that works together, that serves together, that cares for each other, and that seeks to work toward a common effort to please the Lord. We will be uniting around a singular theme and purpose: “Schoeneck’s call to mission and service.” Each ministry in the church, such as the Senior Youth Fellowship or the Hospitality Ministry, will play a role in fulfilling this call and will work not alone but in tandem with another ministry in the church in this objective. More information will be shared throughout this month.
Uniting around a common purpose, with each arm of the church doing something to contribute to the goal, we pray that we will be stronger for the Lord and will be able to accomplish greater things than had we been working alone.
Before He left the disciples to go to the cross, Jesus prayed that God would make His disciples one so that the world see us and believe that God had truly sent Jesus the Christ into the world (John 17:21). This year, we pray that God would join us together as a congregation in one mind and one purpose so that through us, others might come to believe in Him. Amen.
In Christ Alone,
Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming
JANUARY FROM OUR PASTORS
A New Beginning
January, as the first month of the year, marks the start of something new. Many use it as an opportunity to start fresh — to begin healthier habits, to set new goals and priorities, to reset and refocus.
As we think of the new start and new beginning associated with the first month of the year, a powerful truth of Scripture comes to mind, and that is the new beginning offered by Jesus Christ to all who turn to Him.
Maybe we have gotten everything we could have ever wanted off of our list this Christmas. Maybe we got a raise or a bonus. Maybe we got tickets to our favorite show. Maybe we got a gift card to our favorite restaurant. These delights and comforts go a long way in making us happy, but it is amazing how all of these can feel hollow or empty when something is not right in our lives. When a relationship is broken, when we’ve done something to hurt someone and they’ve stopped talking to us, when find ourselves in the midst of a fight with a friend or a spouse, it’s amazing how all the gifts and money in the world can fade to nothing. If only we’d be able to talk like friends again, if only we knew they had forgiven us, if only there was peace in our home. We’d trade everything for this, for our relationships to be right again.
Peter knew this feeling well. Peter had grown incredibly close to Jesus over the three years he spent journeying with the Messiah during His earthly ministry. When Peter heard that Jesus was going to suffer and be abandoned by everyone, Peter pledged to his Savior that he would never leave Him. But we know well what happened. When life got hard, Peter found himself doing something he never thought he would do. He disowned Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. After it happened and he realized what he had done, Peter went out and “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). The shame and weight of his sin pressed onto Peter’s heart. He knew how much his actions must have broken the heart of his Savior who loved him so much.
Would there be a future to his relationship with Jesus? Would God forgive him for what he had done? As he wept, we imagine that Peter sat in a place of brokenness and despair with these questions on his mind. Yet the answer to these questions was not the end that Peter might have expected. Upon His resurrection, Jesus invites Peter to His side and asks him a simple question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16). Jesus asks the question three times, one time for each of the instances that Peter denied Jesus. It was a question of commitment. Each time Jesus asked it, Jesus invited Peter to turn back and recommit his life to Him. Though Peter’s sin was great and it grieved the Lord, the Lord also loved Peter so much that He died for that sin on the cross. He was willing to forgive and have Peter back so long as Peter was willing to recommit his heart back to the Lord. That’s all He asked: turn back to me and give me your heart once more.
We all have stumbled along the way. We all have hurt someone. Right now you may be sitting in a place of grief or shame wondering what you could ever do to make it right and how anything will ever change. The first step is to turn to the Lord and to get your heart right with Him. Acknowledge what you have done, confess your sin, and turn your heart to Him once more. He is faithful and just to forgive your sins.
With your heart now surrendered to the Lord, He will help to show you the way. He will lead you in what steps to take to make amends. And while it may not always be easy, while the result you want may not happen right away, know that the Lord will be on your side.
As you begin this new year, maybe you are facing heartache and defeat. Know that Jesus offers a new beginning to all who turn to Him. He is waiting to help you and heal you. Receive His invitation!
In Gratitude of His Grace,
Pastors Garritt and Sanette