News

Dear First Pres,

      This coming Sunday is an important time in the life of our church.  The Congregational Meeting (starting at 9:00 a.m.) will offer the chance for me, and the rest of our church’s Session, to talk a bit about where we are and where we’re going as a church.  The framework for the first part of our conversation will be the 2014 budget, which represents a 5% increase in planned spending from 2013.  We’ll be discussing what that increase represents.  The framework for the rest of our meeting will be a dialogue that starts with individual thinking and then expands into small group and large group discussion.  I’m very excited about this part of our meeting because it gives all of us a chance to work together at moving forward in our mission.  I really hope you will make it a priority to come ready to participate.

     Don’t forget that we’ll have breakfast at 8:15 (the cooks told me there will be food ready to serve at 8) in the Fellowship Hall.  I hope you’ll come and enjoy some fellowship around the tables and talk together about all the blessings that God has given us.  In fact, I hope you’ll come on Sunday with one of your First Pres highlights from 2013.  The congregational meeting will start at 9, and our worship service will start at 10:30.

     I know there may be some of you that usually avoid church on the day of this annual tradition.  Would you consider changing your mind this year?  I’m convinced that effective leadership is something we can only do together.  I invite you to come and help your church be the mission community that Christ calls us to be.

See ya at breakfast,

Jeremy

P.S. Two additional thoughts: (1) there will be stuff going on for kids during the meeting, and (2) our meeting will be much more effective if you have already read through the 2013 Annual Report.  Click here to view the report on our website.

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

The experience we shared on Sunday is one of my favorite experiences of the year.  Remembering our baptisms is a powerful way of living into the identity that our baptisms signify.  Many of you came forward to remember and give thanks, but I know there were still some lingering questions about what exactly we were doing.  Let me address that briefly here.

Sunday wasn't about getting baptized again.  We don't believe in the need to get re-baptized.  If you were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit as part of a Christian church, your baptism is valid. Even if you spent most of your life living counter to the vows of your baptism, your sinfulness doesn't dry up your baptismal waters.  And, Sunday wasn't about getting baptized. For us, baptism is always connected with church membership - either making an adult profession of faith into membership into God's covenant family or parent members presenting their child for baptism as part of God's covenant family.  If you are interested in being baptized or having one of your children baptized, please give Pastor Lana or me a call. Finally, Sunday wasn't about making those who haven't been baptized feel insignificant. Rather, I hope it was inspiring to see others remembering their identity in Christ and rededicating themselves to live into that identity in 2014 (by the way, this is what it was really about).  I guess we could do that by staying in the pews and saying a prayer, but for me (a person many years separated from my baptism) the few drops of water on my forehead are a wonderful and tangible reminder of the ongoing implications of my baptism. I belong to Christ, and I am so grateful.

Let me know if you have more questions, I am happy to talk about it.

On Sunday, you also heard about our upcoming congregational meeting. Please notice the special schedule on January 26.  If you are one who normally just skips the annual meeting (I know you're out there), I encourage you to reconsider this year.  At this year's meeting I'll be sharing some of my thoughts about the status of our church.  We'll also be engaging in some very important conversation about the culture and future of our congregation.  Please start planning ahead for our special schedule that day.

We're starting a new sermon series this Sunday called Forever Changed. May the Lord use it among us to change us more into His people.

 

Blessings,

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Our church leaders have prepared this 2013 Annual Report for your information.  Printed copies willbe availalbe for a while longer in the Narthex.  Thanks for taking the time to read it!  

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago.  They never seemed to ‘stick’! And failing year after year was discouraging, so I quit making them.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want, or think I need, to make changes in my life.  It means I learned from lots of failure that New Year’s resolutions weren’t helping me actually make changes happen.  A quick internet search tells me only forty-six percent of people who make New Year’s Resolutions are still keeping them by July.  See what I mean?  I’m not alone in this!  Blessedly, God has provided an avenue for effective change in our lives, for transformation.  That’s where the gospel comes in.  No matter what time of the year we say “yes” to Jesus, grace happens in our hearts, in Christian community, and spills out to others in ways that sometimes surprise us.

This week, during the education hour in the Fellowship Hall, we’ll be starting Tim Keller’s series Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything.  The tools we’ll use will be Keller’s teaching on DVD (ten minutes), a study book (ten dollars), a little homework (about an hour a week), and sharing together about what we’re learning.  The Holy Spirit is at work in and among us for transformation; this study is one way we can make room in our hearts and minds and lives for God’s purpose to be fulfilled.  I encourage all of you to consider committing yourselves to the next eight weeks.  Let’s take this journey of transformation together.

One of the graces God uses in life transformation is our baptism.  On Sunday, we’ll be remembering Jesus’ baptism and remembering ours too.  I’m going to spend the next couple of days reflecting on what it means to be baptized, and invite you to do the same.  What promises has God fulfilled to me?  What promises have I fulfilled to God?  How is my life different because I have been baptized into Christ?  Just writing down the questions stirs my soul and launches me out into deep water.  “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…” (Heb. 6:18-20).  In the words of the old song, “my anchor holds within the veil.”

The Lord Bless and Keep You,

Lana Roberts
Associate Pastor

Dear First Pres,

Happy New Year!  I don’t know exactly what the Lord has in store for us in 2014, but I’m excited about it.  Yes, there are things to be concerned about in our world, in our country, and in our community (things that we should be lifting up to the Lord in prayer and asking what He would have us do), but we can still have hope. Our hope is not based in technology or human ingenuity or happenstance; our hope is Christ.  The coming of Christ, the work of Christ, and the immanent return of Christ should define the way we think about our days.  So, how does your Christ-hope impact your perspective of this new year?  There may be things that happen in 2014 that we absolutely dread (for good reason), but no matter what the circumstance God is faithful.  God is at work. Christ has come, and is coming again. He has called us to be part of His holy nation and royal priesthood.  And, His healing is at work among us at FPC Fresno. How exciting is that?!?

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our preaching series called Making Room.  If you’re struggling to remain hopeful these days, for whatever reason, I pray you’ll be encouraged by the Spirit-given hope in an old man of Jerusalem named Simeon. His hope has been encouraging me in these first days of 2014.

By the way, if you missed our Christmas Eve celebration, you missed a wonderful time of worship.  I was very pleased with the three service format; as we hoped, it seemed to make room for more worshippers.  I am so grateful for the many people who helped to make it a fabulous night, and I’m grateful that y’all endured the change without missing a beat. Now, my prayer is that those new worshippers will come again. Would you join me in that prayer?  And, be sure to make room in “your” pew when they come looking for a seat so that we might share the hope we have in Christ with them.

P.S. If you have any feedback about our Christmas Eve format or services, please feel free to send me an email at jvaccaro@fpcfresno.org.  I welcome your thoughts.

Blessings,

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

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