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This site is devoted to providing teaching, admonition, encouragement, and information to my people at Faith Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, Florida. Pastor Marion Clark.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Happy Birthday 

Happy Birthday to my wonderful wife, the love of my life. The mystery I have yet to understand is how the years seem to have no affect on her. We will celebrate our 25th anniversary in August and she looks the same as the day I married her.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sunday Highlights 

You are exercising a true gift when you act out of God's grace and the very work itself seems a gift of grace from God. The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who understood this. Listen to his description of his spiritual gift of preaching: "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:7-8).

You see, God does not give us spiritual gifts because he needs the extra help we can give to his cause. Nor does he give us gifts that we might be able to work our way into his favor. God gives us gifts out of the same motivation he gave us salvation – his gracious love for us. "By grace we have been saved through faith. And this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).

You gifts should help you grasp this grace. If you are exercising true spiritual gifts, you will not think, "God should appreciate what I am doing for him"; rather, you will think, "How wonderful is God's grace to give me the privilege to serve him in this way." You will not think, "God should be pleased to get someone like me with my ability"; rather, you will think, "How marvelous is God's grace to make me useful for his kingdom."

I never did say what the Greek word for "gift" is. It is "charismata," a form of the term "charis." Do you know the English word for "charis"? It is grace. Our very gifts are meant to be living testimonies to the grace of God in our lives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Car for Sale 

1999 White Saturn; 63K miles; 4-door; 5-speed; cold AC; New brakes; Good condition; Very reliable; Needed larger car for family; asking $5000 obo; call Dan or Mary Lee Sonke at 352-378-3742, or email them "dsonke-at-ufl.edu".

Worship Committee 

Pray for the Worship Committee meeting Thursday night to prepare proposals for the single worship service. Elders Dan Sonke, Jeff Ward, and I have been commissioned by the Session to bring proposals back to them. We have asked accompanists and music leaders from both services to meet with us - Betty Brady, Michelle Carter, Dave Charlesworth, Michele Emery, Everall Peele, and Barbara Thompson. Through the surveys and conversations we have received much helpful input that represent all perspectives in the church.

Selena 

A number of you have asked about my cousin Selena's condition, who fell 100 feet while rappelling a cliff (wearing no helmet). She recently has surgery on her broken arm. Here is a report from my family: "Selena's surgery on her arm went well and apparently yesterday after she came out of anesthesia, she was more alert than ever. In fact, she wasn't getting tired at all and would not close her eyes. She seemed to be responding to voices, her eyes trying to track.... She should be seeing one of her primary doctors today and hopefully we will get their assessment... Selena breathed on her own today for four hours. The docs scheduled her for back surgery tomorrow. They are going to insert rods in her spine to assist her in sitting up."

Apparently she is regarded as no longer being in a coma. Please continue to pray for her. Only time will tell how much more progress she makes.

Sunday Highlights 

You can be a sinner. You can fall. But what you need to be willing to say and to demonstrate is that you are not the same person you would be without Christ. And though you fail at times, and though God has still a lot to change in you, he has already made a difference and it is your desire to live a life pleasing to him and bring along anyone else who will follow. We have an abundance of examples of forgiven sinners; what we need are more examples of people striving to live holy lives worth following....

Listen, real discipling is about teaching each other again and again the gospel. There are many burned-out Christians in the church, burned-out by their efforts to become good enough, righteous enough for God’s approval. There are many fearful Christians, fearful that they can’t make the grade. We need each other; we need the brother, the sister who comes alongside us and speaks of grace, who heartens us with the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation; who demonstrates that progress can be made in the Christian life the more one grasps the concept of grace. Who is God pointing you to? Who does he want you to encourage, to challenge? If his grace has come into your life, by all means, pass it on.

Devotions 

What do Shrek and Apple founder Steve Jobs have to do with Proverbs? Only Dave Charlesworth could make connections. Check out his devotions on Proverbs. Click "Daily Devotions" to the right.

VBS 

VBS has gotten off to a great start. I think yesterday we had 57 kids. Keep the children and teachers in your prayers, that good spiritual fruit would come forth, especially that children would have an understanding faith. Donna Schroeder is the director.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Devotions Posted 

The devotions site is up-to-date. Technical problems had kept us from updating it. You will find postings for the whole week. We are finishing up Job and moving on to Proverbs.

VBS Help 

Three teachers and three assistants are still needed for VBS which starts one week from today. Call Donna Schroeder or the church office to volunteer.

Thankful Worship (pars. 8 & 9) 

These paragraphs concluded the Book of Church Order's chapter about principles of worship.

47-8. It behooves God’s people not only to come into his presence with a deep sense of awe at the thought of his perfect holiness and their own exceeding sinfulness, but also to enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise for the great salvation, which he has so graciously wrought for them through his only begotten Son and applied to them by the Holy Spirit.

47-9. The Bible teaches that the following are proper elements of worship service: reading of Holy Scripture, singing of psalms and hymns, the offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments; and on special occasions taking oaths.

General Assembly 

I will be away Tuesday through Saturday. Ginger and I are attending General Assembly, the annual meeting of all the churches of the PCA. This year the assembly is being held in Pittsburgh. Elders Bill Montgomery and Dan Sonke are also attending as representatives of Faith Church. Please be in prayer for the assembly.

Calvin on the Lord's Supper 

Let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, and bounty to the poor; while to the healthy, the righteous, and the rich, if any such could be found, it would be of no value. For while Christ is therein given us for food, we perceive that without him we fail, pine, and waste away, just as hunger destroys the vigor of the body. Next, as he is given for life, we perceive that without him we are certainly dead. Wherefore, the best and only worthiness which we can bring to God, is to offer him our own vileness, and, if I may so speak, unworthiness, that his mercy may make us worthy; to despond in ourselves, that we may be consoled in him; to humble ourselves, that we may be elevated by him; to accuse ourselves, that we may be justified by him; to aspire, moreover, to the unity which he recommends in the Supper; and, as he makes us all one in himself, to desire to have all one soul, one heart, one tongue. If we ponder and meditate on these things, we may be shaken, but will never be overwhelmed by such considerations as these: how shall we, who devoid of all good, polluted by the defilements of sin, and half dead, worthily eat the body of the Lord? We shall rather consider that we, who are poor, are coming to a benevolent giver, sick to a physician, sinful to the author of righteousness, in fine, dead to him who gives life; that worthiness which is commanded by God, consists especially in faith, which places all things in Christ, nothing in ourselves, and in love, love which, though imperfect, it may be sufficient to offer to God, that he may increase it, since it cannot be fully rendered.

Sunday's Highlights 

But let us beware of exalting bread above the very Church of Christ. It is for the Church that Christ died; he is the bridegroom of the Church; the Church is his body. And the Church is composed, not of bread, but of people. Listen, your Christian neighbor is a saint, made holy, made righteous in Jesus Christ, who died for him. He does not come second to bread and wine. As important as it is to recognize the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament, all the more important to recognize that your neighbors in the pews are, with you, the body of Christ.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Prayer 

Please pray for my cousin Selena (24) who fell 100 feet while rappeling off a clift. She is in a coma and fighting for her life.

Time for SS and Worship Chosen 

The following will appear in this Sunday's bulletin.

The time for Sunday School and the new single Worship Service has been chosen. Sunday School will start at 9:15 and Worship at 10:30. The Session settled on these times for several reasons. One, this was the one indicated as most acceptable by the surveys and received the fewest “hardship” votes. The first three options given in the survey (SS, 15 minute break, Worship) received more than double favorable marks than any of the others. Two, the times represent an equitable compromise for the combined SS-Worship attendance. Early service attenders will now come 45 minutes later, and late service attenders will arrive 45 minutes earlier for Sunday School.

The many comments from the surveys also helped in thinking through practical issues. A number expressed concern about 15 minutes being too short a period between the two activities – SS classes running over, use of library and fellowship time would be hampered, time needed for children to not have to sit. Those are also concerns of the officers. It is, however, the practice we have now. With SS returning to one hour, we will be more vigilant in seeing that classes end on time; with worship ending earlier, we hope to see fellowship and library use actually increase by having a fellowship time following the service. In the coming weeks, we look to the congregation to help us work through how to make a smooth transition to the new times, but even more importantly to make the whole Sunday morning experience even more beneficial to the church body and for our visitors.

Missionary Sunday 

Melinda Wallace, our missionary to the Ukraine, will be worshipping with us Sunday. She will give a report at both services, as well as speak in an optional SS class.

Game Night 

Game Night is tomorrow night. Let us do the cooking for you. Relax in the company of friends. Invite a friend. Bring a game. Food is ready at 6:00. Come when you can.

Call for VBS Helpers 

With VBS coming up soon (June 21-25), we are in need of helpers - teachers, assistants. Can you help? Call Donna Schroeder or the church office today.

United Worship (par. 7) 

47-7. Public worship differs from private worship in that in public worship God is served by is saints unitedly as his covenant people, the Body of Christ. For this reason the covenant children should be present so far as possible as well as adults. For the same reason no favoritism may be shown to any who attend. Nor may any member of the church presume to exalt himself above others as though he were more spiritual, but each shall esteem others better than himself.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Good Dinner 

We had a good dinner last night at the church. The Missions Committee hosted a dinner for church members to meet internationals. Joan Prange prepared the food. We had an encouraging turnout and good conversations. Countries represented were China, Brazil, and Peru. With the Von der Portens present that adds two more countries - Germany and Jamaica. We are hoping some will return Friday to Game Night. I made the mistake of mentioning ping pong to the Chinese guests for whom the game is a national sport.

The Form of Worship (par. 6) 

47-6. The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given his Church a large measure of liberty in this matter. It may not be forgotten, however, that there is true liberty only where the rules of God’s Word are observed and the Spirit of the Lord is, that all things must be done decently and in order, and that God’s people should serve him with reverence and in the beauty of holiness. From its beginning to its end a service of public worship should be characterized by that simplicity which is an evidence of sincerity and by that beauty and dignity which are a manifestation of holiness.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Hospitality Dinner 

Tonight at 6:00 a number of us are having dinner with internationals at the church. The event is sponsored by the Missions Committee and lead by Joan Prange. Pray for us to build bridges of friendship in the name of Christ.

Sincere Worship (par. 5) 

47-5. Public worship must be performed in spirit and in truth. Externalism and hypocrisy stand condemned. The forms of public worship have value only when they serve to express the inner reverence of the worshipper and his sincere devotion to the true and living God. And only those whose hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit are capable of such reverence and devotion.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Session Meeting 

The Session meets tonight for its "shepherding" meeting. We meet twice a month - the second and fourth Mondays of the month. The first meeting is devoted to shepherding matters and includes extensive prayer for our people. The second focuses more on the business and ministry of the church. We are meeting tonight instead of next week because three of us will be traveling to General Assembly in Pittsburgh next week.

One item of business tonight will be to discuss and hopefully decide the times for SS and Worship. If you have yet to turn in your survey, you may still bring it to the church by 4:30 today.
Please pray for the elders as we strive to carry out responsibly our duty as shepherds.

Christian Worship (par. 4) 

(This is the fourth of nine paragraphs from the Book of Church Order on worship.)

47-4. Public worship is Christian when the worshippers recognize that Christ is the Mediator by whom alone they can come unto God, when they honor Christ as the head of the Church, who rules over public worship, and when their worship is an expression of their faith in Christ and of their love for him.

Sunday's Highlights 

At the sacrament, even the scholar is moved to confess that knowledge is not enough to know the Savior. Even the theologian must testify that there is mystery beyond contemplation. What matters is to be known by our Lord, to be fed by him. And so at the Table he feeds his people. It does not matter if you can distinguish between transubstantiation and consubstantiation; it does not matter if you sit or walk to the front, if you drink fermented or unfermented juice. What matters is that you by faith in your heart the body and blood of your Lord; that you receive it as receiving from his own hands; that you receive it as blessing and nourishment to feed your souls, to build your faith.

What matters is to find in it again and again the gospel of our Lord. Here is his body given for you by grace; here is his blood shed for you by grace. Here is the new covenant in his blood that he has made on your behalf. And each time you partake, remember; remember and take heart what his death accomplished for you. Take heart that the covenant cannot be broken because your Lord has sealed it with his own blood. Take heart that you will not be cast out, for you are members of the Lord's body given for you. Remember.

Friday, June 04, 2004

To the Glory of God (par. 3) 

47-3. The end of public worship is the glory of God. His people should engage in all its several parts with an eye single to his glory. Public worship has as its aim the building of Christ’s Church by the perfecting of the saints and the addition to its membership of such as are being saved -- all to the glory of God. Through public worship on the Lord’s day Christians should learn to serve God all the days of the week in their every activity, remembering, whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Getting Ready for Sunday 

The text for this Sunday is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. We will explore more what is the purpose of the Lord's Supper. We will complete the chapter the following Sunday when we will then observe the sacrament.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Sanctuary Capacity 

The capacity for the sanctuary was determined by a fire code inspector yesterday. The number is 290. Thanks to Craig Carter, who at the Session's and Diaconate's request made the appointment for the inspection. Both he and Jim Stakely, the Deacons' Chairman, met with the inspector who inspected all the facilities. Though she noted some corrections that need to be made, she commended the church for how well we are trying to abide by the codes. The deacons are seeing that all corrections will be made in the coming month.

A Meeting with God 

This is the second installment of nine paragraphs from our Book of Church Order about worship.

47-2. A service of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s children with each other, but before all else, a meeting of the triune God with his chosen people. God is present in public worship not only by virtue of the Divine omnipresence but, much more intimately, as the faithful covenant Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Authority of Scripture 

47-1. Since the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the principles of public worship must be derived from the Bible, and from no other source.

The Scriptures forbid the worshipping of God by images, or in any other way not appointed in his Word, and requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word (WSC 51, 50).

The Principles and Elements of Public Worship 

Our Book of Church Order has a section entitled The Directory for the Worship of God. It does not have binding authority but is to be regarded as an approved guide. The first chapter has nine paragraphs. Each day I will post a paragraph. This will provide good food for thought as we approach our single worship service. It is NOT a defense or attack on either of our services. Whichever service you attend, you will find the principles set forth enhancing your worship of God.

By the way, you can read the Book of Church Order anytime by going to http://www.pcanet.org/bco/.

Surveys 

Keep the surveys coming in for worship. We have 52 so far. Jeff Ward and I will be reviewing them and making recommendations to the Session next Monday night.

Do let me clarify that we are not designing a worship service by survey. Presbyterian government is clear: worship is to be determined by scriptural instruction and principles. We want to receive input from the congregation about what they especially value in biblical worship. No biblical element will be discarded because of personal taste. But every church's worship varies somewhat according to the tradition and make-up of the particular congregation. We do want to in our worship to reflect the work of the Holy Spirit in our particular church - the people he has made into a single congregation and the history of the church.

I hope you understand what I am trying to say. I believe in a Presbyterian form of worship, but one of the very principles of the Presbyterian tradition is that there are no "fixed forms for public worship, but, in the interest of life and power in worship, Christ has given his Church a large measure of liberty in this matter" (Book of Church Order, 47-6).

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Sunday Highlights 

This is the love of God for us displayed in the Lord’s Supper. God will do whatever is necessary, at whatever cost to him, to save those whom he loves. This is the love of Jesus Christ, that he, who had never known pain and suffering, would take on flesh for the purpose of suffering to save those he loves.

Such is the love of God by which he loves his people. And if by such love he would save us while we were his enemies, how much more can we be sure of his saving love now that we have been made his people, now that we have been reconciled to him. In the Lord’s Supper Christ commands us to remember him. We should do so because the sacrament is his message to us that he remembers us. It is his message that he remembers us with the same love by which he made his great sacrifice. He calls us friends; he calls us brothers and sisters, for he is not ashamed to be called our brother. He became like us that he might become our sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 2:17).

Because we are so loved, let us love one another. Let us make use of our freedom in Christ to freely love with no strings attached. Let us show love in whatever circumstance God may so place us. It may be by sharing what we have with someone in need. It may be by performing some work of sacrifice, perhaps of possessions, of convenience, even to suffer. It may be the act of giving a cup of cold water. It may be by the simple act of showing good table manners. Whatever the circumstance, realize that we have much love to give, for our God, our Lord, has given freely to us.

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