Month: March 2018

I Believe in Christ Crucified, Dead, and Buried!

In fact, this is what I FIRST believed in the fall of 1974. I sat in a lecture at Clarion State College. I was listening to Josh McDowell, traveling apologist for Cru.* (A much older Josh is pictured to the right.)

I was a skeptic. Not a hostile skeptic, but a jaded one. It is a little funny that at age 18, with almost no life experience, virtually no bad experiences, and having all the benefits of growing up white, middle class, and suburban, that I was jaded. But I was, and so were many of us.

I went to scoff and appear bored as I sat there with my friends. But the magnificent, holy, sovereign, life-altering God had other plans. I was his plan that evening. And as I would discover, so were another 5o or so listeners that evening.

For over an hour, Josh spoke in ways that were exciting, passionate, clever, humorous, thoughtful, historical, philosophical, and always back to the Bible.**

By the end of his presentation I was pretty sure that Jesus was God, that Jesus had died, and that Jesus rose from the dead.

Christ crucified for sins.
Christ dying, suffering, struggling, agonizing.
Christ …

Read More

Holy Week: A Slow, Arduous Discipleship Journey With Jesus | Guest Blog by Jay Baer

As I ponder the question, “What are some of my traditions and practices associated with Holy Week?” memories of my childhood and the church I grew up in come flooding in. It was a traditional Baptist church, so we held close to the church calendar, and that meant we were at church A LOT during Holy Week.

Here’s a brief summary of how my younger, more obnoxious self would summarize this week:

Palm Sunday: “Why am I being handed a leaf in the shape of a cross when I leave church?”

Maundy Thursday: “Why is it called ‘Monday’ Thursday … and why are we at church on a Thursday?!”

Good Friday: “Does this community Easter Pageant really need to take 3 hours?”

Easter Sunday: “Sunrise services are the worst and I’m allergic to all these flowers–but at least there are pancakes!”

Of course, these are gross oversimplifications. As I look back, I realize that while I had a basic understanding of what each of these events signified, I had very little appreciation for the narrative they created together and the greater picture of Jesus they painted.

The disciples themselves had a similar issue with understanding exactly what was happening …

Read More

What Holy Week Means for Me || guest blog by Brian Newman

Passover and Holy Week

Holy Week was totally foreign to me when I became a follower of Christ at 20 years of age. I had no idea of the importance of Jesus’ final week on earth.

Now I spend Holy Week considering each of Jesus’ days – where he went, who he interacted with, how he trusted his Father over circumstances, confusion, and fear that surrounded him.

Some years ago, Holy Week became much more personal for me when I began to integrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection with the final meal he shared with his disciples. We call it the Last Supper. When I was growing up my family called it the Passover Seder.

I have celebrated the Passover every year of my life. For the first 19 or 20 years, my Jewish family remembered the redemption of Israel when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. And we were admonished to “remember as if you personally were delivered from slavery.”

I always found that a bizarre statement. After all, I was not in slavery and, in fact, lived in an incredibly free country!

Over time some things clicked for me, especially in how Jesus relates to his ancient …

Read More

How I Observe Holy Week || guest blog by Gordon Carpenter

For those of you who are not familiar with the Church calendar, or the Church year, it is a centuries-old way that many Christians have used to order the 365-day year.  The early Christians believed that the rhythm of the year gave us a perfect opportunity to re-enact the story of our salvation. The Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus, and also the mission of the Church.  This has added a richness to my relationship with Christ, especially during Holy Week.

Over the last 5 weeks, I have been observing the season of Lent, which reminds me of my common mission to walk with Jesus toward death, but ultimately new life. We lose our life to find it anew. It has been a time of being with Jesus as he moves toward the cross. This year, I have been using the Gospel of Mark to do that. As I’ve traveled with Jesus, he has invited me to look deeply inside and identify what is impeding my ability to follow him.

The last week of my journey is now upon me, Holy Week. During Holy Week I intentionally slow down so I don’t rush to Easter Sunday …

Read More

How to Avoid God & How Not to Avoid God

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry of the Servant King, riding a donkey into the city of God. It marks the beginning of the most Holy Week of the Christian calendar. The events of the upcoming week will race by with growing intensity.

Living Word is not a strongly liturgical church. In fact, we aren’t even a mildly liturgical church. The spiritual days, the feasts, the festivals, the saints, the church calendar, and the rituals surrounding the celebration of those things are not a substantial part of our way of being the people of God.

I have personal practices that incorporate some of those liturgical practices.

But it is at this time of the year that we all need a little more liturgy, a little more ritual, a little more structure that ushers us into the experience of this Most Holy Week. In other words, the experiences of Jesus to which we are invited.

In one of his essays (“The Seeing Eye” in Christian Reflections), C.S. Lewis talks about avoiding God. As you read what he says, remember he wrote these words 55 years ago.

The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a

Read More

8 Ways You Can Help Us Help Others Have a Great Easter at Living Word

Pastor Aaron and I were at a conference recently. One of the workshops Aaron attended provided these statistics.

20% of people attend church
20% say they attend, but rarely do
20% would attend if invited
40% don’t attend and won’t even if invited

That 40% is a group we really care about, but they are hard to reach. That is one of the reasons for our Living Word Community Center model. It is also why “Fresh Expressions” are needed for those who are highly allergic to the Christian faith.

But notice the 20% who say they attend but rarely do and the 20% who would attend if invited! They are the ones that we can reach on Easter.

Here is how you can help us help others have a great Easter experience.

1. Invite friends and family. It’s called word of mouth. It is the number one reason why people visit a church – a friend invited them. I have met a number of guests and visitors in recent weeks who are here because someone invited them to come. Who are the two or three people highest on your invite list? Pray and ask. Remember, the answer is always no …

Read More

The Gospel According to Wakanda

I was one of the 9 billion people who saw The Black Panther blockbuster Marvel movie. I liked that movie on so many levels. There is one level that you may have missed. In case you are one of the 27 people in the United States who has not seen this movie, here are a few key things you need to know.

Wakanda is the name of the nation (fictional) of a small African country. To all appearances, this nation seems backward and it is assumed it has nothing to offer the world.

T’Challa is the name of the current King of Wakanda. He has the power of the Black Panther and he has the power of the super suit made by his science geek sister, Shuri.

T’Chaka is the now dead father of T’Challa.

Vibranium is the (also fictional) metal from outer space. It made its way in a large asteroid that crashed in Wakanda thousands of years ago. It has special powers and abilities unlike any other metal on earth. It is this metal that makes the super science of Wakanda possible. Because of the Vibranium that is deep underground, Wakanda flourishes.

With this background, I am …

Read More

Quotes I Am Pondering

Here is a selection of quotes for this week. Enjoy, consider, and find some of your own.

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. (Fred Rogers, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood)

We are not afraid of change. We are afraid of what we perceive we may lose when change happens. And we do lose something when change takes place, but we gain something as well. So, when something you enjoy is coming to an end, certainly sit with that loss and process it as you need. But then, look for the fresh start and new beginning that is emerging. Live with vital optimism.

I not only use all the dreams that I have, but all that I can borrow. (Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United Staes and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize)

Yes, yes, YES! Isn’t this just an example of “It’s not about you”? Certainly your dreams matter. Your vision matters. But it is not all that matters. And it is probably severely limited. You need others. Others need you. You need the vision of others. Others need your vision.

So, instead of vision casting, I encourage people …

Read More

Reporting Back to You from Vidor, Texas || guest post by Ned Keene

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Todd Spahr and Brian Lauer, both of whom just returned from Vidor, Texas. They were with one of the first teams sent down to help people recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey last fall. Todd leads one of our growth groups, and Brian is a member of the group. These are some excerpts from our conversation.

Ned: So, how bad was the devastation?

Brian: The devastation still looks fresh today. We drove around and saw piles of trash in yards from gutting houses, even 7 months after the fact. It’s amazing that it looks like it just happened yesterday – and it’s everywhere. You don’t see the water, but you see the remnants and effects of the water and water lines on houses.

Todd: You see lots of homes with holes cut out in the middle of the roof because that’s how people escaped the rising water.

Ned: What were some of the challenges or difficulties you faced?

Brian: The living accommodations. We had Red Cross cots to sleep on until we got an air mattress. And the labor was tough and demanding.

Todd: The building we stayed in had …

Read More

Doing the Most With What You Have

It is people like Kyle Maynard who truly inspire me. I referred to Kyle’s story in my Sunday morning message. Kyle was born with congenital amputation, which meant he did not have hands or feet.

What would you do if that was your situation? I’m really not sure what I would do, but we do know what Kyle did.

Instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he concentrated on what he did have and how he would maximize it. It was the will to live, the will to live well, the will to live well and by doing so, flourish personally and make a difference in others.

He became a champion wrestler.
He became a serious weightlifter.
He learned Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
He competed in mixed martial arts.
He became a mountain climber.
He became an entrepreneur (No Excuses Gym).
He wrote a book.
He became an inspiration.

All because he chose to maximize the resources given to him instead of lamenting what he didn’t have.

Here is a video clip of Kyle reflecting on his own story:

Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

You are loaded with …

Read More