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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Beauty From Ashes (Guest post by Doris Evans)

Today, we have a special guest post from LWCC attendee Doris Evans. Doris was kind enough to share her story about how God has been working in her life in 2020. Thank you so much for sharing, Doris!

 

It had been a very long goodbye to my mother, age 91, who was suffering with dementia. For 4 years my husband and I would make the trip to Bedford, PA to clean, do laundry, and do whatever else my father, age 95 and living at home, would need before we all made our way to the nursing home to visit my mother. My parents were married for almost 70 years. They loved the Lord and spent their lives serving and giving to others. They also loved each other. For almost 4 years my father drove twice a day to the nursing home to visit my mother and make sure she was getting the care she needed. Rain, snow, ice—it did not matter, Dad was there. Every night before my parents went to bed they recited the Lord’s Prayer out loud for their entire marriage. Even with Mom in the nursing home, Dad would call her around 9:00 pm so they

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Christmas Gifts to Our Local Community

Despite some of the setbacks of 2020, we still moved ahead with the same generous spirit our church community brings to Christmas each year. Thanks to the generosity of LWCC:

  • Approximately 125 gifts were given for Community Progress Council/Head Start kids.
  • 1,262 shoe boxes were given for Operation Christmas Child.
  • 42 Young Lives moms and their kids were given gifts by growth groups, Merge groups, and some individuals.
  • 35 of the 48 opportunities for the Children’s Home Bedding Project have been taken; in other words, $875 has been received of the $1,200 needed (to purchase bed sets for all 24 beds).

We are so thankful that we can continue to model the love of Jesus for our neighbors, both locally and globally. All of these gifts are separate from the monies being raised for our Christmas Eve Offering. Thank you, Living Word family, for once again showing up to love those in need.

More opportunities on our Seasons of Service page »

Give financially with our annual Christmas offering project »

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A Pastoral Letter, Part 2

If you missed “Part One” of this pastoral letter, you may want to skim through that first. 

THE WORD OF GOD THAT SHAPES US 

When I was growing up, my dad told me, “Brianyou can do anything you want, if you want it bad enough to work hard enough for it.” Dad also said, “Brian, you can put up with anything for a while if you know there is light at the end of the tunnel.” When he said those things, my dad wasn’t follower of Jesus. Later, I would learn some biblical modification was needed. 

It starts with a promise from Jesus. With God all things are possible.  

Paul, who was lead follower and enthusiastic promoter of Jesus, applied this teaching: “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength. That comes directly from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church (Philippians 4:13). 

Paul knew that God is at work in all things, to bring good out of them (Romans 8:28). And Paul was confident that God will complete in your life the good work

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A Pastoral Christmas Letter from Pastor Brian Rice

I had a number of things I wanted to share that were on my heart as we are so close to Christmas. So I reflected a bit and jotted down my thoughts. I will share some of them today and the rest tomorrow. 

There is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, but we all know this December part of the tunnel is pretty dark. As If COVID-19 has not already taken so much away from us, now it has changed our holidays and some of our most loved experiences. My heart is heavy for all of us. And I, too, am in need of a renewed measure of hope, peace, joy, and lovewhat the Christmas season is all about. I don’t want those rich spiritual experiences to be taken away from anyone. 

COVID-19 has been (and still is) one of those valleys of the shadow of death described in Psalm 23. You may want to read that entire psalm in light of our 2020 season of the coronavirus. A lot of things have died this year, while others

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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 ancestry.com list.

THE STORY

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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Giving the Best of Ourselves (Guest Post by Rebecca Rice)

Today’s guest post is from Rebecca Rice, Director of the LWCC Counseling Center. Here, Rebecca shares some practical tips for giving the best of ourselves in marriage.

We can all agree that marriage is complicated. Even though marriage can bring us great joy, it can also bring us disappointment. Too often spouses are preoccupied, annoyed, and/or distracted with the many demands of life. The very person who needs the best of us, gets the worst.

While we can also agree that we cannot change our spouse, we do have the ability to influence the emotional and relational tone of our marriage. Giving the BEST OF OURSELVES is a great place to start.

1. Make a plan: EVERY DAY set aside 5 minutes and consider how to give your spouse your BEST. Researchers tell us that the accumulation of small, daily changes can have a long-lasting positive impact. The investment of a little thought, a little time, and a little energy can make a difference.

2. Practice kindness: Find a way EVERY DAY to say a kind word and offer a kind act. Expressing a word of gratitude for the mundane tasks of life will go a long way.

Consider:…

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Thanksgiving at Living Word

Yesterday, a crew of volunteers from Living Word served 215 Thanksgiving dinners. Volunteers, led by Living Word attendee Jay Englar, have been serving Thanksgiving dinners for those who need a place to eat for the past 11 years. On Thanksgiving Day in 2009, Jay was convicted to help people who had nowhere to go on the holiday. The next year, in 2010, the first Thanksgiving meal at LWCC was served. That first year, only 37 people attended.

Sadly, due to COVID-19, this year’s meal was served drive through style at our main entrance. Normally, Thanksgiving at LWCC is an opportunity for those without a place to go to gather, eat, and have community with others. That time together is more important than the food to many who attend.

On Tuesday Jay Englar, preparing to lead the meal for his eleventh year said, “I’m praying that the Lord can supply enough food for everyone that shows up.” Yesterday, he did.

We are so thankful for the Living Word volunteers who make this meal possible each year.

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What’s Your Story?

This past week, we had a special service at Living Word: our annual Cardboard Testimonies service. This service is always a really special time of sharing how God has worked in the people of Living Word in the past year. As we all know, 2020 has been a difficult year, but this service was a special reminder that God is still working in our lives. 

In his introduction to the book of Exodus in The Message, Eugene Peterson writes, “It is significant that God does not present us with salvation in the form of an abstract truth, or a precise definition or a catchy slogan, but as story. . . Story is an invitation to participate, first through our imagination and then, if we will, by faith, with our total lives in response to God.” God gives each of us a story. And our stories are important. They matter.  

What’s your story? What has God done in your life in 2020? Take some time this week to think through the questions below. You can write down your responses, or talk them over with a friend.  

Rewind to January 2020. What is one piece of advice (or warning!)

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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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