Dear First Pres,

 "They devoted themselves ... to prayer" (Acts 2:42). This verse was part of my devotional reading this morning, and it grabbed me. Prayer wasn't the only thing they were devoted to, but it's the one that stuck out to me this morning. As you probably remember, in the midst of the devotion of these early believers God was doing amazing things! Verse 43: "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." And, verse 47b: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
  As I reflected on those verses, my initial response and prayer was for me. "Father, please help me to be devoted to prayer." But then, since these verses describe a congregation, my prayer switched to FPC. "Father, make us a congregation devoted to prayer."
   Last night I was meeting with my Discipleship Group. The focus of the curriculum was the reality that God has created us to be in an intimate and surrendered relationship with Him. Two of the primary ways we grow in that relationship are through prayer and Scripture.
   Sometimes we think about prayer as a way to get stuff done. That's not wrong, per se, but it's also not complete. Prayer is one of the primary ways we nurture our relationship with God. In prayer, we listen for God's voice and direction. In prayer we give praise to God, we repent of our sin, we put all our petitions before Him with thanksgiving, and we surrender our lives to Him. In other words, prayer isn't meant to only be transactional; it's meant to primarily be relational.
   How would you categorize your prayer life today? Have you devoted yourself to prayer? Is your prayer more transactional or relational? What do you think would change in our congregation if all of us were truly devoted to knowing the Father's heart through prayer?
   The wonderful news is that God continues to graciously invite us into that relationship again and again. Even when we drift away, God, in His mercy, invites us back into His presence. Like the Father of the prodigal in Luke 15, God welcomes us home with grace and joy and celebration when we come back to Him. So, my prayer for FPC today is that we will devote ourselves to prayer (individually and corporately) so that we might know the Father more intimately.
   Finally, don't forget that every Friday morning (except the day after Thanksgiving), a group of FPCers gathers for prayer. We start at 6:30 am in the Commons (done at 7:15) and we'd love for you to join us.

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

 Undoubtedly, your mailbox has been filled with the same propaganda as mine. As usual, this time of year brings a lot of energy about particular candidates for local, state, and national offices as well as state propositions. If you're like me, it gets annoying fast - especially, the ads that are dramatically attacking a candidate or proposition. In fact, my temptation is to simply disengage from the whole thing. But, disengagement is NOT what we're about at FPC.
   Do you remember our purpose statement? Our purpose is to engage together in Christ's work of making disciples for the redeeming transformation of our city and world. As FPCers, we don't disengage, we engage. As FPCers we don't become apathetic about our city and world, we pursue the redeeming transformation of our city and world.
   One of the ways we can pursue that redeeming transformation is to prayerfully consider every proposition and every candidate and then vote as the Lord leads. As Christians we don't simply follow a party line, but we listen for the Lord's wisdom.
   So, this morning I began my review of the information guide. I asked the Lord to guide me in my thinking. I asked Him to give me wisdom. This is what I'll do for the next five days. Then, on Tuesday, I'll vote.
   I truly encourage you to do the same while praying as Jesus taught us, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

by Bekah Hanson  

 I grew up in a neighborhood with very few kids and no trick-or-treaters. Once I became a home-owner and moved to the Fresno High neighborhood, I was excited to actually be able to hand out candy on Halloween. I've lived in my home for five years now, and each Halloween is busier than the last.

   For the first few years, I tried to host a party in the back room while also going to the front door to hand out candy. Eventually, though, I realized that there were way too many trick-or-treaters to make multi-tasking possible. So, for the last couple of years, I've decided to stay out front for the whole evening. Tyler and I keep the house well-lit and make an effort to buy interesting treats for the kids. 

   We've done glow sticks, bouncy balls, and LED rings. We like to hand out light-up toys when possible to increase kids' visibility as they walk through the neighborhood. My desire is to make our house a place where our neighbors feel valued and kids can make fun Halloween memories. 

   This year we'll sit out front with our fire pit and hand out LED rings to about 300 trick-or-treaters. By being out front and present, we hope there will be many opportunities for conversations with neighbors.

 

*Insider tip: Put out a water pitcher on your front porch. Kids get super thirsty from walking and eating lots of chocolate. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous

Dear First Pres,

 Here are three important things for you to know:
   1.  We had a great First Pres Forum on Sunday to describe our new initiative of GO Teams. Many of you were there and heard the wonderful stories that are coming from our first two GO Teams (ministering at Martin Park in the Lowell neighborhood and Fresno State's Greek Row). Pastor Chris and I are working on an executive summary of the Forum for all of our ministry volunteers who were unable to attend. This, of course, will be available for anyone else who wants some more information. In the meantime, you can find a description of GO Teams on our website.
   2. This coming Sunday is Reformation Sunday. This is a day that we intentionally remember our roots. We remember that many of the things we take for granted in our churches today were at the center of costly, ugly, but important reforms made during the Reformation. So, we give thanks for God's grace and faithfulness in building His Church. Plus, for fun, we wear our tartan (or plaid) to remember the Scottish roots of the Presbyterian movement in America.
   3.  It's nearly been two years since Pastor Chris Popadich and his wife, Lisa, came to be part of God's work at FPC. As an Assistant Pastor, he is called by the Session (rather than a congregational vote) and given a defined time period in which to serve the church (as opposed to no defined time period for an Associate or Senior Pastor). As the initial time period is nearing its end, the Session has voted to renew Pastor Chris' call through the end of 2019 pending the expected approval of our presbytery. We are grateful for the work Pastor Chris has done with the Community Growth team and confident it will continue to grow in the coming year.
    See you Sunday in your Scottish garb.

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

    Every once in a while something comes up in the church that needs some special communication. This Sunday is one of those moments. That's why we're interrupting our regularly scheduled programming during the Education Hour to have a First Pres Forum. The Forum will be held in the Fellowship Hall from 9:40 - 10:40 a.m.  So, if you're not leading or participating in Kingdom Kids, Ignite, Rooted, Chancel Choir, Worship Band, or Link Crew, I encourage you to join us for this important time.
   Why all the fuss? We have an important new strategic initiative in our church that we want everyone to know about. Not only do we want you to know about it, we want you to hear some of the stories that are coming out of our first efforts. I believe you will be encouraged by what you hear, and I hope you'll be inspired as well.
   So, FPCers, will you please join us? Even if you don't normally come during the Education Hour, would you please consider being here on Sunday?
   We also have some very special guests joining us in worship. So ... between worship and the education hour, I believe this is going to be a very encouraging Sunday. I hope you can be here.
   In the meantime, remember that Jesus came to give you rest for your souls. Whatever your life is like right now, I pray that you will experience His rest for you.

Blessings,
   
Jeremy
P.S. For all you incredible folks who are volunteering during the Education Hour and won't be able to attend the First Pres Forum, please know that I am grateful for you. Pastor Chris and I are working to provide a way for you to get the most important information from the Forum. So, be looking for that in the coming days.

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor