Tag Archives: love

Being Mystics in a Messed-up World

13 Mar

love-cross-upside-down1Last week, guest writer and teacher, Tony Blair introduced us to the idea of being Christian mystics.  And it is all about LOVE!

Then on Sunday he visited and taught at Faith Church, and I can say without reservation that it was a powerful morning!  So many people expressed their appreciation for his interaction with us.   At sermon discussion we laughed and cried and left inspired to be Christian mystics.  Thank you, Tony!

Mystics in Love

6 Mar
Today we welcome a guest writer, Dr. Tony Blair, president of Evangelical Seminary.  We’re looking forward to this coming Sunday, March 8th, 2015, at Faith Church as Tony will be our guest teacher.  As he is also a pastor, we are quite grateful to his church Hosanna, for sharing him with us!

Are you a contemplative or an activist?

People who are busy in the world sometimes look down on those who are more contemplative and withdrawn, and contemplatives sometimes look down on those who are bustling around doing good.

Jesus shows us through his own life that this is a false dichotomy—He is out among people, listening to them, arguing with them, feeding them, healing them, serving them… and then he withdraws for a while to be alone with his loving Father. He is a contemplative activist, what we might call a true mystic.


How do you and I become true mystics, Jesus style?


Without love, a contemplative can be aloof, arrogant, without compassion. Without love, an activist can be “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Those who follow Jesus, however, are hopelessly in love. That’s why Paul, another true mystic, said that love was the primary characteristic of God’s People.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual I think you am, how gifted, sacrificial, knowledgeable, disciplined, or kind… if I do not love, I’ve missed the main thing.

The main thing is loving God and my neighbor. Like Jesus did.

When we love like that, we can give ourselves freely to service and try to change the world, like activists do, and we can pray without ceasing and savor of the intimacies of our union with Christ, like contemplatives do. And we can hold them in balance, like a true mystic, Jesus style…because we are in love with the One who has made us so.

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 and join us Sunday for more about “being mystics in a messed-up world.”

What is Love? – Our theme for Worship in the Park this Sunday!

22 Aug

what-is-loveWhat is love?  Do you know for certain?  There is a popular song that asks “What is love?” and then responds with “Baby, don’t hurt me.”  Though we don’t think of love as painful, another popular song echoes what many people have found to be true: “Love hurts.”  You might have experienced that in your own life.  It leaves many people wondering what love is all about and why our culture is so focused on love.  It leaves many people wondering if they will ever find love.  Maybe love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  If you read on, you’ll see that people all over the world are searching for love.  In fact they are searching for answers in the Bible.  Can the Bible possibly have an answer to a question of such magnitude?  That’s what we are going to try to find out on Sunday, and a special Sunday it is!

I’m super excited for this coming Sunday because it is Worship in the Park and our annual church Picnic! Join us at East Lampeter Community Park on Hobson Road at 10am on Sunday August 24th.  When you arrive just follow the music to find us, as we’ll be in the middle pavilion.

Tons of people from the church are working hard behind the scenes to pull off the event, and I am so grateful for their work.  Getting sound and music to the pavilion is a big deal.  Our worship will finish with a special large-scale art project for all ages, and putting that together has required the people to help out.  Then there is the coffee, snacks, and later the picnic which involved a whole additional group of people.  Thank you all!

As you prepare for worship on Sunday, our theme is What is Love? 

In preparation for Sunday, I came across this video.  It is fascinating to see how many people all over the world are searching to find the meaning of love.  In our ongoing study of 1st Corinthians we come to chapter 13, which as the video points out, is one of the most sought-after chapters in the Bible.  In 2009 it was the most searched for chapter on Bible Gateway.  In 2013 “love” was the most searched for topic.  On just about any list of the most popular chapters of the Bible, people put 1st Corinthians 13 in their Top Ten.  It is used prolifically at weddings.  And for good reason!  1 Corinthians 13 is all about the meaning of true love.

Because it has become almost synonymous with weddings, many people don’t realize that it was not originally written for that purpose.  Surely it applies to marriage, as we believe that love should be the foundation of a healthy marriage.  But why did Paul include this chapter in his letter to the Corinthian Christians?  If he wasn’t addressing love in marriage, what was he addressing?  Is there some reason that he put this chapter on love in the particular placement that he did?  At first glance it seems odd, random.  A chapter about love right in the middle of a bunch of chapters about worship-related things like the role of women, spiritual gifts, and speaking in tongues.  Why not talk about love in chapter 7 which was all about marriage?

Paul has a reason.  Take a look for yourself and see if you can figure it out.  Read 1 Corinthians 13 (and boost Bible Gateway’s stats a bit in the process!) and prepare to answer the question What is Love?

Multiple worship services ARE of the devil!

5 Nov

Yes, having multiple worship services are of the devil…if we let them be.

Let me explain.

It is very interesting how we go through life and end up changing our minds about things.

For example, how did I go from this to this?  If you don’t want to fully read those two blog posts, here’s a brief summary.  In the first post, written in February, I make the argument that it would be wrong for us to have multiple worship services because people need to give up their consumer mindset and be unified.  In the second post, written last week, I explain that in June we started a second worship!

All it took was the short time from February to June for my mind to change.  Actually it was a bit quicker than that because the decision to start an early traditional worship service was made in April or May. I remember during that time feeling a bit like a hypocrite.  I had written an impassioned blog post decrying consumeristic Christianity (which I still agree is a problem), and now I’m appearing to give in to consumerism.

I remember the series of meetings our church Council had about it. Things got very emotional.  People were making points to support their position, and we didn’t have any kind of consensus.  Between meetings I thought and prayed about it a lot.  I talked with people and sought out their wisdom.  At one point a different perspective struck me.  When God wanted to express his amazing love to us, he didn’t say “Jump through these hoops and get to me.”  Instead, he knew we were unable to reach him, and he gave up a whole heck of a lot to reach us.  Philippians 2:1-11 tells the story pretty well.

As I thought about Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, I compared that to our worship situation.  For the previous six years we had asked people to sacrifice in order to worship together.  But this was the opposite of how God looked at us.  No doubt God calls for us to sacrifice for him, but he took the first massive step.  I pondered this and knew my heart and mind was changing.  When it came to worship, we, the leadership, first needed to sacrifice for our people before asking them to sacrifice.  We needed to give of ourselves as an act of love.  That act of love needed to be a new worship service specifically for people who prefer a traditional style.

The idea was born.

At the next meeting, I sat quietly while the Council debated numerous ideas.  After 30, 40, or 50 minutes, I don’t know, I decided to submit my proposal.  I explained the change in my heart and mind, and then I suggested that we start an 8am service in a traditional style.  No volunteers, just me in a suit and tie, and our worship leader playing hymns.  We would use the offering plates and the doxology.  Same order of worship every week.  An act of love.

And it passed.

I expected 5-10 people to show up, with 10 being a victory.  I was afraid it would be only 5.  For five months now, we’ve averaged 15.  It’s tiny, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s not about numbers, but instead about giving in love.  After a three month trial the attenders thought we would shut it down, but instead we removed the “trial period” label and made it a permanent service.  We’ve found at least one unexpected benefit: people who are serving in various ministries and would normally have to miss the 9:30 worship can now come to the early service.

Are there any downsides?  Sure.  Our worship leader has to wake up earlier and prepare a whole set of extra songs.  We used to have a Sunday AM worship practice prior to the 9:30 service, but that is now impossible, so she also has to have a new practice time on a weekday night.  She has graciously sacrificed more for this venture than anyone.  I have to get up earlier too.

What of the other downside I refer to in my previous post, the possibility that this additional worship service has led to disunity in the church?  Is Satan at work in this?  I think not.  Not if we respond to the concern in a healthy way.  Here’s how I finished my sermon this past week to address this:

Unity cannot be accomplished by sitting in the same room as other people during a worship service. To borrow an illustration that Billy Graham used about shots, such as flu shots: perhaps by having worship together, and thus having a small dose of fellowship each week, we’ve inoculated ourselves from the real thing.  Building a relationship that leads to unity takes a lot of time outside the walls of the church. Let’s envision fellowship in a whole new way. Miss people from the other service? Give them a call, a visit, take them out for lunch, coffee, and spend a good long time with them. Then do it again and again. Invite them to dinner. Pray together, serve together, etc.

Unity takes work.  Unity is not easy.  Unity can be messy. Unity requires sacrifices. 

So how are you going to pursue unity with the people at the other worship service?

Follow up to Favorite Love Song

6 Aug

In preparation for the sermon on Sunday, I asked the question on this blog, “What is your favorite love song?”  There were so many great responses!  We heard of another church that put together a whole bunch of love songs, made a fun medley out of it, and we played the video during the sermon.

Our culture has so many different views on love, doesn’t it?

“I can’t fight this feeling anymore…”  Often love is portrayed that way.  A feeling, an opinion, and something that can change.  But we learned from 1 Corinthians 13, that the love God wants us to have is deep.  More like the song “I will always love you.”  Take a look at this encouraging video that describes the amazing love God wants us to have.

Sometimes it is very difficult to love certain people.  Do you have one of those people in your life?  In your family?  Neighborhood or workplace?  Guess what, they’re in the church too. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”  One litmus test for discipleship to Jesus is that we must love other disciples of Jesus.  We are to be known for this!

But again, it can be so hard!  It is okay to admit that we are having a hard time with someone in the church.  In fact, it is good to admit it, but in a very sensitive, caring way.  Maybe not in the middle of the worship service!  Instead, it is vital that we bring a trusted friend to help us.   Do you have an accountability partner?  Who can you reach out to that will help you love?

For the next month as we study the Fruit of the Spirit, we should be able to look back and see that fruit growing in our lives!  That means we should be more loving at the end of the month than we are now.  Having someone to walk alongside us to help us can be the deciding factor as to whether or not we are growing.  God uses people in our lives to encourage us.  So will you invite someone into your fruit-growing process?  And will you pray “Spirit, fill me that I might grow your fruit in my life.”?

Also feel free to discuss here!

What is your favorite love song?

3 Aug

I’m excited because tomorrow we start a new teaching series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  Last week at Vacation Bible School we studied the Fruit of the Spirit, so we thought it would be cool to keep the study going.

First up is love!  Love is all over our culture.

This afternoon, if you were in our house, you could hear one of the newest hit love songs, “Ooh, La, La” by Brittney Spears blaring from a room upstairs.  I’ll admit it, I really enjoy a good love song.  I’m not sure if “Ooh, La, La” fits the bill, at least in my mind!  Lovers over the decades have come up with so many wonderful love songs, both lyrically and musically.

Often they’re catchy, because love is so exciting.  Some love songs are very emotional, because love is deep.  Some love songs make us sad, because love can be difficult.

So what’s your favorite love song?  And why?