August 9 Sermon & Worship

August 9 Sermon

Worship 8/9

Weekly Update – August 4

Dear friends and members of Fort Lee Gospel Church,

I write this just a couple of hours before we get drenched by tropical storm Isaias. One more challenge in a year of challenges. I pray that we all come through with little more than needing to use an umbrella.

For this week’s reflection I would like to address issues of recreation. These past five months have seen a disruption to the entertainment industry. Broadway shows and movie theaters have been closed. Casinos and trips to Atlantic City have been off the table. Sports have been shut down and are only now restarting.

I enjoy watching sports. I know we all have different way to ‘escape’ or experience down time but following my favorite teams has been good for my emotional wellbeing. Your form of entertainment may be different, but principles will apply.

It has been my premise through this pandemic that our suffering can be good for us. There is wisdom in going through a hard time. Ecclesiastes 7:2-6 says,

2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
5 It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools.
6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools.
This too is meaningless.

While this passage speaks to wisdom to be gained through grief, there is a broader sense of us gaining wisdom through a pandemic. My prayer has been for good change in three areas. First, that America will come of out of this as a more just society in economics, race equality and healthcare. Second, that churches will be more Christ-centered and kingdom minded because of the restrictions of the pandemic. And third, that each of us as individuals while learn, grow, and draw closer to Christ because of this season.

Back to sports and entertainment.

While I enjoy watching sports, I had no interest in watching Russian ping pong or the 1972 championship game. I was on a sports vacation these past five months. Now games have restarted in baseball, hockey, and basketball. How can I take the wisdom of a sports vacation into this new normal?

Three principles:

1. We Need Recreation that Re-Creates

Whether you watch sports, watch TV, read novels, hike mountains, or bird watch, we all need time away from work to be refreshed. God commanded His people to keep the Sabbath for worship, rest, and renewal. Our workaholic tendencies can be bad for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Life is hard at times and we need some way to forget about work and challenges so that we can come back to them with renewed energy.

2. We Need Hobbies and Recreation that are not Destructive

Some recreation choices have no value. Most of us have chosen to stay away form ‘nightlife’ because we are people of the light. For me personally, I have lived in New Jersey for 29 years and I have never visited Atlantic City. The casinos are of no interest to me.

There are other forms of recreation that are neutral or positive activities that can become destructive. Enjoying a video game is neither good nor bad but becoming unemployable because gaming keeps someone up all night is a big problem.

In a similar way, I can cheer on my team without sacrificing my commitments to family and church. The pandemic has shown me that I can live without spending time every day following sports. The extra time has brought some good outcomes. Moving forward, my recreation is to be secondary to what is more important in life.

3. We Need to Prioritize Faith over Recreation

There are two ways to look at this principle. One is to state that Jesus is the center of everything we do. The other is to say that faith, family, and employment are all more important than our hobbies and recreation.

You may say that it is easy for me to say as a pastor. My faith and my job are interconnected. Jesus does say to us all, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33) I believe the ‘all things’ here include healthy recreation.

I was raised in a nonclergy home where church activities always came first. We enjoyed our weekends, but we always went to church on Sunday. Life is better when God and building our faith is the core of our priorities.

In closing, my concern is that our spiritual gains are not lost when society reopens. We can enjoy a good game for a change without losing perspective on what is important. God bless!
Pastor Rick

Announcements

Sunday worship services continue to be livesteamed on our Fort Lee Gospel Facebook page and our website, www.fortleegospel.org. We can accommodate up to 25 people in attendance in our building for the 11:00 AM Sunday worship service.
Our Church Picnic will be at Ross Dock tomorrow, Wednesday, August 5th from 4:00 – 7:00 PM. You are encouraged to bring something to eat, but because of Covid 19, this is not a potluck. We plan to do a worship service at about 6:00 PM. We will practice social distancing, wear masks and limit personal contact. Ross Dock Picnic Area is on Henry Hudson Drive in Fort Lee, just north of the George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River. Parking is free.
The Tuesday 7:00 PM Bible study online today. Next week we will do a hybrid meeting at the church.
The 6:00 AM Prayer Meeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays is at church with an option to connect on Google Meet.
Connect info for Tuesday Bible Study and Morning Prayer is:
Meeting URL :

https://meet.google.com/suk-xpsf-nwh

For dial in:

Phone: +1 567-351-1104 PIN: 469 349 929#

Please contact the church if you are interested in the Tuesday Men’s Bible Study, Saturday Women’s Bible Study or College meetings.

Weekly Update July 28

Dear friends and members of Fort Lee Gospel Church,

These past few days I have been struck by some of the lead stories in the news. I would like to reflect on two stories that seem unrelated but share some biblical principles. The passing of two civil rights leaders, Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian on July 17th and the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act on July 26th. Both stories played prominently over the past two days and the media struggles to tell the Christian angle on these events. Let me attempt to highlight God’s hand in these stories.

I Corinthians 1:26-31 says,

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about the fact that without Christ they are not a very impressive group. With Christ they have value and purpose, with the potential to change the world.

C.T. Vivian (age 95) and John Lewis (age 80) died within hours of each other in Atlanta, Georgia. These two icons of the 1960s civil rights movement had much in common. They both were seminary trained pastors. They both worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in non-violent protests to bring equality for African Americans. The details of their life work are worth studying.

The passing of these two important figures in American history remind us of the central role the Black Church played in fighting for an equal playing field. Be reminded that the White church largely opposed the protests of the 1960s. May we learn from history.

As people honor the passing of Representative John Lewis, coverage often goes to the time his skull was cracked open while he was leading the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. He was living the Scriptural principle that “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (vs. 27) Many see this march as a turning point in the civil right movement.

There are some parallels between ‘Bloody Sunday’ and the death of George Floyd. Both events changed public perception of the long-standing grievances of African Americans. Both events came at a time when most protestors were peaceful, but some were violent. I pray that good laws will come out of our season that reform police practices and address the judicial system.

As society wrestles with justice for people of color, we also have an anniversary for American with Disabilities Act, signed into law in 1990. The common theme is equal opportunity for all people. This idea runs deeper than the Declaration of Independence preamble that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It really goes back to the truth of the Bible that God gives value to every person alive.

If our society were all evolutionists, we would hold to survival of the fittest, marginalizing people with disabilities. As people of faith we celebrate those who overcome disease or injury to live a full life in the workplace and in society. Christians have often been at the forefront of advocating for rights of those with challenges.

A closing thought on I Cor. 1:27 which says, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” How is God using 2020 to be a season of change in our lives, the church, and society? The needs of society are being exposed in this time. I pray that society changes for the better. God has changed church life in 2020 so that we may emerge stronger, healthier and more Christ centered. I pray that we make healthy changes at this time. Our personal emotional and spiritual health have been exposed in 2020. God is speaking. Are we listening and changing? I pray that God takes our weaknesses and turns them into strength for the sake of His kingdom.

May God bless you and keep you!

Pastor Rick

Announcements

·         Sunday worship services continue to be livesteamed on our Fort Lee Gospel Facebook page and our website, www.fortleegospel.org. We can accommodate up to 25 people in attendance in our building for the 11:00 AM Sunday worship service.

·         The Tuesday 7:00 PM Bible study meets today in the church building and will include those who connect on Google Meet. The in-person meeting is on alternating Tuesdays.

·         The 6:00 AM Prayer Meeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays is at church with an option to connect on Google Meet.

·         Connect info for Tuesday Bible Study and Morning Prayer is:

Meeting URL :

https://meet.google.com/suk-xpsf-nwh

For dial in: 

Phone: +1 567-351-1104 PIN: 469 349 929#

·         Please contact the church if you are interested in the Tuesday Men’s Bible Study, Saturday Women’s Bible Study or College meetings.

·         We are planning a Church Picnic at Ross Dock on Wednesday, August 5th from 4:00 – 7:00 PM. In case of rain, we will meet on August 6th. You are encouraged to bring something to eat but because of Covid 19, this is not a potluck. We plan to do a worship service at about 6:00 PM. We will practice social distancing, wear masks and limit personal contact.

Weekly Update July 14: Worshiping Through a Pandemic

My personal devotional reading had a theme of worship yesterday. I Chronicles 16 includes a Psalm of David and I also read Psalm 150 which says,

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

These past four months have changed how we worship. Here are a few reflections on worship as we journey through this pandemic.

1.       Our modern church culture is more obsessed than the New Testament church was with praise and worship music.

When Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus about how they should lead the church, he did not include a section about carefully selecting the right worship band. The New Testament includes little instruction about singing in the church.

The major themes of Paul’s letters are right teaching and right behavior. Knowing what Jesus did on the cross and understanding our identity are major New Testament themes. Paul does include instruction to both Timothy and Titus about selecting leaders of integrity. There are important sections on understanding the work of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. There is almost nothing about singing.

An important point is that worship is more that how you sing, it is how you live. A worshiping Christian is a Christian whose life most pleases Jesus Christ.  Archbishop William Temple has defined worship as,

Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose—all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.

We cannot arrive at that kind of worship by just singing.

2.       Modern technology has opened up worship music far beyond the church building.

From the time of Jesus until the middle of the 20th Century, almost all worship music was at the church building. The past few generations have see an explosion of access to worship music. It began with availability by radio, then options in your home (records to CDs) and now worship on the Internet. It is easy and cheap to listen to every variety of style on the planet of praises to our Savior.

One of the lessons of the pandemic is that God is still growing His church, but we must be ‘self feeders’ in regards to time with God, study of God’s Word, personal prayer, and connection by worship.

On a personal level, new worship music has fed my soul and encouraged my mood often during this season. Elevation Worship has produced some moving music this year including The Blessing, Rattle, and Graves to Gardens. These songs have fed my soul on an emotional level.

It has been said that music is the language of the heart. We need to feed both our heart and our mind. I challenge you to look for ways of being encouraged by worship music, whether traditional or modern.

3.       The Bible has little to say about music styles.

The Psalms are the Bible’s hymn book. When Jesus finished the Passover meal, it says that they sang a hymn. (Matt 26:30) Most scholars believe that was the singing of the traditional Psalms connected with Passover.

Psalm 150 quoted above speaks of multiple instruments. Some have wrongly assumed that Gregorian chants were the style that date back to King David. They are likely wrong. Worship music is most often connected to cultural styles.

It is a blessing that music of all styles can to be used to praise God. Modern American praise music is usually a narrow expression of one worship style. We are enriched to hear worship expressed by various cultures. A few years ago I was pleasantly surprised at the bold gospel witness of an urban rap / hip hop concert I attended. While it was not my personal preference, it did put my preference to shame in how sugar coated my music often is.

4.       Worship often flows out of the workings of God’s Spirit.

As mentioned before, the New Testament gives little instruction for how the church is to handle its music. One passage which does address music is Ephesians 5:18-20,

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we are experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit, singing, praise and worship follow. We are called to be worshippers of God in open churches and in times when church life is restricted. We become worshippers when we connect with the working of God’s Holy Spirit.

We are experiencing unusual times where Fort Lee Gospel Church has not been able to worship as usual. I am thankful for the videos posted by a portion of our worship team. Many have told me they watch that video before watching the preaching service. It is odd to lead a service for the past four months where we pray, read scripture and then preach. All without using music.

May God continue to help us grow as worshippers of our Savior by living a life pleasing to God and connecting through music. We are not copies of each other but God looks beyond our differences and sees our hearts.

God bless!
Pastor Rick

Weekly Update July 7

Dear friends and members of Fort Le Gospel Church,

2020 is a year like no other. It has been over 4 months since the first coronavirus case in New Jersey which also happened to be in Fort Lee. Since then we have had 504 reported cases in Fort Lee and over 40 deaths. The good news is that new cases in Fort Lee average less than one a day. While things have improved, life is far from normal. These are challenging days for us as we journey through a season which was only supposed to be a couples of weeks to ‘flatten the curve.’ 

A biblical issue that comes to mind as I write this message is the idea of Israel’s history in the wilderness for 40 years. Just as God used forty years in the wilderness to build faith in His people, God is using this season to strengthen His people in 2020. Deuteronomy 8:1-11 says,

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 

Three thoughts on this passage:

1. God is humbling and teaching us.

2. God is providing for us in this pandemic.

3. Good days are coming.

1. God is humbling and teaching us.

Deut 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

This pandemic has been a time of having many of our comforts and pleasures stripped away from us. Many of us have missed social gatherings and have had to become comfortable in our own skin. Our entertainment of watching sports, going to restaurants, attending shows, seeing movies, or making trips, have not been there to distract us from who we are. God is exposing what is in our heart and whether faith in God is central to whom we are. Are we learning?

2. God is providing for us in this pandemic.

Deut 8:3-4 “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.”

God is caring for us even when churches are limited in freedom to gather and our personal lives are being upended. Most of us have had blessings along the way that show us God’s care. Internet connection and Google Meet gatherings have been lifesavers for our church community. A note or a gift from a friend has been refreshing. While many of us have challenges to work through, most of us see God’s hand in keeping us as well.

3. Good days are coming.

Deut 8:7a, 10 “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land . . . When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

One lesson from hard times is that we learn gratitude for small things. Cancer survivors often report greater joy in just enjoying coffee in the morning air. We too will come through this time.

Could it be that in a year or two, we will still know the joy of simply gathering together as the church. A hug of a friend is more precious now than ever. I look forward to a time when worshiping God shoulder to shoulder will feel safe, life giving and a gift from God.

A central part of our faith is the gift of hope. We have plenty to look forward to in this life and the next.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (II Thess. 2:16-17)

God bless!
Pastor Rick

Dear friends and members of Fort Lee Gospel Church,

This is the start of the fourth month writing weekly updates, instead of monthly newsletters. It is also the first time I write in the summer season. Since late winter, we have lived through the pandemic, and for the past month we have gone through social unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement. What will summer bring? No one knows for sure but many are expect some movement towards normality.

While society slowly opens, summer 2020 will be like no other summer we have ever lived through. Our vacation plans have been altered. We expect church involvement not to drop off this year. We expect less fear, less grief, and more ‘risk management’ activities that we were unable to do in the spring.

Let Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 speak to our circumstances.

3:1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Five observations:

1.       Verse 4 speaks of a time to weep / mourn and a time to laugh / dance. For many of us, spring 2020 included too much weeping. My prayer is that summer 2020 is more defined by laughter and joy.

2.       Verse 5 says, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” I’m not sure Solomon was thinking about social distancing, but physical touch will be appreciated more as we first see each other in person, and in time, embrace each other.

3.       Verse 11 is our great promise, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” That hope keeps us going as we look forward to what God will do in “His time!”

4.       Verse 11 also says that God has set eternity in our hearts. Our recent survey of church members showed that most of us have grown closer to God, some are about the same, and none who responded are further from God. This season of disruption in our society has not stopped what God is doing in the lives of His people.

5.       Verse 13 says that eating and drinking (ordinary life) should be received as a gift from God. I encourage us all to live this summer with grateful hearts as we enjoy seeing an old friend for the first time, return to a favorite restaurant this summer, gather with others for a Bible study at church, or enjoy a walk on a warm summer evening.

Fort Lee Gospel Church will continue livestreaming Sunday services, meeting on Google Meet for Bible Studies and Prayer meetings, and staying connected by E-mail, texts and phone calls. Our Sunday services are at 25% capacity, our groups are including some in person gatherings, and we look forward to days ahead, in God’s perfect timing. God bless!

Pastor Rick

A Note for Parents. Virtual VBS Starting June 29th

Scripture Union is hosting an online SuperKids from June 29th to July 3rd . All children are welcome to participate. Here are the information for registering the children. After the children are registered they will be send the sign-in information, crafts and all activities for the program.  

Leaders may send children information to Nancy Esposito.

To register please complete the form and return it to Nancy Esposito: nancy.esposito@scriptureunion.org

Children can begin learning the theme song.  

Thank you,

Sonia Dobson

Scripture Union – Northeast Regional Director

914-414-0047


Dear friends and members of Fort Lee Gospel Church,

These are most unprecedented times. I remember back in mid-March when we were told to stay home for 2 weeks to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus. Now, three months later we hear reports of spikes of spread in various states. Thankfully, our nightmare situation in New Jersey has managed to become much better. It took the topic of racism to take coronavirus off the lead story in America. These are uncertain times.

Last week I wrote from a perspective of optimism. Let me continue my case to look ahead with the belief that God is at work in mighty ways. In John 14:5, the pessimistic disciple asked Jesus a question. “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Many of us may be like ‘Doubting Thomas’ today in asking, what is becoming of our country? Where are we going from here? Jesus’ answer to Thomas is the foundation of my hope for a better tomorrow.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The disciples were not facing a pandemic or uprisings on their streets. But they were facing the growing fear that Jesus would be killed by their enemies. Jesus’ answer is just as true for us today.

“I am the way.”

Jesus is the way to the Father. Jesus is the way to find salvation. Jesus is not just ‘a’ way but ‘the’ way. When we find Jesus as our Savior, He is an ever present guide. The early followers of Jesus were called “The Way” before they were called “Christians.” The message of Christianity is that Jesus died and rose again so that we might know the way to peace with our Creator God.”

I am the truth.”

Jesus is the foundational truth that makes all other truth fall into place. The Bible, God’s Word, is the revelation of truth to us, embodied in the person of Jesus, also known as the Word made flesh. One of the major challenges of our time is that everyone seems to have their own version of truth. With the many ‘truths’ on the Internet, we have become a deeply divided nation. We need to value truths that we can stand on, such as our call to love our enemies, pray for our leaders, work towards justice, seek peace, walk in humility, and lift up Jesus.

“I am the life.”

I miss watching sports, eating in restaurants, visiting other countries and riding a packed subway car. One day we will safely return to those activities. The coronavirus has not taken away my ‘life in Christ.’ Jesus is the ‘life’ in the sense that we would be lost without Him. Jesus offered the Samaritan woman ‘living water’ in John 4:10. To know the presence of Jesus is to know true life. To experience the leading and working of Jesus is one of the great experiences in life. Sports, good food and travel do not rise to the level of ‘life’ offered by Jesus.

In closing, if you, like Thomas, feel uncertain about where this year in taking us, read the next verse. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He will be with us. He will lead us. He will empower us to be life giving agents of change for our time. God bless!
Pastor Rick Church Services

We will continue to meet in the church sanctuary every Sunday at 11:00 AM. We ask that you let my wife or I know if you plan to attend. We have yet to include singing in our service, but it has been a joy to meet in person. We are thankful that the desire to meet and the limitations of 25% of the sanctuary are matching up for now. Continue to pray for church and government leadership on this issue.

Weekly Update from Fort Lee Gospel Church

Published on June 9, 2020

Dear friends and members of Fort Lee Gospel Church,

I am encouraged today. The sun is shining. Spring of 2020, known for a stay at home order, is moving into Summer 2020, where we start re-engaging the real world. Summer starts next week. I am hopeful that 2020 may be a year of great changes for the better in our society. If we can print money to hold up Wall Street, we can invest in areas of poverty in our nation, both in urban centers and in blighted rural America. I am hopeful that the church in America will be rebuilt to have greater kingdom impact than before.

Moving forward, the church will be reaching people through the building and through the Internet. Some of you reading this may think I am an optimist fool. It is a free country to think what we like. Let me make a note about optimism. The Bible is an optimistic book. Major themes of the Bible are “faith, hope and love.” Without faith to believe God’s better future, we are not living our calling. Without hope to believe God is working here and also preparing heaven, we will get dragged down in negativity and depression. Without believing that our love brings about better outcomes in this world, we will settle for self-centeredness and the status quo.God’s Word reminds us that even out of the horrors of Babylonian captivity, we can believe God for good things ahead.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”God is good all the time! God is at work now more than any time I remember

God has good things in store for His church!

Be encouraged today!

Pastor Rick

Church Slowly Reopening

Published on June 7, 2020

For 10 weeks I live streamed the message form my home. The past two weeks we met in the church building ‘by invitation only’ to keep the attendance under 10 people. We believe that this Sunday we will be able to gather as a slightly larger group, likely 25 people. If you would like to attend this Sunday, June 14 at 11:00 AM, please respond to this E-mail, leave a message for me by phone or reach out to myself or Claudette any way you can. If too many people want to attend, we will let you know. We will continue to post the service on our website and Facebook page. Thanks for working with us through this process.

Church Survey

A Note about the survey sent last Saturday. There were some troubles that many had returning the survey. Today I was able to return the survey better than last weekend. I apologize if you were frustrated and gave up last week. Some of you did persevere and get the survey back to me. I tried and gave up after three attempts. If you have trouble again, try my personal E-mail, rickspenst@aol.com. Thank you for your patience. Here is a repeat of what was sent.

You are receiving this E-mail questionnaire because you are on Fort Lee Gospel Church’s E-mail list. The questions in the survey seek to help us understand where our congregation is after almost 3 months of no physical church meetings. Please respond as follows: If you consider Fort Lee Gospel your church, please hit ‘reply’ and take the 5-10 minutes to help our church. If you do not consider Fort Lee Gospel your church, we welcome your reply with a statement such as, ‘I am happy to receive the mailings,’ ‘I am active at another church’ or ‘I prefer not to receive the mailings.’ Thank you for helping us as we look to reset how we do church in our new normal. God bless!

Fort Lee Gospel Church Survey: June 6, 2020Please mark all answers that apply to you. If you answer for your household, please note that also. Answers will be read by Pastor Rick and discussed by the leaders (without specific name).Name:

1. How have you connected with Fort Lee Gospel Church through the pandemic?_ Listened to sermons and worship every week (at least 8 of 11 weeks)_ Listen only to worship_ Listened only to sermons_ Listened to sermons on occasion (2-7 weeks of 11)_ Joined Google Meet Bible studies regularly_ Joined Google Meet Bible studies occasionally_ Read weekly communications thoroughly_ Spoke by phone or texted Pastor Rick or Claudette_ Spoke by phone or texted other church members_ Did almost nothing to connect with FLGC online or by phone_ Found spiritual connection with other churches or ministries

2. How is your faith impacted by this pandemic?_ Feel closer to God_ Feel further from God_ Read Bible more than before_ Read Bible less than before_ Prayed more than before_ Prayed less than before_ Other (please explain) __

3. What has been hardest about these past three months?_ Grief for loss of loved ones or friends_ Fear of getting sick or loved ones getting sick_ Feeling isolated or lonely_ Financial hardship_ Family stress and busyness_ Other (please explain) __

4. What has Fort Lee Gospel been helpful to you during the pandemic?_ Preaching and worship available online_ Online Google Meet Bible studies_ Staying connected by phone or text_ Weekly communication Other (please explain) __

5. What could have Fort Lee Gospel done better during the pandemic?_ Online presence has been minimal or hard to connect with_ Feel disconnected from leadership and members_ Without the building being open, feel like there was no churchOther (please explain) __

6. What do you need most in the coming summer months?_ Someone to call and talk with one on one_ Financial help_ In person group meetings_ Continuation of online programsOther (please explain) __

7. Any other comments for Pastor Rick and the leadership of Fort Lee Gospel Church

June 7 Message

Published on June 7, 2020

Summer is almost here. Most of Spring 2020 has been spent looking at the four walls of the inside of our homes. With the unofficial start of summer behind us we all have some level of cabin fever and look forward to restarting things we once took for granted. Part of that discussion is returning to worship in our church buildings.

Let me say one more time: pray for pastors and all leaders as we reopen society. Leadership is being tested on all levels of society. Here are a few principles important for our times.

First, this is not a time to blame others, get angry with people who disagree with us or retreat into our echo chambers of information. This is how the world acts like the world. I John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” How can we have the ‘love of the Father’ while hating the president or the governor? We all have political opinions, Christianity has less to do with our preferences and more to do with how we treat those different from us. The same chapter reminds us that “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” (I John 2:9) Jesus goes further in saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:43-45) God help us to live above the anger of our time.

Second, God is sovereign even in a pandemic. Nothing about 2020 is surprising to God. As Acts 17:26-27 says, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” While the coronavirus has been used by Satan to “steal, kill and destroy,” (John 10:10) God is still on the throne. The church is still the church, even with the doors closed. As one survey reported, 26% of us say this season has strengthen our faith, while 1% say our faith has been weakened. God is working. It is a general principle that God whispers in our time of comfort and shouts in our time of pain.

Third, God is using this season to change us and the church for the better. How will this time change our priorities, enhance our gratitude, deepen our relationships, and build our faith? I pray that we have all be thinking about these questions for ourselves. The church is changing as well. I have participated in multiple conversations with other pastors about how church will change. Here are a few implications for Fort Lee Gospel Church. Livestreaming the Sunday service is here to stay. Even when everyone feels safe to return to the building, our ministry will include people from around the world. It has been nice to hear from former members who have connected with us because the church is closed. When all our Bible studies have returned to the building, we will likely include an online option to continue teaching God’s Word over Google Meet. We are uncertain of all the ways the church will change, but change is certain. We rest in the truth of Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

May God lead our church, and may God lead you as we all navigate these times under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Rick Spenst

 
Sunday Sermon May 17 Jesus Calms the Storm Mark 4:35-41
 
Posted by Pastor Rick Spenst on May 15, 2020
 

Two months ago today was our last worship service in the church building. We have had to learn to ‘be the church,’ not just ‘go to church.’ This has been a time for change and learning new skills. By all indications we will not be returning to normal anytime soon. Here are some ways we have changed and a hopeful view of what the ‘new normal’ may look like in Fort Lee Gospel Church.

First, as pastor, I serve as shepherd of the people in our congregation. A shepherd is concerned with the safety and well being of the sheep. There are no plans to reopen church in a way that could cause sickness and death. This comes from a place of love and concern for all who may enter our building. 

Luke 4 tells of how Satan tempted Jesus when he had fasted for 40 days. The last temptation has relevance for us today.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Reopening church without adequate safety concerns is akin to jumping off a building with faith to believe God will protect you. This is not a time to put God to the test.

Second, preaching God’s word and connecting as groups online is here to stay. When we start meeting in the building, we will all have different levels of comfort in how we meet with others. Some in our congregation would come to church this Sunday if they could. Others will not be comfortable to enter a church building for months. Factors include age, health, personality, and who a person lives with. This website will keep people connected with our church through the long process of rebuilding public trust.

Third, while people are returning to parks and soon to the beaches, we have a long road to travel before gathering in large crowds is within most people’s comfort level. Just as our society reopens with baby steps, our church will reopen a little at a time. This space will aim to keep you informed of the progress toward returning to the building. It is likely that we will have some small group meetings planned in outdoors spaces in the coming weeks. 

Please reach out to Fort Lee Gospel Church if we can keep you in prayer or if you want to join one of our online Bible Studies or Prayer Meetings. There is a ‘contact us’ page on this website.

In closing may the hope of Phil. 1:6 be true for all of us in saying, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God bless!


Pastor Rick Spenst

May 15, 2020

Thank you for visiting us through cyberspace. We hope that our site will be informative and encourage faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We value your feedback.

Let me begin with a little information about who we are. Fort Lee Gospel Church is a small, but growing church which is located at 1625 Palisade Ave., just two blocks from the George Washington Bridge. (Fort Lee is the New Jersey side of the bridge to New York City.) Our church has served the Fort Lee New Jersey area for over 75 years.

Our name reflects our message;”Gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news of the Bible is that Jesus Christ came to earth to reconcile sinful humanity to their Creator. Jesus died so that we might have a relationship with God. John 3:16 describes the gospel well,”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If you live near our church, we invite you to visit us. We currently have one worship service at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings and events throughout the week. (Will resume after the pandemic.) Our church represents people from over 25 countries of birth and we also share our building with three other language churches: Dreamers Community Church (Korean), New Life Chinese Church and a Spanish speaking Church. We welcome you to be our guest. You can reach us by telephone at 201-947-1465 or by email.