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Let Your Light Shine

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The season of Advent/Christmas is one of my favorites. There is something about Christmas that brings out the best in people. It just seems that people in general are more generous, more loving, more friendly, more caring, and more neighborly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. I have found this to be true regardless of my location; whether, in the city, a suburb or in rural America. I believe that it could be the lights that seems to change us for the better.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:1 (NRSV)

For the light of Christ does not change based on our location according to Google maps. The light that shined on that first Christmas Eve in Bethlehem is the same light that shines for us each and every day ever since we accepted Jesus as into our hearts and minds. It is the power of that light that has the potential to transform us into the people that God needs us to be wherever we find ourselves.

I believe in the Light and the hope that Jesus brings even when the town is immersed in darkness the rest of the year after the sun goes down. The promise that “the darkness shall not overcome us” can be challenged during difficult times but it cannot be completely extinguished. For eventually the sun comes up and shines on us once again.

It is the same for the Church of Jesus Christ that has gone and is going through a period of darkness whether a city, suburban or rural church. Many churches have been torn apart by the fight over dogma and lost sight of the truths Jesus founded his church on. Even FPC of Allegan has gone through troubling times. Yet the Light of Christ has the power to break through, giving us the possibility of new life. It is challenging, yet possible if we ask ourselves the right questions that can get us back on track.

I am reading a book by Brian McLaren entitled The Great Spiritual Migration, who poses some interesting questions like these two of which we might want to ponder:

“What would it mean for Christians to rediscover their faith not as a problematic system of beliefs, but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion, that makes amends for its mistakes and is dedicated to beloved community for all? Could Christians migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?”

I believe we can if we all approach the next things with an open heart, mind, body and soul. After all, what brings us to First Presbyterian Church of Allegan is that we all love Jesus. If we can agree on that then we are off to a good start.

So hang your lights on your homes and trees and after the lights go out when the season comes to a close, continue to “let your light shine before others” regardless of your situation. Be patient, kind and loving in all that you say and do “so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:16 (NRSV))

Therefore, I look forward to our journey together beginning with this glorious season of birth and the promise of rebirth!

I thank God for you,

Pastor Kathy Nealand

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Winter Weather Advisory

Just a reminder that all events scheduled at First Presbyterian Church of Allegan — including the Community Lunch — are cancelled if Allegan Public Schools closes for weather-related conditions, including fog and snow. (In the case of a 2-hour school delay or bad weather on a weekend, church leaders will determine whether or not to cancel events then share the info via media outlets and phone calls.)

Watch for closing announcements on WXSP TV 8 and WZZM Channel 13, Grand Rapids.


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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

This article captures a devotion that Elder Sally Trabulsi shared as the Session began its February 2017 meeting before considering how to proceed with calling a pastor to serve with First Presbyterian Church of Allegan.

Life is full of tough decisions. Is it any wonder that congregation members have difficulty responding when asked what the church should look like in the future? For each of us has gone through a lifetime full of tough decisions, and we hesitate every time to make a choice. People hate making decisions, mostly     because we’re terrified of making the wrong one.

Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide. And that can be downright terrifying.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had the waiter respond to every choice you made by saying brilliant or perfect or excellent decision? This happened so steadily throughout one gentleman’s meal that he finally asked the waiter if he ever told anyone they made a lousy choice. The waiter replied that the restaurant managers had discovered diners are so afraid of choosing the wrong thing that they actually print a list of “affirmation words” that the wait staff is required to say in response to everyone’s order. Think about that. Even a question as simple as “soup or salad?” renders us so vulnerable that restaurants have to turn their wait staff into therapists!

In a way, we do the same thing with God. Terrified of making a bad decision, we lay all of our choices at God’s feet and ask Him “what is Your will for my life” or, in our case, “what is Your will for our church.” But what if God’s will for us is that we develop the wisdom and discernment to make our own decisions in light of His Word, and the faith and confidence to know He will be there guiding us regardless of which path we choose? Doesn’t that sound freeing?

God wants us to learn how to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to How to Know God’s Will for Your Life and Paul doesn’t write about 6 Steps to Determine if He’s the One or 5 Ways to Discern God’s Best Career Path for You. What we do see are statements like:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.  (James 1:5, NRSV)

OR

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best. (Philippians 1:9-0a, NIV, 1984)

So the next time you face a difficult decision, instead of asking God what His will is for your life, begin by asking for wisdom. And don’t live in fear of making the wrong decision. Even if you walk through the wrong door, as long as you walk through it with the right heart, God’s will will be done.

Remember, God’s will for your life is not about whom, or even if, you should marry, which job you should accept, which neighborhood you should live in, or which church you should go to. God’s will for your life is that you become a      magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus. And     nothing can stand in the way of that.

Here is a prayer you can use when you are having difficulty making a decision. It is what we at Session prayed before we undertook the decision to hire a full-time temporary pastor rather than a half-time one.

Dear God,

We know that You are the God of the open door. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to grow and serve and make a positive impact on others. Because of Your love, we don’t have to be afraid of failure nor do we have to live under the tyranny of always making the perfect choice. We can feel depressed, or we can express the joy that is inherent in our faith. We can give up, or we can make a fresh start. We pray You will give us the courage and wisdom to walk through whatever doors You open       before us.  Thank you for the gift of choice. Thank you for freedom. Thank you for responsibility. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for life. And we pray that through our actions, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 


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D365 Daily Devotional

We Seek to Reflect God’s Grace…

When we understand that we are loved by God, we immediately ask ourselves, “Why”?  We remember all of the things that we do to ourselves and do to others to not live into our God given potential are sin.  Our sin and guilt keep us from growing closer in a relationship with God.  The good news is that there is grace from God and forgiveness.  We are called to reflect that grace and forgiveness from God to others.

A daily devotional can assist in keeping us on track concerning how we reflect God’s love, grace and forgiveness  to others. Click below to go to the D365 Devotional.

 


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FPC Welcomes Their New Pastor

On October 15, 2017, the members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Allegan welcomed their new Pastor, Kathy Nealand. After 18 months, the Search Committee was happy to announce the appointment. Pastor Kathy brings to our community 12 years of ordained ministry. She loves the Lord with her whole heart, mind, body and soul and loves all people as God loves her. She has a passion for encouraging congregations grow both in faith and number. God has truly blessed us for leading her to leave her home to come and serve our congregation. We look forward to what God will do through us as we enter this new season of our beloved church and community!

Come and meet her on Sundays at 10:30 am for worship. Or contact Pastor Kathy at pastor@fpcallegan.org. Read more about Pastor Kathy on Our Staff page.


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You are invited to a Free Lunch! Wednesday 11:30!

We are pleased to be able to serve our community by offering a FREE lunch every Wednesday from 11:30 am to 1 pm. We have a staff dedicated to preparing a meal that will satisfy our guests in body and soul.  Other resources and pastoral support are available during lunch. All are welcome! No questions asked.