Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

August 2, 2018

 

 

Dear Friends,
We have a unique privilege this coming Sunday! We are celebrating two practices that were central to the life of the early church—and are central to our life together now—baptism and communion.

The sacraments are vital to our life together. Baptism anoints us as God’s own. A seed of faith is planted in baptism that is up to this village to water and grow. At Jesus’ baptism, God spoke to him, saying, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” I think about that blessing every time we baptize one of God’s beloved children (of all ages!).

While baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event, communion is something we celebrate every month. That’s because communion renews us in faith from the inside out through the very presence of Jesus. As John reminded us last Sunday, we are a forgetful people. So, we come to the table in all humility to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and to experience Christ in our hearts anew. I come to the table often as a “do-over” – a chance to repent of my own forgetfulness and failures and to start over again, by His grace.

Friends, Jesus is with us in all times and all places. But He is especially with us as we break bread together, and as we vow to support a family in faith. Henri Nouwen writes that communion with God “is the deepest desire of the human heart”. May our lives be marked by this life-changing communion.

Blessings,
Becky

July 26, 2018

Dear Friends,
As I write this, we are in the middle of our Vacation Bible School Bus Trip with Moses. Starting the day off with Angie Hurd leading us in singing and Dawn praying, and then all those amazing volunteers teaching and leading games and preparing snacks and crafts – what an incredible blessing.  With 300 children filled with energy and excitement, we just about lift the roof off the place!

And I love that we are all on a journey together with Moses. Is there any more vivid experience of God’s provision in scripture than the Exodus journey?  After God frees the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, and parts the Red Sea, God’s people are now traveling through the wilderness. They are hungry, and, forgetting the Lord’s recent miraculous interventions, they cry out in fear, anger and frustration. And here is how God responds:“‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” (Exodus 16:4) Bread from heaven. Just imagine: When the people woke up each morning and looked out of their tent – there was bread, the manna, glistening in the sunlight, God’s gift spread out before them. As the prophet promises in Lamentations 3: “God’s mercies are new every morning.”

I am enjoying the gift of all these children’s smiles every morning at VBS – it is like manna to me, such a blessing. God’s word, your prayers, our worship together is also manna that feeds me each and every day.  May you experience God’s manna, His great mercies, new every morning.

Blessings,
Becky (aka “Pippa Hufflepuff”)

July 19, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF DAWN PARR

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you’”
~Exodus 3:14

Dear Friends:
Two small words; three simple letters – “I AM.”

The Lord tells us repeatedly in His Word that He is the great “I AM.”  He never added anything else to that statement.  God’s unvarnished, powerfully simplistic, two small words say everything. They assure us that not one miraculous trait defining our God could ever be left out. “I AM,” says it all. The magnitude of that is amazing – HE JUST IS!

“I AM” is in Hebrew, Yahweh, four consonants (yhwh) that make up the phrase. It is the holiest name for God in the Old Testament. To think that the Lord has given us a name to identify Him at all indicates He is personal and has a real relationship with mankind.

God is our loving, kind Teacher. He is our Friend, Savior, and Counselor. He is our Bountiful Provider when we fall on hard times. God is our Divine Healer when we are sick. He is our Mighty Protector who guards us and keeps us safe and free from harm. God is the Prince and Author of Peace.  He is our Deliverer. He is our Dwelling Place. He fulfills our dreams. He validates us. He is our hope and our future. God is our infallible guide on this path of life. He is the very essence of our being, and He is the definition of pure love. He is, after all, our Father, the great “I AM.”

Next week for VBS, Liberty will welcome 300 children through our doors, who will be introduced to the Great I AM. They will travel through the ancient land of Canaan touring the many sites Moses and the Israelites experienced the miracles of God. Stops along the way include: Moses at the Burning Bush, God’s provisions of food and water in the desert, the receiving of the Ten Commandments, and the witness of the Transfiguration of Jesus. All will see God is faithful to His people, providing food and water, laws and life. Through the examples in the Old Testament, kids will understand that Jesus is given to us as our personal I AM. God gave us Jesus to provide us with sustenance, order and eternal life.

Jesus, His identity and nature, claim that He is the Messiah, (before Abraham was I AM – John 8:48-49). He is the One who satisfies, (the Bread of Life – John 6:35). He is the Living Water, (John 7:37-38). Jesus is the Word, (John 1: 1-5); and the Resurrection and the Life, (John 11). Jesus is God in the flesh and that’s what it means when Christ says, “I am.”

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) In John 6:44, He says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” This is how we come to God. God never changes, but He does interact with real people, just like He revealed Himself to Moses. He urges us to receive His Son, Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of our life, the One who can forgive our sins, the One who can give us eternal life.

Please join me in prayer this week to remain mindful that God is active in our lives as we spread the Gospel message. It is our hope that each participant of the Great I AM develops a personal relationship, talks with Him and prays without ceasing. Amen.

Blessings,
Dawn

July 12, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR KYLE

“As the Deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you O God.
I thirst for God, the living God,
When can I go and stand before the Lord?”
~Psalm 42:1-2

Dear Friends:

A few weeks ago as summer began, we published a plan (Remember?) for continuing with the discipline of Bible reading that you developed over this past year during Long Story Short. Simply by reading one chapter each day, you could read nearly 100 additional chapters of Scripture’s big story. A significant portion of the readings come from the Book of Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus prayed? The Gospels tell us that Jesus prayed using the Psalms. In fact, most of the times when Jesus quotes Scripture, he is quoting the Psalms. How about the Apostle Paul? Once again, Paul often quotes the book of Psalms in his letters. For centuries, Christians have seen the Psalms as a treasury of prayers and as a model for faithful prayer in all of life’s circumstances. The Psalms are a gift that can help us learn rhythms of prayer.

The suggested Psalms for this week are Psalms 20-26. If you have ever struggled to get through the Psalms, this may be the week to engage with them. The Psalms for this week cover the full range of life’s circumstances from despair (Psalm 22) to contentment (Psalm 23), from faith (Psalm 25) to hope (Psalm 26).

As you read through the Psalms this week, I encourage you to read them slowly, maybe even out loud. Let the words sink in and connect with your mind and your heart. Pay attention to what arises in your own heart and mind. Reflect and contemplate and find refreshment in these ancient words. In no time at all, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself praying without even realizing it.

Grace and peace,
Kyle

July 5, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF STEVE BANKS

“We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before, and it has changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise, we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.” ~George Washington

Dear Friends:

Over the past six to eight months, I’ve taken significant steps in an attempt to improve my overall health from a fitness, diet, and spiritual standpoint. Believe what you hear, “it really is a lifestyle change!” I’ve had to sacrifice many things that I loved but knew weren’t good for me. I found that you must work hard and be willing to make permanent changes–not temporary fixes!

The Bible talks about endurance and perseverance from a Christian perspective:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” ~Hebrews 12:1-2 

What I love about this passage is how the author relates a physical race to the race that God sets before us. It makes a very clear message that a Christian’s race is one for life and in order to achieve the eternal prize, there will be sacrifice and hardship along the way. We look at the superstar athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady, and our own Jack Nicklaus as champions of their sports. However, this passage from Hebrews tells us to keep our eye on the real champion, Jesus Christ! Unlike any professional athlete, Jesus endured pain and suffering (for us) that we can’t imagine, yet He knew all the time what the eternal prize would be. All the way until His final breath.

This week, as we think about the great men and women of our country who sacrificed, endured, and persevered to give us freedom, we can look to our great Champion for our highest goals and ultimate spiritual prize!

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  ~James 1:2-4 

Blessings,
Steve

June 28, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR KYLE

Dear Friends:

This week we are beginning a new sermon series on the Book of James that I’m calling “Working Faith”. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring this brief book—it’s only 5 chapters long—written by the brother of the Lord, and we will try to take in the wisdom James offers us about how to live lives of faithfulness.

James was a favorite of the early church fathers, Origen and John Chrysostom, and it still figures prominently in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. They appreciated James’ practical advice for living as a faithful person in the world and for its insistence that God is generous and perfectly good. As for most Protestants, however, we tend to take our cues from Martin Luther, who famously wrote that James was “an epistle of straw,” having “nothing of the nature of the Gospel to it”.

It’s a shame that we don’t think about the Book of James more often. In James, we will find startlingly beautiful depictions of both who God is and who we are. We will find images and word paintings that play to our mind’s eye. And we will find practical wisdom about what it means to live as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

This summer I invite you to join me as we read the Book of James together. Savor its beautiful imagery, be comforted by the good news it gives us about our God given identities, and be challenged by it to grow in your faith.

Grace and peace,

Kyle

June 21, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF TANYA KARN

Dear Friends:
We had an amazing week in Detroit during the recent youth mission trip! But when it came time to leave, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go. One of the hardest things about these week-long mission trips is leaving. Not only because of the great time we had and the friendships we made, but because we won’t always be able to see the results of the work that we started; we won’t see what happened to the seeds that we planted.

As I was sitting outside two muggy Sundays ago, listening to Pastor Becky’s sermon, I felt like she was speaking right to those of us who went to Detroit. We were able to plant some seeds last week. Not only in the lives of our kids, but also in the city of Detroit.

For example, one of our groups met and befriended a neighborhood boy named Malik. Malik has had a rough life. This became evident the day they met Malik, when he was walking home from school early because he had been suspended. The leaders and kids of this work crew started talking to Malik and automatically felt a bond with him. He began to work alongside our group doing the weed whacking, mowing, tree trimming, and other hard work that they were doing that day. Malik continued to work with our youth and build bonds with them. I was very touched to see the tears from our Youth as we left Saturday morning, not because they were leaving the mission trip, but because they were leaving Malik. Malik changed their lives; he helped them to see a side of the world that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. And they were able to plant seeds in his life.

I think one of the hardest things about planting seeds is not always being able to see where they will land. Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 13:3-9.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’”

Our part in this is to not only plant the seeds, but then to trust God that the seeds we planted will take root and grow.

Please join me in praying for all the seeds that we planted in Detroit last week: that they will take root, grow, and spread seeds of their own!

Blessings,
Tanya

P.S. The Youth will be sharing about the mission trip to Detroit in THIS Sunday’s service, June 24!

June 14, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR JOHN

Dear Friends:

Our RENEW campaign is rolling along. Highlights so far include:

  • Installing new, energy-saving HVAC controls in the Barn. (We will recoup the cost of these in fuel/electric savings within two years.)
  • Surpassing $1 million in RENEW offerings received (through April 30).

Other Renew updates:

  1. The Barn re-siding project is scheduled to start in mid-July (this start date has been delayed due to a problem at the lumber mill out west). Our contractor, Orr Construction, estimates 8-12 weeks to complete the re-siding. Orr will start at the north edge of the east side of the Barn (overlooking the lower parking lot) and proceed clockwise around the Barn and Carriage House. The workers will do the entire installation on each section (e.g. remove old siding, installing the interior spacing material, putting up finished new siding), so that each section will be complete before they move on to the next section. Samples of the actual wood to be used (cut, treated with “shou sugi ban” hardening, and stained) can be viewed – contact Amy King in the Church Office. Orr will be bundling the old siding to sell to vendors, with the proceeds going to RENEW.
  2. I have good news to report regarding redoing internal driving lanes in response to the expansion of Home Road.
    • First, Delaware County has agreed to give us two access points onto the new Home Road (both access points being three lanes wide – one entrance lane and two exit lanes).
    • Second, the County has agreed to assume the entire cost of constructing these two new access points.
    The church still has $91,000 RENEW dollars budgeted for other necessary parking/lane improvements, but this is $47,000 less than what was originally budgeted.
  3. The Youth Room re-freshening project has been re-defined and re-decorating decisions made with input from our Youth. Orr Construction will also be doing this project; at the same time, we will be installing central HVAC in the Administration Building. Work should begin in the Fall.
  4. $65,000 in RENEW mission dollars will enable the complete renovation of the kitchen and dining hall for the His Place food ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin (construction is already under way). Liberty has also pledged another $65,000 towards the construction of Delaware County’s Turning Point shelter.

Thank you for your generous support of RENEW and of God’s work in and through Liberty.

Serving Jesus with you,
John

June 7, 2018

FROM THE DESK OF TANYA KARN
ON THE DETROIT MISSION TRIP

Our Liberty Youth are hard at work through Camp Restore in Detroit! We have a great group of 70 kids, and they have been very eager to jump in and do whatever they are asked to do. A number of our groups are working on clearing out abandoned lots or lots around abandoned houses. This means we are cutting out over-grown bushes and trees and a large amount of weed-whacking and mowing. Most of these lots have weeds and grass almost waist high.

One neighbor we met was Miss Shirley Ann. Miss Shirley Ann came out to see what was going on yesterday and talked to two of our groups.  She was watching a group remove a group of trees that had taken over the front of an abandoned home. She told me that she had been “praying those trees down” for quite some time, “but didn’t know God was going to send a group from Ohio to do it!” She was very thankful for our hard-working groups.

During our lunch break back at the church, we had a community member drive by and yell out her window that we were doing a great job and thanked us. So, not only are these kids making a big difference in the way some of these houses look, they are making a big impact in the whole community.

Not only are our kids making an impact already, they are also being impacted themselves! They are being able to see that they have privileges that not everyone else has. A lot of the jobs being done are in areas where they do not have access to electricity, and therefore are having to use “old fashioned” hand tools and a great deal more physical strength than they are used to using. (This makes them tired, which is quite alright with all of us chaperones!)

I want to thank you all for the wonderful support you are providing to these eager, willing, hard-working kids! Your prayers are keeping us moving and allowing us to make a difference.

From Camp Restore,
Tanya

May 31, 2018

Dear Friends:
Author Anne Lamott lists her two favorite prayers as follows:
  1.  Help me! Help me! Help me!
    and
  2.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
We can read through the Psalms for longer prayers or more eloquent prayers, but I have to say that these two prayers really capture the heart of what we say to God, often several times a day. Coming to the Lord in our need, and in great gratitude, are fundamental to our lives as Christians. We have a God we can lean on, to whom we can come in our sorrow and confusion and pain.  We also have a God who hears and answers our prayers – a Lord we need to remember to thank for his goodness. Praise God from whom all blessings flow is often the only response we can make to what God has done for us.

Today is a Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! day for me.  There is so much to celebrate – watching our amazing young Liberty men and women graduate, seeing all the preparations for 73 youth (and more than 20 adults!) going on a mission trip to the aptly named Camp Restore in Detroit, watching folks step up to be a part of Be the Church and volunteering to paint rooms or garden or other projects for those in need in our community, and so much more!  A good friend received great news from her latest cancer scans and my heart is full of joy for her, and thanksgiving to God.

May our hearts overflow with prayers and praise every day.

Blessings,
Becky

May 24, 2018

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love.”
~ I John 4
Dear Friends:I can’t resist commenting on the unexpected individual who has dominated the internet this past week – no, not Megan Markle and Prince Harry – but the surprising preacher at their wedding, the Bishop Michael Curry. When we lived in England we attended more than a few Anglican churches, and trust me, the preaching was nothing like this!  This was a stunner. This African American preacher did not let the pomp & circumstance of the occasion keep him from sharing the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. Curry zeroed in on the heart of the gospel – love.  He talked about love, not only for those close to us, but the power of love to heal a broken world.  He quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love  love is the only way.”  

And as Curry reminded us:
“Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. 
There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
There’s power in love to show us the way to live.

When we live our lives grounded in the love of God, we treat people differently – from those down the street to those across the globe.  Christ’s love can redeem even the most desperate situation, the most fractured relationship, the most broken heart.

In a time when the news is often painful or painfully disrespectful of others, what a wonderful word for millions of people listening to a sermon about the life-giving, world-changing power of God’s love. I don’t care if some of the royals un-royally smirked – it was a standing O in my home!

May God hold us all in His almighty hands of love,
Becky

May 17, 2018

Let us look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
~Hebrews 12

Dear Friends:

It is Pioneer Days again here at Liberty. Girls in braids and bonnets wearing long gingham dresses and boys in straw hats with dark pants and suspenders grace the Liberty Campus, doing the kinds of activities they might have done 100 years ago: making lemonade, playing tug of war, scrubbing things over a wash board, punching tin with nails to create a design, square dancing and even joining in a camping reenactment.

The children are absorbed. I am used to bored kids; kids who surf television with their remotes while lying on the sofa (anyone remember actually getting up to manually turn off the television?)  From years of volunteering at my kids’ schools, I am used to keeping an eye out for this or that child, for kids not participating, for the “this is stupid” routine. But no one seems to be doing that. These kids are curious about how things were done back then. They are eager and engaged. They like using their hands to learn, they like their outfits, they like being outside with the sun on their faces. The air is full of their laughter and learning. They are pioneers in their own way – exploring a day without all of the trappings of our times.

I want faith to be a little like that for them. I want them to be curious about how Christians think and pray and live.  I want them to be pioneers who come here on Sundays to learn about what faith is really about – not just the “be nice and share version of faith we sometimes peddle, but the real deal.  Webster’s defines pioneer as one who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle. I want them to venture into this new territory of faith & discipleship and set up camp there.

Actually, that’s my prayer for all of us.

With Pioneer Blessings on us all!
Becky

May 10, 2018

Dear Friends:

This Mother’s Day, I am co-opting one of the Jaguar automobile slogans: Grace, space, and pace. (And sadly, apparently John is not co-opting a Jag for me – but what a Mother’s Day present that would make!)

Grace, space and pace.

Beginning the day in prayer – praying throughout the day – to me is like a drinking from a deep well.  I may be running all the way to the well, but when I get there, there is that gift of peace that passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).  It is in prayer – and not on the clogged arteries of I-270, or keeping up with my Daytimer and May’s overload of events – where I most experience grace, space and pace.

Grace: We are not what we do, or fail to do. We are not what we achieve outwardly – thank goodness.  By His grace, we are God’s beloved children.

Space: There is always space in God’s heart for us. Our challenge is to carve time out of our day (in prayer, reading, meditation, service for time with the Lord.

Pace:  When I let God set the agenda for my day – or at least help to set it! – I find the pace of my day changes.  It doesn’t necessarily get any slower – it just focuses more on the big things in life and less on the small nagging details. And I have that wonderful feeling of the Lord running alongside me, which brings real joy on even the craziest of days.

So, let’s start our own prayer campaign:  Start your day with Jesus for a day of grace, space and pace. 

And a very happy Mother’s Day!

Blessings,
Becky

May 3, 2018

Dear Friends:

Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). Talk about large shoes to fill!

The reality is that we have a hard time seeing ourselves as missionaries.  We see those who go to Honduras on our behalf as missionaries, we see the Order that continues in Mother Theresa’s name in Calcutta as missionaries, or any of the outside causes Liberty supports across the globe.  But right here in our daily, Delaware, Powell, smack-in-the-middle-of-Ohio lives – How can we be missionaries? 

Jesus says that we have been sent to be His missionaries, to be vessels of his love, his compassion, his truth, his grace, wherever we are planted.  We may be planted at a school, or in an office, or at home with children who don’t allow us time to think, or in a community of neighbors we have known for years.  For about a five-year period of my life, I was planted in my Mom van, and my mission field was conversations with kids in which I overheard a lot and occasionally got to throw in an idea…!  Our mission field looks a lot like our daily lives but with a higher purpose – and that is to share Jesus’ presence wherever we are.

We are also holding a weekend of mini-mission work here at Liberty June 8 – 10; our Be the Church weekend.  You will be able to sign up this Sunday for everything from opportunities to serve at the local Furniture Bank (basic repairs and painting) to working at St. John’s in Franklinton to baking cookies to making blankets to assembling care packages for those serving overseas.

The hard-to-wrap-our–minds- around truth is that we are sent into this world, just as Jesus was.  May we make a difference.

Blessings,
Becky