Dear members and friends of VPC,
It was a significant encouragement to have celebrated our September birthdays with a catered lunch provided by our sister in Christ, Ludy Crizaldo. Thank you, Sister Ludy! Thanks also to Dilcia Junior, the youth and others who helped with décor, set up, clean up and serve. Sunday was the largest gathering of members, friends and visitors since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a step forward for Valley Park in renewing our dedication to fellowship. It was a blessing!
Our “next” challenge is to renew our dedication to small group Bible studies where we can grow in our understanding of Jesus, pray for each other and grow in our commitment to encouraging each other. Regular hospitality in our homes is still hard to imagine. But we do need to do a few more things at the church to build each other up in Christ. Pray for my discernment of what is most productive, considering the continuing concerns for COVID.
While praying for God to expand our ministries and lead to us “equipping leaders,” I have been thinking about the degree to which Jesus went out to meet people and engage with them in conversation and concern for their lives. He found people as much as they found Him. Jesus practiced going to people and He exhorted us to go as well.
“I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”Luke 4:43
“As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”John 17:18
“Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.‘”Mathew 28:18-20
Some people who visit Valley Park notice that we are a very engaging and loving church family. I am often told that this is a first impression. But many of the people who come are already familiar with the Christian faith and confident in the encouragement we provide.
But non-Christian visitors are rare and walking through the doors of a church into a crowd of Christians who are devoted to Christian rhythms in worship and fellowship is a bit intimidating for many people. When we meet them on their own turf, they are often more comfortable and engaging. Some of the most meaningful conversations Jesus had with people were along the way in His travels. Consider the following encounters:
A rich man named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. (Luke 19:1-8)
Levi while he was at work. (Mark 2:13-15)
The woman at the well gathers water in the middle of the day. (John 4:4-42)
Jesus was constantly devoted to noticing people and engaging in a little conversation with them. There was nothing aggressive or preachy. He was just doing life with His eyes open to those whom He encountered. I don’t believe Jesus was knocking on the doors of people at their homes. I don’t believe he was anything more than simply interested in the people He encountered.
I believe every one of us has similar opportunities every day that we do not see because we are focused on what we have to do. I would love to believe that if we keep our eyes and sensitivities open, we will see God’s intrusions into our conversations with those who do not know Him. There are potential encounters every day where the Spirit of God can touch lives through us if we are willing. I believe Jesus wants to use every one of us to reach our community for Him, to more deliberately open up ourselves to being used by Him. Let us, together, imagine how God can use our more deliberate efforts to engage with people along our way.
We are the voice of Jesus in the lives of people who have never heard of Him. They may never see the inside of a church. But they will notice our “Hello” and “How are you doing?” And they will remember anything encouraging we say even if it is only that Jesus loves them and hears their prayers. Let us, together, practice more deliberate love of people we meet in our daily rhythms. It will seldom take a lot of time. It will reflect our love and concern for them. Let’s pray for divine appointments where someone we know nothing about may need the encouragement that only we can provide. Let us, as the children of the living God, be more aware of people in need of love.
To God be the Glory!