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Dear First Pres,

  Sunday was an important day for many of our church families, including my own. I hope you were encouraged by the twelve students who stood up to confess their faith in Christ and become members of our church. What a blessing it was to see and hear those young people - some who've been part of FPC their entire lives, and others more recently - express their desire to be an active part of God's work in and through First Pres. I encourage you, as you see those young people on our campus, at Community Group, or around town, tell them how it made you feel to witness their profession of faith. Let them know that their testimony of choosing to become members of the church impacted you. As you do, it'll be another example to them of how their growth in Christ makes an impact on others.
 
   On a personal note (and on behalf of all the parents of Sunday'sConfirmation class), thank you so much for being the kind of church my kids want to join. After Sunday's service I tried to connect with as many of our youth ministry leaders as I could to express my gratitude for their part in helping my kids follow Christ. Those youth ministry leaders added to the work that had already been done by Sunday School teachers, Wednesday Night leaders, camp counselors, summer staffers, and countless loving adults in our congregation. Thank you. For me, the church in Gig Harbor will always be the community in which my kids were baptized. But First Presbyterian Church Fresno will always be the community in which they stood and made their own profession of faith in Christ Jesus. So, I praise God for you.
 
   Our dream for the young people of our church is that they will increasingly love Christ and His Church for the rest of their lives. That's why we took the time we did on Sunday to celebrate what those twelve students were doing. And, that's one of the reasons why the Session (our Church leadership board) has given a lot of thought and prayer to our college ministry over the last several months. I look forward to sharing with you in the coming weeks about the faith-filled decisions your Session has made in this area.

Blessings,
Jeremy
 

P.S. Read more about the Confirmation Class from High School Ministry Director, Beth Paz on our website.

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   It was a striking juxtaposition. On Tuesday morning I was sitting in the Staff Leadership Team meeting, celebrating a fantastic Easter morning, when Pastor Lana received a text message about a shooting in Downtown Fresno. We didn’t know any details at that moment but we immediately secured the campus and prayed. Within minutes, details were flying in about the horrible scene that occurred just a handful of blocks from our campus (and in the neighborhood of some of our members). Once we learned that the suspect was apprehended, we opened up the office and began operating as usual … kind of. We’re a people still beaming from the celebration of our Lord’s bodily resurrection from the dead, and yet, keenly aware of our need for the Savior’s powerful light to shine in the darkness of our world.

   How does Christ shine in the midst of evil like this? He shines through His people. Jesus said, “You are the Light of the world … Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16). Christ shines in the world through us.

   I experienced Him shining in the darkness first hand today. At noon, several pastors and followers of Jesus from our city gathered at Catholic Charities for a prayer walk. We walked (from end to beginning) the same route that Kori Ali Muhammad took on Tuesday morning. While we walked we prayed – stopping at each place a life was senselessly taken. We prayed God’s peace and wholeness over the neighborhood. It was a wonderful example of the unity of Christ’s Body in Fresno/Clovis. Christ was shining through His people.

   So, I exhort you to shine today. Do that by drawing near to Jesus and abiding with Him. Do that by loving well today those whom God brings along your path. Do that by praying continually for our city – that God’s Kingdom will come and that His will is done in our city as it is heaven. Do that by sharing with others the hope you have in Christ. No matter how little that light of yours seems, let it shine.

Blessings, Jeremy

P.S. This coming Sunday we will welcome 12 youth into membership as part of this year’s Confirmation class. I hope you’ll be here to participate in this important for these young people and our church. It will be a very shiny moment.

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

It's Holy Week! So, here are some important reminders we lean into this special weekend:

Maundy Thursday service starts tonight at 7 pm. This is a unique, powerful, and important service in our preparation for Easter. Please come and be nurtured in faith and life as we celebrate the Lord's Supper and remember the service that Christ gave to us.

Pray. Please be praying for our services on Sunday. Pray that God moves among us in powerful ways. Pray that God gives favor to those who are inviting others to join us for Easter. Pray that God will draw people into deeper faith in Him.

Special Prayer Gathering on Friday morning in The Commons (on the Church campus) from 6:30 - 7:15. I invite you to join me in praying together specifically for God to work in and through our congregation this weekend.

Be a host. It's an old adage around FPC, but still particularly relevant. On Easter Sunday, I invite you to act like a host rather than a guest. Hosts are concerned that others are feeling welcomed so they take initiative to make that happen. Hosts gladly slide over in the pews to make room for others. Hosts help young families know how to connect with our nursery and preschool classes. Hosts act differently than guests. I encourage you to act like a host on Sunday morning.

Consider 11:00.  Last year was our first go around with Easter services at 9:30 & 11:00. Here's what we learned: the 9:30 was packed, and there was room in the 11:00. The services are nearly identical. The choir, the brass, the band, and the organ are included in both services. So, if you can, please consider coming at 11:00 to make more room for others at the 9:30.

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   Have you heard the exciting news? God worked in powerful ways in our community this last week. According to a recent post from the staff of Fresno CityFest, there were over 50 local events that connected with more than 45,000 people in our Valley. And, the Lord drew over 3,000 people to make confessions of faith in Jesus Christ!!! Isn't that amazing? Take a moment and give praise to God.

   I've spoken with many folks this week who were blessed by the various activities. One of them said what I think many of us thought. She said something like, "When people started raising their hands to respond I was surprised. I wasn't expecting it." Sometimes we forget (don't we?) that the news of forgiveness and new life that are offered to us in Jesus Christ is really Good News. And, by the work of the Spirit, when we share it regularly with others there will be some who respond. Of course, not everyone will respond ... but some will ... and whenever anyone repents the heavens rejoice (Luke 15:10).

   God is constantly drawing people to faith in Christ. When we forget that fact, we are much less likely to participate in that work of outreach and evangelism.

   That's why I loved the video we showed in church on Sunday. Did you see it? The main character was out for his daily (I presume) jog. On the way he kept bumping into people who were saying things like, "Thanks so much; I'll see you there." Finally, he figures out that they're people who are anxious to attend worship with him on Easter Sunday.

   I believe there are people who are waiting for you to invite them to church ... or, at least, people who are ready to say "yes" when you do. So, I encourage you. Don't be afraid to invite someone to join you on Easter Sunday; you never know what the Lord has been doing to prepare them for that moment. What better Sunday for them to hear about the One we worship, the Risen and Living Lord Jesus Christ?

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   Yesterday's Women's Luncheon was a grand and beautiful event for the 1,000 women who came to hear the Good News of how Jesus can change our story.  From unaccepted to  accepted, unloved to loved. From the sadness of feeling alone to belonging and joy among the family of God. There were dozens of first-time decisions to follow Jesus, and even more women who rededicated their lives.  The theme verse keeps echoing in my heart: "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" What a blessing for those who come hoping for just a taste, and receive a whole banquet!
 
   Today a gusty wind is clearing out our Valley air; tomorrow morning we will see the Sierra in all its snowy glory! In these last CityFest days, this wind is a good reminder that God's Spirit blows when and where he wills. We've done everything we can do to prepare the venues and the events, we've prayed and asked and committed to participate. Now let's ask God's Spirit to do what only God can do. Let's ask the Spirit to blow through the Valley -  even if it seems wild and out of control, and we feel like trees shaken and slanted in the gale. "Give to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness ... Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns!'" It's not too late to join in the festival, the praise and the prayers for God to be glorified as many come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.   

May God Be Glorified In All Things,
Pastor Lana

Lana Roberts
Associate Pastor

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