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Weekly Update from Pastor Hank – Sept. 2

Dear Church Family and Community,

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 4:17b

September always means back to school for me, even though here in Central, PA we often start school in August. Growing up in Philadelphia, I loved that summer extended until Labor Day. I loved going back to school. I loved getting my new school supplies, figuring out my new schedule, and most importantly…being blessed with fresh new gear – clothes, sneakers, maybe a new watch or chain. All of this was like going back to the basics, to prepare for the year ahead.

For the last several weeks, I have been focused on this idea of going back to the basics of our faith. I have been asking God, “What are the basics you would like us to know and hold on to right here, right now?” I wondered if it was a discipleship class we could offer. I wondered if it was a way we could ground our small groups. I wondered if this should be a focus for our children and youth ministries. I am still wondering about all of that to be honest. I am also excited that part of the answer to my wonderings has been Jesus asking…but what have I called my people to do?

Every now and then, it is helpful to remember the basics of our God and faith. We are blessed to be known and loved by God. We are graced by God’s compassion and mercy. God always cares for us and holds us still during seasons of uncertainty and turmoil. God always carries us to rest and always call us to hope by remaining faithful, good, and true to us. Christ is the foundation, the Spirit is our guide, and the Father is our home. I believe that Jesus calls us to remember these basics because we need them for our today and our tomorrows.

For the next few months in our services, we will be returning to the basics by focusing on some of the things Jesus has called us to do. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is Lord. We put our faith in God. We trust that the Holy Spirit will direct our paths, that the work of Jesus has been finished, and that God our Father is always here for us. Our lives must also then be a reflection of complete reliance and trust, submission and surrender, alignment and agreement that what Jesus says…we will do. To return to the basics is to commit to following the commands of Christ.

One goal for us in this next sermon series is to know what God wants from us, so we can live how God calls us to live. We will begin by focusing on what I believe is Christ’s first command to us: Repent. I tend to think of repent only in light of turning to Christ and salvation. Matthew adds a fuller understanding of the word. When Matthew recites Christ’s call for people to repent it is both a turning from sin and a turning to God. It is changing one’s mind for the better, and going another more fruitful way.

Christ calls us to repent. This is a call for us to find salvation in Christ. However, this is also a call for us to trust God’s promises in all of life’s storms, to rely on God’s strength especially when we are weak and downtrodden, to believe that God will never leave us or forsake us, and to worship God, and God alone. To help us flesh out this command, we will be looking at Matthew 4:1-17. I would like to invite you to spend the next few days reading and reflecting on these verses, and the following questions:

What are lessons God teaches us in the wilderness?

How does Jesus respond to the devil’s temptations?

What does turning to God look like in this season that you are in?

The Kingdom of heaven is near; how are you experiencing God’s kingdom now?

We cannot follow God if we ignore what Christ asks of us. My prayer for us this week is that all of us make it a common practice of returning to the basics every now and then. What does following God look like? How are we being obedient and faithful to what Christ has called us to do? How can we surrender to the Spirit as we grow in our life and faith?

God bless you all, and take care.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Hank
(Matthew 4:17)
P: (717) 561-2170, ext. 104

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