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Veterans Day

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day.  It was one year to the day that fighting ended in World War I and an armistice was established.  Today we call this day Veterans Day.  World War I was considered “the war to end all wars.”  It was the first time in history that so many nations joined together or opposed each other in a great war.  

Unfortunately, there have been a number of other wars since that first Armistice Day.  The enemies of peace are not just other nations.  Just as often they are clandestine organizations.  Yet then, just as now, we are deeply grateful for the men and women who have stood ready to defend our country.  Until the day Jesus returns, there will be violence and military conflicts.  We look forward to the day when a military force won’t be necessary.  Until that day, we are grateful for those who have served.

Family Value: Alignment

No family is perfectly consistent.  The classic example is the family that fights like cats and dogs in the car on the way to church, but suddenly transforms into the perfect family upon exiting the car in the church parking lot.  If respect is a value, it may not get practiced in every area of a family’s life.  What’s more, athletic opportunities may compete with academics or church activities.  Values are never 100% integrated in a family’s life.

At FCC we understand perfection isn’t likely.  A vision and values that permeate everything we do is a very tall mountain to climb.  But we are committed to climbing it.  Specifically, we want all of our ministries to reflect the UP, IN, and OUT of our vision.  That’s why we’ve created an IN Team, and UP Team, and are in the process of developing an OUT Team.  We want all of our programs to align with our vision: VBS, children’s ministries, student ministries, and other events.  We also hope that this pattern gets reflected in the lives of our church family too.  Your life and mine beginning to reflect and align with our vision of becoming like Jesus.  Like an automobile, when the body of Christ is in alignment with who we are supposed to be, there is less wear and tear, the ride is smoother, and we reach our destination more efficiently.

Family Value: Empowerment

There are some churches in the world – even in our community – where you can just attend.  Churches where you can show up on Sunday morning (or some other time on the weekend that is convenient for you) and enjoy a very polished worship service while your kids are taught a Bible story.  You can enjoy refreshments after the service, pick up your children, and go home.  Then you can do it again next weekend.  If you want.

Believe me, I understand the allure and value of a church like this.  It has a lot to offer people and genuinely helps them grow closer to God.  I praise God for churches like this.  But we’re not one of them.  FCC isn’t a church that you just attend.  You can do that for a while, but before long you will be involved.  We have a few paid professionals who coordinate ministry.  But the ministry is done by all of us.  FCC is a place where everyone is asked to take the field.  There is a role for each person regardless of age or ability.  Being a part of this family means you get to do ministry.  Serving children.  Helping out after church.  Reading Scripture.  Welcoming guests.  FCC is a place where we believe you have something to offer.  It’s a place where you are empowered to share it.

Family Value: Celebration

As Kool and the Gang famously sang, “Celebrate good times, come on!”  Families celebrate important events in life.  Whether it is a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation, or a retirement, families come together to celebrate. As a church family at FCC, we do too!  Our biggest celebrations are around things like professions of faith and baptisms.  But we celebrate weddings, graduations, and anniversaries too.  

When we celebrate as a church family, it’s more than just congratulating someone or recognizing an accomplishment.  We are actually announcing God’s kingdom. Throughout the Bible, God’s kingdom is described as a banquet or a wedding feast.  When we celebrate we are practicing for the party in the new creation.

Family Value: Better Together

There’s a saying of unknown origin that goes like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  Doing things as a group can be terribly inefficient.  We wait for people to follow through or catch up. There are all kinds of reasons we have to slow down and wait.  The more people you take on a road trip, the more stops you’ll have to make for food or the restroom.  It’s just a whole lot simpler when I can do it on my own.

But it’s never as good when I do it alone.  It’s always better when we do it together.  When we do things together, I’ve got your back when you have a bad day.  You can cover for me when I’m struggling.  Doing things together has a much higher ceiling for enjoyment.  It’s not just your assistance or my extra pair of hands.  It’s your sense of humor and my experiences that add depth and richness to what we are doing.  Like all of our values, “together” has its roots in Scripture.  God created us for relationship and community.  We find our identity in a family. That’s why whenever possible we do things together.  It’s just better that way!

Family Value: Prayer

As we continue looking at the values that make us who we are at FCC, it’s hard to think of anything as important as prayer.  Prayer is the business end of who we are. Prayer is the master key that unlocks all kinds of doors.  Through prayer we intercede for each other.  Prayer is a way for us to announce God’s kingdom by lifting up our friends who don’t know Jesus as a savior.  Prayer deepens our relationship with God as we share our lives with him.  Prayer helps us gain clarity and direction as a church for where God wants us to go.  Prayer is the Swiss Army knife of the Church.

At FCC we are committed to using prayer for all it has to offer.  We work to foster a dynamic prayer life as individuals and as a family that meets together.  We note that Jesus spent a great deal of time in prayer.  As we seek to become more like Jesus, prayer is a key ingredient.  We pray to help us grow closer to God.  We pray together to help us grow deeper in in his family.  Through prayer we impact the world and gain direction in how to serve it.  Prayer is accessible for the smallest child and meaningful for the wisest adult.

 

Family Value: Variety

You know the old saying about variety: it’s the spice of life.  A little variety can turn a boring rut into an exciting new path.  Variety can get us unstuck and open up new possibilities.  It only takes a dash of this spice to awaken us to fresh ideas and to gain a taste of the world around us.  It’s like that with people too.  If everyone close to you thought the same way as you and liked the same things as you, there wouldn’t be a lot of growth in your life. We need people close to us to challenge our assumptions and give us opportunities to learn about other ways of looking at the world.  This is especially true in churches where people tend to share a lot of the same values.

One of the things I have always loved about FCC is the diversity that exists in our church family.  We live in a pretty starchy white community.  Yet within our church family we have people from all different income brackets, different political affiliations, different religious backgrounds, even different ethnicities.  This is something that makes us all better.  The variety in our church family is an opportunity to learn and grow and experience the body of Christ more fully.  At FCC we embrace variety and celebrate it.

Family Value: The Bible

Imagine the issue of speeding tickets if there were no speedometers or radar guns.  How would anyone really know how fast they were going?  On what basis would an officer issue a citation? Where would you set the cruise control?  Officer: “Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going back there?”  Driver: “Actually, no.” Officer: “Neither do I, but it felt like you were going too fast.”

When it comes to understanding God and how to be in a relationship with him, we need something defined and objective to go off of.  My ideas about God arising from my own experience aren’t reliable or objective. Neither are yours. That’s why we need God’s word, the Bible, to give us a solid and objective way to know God. As a church family, the Bible is the ultimate source of authority.  It sets our direction, informs our decisions, and settles our disputes.  To help us better understand the Bible, we have a set of creeds and confessions.  These witnesses help us see the Bible more clearly and understand its meaning better.  Finally, God’s Holy Spirit shines a light on God’s word in this dark world and applies that truth to our hearts, our lives, and our church family.  Family value #1 is God’s word.

FCC Family Values

When I am asked to officiate a wedding for a young couple, I set up several meetings prior to the ceremony. These conversations are to help us get to know each other, but also to talk through some of the issues they will encounter in their marriage.  One of the areas I am very intentional about exploring is the values of their family of origin.  I have found that more than anything else a person’s reactions and expectations are formed by the values they received from their family.  A person doesn’t just marry their spouse.  A person marries the culture and values of their family as well.

We are a church family.  And we have values too.  These are values that we marinate in.  We pass these on to the sons and daughters of the church.  They are the reason why you feel a little out of place when you visit another church.  Their values are different.  It can feel a little odd.  Over the next several weeks, I will use this space to explain and highlight a series of core values at FCC.  These values consciously and unconsciously guide our decisions.  They help us change, or make change a very difficult undertaking.  They give us our unique flavor and identity.  There are seven of them, and we’ll start next week by looking at the first.

A Year of Growing Louder

Our vision and goal as a church is to be a community where all kinds of people are becoming like Jesus.  Everything we do is aimed at that outcome – making us a little more like Jesus.  We’ve identified a pattern in Jesus’ life.  There are three different dimension that he moved in.  He moved toward his Father.  He invested in a spiritual family, his disciples.  He announced God’s kingdom to the world.  At FCC, the way we become more like Jesus is by following that pattern.  We say it this way: “Growing closer to God, growing deeper in God’s family, and growing louder in God’s world.”

Each year we discern one of those dimensions to focus on.  Two years ago we invested a lot of time and energy into growing deeper in God’s family.  This past year we focused on growing closer to God.  This next year our focus will be on growing louder in God’s world.  We will explore all kinds of ways to announce and demonstrate God’s kingdom to the world around us.  Jesus did it by teaching, healing, and forgiving.  We will find ways to do those same things in our context and setting.  So get ready to turn up the volume!  You are a microphone.  The good news comes through you and gets amplified to our neighborhoods, our schools, our community, and our world.