Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

December 6, 2018


Dear Friends:

As this year’s holiday season enters full swing, I have been reflecting on waiting. The days leading up to Christmas are full of waiting. Waiting in line to see Santa Claus. Waiting in line to pay for holiday purchases. Waiting to greet the boss at the company Christmas party. Waiting to open all the presents under the tree. If there were a banner we could spread over these cozy (infuriating?) yuletide scenes, we could think of few better than “Hurry up and wait.”

The scenes surrounding the Christmas story, too, are full of waiting. Elizabeth and Zechariah waiting a lifetime for a child. The prophet Simeon, who was “eagerly waiting for the savior to come.” Anna, who spent her every waking moment in the temple fasting and praying and waiting expectantly for the birth of God’s son. Taken together, we get the sense that all of creation, heaven and earth, are waiting with bated breath for the birth of this child Jesus.

While these stories are filled with waiting, the waiting we see is buzzing with activity; it could hardly be confused with passively waiting for the line to inch forward and the seconds to count down. It isn’t even patient. It is nearer to so-close-you-can-taste-it anticipation—a hunger that can only be satisfied by God himself. The waiting of Scripture is eager, hopeful, expectant.

So, what are you waiting for? What are you hoping for this Christmas? What are you expecting Jesus to do in your life and this world when he comes once again? What are you hoping our Savior and King will bring with him as he arrives in a stinky stable stall? When Jesus arrives (as the old song goes) “with healing in his wings,” where are you hoping his healing hands might touch first?

Grace, peace, and every advent blessing,

November 29, 2018

Dear Friends:

This Sunday is the first day of Advent, and every December it seems that we stand at the intersection of:

  • Bethlehem and Amazon Prime,
  • the Shepherds and the sales forces,
  • Silent Night and holiday chaos,
  • the coming of Christ and the arrival of Elf on the Shelf.

It is jarring, to say the least.

So, what do we do? Well, first we turn to the story as given us in Luke 1 & 2 and read and reread it until the miracle of the birth of Jesus sinks deep into our bones.

Then you can go online to see our Liberty Advent Devotional, or pick up a print copy this Sunday, to be inspired by other’s stories of their Advent and Christmas experiences–filled with both joy and sorrow. This Sunday evening is the first of our Advent Concerts, a Homecoming Concert with more artists and inspiration than you can imagine! And of course, join us in worship and fellowship with other believers, who are celebrating not holiday Ho-Ho -Ho, but the very birth of Christ again in our hearts and lives.

May we walk together into this holy season,

In the name of the Emmanuel,

November 21

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  ~I Thessalonians 5:16

Dear Friends:

In her memoir, The Hiding Place, Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the importance of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, had been hiding Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.

The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read, in their tattered Bible, Paul’s reminder to rejoice in all things. Betsy said, Corrie, we’ve got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas. Corrie replied, no way am I going to thank God for fleasBut Betsy persisted, and they did thank God – even for the terrible infestation of fleas.

During the months that followed, they found that the guards rarely came by their barracks. This meant that they could do Bible study with the other women imprisoned there; they could talk openly and even pray in their cells. Later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those awful fleas.

In this season of Thanksgiving, some of us are overflowing with gratitude for this time in our lives, and others are struggling to the point that gratitude seems impossible. I understand what a challenge giving thanks can be when life is tough. For those of you who are struggling, why not try to give thanks – even for one thing? It is amazing how the smallest prayer of gratitude can change our hearts.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

A very happy Thanksgiving from the Harts to your home,

Becky & John

November 15, 2018

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
Dear Friends:

Our youngest was studying abroad several years ago in Italy. (Okay, studying may be a stretch.)  She and her friends went to all sorts of amazing places and did all sorts of amazing things, from skydiving in Switzerland to the Sound of Music tour in Austria. She rode every train and discount airline and stayed in hostels that were an adventure in themselves. One was even called “The Funny Farm”. I guess for 20 bucks a night you can’t be picky!  She kept a blog on all these adventures, full of stories from her travels and photographs of the highlights (Emily and friends in the tree that the Sound of Music children swung from…Emily and friends eating gelato…you get the idea!)

I loved reading the blog of her adventures, except for one thing: There was always a mom reference that was guilt-inducing.  She’d show a photo of them all eating pizza and say,Yes, Mom, we are making sure to get protein too. Or she’d show the hostel and note: Yes Mom, we always lock the doors. Or: No, Mom, we don’t talk to strangers! There is barely an entry without my name on it – and not in a good way!

It is stewardship time at Liberty as we finish strong with RENEW, and I realize that for some of us, that feels a bit guilt-inducing. Hearing about giving makes us all squirm a little. Sex and politics are no longer verboten topics in everyday conversation, but how we give our money remains a private topic. So, in the privacy of reading this Link here are two things to consider:

  1. Pray about your giving. It’s okay not to want to talk about it with others but discuss it with God!
  2. Remember that as we talk about stewardship, we are always referring to both our treasure and our talents, to both how we give funds and how we give of our time.
Please know that we are deeply appreciative of your gift of time and talents. Just watching countless Thanksgiving boxes getting loaded onto a truck for the Delaware Department of Jobs and Family Services today made me teary. And how you share your many gifts – from singing to gardening, cooking to counting, teaching our children to serving as a Church Officer – amazes me. We are blessed beyond measure.

Friends, stewardship is everything we give to the Lord – and that includes our time, our talents, and our money.  Know that as you give in any way, it will be a blessing not only to you, but to others.

In God’s Sure Hands,

November 8, 2018

Dear Friends:

A while back, a friend of mine showed me an article from the Village Voice, which is a far-left leaning New York newspaper. The piece he wanted me to see was an advice column in the Voice called “Ask Andrew.” As I wondered what this was about, I read an outstanding Q&A on politics and our essential humanity. I hope it speaks to you as powerfully as it did me.

“Hi, Andrew. I just can’t deal with my father. He’s a right-wing conservative who has turned into a total jerk intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics. People like my dad are gonna destroy us all. I don’t have any good times with him anymore; all we do is argue. I love him no matter what, but how do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying everything and pushing away the people who care about him?
Thanks for your help,
Son of a Right-Winger.”

And here’s how Andrew from the Village Voice responded:

“Dear Son of a Right-Winger,
Go back and read your letter. Read it again. Then read it again.
Try to find a single instance where you refer to your dad as a human being. There isn’t one. You’ve reduced your father to a set of political views. You’ve also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views and reduced a relationship to a fight between the two. The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, liberal or conservative; the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better than others who think differently. When we believe that some people are monsters, we ourselves become monsters.
When we anticipate with ferocious glee the next chance we have to prove someone wrong and ourselves right, all the while disregarding the vast complexity of every issue, we are reducing the beauty of life to a side or to a type. No matter how wrong someone else might seem to us, they are still human. We must strive to see things from the point of view we most disagree with, and we must at all times force ourselves to love the people we dislike the most, not because it is nice, but because our own sanity and survival depends on it.”

With gratitude for those who embrace other points of view,

November 1, 2018


We have almost reached the half-way point in our two-year RENEW campaign: renewing ourselves, our church, and our faith.  We have a lot to celebrate!

At this time last year, you were introduced to the RENEW initiative — a two-year campaign to raise financial support for:

  • 2018 Operating Budget
  • 2019 Operating Budget
  • much-needed Capital Projects

Thanks to your generosity, the RENEW campaign is firing on all cylinders.  Successes include:

  • Nearly $3 million pledged ($150,000 more than at this point last November)
  • $1.75 million received
  • $3.8 million projected total RENEW giving in 2018-2019

The beautiful (and long-lasting) new siding on the Barn is almost completely installed.  And as soon as the construction crew is finished with the siding project, they will begin the renovation and refurbishing of our Youth Room to support Liberty’s thriving youth ministry. This renovation will include all new wiring and connectivity; new ceiling, flooring and paint; new furniture as well as decorative touches like old barn siding on one of the walls.  In addition, a new central HVAC system will be installed throughout the Administration Building.  All of this is due to your gifts.

In addition, because of your commitment to RENEW, we can report

  • The 2018 Operating Budget is fully funded
  • Your pledges fully cover the 2019 Operating Budget
  • Capital projects completed to date (totaling $670,000):
    • Re-siding the Barn
    • New paver sidewalk entrances to Barn upper & lower levels
    • New LED lighting in the Barn sanctuary
    • New pavers at Barn Lower Level and main entrance to the Barn
    • Tinting of the Barn windows
    • New hi-tech HVAC controls for Barn for a future savings
    • $118,000 has been set aside for driveway and parking changes when Delaware County completes its Home Road expansion project.

As a church, we have a lot to celebrate!  So first and foremost, thank you.

Second, we hope to finish strong!  Even with your generosity, we still have two RENEW projects we would like to accomplish for the Liberty campus:

  1. Renovating the Old Hall — to provide much-needed meeting space
  2. Installing more extensive parking lot lighting — for added safety and security

In order to complete these two final projects, an additional $130,000 in giving is needed by the end of 2019.

Let’s celebrate the success of RENEW.  And please review your RENEW commitment and consider a “finish strong” gift so that we can complete the campaign!

Serving Jesus with you,

October 25, 2018

Dear Friends:

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

I attended a prayer event recently, and the main speaker shared both hilarious stories about being a parent of teenagers and heartbreaking stories about his difficult journey through life.  And as he shared how God slowly but surely broke through his years of resistance and grabbed ahold of his heart, I was reminded once again of how much humility is needed to walk this journey of faith.  Surrender, handing over the reins of our lives to Jesus, humility – these are all the ingredients of faith.  And they aren’t just something we do once in our lives – they are something we need to do every day.  AA gets this big time – the 12-step program is built on admission and surrender.  But for the rest of us, we forget.  We are under the delusion that it is all about us, our power and our control.

The prophet Micah calls us back to the essentials of faith:

  • Doing justice, which starts by living honestly with others, speaking truth, doing the right thing.
  • Loving kindness, which begins with setting aside our own egos long enough to see the world through another’s eyes and to reach out in compassion to them.
  • And finally: walking in humility, day by day by day. 

That’s what folks should see when they look at us – they should say, those Christians are so humble and servant-like. Because if they see that, they see Jesus.

And what could be better than that?


October 18, 2018

Dear Friends:

The classic children’s book, The Phantom Tollbooth, tells the story of a young boy named Milo. One rainy afternoon, Milo receives a mysterious gift of a cardboard tollbooth.  Bored, Milo builds the tollbooth and “drives through” it with his toy car.  Suddenly, Milo finds himself in a strange new land.  At first, he is excited – what an adventure! But as the road stretches out before him, Milo begins to grow bored again and dozes off. Rousing himself, Milo notices there are strange little creatures draped over his car, snoozing on his head and dashboard.  The creatures inform Milo that he is now stuck in a place known as “The Doldrums”.

The “doldrums” is actually an old nautical reference to a “dead zone” — a place where there are no strong currents, and no wind to fill up the sails. Unfortunately, it isn’t just sailors or bored little boys on rainy afternoons who find themselves stranded in the “doldrums.” We Christians can fall into the doldrums — treating our faith as commonplace, content with things as they are. But when we read scripture, we see folks running to Jesus, continually seeking him out, pressing in around him to catch his every word. Listen to Paul as he urges Timothy: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love….” (I Timothy 6:11) Pursue, says Paul — seek out, seize with both hands, follow after with everything you’ve got.

Milo gets out of the Doldrums by visiting new and exciting places like the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping to it).  Like Milo, I find when I am in the doldrums that getting out of my comfort zone and doing something new awakens my heart.  Getting involved in outreach (Street Church, Kairos Prison Ministry, His Place, Youth for Christ), reading through a new devotional book, teaching or taking a class, going on an Emmaus weekend or joining a small group all re-energize a sleepy faith.  Simply meeting with other believers tends to “jumpstart” our motors and get us traveling new paths of faith.

This is a great time to pursue something new in your spiritual life at Liberty. May all of us visiting the Doldrums discover, along with Milo, that the journey of faith is an incomparable adventure.

Adventuring along with you,

October 11, 2018

Dear Friends:
A wise parent I know says, “You are only as happy as your least happy child.” Experience tells me that this is true. And as Christians, we are only as happy and secure as the least happy and secure member of God’s family. This is our Father’s world, and part of our job is to be His hands and feet, reaching out to ensure God’s beloved children are well fed, cared for, safe and sound. It’s not an easy job. His children come in all shapes and sizes, colors and countries. Our reach feels so small; our corner of the world so comfortable. But the One who reached out His arms on the cross for us calls us to reach out with our arms open wide to the very least of these (Mt. 25:45).

What I hear – whether from a Liberty member feeding a child at Street Church or His Place Soup Kitchen, caring for a teen through Youth for Christ or the Columbus Court system or as far as El Ovido, Honduras – is that it’s worth it. Maybe even life-changing.

In the words of Teresa of Avila:

“Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

May this be our prayer,

P.S.: Above is a photo of the Dance Team from our sister church in Honduras!

October 4, 2018

Dear Friends:

Pictured above is the whiteboard in the bedroom of one of our 14-year-old Liberty members, who came home from last week’s worship service and wrote across her board: “Be one of Jesus’ people.” Amen!  As we wrapped up our Called sermon series, we talked about going out the door and into the world as Jesus’ person. Jesus prays, Just as you sent me into the world; I am sending them into the world.” (John 17:18)   We are all sent out as Jesus people – not just 14-year-olds who listen extra well to the message!  A Jesus person is someone who carries the good news and the unfailing love and grace of our Savior everywhere they go.

While I may have preached this challenge, I continue to forget Jesus’ call.  It was this young woman’s note that reminded me to be a Jesus person even when I am sweating it out at the gym or getting grumpy waiting in the doctor’s office for the annual check-up (I get really grumpy waiting!) or at book club or wherever else I may be that does not automatically feel “religious.”

As I reflected on this, I was reminded of a song I learned long ago at church camp in the hills of Virginia.  It went like this:

Hold me Lord I pray and keep me moment by moment… 
Moment by moment I am kept in Your love,
Moment by moment I’ve life from above,
Looking to Jesus ‘till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine. 

Friends, moment by moment we are His. So, let’s let His light shine!