Monday, January 15, 2018

You Make a Difference When you Serve!

I was in the office on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday when a group of elementary and middle high school students came in to help in the food pantry.  They were so excited to be helping stock the pantry and make it ready for Wednesday’s distribution to the hungry.  They had such a joy in helping.  They all said, “This was fun.  We will be doing this again!”

I hope we all have that sense of excitement as we volunteer at Village Presbyterian.  For we are not just helping, but we are serving the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.  This is HIS church and so we are serving him as we serve his church.  That alone should make you shiver with excitement.  YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN YOU SERVE! 

You make it possible for the church to share the Gospel of Christ with our own members and the neighborhood.  You make it possible for people to worship and experience God’s Word and the sacraments in a life changing way as you serve communion, usher or greet, sing or play music, be a worship leader, etc. 

You make decisions that move the church forward as you work on committee/teams, as elders and deacons, etc. 

You give food aid to the hungry as you volunteer in the pantry, as you work in the clothes closet, etc.  People are given hope because they are given the basics to keep body and soul together.

When you serve, you do this and MORE!  And I know you feel joy because you are pleasing Christ.   Thanks for filling out a “Plus 2” form!

If you haven’t filled one out, please do so.  We need your service to improve the church.  ATTACHED IS AN ELECTRONIC COPY OF THE FORM. PLEASE PRINT IT, FILL IT OUT AND MAIL OR BRING IT TO CHURCH! 

“You are they body of Christ and individually members of it.”  It takes all of us to build the church up!  Please help us. 

In the Love of Christ,


Ken Shick, Interim Pastor

Friday, December 15, 2017

Jesus Shows Us God

I remember watching a magician perform on TV.  I think it was David Copperfield.  He made the Statue of Liberty disappear.  I was amazed.  I don’t know what kind of trick he used, but it was impressive.  First, it was there, and then it wasn’t.  Just before he snapped his fingers, he said, “Now you see it, and now you don’t.”  Poof.  Gone. And then he said, “Now you don’t see it, and now you do.”  Poof. There it was again.

At Christmas, God the Father said, “Now you don’t see me, and now you do.  Poof!”  And then the God-child was born in a stable in Bethlehem.  It was not a trick, but more like a miracle of God’s great power.  He took his own divine nature and squeezed it down into the babe of Bethlehem.

The Bible says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” –Colossians 1: 15   Think about that!  The mighty God who has universe-creating power and stands above the universe came to us in Jesus.  The theological word is “Incarnation”, meaning literally “enfleshment.” 

Clearly this is a mind-boggling move on the Father’s part.  The disciples had trouble believing it.  In the upper room on the night before Jesus’ betrayal, our Lord said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  That means that when we know Jesus, we know God.   

Isn’t this what we all long for—to know God?  And when Jesus came, he showed us who the Father was.  God did everything he possibly could to help us know him so that we might love him and receive his forgiveness.  His biggest and boldest move was to give us a visible image of himself. 

Colossians 1:15 uses the word “image”—Jesus is the “image” of the invisible God.  In the Greek language, “image” is “eikon.”  Icons are pictures which make ideas clear.  Pictures make difficult ideas easy to understand.  Jesus is the accurate picture of who God is. 

Pause a moment and feel the wonder of that.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  “No one has ever seen God.  But Jesus the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”  --John 1: 18

Prayer:  Thank you Jesus, for making God known to us.  Help us to believe that when we know, believe and love you, we know, believe, and love God.  Amen.

--Pastor Ken

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Means Welcoming Others In

“Then Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger—because there was no room for them in the inn.”  --Luke 2:7

I think the innkeeper and his wife have gotten a bad rap.  Traditionally they have been portrayed as inhospitable.  Why, we wonder, didn’t they give Mary and Joseph their room?  Or boot someone out who was less worthy and give them that room? After all, Mary was about to deliver.  How hard-hearted can you be—making them go to the stable.

Actually, the innkeepers were very welcoming to this couple in need.  They might have turned them away totally.  But instead they gave them what they could—a humble but cozy stable, private, safe. 

These humble but devout Jewish innkeepers were practicing the true faith—welcoming strangers.  God commanded this basic courtesy of hospitality:  “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  --Leviticus 19: 34

God’s heart is open to all who will come.  From the beginning he wanted not just the Jewish nation but also the nations of the world to come to him.   And [God wanted] that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” --Romans 15: 9 - 10

God’s heart is open wide.  He welcomes in all who are willing to  come to him regardless of their tribe or clan.  This was Jesus’ point when he told the Good Samaritan parable where the despised Samaritan cared for the Jewish wounded man.  Being a “neighbor” means welcoming an outsider. 

Christmas is a time for welcoming.  People who don’t worship at any other time of the year will worship during Advent and Christmas—perhaps at Village.  Be on the lookout.  Welcome guests by being as friendly as you can. Leave your friend group and seek out newcomers. 

And in your personal celebrations of Christmas, welcome someone who is alone, grieving, hurting or discouraged.  Or at a party, look for the person standing awkwardly by himself.   

In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”  Jesus will come to us in the form of a stranger this Christmas.  Will we recognize him?  Will we welcome him?


Prayer:  Lord, show us that your love is so wide and wonderful that everyone is welcome.  Forgive us for restricting your love just to our church family.  May we open our arms to the strangers whom you send to us.  And may we lavish on them your love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

--Pastor Ken

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Can you believe it?  Thanksgiving is next Thursday.   Actually, I like the holiday of Thanksgiving a little bit better than Christmas.  I hope you do not brand me a heretic for saying that.  Of course, the coming of Jesus Christ as the Babe of Bethlehem, and our Savior is unparalleled in its importance to our salvation.  Without his coming, there would be no forgiveness, and no hope of eternal life with God. 

I like Thanksgiving because it seems more simple to me than Christmas--uncluttered, pure, and enjoyable.  The meaning doesn’t get lost as does the meaning of Christmas.  It is pure and simple the reminder that God has blessed us not because we deserve it, but because he is good and he loves us.

I encourage you to think of 30 blessings before you sit down to your feast.  Don’t cheat by putting every individual child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, etc. as a separate item.  Lump them together under family.  Same with friends.  The first 10 items on your list will be the obvious things.  But the 2nd 10 items will take more thought.  And the 3rd 10 will take deep thought—not because their unimportant, but because we tend to overlook the subtle and spiritual blessings. 

So, let me offer a few suggestions of things to thank God for which you might have missed:
  •         Good health
  •         Long years
  •         One more day of life
  •         Having work you enjoy
  •         Having the strength to work
  •         Having your wits about you
  •         God’s gift of Jesus Christ
  •         Past answered prayers, including small and large miracles
  •         America, land of freedom and opportunity
  •         Living in a safe neighborhood
  •         Having been given a good education
  •         Returning from war
  • Being able to worship freely without persecution
  •         The amazing colors, textures, and sounds of God’s creation
  •         Your five senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste

This Thanksgiving, be specific about why you’re thankful—try the “30 blessings” exercise.  I guarantee it would enrich your holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.  “Be thankful and bless His name.”  --Psalm 100 

Blessings,









Ken Shick, Interim Pastor

Friday, September 1, 2017

Change

When my children were young I used to give them notice before a transition.  “We will be leaving in ten minutes, so be sure to say your goodbyes,” or “dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes so please start cleaning up.”  These warnings helped make those moments of change easier for them to accept and prepare for.  Almost a year ago, our church family was provided one of these warnings.  We all received THAT letter from Pastor Jim that warned us all he would be retiring.  Since I read THAT letter I have been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this big change was coming.  I have yet to successfully do that, and now the time has arrived.  I simply cannot believe the year, that seemed like such a long time away, has just about come to completion, but indeed it has.

In the church office, some are handling things better than others.  There is no doubt that seeing Pastor Jim’s office become increasingly more scarce is difficult.  The knick-knacks he has acquired in 11 ½ years have slowly been making their way home.  The bobble head Jesus that has sat lovingly on his desk, is no longer in that pole position to greet us as we enter.  The large tuba that rested in the door way, has found its new home.  The changes are slight in some cases but still difficult to absorb.

When Pastor Jim graduated from seminary his sister calligraphically penned him a note, that was found in the office of an African pastor who had been martyred for his faith in Christ.  It has hung on his office wall ever since.
I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. 
My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. 
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!

These beautiful words were titled “My Commitment As A Christian.”  Pastor Jim has kept his commitment.  He retires knowing his walk, his Christ guided journey, is not through, simply changing.  And now so must we.  As a church family we must embrace this change and look forward to it as Christ would want us to. 

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6  

God has promised.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1  

We must look ahead with anticipation for the wonderful things God has planned for us.  Things change, people come and go, but our heavenly father is unchanging, and he has us wrapped safely in His loving arms.

My heart is a little heavy, and I can’t say that I am looking forward to walking into the church office on October second, but I can say I am looking forward to the future. God’s word is perfect.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”  Philippians 4:6-8

Pastor Jim, we will miss you dearly, your absence (your short absence) will leave a void.  We look forward to the future when you can join us again.  But in your absence we will embrace God’s plan for our church, although your final service will have ended, we will go out and serve the Lord.  Thank you for leading us, according to His will, we love you.

--Holly

Thursday, June 15, 2017

All Dogs Go To Heaven – right?

It seems that several of our Village family have recently experienced the death of a beloved pet. That is a terrible time for most of us. We tend to think of our pets as family. Witness how we talk about them: “the grand-dog,” or our “fur kids.”  We certainly anthropomorphize them and credit them with emotions and character.  When their much shorter lives run out, we hurt.    That leads to one of the most common questions that pastors are asked – and that some struggle to answer.

I have thought about this often enough that I do have an answer that works for me.  Not all my colleagues would agree, but in fact I have a Biblical basis for my answer? By the way, my answer is yes, I believe they do.

Those who would disagree with my answer tend to do so because they believe animals simply die. They contend that animals do not have souls.  I would ask them, where in Scripture does it state that animals do not have souls?
         
Okay, Scripture clearly teaches that humans are made in the “image and likeness of God” - but is that the same as a soul?   And where in Scripture does it preclude that animals do not have a continued existence? It does not. In fact, the Bible is silent on this question. It neither confirms nor denies animals having a continued existence – but there is what some might call oblique evidence.

We know everything was created for God’s glory.
We also know that the whole of creation is destined to be redeemed through the work of Christ (Rom. 8:21).
We are given images in both the Old and the New Testament of what heaven will be like.  These images tell us about the wolf and the lamb and other animals being at peace with one another and of Jesus coming on a white horse.
Those descriptions of heaven certainly point to a place where animals are present.

Beloved, the Biblical view of heaven is not just a consolation for the life we wished we had. It is a fulfillment and restoration of the life we always wanted.  This means that hard and painful things like the death of our beloved pets will not only be undone and restored, but will in some way make our eventual joy and glory even greater.  Everything sad is going to vanish and will by God’s grace somehow become greater for having once been lost.  In the Resurrection, we'll get the life we longed for and it will be infinitely more glorious.

So yes, I fully expect all of us to see our departed pets as they somehow participate in the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work.

I have heard Heaven described as “The place that, when you go there, all the pets you have ever loved come running to greet you."

PJ

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Thoughts on Manchester

I grew up pre 9-11. Pre-Columbine. Pre-Oklahoma City. Pre-ISIS and pre-so many horrific deaths. Our children shouldn't have to grow up in fear. We feel angry, sad, confusion and so much more. As a Christian we look to God for understanding and can become frustrated when no answers seem apparent. I join so many others in trying to remember that God was with every victim, and that we only see through a mirror dimmed at this point. Scripture tells us this place is not our final home. There are no words, except Lord in Your mercy.

Rev. Michelle