Vision Update

Good morning,
Three months ago, we had a congregational meeting to discuss where God might be leading us as a church family.  A big part of that meeting was laying out a series of ministry goals that we wanted to start to implement.  Then I visited with each of the Sunday School classes for a time of discussion.
So, what we been working on since then?  Plenty!  However, just like our current sermon series of Esther, a lot of what we have been doing has been “behind the scenes.”


We held a very meaningful prayer vigil during Holy Week.  We have begun to update and create job descriptions for our volunteer positions.  We purchased new microphones for the worship services and also purchased a second earpiece microphone.  We put together welcome bags for visitors on Easter Morning.  A meeting has been scheduled to discuss Junior Worship.  The 9:15 class purchased Bibles for us to give to others in honor of Barry Zimmerman.

I’ll continue to give some periodic updates as to what is happening “behind the scenes” at Ebenezer.  We look forward to seeing more and more visible works of an invisible God happening in our midst!

Here’s what’s happening:
1.    Evangelical Theology Seminary turns 65 in 2018.  They have requested that all E.C. churches consider giving a “gift” in celebration.  We will be taking a love offering on Sunday, May 6th in support of the seminary.  If you would like to contribute, please note your contribution for “Evangelical Seminary” in a separate envelope or using a separate check.
2.    There will be a VBS Meeting on Tuesday, May 8 at 6:30 pm at the church.  This meeting is for ALL who are planning to help with VBS this year.  Registration for VBS is now LIVE on the church website.
3.    There will be a meeting for all the folks involved in the Junior Worship ministry on Sunday, May 6th during the Sunday School hour.  We will be discussing the ministry to determine if any “tweaks” are needed and also planning the summer schedule.  WE COULD USE A FEW MORE VOLUNTEERS!  If you at all interested please come to the meeting to learn more about this important ministry.
4.    If you would like to be a part of our prayer chains (either via email or phone) please let me know in the next week or so, as we will be updating our lists.
5.    It is “Child Clearance Update” time once again.  Everyone that has had clearances done in the past is still good to go!  However, if you haven’t had them done before, please see me ASAP.
6.    Making decorations for VBS will start up on next Thursday, May 10 at from 6:30 – 8pm at the church and continue each Thursday night leading up to VBS.

Every epic story has a nasty villain and on Sunday we meet Mordecai and Esther’s nemesis, a wicked man named Haman.  I encourage you to read Esther 3 in preparation for Sunday!
 

Prayer Vigil Feedback

During Holy Week we held a 24-hour prayer vigil.  Here are is a sample of the feedback that I received:

During the prayer time I was able to be honest with God and tell Him I felt I had a sore spot between He and I, as if He had let us down in this area...sort of like a good friend that hurts your feelings. By the end of the prayer time I did not have any answers, but a more peaceful feeling that I had been honest with Him and He had accepted that.

I spent much of the time singing through some of my favorite hymns, a few of which I hadn’t song in quite a while.  It was a wonderful time that left me feeling greatly encouraged and in a much better frame of mind.

I prayed before heading to work for the day and I found that I arrive at the office in a much, much better mood than usual!

Initially it was hard, and I wasn’t sure I could pray for the whole 3o minutes.  However, I found that just being still asking for God to speak to me was a very reassuring experience.  I should probably do that more often.

I didn’t sign up right away because I wasn’t sure about doing it.  Then God cleared my schedule and I participated.  I am glad that I did.

I couldn’t believe how fast the 3o minutes went by! (I heard this from several people)

The prayer guide really helped, and I played some praise music softly in the background.  It felt more like a personal time of worship more than anything else.

It was really stretching for me personally.

Thanks again to everyone for participating and for those who provided some feedback.  I have no doubt that God was pleased!  A few folks cautioned against doing a prayer vigil like this too often, and I agree.  We will do it again, but perhaps only once or twice a year.

HOWEVER, we should never stop praying!  I encourage all of us to continue to seek the Lord through prayer everyday!

Here’s what’s happening:

  1. We could use some folks to help out as greeters before Sunday school.  If you are willing to help please see Dave Weimer.
  2. We are still in need of volunteers to serve in the nursery during the worship services.  Please see Shirley Echternach.
  3. CVCCS is having their annual “Walk & Ride from Hunger” fundraising event this Sunday afternoon, 4/29 at the Conestoga Valley High School.  This involves participating in either a 2 mile or 3.1 mile walk or a motorcycle ride through Lancaster County.  Check it out at http://cvccs.org/walk-ride-from-hunger
  4. Evangelical Theology Seminary turns 65 in 2018.  They have requested that all E.C. churches consider giving a “gift” in celebration.  We will be taking a love offering on this coming Sunday, April 29, and again on Sunday, May 6th in support of the seminary.  If you would like to contribute, please note your contribution for “Evangelical Seminary” in a separate envelope or using a separate check.
  5. There will be a VBS Meeting on Tuesday, May 8 at 6:30 pm at the church.  This meeting is for ALL who are planning to help with VBS this year.  Registration for VBS is now LIVE on the church website.
  6. Twin Pines Camp is holding their annual “Summer Celebration” on June 9th.
  7. There will be a meeting for all the folks involved in the Junior Worship ministry on Sunday, May 6th during the Sunday School hour.  We will be discussing the ministry to determine if any “tweaks” are needed and also planning the summer schedule.  WE COULD USE A FEW MORE VOLUNTEERS!  If you at all interested please come to the meeting to learn more about this important ministry.
  8. Ministry Council meets this Tuesday, May 1 at 6:30 pm at the church.

This Sunday we will focusing our time on the second half of Esther chapter 2 and discussing what God expects from us when it comes to doing the right thing.

Lost in Translation(s) Part 2

Last week we discussed the different types of Bible translations, and looked at the history of the very popular NIV translation.  This week I am going to tackle the English Standard Version (ESV) and discuss which translations Christians should use.

The ESV was first printed in 2001.  It was a revision of the old Revised Standard Version (RSV).  I remember when Memorial Church took the RSV out of the pews and replaced them with the NIV, perhaps some of you have similar memories!  To avoid confusion the publishers gave the new version a different name.

The ESV is a more literal translation of the original manuscripts of the Bible when compared to the NIV, but it isn’t quite as readable.  The ESV also doesn’t strive to be gender-neutral like the modern NIV.  It has become popular in churches who wish to use a modern but more conservative and literal translation.  Crossway Bibles (the publisher of the ESV) had a few nationally-known pastors, theologians, and Christian speakers endorse the ESV, which helped its popularity immensely.

So which translation of the Bible should a Christian read?  It’s really a matter of personal choice.  All translations have their advocates and critics.  The more literal ones are typically best for studying the Scriptures, while the more readable ones are great for personal devotions.  I tend to prefer more literal translations like the ESV, but during my sermon prep I typically read the passage from 2 or 3 different translations (sometimes more).  Here is a link that gives a good overview of the spectrum: http://www.biblereviewer.com/bible-translation-comparison

As I alluded to, many churches end up preaching and teaching from one translation, if for no other reason than so folks can read along from the same one.  That’s how you end up with KJV churches, NIV churches, ESV churches, and so on. 

So which one will I use from the pulpit moving forward?  Whichever one I think is the best fit for the message that morning!  What I can say is that when I use the NIV it will be the NIV84 version, not the modern one.  We may also experiment with putting the text on the screen so everyone can be reading the same text.  BUT that doesn’t mean that you should stop bringing your Bibles!  NOTHING can replace have God’s Word in your hands, where you can circle, underline, highlight and mark verses and passages that are meaningful to you!

Here’s what’s happening:

  1. We could use some folks to help out as greeters before Sunday school.  If you are willing to help please see Dave Weimer.
  2. We are still in need of volunteers to serve in the nursery during the worship services.  Please see Shirley Echternach.
  3. CVCCS is having their annual “Walk & Ride from Hunger” fundraising event on Sunday afternoon, 4/29 at the Conestoga Valley High School.  This involves participating in either a 2 mile or 3.1 mile walk or a motorcycle ride through Lancaster County.  Check it out at http://cvccs.org/walk-ride-from-hunger
  4. Evangelical Theology Seminary turns 65 in 2018.  They have requested that all E.C. churches consider giving a “gift” in celebration.  We will be taking a love offering on Sunday, April 29, and again on Sunday, May 6th in support of the seminary.  If you would like to contribute, please note your contribution for “Evangelical Seminary” in a separate envelope or using a separate check.
  5. There will be a VBS Meeting on Tuesday, May 8 at 6:30 pm at the church.  This meeting is for ALL who are planning to help with VBS this year.  Registration for VBS is now LIVE on the church website.
  6. Twin Pines Camp is holding their annual “Summer Celebration” on June 9th.

 

This Sunday we will be looking at Esther’s rise to the throne in Persia.  I encourage you to read Esther 2 this week!

Lost in Translation(s) Part 1

Good Morning,

This week begins our spring sermon series on the book of Esther, and I will be preaching using my NIV Bible.  Back on Easter we wrapped up our series on the Gospel of Mark, and for that series I preached using my ESV Bible.  So why have I switched backed and forth, and is one translation better than the other?  Glad you asked!  I’m going to share my thoughts about it over the next couple of weeks.

First, it’s important to note that no translation is perfect. Translating the Scriptures from the original texts is very difficult work because our modern English language and the ancient languages of the Bible don’t align very well.  A straight word-for-word translation would not be very readable in English.  So translators have choices to make in how they present the text.  The goal, of course, is to be faithful to the original meaning of the authors of the Bible.  Some translations (ESV, NAS, KJV) lean more toward a word-for-word translation, while others (NIV, NLT) use a more thought-for thought translation method, which is a more readable but less literal translation.  Still others (Good News, The Message) are considering paraphrases.  A paraphrase is a retelling of the Bible in someone’s own words.  It’s what the author thinks the Bible says, not necessarily what it says.

I grew up reading the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible.  The NIV was first published in 1978 and was revised in 1984.  It is a more easily-read translation of the Bible, but it also stays true to the original text.  Through the 80’s and into the 90’s the NIV became the “standard” translation in many churches, meaning that it’s what the pastor preached from and the version that was placed in the pews. 

In 2005 the publisher of the NIV, a company named Zondervan, produced an updated version that strived to be gender-inclusive and called it “Today’s NIV”.  Zondervan was hoping that everyone would run out and by a new Bible.  That didn’t happen because there was a lot of scholarly criticism of it and people kept right on buying the old 1984 translation.  Zondervan stopped publishing it in 2009.

Then, in 2011, Zondervan began to print another revised version of the NIV, still with gender-neutral changes. For example:

Mark 7:15 (NIV 84) – “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”

Mark 7:15 (NIV) – “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

The 2011 also includes some changes to certain verses that critics felt were not faithful to the original text.  The catch was that this time Zondervan stopped printing the old 1984 version.  Anyone who has bought an NIV Bible that was printed since 2011 has bought the new version.  So pastors of “NIV Churches” now had to make a choice – adopt the new NIV, stick with the old NIV (knowing that their people would no longer be able to buy it), or adopt a new translation.

Next week – We’ll look at the ESV and discuss which translation a Christian should use.  That’s right…it’s a cliffhanger!

Here’s what’s happening:

1.        We are still in need of helpers in the nursery.  Please consider serving and contact Shirley Echternach.

2.       This Saturday, 4/14 – Spring Clean Up Day from 8am until whenever the work gets done (probably by 11am).  We can use as many hands as possible!

3.       I am looking for folks who participated in the 24 hour prayer vigil to give me some feedback on their experiences.  What went well?  What was a struggle?  How did God speak to you?  Would you do it again or even recommend it someone else?  Send me an email or connect with me at church with your thoughts!

4.       CVCCS is having their annual “Walk & Ride from Hunger” fundraising event on Sunday afternoon, 4/29 at the Conestoga Valley High School.  This involves participating in either a 2 mile or 3.1 mile walk or a motorcycle ride through Lancaster County.  Check it out at http://cvccs.org/walk-ride-from-hunger

I am so excited to share Esther with you over the next few weeks.  It is an awesome story of the providence of God!  I encourage you to invite a friend to join us on Sunday.

Summer Dreaming

Good Morning,

One of the main points of the message this past Sunday was that Jesus is still using ordinary people who can do ordinary things in order to show His extraordinary love to others.  On Monday I received an email with just such an opportunity!

Once again CVCCS is sponsoring a summer lunch program for kids.  CVCCS prepares and delivers hot lunches 3 days a week during June, July and the first half of August.  These meals are free to all children!  Our church is a host site.  Here’s what we need as far as volunteers:

3 people to help serve lunches.  You would be responsible for only one day a week and would need to be at the church from around 11:30 -1:30.  Serving lunches involves receiving the food from the CVCCS delivery person, passing them out to the kids, and then more light clean up afterwards.  There is also a little paperwork involved to track how many lunches we serve each day.

1  person to serve at site supervisor.  This person serves as the contact person for CVCCS and makes sure that someone is available to serve a lunch each day. 

Please consider helping if your schedule allows.  This ministry is a true blessing for the kids, some of whom would not get lunch otherwise.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

We are also in need of a choir director.  This person selects the Christmas and Easter Cantata each year and then leads in the choir in about 8-9 practices, dress rehearsal, and, of course, the Sunday morning service.  There is a small stipend in the budget for the choir director.  If you would be interested in leading the choir, please see me.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.       This Sunday, April 8,  Jesse North from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will be returning to Ebenezer and will be giving the morning message.

2.      The elevator, which was giving us trouble Sunday, is working once again.

3.      We are still in need of helpers in the nursery.  Please consider serving and contact Shirley Echternach.

4.      Saturday, 4/14 – Spring Clean Up Day from 8am until whenever the work gets done (probably by 11am).

5.       I am looking for folks who participated in the 24 hour prayer vigil to give me some feedback on their experiences.  What went well?  What was a struggle?  How did God speak to you?  Would you do it again or even recommend it someone else?  Send me an email or connect with me at church with your thoughts!

See you on Sunday,

Scott

Pruning...it's not just for peach trees

Good Morning,

Our home that we purchased last August came with a very overgrown peach tree.  Having zero experience in dealing with fruit trees, I talked to my brother about it.  His first question was, “Well, do you want it to bear fruit?”  It seemed like a silly question, of course we wanted it to bear fruit!  Peaches are very healthy, especially when you bake them in a pie or add them to milkshakes!  

"Well,” my brother continued, “the first thing we will have to do is prune it back.”  A couple of weeks ago Ryan came over and showed me what fruit-tree pruning looks like.  He pruned the branches back HARD.  When he was finished he told me some other things we will have to do throughout the growing season, and then he cautioned me that we might not get a bumper crop this year.  Apparently the first year after a hard pruning isn’t always bountiful, but then after continued care the tree should be overloaded with peaches for years to come.

So why do I tell you all this?  Well, I think the lessons Ryan taught me about fruit-trees apply to our spiritual lives as well.  Do we want to be fruitful as individuals and as a church?  The easy answer is “YES,” but being fruitful may mean that we are in for some pruning, especially if we’ve ignored our spiritual life for a while.

When God prunes us, He starts to clip away all unnecessary and “dead” things in our lives.  Sometimes it means asking us to give up things we enjoy, but don’t have lasting value.  Sometimes it means losing our “free” time so that He can redirect us.  And sometimes, let’s face it, it means clipping away undesired character traits like pride, envy, selfishness, and anger. 

Going through a season of pruning isn’t fun, but it is necessary if we are to remain fruitful.  John 15:2 says that “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Did you catch the end of that verse?  God prunes us because it will help us bear more fruit!  Here’s the deal…like my peach tree, abundant fruit may not appear in our lives right away.  But don’t give up.  Be patient and allow God to continue to work in your life.  Given time, you will begin to bear more fruit than you ever thought possible!

Here’s what’s happening:
1.    We are still in need of helpers in the nursery.  Please consider serving and contact Shirley Echternach.
2.    Saturday, 4/14 – Spring Clean Up Day from 8am until whenever the work gets done (probably by 11am).
3.    Holy Week 2018 at Ebenezer:
       Wednesday 7 pm to Thursday 7 pm – 24 Hour Prayer Vigil
       Maundy Thursday Service – 7 pm.  “Breads and Spreads” Fellowship time afterwards.  Bring your favorite bread (homemade or from your favorite bakery) and/or your favorite spread (jelly/jam/cream spreads/etc…) to share!
       Community Good Friday Service at Metzler’s Mennonite Church at 7pm.
       Easter Morning Sunrise Service at Carpenters Community Church at 6:30am.
       Easter Morning – Celebration Service at 10:15
4.    On Sunday, April 8,  Jesse North from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will be returning to Ebenezer and will be giving the morning message.
5.    Sunday April 15 – We will begin our spring sermon series on the book the Esther, titled “God is Now Here.”

I am looking forward to Sunday morning as we look at the ladies discovering the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-8).  The message on Sunday will include both a challenge for believers about being fruitful and a strong invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.  Please invite someone to join you in worshipping with us!

See you on Sunday,

Scott
 

The Importance of Inviting

Good Morning,

I frequently mention the need for our church family to be personally inviting people that they know to join us on a Sunday morning, and inviting others is one of our action steps in our “Road Map” for the future.

Believing that most people will not visit a church unless they are asked, we will regularly be challenging and encouraging each other to invite unchurched family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors to participate in the ministries of Ebenezer Church.

Easter Sunday is one of the times of the year when many folks are most willing to consider coming to a worship service.  For some it’s tradition or it’s something they do because it makes mom happy.  For others it’s an acknowledgement that while faith isn’t a daily part of their journey (yet!), it is something that they know should be.

We have a whole week of services and activities in our church and in our community that we can be inviting people to join us at (see below).  I love using social media like Facebook and our website to let folks know what is happening at Ebenezer, but the value there is limited.  It really does take a face-to-face invitation for many people to respond.  We will have plenty of welcome packets ready to go on Easter Sunday, and we’ve purchased 30 copies of Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Easter” to hand out to our guests as well, just as a “thank you” to them for coming. 

Who can you invite to join us to celebrate the Risen Lord?

Here’s what’s happening:

1.       Please sign up for a 30 minute time slot and participate in our 24 hour prayer vigil during Holy Week.  Sign up sheets are in the sanctuary.

2.      We are still in need of helpers in the nursery.  Please consider serving and contact Shirley Echternach.

3.      VBS Week will be June 11-15 this year.  Please be praying about how you might be able to help and sign up in the sanctuary.

4.      Saturday, 4/14 – Spring Clean Up Day from 8am until whenever the work gets done (probably by 11am).

5.       Holy Week 2018 at Ebenezer:

          1.       Palm Sunday – Holy Communion and Fellowship Meal

          2.      Wednesday 7 pm to Thursday 7 pm – 24 Hour Prayer Vigil

          3.      Maundy Thursday Service – 7 pm.  “Breads and Spreads” Fellowship time afterwards.  Bring your favorite bread (homemade or from your favorite bakery) and/or your favorite spread (jelly/jam/cream spreads/etc…) to share!

          4.      Community Good Friday Service at Metzler’s Mennonite Church at 7pm.

          5.       Easter Morning Sunrise Service at Carpenters Community Church at 6:30am.

          6.      Easter Morning – Celebration Service at 10:15

This week will be looking at the Triumphal Entry found in Mark 11:1-11.  Believe it or not, we are going to focus much of our time considering the donkey and what Jesus riding in to Jerusalem means to us!  Holy Communion and a Fellowship Meal follows the sermon…what a great morning to be at Ebenezer!

See you on Sunday,

Scott

Bullet(in) Points

I greatly enjoyed visiting with each of the Sunday School classes over the past few weeks as we discussed the “Road Map” document that I presented back in January.  One of the topics that came up frequently during those discussion is how we can do a better job of connecting with those who visit our church on Sunday morning.  As we talked a lot of ideas were shared, which is a great thing!  Keep those ideas coming!

One “tool” that we talked about using more is our weekly bulletin.  It is the one thing that we put in peoples’ hands every week, and we discussed how we could use it better.

So why have a bulletin in the first place, besides “because we’ve always had one?”  Believe it or not, there has actually been a considerable amount of research on the matter!  What that research shows is that churches are using their bulletins to:

1.       Provide sermon notes for the service. – We already do that!

2.      Share some important church announcements. – We are 2 for 2!

3.      Provide a general order of service. – Wow…we are with the times!

So far so good right?  Now consider these items:

4.      Share attendance/stewardship statistics. – Hmm…frankly I’m not sure about this one.

5.       A welcome message to visitors. – We really don’t have space for that in our current bulletin.

6.      Some sort of tear-off card that guests and members can fill out and drop off for follow up. - We have guest/follow up cards in the welcome packet and in the pews, but not the bulletin.  And we don’t have anywhere for the cards to be dropped off at.

Further research is showing that more and more churches are using customized (and simplified) bulletins and are creating them in a format that can be posted on their church website.

Some churches have done away with physical bulletins altogether, but I’m not sure that’s the way to go.  Still, the studies show that perhaps our bulletin is due for an overhaul.  What do you think?  What do you want out of our weekly bulletin?  Let’s talk…stop the office…send me an email…or catch me on a Sunday morning.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.       Please sign up for a 30 minute time slot and participate in our 24 hour prayer vigil during Holy Week.  Sign up sheets are in the sanctuary.

2.      We are still in need of helpers in the nursery.  Please consider serving and contact Shirley Echternatch.

3.      VBS Week will be June 11-15 this year.  Please be praying about how you might be able to help and sign up in the sanctuary.

4.      Choir Practice – Monday March 19 at 7:00 pm.

5.       PRC Meeting – Tuesday, March 20 at 6:30 pm.

6.      Saturday, 4/14 – Spring Clean Up Day from 8am until whenever the work gets done (probably by 11am).

7.       Holy Week 2018 at Ebenezer:

                   Palm Sunday – Holy Communion and Fellowship Meal

                  Wednesday 7 pm to Thursday 7 pm – 24 Hour Prayer Vigil

                   Maundy Thursday Service – 7 pm.  “Breads and Spreads” Fellowship time afterwards.  Bring your favorite bread (homemade or from your favorite bakery) and/or your favorite spread (jelly/jam/cream spreads/etc…) to share!

                   Easter Morning – Celebration Service

8.      I did receive confirmation on additional Holy Week Services in the community:

                    Good Friday Service at Metzler’s Mennonite Church at 7pm.

                    Easter Morning Sunrise Service at Carpenters Community Church at 6:30am.

See you on Sunday,

Scott

Praying without ceasing

Good Morning,

In a few weeks we are going to have a 24 Hour Prayer Vigil.  Since this may be a new ministry for some, I’d like to answer a few frequently asked questions:

What is a 24 Hour Prayer Vigil?  Where and When do we pray?

From 7 pm on Wednesday 3/28 to 7 pm 3/29 we are going to be praying as a church family.  Starting this Sunday we will be signing up to pray during a 30 minute time slot.  The goal is to always have at least one person (ideally two) be praying for our church and our community during these 24 hours.

As to where to pray, wherever you feel most connected to God.  Many will choose to pray at home, others on their lunch break at work, during their commute (keep your eyes open!), or at a coffee shop, as some examples.  The church will be open from 8am to 7pm on Thursday if you would like to come pray in the sanctuary.

Can we pray with a prayer partner/our spouse?  YES!

What will we be praying for?

A prayer guide will be available on Sunday and we will include it in an email blast that week as well.  The guide will have you reading a verse of scripture on a prayer topic and then give you ideas of who and what you can be praying for.  Of course, let the Holy Spirit lead you…if you already have prayer practices that are meaningful for you, go for it! And remember, part of praying is listening to God.  You may be surprised at how quickly 30 minutes goes by when you are in prayer!

Why are we doing this? 

The first prayer vigil is recorded in Acts 1.  Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and strengthen the disciples for the work that was ahead of them.  In response “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14).  Our desire for this time is the same desire the disciples had: to come before God in confession, petition, thanksgiving and adoration so that His plans and purposes for our community might be carried out through us.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.       CVCCS is in need of canned soup again.  If you are able to pick an extra can up this week, please do so.  Soups with meat in them are especially needed.

2.      VBS Week will be June 11-15 this year.  Please be praying about how you might be able to help and sign up in the sanctuary.

3.      Easter Flower Orders – There will be an insert in the bulletin this week to order flowers for Easter.  Orders are due by THIS SUNDAY (3/11).

4.      Choir Practice for Easter Sunday – Monday March 19 at 7:00 pm.

5.       Ministry Council Meeting – Tuesday, March 13 at 6:30 pm.

6.      PRC Meeting – Tuesday, March 20 at 6:30 pm.

7.       Address Change – Kathleen & Bernie Lausch 99 Bethany Road, P.C. Room 207, Ephrata, PA 17522.  Their new phone # is 717-738-7648.  If you are able to send an card or note of encouragement to the Launch’s, I am sure they would appreciate it as they deal with a lot of life changes after Bernie’s fall.

8.      Holy Week 2018 at Ebenezer:

         Palm Sunday – Holy Communion and Fellowship Meal

         Wednesday 7 pm to Thursday 7 pm – 24 Hour Prayer Vigil

         Maundy Thursday Service – 7 pm.  “Breads and Spreads” Fellowship time afterwards.  Bring your favorite bread (homemade or from your favorite bakery) and/or your favorite spread (jelly/jam/cream spreads/etc…) to share!

         Easter Morning – Celebration Service

See you on Sunday,

Scott

A missing verse...and Jesus said what?

Good Morning,
On Sunday our sermon time will focus on the events recorded in Mark 7.  I encourage you to read that chapter this week in preparation!  If you know someone who believes that following Jesus just about obeying a bunch of rules or doesn’t think the church will welcome them this would be a great week for you to invite them to join us.

Mark 7 often prompts a number of questions for people.  I won’t be able to address two of them on Sunday, so I thought I’d do that here!

Q. – “In my Bible Mark 7:16 is missing.  The passage jumps right from verse 15 to verse 17.  What’s the deal with that?

Some early manuscripts of Mark contain verse 16 - “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." Older translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version include it.  However, as more manuscripts were discovered there were quite a few reliable ones that did not contain the verse, and most modern translations omit it, as scholars believe that it was added later by a scribe.  The phrase is used by Jesus in Mark 4:9 and Mark 4:23, so it is possible that He said it in connection to the events of Mark 7.

Q – In Mark 7:27 is seems like Jesus is calling a woman a dog.  Why would He do that?

Mark 7:27 reads “And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

That seems harsh, but I believe Jesus is doing two things when He says this to the woman.  He is probing this woman’s faith to see if she understands who He is while at the same time trying to instruct His disciples.  Jesus is explaining His current ministry in a way that both the woman and the watching disciples could understand. 

At this point in His ministry, His duty was to the people of Israel, not to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:24).  Taking His attention from Israel, in violation of His mission, would be like a father taking food from his children in order to throw it to their pets (Matthews 15:26). 

Now people understandably get hung up on the word “dog.”  The exact Greek word Jesus used, was kunarion, meaning “small dog” or “pet dog.”  Some have suggested that it means “puppy.”  This is a completely different word from the Greek word kuon, which is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to hated wild dogs.

So this isn’t an insult to the woman, its more of an analogy for Jesus’ purposes on Earth.  His ministry is to God’s children, which at this point consists of the Jewish people (of course, after His resurrection His ministry is to all people).  The Gentiles are like a beloved member of the household, but they are not yet children.  The woman is persistent, and she quickly replies: 
“Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.”  

Wow…this lady has a lot going for her – smarts, quick wit, humbleness and a deep faith.  First, she addresses Jesus as Lord.  This is the only time in Mark’s Gospel that anyone does that.  Secondly, she doesn’t argue with Jesus or deny the special role that the Jews have in Jesus’ ministry.  She simply points out that even the puppies are blessed at the same time as the children are!  Jesus agrees with her, and He heals her daughter.

Here’s what’s happening:
1.    This Sunday I will be visiting the Christian Adventure Class for a time of Q&A regarding our church vision document.
2.    VBS Week will be June 11-15 this year.  Please be praying about how you might be able to help.  
3.    Easter Flower Orders – There will be an insert in the bulletin this week to order flowers for Easter.  Orders are due by March 11.
4.    To answer a frequent question – Yes, we will have the choir sing on Easter!  More information about this coming on Sunday!

See you on Sunday,
Scott
 

Spreading the Good News

Good Morning,
I am constantly amazed at the Word of God.  You can probably tell that I love preaching, but I love preparing to preach almost as much, because whenever I do I find so many fascinating aspects to the text and usually have a hard time trying to narrow my focus down for a 30 minute or so sermon on Sunday.

God’s Word contains the truth about salvation.  It is the also foundation and the authority for life on this side of eternity.  That is why the first item on our Vision Road map says:  “Through each ministry of the church every person will be able to interact with God and His Word and will be able to apply the Bible’s unchanging principles to their daily walk.”

Everyone in this world is looking for answers…and we have them!  Of course, we need to be studying the Bible and applying it’s principles, but all the answers for life that we need are contained in the Bible.  So one of our goals is to make sure that we are constantly connecting people (inside and outside of our church) to God’s Word.  

We also want to make sure that anyone in our community who doesn’t have a Bible and wants one receives one.  I would love to be able to announce on Sunday mornings that if someone doesn’t have a Bible that they can leave the worship service with one.

So how exactly do we make THAT happen?  Perhaps we have a “Bible Drive” and ask people to donate gently used Bibles from home that they no longer use regularly.  Perhaps we ask for donations and buy a good translation in bulk (you can get them for less than $4/Bible that way).  Perhaps we just head over to Ollies and buy a bunch!  

What ideas do you have?  How can we get the Word of God into the hands of as many people as possible?  Let me know your thoughts!

Here’s what’s happening:
1.    This Saturday the West Earl Fire Company is having a fundraising breakfast from 6-10 am.  If you don’t have plans, consider supporting them!

2.    Our SS class Q&A Schedule hasn’t exactly gone according to plan!  This Sunday I will be visiting the 9:15 Class, and will visit the Christian Adventure Class on March 4th.

3.    VBS Week will be June 11-15 this year.  Please be praying about how you might be able to help.  More information is coming this Sunday!

4.    Easter Flower Orders – There will be an insert in the bulletin this week to order flowers for Easter.  Orders are due by March 11.

This week we will will be study Mark 6:45-52, in which Mark writes of the time that Jesus walked on water.  The disciples learned many life lessons that day, and there is much that we can learn from the miracle as well!
See you on Sunday,

Scott
 

Prayer Isn't Just For Pastors

Good Morning,

If you missed our Celebration Service on Sunday, we ended things just a little bit differently, as we closed with a prayer service for those in our church family who are in the midst of trying times.  What a blessing it was to see the family of God coming together during this time!  Thank you to all who were willing to step out of their comfort zone and stand alongside a hurting brother or sister-in-Christ and pray with them.

As I mentioned during the sermon, I am always willing to pray with someone, but there isn’t anything “special” about my prayers.  God hears the prayers of all His children!

Thanks as well to the folks who had the courage to raise their hand and ask for prayer!  In order for us to praying for one another, we need to know when someone is going through a tough time.  It isn’t easy for some of us (and I am definitely included in “some of us”) to be vulnerable like that, but I hope that we can be the kind of church family where people feel OK to be vulnerable.

One of the items under our Core Value of Worship for 2018 is “The worship service will have an increased emphasis on both corporate and personal prayer.”   We might not do a prayer service like that every week, but I imagine that we’ll do it again.

Thanks as always for being a family that is marked by prayer.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.       There is a VBS informational meeting TOMORROW NIGHT (2/15) at 6:30 pm at the church.

2.      This Sunday I will be visiting with the Christian Adventure class for a time of Q&A and discussion as we continue to process and think about the future of Ebenezer.  I will be visiting with the 9:15 Class next week (this was rescheduled from 2/11).

This week we will return to Mark 5, this time look at the verses that tell of the story of a man named Jairus.  We will be focusing specifically on the words that Jesus says during His encounter with the leader of the synagogue.

See you on Sunday,

Scott

Super Bowl Reflections

(Usual caveats about football being just a game and that there are more important things in the world.  All true, but when the local football team wins its first championship in over 55 years…well, I’m going to write about it!)

Good Afternoon,
They finally did it.  The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl by beating the New England Patriots in one of the most incredible football games you will ever see.  We had a bunch of Mary’s family over to watch the game Sunday night and we all had a blast.  As the game wore on, however, I started to feel more and more tense because the Eagles were playing well and actually had a chance to win the thing.  By the last two minutes of the game I was pacing around and my stomach was in knots.  Even after the last play of the game I couldn’t celebrate…I kept waiting for the announcers to say that there was a penalty or clock issue and the Patriots would get one more play.  Finally it set in that the Eagles had indeed won and I celebrated with my in-laws.

Here’s what’s funny about that – I’m actually not that big of an Eagles fan!  I decided a long time ago to root for the Redskins (I know, I know – don’t hold it against me).

So why was I such a wreck?  Because my brother Ryan is a HUGE fan, and I wanted them to win so badly for him.  I honestly couldn’t have been more excited and happy for him!  As we texted each other after the game (and the next day…and the day after that) reveling in the win together I couldn’t help but think of all those times back when we were growing up that we would barely speak to each other after football games.  I guess we’ve matured (a little).

Celebrating with someone else is a lot of fun, but it can also be hard at times, especially when their “win” may have meant that we “lost.”  Yet the Scriptures are clear that we are to rejoice with one another:

Romans 15:12 -  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Philippians 2:4 -  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Obviously the context of those verses isn’t professional football, but the principle of rejoicing and encouraging one another applies to all contexts of life.  So not only is rejoicing with others a lot of fun, its pleasing to God as well!  Talk about a “Win/Win” situation!

Here’s what’s happening:

1. We are waiting on a part (apparently it is only manufactured in the most remote regions of Siberia) for the elevator.  I will certainly let everyone know when it is fixed.  Thank you for your patience.

2. Congregational Life Commission meets tomorrow night (2/8) at 6:30 pm at the church.

3. Bible Study on 2/11 at 6pm at the church.  Study is on “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan and is led by Lloyd Bucher.

4. This Sunday I will be visiting with the 9:15 class for a time of Q&A and discussion as we continue to process and think about the future of Ebenezer.  I will be visiting with the Christian Adventure Class next week.

After a few days of studying I have decided to make a change to our sermon schedule.  This week we will be focusing on Mark 5:25-34 and then next week we will turn our attention to Mark 5:21-24 & 35-43.   If you know of someone who is struggling with an illness or is in a season of suffering, this week would be a wonderful opportunity for you to invite them to worship with us on Sunday.  Come ready to sing, come ready to reflect, and come ready to pray.

See you on Sunday,

Scott