This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

Since the darkest early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, prayer and scripture reading have become a lifeline for my mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

I am not exaggerating — I don’t think I would have survived our “journey” if the foundations of my life depended on my own personal strength.

Surprisingly, I have noticed two newly remarkable fruits sprouting from my regular appointments with God:

The fruit of overflowing joy and peace 

There is no magic here. God’s joy and peace don’t grant me a get-out-of-jail card from the harsh realities of this life. Rather, they enable me to stand and resiliently face whatever is coming my way. Believe me when I tell you, my life still has its share of pain and ups-and-downs.

During the last week of my recent vacation, we worshipped at the church of one of my clergy friends in Evanston. I found out during the sermon that this dear pastor’s cancer had returned with a vengeance. But, if you were at the service, listening to the pastor’s sermon, you would never have known the level of suffering that is present in his life. The pastor reminded us that, secure in the Lord, suffering and joy are not opposing realities.

The fruit of unceasing worship 

Spending unhurried time in God’s presence increases awareness of God’s presence with us. My understanding and experience of worship are now so much bigger than what I do on Sunday morning from  10 AM to 11:15 — and for this I am so thankful.

The mighty Mississippi River starts as a tiny outlet stream from Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota, runs through several states, and ends in the massive expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. In the same way, God’s presence in our lives — though often a trickle, drips of love and mercy — courses through every area of our lives and ends in the deep, unfathomable ocean of God’s love.

And that’s the goal. Right? That we would know the love of God and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17).

Could you survive on one meal per week? I don’t think so. Why do we think we can survive if Sunday is the only time we attend to God’s presence in our lives?

We are made for God. Our chief end and goal in life are to glorify God and enjoy him forever —and it starts with each moment, each breath, every minute of our lives. And the more time we enjoy God through prayer and hearing God’s voice, the river of God’s life becomes bigger and more expansive in our lived reality. I don’t ever want to go back to my tired utilitarian faith, where I only need God when facing a conundrum. Instead, I want friendship with God.

How about you? How are you attentive to the Spirit of God in your life?

This Sunday, we return to the words of two prophets — Isaiah and Jesus. They both talk about a fruitful life. Take a look at Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15:1-10 and notice the conditions that bring fruitfulness or deadness. As you prepare for worship on Sunday, spend a few minutes meditating on these words. Try to identify areas of fruitfulness and barrenness; try to determine if you are abiding or remaining in Christ.

Seeking to know Him,
Pastor Ray Hylton 

© 2021 First Presbyterian Church of Evanston

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