Giving the Gift of Our Faith
Welcome to the season of giving. For the last month or more, we’ve been inundated with ads depicting the perfect gift for everyone on our list.
Gift giving can become something of a chore. It can become a selfish pursuit as we think more about what we’d like to give someone instead of what they want or need. And, it can even become a gift more for us than for them as we think about how we will benefit the gift instead of the actual recipient. I remember one year when I was growing up how got my dad a surround sound system for the family television. The gift was for him, yes, but we were just as excited as he was to open it because of the movies we knew we’d get to enjoy in crystal-clear stereo.
In this season of giving, how often do we stop to think about what it really means to give a gift to someone? How often do we really think about the needs of others and what another needs?
You and I as Christians have been given a tremendous gift — the gift of having a relationship with the God of life and salvation. We have been called out of darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:10). His Spirit that is at work within us gives us tremendous strength. We know and can testify the power and the hope of our God, that though the world may say no there is no future and that there is no point, in God all things are possible. With Jesus, we are given new birth into a living hope.
We have this gift, and yet so rarely do we share it. There are so many people that need to know the help and power that is in God, and yet we don’t have much drive to get out there and tell them about it.
Psalm 91:9 gives an assurance to everyone who turns to the Lord: “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.’” This verse is a verse of promise for those who put their faith in Christ — as Christians, we may face challenges and hardship, but because God is on our side, these things will not overtake us; they will not overcome us.
O lives have benefited from this grace from the Lord. But now, think of all those who have yet to benefit from it, of all who have yet to hear about it. Think of the teenager whose story we hear all too often — a young man living in the fallout of poor choices made by his or her parents, stuck in a hard place and thinking there is no way out. What if he knew this truth? What if he knew he too could make the Lord his refuge?
Others need to hear about our God; they need to see our God embodied for them by the way we care for them and stick by them when no one else will.
This Christmas, let us give gifts, yes, but above all, let us give the gift of our faith.
Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming
Grateful to God
“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
At a men’s conference I attended recently, I had the privilege of meeting a number of gentlemen who were excited about their faith. One conversation still sticks with me — a talk I had with a man named Mike. Mike is probably in his mid-to-late 40s. He works in sales, and he is married with three kids, the oldest in high school, the youngest in elementary school. As I spoke with and observed Mike, a few things struck me about him. While at a busy stage of his life, Mike had made the decision and commitment to come to this men’s conference even though there were probably many other things he could have been doing this particular weekend. Furthermore, he had come to the conference by himself, suggesting that he wasn’t attending because someone from his church had dragged him to go. Mike’s eagerness to stand up and start clapping his hands at the sound of the first praise and worship song affirmed this assumption. Lastly, in Mike I saw a faith that was living.
From his stories, I could tell that he did not go to church each week out of some obligation or routine. He went to church, and came to this conference, and prayed to and praised God daily because he knew he wouldn’t be the man he was were it not for Jesus. Mike shared with me that he has one of the most successful sales routes of anyone in his district. Despite the success, he continually reminds himself that he has all of this not because of what he could do but because of what God has done for him. As a cure to the “dead” faith of so many, Mike believes that people’s faith will start to come alive when they begin to really recognize what Jesus has done for them and how much they need Him for everything in life, every day of the week.
We are about to enter the season of thanksgiving, a time of taking stock of all we have and recognizing how blessed we are. Some of us may have the tradition of going around our tables on Thanksgiving saying what we are thankful for regarding the year that has passed. This can easily feel like a routine exercise, especially after all the years of doing it. But this year, what if we really stopped to think about it? What if we really stopped to consider the amazing gifts and blessings that we have received? And what if we considered Who it is who has given us all these things and where we’d be without Him?
This year, may you truly take note of your blessings. And may the gratitude that fills your heart draw you nearer to Jesus, the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). May you realize that He has given you everything you need, and without Him you would not be where you are today. Without Him you’d be lost, lonely, afflicted, lacking, and without hope for today or tomorrow.
This Thanksgiving and at every time of the year, Jesus is worthy of all our praise, all our passion, and all our devotion. To Him be all thanks and glory.
Love and blessings,
Pastors Garritt and Sanette
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Happy Anniversary! The month of October is anniversary month at Schoeneck, and this year we will be celebrating the church’s 278th anniversary. Instead of just celebrating on a single day, we will be taking the whole month to thank God for His faithfulness in preserving our church through so many generations. Each Sunday we will set aside a moment in worship to tell the stories of different members of Schoeneck, either past or present, who gave their lives to be servants of God. We will learn about how they glorified God with their lives and how we can go and do likewise. In a way, we will be taking time to look back, and we will also be taking time to look ahead.
In our commitment of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord emphasizes the importance of looking back. God commands that we do it, and it is actually to our benefit that we do. Psalm 78:4,5-7 declares, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord…He decreed statues for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.” This psalm tells of the importance of passing on the stories of God’s greatness from one generation to the next. Again, God commands that we do it. Why? A clue is found in verse seven. The result of sharing our testimonies of God is that this new generation would then “put their trust in God.” Passing on our faith stories helps others to believe. It makes God real for them so that they too would want to believe in Him and follow.
We have to do this. We have to keep on sharing the recorded history of God’s deliverance and mercy to our congregation. By doing so, God is brought closer to all of us. Our love of Him is increased, and our commitment to Him is strengthened.
Next to sharing stories of the past, we also look to the future. Just as important as it is to think of where we have been, we also have to remember that God calls us to the now as well. These stories of God’s praiseworthy acts of year’s past are meant to quicken and bolster our faith, but they aren’t meant to stagnate it. We can easily get lost in talking about the “good-old days” and forget that God calls us to do something today. We can easily succumb to holding on to the baton given to us by the previous generation instead of taking it and continuing the race. Our ancestors have done a good job in being faithful to God’s call to let His light shine in their time. What will we do to keep that light shining?
Joshua in the Old Testament gives us a great example to follow. Like us, he too was handed a baton, and a pretty big one. Moses was the leader of the people of Israel. He brought them out of Egypt and guided them through the wilderness. Before Moses died, he gave the reigns of leadership over to Joshua. It would have been easy for Joshua to look at the profound ways God had used Moses and think, “There is no way I can live up to that!” It would’ve been easy for him to wonder how he would ever be half the servant of God Moses was. But he didn’t. Rather than live off the revenue of Moses’ achievements or get stuck in feelings of inadequacy, Joshua heard and responded to the Lord’s command to keep on going. God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them” (Joshua 1:2). Joshua’s response? We read, “So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” (Joshua 1:10-11). Joshua did not hesitate. He saw that there was work to do, and he carried on the Lord’s mission. Maybe he had a moment of fear of how he might measure up to Moses. But in that moment, perhaps he remembered that though Moses did great things, he was simply a man with a stuttering problem who allowed God to use him (Exodus 4:10). And look at the result.
Like Joshua, we too have work that God has given us to do. We have children who need to be taught about the salvation of the Lord. We have a community in need of the Gospel and God’s hand of mercy. We have a confused generation in need of God’s truth. Looking at the past, we see the hard labor others have given for the Lord. Can we give the same to God today?
Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming, Pastors
Is the Church relevant today?
Many churches and denominations are experiencing a steady decline in church attendance and membership. Whenever we speak with individuals and families who haven’t been to church in a long while or those who only attend seasonally, we typically ask them how they are doing. We ask them out of genuine concern about the status of their lives and to see if there are any needs that we as the body of Jesus Christ here at Schoeneck are able to meet. Unbeknownst to us, the answers that are given are typically telling of why the Church, particularly in the western hemisphere, is on a steady decline.
We can often hear the tiredness, the fatigue, and occasional stress as individuals and families express to us just how jammed-packed their schedules are. Thus, making it to worship or participating in a church activity simply isn’t feasible for them. Translation: there is no opening on their schedule for Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for a moment.
This is not a “casting of stones” movement. We have all been there at one point or another. Having been there, however, and understanding the situation doesn’t legitimize the excuses. We are choosing to prioritize everything in the world above Jesus Christ who gave His life for us. This is a conversation the church ought to be having openly. Again, this is not a “casting of stones” but rather diagnosing a problem in hopes that we will be willing to engage in honest dialogue, and we will be willing to seek the Lord’s treatment plan.
This is a spiritual “pandemic” facing many western churches, and it forces us to wrestle with some questions. These are some of the questions we will raise in our sermon series for September 2021. The questions are listed below. We invite you to take some time to ponder these questions in you heart.
Is the Church relevant today?
Can’t I just worship at home by myself permanently? What is the difference between being spiritual and religious? Do we need a church building? Do I really believe in Jesus?
Can a true believer in Jesus really abandon worship? How does this affect our witness, our faith?
When did we become comfortable with putting Christ out of our lives?
Am I willing to change? Am I willing to do and speak about this?
Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming, Pastors