9-17-2020 – e-News

Can I be honest with you for a moment?
 
With all that’s gone on this year, it’s easy for me to feel like this is a lost year so far. I’m not trying to be negative. I know there is plenty of that out there. I’m also not trying to be a downer. There’s plenty of that too and I’m naturally pretty optimistic.
That said, I’m sad when so many of the things that we had planned and anticipated just haven’t come together. That’s been true personally for our family (just like yours) and it’s been true for the staff and leadership of our church.
 
Everything that we’ve had to postpone or cancel or every great idea that we couldn’t jump on has felt like a loss. And every time we’ve felt compelled to put this or that restriction in place has felt like a loss too.
 
All that has made this feel like a lost year sometimes. I just wanted to say that because I wanted you to have a bit of a window into my heart and the hearts of our staff and leaders.
 
That makes what I’m about to say so much richer …
 
Two weeks ago, 30 of our people banded together to serve in Orange following Hurricane Laura. It was very hard work as we tackled 7 different houses, cutting and removing fallen or falling trees and debris. One lady, who was recently widowed, had a yard filled with downed trees, broken limbs and debris. We took care of it all. She was so touched that she tracked down who we were, found our address and sent us a very kind thank you letter. She said the difference we made was “not only ‘yard changing’ but life changing.” After describing her “anxiety and depression” at having to face another loss, she said our work “not only restored my yard but truly renewed my spirit.” In that day, we loved God, we loved people, and we loved now.
 
I’ve continually been touched over the past six months at how many people have continued to give their tithes and offerings regularly to make sure the ongoing ministry doesn’t miss a beat, but then they added in something extra for the food pantry or to help some family in need. This has been significant and dozens of extra families inside and outside of our church have received food and many in our church family have had serious bills paid as a result. When we do that, we love God, we love people, and we love now.
 
Every fall, we spend some concentrated time focusing on the mission of the Gospel far outside our walls locally and around the world. We call that mission focus Faith Promise. It’s a way for us to take notice of what God is doing through our different mission partners. It’s also a time where we are challenged to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider what we can do to stretch ourselves and trust God to financially support these causes beyond our regular giving. Next Sunday, September 27, we are going to host one of our partners, Corey and Abby Stocksdale. They serve as missionaries in Botswana, leading a number of very exciting and important ministries there. This will be their first visit to see us and we are excited for you to hear from them a little Sunday morning and then much more that evening. I hope you will come or tune into both. I also hope you will join us in sacrificially supporting these important mission efforts. When we do that, we will be loving God, loving people, and loving now.
 
I could go on to share more about what God has done in the lives of individuals and through our church in this “lost year,” but that’s another e-news for another time. Just know that despite the losses and the frustrations, there is much to celebrate and be thankful for.
Love God, Love People, Love Now!
Pastor Jim
 
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9-10-2020 – e-News

As I sat down to write the eNews article, I started thinking of all the different obstacles that have come our way in 2020. I began mentally listing them off, then heard a voice say, “Chelsea, is this a particularly helpful exercise?” (Hello, Holy Spirit!)
 
Suddenly, the words of a familiar song started playing in my mind:
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
 
Those lyrics, from Through It All by Andraé Crouch, resonated deeply in my soul in that moment. Who am I depending on in this season?
 
When trials and heartache, disappointment and uncertainty plague my world, where do I turn? What do I turn to? Who do I depend upon? Where do I place my trust?
Is my trust in Jesus – in God, as the song says? Do I depend upon God’s Word? As much as I’d like to respond with a resounding, “Yes!” I’m as human as they come – so the answer is more like, “Sometimes!”
 
Guys, I’ll be honest. It has been a long year for all of us. If I had a dime for every 2020 meme I’ve seen on social media, I could buy us all new cars. This year has sort of reminded me of riding the Boardwalk Bullet at Kemah. Have you ever given it a go? It’s a roller coaster and it’s supposed to be fun. I say supposed to because it’s a weird mix of exhilaration and exhaustion when you walk off the ride. You’ve essentially allowed yourself to undergo prolonged whiplash in order to experience those few moments of unbridled joy,
racing down the slopes and barreling around sharp turns. Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems a lot rougher than other roller coasters. And the roller coaster ride of 2020 hasn’t been very fun for a lot of people.
 
But Jesus never promised us life would be easy. In fact, we’re told quite the opposite throughout Scripture. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
 
The next time you start sliding down the slippery slope that is listing all that’s seemed to go wrong or has been lost this year, remember those words from Jesus. And ask Him to show you the moments of beauty, even in the chaos.
We seem to see those moments of beauty with a bit more focus and clarity when we trust in Jesus and depend upon His Word, just like the song says.
 
Whatever headspace you find yourself in today, I encourage you to wrestle with the questions I mentioned earlier. When trials and heartache, disappointment and uncertainty plague my world, where do I turn? What do I turn to? Who do I depend upon? Where do I place my trust?
 
If your answer isn’t Jesus, do what it takes to get back in alignment. It’s worth the hard work. After all, He’s the one who has overcome the world.
 
You are loved!
Pastor Chelsea
 
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9-3-2020 – e-News

Raising a child who is almost three years old, there are days where I feel less like a parent and more like the manager of the complaints department within my house. Whether it’s the wrong
show on TV, or the wrong music being played, or (heaven forbid) a new kind of food being introduced, complaints can fire out of the mouth of my child at a surprising rate depending on the mood that she is in.
 
As a child, however, this in not unexpected. As a parent, I understand that my daughter is learning new things every day, and that sometimes it can be hard to control emotions and feelings at age three. As we grow older, we learn how to control our emotions in a way that (hopefully) allows us to better cope with the things that we do not like and are better able to manage our complaints. At least, that is how it should be.
 
Unfortunately, as I look out across the rather bleak state of social media these days, I am
bombarded with adults complaining left right and center about almost everything going on in life.
Whether it’s the pandemic, the protests, their neighbors, the church, or even their own family,
everyone seems to have found something to complain about. Now, I will note that there are
those out there who are raising awareness surrounding very important issues such as racial
justice and equality, and while some may write their statements off as complaints, I am not
doing so now, nor would I ever.
 
The de facto state of our world seems to be that if you don’t like it, complain. As Christians, we
should avoid this mindset as though it were anathema to who we are. Because it is. In
Philippians 2:14-15 Paul tells the church in Philippi that they should “Do everything without
complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children
of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
 
As Christians, we should be shining examples of a life free from grumbling, arguing, and
complaining. We should be beacons of God’s light to those around us who do not yet know him.
When we complain we taint the gospel message we are trying to convey. When we argue, we
can turn people away from the salvation we so desperately need. So what can we do?
 
Last night I gave my students a challenge to try and spend at least one day this next week free
from lying (we had been talking about truth). My hope is that they spend all seven days being honest and speaking truth, but my challenge was for them to simply spend one day in honesty. I would issue a similar challenge to all of you as well. Over the next week, try to spend one day free from complaining. My hope is that you can spend all seven days doing so, but the challenge is simply for one day. And in the moments that you feel tempted to complain, argue, or grumble,pray instead. Turn to God and speak to Him about what’s going on. Honor Him with your words rather than shouting into the void.I genuinely believe that the church is in a more unique place in the world right now because of the pandemic. We are in a place where we can show how community can still exist during
separation. We can show how real relationships can grow regardless of the circumstance. We can show how God’s love still shines in the world even if we cannot all be together at the same time. But first, we must stop wailing into the wind and cut back on our complaining. So join with me this next week, and spend at least one day free from complaining and arguing. My guess is
that it will be the highlight of your week.
 
Choosing Christ over complaints,
Pastor Andrew
 
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8-27-2020 – e-News

In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church, he tells about a survey one of his friends took in the church where he served. The first question he asked his people was, “Why did you join this church?” Ninety-three percent of the members said, “I joined because of the pastor.” The second question he asked was, “If your pastor leaves, will you leave?” It would be natural to assume that a good percentage of people said yes, considering the way they answered the first question. But that’s not what happened. Ninety-three percent said they would not leave if the pastor left. When asked why, they said, “Because I have friends here!”
 
This is a small example of the power of community, of gathering around other friends so that we can dig into the scriptures — together — and dig into each other’s lives — together. Our community groups are built around four pillars:
 
Accountability: Group members can expect to be held accountable. Accountability is inviting people into your life to challenge you in your priorities and relationships.
Belonging: Group members can expect to be a part of something. A person who has a sense of belonging is someone who feels accepted, connected, and comfortable with a group of people.
Care: Group members can expect to be cared for. We care for each other within the group and care for those outside the group through serving.
Discipleship: Group members can expect to study the Bible to help live out their Christian faith.
 
Pastor and author Paul Tripp writes, “Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.”
 
So, are you actively involved in a community group? If not, would you like to be?
On September 13, we will begin a church wide study on the book of James, called James: A Faith that Matters. All of our groups will be going through the same curriculum as Pastor Jim preaches through this series. Would you consider joining a group and participating in this study with us? We believe it will be well worth your time!

We’re excited to announce that John and Cydni Choate will be launching an online-only group for those at Parkgate (or our wider community) who feel uncomfortable joining an in-person group due to our current COVID-19 environment.

The group will most likely begin meeting on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. but the details are still being worked out. If you would like more information, please contact Pastor Kenneth (kspiller@parkgate.org)

Experiencing group life with you,
Pastor Kenneth
 
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6-26-2020 – e-News

The other day a close friend posted an opinion on social media. The subject matter was divisive and some folks were passionate, but the approach my friend took was gentle and insightful. It didn’t add fuel to an emotional fire but simply offered another perspective. Then came a comment that was very unnecessary. Someone my friend didn’t know made the comment, “That’s easy to say coming from an ugly woman.” What?!?!
 
I think most of us can agree that this comment is both insulting and incendiary. It certainly didn’t add substance to the conversation.
I believe Christians should set the standard for how to tackle difficult conversations. We can express our opinion, highlight a perspective, and stand for Biblical truth. All of these things can be done in a winsome, wholesome way that reflects the beauty of Christ.
 
Many times, these conversations shouldn’t be happening on social media. Why? We lack the benefit of hearing someone’s voice and seeing their face and, as such, begin to make assumptions that may not be rooted in fact.
 
However, the reality is, these conversations and disagreements will pop up online. Political arguments, sports debates, half-time show opinions, theological differences, COVID-19 issues, racial tension, people with an axe to grind, or good, God-loving people who allow their emotions to get the best of them – all of these and more will appear in our feeds. So, when the mud starts flying (and there’s plenty of mud out there), don’t let it stick to you and certainly DON’T throw it back.
 
How we choose to respond (or perhaps, how we choose not to engage) will communicate so much more about us than what we say.
As Christ-followers, we’re given a standard to follow – a way of living and interacting with people. So, let’s keep a few things in mind when engaging in this thing we call social media:
 
Guard your heart and watch your emotional levels. If anger, disappointment, or disgust are boiling over, it’s not the right time to post on social media.
If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it on their wall. Period.
If you don’t have a personal relationship with someone, don’t get into a debate with them.
If you disagree strongly about something a brother or sister has posted, have a private conversation with them in a spirit of love. It’s much more effective to send a private message or text and say, “Hey, I’m struggling with something you posted, could you help me understand what you meant?” That goes much further than giving your opinion without understanding the context.
Don’t write off a relationship based on what was post on social media. That’s not the way of Jesus. We unfollow and unfriend far to easily.
You don’t have to respond to something you don’t like. Sometimes there’s great value in giving your opinion. Oftentimes, there’s great value in keeping it to yourself.
Reflect Christ in all you do.
 
Journalist and social media etiquette expert Germany Kent wrote, “You are responsible for everything you post and everything you post will be a reflection you.” It’s a great quote but as Christians, I would add something else: what you post is not just a reflection of you, but of Your King. Reflect Him well!
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
This is my opinion and if you disagree, that’s ok. Let’s have a conversation about it.
 
You are loved!
Pastor Kenneth
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6-4-2020 – e-News

I don’t know about you, but I am increasingly disturbed by all that is going on around us.
 
I can literally read one article or watch one news story that tells me COVID-19 cases are on the rise and we are all in danger and then find another one that says everything is stable and we can’t open up fast enough. Some doctors and scientists say masks are a necessary preventative tool. Others essentially say masks are a waste of time. People have picked a side on this issue and have taken to dismissing those on the other side right away, sometimes flippantly or condescendingly. That’s just COVID-19.
 
Then we could talk politics, because everything is political these days. One headline says Person A said or did something. Hours later another one says that didn’t happen or it was taken out of context and, in reality, it’s Person B’s fault. People have again picked sides already and no one is willing to listen to the other. In fact, they think the other side is half crazy anyway. It’s exasperating!
 
Then we come to the far more serious and pressing issue of racial division in our country. No reasonable person is defending the actions that led to the deaths of the black jogger Ahmaud Avery in Georgia or George Floyd in Minneapolis. Those are clear injustices. At the same time, I don’t think any reasonable person will defend lawlessness, looting and riots. Those are clear injustices too. Tragically, we aren’t talking about the real issues that got us here in the first place. We aren’t hearing each other’s stories, talking about our real fears and concerns or working together for solutions. People are just picking sides and getting distracted. It’s tragic.
 
People seem to be on a razor’s edge, appearing calm and collected one minute and furious and explosive the next. You see it poured out on social media, in personal conversations and, in some cases, in literal acts of violence and hate.
 
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
 
If you are serious about being a Christian, that passage will hit you in the gut with conviction and blow your mind with all its vast implications. I don’t want to deny myself anything. I don’t want to suffer any pain or inconvenience. I don’t want to lose any rights or benefits that I have. But there is no getting around it, if I follow Jesus, all that should happen to me and all that will happen to me.
 
Let me ask you a big question: In all that is going on right now, where have you denied yourself for the sake of others, suffered pain or inconvenience because you belong to Jesus or lost some right or benefit of yours in this world because of your bigger love for the rights and benefits of the next?
 
As part of our Christian discipleship, there will always be things we are denying ourselves. There will always be places where we are suffering pain and inconvenience. There will always be places where we give up our rights and benefits. Here are a couple I’m wresting with right now:
 
I’m personally skeptical about the benefits of a mask, but I’ll wear one for others. It’s a small denial in the end and I think it honors Jesus.
 
As a white man, I know I have not had the same experiences and fears of some of my friends of color. In this time, I am trying hard to be humble, to ask questions and to try and understand. James said we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). If I’m going to be part of the solution, I think that’s the place to start. I’m fully convinced that there will be places where I will have to lose along the way. When those times come, I hope Jesus will be glorified in me.  
 
How about you?
 
Pursuing Him Together!
Pastor Jim
 
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5/21-2020 – e-News

I just read a verse that baffled me. Let me give you some context before I give you the verse.

Israel has taken possession of the Promised Land. God has fulfilled every promise He made to Israel, doing what was impossible. This all began when God allowed a barren woman to give birth (Genesis 21). Now, hundreds of years later, Israel has defeated its enemies and finally settled into the Promised Land. The book of Joshua closes with this triumph, only to have the book of Judges open with these amazing words:

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” -Judges 2:10

Read that verse again.
 
What!?!?! How could that even be possible? After living in slavery for 400 years, after being delivered from the Egyptian superpower of the time, after the parting of the Red Sea, after miracle after miracle, after manna from heaven, after defeating much stronger enemies, after being able to see the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, and after receiving the Ten Commandments, a generation grew up who didn’t know God or what He had done for them? I don’t understand. How can parents (and leaders) not lead their children to God or tell them what He has done for them?
 
The problem with questions like these is that they’re often boomerang questions that come back and hit you between the eyes. The Holy Spirit has a way of holding up a mirror — all of a sudden, we see ourselves in the Biblical story.
 
How many times do we fail to tell our children about what God is doing in our lives?
How often do we live lives that requires faith?
How often do we lean on the church to do what God has call us, as parents, to do?
How often do we sit with our children and walk through and talk about the Bible?
Do we point our children to God or are other things more important?
 
The sad reality is that we ourselves can be guilty of not pointing the next generation to God or not telling them what He has done. May this not be our story. In Jesus’ name, may this not be our story! If it is, let’s repent and resolve to do much better! Those looking up to us need it!
 
Trying to do better, too!
Pastor Kenneth
 
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4-9-2020 – e-News

Hello Parkgate!
 
This has clearly been the strangest and most upside down Holy Week in all my 22 years as a pastor!
As you know, this week will mark our fourth virtual worship experience. Believe it or not, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into producing these experiences. Even though we have been filming our services for years, there is a big difference in recording a full room on Sunday and an empty room on Wednesday. It’s much harder to lead worship and preach to a camera than it is to real people. And sound and lighting are much harder too. It has been like we are building the bridge while we are walking on it. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate how our staff has come together for all of this, stretching and learning – always under stress – but with a great heart to serve every step of the way. And THANK YOU for all your support and encouragement too.
 
Pastor Kenneth and I filmed an important conversational walk through of the pivotal events of Maundy Thursday in Jesus’ last hours before the cross. That broadcast will air Thursday at 6 p.m. We hope you will take a few minutes and watch it with your family and then have a short conversation centered around those scenes.
 
We’ve also filmed our Easter Sunday service. As always, our virtual Easter worship service will air at 10:45 a.m. This Sunday we will have a time to share communion together virtually. We are telling you this now so that you will make preparations to join us. You can go and get special bread and grape juice, but you certainly don’t have to. Whatever you elect to use, even if it’s tortillas and iced tea, it will be sacred if your heart is using it in a worshipful way.
 
One other thing, each Sunday the number of people who participate in our worship services has been much greater than our average Sunday worship attendance. The first week we had 1383 separate clicks to watch either on Facebook or YouTube. On the second week we had even more, 1523. This last week, we were down, but still had 828 views. The only difference, as far as we can tell, was that this past week only 7 people shared the video during or after the service aired. The previous weeks we had 12-14 shares. This tells us that it really matters that you help us spread the word. So, we can’t encourage you enough to invite people to join you before worship and to share the service after it airs. It really makes a difference!
 
Finally, please pray. As I write this message, we know that five people in our church family have lost their jobs and two others have had their pay cut significantly. There are probably more, and we only expect this number and the needs to grow as time goes by. Pray for them and for the literally millions of others like them. Also, please pray for the spiritual receptivity of people right now. Pray that people far from God would be open to hear His voice and surrender to Him. And pray for those who know Him to grow in Him in powerful ways during this time. We have already heard some awesome stories of people responding to our KiX lessons and worship services who would have never seen us apart from this time. Pray that God would be glorified more and more!
 
Know that you are loved!
Pastor Jim
 
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4-2-2020 – e-News

As 2019 faded into 2020, I began to realize (yet again) that my engagement with the scriptures wasn’t where it should be. I mean, I read the Bible on most days, but I’m not as consistent as I should be – and the practice has become somewhat stale.
 
To remedy this, I thought about doing one of those “Read the Bible in a Year” programs. I’ve never done one before and – to be honest – it seemed a little daunting to even think about. The whole Bible in a year? Four to five chapters a day? I talked to Ari and the boys about it and we decided together that we would each read through the Bible this year.
 
On day one, I prayed this prayer: “Lord, help me to fall in love with your word again.” And do you know what? After only a short amount of time, I’m enjoying engaging with and reading through the Bible more than I have in years. Truth is jumping off the page and I’m discovering things all over again. And another thing: I’m able to pull from my readings to help those around me. It’s beautiful!
 
Do you know what else I’ve discovered? The reading plan I’m on goes through a couple sections of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Psalms. I thought it would take me at least 30 minutes a day, but in reality it only takes about 15 minutes. That’s it! Do you know how much time I spend on the Internet each day? On social media? Much more than 15 minutes.
 
There was my real problem … I had a priority issue. Too many other things were more important than engaging with the Bible. Though I would NEVER have said that, my actions proved it was true. So I’m working to change that.
 
What about you? Will you not just read, but engage with, dig into, try to understand, wrestle with, and make the word of God a priority in your life?
 
On this journey with you!
Pastor Kenneth
 
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3-26-2020 – e-News

Hello Parkgate!
 
For a part of my day yesterday, I was rummaging around my house counting up how much toilet paper and soap we had accumulated. That was something I never thought I would have to do – let alone doing with a sense of concern. (Don’t worry – we have enough to last us a while!) While we have enough food to last us a couple of weeks, Brandi and I are being safe and doing our best to measure our serving sizes just to be safe.
 
Living in this way is unfamiliar and different – and that can cause us to grow anxious about the state of the world. Living isolated from others can lead to feelings of loneliness and fear. Living like this can cause us to lose focus.
 
Losing focus is something that can occur at any moment of our lives. Sometimes, we lose focus because we are bored. Other times, we lose focus because we are distracted by something that seems more engaging at that moment in time. When life gets flipped upside down as it has these past couple of weeks, our focus can almost disappear completely .
 
As Christians, we are told to focus on God. (If it is in the Ten Commandments that we should hold God above all else, He had better be the focus of our life!) But when things get thrown into disarray, time and time again, humanity loses focus on God. When the Israelites were brought out of captivity in Egypt and had to wait to enter the Promised Land, they lost focus. When Peter was confronted about his relationship with Christ amidst the fear and panic following Jesus’ arrest, he lost focus. But just as there are passages in scripture about people losing their focus on God, there are passages that remind us of how to obtain it.
 
Psalm 63 was written by David during a difficult time in his life. He was wandering in the wilderness because he was being persecuted by King Saul. There was literally someone out there (and a king at that) who wanted him dead. We wouldn’t blame David if he began the psalm with words of frustration and despair at his own plight. Instead, though, David writes this: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
 
David is choosing to focus on God. Despite having to flee into the wilderness, he remains focused on God. Despite thirsting for actual water in a dry land, David thirsts for God more. In our present circumstances, we must remember to intentionally focus on God first.
 
God is with us in this time – he has not left. God is present with you no matter where you find yourself today. My hope is that each of us chooses to focus upon him instead of giving in to the stresses, worries, and fears that our current state has brought upon us.
 
Remembering where to focus,
Pastor Andrew
 
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