Month: January 2018

A Community of Conversation

I love conversations.

I love them so much that I wrote a workbook on Spiritual Formation and gave it the simple title Conversations.

I strike up conversations with total strangers.

I have lingering conversations with my good friends.

I have delightful conversations with my small group.

I have mentoring conversations with leaders.

I have teaching conversations with groups ranging from 10 people to thousands of people.

I have micro-bursts of conversations with over 100 people every Sunday morning.

I have conversations with God (usually called prayer).

And I have conversations with myself (often called a disorder of some kind), but hopefully mine are simply the self-aware, meditations of my heart.

They are the stuff of relationships
and relationships are the stuff of life.

Here is a great thought I borrowed from John Howard Yoder and just touched up a bit.  It is one important way that I understand the church and what we do around here.

“The New Testament congregation has been described as a community of conversation guided by agents of direction (apostles, prophets), agents of memory (scribes, storytellers), agents of linguistic self-consciousness (teachers), and agents of order and due process (overseers, elders, shepherds, deacons).”

Conversations are

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Things I Have Learned About Following Jesus Through the Years || guest blog by Ned Keene

Just last year I celebrated walking with Jesus Christ for 30 years. It’s hard to believe a 20-year-old college sophomore, floundering in life and in school, realized the full weight of his decision to entrust his life to Jesus at a Christmas conference in Philadelphia. But here I am, reflecting on some observations I’ve noticed about my long stroll with the Savior.

Jesus is more gracious to me than I’ve often been to myself. As the years have gone by the sheer volume of undeserving forgiveness I’ve received from Jesus boggles my mind. Time and again I’ve confessed the same sin a multitude of times and received the same cleansing from him. I’ve wanted to just punish myself and imprison myself in the pit of my failures. Many times I’ve been ready to write myself off, but Jesus has instead offered me a moment for redemption.

As even I wearied of repeating the same cycle of confession and beginning again, his grace has been a steady anchor to remind me over and over that this grace is truly undeserving. It’s reinforced the truth that it is “God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). The depth of his grace …

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5 Things I Have Learned About Following Jesus Through the Years || guest blog by Connie Milchling

I could easily list 100+ things I have learned from Jesus through the years, but in the interest of time, let’s narrow this down to the top five as a countdown:

#5 – He appreciates my personality with a deep desire to shape my character to be more like his. Let’s face it, sometimes I am a quirky person (maybe you are, too?) Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus demonstrating incredible patience with various personalities while calling someone to a higher level of attitude and actions. At one point, when Peter hastily chops the ear off a soldier in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, knowing his impulsive nature, firmly states, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:50-51). I have sensed that tone or phrase from Jesus on occasion, too (and that’s a good thing!)

#4 – He gently invites me along on the journey. Matthew 11:29 reveals Jesus as gentle and humble in heart, the only two words he uses to describe himself. In verse 28 he invites me to come to him when I am weary, tired, or burdened and promises rest. But as a gentleman, I think Jesus waits for me to reciprocate the invitation by asking him into …

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Things I Have Learned About Following Jesus Through the Years by Gordon Carpenter

I love to travel.  I love to explore. If there is a longer, more scenic way to get to my destination, I will choose that way. I especially love traveling with my wife (although she doesn’t like all of my longer scenic routes). We’ve traveled to many parts of the world and we’ve especially enjoyed just walking around and seeing the countryside and meeting people.

Throughout the Scriptures, the metaphor used for living life with God is walking. In the Gospels, Jesus constantly uses the language of “come and follow me” or “walk with me.” Paul uses this language in his letters. He tells the Ephesians “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). He tells the Colossians, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him …” (Colossians 2:6). So, when I think about following Jesus I think about being on a journey with him.

I have been on this journey with Jesus for over 45 years and there are a few things I’ve learned. When Jesus came into my life, I had a drastic reorientation from my old life to a new life in Christ. It was very …

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4 Things I Have Learned About Following Jesus Through the Years by Chris Smith

This week we have a special mini-series of guest bloggers sharing lessons they have learned on their faith journey.
Today on the blog we welcome, Chris Smith, Pastor of Worship sharing 4 things he has learned on his journey of following Jesus.

We hope you will be inspired from this week’s series of blogs.

  1. Jesus is the Source of Life and the Catalyst for Praise
    I have been following Jesus for most of my life and I find him to be the most fascinating, compelling, and awe-inspiring person one could ever know. As a worship pastor, I find myself constantly responding to Jesus through praise and adoration, wonder and awe, and yes, at times, holy fear and trembling. In worshiping Christ through song I am especially aware of his love, goodness, and mercy and am often moved to tears.I also identify with the disciples on the boat who had witnessed Jesus calm the storm and both trembled and marveled at his power and authority (Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41). I have learned that I need to be freshly connected to the life of Jesus, to be in awe of him, if I am to grow spiritually and be life-giving to those

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What the Bible Says and What the Bible Means

How are we to interpret the Bible?

For example: God is love. Short. Simple. Right to the point.

Well, except for a few things.

  • Who is this God who loves me?
  • What is love?
  • And, in the famous words of one of our presidents, “Define is.”

It needs to be interpreted? And one famous person a few years ago had such an interpretation that it caused an uproar in the North American church (which probably helped him sell even more books).

But let me move on to the Bigger Picture I am interested in.

ONE: Even when we agree on what the Bible says (which is actually fairly easy to do), we have lots of differences on what we think the Bible means when it says those things.

TWO: What does the Bible mean when it talks about predestination, the Trinity, the rapture, heaven, hell, sin, grace, prayer, and so on? These are questions of interpretation about particular issues.

THREE: What conclusions do we come to when we ask what is the meaning of God’s love and God’s holiness? In other words, how do we hold them together? What is the meaning of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will? How …

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The Words About THE WORD (More Bible Geekology)

As you read the Bible and listen to messages at Living Word, you will hear a number of words and phrases used to describe the Bible. Here are some of those words and phrases defined.

The Bible comes from the Greek word biblios, which means book. The Bible is one big book that has 66 books in it. Often, you will see the adjective Sacred or Holy in front of the word Bible, as in The Holy Bible or The Holy Book.

Scrolls (see Luke 4:20) were the written documents in use before books were created in the modern format we see today. Some of these scrolls were huge, depending on how much scripture they contained.

Scripture (see Luke 4:21) is the Greek word graphe, or writings. In Deuteronomy 18:18-19, an instruction is given to the future kings of Israel. When a new person becomes king, they are to receive a copy of the Law and write a new copy on a scroll. This new copy will become the king’s personal property. The king will now have the writings of the Law as the guide to being the kind of king God wants. By the way, …

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Which Translation Do You Prefer? (A Bible Geek Gives You His Answer)

I get this question from time to time. On Sunday, I talked about three different translations as I began my message. Afterwards, a few people asked me for my recommendations, so I’m taking a few minutes to share my thoughts on which Bible translation I would recommend.

So, let me Bible Geek out on you for this post.

First, most of the Bible translations into contemporary English are quite good. Each translation is prepared by a team of scholar-experts in the languages and books of the Bible. These are the “heavy hitters” and they want to do a good job with an accurate translation. So, the differences in the English translations usually are about which English words best convey the Greek and Hebrew grammar and sentence structure.

Second, there are two big ideas in translations. There is the issue of accuracy to the original Greek and Hebrew texts and the issue of readability. So, there are two broad approaches.

There are very literal translations which seek to maintain rigorous accuracy to the original languages, even if that means awkward English. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is a very literal, word-for-word translation. I have a new copy of this translation, …

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This Week’s Reading (and Watching)

I am a lifelong learner. I enjoy reading. I enjoy reading good books that increase my knowledge, shape my thinking, and generate ideas that make a difference. I love ideation, but also activation. The most beautiful ideas are those ideas that I can translate into action for myself and for others.

So, here is what is currently on my reading table.

Christian Reflections by C.S. Lewis is a collection of essays that I have not read before. They are a bit more academic, if that word is not quite appropriate, just leaning toward intellectual concerns. And yet, even these essays are full of nuggets for all. How about this simple one: “Those who think God has spoken, will naturally listen to what He has to say…”

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson is one of the many biographies I am reading this year. The majority of biographies I am reading are presidential works, but I have many others on Einstein, da Vinci, Martin Luther, Van Gogh, J.I. Packer, and Kierkegaard. Einstein has provided me with endless quotes. I have wanted to read a substantial book on his entire life and this was my choice. (Note: The science in …

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Civility, Respect, and Dignity on the Internet

Every now and then I like to provide a resource from another blogger. James Emery White is the lead pastor of Mecklenberg Community Church.

White is an author of many good books. He is a gifted pastor of a very large church.

He is also a public intellectual for Christians who says substantial things, but who “hangs the fruit low to the ground” so everyone can benefit.

In his weekly post, White addresses a growing problem, and that is angry Christians who use the Internet and social media to display their anger against other Christians.

The Internet and the many medias it supports are tools. We can use them in good ways or wrong ways.

We can use them for dialogue, conversation, opinion sharing, idea launching, and raising concerns about things we think need to be addressed. But how we do that matters a very great deal.

White wisely guides us on this. Enjoy (well, benefit from) his thoughts on Spiritual Road Rage.

Pastor Brian

If you want a longer study of the problem of the loss of civility in our culture, read The Case for Civility by Os Guinness.

In this book (written 10 years ago), Guinness looks at …

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