What Is a Disciple?

“The “show business,” which is so incorporated into our view of Christian work today, has caused us to drift far from Our Lord’s conception of discipleship. It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we do not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in five minutes.”  (OCC)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24)

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Crystal Janson, our Bible Instructor, is going full speed in her responsibilities. She has already engaged many of our church members into starting Bible studies with the people living in our local communities. This week she shared a story with me which I believe may encourage you to join our Evangelism ministry team. Here it is:

“I have a new prayer request. It is for a lady named Terri Moore. Jeanne Klinner and I went to her house last week and she told us she was Baptist and she wasn’t interested and she did not believe what Seventh-day Adventists believe, I was very pleasant with her, and gave her a book called “Four Winds” by Kenneth Cox, and I put my phone number in that book and said if she ever needed something or changed her mind to give me a call. She called me yesterday and said that she was very moved by my kindness, and Jesus told her that she needed to call me back and that I had something that she needed to hear, so Jeannie and I are going on Monday at 4 PM to start the first lesson with her.
Thanks, Crystal Jenson.”

This is not all…here is what Crystal shared with me a couple of days ago:

“… the next part of that story happened last night, Jeanie and I  went to Terri’s house last night and Terri was so open and friendly and genuine, we had a wonderful time together and she said that God had also reminded her that she had been asking Him for Christian friends, and He said to her “Well, I sent 2 to your door and you sent them away.” and then she said “I’m so glad you guys came back, see you next week!”

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I was honored to speak for the OAKS chapel this morning. We have a great school. Here is a couple of photos from this morning.

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Next weekend, February 11, we will have a guest speaker and our emphasis will be on Friendship Evangelism. There will be an afternoon seminar after the church potluck that Sabbath. Please note that there is NO POTLUCK tomorrow, February 4.

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Happy Sabbath,

pastor Peter

The Lord is My Rock

When you are tempted to give up, remember the words of the Psalmist: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;” (Ps 18:2). Everything is fragile in this world. Empires fall apart, borders move, constitutions are amended, but God remains our only constant. Illness takes away our joy, divorce turns our life upside down, betrayal by friends drags us into the abyss of dispare, but God is still with us as our only solid Rock. See Him today to not feel the emptiness tomorrow.

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Barbara Weimer sent me a brief update on the new class she started in January:

“The Group Strength Training Class is having fun and getting strong at the same time, building friendships and muscles. Already some members have reported greater mobility. Everyone’s at a different place in their exercise journey and yet somehow it all works as we “workout” together.  Join us, there is room for you!”

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Our Pathfinder Club started 2023 with a backpacking trip. Here are a few photos from that trip:

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Adventurer Club will be participating in our worship services this Sabbath. It is always great to see our children up front in church. I am looking forward to worship with the Adventurers tomorrow.

Emmanuel Quartet will be with us this Sabbath. They will sing during the worship services and will present a concert at 5 PM. Invite your friends. Their voices and their music is always inspiring and encouraging.

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Happy Sabbath, my friends.

Pastor Peter

Come, see a Man …

A few years ago I re-read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. When I finished reading my mind couldn’t think about anything but the spiritual battles of the main character, Raskolnikov. I started calling and messaging all of my family members and friends encouraging them to read this book. I didn’t care that I sounded a bit annoying … I just wanted them to read it. That’s the kind of passion that takes over the head and the heart of a Christian. When we find Jesus in the true light of the Gospel we cannot keep it to ourselves. We want everyone around us to find the same meaning in life as we did. Like the woman at the well we run to our neighbors and say:  “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.” The response in her community was fascinating. John says, “Then they went out of the city and came to Him.”

This Sabbath we will spend the whole day learning how to lead others to Jesus. Pastor Russ Jenson will preach two different sermons for our two worship services. Everyone is invited to stay for the potluck after the second service. After the potluck Chrystal and Russ Jenson will teach us the secrets of soul-winning for Jesus.

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See you tomorrow.

Pastor Peter

God’s Law is My Guide

As we are starting a New Year let us remember the promise of the Lord: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8. There are many influential people in this world who claim they know where to lead us in 2023. They may be popular, experienced, convincing, but in the end they are still human. They make mistakes and change their agendas. There is only one sure guide that remains unchanged over the course of history, it is God’s Law given for our safe passage through the twisted labyrinth of this complex world.

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Congratulations to Andre Delgado, Elizabeth Zerne, & Emily Reynolds. They got baptized on December 31. I am sure there was a great celebration in heaven. There was definitely joy in our church.

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Seventeen volunteers came to the Community Kitchen downtown Chattanooga to feed the homeless on December 31. This is a powerful testimony to the priorities in the ministry of our church. We are here to serve! Thank you, everyone. I am sure it was a blessing to about 150 people who needed a hot breakfast on the last day of 2022. Thank you, Natalia Stillman, for the photos.

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We are just one week away from a major Evangelism training event. Next Sabbath, January 14, you are all invited to stay for the afternoon seminar which will be presented by Russ and Crystal Jenson. There will be a Fellowship meal after the second service before the seminar. Please plan to attend. It would be really helpful if you could bring your favorite dish.

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Our Cornerstone Building Fund is growing. We are very close to the 2 million mark. Wholehearted Thank You to all who contributed to this fund during our Christmas season. January gives us a fresh start in achieving the 2.2 mln goal.

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Please pray for the Reynolds family. Connie’s mother, Nellie, passed this morning in California. Connie and Edwin are driving to CA.

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pastor Peter

2023 Prayer List.

Praying for 2023. What is your prayer list for 2023? Here are a few items from my list:

To live in the life-changing presence of God every moment of the New Year.

To show greater love to every human being.

To find more opportunities to serve people in our community, not just my family and friends.

To see our church expansion start in 2023.

To see friendship grow among our church members.

To see the war in Ukraine come to an end.

These are just a few. I hope you’ve already created your 2023 prayer list.

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Mike Haughee sent me a few photos from our December 24 worship services. It was a great Sabbath. The church choir uplifted our spirit. The orchestra created a festive atmosphere. Tommy Fernandez’ baptism brought joy into our hearts. We welcomed a new family (Barbara Suddarth and David Reile) into our church. Cory’s and Amy’s children story made us all laugh… It was a good Sabbath morning.

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Here is a sweet experience from one of our Sabbath school classes:

“The Discipleship Sabbath School Class meets in the 7th grade classroom. Our Sabbath School class has been working together with Aimee, the 7th grade teacher, to mentor the 7th grade class students. There are twenty students in the 7th grade, and twenty of our class members have partnered with a student. During this school year these partners have been exchanging notes and prayers. On Thursday, December 22, the last day of school before the Christmas break, thirteen of our Sabbath School members got together with the 7th graders and had a grand time! A few of our Sabbath School class members had baked several dozen cookies, ready for decorating. We brought the decorating supplies and had a cookie decorating party. Everybody had a fine time getting to know our partners better, and watching them be creative with frosting, sprinkles    and other cookie decorating things. The Discipleship class members provided a devotional book as a gift for each of the 7th grade students.

If you talk with Aimee, I believe that she will tell you that her students enjoyed the time together with our class, and do appreciate knowing that some of us “older folks” do take the time to listen to them, and care about each one of them. We will be planning more get-togethers for the coming Spring.” – Mike Harrell.

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Our Year End Agape Feast is tonight, Friday, December 30, at 6 PM. This spiritual celebration is planned for all ages. Have you made plans to join our church communion service tonight? This will be a great way for our church to end 2022 in spiritual unity and Christian love.

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The Samaritan Center is in desperate need of volunteers this Sabbath, December 31, to move the donated goods into the warehouse. If the Holy Spirit impresses you to celebrate New Year’s Eve by donating an hour of your time to the Samaritan Center, then come to the loading dock at about 6:10 PM.

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Please pray for our dedicated volunteers who will be preparing breakfast this Sabbath morning for hundreds of homeless people in downtown Chattanooga. They will start cooking food before 6 AM. What a perfect way to demonstrate our calling to be the caring hands of Christ in this world.

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See you tonight. Happy New Year!

Pastor Peter

For Unto Us a Child is Born

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Jesus came into this world to overcome the darkness of our rebellion against the Creator. His Christmas light is still shining bright and teaching us to forgive like He forgave us; to love like He loved the poor, the rejected, the different ones…; to show grace against the logic of fairness and justice. Jesus was praying for those who turned away from Him, made fun of Him, were hitting Him and spitting at Him… He still loved them. Let this spirit of Christ shine through us as bright Christmas lights.

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OAKS Hand Bells and OAKS Band turned both worship services on December 17 into a beautiful celebration of Jesus, who came into this world to be our loving Savior. Aaron Hall shared with me many great photos. Below are just a few of them:

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Two weeks ago a group of our church members prepared and served breakfast to about 150 homeless people in downtown Chattanooga. They started food preparation at about 6 AM. At 7 AM they were already serving hot breakfast to a long line of precious men and women. I was very impressed with the great team spirit among our volunteers. Thank you, Richard Johnson for your leadership in the Community outreach ministry. Richard feels that we can do more for these people in need. Here is his appeal: “We will be collecting blankets and toiletries for the homeless over the next week. If you would like to donate to this cause, please bring your items by the church office Mon, Tues, or Thurs between 9 and 12 pm. There will also be a table set up in the lobby if you would like to place your items there. For additional details, please contact Richard Johnson at (423)505-5746.”

Our church will be serving breakfast again next Saturday, December 31. If you are interested in joining this ministry talk to Richard Johnson.

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It was nice to see many of you at our Christmas social last Saturday night. Great job, Avril Williams and your team! There was an impressive variety of soups and desserts. Greg Leavitt, thank you for engaging children and not-so-much children in various games. In general we all had a great time.

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Through the Special Christmas offerings this year we are contributing to the Cornerstone Building Fund. By God’s grace we are at 1.9 million. We are praying for the 2.2 million mark.

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This Sabbath “His Orchestra” will be playing for both services. At 11 AM I invite all Sabbath school classes to come to the Sanctuary and to celebrate Tommy Fernandez’s baptism.

Merry Christmas.

pastor Peter

God With Us.

This is the essence of Christmas. God came into this world to be with us. We may feel broken, sinful, rebellious … it doesn’t matter. God chose to be with us. He came to be with us not just for a day or two, not just during the Christmas season, but every day of our life. Do you have a place for God in your busy schedule?

“…she [Mary] gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

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Jen Dempsey shared me me these several photos from their Women’s class Christmas party event. What a great way to support each other.

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From Summer Bradford: ” Here are a couple pictures from our gift basket making last Sunday as well. We were able to put together 20 Christmas baskets and deliver them to homebound church members. Staci Rivera gave us some homemade ornaments from the adventurer club to add as well. It was a real blessing :)I believe Lucas and his team were also able to deliver baskets to others on Saturday eve while caroling. It was a “double blessing” weekend.”

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This morning I received a huge blessing attending OAKS Christmas program. Our teachers and students put together a fantastic play. The Fellowship Hall was packed at 8:30 AM. This is only one of several of the school programs. For lack of space they have to do several presentations to allow as many people to attend as possible. Here is a great reason to have our new sanctuary built ASAP.

This of course reminds us all about the Special Christmas offering designated for the Cornerstone Fund. Please pick up one of the red envelopes in the lobby. We can all be a part of this wonderful miracle of God’s ministry in our community.

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Prayers needed for Julia Easter, Luz Vasquez, and a young mother from our church having important health tests this morning…

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This Sabbath morning both services will take place in the Fellowship Hall. OAKS bells will play for the 9 AM service and Brass will play for the 11:30 AM service. I am looking forward to worshiping with y’all 🙂 tomorrow. Actually, we have a full day this Sabbath with a 6 PM business meeting and 7 PM Christmas social.

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Please beware of scam messages by text or email. These scammers send messages under my name asking for gift cards … Do not reply to these messages. Do not send them anything. These messages are not being sent from my number. My ONLY number is 678-571-1743. Also, if you receive a suspicious email having my name as the sender please call me first. Finally, one more time: YOUR PASTORS WILL NEVER CONTACT YOU WITH A REQUEST TO PURCHASE GIFT CARDS OR TO SEND MONEY TO SOMEONE. NEVER.

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Be blessed 🙂 Hugs,

pastor Peter

Seeking Jesus

What are you seeking? Justice? Peace? Good health? All these are important. However, Jesus teaches us first to find Him. With Jesus comes everything else. “… seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” Matthew 6:33. There is no justice without the “God of Justice” (Isaiah 30:18); no peace without the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); no health without “the LORD, who heals you” (Ex. 15:26); no abundant life without the “Father who … gives what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). Seek Jesus as you are preparing to celebrate His birth.

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About 40 ladies joined in the Widow’s Ministry event. A special production by the kindergarten and 5th grade class from OAKS was very much appreciated by all. A special thank you to all those ladies who helped prepare this wonderful lunch and program. If you are interested in participating in these events in the future please talk to Summer Bradford.

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Willis Adams was very excited about 25 people showing up for the Young at Heart lunch last Wednesday. What a great way to connect and celebrate our friendship and spiritual unity. Thank you, Willis, for your leadership in this ministry.

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Southern University student, John Moldovan, who served as our extern for the last two years is graduating in about a week. Congratulations, John. John has been hired by the Georgia Cumberland Conference and effective January 1, 2023 will be starting his assignment as an Associate Pastor at the Atlanta North church. We’ll miss John and his wife Caroline.

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CAROLING THIS SABBATH, December 10, 5:45pm. We will be meeting in the fellowship hall this evening at 5:45 pm and leaving at 6:00 pm. We will have a van with room for 12 church members. Others may follow in their cars or make a second caroling group to visit additional homes. All are welcome to attend. Please contact Lucas Patterson at (423)582-1678 with any questions.

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The Church business meeting is called for December 17 at 5:30 PM. There will be only one item on the agenda.

Our church board diligently explored the option of acquiring a lot adjacent to our church property. The lot for sale is located on Ooltewah-Georgetown Rd. There is a rental house on the property. If we buy that lot, we get direct access to the church and school parking lot from Ooltewah-Georgetown Rd. Our church would be able to install a nice LED sign and proper lighting right on Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.  

Currently our property is accessible only through Amos Rd. All lots on Amos Rd have been purchased by an apartment complex business. They plan to build at least 100 units which will make Amos Rd even busier than it currently is. 

At the last meeting the Church Board unanimously voted on a recommendation to purchase the lot. The asking price for the lot is $325K. We hope the price may be lowered after a professional and independent appraisal.

Please pray for guidance to be given to our church family during the business meeting next Sabbath evening.

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See you tomorrow.

Hugs,

Peter

Just Because of Love

Everything was unfair about the birth of Jesus in the world two thousand years ago. No royal welcome. No fireworks on central squares of Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, He didn’t have to come. This world didn’t deserve Him. They were evil. They were fighting. They forgot the One who created this world and gave them life itself. Still, Christ chose to come to them. He volunteered to experience pain, humiliation, and death just because He loved them and us living in the 21st century. There is still plenty of unfairness in our world. Are we showing the same spirit of grace as Christ extended to us? Let this be our daily desire as we are preparing to celebrate Christmas in three weeks.

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Wouldn’t it be great to have the new church groundbreaking ceremony in 2023? We are getting really close to the critical amount needed to start the project. The church agreed to dedicate our Special Christmas offering to the Cornerstone Building Fund. We are praying about reaching 2.2 million by December 31. One person will not be able to contribute that much, but if we all bring our part we’ll see great things happening with our church ministry expansion. I invite you to become coworkers with Christ in serving to the growing needs of this community.

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Live to Shine

The only way to fight the darkness is to turn the light on. There is plenty of darkness in this world. Wars, political turmoil, illness… We often get sucked into these black holes. All we see and talk about is darkness. As Christians we can fight the darkness by turning the lights on. It can be the light of kindness or forgiveness; the light of caring words or a simple smile. The darkness will retreat. Turn on your light today.

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Galena and I are grateful to God for bringing us safely home just in time for the Thanksgiving celebration. We didn’t have our family with us yesterday. They all went to spend the day with their in-laws or other members of the extended family. We didn’t mind because we’ll get a special treat of having them at our place for Christmas. Honestly, the two of us needed this one quiet day. Just the two of us. After our trip to Uzbekistan, this was the first day when we could slow down and count our blessings. We talked about the blessing of our church family. We love each one of you and are grateful for your loving support. We did not deserve it and consider it a huge blessing. We are thankful to our church elders for their active ministry. We sincerely appreciate our deaconesses and deacons. They give so much of their time to the ministry of our church! Church departments and ministry leaders keep our church vibrant and our members active in action and in spirit. All we can say is Thank You, Jesus, for blessing us with this wonderful church.

This Sabbath morning Brass for Worship will uplift our spirit during both services. Those of you who come for the first service will also hear Jaime Jorge play the violin right at 9 am in the Sanctuary. I am looking forward to worshiping with you tomorrow.

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Our trip to Uzbekistan was not easy. It takes at least 48 hours to get to your destination each way. Time change, local food options, and lack of sleep weakened the body but our spirit was high. We met very kind and hospitable Seventh Day Adventists who worship the Lord in the predominantly Muslim country. They were faithfully attending our nightly meetings. I was very glad that there were several non-Adventists who joined the meetings. I plan to share more this Sabbath during the worship service, but below are a few photos from the meetings. Please continue to pray for the pastors who serve the Lord in that part of the world. There are many challenges they are facing daily.

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Thanksgiving Simulation is one of the best annual events at OAKS. I received hundreds of awesome photos. I wish I could share all of them, but below are at least a few. What a great program for our children!

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This will be the last Sabbath of the month. Let us faithfully and generously support our local church budget. It needs some boosting.

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Happy Sabbath!

pastor Peter