June 28 Message Part 1
June 28 Message Part 2
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:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 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.
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!
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: email@example.com
Children can begin learning the theme song.
Scripture Union – Northeast Regional Director
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!
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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.
9 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.