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September 5, 2018, 9:45 AM

September Letter from the Pastor


Welcome to fall! The somewhat more relaxed summer schedule is giving what to the renewed work of the fall. We should pause and give thanks for the summer season before looking with joy and anticipation to the blessings fall will bring.

Scripture calls is to rejoice in every circumstance because you rejoice in the Lord who is the author of all our circumstances. The Apostle Paul writes,

 

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Rejoicing in the Lord means looking to God who made you, saved you and is with you always even when life is uncertain, hard, and painful. With God you have access to the eternal peace, love, and rest your soul needs to deal with whatever you face in life. God is with you and will show you the way to deal with life to his glory. He promises eternal life with him no matter how painful, embarrassing or humiliating your circumstances may be.

The ability to rejoice in the midst of suffering does not come from humanity, it comes only from God. The ability of a tree to stand the power of the storm does not rest in itself but in its connection to the ground in which its roots are deeply imbedded in the soil.

 

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

The best source of fullness for your soul is to rejoice in the Lord and live in a faithful yoked relationship with the only eternal source of filling for your soul.

When you seek God and rejoice in him you will be filled to overflowing with joy and peace says Paul. Jesus said that by abiding in him you will bear much fruit.

Delighting and rejoicing in God will improve every situation of your life. Every day is stressful. Stress tries to take life from you and drain your soul. Whenever your soul is empty you have nothing to give anyone else. Their despair joins with yours and drains you more and more.

In contrast by turning to the Lord you can delight and rejoice in Him in all situations so your soul is filled and your gentleness will be evident. Your life will bear fruit of love, joy, peace and all the fruit of the spirit. People around you will receive life and be less empty.

  1. life we crave, the life everyone craves deep in their souls comes only from God. By delighting in God first good things get even better and we get the ability to resist those things that are sinful and must be resisted. In order to have the life our souls crave we must go to God every day as individuals, as families and as his people, as we go to him now to delight in his love and be filled at his table.

 

 

May God richly bless your Fall season!

 

 

 

Jon




July 31, 2018, 11:41 AM

Pastor's Letter for August


The good news of the gospel is that God sees you and loves you on both our good days and bad days. We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. With God you defeat the power of sin and death, guilt and shame and bear the fruit of the Spirit. You no longer hard downcast, weighed down by the tribulations of life, you are radiant;

 

Psa. 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

 

Again and again in the Scripture God comes and saves desperately sinful people who he loves consider the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul, 3000 jews at Pentecost, the samaritan woman at the well, adulterous woman, prodigal son, etc.

 

God comes to us and makes a way that we can come to Him be saved. In contrast the idols of our lives stand apart and demand that we come to them and sacrifice in order to receive a blessing. Human power and oour idols can earn short and long terms benefits but these benefits eventually turn to dust and must be earned again and again. Shame fills the void and bids us to strive to deal with the pain by achievement.

 

God however seeks his people by grace and bids us to respond to his love by seeking him as the solution to our guilt, shame and tribulation.

 

In the old and new testament God bids his people to rest in fellowship with him see for example Isaiah 30, Matthew 11, John 15.

 

The gospel of grace it can be a bit scary because if God cannot love us any more or any less, what do we do then? Do we just stop working completely? Isn’t the lazy and disobedient? What would we be without our accomplishments? Hearing the gospel and believing in God’s unfailing love in the core of your being does not mean your work will stop. What it means that you no longer will work alone. Your effort to gain God’s approval through work will.

 

When you receive and abide in his love you are able to love God and love others as he commands through your life and work. You no longer work in order to earn or gain blessings from anyone.

 

The love of Jesus means you are valued for who you are, who He has made you to be. He sets you free to learn and improve in your ability to be obedient and faithful for you, for everyone you touch and for his glory.

 

When you receive His love, you are in a position to come alongside others and show them about the love of Jesus that is present on their worst days as well as their best day. You are in a position to encourage them and to be encouraged as together you seek the loving face of God and become radiant as you receive his love. Wherever you go and whatever you do God loves you and gives you the opportunity to love others with Him.

 

God bless your August!




June 4, 2018, 9:49 AM

June 2018 Letter from our Pastor


The Bible describes shame as the core consequence of the fall. Adam and Eve were not satisfied with their own being. They wanted to be more than they were, to be more than human.  Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were naked before God and one another and were unashamed. In other words they felt worthy of respect and beheld the other as being worthy of respect.  But tempted by the desire to be like God,  they disobeyed God’s word,  rejected communion with God, and rejected the great worth given to him by God.  The penalty for the sin of wanting to be like God was debilitating shame, a deep feeling of unworthiness. They became ashamed and hid from God before they attacked each other and were cast from the garden of God’s presence.  

We all like Adam and Eve fall short of expectations at times and are disappointed in ourselves.  In these moments we feel guilt, shame, unworthiness.  These feelings are healthy if they last only a moment and they motivate us to learn.   But, instead of the momentary feeling shame, a person can come to believe that his whole self is fundamentally flawed and defective. A person says, “I am a mistake— everything I do is flawed and defective.” This type of shame psychologist John Bradshaw calls toxic shame.  Toxic shame could also be called toxic unworthiness. In the bible there are different words to describe shame.  Healthy shame turns us from error and sin back to the love and truth of God but toxic shame that makes us feel condemned and hopeless as they did in the garden. Healthy shame is of God but toxic shame is of Satan  

Life lessons begin at birth. In a healthy family life lessons are taught with love and acceptance.  The harmony of a healthy family is at least somewhat similar to the garden when they were naked and felt no shame.  The difficulties of life do not drive a healthy family apart. Instead they deal with the difficulties of life together without shame.

In an unhealthy family, however toxic shame is constant. The problems of life cause resentment that drives the members apart.  Even newborns receive the message “I  am a mistake” if caregivers withhold or are unable to provide effective nurture.  Toxic shame therefore begins to form in early life and becomes a greater and greater force in life.

Toxic Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of being fundamentally flawed, defective, unworthy, and “deficient in some vital way as a human being.”  Toxic shame drives people apart, causing loneliness.  Shamed and lonely people must find a way to dull the pain. 

Even young children learn it is possible to work to earn approval and thereby fight the toxic shame they feel. Young and old think, if I get over this next hill though work, then I’ll feel better about myself and how things are going to step back and relax. But for now I can’t stop. When motivated by toxic shame a person’s  value ultimately fuses with his own act or performance. He becomes a “human doing” without any real sense of his true God given value.. Such a person feels emptiness, hopelessness and futility of toxic shame.

Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in isolated, guarded, rigid, secretive and defensive ways in order to protect their vulnerable shame filled hearts.  Once they find a way to stop the pain of toxic shame they become addicted. Toxically shamed people use work, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, sex, and more to deal with shame, but all earthly ways lead to death.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kauffman says,

“The affect of (toxic) shame is important.  No other affect is more disturbing to the self. In the context of normal development shame is the source of low self esteem, diminished self image, poor self concept and deficient body image. Shame itself seeds doubt and disrupts both security and confidence. It can become an impediment to the experience of belonging and shared intimacy. Shame always alerts us to any affront to human dignity. It is the experiential ground from which the confined and identity inevitably derive. In the context of pathological development, shame is the emergence of alienation, loneliness, inferiority and perfectionism. It plays the central role many psychological disorders as well, including depression, paranoia, addiction and borderline conditions. Sexual disorders are largely disorders of shame.”

Healthy shame turns us to the God of love and truth.  Healthy shame brings eternal life. Toxic shame ends in condemnation and death. The good news is that we can be saved from toxic shame.   The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the true and eternal antidote to toxic shame.

Recovery from toxic shame begins with preaching the gospel to your toxic shame.  The gospel transforms toxic shame into healthy shame.  God’s love is the only power that can conquer the shame of unworthiness and return us to the unashamed conditions of the garden. The Gospel quenches shame and returns you more and more into secure attachment to God and others. Secure attachments with God and others allow you to develop a renewed sense of worth.  Love of God and the security He provides allow your true self to come out of hiding. Feeling loved , you will in turn want to love others. Receiving the gift of God’s love seems to be the hardest task for all for humankind. God’s love is the only foundation for happiness.  When you receive God’s love you are able to love yourself and others.

A person who is secure in God’s love is capable of connecting with another in an committed, intimate relationship. Giving and receiving of gospel based, genuine love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness. As trust grows, spiritual and emotional bonds are formed. These bonds become an interpersonal bridge between members of the family or group(church). The bridge is the foundation for mutual growth and understanding. The interpersonal bridge is strengthened by certain experiences we have come to accept and depend on. 

People become significant in the sense that love, respect and care for others really matters. They allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept the love others. Preaching the gospel to our shame and loving others will breath new life into individuals first, then families, the church and the community just like it did at the first Pentecost.

Christian life and ministry is a battle against shame/unworthiness. In order to be saved and live fruitful lives people must continuously receive the love of God that is the antidote to their shame.

I pray that this summer, we will all preach the Gospel to our shame and learn the power of God’s love in our lives more and more.  You are beloved and you are not a mistake!!

God bless your summer!!

In Christ’s love, Jon

Sources

Bradshaw, John. Healing the Shame that Binds You . Health Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World (p. 70). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.




May 2, 2018, 10:16 AM

Letter from the Pastor for May 2018


The sad reality of our lives is that hopelessly broken relationships are all around us. In 2014 a study published in the American Sociological Review found that one in four people— said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences.” Loneliness therefore is a huge problem in our culture.

We crave relationship and work hard for approval of others in order to have closer relationships. Inability to win approval creates shame that deepens loneliness that that defies human effort to repair the brokenness. Guilt is the feeling you have done wrong but shame goes beyond guilt because you feel wrong and cannot ever be right. A shamed person craves relationship but is scared, humiliated and angry because so many of their relationships have failed. A shamed and lonely person has virtually given up hope that things can ever improve.

The disciples were lonely and ashamed when Jesus was arrested and killed. The disciples were filled with shame because their Lord was humiliated and they failed him. Whatever hope the disciples had in Jesus before his death was destroyed by the cross. Even after the resurrection the relationship between Jesus and his disciples was certainly broken. Could the disciples ever really trust Jesus again. Why would they follow him again, even after the resurrection? From their point of view it was not right for Jesus to leave them, it was not right that he was killed, it may not seem right or comprehensible that he was resurrected from the tomb. It would have been right to them if none of these things had happened, how could the lonely and shamed disciples accept it was right to follow the resurrected Lord??

The wonderful truth is that Jesus went to them to resurrect their lives through relationship with him. Jesus loved them and he loves us enough to heal our loneliness and shame. The father poured life into Jesus and in turn Jesus poured new life into the disciples so that they in turn would pour life into others. The Lord bids us to trust His love and seek Him;

Psa. 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

 

Whenever you do not seek the Lord you will wrong others, you will bite and devour them until your your relationship with them is destroyed. If you keep on you will ultimately destroy each other. A power greater than human power is required to stop the biting and devouring. Only God gives life so abundantly that when you receive life from him you have plenty to give to others.

 

In order to receive the life He offers, we must simply seek Him out and trust that He loves us fully will not live us alone and ashamed. This is a glorious reality that we must simply embrace every day. I pray the resurrecting love of God will heal our loneliness and shame so that we can have fuller lives with Him and show others how to follow him too. As you follow Him your loneliness will be healed more and more and you will bear the fruit of the Spirit to bless others.

 

May the Joy of the Lord fill you this Spring!




April 2, 2018, 9:24 AM

Easter Message from Pastor Jon


      Happy Easter!!  Spring and particularly Easter is a time to receive and celebrate new life and new vitality!!  My prayer for our church is that this spring 2018 will be particularly important!  In the 1970’s there was a lay renewal in which the Holy Spirit moved powerfully and created new spiritual life in  many members.  On April 20, 21, and 22 we are planning a weekend that has the potential to bless this body again! 

     The Gospel Reset Weekend will begin with dinner at 6:30 on Friday April 20.  There will be a total of four sessions; Friday evening, Saturday morning, combined Sunday School, and finally Sunday worship. Dr. Bill Senyard from the EPC will be our facilitator for each session and will preach on Sunday morning.

    The cornerstone of the weekend will be the simple uncluttered gospel, that is, in Christ God cannot love you more and cannot love you less.  Christians know that Jesus paid for all our sins with His blood, but it is so easy to live as if we must earn God’s love and blessing.  Christians celebrate the grace of God in worship but too often trust themselves rather than God when the stresses of life hit.  Instead turning to God and coping with the tribulations of life with Him, we choose to turn away and rely on our the strength of the flesh to solve our problems.  If you try solve your problems alone, is there any wonder that you feel so alone so often?  Lonely people become depressed and bitter. They are simply unable to love anyone, even themselves.

     The church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus every Easter, but do we truly understand that God’s love for us is a resurrecting, life renewing love?  God sent Jesus to die so that broken, lonely, sinful can new life with Him.  The grace could not hold him because of Jesus faith and faithfulness. Because of Christ nothing can separate you from the love of God if you receive His love by faith. It is always sinful to live life alone because in your aloneness you turn away from the God who loves you so much that he sent Jesus to save you and the Holy Spirit to give you new life in an easy yoke with Him.

   The goal of the  Gospel Renewal weekend is to revitalize your relationship with God, your relationship with yourself, and your relationships with all those you are called to love.  Everyone is invited to drink the living water that Jesus gives in abundance to all who come to Him. 

    Everyone is welcome to attend the weekend. We only need to know how many we need to feed at dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday. Please sign up in the Narthex beginning April 8th.  We will also do a fellowship dinner Sunday April 22nd after worship.

 

           God bless you as you celebrate new life at Easter and this spring and may God bless The Gospel Renewal Weekend!!


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