Archive | October, 2013

Is America the hope of the world?

28 Oct

About a year ago during his bid to unseat Barack Obama as President of the USA, former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, said this.

How do you feel about what he said?

What I came to learn as I was researching this post, is that Romney was actually quoting Abraham Lincoln.  It was a phrase that Lincoln used more than once, for example here, on the eve of issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Yesterday Brandon Hershey spoke at Faith Church.  Brandon, at the end of the year, finishes his second three-year term as Faith Church’s Ministry Council chairperson.  After two terms our by-laws state that a person must take a break from serving in that capacity, so Brandon’s tenure will be complete.  I asked him to preach, to reflect on his time in leadership, and what the Lord might want to say through him.  He gave a excellent sermon, and you can listen here.

In the sermon, Brandon quotes Bill Hybels who says “The local church is the hope of the world.”  As it ministers the love of Christ to a broken world, the local church, not America, truly is the hope of the world.  No doubt a nation can be a force for good in the world, and America certainly has been that time and time again.  But if you are looking for true, lasting hope, it can only be found in Jesus.  And that is what we, as a church, have to offer.

Brandon then pointed us to a foundational teaching of Scripture, about how the local church must handle itself in order to be the hope of the world.  Offering this hope is only possible when we, the local church, work together as we ought.  He said that we all have a role to play, and what we do matters.  Do you believe that?  Do you believe you have a vital role to play, that you have been gifted as part of the local church, or to use the metaphor that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, the body of Christ?  Do you need to discover your giftedness?  Do you need to step out of your comfort zone and serve in a new way?  What part of the body are you?  Are you using your gifts?  Do you need to develop them more fully?

You are vital to the local church being the hope of the world! 

Guest Post: What is the hope of the world?

25 Oct

Today we welcome Brandon Hershey as a guest on the blog.   One of my best friends, Brandon and I go on long distance runs together, and he always wins!  He and his wife, Kristen, have a daughter, Mya.  Professionally, Brandon teaches high school English. For the past six years he has been Faith Church’s Ministry Council chair As he finishes his tenure in that post this year, I asked him if he would preach one Sunday, given the vantage point he’s had on the Council. Here’s a teaser:

The local church is the hope of the world. Do you believe that?

hope of the world

The saving message of Jesus Christ has been entrusted to the church. WOW! What a responsibility this is for the local church! Have you ever considered that your God-given talents might be a crucial element in accomplishing this mission?

The apostle Paul had some good advice to the Corinthian church about how the church should function in order to embody the message of Jesus Christ. Join us Sunday morning to take a look at Paul’s advice and to consider what role you might play in fulfilling the church’s mission to offer hope to the world.

Guest Post: Why We Tell Our Stories

22 Oct

Today’s guest post is once again written by Lisa Bartelt as a follow-up to last week’s post.  We thank Lisa and her husband Phil for sharing their lives with us!  

The past two Sundays at Faith Church, we’ve shared stories of restoration. Personal stories from the teaching team of how God has taken broken, hurtful experiences (ones we’ve caused and ones done to us) and restored lives. (If you missed them, you can listen to them here and here.)

So, why tell those stories? We certainly didn’t have to tell them. We could have lived among you for years and not shared our painful pasts. And the telling isn’t necessarily easy.

But it is important. Here are three reasons why we told (and continue to tell) our stories.

First, it follows what we read in the Bible. Toward the end of John’s Gospel, he writes, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Later, in his first letter, John writes again, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:3) The Old Testament, too, is full of commands to tell redemption stories. Tell them to the next generation. Remember what He’s done. Tell about His power so that the nations will know there is a God.

We tell our redemption stories so others believe there is a God who does the impossible. He restores.

Second, and sort of related, we tell our stories to heal. Ourselves, and others.

I’m reading a book right now by Neil Gaiman called The Ocean at The End of the Lane. There’s a scene where the main character is remembering a time when he and a neighbor girl encountered a creature in the woods. The neighbor girl spoke a foreign and magical language to the creature, a song of some kind. He says he has dreamed of the song, and in the dream he knows the words. Then he says this: “In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. … In my dreams, I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed-and-breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, ‘Be whole,’ and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping.”

By telling our stories, we are saying to each other: Be whole. We are speaking a language of shaping, of turning brokenness into beauty, of seeing God use our hurts to mold us into someone we couldn’t imagine being.

Third, by telling our stories, we give other people permission to tell theirs. None of us are perfect, but it’s so easy to look around and think everyone else has it all together and we’re the oddball that doesn’t.

If you heard our stories these last weeks, you’d know that’s far from the truth.

This quote I saw on Pinterest recently puts it another way: vulnerable-gift

Our prayer and hope is that this series of restoration stories would not end here, but that we all would continue to tell our stories. To each other. And, if the Lord leads, to the church as a whole.

Guest Post: Origin stories, superheroes and what defines us

17 Oct

Today’s guest post comes to us from Lisa Bartelt whose blog Living Echoes chronicles her journey as a wife, mother of two, writer and avid reader.  The Bartelts moved to Lancaster a few months ago, and have quickly become part of the family of Faith Church.  Lisa’s husband, Phil, is an EC Pastor and part of the Faith Church teaching team.   

Phil and I like to unwind by watching television, and one of our new favorite shows is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a comic-book spinoff of the popular Avengers movies and characters. A couple of weeks ago, the show featured the “origin story” of a villain I’d never heard of. The promo for the show was “every villain has an origin story.”

What little I know of comic books and their characters, I know that the origin story is true for the heroes and the villains. According to Wikipedia, it’s the “back story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes or supervillains.”

Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered by a mugger and becomes Batman to root out crime in Gotham City. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider-like powers, which he uses to fight crime to alleviate the guilt he feels for his uncle’s death. Doctor Bruce Banner becomes the Incredible Hulk through exposure to gamma rays and transforms into the raging green monster whenever he’s angry. And on and on and on. (Check out Wikipedia’s “origin story” entry for more.)

But you don’t have to be a superhero (or a supervillain) to have an origin story. We all have moments, good and bad, that contributed to who we are today. You know your origin story. Does anyone else?

On Sunday, Phil and I will pick up where Joel left off with the second part of our Stories of Restoration mini-series. You’ve seen us at church for the past three months. You’ve met our kids, Izzy and Corban. You’ve heard Phil preach.

But you don’t know our story. Yet.

We’ll tell you about the moments that shaped us individually, and as a couple, into who we are today: our origin stories.

Unlike the superheroes and supervillains, though, our origin story doesn’t have to be the whole story. As Christians, those so-called defining moments, which make the comic book characters who they are and what they do, don’t have to define us. God can use even the most painful experiences in our past to bring about something new.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

Are you in the wilderness in some area of your life? Do you feel like everything around you is a wasteland?

We’ve been there, too. Join us on Sunday to hear how God made a way in the wilderness for us and to be encouraged that He is making all things new.

Stories of Restoration, Part 1 – Joel & Michelle

14 Oct

When I started as pastor of Faith Church, I remember standing before the congregation most Sundays thinking to myself, Look at all those smiling faces, those well-dressed people.  They don’t need to hear this sermon.  My feeling has long been described by the phrase “you’re preaching to the choir”.

Five years has passed, and my perspective has turned 180 degrees.  I now look out each Sunday morning thinking, they all need this! 

Why? Because I have learned a lot about your stories, your families, your struggles.  And most of all, I know about my family, my struggles.  All of us have them.  We are a people in progress.  We all have a story to share, a tale of what the Apostle John would describe as the light crowding out the darkness in our lives.

Yesterday, then, I shared three stories from Michelle’s and my life.  My car accident when I was 17, a difficult situation in Michelle’s past which led to her struggle with anorexia, and finally our year of personal pain as church-planting missionaries in Jamaica.  You can listen to them here.

Ours is a story of restoration, of God’s healing in our lives on multiple levels, and we praise him. But you know what?  We still need restoration.  Michelle and I are still sinners in need of a savior to change us, and that is our prayer.  Don’t put us on a pedestal.  It’s not like we have been perfect for the last 12 years since our return from Jamaica.  Many of you have seen us mess up in big ways right in front of you.  If you haven’t, just ask our kids!  Our prayer continues to be that the Lord would change us and make us more like Jesus.  God wants to make us new!  He wants to do the same in your life too.

So what about you?  Do you need to share your story?  Might sharing be the beginning of healing?

(If you want to read a longer treatment of my accident story, you can do so here.  Also, my parents and I were interviewed once about the accident, and you can listen here, including my parents’ thoughts.)

Ever feel like you need restoration?

10 Oct

Ever have that feeling that things are not right?

That life is harder than it should be?

Ever think about how Jesus said that he came that we might have abundant life?  Life to the full?  And then have you felt like your life is not exactly feeling abundant?

Maybe it’s the stress of our culture.  No doubt it is hard to follow Jesus sacrificially as his disciple in a culture of consumer indulgence.

Maybe it is the difficulty of family life.  Maybe it’s your job.

Maybe you have a broken relationship, or at least one that has been very disappointing.  Maybe you’re frustrated with yourself.

This Sunday we begin teaching a new mini-series called Stories of Restoration.  All of us need restoration.  We are all sinners in need of a savior.  Even after starting the journey of following Jesus as his disciples, we still go through pain.  But these situations are often so personal, so hard that we rarely talk about them.  Like the soldier who experiences the terror of war, we can find it nearly impossible to put words to our pain.  But we need to share our stories.

We felt it important that the teaching team lead by example.  I’ll share the story of the Kime family and some situations in which Michelle and I were individually and together in need of restoration.  Then the following week Phil & Lisa Bartelt will share their story.

We praise God that he desires to make all things new, as that is what restoration is all about.  Redeeming our pain, conforming us to the image of Christ.  May he be glorified as we share our stories of restoration.

 

 

Follow Up to Church Has Left The Building…Again

8 Oct

We did it again!

Instead of having a worship service, we worshipped by serving:

  • Washing the East Lampeter police department’s vehicles
  • Two groups visiting shut-ins, bringing the worship service to them!
  • Planting trees at East Lampeter Community park
  • Cleaning up the entrance to Smoketown elementary school
  • Childcare
  • Helping neighbors with yard work
  • Cleaning up the Leola Home of Hope
  • Food preparation

It was an awesome morning.  So encouraging to see the church being the church!  Feel free to comment and share what the morning meant to you.

We eventually just ripped it out with our bare hands.

We eventually just ripped it out with our bare hands.

Steve and Phil roll a "carpet" weeds off of a garden.

Steve and Phil roll a “carpet” weeds off of a garden.