Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

November 22, 2017

“That I may make the voice of thanksgiving heard 
And tell of all Your wondrous works.” 
– Psalm 26:7

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow is a national day of Thanksgiving, but if you listen to the news long enough, you will think it is a day to be spent complaining about the weather, possible stampedes at early holiday sales, and the inevitable traffic stand still on 23 and 270.  And to add to the irony, Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday!  It seems that the world is full of noise about everything we are not thankful for! So, what would it look like to be thankful people?  Thomas Merton (Trappist Monk, author of The Seven Story Mountain) describes it this way:

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” 

May each of you have a blessed Thanksgiving, and may you know God’s immense goodness and grace as you gather around the table.

All Blessings,
Becky

November 16, 2017

Dear Friends:

Now is the time to RENEW!

RENEW is devoted to the renewal of our church, our faith, ourselves as we commit to supporting God’s ministries and missions at Liberty in 2018 and 2019 and to complete several projects that are critical to our life together – re-siding the Barn, reconfiguring our driveways & parking as the county expands Home Road, renovating the Youth Room and Old Hall, and many other important improvements.

RENEW can be summarized as “ONE-TWO-THREE”:

  • We are making ONE ask of the congregation, asking you to return a RENEWcommitment card this Sunday, November 19.
  • This one ask is for a TWO-year financial commitment – pledging how you will support Liberty financially in 2018 and 2019.
  • This two-year financial commitment will support THREE projects:
    1. The 2018 operating budget ($1,252,000)
    2. The 2019 operating budget ($1,290,000)
    3. Critical improvement and repair projects ($1,900,000)

This Sunday, November 19,  is RENEW Commitment Sunday.  Please bring your completed RENEW commitment card with you to worship. As I reported last Sunday, advance commitments from 62 Liberty families (9% of our givers) total $1,293,876 – an annual increase of 2.2 times their 2017 financial support, and 29% of the RENEW goal.  With your participation today, you will be an important part of RENEW’s success.

Following the sermon, everyone will be invited to come forward to place their RENEWcommitment card in the basket on the table.  Some have already returned their card (thank you!) and some aren’t able to make a financial commitment right now — still, we invite everyone to come forward to express your commitment to Liberty through your gifts and prayers. Extra RENEW commitment cards are provided in the benches and in the Barn entrance area.  (When you fill out your RENEW commitment card, the key figure is the white box at the bottom, just above the space to write your name and information: “My Two-Year RENEW Commitment”).

What we have achieved in these past five weeks will impact Liberty for years to come.  Thank you for your commitment to RENEW!

Serving Jesus with you.
John

November 9, 2017

FROM THE DESK OF DAWN PARR, CHILDREN’S MINISTRY

Dear Friends:
Liberty has a unique Sunday school program, the Rotation Workshop Model. This is a unique format that is based upon weekly rotations. For each rotation, a focal Bible story is chosen and then five different workshops are created to teach that story. This year our focus is the “Long Story Short”.

The workshop classrooms for grade school ages are: Art, Drama, Games, Cooking, as well Geography & Mission. As the kids rotate through each class, their Bible knowledge grows deeper, and they reflect on their journey of faith.

This past month our Mission & Geography Class examined the life of Joseph. They studied our World Map to understand Joseph’s journey to Egypt and how God’s blessings can be found in all situations. They read about Joseph saving Egypt and his family from famine, and then realized they, too, can help others in need. The class discussed the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and were given an opportunity to help.

Each child created a Gift of the Heart School Kit. They decorated a bag with the words “Have Faith” and then filled them with school supplies. We completed 75 school kits, which will be sent to those children devastated by the hurricanes (pictured above).

Our memory verse in this classroom came from Romans 8:28, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me”. God can take things that are bad and work them for His good and His glory. Whatever circumstances come to us, we can rely on God’s promise and be assured that He can bring it to His good.

In Christ,
Dawn

November 2, 2017

Dear Friends:
“Days pass, and years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”  With these words observant Jews begin their prayers at the start of the weekly Sabbath. It is a confession of too busy lives, and it announces their intention to the pay attention to God’s hand at work, not only on the Sabbath, but every day. “Days pass, and years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”

This week in Long Story Short we are reading about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Their wanderings, of course, are punctuated by complaints against Moses and against the Lord.  And yet there are miracles there – if only they opened their eyes to see: the gift of manna, God’s bread; the gift of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire of night to lead them; the gift of God’s commandments.  I often think if I had been there – with such clear miracles – I would not have been among the murmurers.  But the reality is we tend to live looking at lists rather than God moments, and challenges rather than the miracles that are right before us.

So, as we enter the season of Thanksgiving, let’s keep our eyes open to God’s hand at work, and our hearts grateful.

Blessings,
Becky

PS: We are going to do a little holy wandering ourselves this coming Sunday, November 5, after each worship service!  Meet us in the Chapel and Join our Prayer Trail for RENEW! 

October 26, 2017

October 19, 2017 RENEW

Dear Friends:
This Sunday marks the launch of RENEW,a three-pronged initiative:

1. RENEW is a stewardship campaign.  On November 19, we will ask you to make a two-year pledge to support Liberty’s operating fund for both 2018 and 2019.

2. RENEW is also a capital campaign.  In addition to funding the 2018 and 2019 operating budgets, your two-year pledge will also support $1.9 million in much-needed capital improvements, including re-siding the Barn, renovating the Youth Room and Old Hall, and re-designing our parking & traffic drives in response to Delaware County’s expansion of the Home Road/315 interchange.  In addition to improving our campus, 10% of funds budgeted for capital projects will directly support two local missions, over and above our regular 10% commitment to missions.

3. But RENEW is, more fundamentally, a spiritual campaign:

  • More than raising fund levels, RENEW aims to raise our faith levels.
  • More than asking us to stretch financially, RENEW intends to cultivate a generous lifestyle within us.
  • More than renovating our campus, RENEW seeks to renew our commitment to God.
Friends, God continues to bless Liberty mightily.

Attendance continues to grow, new members continue to join, our finances are very solid, and God continues to change lives at Liberty:

  • “Liberty has introduced me to people of genuine faith and commitment to God that I had never experienced before, having been raised with no church and no faith until I sought it out for myself.”
  • “The love and prayers we received during a very difficult time for our family were amazing.  Liberty members are a true blessing.”
  • I know my children are getting an A+ in spiritual education at Liberty!”
  • Liberty has given me the opportunity to be useful for God through its missions like Street Church and Walls Build.”
  • “When I first starting worshipping here, I had a deep personal wound in my life.  But my heart has been healed at Liberty.”

I invite you to join wholeheartedly in this season of renewal at Liberty: renew your commitment, renew your generosity, renew your faith.

Serving Jesus with you,
John

October 12, 2017

Dear Friends:
We are in Exodus chapters 1-17 this week, reading the story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. As you know, at one moment God’s people are celebrating their freedom, and the next they are trapped between the Pharaoh’s chariots and the Red Sea. As they stand there, surrounded, the frightened Hebrews begin to complain against Moses. Is this what he led them out of slavery for? Is this how it is all going to end?

I think that you and I have been in this place too – Is this it, God?  I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed and this is it? No answer? No help?  No way out?

In the midst of the people’s murmurings, Moses declares: “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord deliver you today.” Exodus 14:13

And then God delivers on his promise: “Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind….  So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” Exodus 14: 21-22

This story speaks to the sheer size and power of our God.

Nothing in Israel’s life provides a more powerful example of God’s intervention on their behalf.  And this story also speaks to the sheer size and power of our fears. I think that most of us empathize with the Hebrews when they are caught between the armies and the sea.

Haven’t most of us felt like that at one time or another? As the old rock song goes:

Between the devil and the deep blue sea
Is usually where I will be –
And everywhere that I can see -The tide is breaking over me….

When there seems to be no way out, God will make a way. That’s the promise of Exodus – even to us today.

Resting in His promises,
Becky

October 5, 2017

Dear Friends:
We are in Genesis chapters 36-50 this week, reading the story of Joseph. Let’s be honest: On the surface, it is a story with no redeeming features.  It is a story of envy and bitterness and violence. It starts with Joseph’s brothers throwing him and his multi-colored dream coat in a pit to die, and after that there is slavery, entreaties from the Pharaoh’s wife, imprisonment, and more.  But Stephen, the first Christian martyr, reminds us that God was at work even here. Stephen declares: “The patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered Joseph out of his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh the king of Egypt.” (Acts 7:9).  And that is in fact what happens.  Joseph ultimately becomes the right hand of the Pharaoh himself in perilous times for Egypt.

As the old saying goes, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”   I don’t know how Joseph held onto his faith and integrity through everything.  But God was with him.  We all talk about life at times being the pits. Joseph was literally in a pit, and God redeemed – God transformed – even the worst that this life could throw at him. Joseph ended up in a place where he was used to save an entire nation.

I have come to believe that God is in the detours.  Not that the Lord always causes them – some detours are just the brokenness of this world around us.  But God is in those detours and walks with us through them, transforming even the deepest pit with the heights of his love.

May you know His transforming love in a special way this week.

Blessings,
Becky

September 28, 2017

Dear Friends:
We are in the Book of Genesis in our journey through the Bible, and I’ve been reflecting on that astonishing moment when the Lord takes Abraham outside and points up at the night sky: Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:5) Later God reaffirms his promise: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky….” (Genesis 22:17)

I can’t help but read these images and think that this word from the Lord is not only about the promise of a people – but also about our purpose as a people. We are called to shine like stars in a world that desperately needs a little light. This may be a stretch, but rabbinic literature bears this out!  A well-known Hasidic master tells us that the Bible’s repeated comparison of God’s chosen people to the stars in heaven is meant to teach us a core truth about our responsibilities in the world: Like stars, we are obligated to bring a little bit of light to the dark places of the world. Wherever there is suffering, sadness, and heartbreak, we are sent by God to bring compassion, love and healing.  The Apostle Paul, in a letter from prison to a new church, puts it this way:You will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:15)

May we here at Liberty be a light that shines brightly into the darkest corners of our world.

Blessings,
Becky

September 21, 2017

Dear Friends:
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of benediction…those words of blessing at the end of a time of worship, or over a child in baptism, or pronounced over a couple as they stand trembling before you and make forever vows….  We all need words of blessing spoken into our lives.  I recently discovered a benediction that speaks not only blessing but challenge into our days:

May God give you the grace never to sell yourself short:
To risk something big for something good
Grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth
And too small for anything but love.

So may God take your minds and work through them
May God take your lips and speak through them
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
Amen.
-Dr. William Sloane Coffin

May we not only receive blessing but be blessing in a world that desperately needs us.

Yours in Christ,
Becky

September 14, 2017

From the Desk of R.H. Karn,  Liberty Youth Ministry

Dear Friends:

Commuting into work this morning was a little rocky; the twenty to thirty-minute drive to my office was put into perspective while imagining the millions of people in Florida who couldn’t drive anywhere (even if they wanted to) due to impassable roads or waterlogged vehicles. And countless more people without power waking up to destruction and devastation all around them. Does a “Good morning!” greeting in Ohio to my neighbor or office-mate mean the same as a “Good morning!” greeting in a hurricane shelter to the people who slept beside you in cots? I think it does. I hope it does. Mornings bring hope, even after the darkest of nights.

When discussing Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, our Liberty youth group had one serious question: How can we help? I am so blessed and so thankful to be part of this group, and I am so thankful for their hearts and the drive that has been instilled in their hearts to live out what Romans 12:10-13 says:

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.”

As much as we would love to move our summer mission trip from June to September, we still have commitments here in Ohio. However, we do have an opportunity to aid the hurricane relief efforts: the youth group will be putting on a drive for supplies to put together hygiene kits for hurricane victims, and we invite all of you to participate. We will be working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, who have been collecting “Gifts of the Heart” kits just like these from all over the U.S.

We will be collecting the following items:

  • Hand towels (approximately 16″ x 28″, no fingertip or bath towels)
  • Washcloths
  • Wide-tooth combs
  • Nail clippers
  • Bars of soap (bath size)
  • Toothbrushes (in original packaging, NO toothpaste)
  • Band-Aids® or other adhesive bandage strips

We will be collecting these items this Sunday, September 17 through Sunday, October 15. Please bring your donated items to one of the four collection boxes around the church:  the Sanctuary entrance, Barn Lower Level, Reception Area, or Youth Room.

This week, as we see stories of loss, devastation, mourning, and heroism, selflessness, and love, pray for our neighbors impacted by these storms – those on our southern shores, those in the Caribbean, and those world-wide who are suffering. Pray for God to bring hope into their lives, and thank you for your participation in this drive.

Blessings,
R. H. Karn

September 7, 2017

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR KYLE

“Christians believe that there is one true story: the story told in the Bible…Only this story unlocks the meaning of human history—and thus the meaning of your life and mine.”  ~Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen

Dear Friends:

From beginning to end, the Bible tells a story. Just like any other story, the Bible has a hero (spoiler alert: it’s God). The hero of the story has a quest—to rid the world of sin and evil and to cleanse the world of their damaging effects. And like every good story, the hero is decisively victorious in the end. But more than simply a good yarn, the Bible tells us about who God is and who we are. Theologian Lesslie Newbigin once wrote in his book, A Walk Through the Bible, that if we want to know who God is, we need to know the big story of the Bible.

The Bible interprets the whole of reality and the whole of history in terms of the actions, the doings, the speakings, the promises of God. And therefore the Bible is the way in which we come to know God, because we don’t know a person except by knowing his or her story.

This year as an entire Church, we are going to immerse ourselves in that big story of the Bible, and we’re calling it “Long Story Short”. We won’t read every word or even every book of the Bible. But on May 20, 2018, when we finish our journey together, we will have read through the Bible’s overarching story from beginning to end.

How can you participate Long Story Short? Here are three ways:

  1. Join us in reading the Bible. Each week we will publish a weekly reading plan and brief study guide. Use this guide to focus your reading and to help you reflect on what you have read.
  2. Join a Bible Study. Many Liberty Bible Study Groups will be following along with Long Story Short, and they would love to have you join them. Click here to find out about our study groups.
  3. Purchase a Study GuideThe Adult Discipleship Committee is recommending the book Exploring the Story as a study guide for Long Story Short. The book is available in the Barn Lower Level on Sundays for the discounted price of $10, or you can buy the book from your favorite book store.

I am excited to see how God will speak to us and shape us as a congregation this year. Join us as together we take a long look at the big story of the Bible!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Kyle

August 31, 2017

“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.”
~Song of Solomon 8:7

Dear Friends:

As I sit here on dry land, I can’t help but think of our brothers and sisters in Houston who have experienced endless rain and historic flooding. My focus this week is all about prayer. Prayers for safety. Prayers for God’s protection. Prayers of gratitude for the first responders and emergency workers, and for shelters housing families who have lost everything. Prayers for churches opening their doors with everything from a hot meal to beds and blankets. Prayers for recovery and new chapters. Above all, prayers for God’s grace and mercy.

The Psalm that I keep turning to in my worship time is Psalm 69. Here is an edited version for your prayers:

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord….
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from this enemy—
from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the grave close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me…..

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save the people
and rebuild the destroyed cities.

Let us pray for our nation, and particularly for the people of Houston, and know that we at Liberty are continuing to seek ways to serve through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Red Cross. These efforts represent your mission dollars at work.

With Prayers & Blessings,
Becky

 

HURRICANE RELIEF

In response to the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Liberty Church is providing funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the relief agency of our denomination, the PC(USA). For more information on this outstanding organization and to give your support to their response to the current crises, please see their website: pda.pcusa.org

August 24, 2017

Dear Friends:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it,
but because by it I see everything else.
-C.S. Lewis

Did you watch the solar eclipse?  The staff here at church watched the moon pass over the sun, leaving a bright orange crescent shining in the sky – one of those wonders that leaves you “gob-smacked” at God’s handiwork.

Genesis 1 tells us: Then God said,“Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened.  God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night.  The sun shines its light upon the earth, and the moon reflects the sun’s light upon the earth.  One is the light – the other reflects the light.

Which is where we come in. Like the moon reflects the light of the sun back to a dark world, we too are to reflect the light of Christ to a world of people. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life….”

While we won’t have another eclipse until 2024, don’t stop pondering God’s greatness and the wonder of His majesty in creation. And don’t forget to reflect His light –  that together here at Liberty we can be a shining light for Christ.

Serving Jesus with you,
Becky

 

August 17, 2017

Dear Friends:
These are such disturbing times. Watching white fringe groups with torches and Nazi flags march on our beloved country is more than I can bear. I can think of nothing that speaks to my broken heart – our broken hearts – more this week than this affirmation from former Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Good is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate:
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, through Him who loves us.

Standing strong with you in faith, hope and the redeeming power of God’s love,
Becky

August 10, 2017

Dear Friends:
We have some AMAZING August Sundays coming up!  This Sunday is Heritage Sunday and the ever popular Chicken BBQ (with all the fixin’s!).  Next Sunday is Rally Day with “Touch-a-Truck”, Food Trucks, a Bounce House, and information on 101 ways to grow in faith and outreach thru Liberty. Then on August 27, it is Blessing of the Animals – with St. Francis!

So what’s the catch?  It’s all a celebration – but we are also hoping that you will take advantage of these special Sundays to invite a friend. In fact, I’d like you to think of these coming Sundays as “Friend Days” – where we share the joy by inviting someone to join us.

The single most effective way to grow the church is by the power of a one on one invitation. Church consultants say that 80% of the people in a church first came “because a friend or relative invited them.” George Gallup Jr. surveyed non-church-goers and was surprised to find that “70% of all people who do not now attend a church responded that if someone invited them they would react favorably.”  Contrast these statistics with another statistic found in a recent Presbyterian publication, which concluded that “the average Presbyterian invites a friend to worship once every 24 years.” (No wonder we are known as the frozen chosen!) Do take the time to invite a friend, a newcomer to the neighborhood, a new face at the office, to join us in one of these special worship services and to discover (maybe for the first time) God’s great love for them in Jesus Christ.

See you Sunday!

Blessings,
Becky

P.S. An easy way to invite friends to the amazing upcoming events at Liberty is by sharing our Facebook events! Click here!!

August 3, 2017

Dear Friends:
I received a wonderful note in the mail from a home-bound Liberty member.  In response to a visit from a Deacon (with flowers in a painted vase and cookies – both from our Be the Church Day!), she writes:

This thank you note comes from the heart.  
One Sunday, after church, a Liberty friend came by 
with delicious cookies and a flowering plant in a decorated pot.
I loved them and thank you. 
Liberty will always be my church.

Whether you come to us, or we come to you, we want everyone to know that you are a vital part of Liberty. We are family. Which leads to a second note from a home-bound member. This woman shared with me a prayer she has treasured for years, from the 19th century hymn writer Jane Eliza Leeson:

Savior teach me day by day,
Love’s sweet lesson to obey,
Sweeter lesson cannot be,
Loving Him who first loved me.

May that be our prayer.

Blessings,
Becky