Dear First Pres,

 You probably already know this, but today is Day 4 of our citywide 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting. For the last three or four years, we have participated with several other churches around our city in this beginning-of-the-year tradition. If Lent is a season of prayer and fasting for self-reflection and personal renewal in Christ, the 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting is focused more on corporate unity and renewal. Our theme this year is "Make Us One." It comes from the prayer of Jesus in John 17 where He prays for all believers to be one, just like Jesus and the Father are one. Imagine what good could come for God's Kingdom in our city as God unites His people in the ministry of the Gospel.

   So, if you haven't already, I encourage you to find some way to participate in these 21 Days. The staff has put together a short daily devotional that is being sent out every morning. It's based on Jesus' prayer in John 17 to help us remember our theme. If you're not getting that, please contact our office to be added to the list. I encourage you to use that as part of your devotional life and pray with us for Christian unity in the mission of God for our city. Also, every night of the 21 Days there is a local church hosting a one-hour prayer and worship event (7 pm on weeknights; 5 pm on weekends). I've been so blessed to be part of these services; I truly encourage you to go to as many as you possibly can. And, I encourage you to find some way to observe the fast.
   Finally, I really encourage you to come to the service that we are hosting on Saturday night, January 12, at 5 pm.  It will be a wonderful time of singing and praying attended by many from several other churches. The service we hosted last year was a true highlight for all of us.
   As we join in these 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting, I believe the Lord will use it to encourage your faith and build His Church. May it be so.  

Blessings,
Jeremy

P.S. This Sunday there are three new options during the Adult Ed Hour (details are below). If you haven't made a habit of attending an Education Hour class, this Sunday would be a good time to start!

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

 Smiling faces, pretty dresses, adorable children, worship-filled music and the powerful message of Jesus' salvation would be a few ways of describing our time together on Christmas Eve. As it was my 8th Christmas Eve service with the First Pres family, greeting you at the door brought so much joy to my heart. My love for you has grown deep and wide, and it puts into perspective the vastness of God's big love for us. You reflect Emmanuel, God with us, in a tangible way. Authentic community is a powerful way to experience the Lord's grace and mercy. People are messy, including myself, but the ability to demonstrate patience, kindness, and compassion to one another is a way we participate in the healing work of Christ.
   Proximity is the word that remains after another Christmas season concludes. I am beyond grateful for God's closeness and intimacy on a personal level as well as communal. Jesus is near and brings comfort when we feel the weight of the world pressing on our shoulders. He knows our hearts' desires and where we hurt most. He knows when we feel lonely or overwhelmed with grief. He is also there to celebrate the faithfulness of his people and the joy of seeing them become more the people he created them to be.
   We do not need the right words to say to be with Jesus, because the Lord is already with us. Jesus embodies healing and wants to deliver his people from the reality of brokenness. The Lord anticipates the day when all the defeated hearts will experience the wholeness of Yahweh's victory over death. God is the giver of new life through Jesus, which is GOOD NEWS! As Jesus dwells among us, our lives are changed forever. I hope these truths resonate with you in a new way as we enter into a new year. Now as we recover from the sugar hangover, I invite you to make time to reflect and pray for what is to come in 2019. May you consider these questions:
What does it look like to submit to Jesus' healing presence?
What would wholeness look like in my life and in our community?
What part of my story needs God's redemption & healing?
Where would I want God to be with me so I can be delivered from anxiety, fear, pride, addiction, insecurity, hopelessness, anger, or desperation?
   I pray for you to have the courage to invite other people along with you on the road to healing. Jesus never meant for us to walk this life alone. We can be the healing balm and comforting hands as we become a community that heals together. May it be so, Lord.

Blessings,

Meagan   
Director of Junior High Ministries

Meagan Bergem's picture
Meagan Bergem
Director of Junior High Ministries

Dear First Pres,

 Please consider this a call to prayer. Last year on Christmas Eve we had over 1000 people here for worship. That's more than twice as many people as a usual Sunday morning. I know some of them are your Christ loving family members, but some of them are your friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors who don't yet believe that Jesus really is God the Son in the flesh come to be the Savior of the world. I'm so glad they are coming. Wouldn't it be wonderful if God used our Christmas Eve services to draw them into faith in Christ Jesus? YES!!
   But, as you know, God is the One who draws them. It's not a clever sermon, or a perfect solo, or a funny kids message; it's the Holy Spirit who stirs the heart for faith. God is the builder, we are the workers. We are absolutely dependant on Him to make anything we do worthwhile for the Kingdom. So, I invite you to pray that God will indeed move in powerful ways. With thanksgiving - thanksgiving for His goodness, His love, His faithfulness, His work to draw you to faith - present your requests before God.
   Specifically, I invite you to pray for these things:

That God will give us courage to follow His lead in inviting others to our Christmas Eve services
That God will fill us afresh with His Spirit as we are hosting in the parking lot, in the entryway, in the pews, or in front (that's all of us) - so that we will exude the love of Christ for the world
That God will draw those we have invited and others we don't yet know to come to our Christmas Eve services  - especially that He draw people who live within walking distance of our Sanctuary as we need God to help us build relationships with all our new neighbors
That God will work through every part of our services to open hearts and minds to the Gospel, and draw people to faith in Jesus
That His name be glorified, His Kingdom come, and His will be done in our Christmas Eve services as it is in Heaven

   Will you join me in these prayers?  
   If you're better praying with other people, please join me from 6:30 - 7:15 am tomorrow in the Commons. We'll be praying together for these things and more.    

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

One of my FPC friends sent me an email on Christmas morning a handful of years ago. He was in worship on Christmas Eve and God got a hold of him in a significant way. He had taken a few steps toward faith, but that night he clearly heard the call of God to put his faith in Christ. We met a few weeks later and he prayed to give his life to  Christ. Hallelujah!
   I share that with you, church, because I want to remind you that this is the kind of thing God does on Christmas Eve. He draws people to faith in Jesus. He builds His Church. He brings His healing and restoration and redemption.
   So, have you considered who you might invite to our Christmas Eve services? Have you asked the Lord about it? Have you begun praying that God would open the hearts of those you will invite? Have you begun praying that God will work to build His Church during our three Christmas Eve services?
   I encourage you, Beloved, put this in front of the Lord and be obedient to invite those He puts in your heart. God can use that gathering to change the eternal direction of one's life. Please pray with me for that end.

Blessings,
Jeremy

 P.S. Speaking of obedience, that's how we encouraged you to think about your financial offering to the Lord's work in and through FPC. I am so encouraged to report that this is likely going to be the strongest year of giving at FPC since I've been here. Praise be to God! And, Beloved, let's finish the year in obedience as well. Please ask the Lord how He wants you to direct your giving at the end of this year, and do what He directs you to do.

 

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

Waiting is hard. Waiting for a loved one to come home, waiting for Christmas morning, waiting for God to do something ... each of these is difficult in its own way. But waiting is especially hard if we don't have confidence that what we're waiting for will actually come into fruition. When I was a kid, waiting for Christmas morning was hard, but at least I knew it would actually arrive on the morning of December 25. That's why I am so grateful for the Lord's promises and His faithfulness to fulfill every promise.
   This past Sunday morning's Scripture, Isaiah 9:1-7, ends with, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." It is a reminder that there is nothing in this world, or in the entire universe, that can keep God from fulfilling His promises. Praise God! That's why, as people who are in Christ, we always have hope. No matter how dark things seem, even if we're surrounded by utter darkness, we know that a day is coming when Jesus will make all things right. And for those of us who are in Christ by the incredible grace of God, that is really good news.
   In this Advent season, we're reminded of the wait ... the wait for God's Kingdom to come in all its fullness with the return of Jesus. Waiting is hard, but when we wait on the Lord, it actually renews our strength (as we will see in this Sunday's Scripture). We're not waiting for something that is never going to happen. We're waiting for something that will happen because the Lord of Hosts will make it so. So, in that hope, may you live boldly today for Christ's glory - making His Kingdom manifest while you wait for the Lord of Hosts to bring it in full.

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor