Month: September 2019

Capturing the Sound of Living Word || An Interview with Chris Smith & Ryan Lewis

Today we hear from worship pastor Chris Smith and worship leader Ryan Lewis as they discuss the vision behind the original songs being written, shared, and captured at Living Word. This past Friday evening our worship ministry recorded several original songs that will be released next year.

Chris: Over the past 5 years we have introduced about a dozen original songs at our worship services. Can you share a little bit about what has been inspiring the worship leaders at Living Word to write original songs for the local church?

Ryan: As we choose worship songs from other churches and movements, we have seen how the songs themselves echo the stories, heart, and culture of the group that wrote them. It’s our desire to capture the specific way that God has been moving at Living Word through song. Songwriting also provides a medium for us to shepherd and pastor our congregation. For example, Diana’s song “Send Us” was written out of our desire for a benedictory song to close services, and also from our desire to be a missional church.

Chris: What was the inspiration and vision behind doing a live recording?

Ryan: Our mission for this recording is to …

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Hyper-Reality (Identity 08)

Some people have asked about the author Mark Sayers and his idea of hyper-reality.

Mark is a pastor, author, and teacher from Australia. He is one of my favorite authors. You can learn more about Mark here.

Mark has written quite a few really good books. The Trouble With Paris was the first book of his that I read. It was written about 10 years ago and was a defining book for me. It is well-written, clever, insightful, hopeful, a little philosophy, and more theology-spirituality! Many of the themes from Sunday had their origin in this book.

Especially this thing called hyper-reality.

Hyper-reality means that we now prefer our reality better than the real reality. And therefore, real reality seems kind of boring, mundane, and uninteresting.

If you want to go deeper into this topic, check out The Trouble With Paris.

Pastor Brian

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The Way of Jesus is True and the Way of Jesus Works Because it is True (Identity 07) Part 2 of 2

The Deadly Combination

Here are two values that alone are powerful, but put them together and you have a volatile mix. First, the supreme value of the individual. You are supreme. You decide. Whatever you choose, whatever you want, that is good and right for you, even if someone else disagrees. Individualism has been pushed to extreme degrees. So, we now have the ridiculous situation of most Americans still believing adultery is wrong, but at the same time having NO justification to say that if a person in a marriage wants to commit adultery that person is wrong for doing so. We are told not to judge and instead to be tolerant of all personal decisions!

Second, the supreme value of pleasure, usually through materialistic and consumerist pursuits. Stuff makes you happy. Things make you happy. Shopping, spending, buying, and owning things makes you happy. And the same for experiences. Shopping for experiences and then having the ones you want makes you happy. Adultery makes you happy. It may not make your spouse happy, but that no longer matters. If you are happy, that matters. Happiness is now to be found not in being a good person, but in being …

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The Way of Jesus is True and the Way of Jesus Works Because it is True (Identity 07) Part 1 of 2

On Sunday, I talked about the issues of depression and anxiety in our culture. I didn’t talk about those things to make anyone feel ashamed. Far from it. If someone is depressed and/or anxious, it is important to be able to admit that condition and then get the best help for it.

I referred to those widespread experiences for a reason. I’ll take a short detour before I come back to the issues of anxiety and depression.


I believe in the Christian faith because I believe it is TRUE. I believe some things are right and other things are wrong. I believe some things are good and other things are bad. I believe some things are helpful and healing and other things are hurtful and harmful.

And I believe this is the state of objective reality and not just my subjective perception of reality.

For example, I believe adultery is objectively bad. Adultery is not bad because of my subjective opinion, it is bad because God (the author of reality) says it is bad. And adultery remains bad, even if my subjective opinion believes otherwise. I am using this particular example because a large percentage of Americans …

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The Last Self-Help Book (Identity 06)

On Sunday we showed a word cloud containing lots of negative, painful words.

Each word came from a title of a book, a chapter title in a book, a title of an article, or a main theme in an article. Here is the word cloud. Look the words over.

This is why philosopher-novelist Walker Percy calls his book, Lost in the Cosmos, the last self-help book.

With God removed from our culture, from our belief systems, from our ways of life, we are lost in the cosmos. An acquaintance of Carl Sagan (the secular-atheist-cosmologist who wrote the book Cosmos) says Carl was a lonely person He had very few friends. The acquaintance believed one of the reasons Carl was so desperate to find extra-terrestrial life is that he wanted someone to talk to. He didn’t have God. He didn’t have many friendships. So, he put all his hope in SETI: The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

Percy says God is now distant – at best. More likely, God is now disappeared, ejected, rejected, eliminated. Now the self is alone and adrift in an impersonal universe. And the word cloud above is how the self of the 21st century, post-modern, post-Christian …

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Social Media is Killing Our Kids (and What to Do About It) (Identity 05)

Yea, I know that is pretty dramatic.

Killing them softly, slowly, but surely.

Killing their joy.

Killing their security.

Killing their friendships.

Killing their sexuality.

Killing their ability to feel loved, accepted, valued, and safe.

Parents, I know this is one of the hardest things you will EVER do, but you must monitor and help your children and teens have appropriate social media use.

All the studies talk about how harmful social media is for teens. Social media increases depression and anxiety (as well as anger).

So, we play games to impress other people with what we think they want to hear.

We wear masks to hide our real selves, especially if we think we will not be loved or accepted.

We project images and we even have illusions that we come to believe.

We have bought into the lies and distortions of NOT GOOD ENOUGH in a Hyper-Real Culture. And our children have bought into the lies more than anyone.

One of the best (and short) books there is on this topic is Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. One of the best things you will do as a parent is fight this good fight and help your teens …

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Frogs, Fish, and Photoshopped Hyper-Reality (Identity 04)

I’m sure you’ve heard of the frog in the kettle. If a frog is in a kettle of water, and the kettle is slowly warmed, the frog will not move. It acclimates to the water temperature as it gets warmer and warmer, until it hits boiling and then it kills the frog. I haven’t double-checked the science on this to make sure it is exact, but let’s go with it for right now.

The point is that the water becomes dangerously hot, but so gradually that it goes unnoticed, until it is too late. That’s a metaphor for what has happened with our culture. It was gradual, it sped up like crazy as it got hotter, and now we are in near lethal conditions for flourishing.

This past Sunday, I created another metaphor with the fish and water. We have gone from crystal clear water, to cloudy, to dirty, to toxic water. But it was gradual. Now the dirty-toxic water feels normal. But if we could be dropped in the crystal clear waters we were meant to swim in, we would be shocked and dismayed at our new norm!

I also added in one more metaphor of freshwater fish trying …

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Susan Boyle’s First Audition

This is the video clip of Susan Boyle Pastor Brian mentioned today. Watch it and notice your first impression of Susan. Pay attention to the crowd’s impression. Listen to what she does and notice what you feel as you watch her sing. Finally, listen to how the judges describe their first impressions. All because she does not meet up to our cultural expectations!

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Tenth Avenue North Concert || guest blog by Chris Smith

Today’s blog post is written by Chris Smith, worship arts leader.

This November 9, Living Word will be hosting a concert featuring Christian artists Tenth Avenue North and Austin French. We are excited to be able to open our doors to the community and invite them in to experience a top-notch concert on our campus.

We believe our church campus and auditorium can serve as a premier venue for various concerts and conferences in York County. God has blessed us with a beautiful space, and hosting concerts is one way to utilize it beyond our normal church services and programming.

You may recall that last December Living Word hosted the National Christian Choir for their Christmas show. This year we decided to partner with WJTL/Creative Ministries and make ourselves available as a venue for their concerts in York County. The goal is to host one or two concerts a year that can provide a quality musical experience for our church family, as well as the greater community.

Tenth Avenue North has been making music for over 15 years and has released a number of songs that have been popular on Christian radio – including the hits “By Your Side” and …

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More Than a Cup of Cold Water for the Bahamas || guest blog by John Hilliard

Today’s blog post is written by John Hilliard, pastor of global ministry and local outreach. 

As most of us watched the weather last week, Hurricane Dorian was bearing down as a Category 5 storm on the small group of islands called the Bahama’s. Because it is near the east coast, I’m sure many of us from York County have visited this island paradise. But a paradise it is no more. This massive storm sat over the island, progressing at less than 5 miles per hour with winds in excess of 180 mph devastating everything in its path. Reports from people who survived the storm are terrifying as their homes were literally blown away as they hunkered down within them.

The cleanup is just beginning as well as accounting for people lost and killed by the storm’s fury. Many organizations are stepping up to help, cruise lines are bringing in food and evacuating people. Celebrity chef Jose Andres is feeding hundreds of people each day. Water is the biggest crisis. Where they don’t have clean water disease, dehydration and many other problems follow.

Living Word has found a partner to help provide clean water in situations like this. In the past …

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