1.28.21 - TOP TEN

Walking

It might be unfair of me to use this picture of a very pretty fall day, on the (as yet) coldest day of the winter!  But maybe it gives some hope?  Something to look forward to later this year?

The reason I chose this picture (other than I think it's beautiful) is for the image of the person walking down the lane.  And the reason I'm thinking about walking is because in our staff meeting we are currently reading a book by Rich Villodas titled: The Deeply Formed Life.  And the chapters we discussed this week had to do with slowing down and developing a saner pacer to our lives.  Taking the time to let God speak to us and taking the time to actually listen to God.

We can't listen very well to God when we are constantly in a hurry.  And the paradox of life right now, at least for some of us, is that despite COVID restrictions, things are busy.  It would make sense to think that with all the limitations on gatherings and such that we'd all be relaxing more, just taking it easy.  Is that your experience?  I can't really say that it's mine. It seems to me that I have more to do, not less.  More to learn, more to process, more to figure out, more to adjust to.  As much as anything, for me, it's the constant need to be informed and updated and to process my own and other's feelings and thoughts about COVID and the political situation and the state of the country and so on.  I don't get to connect to half of the people I want to, because of the limited number of hours in a day and days in a week.  There always seems to be more that could be done, which was a normal experience pre-COVID, and has just ramped up a bit in this time.

Well enough of my complaining.  But I'm not really complaining.  I love doing what I do and I love doing it with my staff and the church we are part of.  I'm blessed and I know it.  Thank you Lord!  I'm just trying to say that things have been busy, and when things get busy I feel like I'm running a lot, and not walking much.

I need to walk more, in my soul if not on the sidewalks of life.  And that's what the first section of Villodas' book made me think about.  Slowing down.  Taking time to really let God speak into my life.  He has a great line in the first chapter: "...(O)ur souls were not created for the kind of speed to which we have grown accustomed."  He's right. And so he offers some suggestions:  spend time with God in prayer, and don't say anything - just sit in quietness and listen.  Keep a Sabbath - a day of rest and play.  Slow down when you read the Bible and think about what you are reading; read less if you need to in order to do that.  These are good practices.  And they're not new.  You've probably heard these before.  But are you doing them?  What do you need to begin to do more of?  What do I?

I  think this weekend I'm going to find a time and instead of going out for a run as I would normally do, I'm going to go out for a walk.  

Blessings,
Pastor Vern
January 28, 2021
 
1.  Sanctity of Life – Sanctity of Life Sunday was January 17 this year. As Free Methodists, our Board of Bishops want to remind us that we are people who value all human life from conception onward. All are made in God’s image and all are to be cherished and protected.  We value life at its conception, and also as people reach the end of their lives on earth.  Please be in prayer that more people will join us in celebrating the gift of life and will join the efforts to uphold the value of life.  
 
2.  Come to Base or Ember! – Base is meeting on Wednesday nights.  There’s open gym at 5pm and the meeting starts at 6pm.  Ember (for young adults) meets on Wednesday morning at 9:15 at Pub Coffee.  Beginning on February 15 there will be an evening meeting (7pm) at South Campus and this group will be reading 8 classic books by C.S. Lewis.  This will be open to everybody and you can sign up for it on our website: northgatefmc.com.  From the home page go to “connect” – “groups” – “learn more” and click on the green “Lewis” icon next to “Unique groups”.  For more information on any of this contact Pastor Daniel at daniel@northgatefmc.com.
 
3.   Fasting and Prayer For Lent – Lent is less than three weeks away. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17th, Lent is a time of reflection and preparation to celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus, and our new life in Christ, at Easter. Like we did last fall, Northgate will again be fasting together, from Feb. 17 – April 4, to as a way of drawing closer to God and each other through this season. If you would like to participate with us in this ancient spiritual practice by abstaining from food for one day (or part of a day) each week, or from a particular food or activity for a day (or part), please email me (vern@northgatefmc.com) or Pastor Marsha (marsha@northgatefmc.com). We will provide a fasting primer, as well as weekday email meditations to encourage you along the way.
 
4.  Back in the Building – We are back in the building for in-person services.  Our regular schedule is Saturday at 6pm; Sunday at 9:30 and 11am.  There will be children’s ministry at both Sunday services.  We are asking people to keep masks on throughout the services as long as our local rates of infection remain as high as they are.  Of course, we will be doing our sanitizing before and after each service.  And if you are more comfortable viewing the worship service from home, the 9:30 service will be broadcast live and will be available on our website and Facebook pages after that.
 
5.  Soul Pain Revealed – The focus of Soul Pain Revealed, a book by Christian psychologist Dr. Julie Caton, is on “bridging the mental health landscape with the faith-based landscape” with the intention of helping people improve their mental health and lessen their suffering.  This past year a lot of us have found ourselves feeling more anxiety and depression and have had to deal with significant losses.  I am interested in knowing who might like to participate in an 8-week group where we’ll seek God’s help and guidance to improve our mental health and our souls.  If you’re interested, let me know and if we get enough we’ll figure out when/how to meet.  Contact me at vern@northgatefmc.com.
 
6.   The Free Methodist Way – The Free Methodist Way is a new document written by our Board of Bishops.  In it they describe some of the distinctives of what it means to be Free Methodist, our core values.  If you’d like to read The FM Way you can find it here: https://fmcusa.org/the-free-methodist-way
 
7.  Might God Allow Us to Make an International Mission Trip in 2021? – I don’t know the answer to that at this point.  We don’t know what 2021 is going to look like and whether this would be possible.  But I am praying that we will get the opportunity and I’d like you to pray about it as well.  I think it would be wonderful if we could send teams from Northgate to Gyor, Hungary and Gahanda, Rwanda.  In the past few years we’ve done both, but due to COVID it couldn’t happen in 2020.  Let’s pray about it happening again in 2021, but even if we can’t go let’s continue to financially and prayerfully support our missionaries and our mission work in those places, as well as Japan, Ecuador and Spain.  And if you’d like to hear more about what Gerry McNamara is doing as a missionary in Gyor, you can read his blog at https://hungaryforchrist.com.
 
8.  Financial Peace University Classes Coming – New FPU groups will be starting soon.  An online group will begin on Sunday, February 28 at 6pm and an in-person group begins on Wednesday, March 3 at 6:30.  You can get more information and sign up for either of these from our website, northgatefmc.com.  Go to “connect” – “groups” – “learn more” and click on the Financial Peace icon.  
 
9.  Blood Drive Coming Up – There’s another blood drive coming up on February 4.  This will take place at our South Campus (350 Bank St. Rd.).  We consistently hear about the need for more blood donors, so if you are able to be one here’s your opportunity!
 
10.  Who is Pastor Chris? – Pastor Chris recently took the role of Lead Pastor at Arbor House upon the retirement of Pastor Gloria.  He is also taking on the role of Pastor of Missional Engagement for Northgate. In that position he’ll be helping us to be more intentional about serving our community. Prior to this appointment, Chris was the Pastor of Word and Table at Arbor House. Chris and his wife, Melissa, are originally from the Gowanda area. (I, Pastor Vern, had the privilege of being one of Chris’ pastors there for 6 years.) Chris is a huge fan of Punk Rock and reading, and Melissa loves plants and doing cross-stitch.  And Chris just received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies.  Congratulations on that Chris, and God bless you in this new position!
 
 
You Can Count on This – Acts 6:15 – All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Read Acts 6:1-15)
 
It’s too bad that those looking at the face of Stephen didn’t stop to consider why he might have the “face of an angel.”  If they had they may have listened more openly to what he had to say about the love and grace and power of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Instead, as we read in the next chapter of Acts, they will end up stoning him upon an accusation of blasphemy.
 
It seems to me that we are living in an age when taking the time to stop and listen to someone in order to consider the truth of what they are saying, is increasingly rare.  In a world of soundbites and instant reactions on social media I’m afraid that we are losing the ability or the desire to listen to others with empathy, seeking to understand (not necessarily agree) and to engage in dialogue with people who think differently.  If someone doesn’t agree with you, “cancel them.”  
 
This isn’t the way of Jesus, though.  And it can’t be the way of the followers of Jesus.  We need to be people who listen well, who seek to understand the viewpoint of others, and who keep the main thing in focus – furthering the growth of the kingdom of God.  
 
That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree with others; certainly not!  We need to express our points of view and help others to try to understand where we come from on the issues of the day.  We’re not to be doormats.  But we’re not to be bulldozers either.  Two scriptures come to mind as I write this that may be helpful for us to consider:
 
  • James 1:19 – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
 
  • 1Pet. 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
 
When you’re not sure what you can count on in the world around you, know this: You can count on God keeping his word.  So read what God has to say in scripture!  And count on it.
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