Month: January 2019

The Backward Look

The 20-20 Hindsight of Heaven (and Hopefully of Maturity on Earth)

Life is lived forward but understood backward. I value that insight from Kierkegaard. In the moment, we rarely understand the significance of what we just did and said, nor the ripples that are set in motion.

In the moment, we rarely discern the work of God taking place—whether that work is spectacular or hidden—because the real results rarely emerge until later. Sometimes MUCH later.

Later, as we look, having gained some distance and some perspective, as well as the high altitude vantage point, sense and meaning appear. “Oh, so that is what God was up to! Ah, now I see why that needed to happen. Hmm, so much more was going on than I thought. Now I begin to see. Soon I hope to understand.”

Here is what is truly fascinating (and redemptive). It is the backward look that actually begins to recreate the past. With new eyes, a new heart, a new passion, a new destination, we actually reframe the past, like Joseph did with his brothers (Genesis 50:19-21). What humans had meant for evil, God had intended for God and redeemed it for good (Romans 8:28-39). …

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A Teacher and So Much More

Jesus is always more than…

He is more than a prophet. More than a teacher. More than a healer. He is always those things, but Jesus is always more than any ONE thing. And Jesus usually goes about those things differently than we would expect, or perhaps want.

He categorically redefines the categories. Murder is no longer the real problem, the anger in your heart is. Now we are all in the same boat. Adultery is no longer the real problem, the lust in your heart is. Now, we are all in the same rapidly sinking boat.

He takes ideas, which are hard in themselves, and elevates them to impossible levels where we have no practical chance to actually do them. Don’t be anxious! Give away everything and come follow me! Lose your life to find it! Deny your self (when our whole world and its existence is devoted for you to worship yourself and gratify its every desire)! Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect! Say what?!

There is something going on here. Jesus is more than a teacher of interesting ideas. More than a dispenser of witty sayings. More than a storyteller and a parable preacher. …

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In the Beginning Was the Conversation

You know what a monologue is—it’s when one person just talks and talks and talks. On Sunday, we call it preaching!

A duologue is when two people talk and talk and talk at each other, past each other, over each other. It’s two monologues going on at the same time. I don’t want to project my pet peeves onto others, but so many of the talk show programs (with multiple hosts) are duologues. The same occurs with some of the sports commentary I listen to on ESPN. They’re just missing fundamental conversation skills.

A dialogue is when two people talk with one another—not at, not over, not against, not while, but talk WITH. Taking turns. Listening. Reflecting. Discussing.

Jesus is always launching conversations. I like that word so much, I used it as the title of my primary workbook on spiritual formation.

John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word-Logos and the Word-Logos was with God and the Word-Logos was God. Jesus is the Word. The Greek is Logos. Jesus is the Logos. The deep meaning of Logos is not simply a static Word. Rather, Logos is a conversation. Jesus is the conversation …

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Our New Master Needs Some Resistance and Regulation

A minor part of the Sunday message was on social media usage by children, teens, and adults.

Here are basic assumptions I have about social media.

ONE: It is not going away and it should not go away. It is important, valuable, and can greatly enhance just about everything. I am not against using social media or enjoying it.

TWO: Like every other invention, social media is wonderful when it works on behalf of good purposes and it is harmful when it is turned to other wrong ends. It has become the means by which just about everything that is bad in our culture can be accessed with alarming ease. And the bad things are being accessed with even more alarming frequency.

For just a minute, here is the dark, dangerous side of the Internet and our 24/7 ease to access it.

Among the greatest dangers of social media is the overwhelming presence of pornography. Here is an article (safe to read) that give the statistics about pornography. It is rightly called the new drug addiction.

These statistics are so overwhelming they are hard to believe.

THREE: Like most things, they are wonderful as a servant, but terrible as

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Jesus is the Chief Everything Officer

For so many Sunday messages it feels like I can only cover the part of the iceberg that’s above the water. Most of what needs to be said remains unsaid, hidden under the water.

Certainly our series, reJesus: Stories, Words, Encounters, creates that experience for me.

This past Sunday’s Jesus is King, Lord, Entrepreneur of God’s in-breaking kingdom, Chief Everything Officer, and most simply, the One Who is in Charge (or Should be in Charge) sermon was like that. It felt like I barely scratched the surface of a vast terrain.

I became a Christian in 1974. At the core of my becoming a Christian was the intentional decision that I had been in charge of my life. It was increasingly obvious, even at age 19, that I was not competent enough to be in charge of the vast and beautiful thing called my life.

Therefore, I was already making choices and decisions, coming to conclusions, and moving in directions that were harmful to me and to others. I was already discouraged and already pessimistic about my future. I was already looking for relief and escape in distractions and entertainments that were not good for me. I cannot even imagine …

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Praying When You Don’t Know How (or What) to Pray

Here is a delightful and insightful story from Leonard Sweet’s book, The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong.

The story is about praying when you don’t know how to pray or what to pray. I’ve abridged and edited the story, but the gist (if not the beauty) remains the same as Sweet tells it.

There is an old Hasidic (referring to mystical Judaism) story about a young Jewish boy. He lived on a small farm with his family. They were poor and simple people. One day he went to town with his father and heard prayers being recited in a synagogue. He was moved as he listened and he wanted to pray.

But he could not read the prayer book or recite the prayers.

So he began to pray the Hebrew alphabet: Aleph, bet, gimmel, dalet, hey, vav…

He recited the alphabet over and over. Then he said:

“O God, I don’t know how to pray or what to say. Here are the letters of the alphabet. Use them to make up the prayer I should pray, the words you would like to hear, and answer my prayer as you …

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (My Tribute)

I have long appreciated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the right leader at the right time in our nation. Like one of his inspirations, Abraham Lincoln, he was assassinated. Like Lincoln, that assassination served a deeper, unintended purpose. What Edwin Stanton said of Lincoln, must also be said of King: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

On this national holiday, it is fitting for us to remember, to go a little deeper in understanding, and then go a little further in committing ourselves to the still unfinished mission of peace and justice for all in a nation that says it is the home of the brave and the land of free. And certainly our home of York, PA has quite a work ahead of us on this.

May we, the people of God at Living Word Community Church, be just a part of a great movement that believes in these great truths, “that all people are created equal” and should enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of flourishing.

Here are six things to remember about King.

He was a Christian.
His Christian tradition was the black church and the black church’s engagement with the Gospel of Christ. …

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My Working Assignment in This World

I don’t want to bore you with repeated references to Eugene Peterson, but Peterson has been a significant shaping voice for how I understand my vocation for pastoral leadership and teaching. He is, perhaps, most challenging and insightful, on what he says about his own working assignment in this world. Because I can’t say it any better, I simply borrow it gratefully and seek to live it daily.

“The Way of Jesus is not the only way to live. There are innumerable other ways.

I want to train our eyes and ears to see and hear precisely what is distinctive in the Jesus way so that we can make the daily – hourly! – discernments required to keep us faithfully and obediently in and on the way of Jesus…

My working assignment in this meaning-hungry, spirit-thirsty, God-curious world is to teach and preach the Holy Scriptures as the revelation of Life, the life defined and created by Jesus But I don’t find it easy. I live in a culture that is largely either indifferent to or ignorant of Jesus. I would like to recover clarity and urgency in the way of Jesus for my generation.”

I must add, that is

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Some Sad News About a Tragic Death

Many of you remember Dr. Sam Kamaleson. Dr. Sam is a very dear friend of Pastor Steve and Whitney.  It was through Dr. Sam that Living Word was able to do ministry in India for several decades. Many times Dr. Sam spoke at Living Word. We were always blessed with his wisdom and devotion to Jesus.

On Monday, January 14th, Dr. Sam’s son Mano was killed in a bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was working.

You can read the news article here.

This is, of course, a terrible tragedy. For those who remember Dr. Sam, please lift him up in prayer in the season ahead. And for Mano’s family.

Also that Pastor Steve and Whitney would have opportunities to provide comfort and love to Dr. Sam.

Pastor Brian

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It Works Both Ways

What do I mean by that? Eugene Peterson has greatly influenced me on the Better Way of Jesus.

Jesus is the Way.

Jesus shows us the Way.

Jesus walks with us on the Way.

We do life together with Jesus on the Way.

John 14:6 begins with Jesus saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

John 14:6 ends with Jesus saying, “No one comes to the Father apart from me.”

Peterson says, “The way we come to God is the way God comes to us. God comes to us in Jesus; we come to God in Jesus.”

It is the same way. Because God himself is the Way. Because Jesus himself is God the Way. In other words, very quickly, in fact, immediately, you find God and more of God on the Way. God is not a far distant goal or reality you will experience only after a long time of walking. You encounter God right away! And always. (Notice how those two words build on the word “way.”)

This is why first we choose to make our way, and once we are on the way, the Way Makes Us.

Way making is soul …

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