National Religious Freedom Day: A Reflection

Most of us don’t remember National Religious Freedom Day (January 16). I know I forget about that date.

A friend told me there is now a “Day of _____” for every day of the year. I didn’t do a fact check, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true.

We have just had several important days celebrating and promoting some very significant issues in our nation.

Monday, January 18, was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—a national holiday that points to the importance of MLK for our nation’s history. Over the years, I have read many books about MLK and many of his speeches as well. MLK and the way he spoke about race, freedom, and justice must always be advanced.

Sunday, January 17, was Sanctity of Life Sunday—a day celebrated by some, but not by all. It is an ideal that is core to our Constitution—life, liberty, and the pursuit of freedom—that many do not experience.

Saturday, January 16, was National Religious Freedom Day, which was established in 1993, voted on unanimously in the House, and 97-3 in the Senate, and then signed into law by President Clinton.

January 16 was chosen because of Thomas Jefferson and …

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Sanctity of Life: A Reflection

Even though Presidents’ Day is not until February, it is worth a side trip to Abraham Lincoln before I share a few thoughts on sanctity of life.

Lincoln was a profound person. He was a man of character, wisdom, and spiritual sensitivity. It has been long debated as to how “orthodox” Lincoln’s faith was. If you are interested in that, you can read the short and very readable Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership by Elton Trueblood.

Whatever you conclude on his orthodoxy, Lincoln had a theological-spiritual sense of the just anger of a holy God who was displeased with slavery in the United States. That is the sense of this agonizing thought from Lincoln in his second inaugural address:

The Almighty has his own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh…

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of

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Prayers of Blessing for Living Word in 2021

Somehow to say Happy New Year, Living Word just sounds so inadequate. In light of 2020, and the realities of 2020 that continue into 2021, at least for a time, to say “happy” just sounds at least a bit superficial.

Instead, I’ll say a Blessed New Year to everyone at Living Word. Blessed. Now, that is a good word. Blessed. And blessing.

Did you know that a very legitimate translation of the Greek word makarios, usually translated as blessed, is the word flourishing?

So, I could and will say, a Very Flourishing New Year to Living Word Community Church.

That is how Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount—with beatitudes, with blessings, with flourishings. And we learn from Jesus that blessing and flourishing can happen even in hard times. Perhaps some blessings and flourishings happen mainly (maybe even ONLY) in hard times.

I want for each of you what Jesus wants for you—that you be blessed and flourish in 2021.

Okay, I am biased in what follows.

My bias is simple. If Jesus says something, I believe it. I need to trust it and find a way to experience and join in with what Jesus says. In that way, …

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Hope for the Family Is What Christmas Is All About

The main biblical insight from Sunday’s message is this: Christmas is a season, a message, and a Savior full of GRACE. Because of the Good News of GRACE in the Christmas message, our families can have so much HOPE.

During the holidays, family is more important and perhaps more painful than any other time of the year. It gets worse when we compare our family with the social media versions of family. We need hope for the family. The Bible shows us real family.

There are two genealogies of Jesus. On Sunday, I used the one recorded in Matthew 1 and not the one in Luke 3. The genealogies are different and I cannot go into all the reasons (and meaning) of why. So, I’ll be reflecting back on Matthew’s Christmas list.


The Christmas story begins in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17.

Jesus is the name that means Savior, the one who forgives sin.

Christ is the title that means Messiah, chosen one, anointed one, special one.
Son of David is the role—the role of the King to rule over the Jews and the nations.

Son of Abraham is the purpose, the mission, the destiny—to …

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Our 2020 Christmas Devotional (Pick One Up Sunday, November 29th)

Many years ago in 2003, when Becky and I returned to Living Word and our relationships with dear friends picked back up, one of those friendships was with Gordon Carpenter. Gordon had always been interested in spirituality and spiritual formation. He had a long history of journaling and using devotional guides as a supplement for his Bible reflection.

Gordon turned me on to using Advent devotionals – that is, a resource designed for Christmas. Over the years I have used many of them and found them so useful for getting into the Christmas narrative.

Many years ago we began to write devotional guides at Living Word, to go along with the sermon series. We have heard over and over how much people appreciate these devotionals.

From time to time, we create a more substantial devotional resource. We decided to do that this year for Christmas 2020.

We have a 25-day devotional experience for you in an attractive format. These daily reflections will help you build a good spiritual rhythm for this Christmas season when so much seems so disrupted.

COVID-19 disrupted our routines. We want to help you build some new ones, and our Christmas devotional will help you do …

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Those Who Make a Difference

Here is a little story that came my way recently. It was in a newsletter by Dr. Mardy Grothe.

On November 22, 2001, Mary Kay Ash died at age 83 in Dallas, Texas. The creator of one of the world’s most famous brands, she once said that her management principles were based mainly on “The Golden Rule.”

Fittingly, at her death, many recalled words she had offered years earlier: “My goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, someone can say, she cared.”

In 1963, at age 45, and after working as a salesperson for more than 25 years, she quit her job in frustration after a man she had trained was hired as her supervisor at twice her salary. Disillusioned, she originally planned to write a book for women in business, but instead founded her company in a Dallas storefront.

In equal parts a shrewd businesswoman, servant leader, motivational speaker, and life coach, she was fond of telling employees (she preferred the terms “associates” or “consultants”) that they could achieve all their dreams if they only helped customers achieve theirs. When she died—38 years after founding her firm–she was a legendary entrepreneur with …

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Back to the Land of the Living and a Few Updates on What God is Doing at Living Word

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you an update on how I am doing and what Living Word is doing about COVID-19 spreading in our community. I also want to give a preview of Cardboard Testimony Sunday, a “Yay, God!” shoutout, a Thanksgiving meal update, and a word from God to help us in the days ahead.

Making My Way Back to the Land of the Living

It was a wild and crazy 2 weeks of COVID-19. Actually, it was a deathly boring, monotonous, lethargic, listless, “where did the last 2 weeks go?” kind of time. I’ve had pneumonia, the flu, and bronchitis. I have had horrible “bugs” in overseas travel when I thought I was going to die. But the last 2 weeks were right up there for as miserable as anything I’ve had. And as difficult as it was, my breathing remained sufficiently strong that I never had to go for more intense treatment. I don’t have my strength or stamina back yet. I had such severe coughing for a number of days that my throat is still sore and my voice is raspy. Talking is still a chore, but I am certainly in recovery and I am …

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Real Family: 6 Best Practices for Marriage

About 2 weeks before we started our Real Family series, I asked my Facebook friends: “What is one of the best pieces of advice you were given, you saw modeled, or you picked up somewhere along the way that is now a BEST PRACTICE that makes a difference in your family? What makes your family a better family?”

I had a great response and excellent advice. Most of it had to do with parenting, with a few thoughts about marriage. In this blog, I’ll share the best advice about marriage, or family, in general. I’ll share the best advice about parenting after the sermon on parenting.


ONE: Love your spouse. Model a loving marriage. This advice came from Aaron, and I say, “Absolutely.” As I’ve read multiple studies on young adults, so many of them talk about their own fears about marriage because the kind of marriage they saw modeled was not a good one. No one wants to be a part of a loveless marriage. The best thing we can do for our kids is model love. 1 Corinthians 13 describes what love looks like, and in Ephesians 5:25 Paul commands husbands in particular to love their wives …

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Real Family: My Story (Pastor Brian Rice)

Today I want to tell you a little about my family story. Some of you know parts of this, but this is the family that shaped my life in so many ways.

Dad was a high school graduate. He graduated from Elizabethtown High School and was a standout on the football team. After fighting in the Korean War, dad became a factory laborer. He met my mom (a Dallastown graduate), who went to nursing school at Lancaster General Hospital and was an RN with the Visiting Nursing Association. They were married in 1955 and I was born in 1956. My brother came along 2 years later.

Character matters and family is the first place where character and heart are formed. Character is “caught” more than it is “taught.”

Mom and dad both had amazing work ethics. I mean amazing. They both worked hard. Dad rose up through the ranks in his workplace. Even though he never went to college, at heart dad was a lifelong learner. He was always reading, always learning something new. He eventually moved into management and then upper management at his workplace.

My parents also had high levels of responsibility. What they set out to do, …

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So Whatever Happened to the Family? (Pastor Brian Rice)

Stephanie Coontz (Marriage, A History) said in 2005, “Marriage (and family) has changed more in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000 years.” In the 15 years since then, the changes in family have accelerated and one wonders where it will take us.

So what happened?
How did this massive change take place?
What were the causes of the change?

Here is a Sociology of Marriage 101 overview. I will give you 13 factors. Everything I say below could have a lot more description and explanation.

Beginning in the 1960s, sociologists talked about the seismic change that began to roll over the cultural landscape. I’ll talk about a number of factors. Most of these are pretty significant. Some are quite negative, others more neutral, and some, in my opinion, are positive.

ONE: The onset of what is called expressive or radical individualism where there were no longer any restrictions on the individual.
Personal freedom and individual choice became supremely important. It was “forbidden to forbid.” The individual could do whatever she or he wanted. Rules, norms, and boundaries no longer existed. The crazy logic about this was, well, what if the other radical individual living under …

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