"Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city'"
- Proverbs 16:32
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
It was so wonderful to see many of you last Sunday! If you were there, you could tell that I instantly teared up as soon as I stood in front of you. We have longed for that day for months now. Wasn't it nice to hear voices singing together again? Thank you all for wearing your masks and distancing and all the other things we needed you to do. You did great! And many thanks to our Usher/Greeter Safety Team, deacons, elders, and staff who helped pull it all together. For those of you who chose to stay home, we hope you still felt part of the worship service even from a distance. We will meet again this Sunday at 10am, and I have included the new rules at the end of this letter if you are joining us for the first time.
For those of you with children, Ashley Gardner and her team have put together activity bags for the kids with Bibles, markers, and an activity sheet that coincides with the sermon. We have age-appropriate bags divided up. The ones for preschoolers and kindergarteners are on the coat rack on the Dormont side of the Narthex, for first through third grade on the coat rack on the St. Bernard's side of the Narthex, and the ones for Tweener ages (4th and 5th) are on the bench in the middle of the Narthex. Children are invited to write their name on their bag and decorate it as they would like, so they can pick up the same bag each week.
This Sunday, we are continuing our series on A Call to Excellence, looking at the life of Peter and his challenge for us to develop goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love. Which of those has been the hardest for you to do since the pandemic started? Mine has to be this week's word: self-control.
The word for self-control is only used three times in the New Testament, once here in 2 Peter, once in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and once in Acts 24. In that scene, the Apostle Paul is testifying about Jesus before Felix, the Roman governor. The scene is almost comical, as Paul turns up the heat on Felix. Luke describes the scene saying, "As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you'" (Acts 24:25).
We are so quickly tempted to be like Felix. We can talk about Jesus and church and love and good things, but when the topic turns to self-control, we want to change the subject and walk away. Self-control is hard.
The study guide asks,
"In what areas do you need greater self-control? Do you struggle with anger? Is your mouth apt to speak before your mind has time to think? Are you unable to say 'no' even though you are already over-committed? Do you depend on food, alcohol, or an addictive drug to make it through the day? Do you carry worry like a cloak, or drag doubts behind you like a ball and chain? Are there parts of your life that, if exposed, would embarrass you and dishonor God?"
It is tempting to look through that list and feel smug about the things we handle well. It is easy to judge others on the ones we are good at. And then we get to the ones where we struggle, and we want to change the subject or pull a Felix and leave the room.
Paul captures this struggle within himself in Romans 7:24, crying out in exasperation, "Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
His answer: Jesus Christ. And he opens Romans 8:1 with the beautiful reassurance, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
The enemy wants us to be crushed by the shame of our lack of self-control. Jesus Christ speaks to us with grace and freedom. He forgives our sins and sets us free from the bondage that holds us captive. Walking in that freedom is not always easy, It takes practice, perseverance, accountability, and a constant returning to the Father for help in our times of struggle.
As we think and pray about self-control, let us take an honest look at the log in our own eye before we point out the speck in someone else's (Matthew 7:3). Let us seek the grace of the Lord and his cleansing power to free us from all that pulls us away from him. And let's pray for one another that we might be cleansed and purified, ready to be the spotless bride of Christ.
Small Groups: As we begin this new study, now is a great time to join a small group! We have groups meeting online almost every day of the week, and we have groups for Tweeners, Middle School and High School, Young Adults, just women, just men, and coed groups. And the Lamplighters Sunday School class is meeting again as well. If you are interested in becoming part of one of these groups, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hour of Prayer
(formerly known as Sundays at Seven): A group of us are gathering on Zoom every Sunday at 7pm to pray together, and we would love to have you join us! Here is the Zoom link for a computer, tablet or mobile phone:
. You can also call in from a regular phone - dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter the Meeting ID - 925 6196 4416. For more info, contact Pat Gaudio at email@example.com.
As always, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.