It was great to be back with the church family after having to cancel our services (including our annual New Year’s Eve Family Game Night) the weekend before due to painfully cold temperatures. Then again, I can’t say that being stuck at home with my wife and children particularly felt like much of a hardship to me -- it’s kind of the best birthday present that I could’ve asked for. Nonetheless, it was good to see everyone again. An old friend of mine even stopped by and joined us for the last Sunday School session in our “Misconceptions” class.
Every Sunday in January is going to be unique this year -- lots of interesting guests and unusual trappings. For instance, on the 28th, we will be hosting Peter and Anna Kim, our missionaries to China, in our Sunday School hour and worship service. They’re a joy to interact with, and we will be eating a family potluck with them after the services.
The week before that, on the 21st, we will be hosting FCC alumnus and current missionary Kyle Gregory in our Adult Sunday School class, and then commemorating Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with Julie Philyaw from the Peoria Women’s Pregnancy Center in the worship service. If you can’t join us for that Sunday, then please make it a point to consciously and actively hold those ministries up in your prayers.
The week before that, on the 14th, we will be hosting Chris Marchand (the headmaster of Aletheia Christian School here in Peoria) in our Adult Sunday School hour, when he will be helping us to understand the structure and vision of a classical Christian education -- as well as how several of our FCC families have become involved with their program over the years. It’s fascinating to see how Aletheia has tried to interweave classical teaching methods with modern sensibilities!
And this week, as we always make it a point to do on the first Sunday of the year, we focused on providing the opportunity for everyone to share a testimony about how God has been working in them and through them, as a means of ministering to the rest of the church family. Since this year marks my 15th year as the pastor of First Covenant Church, I asked people to think of not only what God is doing in them right now, but also to consider sharing how God has been at work in them over the past decade (or even longer).
Interestingly, a pattern quickly emerged in the testimonies being shared. Yes, people talked about blessings that God has given them.... yes, they explained how well God had taken care of them and had so faithfully answered their prayers... but all of that tended to be in the context of going through hardships in life. And yet, no one seemed to be expressing that fearfully or even exhaustedly -- instead, it was consistently expressed with joy, acknowledging that it was going through those hard times which had specifically strengthened their muscles and their faith in God. The struggles were in fact the blessings, because the struggles drew them closer to the Lord.
What an awesome testimony to share with one another!