Friday Focus

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Prior to July 2017, our newsletter was named Your NFC. All the archived issues remain available, as you can see down the right-hand column!



Friday Focus – August 18, 2017

Click HERE to read the entire August 18, 2017 issue.

—from Ron Stansell, clerk of elders

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). I continue to believe that injunction can be completed, even when circumstances are difficult. Let me share some of my thankfulness and at the same time bring the Newberg Friends Church congregation up to date.

  • An administrative committee has been formed of congregational clerks, clerks or a representative of standing committees, and our administrator. This includes a member from the newly formed Christian education committee. While elders are charged with the spiritual care and nurture of God’s people and spiritual outreach, our administrative committee will work in partnership with the elders to care for business, office personnel, property, and financial concerns brought to them from the various committees
  • Sherry Macy’s work has been partially redefined and she will continue to help us as office administrator and with publications. Denise Lyman continues as bookkeeper, record keeping. Interim pastor Steve Fawver has been helpful in recent weeks in transition consultation and personnel contacts.
  • NFC elders are recommending a ¼ time visitation coordinator position to begin very soon. The NFC administrative committee will consider this. A congregational care committee of volunteers for visitation has been active for several weeks already.
  • REAL: a place for women to study God’s word—has been approved as a Newberg Friends ministry to begin September 7, following the format of Women’s Bible Fellowship, open to all women of the community and with childcare provided.
  • Finality on a Covenant of Separation between Newberg Friends and the Newberg Emerging Friends Church is close. The plan is to seek separate approval by both congregations for an orderly and respectful moving forward in ministry.
  • NFC elders and a worship planning group continue to secure pulpit supply and participants in worship. We have been blessed! This will likely continue through October.
  • NFC elders are actively evaluating possibilities for an interim pastor to serve until June 30. By that time we hope to have extended a pastoral call for long-term pastoral leadership.

A few weeks ago, I counted reasons for “why I’m smiling,” and several people asked if I was still smiling. Now you can ask me, “what are you thankful for today?” And I will have some answers for you! Pray for the leaders of Newberg Friends Church and for those God is calling to minister with us.

NOTE: In future issues of Friday Focus you will see similar reports from presiding and committee clerks in an effort to keep you informed of our ongoing rebuilding progress.

Friday Focus – August 11, 2017

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89 Days

If you started reading Matthew and Acts shortly after the Cell Rule of Optina was introduced in Your NFC on May 19, you might be nearing the end of John and Revelation. I started on May 1 and finished 89 days later* on July 27 (*admitting some catch-up was required along the way). Crossing the finish line left me speechless (it happens)—reading John 21 in tandem with Revelation 21-22 after 89 days of “witnessing” Jesus’ life (times 4) interwoven with the early church and the horrors and beauty of Revelation. I’ve never experienced Bible reading in such a meaningful way. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of reading God’s word every day.

Some of you long-timers remember when we read through the whole Bible chronologically with “Bible Readers Unanimous.” That was a monumental commitment, especially adding the monthly gatherings to talk over what we’d read. Reading the New Testament in 89 days will seem like a breeze by comparison. See how I did that? You have until September 1 to choose your translation, then we can all start together. Download and print the reading chart (it’s in the public domain) and mark your calendar. Try to imagine with me the powerful impact an entire church reading scripture together will have on us.

Sherry Macy

Friday Focus – August 4, 2017

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SPOTLIGHT on Adult Sunday School
A member from each of our three adult Sunday school classes shares a synopsis…

Shalom:
    Shalom is a round-table discussion Bible study where we take a book of the Bible and cover a chapter every Sunday. We are now studying the book of Psalms. We sit around a table and bring our Bibles, reference books, commentaries, and I-Pads—whatever helps us answer questions that come up in our discussion. We do not have a teacher but ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern the meaning and application of the chapter. At times we have periods of silence as we meditate on the words of God. We would love to have you come and visit or join us as we have a vibrant conversation of Scripture, so crucial today as never before. —Kathy Schlittenhart

Agape:
    We started out as the young marrieds’ class around 1958 or 1959, then reorganized and renamed the Agape Class about 30 years ago. As people of that generation have moved to Newberg and become part of NFC they have joined our class. So we are a fun-loving group of mostly retired folks that care and pray for one another, love to study the Bible, connect with and pray for missionaries, and keep up on what is happening at GFU. Since the church was reorganized this last month with a new schedule, our attendance has increased substantially with past members returning and new folks joining us. —David Brown

Children of Light:
    Why do I go to a Sunday school, even as an adult? First, we, as part of the Children of Light class, have learned to trust each other on significant levels. Over time it grows exponentially for each of us. We cheer each other’s successes and help carry each other’s deepest pains and most urgent prayer requests. Second, there is profound caring for each other. It’s powerful to hear another lift your burden to the Lord in prayer. Hugs and tears reinforce this caring. Third, generous and genuine laughter is part of almost every gathering. Fourth, a good measure of honesty, even when we disagree, encourages mutual trust and caring.
    These add up to “generous social security,” a type the government can’t match. We are personally and spiritually secure with each other. Yes, we have insightful, relevant, and biblical lessons too. I wish everyone had a group like this, not only because I believe the church is much more than mere private faith, but because it feels good to be known, loved, respected, and challenged. —Doug Bartlett

Friday Focus – July 28, 2017

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Persist in Prayer
by Julie Anderson

When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he taught the familiar model we call the Lord’s Prayer. But directly after, he gave another example of how to pray, using two hypothetical situations. 

First, he asked his disciples to imagine knocking on a friend’s door in the middle of the night, while loudly demanding three loaves of bread to feed a surprise visitor. The sleepy friend replies “do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” However, he eventually changes his mind, gets up and gives away the bread, not because it was his friend asking, but because of his friend’s persistence (Luke 11:5-8 NRSV). Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for persistence as “shameless impudence.” Jesus was illustrating God’s desire for us to come to him with boldness and make our most desperate needs and desires known. If persistence causes an earthly friend to answer a need, how much more will our heavenly Father respond to audacious prayer? Jesus teaches on: “Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” God loves to inhabit our earnest prayers and welcome us into his presence (vv. 9-10).

Jesus begins his second illustration on how to pray with a set of questions. If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake or for an egg will you give him a scorpion? The implication is—of course not! “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (vv. 11-13). Let us persist in approaching the throne of God boldly, asking our loving heavenly Father to provide for our physical and emotional needs. But more important, let’s also ask the Father to meet our spiritual needs by pouring out his Holy Spirit on us, that we might come to know the fullness of his glory.

Friday Focus – July 21, 2017

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Why am I smiling?
by Ron Stansell, clerk of elders

One of the most encouraging prayers in all the Bible is found in Ephesians 3:16-19, the passage we read in our Sunday evening congregational business meeting on July 16. Glorious riches are found in Jesus from which he draws to give us inner power, allowing the eternal Son of God to live in us. The Spirit prays with Paul that the church of Christ be established in love that we might know the love that is beyond knowledge! That makes me smile!
 
In the spirit of those strengthening words, Newberg Friends carefully approved members of standing committees for the coming year and established an administrative committee composed of congregational clerks Carl Anderson and Dick Sartwell, clerks from the elders, stewards, and trustees, and others as needed. A part-time church administrator will be named by the administrative committee to help in transitional matters and beyond. That makes me smile!
 
Elders for the coming church year are Julie Anderson, Bob Hampton, Hank Helsabeck, Gail Hutchinson, Ron Stansell (clerk), Ron Woodward, and David Woolsey. That enthusiastic group is charged with caring for the spiritual life of the congregation, congregational care and visitation, worship planning, and working alongside interim pastor, Steve Fawver. Steve will assist the administrative committee and elders on immediate issues during the remainder of July and all of August. That all makes me smile too!
 
Why am I encouraged? Let me count still other ways!
Judy Woolsey reported for the nominating committee that nearly every person contacted for positions said “yes!” 
A worship committee is working prayerfully and quickly to arrange pulpit supply and plan worship, working several weeks in advance. We have been blessed by messages from George Fox University President Robin Baker!
 Sunday morning prayer gatherings have been lively and rich. Elder Julie Anderson has led these each Sunday from 8 to 8:50 a.m.
Two couples, Darin and Cathie Jo Sturdevant and Ralph and Holly Miele, opened our last two services with enthusiasm and grace. More to come!
No denying it, Newberg Friends Church has passed through hard times in the past year. Grief and sadness remain. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is leading us into a deeper place. What else makes me smile? One Sunday a younger adult stood in open worship and expressed a longing for revival and renewal for the entire believing community of Newberg! That’s what Ephesians 3:16-19 is all about. Go read it again!

Friday Focus – July 14, 2017

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On Sunday, Robin Baker shared a message from 2 Peter 1. Here’s an excerpt from his notes:

Holiness. That is what Peter wants in the followers of Jesus. So, he calls on the followers of Jesus to cultivate “holiness” in their lives and to be at work practicing holiness. In order to grow in holiness, he calls his readers to a life of moral excellence, of knowing God more intimately, which leads to patience and self-control. All the work leads to godliness and ultimately to genuine love for all. The reality is that you cannot love others unless you subordinate the self – the only way to do that is through the Spirit that dwells within us and genuine practice. 

Remember. In verse 13, Peter calls his people, the followers of Jesus, to remember. He does not suggest this just so the group nostalgically looks at the past. He is concerned they will forget the truths they have been taught. He wants to have them remember so they can make those truths a vital part of their being. In what ways does God stir your memory or remind you of his work? I love the way Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 – “I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother, Eunice, and your grandmother Lois. This is why I remind you to fan to flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” Timothy’s faith was the result of his grandmother and mother consistently reminding him of the commitments and teachings of Jesus.

I come from generations of agricultural people who had a deep love of the Lord. As a result, much like Timothy, they passed on to me a commitment to the gospel, to the church of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:25), and to Jesus’ calling to be in ministry in his name. 

So, in verses 16 to 21, Peter reminds the followers of the essential point – “Jesus is the Messiah, the glory of God the Father, and he is coming back to judge the living and the dead.” It is true—you can count on it. It was probable in Peter’s day that some began to doubt the divinity of Jesus, to question the resurrection, and to consider Jesus’ calling to be just another prophet telling people to follow the teachings of God. The story of Jesus is a fable. Peter says, that is not true – you know it. Why? Because you have heard the testimony from me and the other apostles. We have seen Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. We have heard God himself say that this is his beloved son in whom he is pleased. We are eye and ear witnesses. 

Friday Focus – July 7, 2017

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Welcome to NFC’s new MailChimp newsletter! This is our introductory issue. Seven hundred or so issues (14 years) of Your NFC have been archived right behind five years of NFC Monthly, and for ten years prior to that we published a print newsletter called The Focus. Yes, this newly minted newsletter carries with it a bit of NFC’s 140-year history in its title. God has faithfully led us through a low point in that history. A vibrant community of believers has been torn asunder, indelibly marked on the hearts of those who called NFC their church home for a few or for many years. For this we continue to grieve together.

Now, as some choose to leave—either to find a different place of community or to join with others to form a new work—many remain, possibly more than we had anticipated earlier this year. So we begin the rebuilding process with those committed to our connection to Northwest Yearly Meeting and its Faith and Practice. We embrace the truth that everyone is welcome to worship in our community. Differing views on human sexuality divided us, but those who remain at Newberg Friends will continue the work of Jesus—boldly, simply, and together.

Friday Focus editor, Sherry Macy

Your NFC – June 30, 2017

Click HERE to read the entire June 30, 2017 issue.

This is our final edition of Your NFC, as changes happen at NFC. David Thomas agreed to share some thoughts he has had as we all wade through the hard waters of separation.

by David Thomas

My dear NFC friends, this is a sad time as we break apart, with some people forming the emerging church, some staying, some choosing to move on to other churches, and some not sure what they will do. Debby and I joined NFC this past year because of all the wonderful people and relationships that have made up this congregation. It is sad to see these relationships strained and in some cases broken. For most this has been a heart-wrenching experience. So how do we go forward from here? How do we deal with our loss and with these changing relationships?

Back in Rwanda we went through some difficult and stressful church conflicts. During those days I was continually placing myself and all the turmoil we were experiencing on the altar. One leader accused us of being terrible missionaries, of destroying the church, even though we were trying to follow God’s leading to the best of our ability. It hurt deeply, and all I could do was to go back to the cross and release all of these things to Jesus.

At times I was really frustrated by someone, but I came to realize that as I prayed for them it was not my place to accuse them before God; that is Satan’s role. Instead, God asked me to forgive and bless them! This was hard, but Jesus enabled me to do this. This process of continually forgiving and blessing softened our hearts. In this process, God asked us to give some money toward this leader’s education. At first we did not want to do this, but God used our generosity to change our own hearts, allowing us to grow in love for this person. In time his attitudes toward us changed, and we were reconciled. Before we left Rwanda he told us how much he appreciated our persevering through the really hard time of influencing the church out of a culture of dependency. He is now one of our key ministry partners on the Rwandan Discipling for Development team.

I think the only way to get through a major conflict like this is to bring ourselves and the whole situation to the cross of Jesus. I find the picture of bringing our burdens and laying them down at the foot of the cross very freeing. It’s at the cross where we lay down our pain. Jesus’ suffering covers this and he can bring healing to our areas of brokenness. At the cross we can lay down our anger, our confusion, our bitterness, our feelings of ‘getting back at someone who hurt us.’ We bring the conflicts and people we are in disagreement with.

Along with the image of laying down our burdens at the foot of the cross of Jesus, the concept of dying to ourselves is also needed. Jesus admonishes us in Matthew 16:24 NLT, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Paul asserts in Galatians 2:20 NIV, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…”

Another symbol of dying to ourselves is the sacrificial altar. Paul tells us to “offer yourselves as a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1 NIV). I choose to get up on the altar, laying down my pride, my doubts, my fears, my rights, my bitterness, my need to be in control….

Through the cross we come to know what love looks like. God’s love for us is expressed through the cross, through Jesus dying for us, and we are enabled to love each other through the cross. It is difficult to love someone who has hurt us, but as we lay down our pain and hurt we are empowered to love the person who has hurt us.

From whichever side of this conflict you find yourself, know that you have been a part of something very special at NFC. As we all move forward, maybe this advice can be helpful.

Some Useful Advice:

• Assume we will get hurt in this conflict and split, and choose ahead of time to forgive.
• Bring to the cross of Jesus all our burdens and lay them down: burdens of pain, brokenness, sadness, fear, uncertainty…
• Take up our cross and die to ourselves daily. Choose to be a living sacrifice and die to our pride, our rights, our doubt, our fear, our control…
• Do not allow anything to come between Christ and ourselves! Be persistent and keep laying down our “stuff.”
• Forgive and bless those on the other side who we disagree with, especially those who make us angry. For difficult relationships, ask God for a tangible way to bless the other person.
• Do not allow a root of bitterness to grow. Do not give the devil a foothold! Deal with your anger right away, laying it before Jesus.
• Remember that our conflict is not with people but with the spirits of evil influencing the world around us. (Ephesians 6:10)
• Remember the bigger picture that God is good and is in control. Romans 8:28 in The Voice, says, “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

May God bless each one of us as we choose to stay open and pliable in God’s hands.

Click HERE to read the entire June 30, 2017 issue.

Your NFC – June 16, 2017

Click HERE to read the entire June 16, 2017 issue.

by Rick Muthiah

I’m often reminded of the frailty and brokenness of our world, a reality brought home by news near and far. A college or high school student takes his own life; bombings in Afghanistan, London, and Iraq kill 80, 7, and 40 people; a colleague is killed when a car rams his stopped motorcycle; more than 65 million refugees and internally displaced people are in search of a stable life; actions by our nation’s political leaders contribute to an ongoing cycle of cynicism.

We are also experiencing brokenness and pain within our church body as we have seen fractures and factions develop over the past months. Like many of you, I’ve been deeply grieved, troubled by the unresolvable differences within our church body. Tension, turmoil, conflict, anger, misunderstanding, hurt, judgment – and more – have been realities for folks across the spectrum on issues of human sexuality and the yearly meeting decision process. And sadness. That seems to be my core response: sadness, casting a shadow over the rest of life, a cloud I haven’t been able to shake for months. And yet…

Christ is Light, in Him there is no darkness,
Come draw in and He will give you Light.

These words are from a song we sang at the Taizé service in early May. They reminded me that even in times of darkness, the Light of Christ prevails. This song and others sparked hope in me.

Sing out my soul.
Sing out and glorify the Lord who sets us free.
Sing out my soul.
Sing out and glorify the Lord God!

The words in themselves are certainly meaningful, but I wish you could hear the tunes and sing the words, repeating songs or phrases numerous times, soaking in the power of truth as we worship our Lord and God.

Gloria, Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, Gloria, alleluia, alleluia!

I left the Taizé service with hope. Hope that the God I claim to follow is larger than church divisions – difficult as the rending of community is – and that God will continue to work in and through those who are faithfully following Jesus, even though they might be moving in different directions on some issues. Hope that God is at work beyond Newberg Friends, and that our travails will not derail God’s activity in the world. I need frequent reminders of hope, of Christ as Light of the World, because I remain saddened by so much that I see, near and far. And in the near future, I will no longer be a member of the gathered faith community that has been so important to me over the past dozen years or so.

Come and fill our hearts with Your peace,
You alone O Lord, are holy.
Come and fill our hearts with Your peace, alleluia.

I’m hopeful I’ll remain in community with many of you – the community of believers, the community of Newberg, perhaps even community through regular interaction with some of you. At the same time I remain sad that the broad umbrella of Newberg Friends Church, a place held together for so long with members who held a spectrum of theological, social, and political views and yet remained orthodox on central tenets of historic Christian faith – I’ll remain sad that that Newberg Friends will no longer exist as the body splits, fractures, and splinters.

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful,
in the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God, do not be afraid;
lift up your voices the Lord is near.

Thank you for shaping me, being home for my family, and enabling us to participate in the life and ministry of Newberg Friends. God has been gracious. And now this chapter is closed.

Peace [Love…Light…Christ] before us,
Peace behind us,
Peace under our feet;
Peace within us, Peace over us
let all around us be Peace.

Another song has been on my mind for the past few months and has surprised me by showing up unexpectedly in the past few weeks. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” May we each be drawn to the Light, be filled with the Light, and shine the Light of Christ as we encounter darkness and chaos in our community and our world.

Click HERE to read the entire June 16, 2017 issue.