Advent Reading – JOY

The psalmist said in Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Although it’s easy to think about joy in terms of happiness and celebration, we must be mindful that joy comes from gratefulness to God for salvation, not a lack of trials or an “easy” life here on Earth.  I like this quote from Rick Warren, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”Image result for christmas joy

Last year Ilona taught us that joy stands for Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  I love the acronym because it’s easy to remember and when put into practice we can truly rejoice in knowing we are honoring God’s commands of loving Him first and our neighbors as ourselves.

What are some ways you are bringing JOY to others this advent season?  If you’ve already come up with a play to spread some JOY around, great, but if not here are some ideas; serve at a local mission, help someone put up Christmas decorations, invite your neighbors to Christmas dinner or better yet, invite them to church!  What better way to rejoice that to share the wonderful gift of Jesus with others?  The list could go on but hopefully you get the idea.  1 Peter 1:8-9 sums up what joy means to me pretty well so I’ll end with it.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

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written by: Kandice Eckhoff

Advent Reading – FAITH

The Bible is filled with hundreds of stories of people of faith. You can even say to an unchurched person that someone has the wisdom of Solomon or the patience of Job and they know kind of what you are referring to – someone who was rewarded by God for their faith.   But as we come into the Advent season, we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I find myself thinking – probably because I’m still raising children – a lot about Jesus’ childhood.  What must that have been like, really?  Image result for christmas questionWhat was it like to be Jesus, and be 6?  What did 14 look like for Jesus?  I think about how full of doubt and heartache and just the unknowingness that was my adolescence, and some parts of my adult life, let’s be honest.

But Jesus, even as a child… when he got separated from his family during their travels and, not a crying worried mess when they found him, but a confident faithful servant already – did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house? My Father’s House.  That’s faith.

Think about not just believing in God, because that word, belief, I can say I believe I’ll have a deli sandwich for dinner, and I can make that happen. Image result for faith in godI can say that I believe science is God revealing Himself to us as He wants us to know Him.  I believe that all humans were created by God just as they are, flawed in our eyes but perfect in His.  I believe that John the Baptist was a little bit of a nut but a crucial figure in our religious history.  Not just belief, but KNOWING.  The knowledge of God.  That is what we aspire to.  That is the level of faith we work toward.

That’s the faith of Jesus. To know how your life is supposed to turn out, and to go on preaching, teaching, loving. To do that? To love like that?  That’s faith.

What would our prayers sound like if we had that faith? Mine would sound like this: Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  A million times, thank you.  For I know that You are with me, every microsecond of my existence here in this body, and beyond.Image result for family praising god

And I am not afraid.






written by: Natalie Madison

Advent Reading – LOVE

Our greatest gift from God is, to me, the Gift of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ. The Advent Season is a celebration of our preparation for His birth. Related image

Jesus Christ taught us many things. Above all, He taught us the importance, the value of Love. Love is that deep caring for God & people. While there are different forms & degrees of love, the most important is that “Love” that Jesus taught us: we must care for God, His Word; our fellow man; life, caring, & valuing life is of the utmost importance. We need to strive to have that love, a TRUE love, for people & God’s many gifts. This is all in the Spirit of the Advent Season.

If our hearts are void of Love for God & Love for others during the Advent Season (all other times as well) then are we truly believers?

Allow me to ask that again; If our hearts are void of Love as God expects, are we truly believers?

We are not perfect, we are sinners, however, the moments should be rare when Love, true Love, is absent from our hearts. God gave us Christ so that we may have Eternal Life. In turn, Jesus Christ taught us to have Love for God (The Trinity) & our fellow man.

Love God
Love one another
Love yourself

Related imageFaith, Hope, & Love, these three….but the greatest of these is Love. This is the gift which molds all things together. If we truly Love God, then we truly Love others as ourselves. Therefore, having that Love, then we truly serve God as He expects us to do. The Advent Season is the time of the year to come before God & bear all that is wrong, and renew our foundation of Faith, Hope, and especially, Love. I pray that each of us does not miss this opportunity.

Love God, Serve Others

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written by: Keith Cook

The Power of Prayer

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

Great News!!!!! Image result for faith God has given us a vision and we are making it a reality! Our total in pledges and gifts received as of today for God’s House is $51,686.00.  With the matching gifts, the total in the fund is $103,272.00.  We still have funds to raise, so we will be persistent in prayer and fundraising.  We are acting in faith. Faith is not just a mental assent but it requires us to take a step of action.  It is my hope that by Spring we will be able to break ground and begin building God’s House.  Please keep this Adventure in Faith to reach our community for Christ on top of your prayer list.  If you would like to donate to God’s House, click here to be taken to our donation site.
Image result for join us in prayerAlso, on Saturday morning, October 8th, at 9 a.m., we will gather together for a Prayer and
Healing Service.  When God’s people join in prayer with one voice God IS present and moving in a very powerful way.  Scripture encourages us to pray for those who are in need physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so that is what we will do. Listen to what is said about prayer in James 5:13-16.

The Power of Prayer

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

So come join us for a fresh encounter with God with His people on Saturday morning.
You continue to be in my daily prayers.
Love in Christ,

Building Relevance and Building Relevance

Sermon July 24th, 2016 by Shelley Needham

The title is not a typo, nor is it as redundant as it sounds.

I chose this title, because this is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I believe it was when Rex preached before the congregation, or maybe it was when he talked to us about his vision for the new building, but one thing he said has really stuck with me, and his comment was this: Image result for question mark

If something were to happen to this church tomorrow, and we were no longer here, would anyone in the community notice?


I would like to think that our church would be missed. I would like to think that we would leave a huge hole in the community, that people would wonder if the community will ever be the same without us, and worry about how they are going to fill the needs our vacancy leaves behind.

Sadly, I don’t think that is the case. I actually think that it is the opposite. Other than the kids in Awana, there may be a few people that would remember that a church was once here, or look back with nostalgia—remembering a relative bringing them to Sunday school here as a child, or recalling Scout meetings here, or even VBS. The food pantry might miss us a little bit, and the other churches in the area would have to change the schedule for the community Thanksgiving and Easter services, but I’m afraid that the vast majority of people would hardly notice the difference. In fact, if you ask most of the young families in the community, I doubt 75% even know that we are here. The sad truth is, I just don’t believe that we are very relevant anymore.

It is not just us, and I don’t want to say that we as a congregation don’t try, but everything in society is working against all churches right now. There are those in government desiring power for themselves that see belief in God as an impediment to achieving ultimate power over the people and so try to undermine organized religion. Societally, morality is now seen as something to be ashamed of, and those that try to teach or adhere to moral values are called “haters”, because we have lost our sense of right and wrong and don’t want anyone to judge how we chose to find our pleasure.

Our entertainment bombards us with immorality and sexual promiscuity as the new norm. Holy days and religious Holidays have become secularized to the point that they no longer hold any of their original meaning, and where we once had Sundays and Wednesday evenings as “church” days, they are now just another day, to be filled with sporting events and practices, even by our small home-town schools. Even insurance companies have led to the decline of church relevance by making it necessary to keep church doors locked instead of open to the community. Gone are the days you can just step into any church to pray in a time of trouble or when you need comfort.

So what is the role of the church in today’s society, and what do we do about it? The biblical definition of the church comes from the Greek work ecclesia which means a called out company or assembly. It always refers to the people, rather than a specific building. There were the Jews, the Gentiles (everyone who wasn’t a Jew), and the Church, those of both those groups who believed in Christ and his teachings. In Ephesians 1:22-23 the Bible states that God placed all things under Christ’s feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body. As the body of Christ, we are the hands, mouth, and feet of Christ on earth. We are to do the work of Christ by glorifying God, serving others and seeking out those who are lost. Each member of the Church has been given gifts by God to fulfill those tasks.

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Specifically, we of the Church are told to study and learn the word of God so that we can live it and teach it to others. We are to fellowship together to help us grow in faith, and grace, and knowledge. We are to go into the world with the gospel, to bring new members into the body of Christ. We are to pray for one another and love one another, and care for those in need. The church is also called to have pastors, elders, deacons, teachers and other leaders so that the members are well enough versed in scripture to discern error, to know how to proclaim the gospel to the lost, and to discipline members where and when needed to maintain the purity of the church.

If we want to see what we need to do today to grow the relevance of our church, we need to see how the early church experienced such rapid growth. In Acts 2:42-47, the bible describes the early believers: Image result for acts 2 churchThey devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had a need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

We aren’t going to have the apostles performing miraculous sign and wonders, but looking at this description as a model, I can see how we can implement a number of things to help build more church relevance today.

The one thing that really jumps out at me in these passages is fellowship. Now we just experienced a week of intense fellowship with VBS. It was a lot of fun. Zeke loved it, and was really sad that it ended. But for our adult members with busy lives, it was also a little (okay a LOT) draining. There was a lot of preparation that went into it, and keeping up that level of fellowship is REALLY hard. We just wouldn’t be able to maintain something like that with our small congregation on a daily basis. I do, however think that the future of the church lies in reaching out to the kids and young families in the community, as well as meeting our own needs. Here is where I am finally gaining an understanding of Rex and Kandice’s vision for our church. Once I really comprehended what we could be, I became very excited about our future.

Image result for don't like changeLet me say first of all, that I wasn’t necessarily enthusiastic about the changes that have been proposed in the last few years. I’m the kind of person who gets something the way I like it and don’t see any reason to change it, ever. We have experienced some pretty major losses of long-time church members which have caused change enough. In addition, going to more contemporary Christian music (which I’m not a huge fan of), leaving PCUSA, changing the building color, tearing down the manse, have all been difficult for me, although I saw the necessity in each move.

The new building has also been something that was hard for me to get on board with. I didn’t see how we could think to spend so much money with such a small congregation and expect to not bankrupt ourselves. I also worried that it would be just one more building on our property sitting empty 95% of the time that we would have to maintain, when heating and cooling costs already strain our budget.

The change came about a year ago with a dream. I had been worrying about our church and even contemplating leaving as I just didn’t feel a part of it anymore. In my dream we had our church, but now it was more like a home. There were comfy couches and bean bags on the floor instead of cold metal folding chairs. Kids were lounging around doing homework or on Wi-Fi. There were bible study groups, kids watching Christian movies and playing games in the new building. There were teenagers practicing music. Suddenly my resistance melted away, and I saw what real fellowship looked like. I saw a way that we could become a relevant part of the community. Not as a building open for 2 hours on Sunday, and locked up the rest of the week, but as a vital community center. A place where people wanted to be, where you could go and hang out in a wholesome environment, where kids would be exposed to God on a daily basis.

Since then, I have been having fun brainstorming. If we are actually going to have a new building, it can’t just sit empty. It has to be relevant too, or it is a massive waste of time and money. Rex wants the kids to be able to practice basketball. Currently the only days the elementary kids have to practice is Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons, because the gyms are being used by the older kids. This means that if you do sports, you can’t go to Wednesday night Church or Awana. I like Rex’s plan, but there is so much more we can do. Image result for dream

What about a latchkey program for kids from 3 to 6 every day during the school year? We could have afterschool snacks available and kids could come to the church to study, watch Veggie Tales or other Christian or family oriented programs, they could play basketball, and we can have board games or jig saw puzzles available. During the winter months, it would give the kids something to do, a place to go after school instead of just sitting at home, getting into trouble, or roaming the streets until their parents get home. In the summer we could offer lunches and let the kids, and maybe senior citizens as well come in for a healthy meal and to escape the heat while they enjoy each other’s company.

I would also like to revive a MOPs program or Mother’s Support Group like we had a number of years ago. We could also do a parents’ night out once a month, and fifth quarter.

Another thought I had was every Sunday night after Awana have a Spaghetti or chili supper. We could cook in the big new kitchen, just throw stuff together and heat it up so Awana families can eat together and no one has to cook a meal at home.

Although I think our future lies with bringing in the kids, with the hope that families will follow, we also can’t neglect the needs of our older members. I hate that so much is focused on the kids, that the adults are too busy doing those activities that they have no time for fellowship themselves.

Ilona has wanted me to lead a quilting group, which I would LOVE to do. We could make quilts for project Linus or Quilts of Valor, or even make quilts as fundraisers such as the Mennonites do. These would all be ways to serve and fellowship at the same time. Even handwork groups of knitters or crocheters making prayer shawls, hats for preemies, etc. would be a lot of fun. I also love the idea of Kandice’s bible journaling group. Even though I didn’t really have the opportunity to participate with Zeke being so dependent, if we have a place where the kids can play while the adults do activities, it would be so nice and get more families involved in things like that.Image result for fun at church

There could be cooking classes or cake decorating. We could offer Zumba classes to contemporary Christian music and invite the community. The men could also have a study group, just for them, where they can meet and discuss the bible, family life, work, cars, or whatever else it is men discuss. And we could have the men mentor our older teen and young adult men who don’t really have a place any more now that Dan is gone. Our Operation Christmas Child program could really grow with more space to store items and assemble boxes. We would have room for bereavement groups or support groups to meet, and be able to rent out the large room for receptions or craft shows, and hold Christian concerts.

There are so many wonderful ways we can serve the community if we had a nice large space available. We just need to have the commitment to do it. We can’t build a building and then sit at home expecting other people to do everything. Our Church home needs to truly be a home away from home where we want to spend time, just like the early Christians did, or the pilgrims who settled our country and set up Christ centered communities. I think we could really offer something great, but it will depend on every one of us to make it happen.

Image result for how can you help?Please be thinking and praying about the possibilities in the weeks to come. To build this building will require time and money to complete and we need everyone on board if we are going to go ahead with it. My greatest fears are building, and then basically letting it sit empty while we struggle to pay off a huge debt, or not building and continuing to become increasingly irrelevant to the point that we are effectively dead. We can’t build with the idea that a building will bring people in, but we need to bring people into our building and give them an experience they want to repeat. Then we will truly be building relevance.

If you haven’t donated yet, please don’t wait.  We have a donor matching anything we bring in through September 30th.  To donate you can mail a check to us, give your donation to a member, or donate online.

God’s House

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,
Praise God that the vision God has given us is becoming a reality. What a privilege to be chosen by God for this task! The next few weeks (September 1-24) we will be praying and asking God what extra giving He wants us to give for “God’s House”, our soon to be Church Life Center. As many of you know we have received a gift from an anonymous donor to match what we pledge for the building. That means your pledge/gift actually doubles! So after some prayer, please send in your commitment cards to the church or place it in the offering plate by Sunday, September 25. On Sunday, September 25, we will celebrate and dedicate these gifts to God, pray for the next steps of the vision and after worship have some cake and punch. God is on the move at Freeman Presbyterian Church!
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As you know I love to sing (please no comments). Besides, the Scriptures I shared with you on Sunday, August 28th a song by Lauren Daigle really encouraged me in my faith. With fear and trembling and then with much joy I said yes to God I am on board with your vision. I will not hold back from You! The song is called “I will Trust in You.”
Here are the lyrics.
Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
By the way if you have read this article let me know. I have a gift for those who read this article.
Love in Christ,

Our Family

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

The Bible has lots to say about what the Church looks like. There is a good deal of information about how the Church is to live in Community. In the entrance to the sanctuary there is a framed picture titled Our Family. It reads:

In Our Family

We will love and accept one another.
We will pray for one another.
We will tell the truth to each other.
We will be kind to one another.
We will bring joy to each other.
We will serve one another.
We will be patient with one another.
We will comfort one another.
We will forgive one another.
We will be generous with each other.
We will honor each other.
Many of us in the beginning of the year signed a commitment that in 2016 we would be intentional in growing our relationship with Christ. A result from Growing in Christ is reflected in how we care for one another. So get ready to study and then apply God’s rules for Family Living. Looking forward to this study with you.
Love in Christ,

Five Biblical Convictions Regarding Spiritual Growth

While preparing for our church retreat I found this writing regarding “5 Biblical  Convictions regarding Spiritual Growth.” I thought they were good and would work  alongside our Sunday Worship for the last couple of months.

What happens in the heart and life of a person who becomes a fully devoted follower of Christ? Though each Christian looks a little different, some common themes run through our lives. First each Christian has come face to face with the truth of his own sinfulness and personal bankruptcy before God. At the same time, each comes to understand the depth of God’s love for them and the forgiveness that He offers only through the death of Jesus on the cross. Then each says yes to Jesus.

A second affirmation that someone is a Christian is the witness of the Holy Spirit. This is a deep inner sense that God is with you and in you. Sometimes the Spirit challenges and convicts, at other times He in-spires and encourages. More and more, as time goes by, we  feel the work of the Spirit within us.

Along with the subjective inner work of the Spirit comes the objective outer work of the Spirit, our third element. When you become a fully devoted follower of Christ your behavior begins to change. You see the change and so do the people around you.

A fourth evidence of being a Christian is that a person’s view of sin changes. Things that use to seem harmless and benign now stand out as offensive to God. Instead of being hard-hearted about your sin, you face the reality of guilt and remorse. Your heart breaks when you realize that your sin put Jesus on the cross.

And fifth, when your conviction grows, you discover that you have a whole new set of goals, you establish God-centered goals. Instead of saying, “My will be done” you say “Thy will be done.”(Essential Christianity, Hybels p.24)

At the retreat, during worship, and in our Small Groups it is my hope that we will be engaging in deepening our life with Christ and that will be reflected in the ministry we engage in at FPC.

Love in Christ,

Our Action Plan

During the month of May we explored ways to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is an action plan to accompany our prayer from Ephesians 3:14-19 where we are asking God to deepen our relationship with Him. We have explored John 15 where we learned a beginning step for us is to “hang out” with Jesus through Corporate Worship, Prayer, and Bible Study. The question posed throughout the series is, “What is your action plan to develop your relationship with him?”. Growing in our faith does not happen through osmosis. I hope and pray that you have taken up this challenge. Individually and corporately we want to look and act more like Jesus on a daily basis.

Another aspect of our growth is how we love God. Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give your whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”

God’s Word never returns void. As men and women of faith it must be applied. This is seen by the way we live out our lives with one another. During the months of June and July we are going to explore living the life of love as Christ instructs us. As we grow in this area of our faith journey I want to make sure you put two weekends on your calendar.

The first weekend is June 25 and 26 for our church reunion. Saturday night there will be a picnic in the park and on Sunday, Worship and Lunch. During worship we will have special music ministry, a time of sharing and remembering, and a challenge for the future mission of FPC. You will hear more from me during the month of June to prepare for worship on the 26th.
The second weekend to note is Friday, July 22 for our first retreat that will take place at the 4 R’s  retreat center. We will be working on ways to experience more of the presence and power of God in our everyday life. It will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night and conclude at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The cost is $70 for the weekend (food will be a cooperative effort). The retreat will have teaching time, time for fellowship and yes time to fish, swim, hike, or find a corner and read a book. This retreat is for adults only. Next year we will plan an all church retreat. Sign up begins on May 29-June 26. Scholarships are available upon request and a deposit of $35 is requested when you register.
I look forward to these two months of summer as we apply God’s Word to our lives.
Love in Christ,


Pentecost Sunday

On May 15 we will celebrate perhaps my favorite Christian Holy Day and that is Pentecost Sunday. As you well remember, Pentecost is the day that the Promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they started declaring with a boldness to all who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost the Good News about Jesus Christ. People who were scared became bold as the Holy Spirit empowered them to go beyond themselves.

R.A. Torrey, evangelist and Bible teacher wrote:

The Holy Spirit does regenerate men. He has power to raise the dead. He has power to impart life to those who are morally dead or decaying. He has power to impart an entirely new nature to those whose nature now is so corrupt that to men they appear to beyond hope. How often I have seen men and women utterly ruined and vile come into a meeting scarcely knowing why they came. As they sat there, the Word was spoken, the Spirit of God has quickened the Word thus sown in their heart, and in a moment, that man or woman, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, has become a new creation.

It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and calls men and women to Christ and enables us to fix our eyes on Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit working in us that allows us to be the hands and feet of Christ and to do things beyond our wildest imaginations.

That is where we are at FPC. We are a congregation seeking the wisdom of God for our next step and season of ministry. We are seeking God’s guidance. The prayers that we have been circling these last two months have been from the following Scripture texts: Ephesians 3:16-19, Psalms 127:1, and now let me add another to our list. Let us bear the mark of the Holy Spirit.

Vision Word Cloud

Paul writes in Galatians 5:16 “So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law… 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”.

Our prayer for our congregation that we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit by allowing the Holy Spirit to be in charge, in control of not only our individual lives but the life of FPC. This is what on the outside looks like a simple prayer. But if prayed with all sincerity and willingness to be controlled by the Spirit you will be joining me for an adventure of a life time. Hop aboard and join me for the ride of your life!

Love and prayers in Jesus,