A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

As we count down the days to the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg. Many reformed churches around the world are holding activities and studies to reconnect with this earth shaking revolution that came to the church.

Each Wednesday AGO is hosting a study called “This Changed Everything: 500 Years of the Reformation.” Please join us at 6:30 in the Westminster room.

And, don't miss a look back at the Reformation and a look at what it means to us today, as presented through the eyes of the First Presbyterian Youth Group. You'll get to meet Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as Charles V and some great story narrators.  The youth will present this skit during worship on Sunday, Oct. 22nd. 

Another resource available is a series of podcast being posted each day up until Reformation Sunday by the 5 Minutes in Church History Ministry. Here Dr. Stephen Nichols narrates daily short audio podcast that can be listened to when it works best for you. You can enjoy while you’re at your computer or listen as you walk or drive just by downloading them into your phone or ipod.

Here is a link to their website:   http://www.5minutesinchurchhistory.com

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About Dr. Nichols

Dr. Stephen Nichols combines a passion for church history with a love for the Reformed tradition, and he brings his expertise to our podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

A specialist in American Christianity and systematic theology,

Dr. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla., chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He formerly served as research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa. He is also a lecturer in church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Dr. Nichols earned his doctorate from Westminster Theological Seminary, and he earned master’s degrees from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and from Westminster. His bachelor’s degree is from Philadelphia College of Bible (now Cairn University).

A prolific writer, Dr. Nichols has written, contributed to, or edited more than a dozen books on church history, biblical doctrine, and practical theology, including Bonhoeffer on the Christian LifeFor Us and For Our Salvation, and Jesus Made in America. He has also contributed many articles to publications such as Tabletalk and reformation21, and he is coeditor for the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway.

Dr. Nichols chairs the Jonathan Edwards Study Group of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has traveled extensively for teaching and speaking engagements, including the prestigious Gheens Lectures for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

5 Minutes in Church History is an outreach of Ligonier.

Mission Visioning - Possibilities

 

            One of the major themes that came from our recent "Spirit Caf­e" was the idea of increasing our mission presence into the local community. Many have seen firsthand the effect our efforts have had over the years with our long distance mission trips. Lives have been changed and the news of the gospel has been expanded through your continuous support.

            On May 18th, an open visioning meeting was held in Fellowship Hall to hear from anyone with interest or just curious at seeking out the possibilities of expanding our mission presence in the community.  Pastor Lynn, along with Rich and Pam Reid moderated the event with a total of 14 people in attendance.  After prayer and meditation the question was asked "What are you feeling about the possibilities for an endeavor like this?"  Some themes were: excited, intrepid, willing, over whelmed, optimistic, curious, and challenged.

            Pastor Lynn asked us, what makes us passionate about mission? What drives us?  Some comments were bringing people together, serving, building, making connections, living the gospel, and working local. We also looked at the Pro's and Con’s to expanding our local mission presence. We discussed our talents and resources both human and financial. Do we have the experience, perseverance, understanding, leadership, organizational skills, and faith to step out and seek where the Holy Spirit is leading us? The strong consensus was Yes, we do! What this could look like is yet to be seen.

            Rich Reid presented the two typical Mission Trip Models, those being a Turn Key or a Do It Yourself. We have much experience at the "do it yourself" model. We connect, make complete plans, fundraise, and execute. The Turn Key is much as the name implies, you show up and all is ready. The projects, prayers, petitions, and pork and beans are ready to go. So there lies a question, "could we become a mission location of choice a catalyst for people and churches from our community and beyond?"

            What is God leading us to do? Is this the direction? Could we house strangers in our church or homes as they canvas the surrounding area to do mission projects? Would there be anxiety if we shared the use of our building with strangers during a mission event? If so, how best could we handle this? What would it take to do this? These were the thoughts, concerns, questions, and ideas expressed.

            The meeting was not a planning of events to take place this year or maybe even the next. It was a meeting to seek the Spirit's guidance to our future, an intentional outgrowth of the Spirit Cafe discussion. We ask for your active prayers, input, and efforts as we continue to seek to be in stride with Christ.

Jeff Barber

An Unforgettable Feeling

Elders Blog

We found our way to First Presbyterian because of friends and neighbors who often talked about how much they loved this church.  Our oldest son immediately became involved in WeKirk with Linda, Sharon and Terri, and we got involved too. At some point not too long after that, the church hired a young and not yet ordained Christian educator, Jessica Young Brust.  She and my husband were led to start the first youth group, to love and serve the kids beyond their WeKirk years and to lead them to serve our Lord.  And that first summer was the first work camp, some 22 years ago.  I share this information to set the stage for these next comments.  

Something from those early days of our church membership still is lodged in my heart--the actions of Ben Gaeth.  You all know him and what a big personality he was. I remember him greeting Rich and me, EVERY SUNDAY, with a smile and a handshake and words that carried this meaning.  “We are so glad you are here.  You and these youth are the future of this church.” And I am sure he was saying this same thing to other people, too.  At the time I just smiled, but his words have stayed with me all these years.  What encouragement!  He believed in us even though we were certainly new and relatively untested in this church. It was like he was fanning the fire of our faith and just willing us on.  He was truly being the hands and feet of Christ to us.  And indeed, Rich and I have continued to be encouraged over the years by you, by your interest in and support of what the youth are doing, by your generous financial gifts to make it all possible and by your selfless giving to support our friends and mentors in faith in the Yucatan and by your friendship. 

But this is still a question that I personally ponder on a regular basis.  Who is it that I am encouraging?  Are my words serving to lift up those around me?  Am I encouraging the ‘future’ of our church?  Am I encouraging those who are new here and old here?   I ask you to think deeply about this too. Who is it that you are encouraging? Whom are you cheering on, as the present and the future of this church?  

For some reason, the song Home on the Range popped into my head yesterday.  You all know the line ‘where seldom is heard a discouraging word’…..  That’s what I hope for now, that we seldom discourage and actively seek to use words and actions to encourage and fan the fire of faith in ourselves and others.  These words will open the most unexpected paths, as we walk together in Christ.  

Will you join me in trying to be more deliberate with our words of encouragement?

I wish you the grace and peace of Christ our Lord.  - Pam Reid

Romans 5:5 …and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 1:11 11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Sea Glass - Seeking and Sharing Treasures

Sea Glass – Seeking and Sharing Treasures

Elders Blog - Sept. 1, 2015

A simple pleasure that Jane and I enjoy while walking the beaches of Middle Bass Island is scouring the sand and pebbles for pieces of Sea Glass. Naturally produced sea glass ("genuine sea glass") originates as pieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks, which are rolled and tumbled in the waters for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance. 

On one outing a friend led us through some brush lined paths over a small bluff arriving at a shore line of sand and pebbles. What a great location, a small beach area all by itself but in the right path of the waves and currents precisely aligned to catch and hide these glass gems in its natural aggregate. Some colors are rarer than others, finding a blue piece can bring a sense of satisfaction along with congratulations from fellow beach combers. It’s always nice to find a gem to share with others.

This past Sunday Steve Snavely presented a message on the Holiness of God. Speaking about our current culture where there is much focus on the Love of God and that only.  The Holiness of God many times only gets a side mention or a part of a hymn verse. Steve’s message was seasoned with gems from Scripture, the Westminster Catechism, and insights from reformed theologian Dr. R. C. Sproul. I sat there and thought WOW! R. C. Sproul, I wonder whatever happened to him? I recalled using his Ligonier Ministries material 20 years ago in the DEF Sunday school class. So later that day I did some research and found an amazing website chock full teaching and devotional material to be viewed via the internet or downloaded as a podcast. Then I unearthed a mine of blue sea glass.  It is a side ministry called “5 Minutes in Church History.” Here Dr. Stephen Nichols a colleague of R. C. Sproul post, a once weekly 5 minute podcast on some historical facts about Christianity. I found topics on; The Apostles Creed, The Confessions, The Various Awakenings, How and Why the ancient Cathedrals where built, and so much more. So if you have the interest but not a lot of time, these short lessons can enrich your faith life and help keep you connected to our historic reformed origins. Try downloading some to your smart phone or ipod and give them listen as you walk, bike, or drive. I’m sure your lives will be enriched.  –   Jeff Barber

Go to: 5 Minutes in Church History

Go to: Ligonier Ministries

What's news from Session!

What’s news, from Session!

Your Session has been working diligently to move us along in the process of finding a temporary (interim) pastor. We would like to share with you the narrative section of the Ministry Information Form, which is the piece that goes into the PCUSA ‘computer match system’, to connect us with candidates who are looking for churches. Our local Presbytery is also being quite helpful with suggestions and guidance in this process.   

The complete MIF is longer than this and full of straightforward detail about the church. It also includes our desire to hire a part time temporary pastor. The section printed here has the questions asked of us and the answers that your Session members wrote to represent who we are, what our needs are, and who we are searching for in a temporary pastor. Session worked on this prayerfully over several meetings this summer and has received approved by the Committee on Ministry, as is required, before this could be submitted.  

We also want to let you know that we feel hopeful about the future of our church and that the search process is moving along well.  Thank you for all your prayers.

MISSION STATEMENT
Walking Together -- We are a Community, Seeking to be in Stride with Christ

What does this mean to us? Walking together (a stated commitment to intergenerational ministry), as a church Community, Seeking (actively trying to find/define our vision, looking for fresh ways to us to share the gospel) to be in Stride with Christ (reference back to walking together, listening to the Word, learning to be like Him.)

NARRATIVE QUESTIONS    

(These answers are required to be no more than 1500 characters!)

What is the congregation’s or organization’s vision for ministry?  Additionally describe how this vision is lived out.   

As we attempt to address the full scope of these first three questions, it may be best to simply start with the fact that we are a congregation searching for our role, trying to live out our faith and love for Christ Jesus as members of this church, this community and as citizens of this world.  We feel called to intergenerational ministry, as we walk together, with the idea that we can learn better together, that as we invest in each other, we strengthen our relationship with God.  Here at First Presbyterian there are many active ministries, all faithfully looking to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. 

How do you feel called to reach out to address the emerging needs of your community or constituency? 

This is a church that supports its young people incredibly well, both financially and spiritually, a church that has been generous in helping these children and youth to experience God’s love beyond this building. This support includes an intergenerational mission partnership that dates back to the 1990s with churches in the Yucatan in Mexico. This partnership includes a vibrant two way exchange and a yearly scholarship program which supports families in the Yucatan, so that their children can go to school. Our church has invested much love into an active and well endowed program of worship and formation (We Kirk) for elementary aged children and an active children’s choir. We have been called to reach out to the community with a long standing program called Coats for Christmas, a program that provides coats, hats, scarves and mittens to almost a thousand needy people each year. We have responded to neighbors in need, both here in Defiance and beyond, with financial and emotional support.  Multiple adult music groups reach different constituencies. The women’s group is active. A strong Wednesday night program of fellowship through food, followed by various formative gatherings of children, youth and adults, as well as music ensemble practices, draws some whose schedules do not allow them to attend on Sunday morning.  We have made a commitment to open our building to make space for various social service groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, hoping to be a blessing to others in need. 

How will this position help you to reach your vision and mission goals?

We as a church community are called to faithfully worship together, but we are also a church that has problems.  Even as we have grown in spirit over the past years, we must seek to understand if we want to move forward focused on a missional vision which includes the capacity for change or whether we want to stay the course and focus more on member care and internal programming, and what each of those choices might mean to our future.  We are a people who dearly love our Lord and Christ Jesus, but who do not always agree on how to show that love.  This is a church that needs help being truly hospitable, a church that may need to get to the point of negotiated settlement regarding our path forward.  We need someone to help us discern the voice of God and to hear each other, so that we can have the tough conversations with each other needed to set us on our course.  Are you that person?  Please come and help us!

Provide a description of the characteristics needed by the person who is open to being called to this congregation and/or organization. 
We are looking for a strong spiritual leader who finds joy in preaching, enjoys people, appreciates a variety of music and worship styles, loves noisy children, has a sense of humor, is community minded, is energetic, enjoys pastoral visits, has excellent communication skills with both individuals and crowds, is comfortable working with people of all ages, is organized, takes initiative, and is comfortable with technology.  We are seeking an emotionally mature leader who can counsel, guide and lead us as a group through the complex discussions that are needed at this time to mend our conflicts and move us on to a stable and hopeful future within our church. Our spiritual leader will be able to assess, encourage and utilize the gifts of the congregation, as well as to help us work around our weaknesses, in order to best serve our mission to walk in stride with Christ, to glorify God.   
 
For what specific tasks, assignments, and programs areas will this person have responsibility?
Our temporary pastor will be responsible for planning and leading worship, including administering the sacraments, ongoing and emergency pastoral care (illness, nursing home, hospital, hospice, family tragedy),moderating Session, serving as head of staff (currently seven), leading the Adult Growth Opportunity group on Wednesday nights during the school year and very importantly, leading us in discerning our direction as a church, to help us to hear each other as we work on the tough questions as we plan for our church’s future. We would also like help in planning or identifying a program for confirmation, perhaps even in conjunction with other area Presbyterian churches. 

Who's In Charge Here?

Who’s in charge here?

A death, a birth, the ending of a job, the beginning of a new endeavor. It seems I just get used to my world and it suddenly changes in some way, great or small.

I’m cruising along thinking someone is surely in charge because things are going along the same way they usually do and, perhaps more importantly, going along in a predictable manner. I know what’s going to happen and can rely on it happening.

But this happy state of affairs never lasts. Some seemingly random event occurs and my predictable world becomes unpredictable. A tumble of voices and a jumble of frantic messages meet me at every turn. 

What’s happened? Is no one driving the car?! Shouldn’t somebody be flying the airplane?!?

When I find myself having increasing difficulty in any endeavor, I go back to the fundamentals of that endeavor and see what I have forgotten. It seems I forget a lot.

I forget to always begin with God the Creator. 

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them.

Since God created it, he owns it. That’s the way it is where I come from. And since he owns it, he’s in charge of it, too. 

Forever.

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,

    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven

    and among the inhabitants of the earth;

and none can stay his hand

    or say to him, “What have you done?

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.       11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 

So God made it and he owns it. God wrote/is writing the script and directing and producing the play. 

God is driving his car. God is flying his airplane. 

Whew! That’s a relief. 

Now I can get back to work as a servant in God’s plan in time and in this place. 

And stop worrying.

Chuck Fitzenrider

You Get To Be You....And I Get To Be Me by Beth Sigg

  Working with buyers and sellers every day is a blessing and sometimes, not so much. As I work with the public every day, I’m reminded of the wide variety of personalities out there. And here’s the good news….by working together to arrive at a mutually beneficial contract, as we share the common goal of selling or buying a home, it will lead to a conclusion that’s acceptable to all.  No one may get everything they want, but we can reach a common ground that is the best compromise to all.  It’s only by working together that we can get there. 

  Here, in our church, it’s much the same. In the course of a day, we all deal with a wide variety of people.  Young or old, happy or sad, quiet or loud,  half-cup-full or half-cup-empty people….it’s a mix of personalities that’s the result of our individual life experiences. It’s a puzzle where many pieces must fit together to learn together in Christ.

   If you weren’t able to attend church this Sunday, you missed a great message by Susan Meier that had me taking notes to ponder later.  She took our mission statement: 

WE ARE A COMMUNITY SEEKING TO BE IN STRIDE WITH CHRIST

…and led us through Ephesians 4:1, which says:  “I therefore……beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. “    

   And it goes on to say, “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “ 

   She went on to remind us that we are of one body and one Spirit, and that discord is not of Christ. 

We need your gifts, your efforts, your time, your advice, your thoughtfulness. It takes all kinds of people, with all of their gifts, to create and maintain this “community”.  We need YOU.   Working together towards this common goal, because we ARE a community, seeking to be in stride with Christ.

Beth Sigg