As we start September, life returns to typical routines for many of us. In many ways September is a season of new beginnings.
Most families have completed their vacations. School begins for children, young adults and teachers. The George Washington Bridge has more delays that in the summer. The weather begins to cool. This is a season of new beginnings.
New beginnings are important in our faith journey. The process of becoming a person of faith is all about new beginnings. In responding to a religious leader, Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
The idea of being born again is having a fresh start. When we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to be our Savior, we are born anew, with the Holy Spirit coming to live within us. The point of the Christian faith is that God changes us from the inside out. Our language around salvation is all about inner change and new beginnings.
The story of the Apostle Paul coming to faith in Jesus (told in Acts 9) illustrates the idea of being born again. Paul/Saul hated the Jewish sect who followed Jesus and he was actively rounding up Christians and seeking their execution. On one of these trips to Damascus, Paul encountered Jesus and was blinded for 3 days. Paul’s whole world-view was turned upside down and he became the greatest missionary of the first Century.
Of Paul’s conversion, God said, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
The road to Damascus was a new beginning for Paul. From persecutor of Christians to being among the persecuted. From enemy of Jesus to a devoted worshiper of Jesus. From opposing the gospel of Jesus to being one of the greatest preachers of the gospel.
As we begin a new season, how is God calling us to new beginnings? Some of you may have gotten out of the habit of attending church on Sundays. Others have let their Bible collect dust. Still others may be called to embrace more of a Sabbath rest every week. Some of you may know a shut-in who you can visit once a week. The list of ways to build your faith is almost endless.
My encouragement to all of us is that September would be a time for new beginnings. Spiritual formation happens when we commit to new goals and new habits periodically. Septembers and Januarys are good times for new starts. Make this month a new beginning.
I encourage you to take some time to reflect on new beginnings and ask God what He would have you start this season. God loves to lead us towards greater spiritual formation. Our faith calls us to new spiritual habits, new learning, and greater intimacy with God through Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17 KJV)
The men are planning a one day retreat at Panther Lake Campground in Andover, NJ on September 7th. The schedule is to leave our church at 8:00 AM (an hour drive) and return to Fort Lee in the evening. Cost is only $25 a person which includes 3 meals.
The theme of the day is Lessons from Daniel. Pastor Frank Espinal and men from his church will join in the ministry. We plan to have three teaching sessions and time for recreation and fellowship.
Please sign-up with Pastor Rick or Pastor Frank in advance to help in preparations. We look forward to a day in the outdoors to build community and grow in our faith.
Women’s Bible Study
On Saturday, September 7th at 2:00 PM the women will begin a new Bible study series. The study is based on the book, “The Wisdom of God.” The women will each receive a copy of the book and there will be an expectation of some homework.
The study will meet on alternating Saturdays beginning on September 7th. It is a good way to learn the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.
The study is being organized by Claudette, Patricia and Cindy. See one of these women to learn more details about this study.
Women, plan to be a part of this informative Bible Study.
Vacation Bible School Report
This past month our church was transformed into a very different look with our Vacation Bible School: THE INCREDIBLE RACE. Over 30 individuals had a hand in this ministry from decorators, teachers, actors in the drama, musicians and dancers, food services, leaders in games and crafts. Some could not participate but they donated food or supplies.
There were 21 children who attended at least one day and the average was about 13. The children seemed to enjoy themselves as they participated and learned about the Christian life and various cultural contexts.
One benefit of VBS was week was that we had a good group of young adult leaders who will be a part of our youth ministry in the days ahead.
We are thankful for the leadership of Patricia Allen and all those who shared to make VBS an important week of ministry to the children who attended.
Youth Group Updates
Youth Group will be meeting this month on September 7 & 21 at 6:00 PM. We look forward to seeing this ministry grow during the fall.
Youth group is for those in grades 7 through 12. The plan is to meet on alternating Saturdays at 6:00 PM. Youth Group will include time for games, Bible study and something to eat. Building community will be a key goal of the coming weeks.
One of the changes this season is that the college aged youth will be meeting at a different time. Our current plan is for the college group to meet on Sunday, September 22nd after the morning worship service.
Please keep this ministry in your prayers. Pray for Jonathan Mancilla as he leads the younger group.
September Events at Fort Lee Gospel Church
11:00 AM Worship Service Our weekly service including worship through singing, prayer, preaching and fellowship. Nursery and three children’s classes are available.
9:00 AM Chinese Worship Service The Chinese worship service is led by Pastor Sandy Xie and she can be reached at 917-593-0420.
1:30 PM Korean Worship Service Contact Pastor Jaedoo Lee for further details at 646-464-2448.
5:30 PM Spanish Worship Service Contact Rev. Esteban Canales at 973-510-8834 for more details.
7:00 PM, Sept 1 & 15 Evening Service Our Sunday evening service usually meets on the first and third Sunday of the month.
1:30 PM, Sept 8 & 22 NYC Nursing Home Ministry A group leads a service twice a month at a nursing home in NYC.
1:15 PM, Aug 15 Seniors Ministry A group leads a service at an assisted living facility in Teaneck.
Sept 29, 12:30 PM Church Dinner Our monthly shared fellowship meal.
12:30 PM, Tuesdays Men’s Lunch & Bible Study We meet for a meal before we study the Bible and pray together.
7:30 PM, Tuesdays Bible Study The group is studying foundations of the faith..
6:00 AM, Wednesdays Morning Prayer Morning prayer meeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
6:00 AM Morning Prayer Morning prayer meeting combining personal and group prayer meets every Saturday.
8:00 AM, Sept 7 Men’s Mini-Retreat See page 2 for details.
2:00 PM, Sept 7 & 21 Women’s Bible Study starting a new study that meets on alternating Saturdays.
6:00 PM, Sept 7 & 21 Youth Group For those in 7th grade through 12th grade.
Operation Christmas Child
This year Fort Lee Gospel Church will continue to encourage the congregation to prepare shoe box gifts for children around the world.
Operation Christmas Child is a program that fills shoe boxes with school supplies, small toys, and toiletries, to be sent to children in poor and war-torn nations of the world. Our church has participated in this program for over a dozen years. Shoe boxes will be collected during the fall to be shipped out in time for Christmas, with a collection date of November 10th through 17th.
Samaritan’s Purse has been sending shoe boxes around the world for many years. Plan to take part in this important ministry that God is using around the world. For details on packing the boxes, brochures are available or you can speak with Laurie. Further information on building a shoe box can be found online at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. Be sure to check out this site.
The past few years our church has prepared about 100 shoe boxes each year, with last year reaching the highest total. We believe God will use this ministry to touch many lives, as we all participate and do our part.
September 11, 2001 Reflections
Many of us have clear memories of the events of September 11, 2001. This month is the 18 year anniversary of that tragic day.
Eighteen years ago a number of our church members were affected by the attack that took down the Twin Towers. Some worked close to the area and had to walk out, while others knew people who died that day. We all experienced a sense of grief as we read stories of those who died. There were even more stories of God’s grace as we heard people tell of ways that God kept them from being another victim. We all prayed and looked to God for comfort and hope.
A few years ago, the Borough of Fort Lee created a 9/11 Memorial at Constitution Park in Fort Lee. This year on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 they will hold a memorial program at the monument. The Mayor and Council have invited the churches to attend and some of the clergy to participate in this service which takes place at 7:00 PM. We are encouraging the congregation to attend the memorial service which includes Pastor Rick saying a prayer.
The world has not become a safer place in the past 18 years but God has been gracious to our nation in protecting us from further major attacks. We continue to pray for God’s favor and protection over our nation from those who desire to bring destruction.
This past year has reminded us that terrorism is perpetrated by both foreign and domestic ideologies. We pray for our protection against all who seek to spread terror.
The promise of Psalm 91 is relevant for us today. It includes;
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day (4-5)
May we remember well the lessons of 18 years ago this month. May God continue to protect us as a nation.