Month: June 2017

Baptism Recap by Guest Blogger Aaron Kunce

June in Pennsylvania is such a glorious month.

The weather is usually on the sunny side, and the skies are blue in June. At least this is the way I recall most Junes. A light-filled and beautiful season, after a darker, colder winter, and soggy springtime. And this past Sunday was one of those glorious, special June days. It was a perfect day for a Living Word outdoor celebration of baptism.

Twenty-five people got in the water to make this beautiful, public profession of their faith by being baptized. And well over a hundred people had come along to join in the celebration. Here’s a little re-cap of the celebration.

This was the last outdoor baptism that would be held at the home and poolside of Barry and Lola Bloss. Barry and Lola are a part of the Living Word family and have blessed our church for more than a decade and a half by offering their pool and home for our outdoor baptisms. Their house has been on the market, and now has been purchased, so Sunday’s baptism marks the end of an era. Thank you, Barry and Lola for modeling hospitality and generosity over the years to your …

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I Can’t Forgive Myself

That’s not a problem! I’ll tell you why below.

I cannot even remember how many times I have had a conversation with someone about their past failures and sins and they say, “I can’t forgive myself.” I didn’t always know how to answer that. Now I do know SPECIFICALLY what to say.

Before I tell you what I now say to people who “can’t forgive themselves,” be sure to click on this link to the Christian humor website, The Babylon Bee, and see their satirical answer to this. I Know God Forgives Me, But…

That’s not a bad response. In fact, I like it quite a bit.

Now I will add mine.

It is not a problem that you can’t forgive yourself because the Bible doesn’t tell you to forgive yourself. That’s not your job. That’s not your responsibility. Somewhere along the line, the devil has tricked us into thinking it is important for us to forgive ourselves. That just puts the focus RIGHT BACK ON ME! And isn’t that the problem in the first place?!?

In fact…give me a little grace and space to say this…

It is at least a little self-righteous to think that you are the …

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Journal Your Journey

I will tell you a secret. I was not very good at it. In fact, I was quite bad.

About journaling.

I began journaling in 1999. I did it because I was taking a class for my doctoral studies on spiritual formation. One of our assignments was to journal our spiritual journey over a period of three months.

But I didn’t know how to journal. I didn’t know how to write about my spiritual journey. I was also in a pretty dark place, discouraged about my ministry, feeling disconnected from God, and who wants to look inside to see all that junk? So I just could not do the assignment. Still, the assignment was due.

So I faked it. I just sat down one day and tried to write about 20 reflections (three per week) and post-date them. I gave a half-hearted try at making them reasonably real.

Of course my teacher saw through that right away. He also helped me learn how to reflect and write about my experiences of God, my personal encounters of the beautiful truth of Scripture, my prayer life, and much more.

I have been using the spiritual discipline of journaling now for almost two …

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The Good News of God’s Beautiful Kingdom

Here is a powerful thought from Michael Goheen.* I broke it into smaller paragraphs for easier reading.

Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of God. The kingdom can be characterized as the inbreaking of God’s dynamic power to defeat all that stands against his rule, and as the arrival of the comprehensive salvation of the world.

The announcement calls for a response of radical allegiance.

For those who respond in faith and repentance, the good news promises the gift of renewal: a restored relationship with the Father, forgiveness, the Spirit, a new heart that will renew their whole lives.

As they believe and follow Jesus, the promise is that they will participate in the renewal of the whole creation.

Living Word is one of those “outposts” where the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world with love, grace, truth, and power.

God is renewing us and there is more renewal to come.

This July, the Sunday messages will focus on the theme of renewal. We will dive into different times of renewal in the Old Testament and discover the lessons to be gained on renewing our lives, our church, and our communities.

For the church to be the …

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Ezekiel 36: The Mission of God Explained (Then and Now)

 

My Monday morning devotional time had me in Ezekiel 36. Wow! What a chapter. I encourage you to read it TODAY.

The Mountains of Israel is a poetic way of referring to the people of God who are embodied in the land of Israel.

The people of God were to be the missional people of God, or the people of God on a mission. They failed in this. They became just like all the other nations who did not worship the One True God, so they suffered greatly. They were carried away into captivity.

By the time you get to verse 8, the promise of God to restore his people to their land, their true faith, their holy way of living, their mandate for justice and compassion, and their mission to be a light to the nation begins. And it swells and rises in power.

In verse 11 it soars to new heights and then just stays there.

Notice all the actions God will take–verb after verb of Divine Action on behalf of the people.

Verses 22 and 32 highlight the motivation for God taking such powerful action.

And scattered throughout is the call to hear, to listen, to …

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A Father’s Day Follow Up

Mentors. Role models. Stories. Journeys. Biblical wisdom. A community of friends. The empowering presence of Jesus Christ.

All of this is what men* need if they are to learn how to use the STRENGTH God has given to them in ways that are full of love and grace, with the purpose of helping their families flourish.

Living Word is committed to helping men become all God wants them to be. We have men’s groups that meet regularly. Contact Ned Keene at nkeene@lwccyork.com for more information on men’s groups that are available.

One of the things for which I am most grateful is the LARGE number of men who are really pressing on in their Christian faith. They want to know and follow Christ. They want to love and worship God. They want to make a real difference. You heard a few of their stories and insights this past Sunday through the Father’s Day video. There was so much contained in that video that I wanted to share it with you again.

Thanks to Rick, Chris, Eric, Matt, Shawn, and Mark for telling us their stories and sharing their hearts.

Musings of a Father

Today God will give you a fresh …

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What Sears and the Church Have in Common

There are five or six blogs that I consistently read. There are another half dozen that I skim and peruse occasionally. One of the regulars is written by James Emery White, lead pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church, a megachurch in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Here is a link to one of his recent posts: Sears and the Church. Because I am thinking a lot about church and culture, our post-Christian culture, and how Christianity is probably in for some rough times in the next few decades, you will see why I liked this post.

As we face this future, we need creative leadership; faithful women and men of prayer; a robust Christian worldview and mindset; a missional engagement with our culture that shows the beauty and glory of Christ, without compromising or watering down who Jesus is; and faith, hope, and love.

In all three, I am sincerely yours,
Pastor Brian

 

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Some Reflections on Summertime and the Ministry

A few weeks ago a friend commented, “I am sure you are looking forward to summer, with things slowing down for you!” He said that knowing how crazy full life was for me this spring. Well, I was and am looking forward to this summer, but things don’t slow down any more in the summer. It’s been this way for a long time.

I remember talking with Pastor Steve about this 5 or 6 years ago. Life had changed at Living Word. Rhythms had changed. There are some ministries that slow down over the summer. There are some mid-size communities that take a break, as do many small groups.

But the work that he and I (as well as many others) do all year long doesn’t really change much in the summer. In fact, there are two things that make it pretty busy. First, staff are on vacation, which is nice for them, but then those who are in the office are picking up some more workload. Of course, that is just the nature of work everywhere. A second reason is that we are already doing our planning for the fall. This summer we will work out the entire fall …

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Alive in Worship

 

Over the past few months we have been talking a lot about flourishing, this idea that we were made to thrive, to experience and enjoy life in ever-increasing abundance and fruitfulness (John 10:10). We who were once dead in our sins – separated from the life of God – are made fully alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Christ’s life is in us – new life, eternal life, Spirit-empowered life. And God’s desire is that we remain connected to the life of his Son so we bring him much glory and experience much joy.

The life of Christ is meant to be experienced or, dare I say, “felt.” We should desire to have regular experiences where we are especially aware of Christ’s presence as we meditate on his Word, talk with him in prayer, and meet with his people for worship and fellowship. To borrow the words of the psalmist, we are invited to taste and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8). This has been a favorite verse of mine over the years as a worship leader, probably because it appeals to my core need to know and sense God’s life in all its fullness.

As a worship leader …

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The Importance of Friendship

Today we have a special guest blogger, Pastor Aaron Kunce.

I believe we are living in a culture where friendship is desperately undervalued. I’d even venture to say that this is true in the church as well.

People often become peripheral. Our culture has become so individualistic, and although it is important to talk about our personal relationship with Jesus, we often miss other people. And very often, we miss the importance of creating and sustaining friendships.

I don’t think we’ve ever been in a place where people are as profoundly lonely as they are today. One of my favorite theologians, Stanley Hauerwas, once described how lonely we are using the words from a William James poem: “Our private self is like a bubble of foam on a stormy sea…”

And it is very true that many of us feel like we are floating along in the dark—isolated and unknown.

There’s a beautiful story in scripture in 1 Samuel 18 about a close, loving friendship. Read the first few verses of the chapter to get a feel for the closeness of this friendship. David could’ve been such a threat to Jonathan (and vice versa), but there was no sense of …

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