Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Message from Jennifer Saraceno, High School Teacher

In this season of resurrection, many of us often choose to focus on the living Christ, the one who is risen and has taken our sin. I know for me in past years the only time I think about the pain of Christ and how much he had to sacrifice and lower himself to save us is during an Easter play. This year I decided to really spend time with Christ on the Cross, by reading the accounts of his death and resurrection according in all four gospels.  Each one tells the story but each shares a specific detail or wisdom that is not shared by the others. I have found this year I have really started to appreciate the true spirit of this season, which is not the resurrection but the selflessness of a humbled God. 

Let’s take a look at Jesus on the cross according to the Gospels. 

Scripture says, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.” (Luke 23:33)

Calvary’s Hill. Two thieves—gaunt and pale. With the cynicism of most of the crowd, one calls out, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself, and us too, while you’re at it!”

The other in defense says, “Don’t you even fear God when you are dying? We deserve to die, but this man hasn’t done one thing wrong.”

Lodged in the thief’s statement are what anyone needs to recognize in order to come to Jesus. Jesus is not on that cross for his sins. He is there for ours! And the thief on the cross makes the same request any Christian makes, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom!”

On Calvary’s Hill, Christ lifts his heavy head toward the heavens crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). We would ask the same. Why him? Why forsake your son? Forsake the murderers. Desert the evildoers. Abandon them, not him.

What did Jesus feel on the cross? The icy displeasure of a sin-hating God. Why? Because Jesus carried our sins in His body. With hands nailed open, he invited God, “Treat me as you would treat them.” And God did. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did God scream those words? So you will never have to!

“It is finished.” Jesus cried! Stop and listen. Can you imagine the cry from the cross? What was finished? The history-long plan of redeeming man. The message of God to man. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished.

Had Jesus’ hands not been fastened down, I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky. This is no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment. Yes, even a cry of relief. “Take me home.” Come, ten thousand angels! Come and take this wounded one to the cradle of his Father’s arms.

Farewell, manger’s infant. Yes, take him home. Take this Son to his Father. He deserves a rest. Bless you, holy ambassador. Go home, rest well. The battle is over! It is finished.

This synopsis was provided by Max Lucado from On Calvary’s Hill.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Message from Jim Callahan, High School Teacher

23 “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25 ESV

I would like to call your attention to the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I trust that we have heard this before, but we all need to be reminded of this again and again. The cost is self-denial and cross bearing. I would like to focus our attention on self-denial. Normally, there is no theoretical problem with self-denial, we clearly know what it is; however there is an enormous practical problem here --- it is much, much easier said than done. Because we live in a sinful world, things often do not run smoothly. We experience major hardships resulting from people who forget stuff, break promises, lie, cheat, steal, do poor quality work, use and abuse others and simply do not love their neighbor as themselves. The sinful human heart often lusts for personal vengeance in hardship situations resulting from others having “done us dirty.” An important aspect of self-denial in these types of situations is turning over vengeance to the Lord and nailing to the cross the resentment and hostility that goes alone with pay back desires. As individuals, we are not to return evil for evil. May God by His grace enable us to deny ourselves in these types of hardship situations.   

Monday, March 2, 2015

Message from Katie McNeely, High School Teacher

Peace Like a River

As a natural worry wart and control freak, I struggle with submitting to God.  I struggle with the concept of allowing someone else to control what I do and when I do it.  With this being said, God has made the concept of peace quite prevalent in my life.  

When I was in my teaching program, I started struggling with giving up control.  I was given the calling of being a teacher when I was 6 years old.  When I finally got into the teaching program, it was a dream come true and nothing was going to stop me.  God had other plans.  It took me 7 times to pass my California teacher’s test.  Even though I had felt this calling on my life, I felt like God was trying to give me a sign that I was no longer supposed to be a teacher.  This caused great confusion in my life and I was left feeling empty.  With support and advice from friends and family, I did not give up. The final time I took my test, I walked out knowing I had most likely failed the test.  It left me so discouraged.  I immediately started praying asking God to give me a sign for what He wants me to do and to allow me to trust Him.  After that prayer, I felt a peace and I decided it was time to give Him control.  The week I was supposed to find out if I passed my test, PC called me and asked me if I wanted a job.  I was so overwhelmed by joy and excitement at this clear sign God had given me.  2 days later, I had found out I passed my final test and was officially certified to teach. Once I gave up control, God was allowed to work. 

This is a lot like the Israelites.  So many times God asked for them to trust Him and He would guide them.  However, they did not want to listen to Him because they thought their own ways were better than God’s.  

Isaiah 48:17-18 is a clear example of the God yearning for the Israelites to listen. “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.

PC as a whole has had many tumultuous events this past year.  As a first year teacher, it has been overwhelming at times.  However, God has given me a complete peace about everything and I feel he has truly lead us through it all.  When we listen and wait for His voice, He will clearly direct His people.  It is when we chose our own way that we get lost in the chaos.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Message from Nathan de Laet, Middle School Teacher

          Any time I am asked to speak on spiritual matters, I get a little nervous. Discussing the deep love and mystery that is our God always leaves me apprehensive about misrepresenting the indescribable. 

This weekend I went to church still looking for what message of encouragement I was to deliver. To be honest, I had an incredibly difficult time focusing during worship. I was singing, praying, and focusing on the words, but I still was unable to establish that connection with the Lord I desire and experience during worship. Then the band began to play “Bless the Lord”. As I sang with the church the lines “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Worship His holy name”, the focus was shifted from me to worshiping the Lord of creation. Encouragement swelled over me, and I wanted to share. 

I looked up the psalm from which the song is derived, and I found Psalm 103. In this piece of art written by David and inspired by God, we are reminded and encouraged of all the great attributes of God. It is a longer work, so I will not include all of it; however, I encourage you to read it on your own. Instead, in current internet form, I will share with you the greatest attributes of God included in Psalm 103.

1.     He forgives all your sins (103:3)
2.    He heals all past iniquities (103:3)
3.    He redeems and renews (103:4-5)
4.    He is righteous and just (103:6)
5.    He cares for the oppressed (103:6)
6.    He is compassionate and gracious (103:8)
7.    He is slow to anger, and rich in love (103:8)
8.    He does not harbor anger (103:9)
9.    He has mercy (103:10)
10. His love never ceases (103:11)
11.  He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (103:12)

Any one of these attributes is enough reason to worship the Lord, but David does not stop there. The end of Psalm 103 is a reminder of the infinitesimal tininess of man in comparison to God. David describes us as grass. As your water bills can attest, grass is dead in a heartbeat. However, the finite nature of our earthly selves provides the example for the greatest attribute of God: all of the greatness of God is directed towards people who could be nothing more to God than grass. All of the attributes listed above would be meaningless if we were deserving of any of them. 

Here are your words of encouragement. God has done everything for us who deserve nothing. God has opened the floodgates of blessing upon you and me. He will continue to pour out His blessings in times of plenty and in times of need. The list of the greatest attributes of God is unchanging, even when we change. Oh how great is our God!

It is now our turn to open our mouths, hearts, and ears. It is now our turn to burst out in tears and song. It is now our turn to “Bless the Lord, O our souls. Worship His holy name.” Will you join me in worship this week?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Message from Lois Leader, High School Teacher

We have needed to do a lot of discussion amongst each other during recent events. I’ve been impressed with the caliber of the discussions we’ve had in our meetings and in our classrooms. A while back I found a list of tips for respectful discussion and saved it for future reference. As we head into PC’s future, and the discussions I’m sure we’ll be having from here, I thought I’d share this list with you.

1 Peter 3:13 - 17
Tips for Faithful and Respectful Discussion

  • Realize that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the conversation and remember that each participant is a bearer of the image of God.
  • Listen respectfully and carefully to others. You may not hear if you judge too quickly.
  • State what you think you heard someone say and ask for clarification before responding, in an effort to make sure you understand each other.
  • Speak for yourself, rather than as a member of a group.  Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements.
  • Look for and lift up points of agreement as well as disagreement.
  • Pray for God’s grace to listen attentively, to speak clearly and to remain open to the vision God holds for all of us.

Good News Version
13 Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if this should be God's will, than for doing evil.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Message from Laura Huizenga, HS/MS Choir Teacher

Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I was at my church’s women’s ministry night last week, and the speaker spoke about Genesis 1:26-27, and what it means for us to be made in the image of God. She spoke about the fact that we each bear God’s image in a unique way.  When we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we are reflecting who God is in a unique way, because He made each of us precisely, uniquely, us.

The speaker’s focus was on the fact that we women tend to look in a mirror and be disappointed at what we see, and that we need to bring that response to Jesus and ask Him to help us see how God’s image is uniquely reflected in us. 

But one of the things she said in passing caught my attention, and convicted me.  She said, “When someone else is acting in a way that hurts me, I can respond with anger and vitriol, or I can seek to see God’s image in that person.”

I wrestled with that, I must confess. I’ve been offended.  I don’t WANT to see God’s image in the offender. I want to pray the smite Psalms. And yet…

And yet, each person, including the person who sins against me, has been made in God’s image. If I wrestle with God in prayer, will He allow me to see some ways in which that person bears His image? Will God help me to see that I need to pray earnestly for someone who is snared in the grip of darkness and deception which are obscuring God’s image? 

And more convicting yet, will God open my eyes to the darkness in my own soul which has been obscuring God’s image?

Lord Jesus, help me to see my own sin and renounce it.  Help me to pray for those who offend me, and to seek Your image in them.  Rescue us from darkness.  We need You!