June Pastor’s Pen

June Pastor's Pen

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Psalm 122:2 ESV

How are you? Over the last 8 weeks, I have been making random telephone calls to our church family as my time permits. I always begin my call with this question – “How are you?” And after that subject is addressed, I generally get a question: “Do you have any idea when our church will reopen for worship and connection?”

Like the rest of you, I’m quite ready for us to get back to a new normal. I appreciate our online services and feel our worship planners and leaders are doing an excellent ministry. But there is something about being together that cannot be replaced.

The simple truth is, due to the CDC recommendations/regulations that have been imposed upon us, we are very much limited as to what we can and cannot do at this time. But that hasn’t prevented your staff and church board from being proactive, asking the questions that need to be asked as we prepare to reopen our doors.

Quite recently our board had a special meeting devoted to the questions of when we shall reopen and what it will look like. The following statement from the church board received a unanimous endorsement: 

“The church leadership will monitor the CDC guidelines with regard to church openings;

however, the church will remain closed until procedures are in place to ensure the safety

and well-being of our church family and guests.”

What exactly does that mean? Last week, Lifeway Book Store published an article, 24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return. One of the things the article makes clear is that, given the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves, we will not be able to return to church at the present time and resume doing all the things in all the ways we have been accustomed to doing them.

Whether our county is red, yellow or green, for everyone’s safety some thoughtful and intentional planning must happen first. To that end, a special committee has been appointed to begin envisioning how our reopening can happen most effectively. The committee consists of your staff, Kendal Trader, Linda Burkholder, Jerry Moore and Rick Shreiner.

A local church close to my home is encouraging its church family to pray, be patient, and stay positive. That sounds like good counsel for all of us. I’ve never had any doubt that the Lord is going to use this emergency to draw us closer to him and to one another. I’ve never had any doubt that we will not only survive together, we can and will thrive together. And I surely have never doubted that the day is coming in the not-so-distant future when – like the church of the Book of Acts –

[We will] devote ourselves once again to meeting together in God’s house and breaking bread with joyful and sincere hearts.   Acts 2:46 CSB

Until then, keep looking up!

Pastor Joel

 

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May Pastor’s Pen

May Pastor's Pen

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV

In keeping with the current CDC regulations, it would appear that we will be continuing our Sunday worship online for the foreseeable future. Starting Sunday, April 26th, Pastor Joel will be bringing the message every Sunday. He is planning a series about the “one anothers” of the New Testament. You will find the dates and specific topics for this discussion below.

BTW… Don’t forget that if you do not own a smart phone or a computer and are unable to watch and interact with our worship online, each service/message is recorded on a DVD format.  If you want the services mailed to you, please call Carol in our church office and she will send them to your home. 717-264-6957

April 26 –    Love One Another

Luke 10:25-28; John 13:34-35

May 3 –     Submit to One Another

Ephesians 5:15 & 21; 22-28

May 10 —   Forgive One Another

Colossians 3:12-17

May 17 — Encourage One Another

I Thessalonians 5:11

May 24 –  Accept One Another

Romans 15:1-7

May 31 –  Carry One Another’s Burdens

Galatians 6:1-5 

 

The following was part of Pastor Joel’s 4/16 meditation that was posted on Facebook as an encouragement to the church and to the online community.

I waited patiently for the LORD;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

and put their trust in the LORD.

                                        Psalm 40:1-3

Psalm 40 begins with someone in trouble. They’ve somehow lost their footing and fallen into a sticky situation – what the psalmist describes as a place of “mud and mire.” Have you ever had the tires of your vehicle stuck in the mud? You put the transmission in DRIVE and tried going forward then you put it in REVERSE and tried backing up, but all you did was throw mud and “spin your wheels.”

That is the psalmist’s predicament. He is stuck. He’s “in it with both feet.” And it doesn’t take too much imagination or misuse of the Scripture to conclude that, if something doesn’t happen soon, he’s going down for the count.

Have you ever been “between a rock and a hard place?”  Have you ever been stuck?  Do you feel stuck right now? The psalm assures us that we have someone watching over us – a Rescuer. He sees the difficulties and perils we face.  He hears us when we cry out for help. And he will trudge through the mud and the mire, to save us and reestablish our footing on very solid ground.

So if you’re wondering today if you’re ever going to get out of the house; if you’re worried about what you’ll do if a virus sets your feet in cement; if you’ve made some bad choices that put you in some sticky situations, here is what can you do?

  1. Cry out to the LORD – Find a prayer closet and honestly pour your heart out to him. James the brother of Jesus said, “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.” James 4:10
  1. Swallow your pride – Confess you’re in over your head and reach out your hand for his inevitable mercy. Paul, the great leader of the early church said,

“God demonstrates His own love for us in

this: that while we were still mired in sin,

Jesus Christ came to our rescue. Romans 5:8

  1. Praise him for what he has done, what he is doing, and what he has yet to do so that in these uncertain times other people will hear your song and put their trust in the LORD too.

Keep the faith, brothers and sisters.  And keep reaching out. It makes all the difference!

Pastor Joel

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April Pastor’s Pen

April Pastor's Pen

I am Grateful

Six weeks ago I had a sudden and quite unexpected brain bleed that necessitated me to be flown via helicopter to Hershey Medical Center where I had emergency brain surgery. After six weeks of recovery I am back to work without – praise God – any side effects or lingering complications. I know my miraculous progress can be attributed to a loving and merciful God and the prayers offered by many of you on my behalf. I am grateful.

 

During my six weeks of recovery at home I received well over one hundred cards (I didn’t count) – many with personal notes and prayers inside. While the majority of those cards came from the family and friends here at 4th Street, I also received cards and notes from persons in all of the congregations Kathie and I have served. I am grateful.

 

Some of you were able to visit us in our home; some of you sent over food and flowers and

a few get-well gifts. Your caring and your generosity in a myriad of expressions truly hum-

bled me and I am grateful.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my 4th Street colleagues and team who made the visits and telephone calls, planned both worship services and supplied the pulpit with Christ-centered preaching during my convalescence. I certainly want to give a shout to Carol Wingert, Kendal Trader, and Pastors Liz Thorpe, Tim Monn, Leon Yoder, Jamie Rhodes and Ali Toms for “coming out of the bullpen” to bring us the Word of God. I am grateful.

 

And then, when the church board had to make the painful yet necessary decision to suspend

our meeting together, Cody and Ali Toms and our Praise Band found a way through technology

for our church and our services to be an online presence each Sunday morning at 9 a.m. via

Facebook. In so doing, we have not missed a Sunday of meeting together to praise the Lord

and I am grateful.

 

Since I’ve come back in the office, some of you have asked me how I am feeling. In the words

of our dear brother Jerry Moore, I’m feeling a whole lot better than I deserve. I am so blessed.

I know people who had the same condition I had – it’s called an AVM – and who STILL are

not able to return to work, even after as many as three years in recovery. I am grateful.

 

 

 

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “How can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” (I Corinthians 15:12) In my hospital bed it was Good Friday BUT Sunday was still a-comin’! And I am living, walking proof of a resurrection. Even more, whether we’re back in church or sitting in our homes in front of a computer or cell phone, we will praise God and celebrate the miraculous resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. He is the resurrection

and the life; whoever lives and believes in Him will also not perish but live for all eternity.

And for that, we can ALL be grateful!

 

Easter blessings to all…

Joel

 

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March Pastor’s Pen

March Pastor's Pen

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~ Jesus

Mark 8:34

Lent is the forty days of reflection and repentance between Ash Wednesday, February 26th, and Palm Sunday, April 5.  Different traditions observe this season different ways.  Most people reflect upon Jesus’ teaching, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself/herself and follow me.”  In an effort to deny themselves, they give up something for the 40 days such as sweets, television, or some habit they’ve been wanting to break.

Giving up something can be a good discipline.  There are a few things the Bible tells us we should never give up. Prayer. Jesus told his disciples they should always pray and never give up. They should be persistent, expectant and stubbornly hopeful.

Meeting together. The author of Hebrews tells the church never to give up the practice of meeting together to encourage one another in the faith. Doing good for other people. Paul told his congregation not to become weary in doing good for at the proper time, they will reap a harvest if they don’t give up.

I hope you will plan to join your brothers and sisters every Sunday as we meet together for worship during the season of Lent.

 

Pastor Joel

 

*Don’t forget we are offering a time of prayer and reflection every Thursday throughout Lent. Click here for more information.

 

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Open House

The Smart Cookies Open House has been cancelled in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please do your best to stay healthy!

December Pastor’s Pen

December Pastor's Pen

Light is a significant part of celebrating the birth of Jesus who called himself the Light of the World. We light trees, Advent wreaths, candles and any number of things to symbolize our faith in the coming light that “pierces the darkness.”

November 11 was an unseasonably mild day in Chambersburg.  Kathie and I took advantage of the warmer temperatures and put strings of lights on the shrubbery in front of our house, put up the annual lawn nativity, and focused the spotlights that will illuminate the Christ Child and the wreath on our front door. 

 

We gave them a trial lighting that night to make sure all the bulbs from last year still work. However, we don’t intend to display them (unlike our early bird neighbors) until Thanksgiving because that’s “tradition.”  NO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS UNTIL THANKSGIVING. Were you raised that way too?  

On Saturday, November 16th, Kathie was visiting our grandchildren and drove through the little town of Ulster, PA in Bradford County. She noticed that nearly every home along the main thoroughfare was lit up and decorated for the holidays. Some of them displayed signs saying, “Praying for you, Ariah.” “Ariah, we fight with you.” Naturally, Kathie wondered about the Hallmark appearance of Ulster and who Ariah was.

 

It turns out that Ariah is a seven-year old girl from Ulster who has been diagnosed with a rare childhood disease. Her prognosis, unfortunately, is not very good. Ariah loves Christmas lights. And the whole community has come together around this little girl’s passion, defying tradition and gaily lighting up the homes and streets of Ulster in support of her.

 

The disciple, John, said that in Jesus is life and the light of that life shines in the darkness. It will not be timid; it will not be hidden; it will not take “no” for an answer. (John 1:4-5) The facts are, when the Light of the World came, he upended the traditional thinking of the day, being born in a stable, announcing his presence to a ragtag group of shepherds and living to love and serve the broken, sick and humble people that are important to God

– in other words, the Ariahs among us.

 

So maybe you might put up your decorations a little earlier than tradition warrants this year and let your light shine, as Jesus told his followers to do. And if anyone asks you why the rush, just tell them you’re doing it for the Lord and for Ariah this year.

 

Advent blessings!

 

Pastor Joel

 

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November Pastor’s Pen

November Pastor's Pen

Give thanks with a grateful heart… 

Whenever I pray, I begin my prayers by thanking the Lord for all that I was given that day – even when what I was given wasn’t necessarily to my liking.

I do this for his sake:  God loves when we recognize his goodness and praise him accordingly.  In fact, Scripture says he “inhabits our praise.”  But I do it for my sake too. Sometimes I get a little careless with my attitude of gratitude and I need to be reminded of how blessed I really am. 

Are you blessed?  Someone shared this with me years ago. 

 If you have food in the refrigerator,

clothes on your back, a roof over

your head and a place to sleep, you

are richer than 75% of the world.

 

If you have some money in the bank,

in your wallet, and spare change in

a dish, you are among the top 8% of

the world’s wealthy.

 

If you woke up with more health than

illness, you are more blessed than the

million who will not survive this week.

 

If you can attend worship without fear

of harassment, arrest, torture or death,

you are more blessed than 3 billion

people in the world.

 

If you are reading this, you are more

blessed than over 2 billion people in

the world that cannot read at all.

 

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because while the majority could do this, most do not.

Happy Thanks-giving!   

 

Pastor Joel

 

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October Pastor’s Pen

October Pastor's Pen

Finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”

Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”

“Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.”  

John 8:10-11; The Passion Translation

The woman caught in adultery was done for…

The religious scholars and legal experts of the day had condemned her to death by stoning.  Before they followed through with her punishment, they brought her to Jesus to see if he would concur.

This is a pretty familiar story and you probably remember that Jesus counseled them that whoever among them was without sin could throw the first rock.  No one was and no one could.  One by one they all left in silence.

She was given a reprieve and Jesus gave her a second chance.

Some people believe this pardoned woman was Mary Magdalene, the unofficial female disciple whose commitment and generosity were crucial to the ministry of Christ. Let’s go with that. Consider what she was and who she became, all because she was given another chance at living.

At the end of the school year, an elementary student in her building gave our daughter, Yajairia, a geranium in a Dixie cup. She put it outside and watered it but with the shallow soil, the plant simply could not thrive.  And so Yajaira put the wilting flower in the trash.

I saw it there and retrieved it.  I dug a hole near our pond, put in some rich potting soil and planted the geranium, giving it another chance.  Even though the blooms in the picture have peaked, you can see that the plant is thriving and we have enjoyed it all summer long.

Just like Jesus gave the woman and I gave a geranium a second chance at life, you too are given a second chance. What you were isn’t important to Jesus; who you can become – your potential – is what he sees and what he celebrates. Thank him for that second chance before you go to bed this evening.

There is life-giving power in the second chance. And that gives me one more thought on the subject.  I’m wondering… Is there someone in my life/your life who needs a second chance? Who has messed up — who has disappointed you, failed you, even hurt you that needs your reprieval and a chance to have a life again? Make that call. Write that letter. Open that hand of forgiveness.  Set someone free and let someone bloom again.

Pastor Joel

 

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