Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

February 14, 2019

Dear Friends:

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is a day all about love! As we walk through Ephesians, Paul writes about love over and over, using the Greek “agape” to convey God’s kind of love. The Greeks had several words for love, including philia (brotherly love), storge (familial love, or love for your favorite team), eros (you get that one!) and agape. Agape is a love that is constant, rather than changeable. It is unconditional – there is nothing you must do to earn it. Agape is a love that is selfless and always giving, even sacrificial. For centuries, English Bible translators did not use the word “love” to capture the meaning of “agape” . Instead, they used the word “charity“. We don’t use that word much these days, except to refer to those whose well-being is dependent on others. We pride ourselves on never needing the charity of others; of being the givers and not the receivers. And yet, when it comes to the love of God, we are all charity cases.

God’s love is pure, undeserved gift. It is the gift above all gifts, and Paul prays for us to know this blessing in fullness:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.Ephesians 3:18-19

Friends: You are loved by God. May you know the agape that Jesus longs to pour into each of our hearts.

Valentine’s Blessings,

February 7, 2019

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. ~Ephesians 2:4-5

Dear Friends:

As I’ve been spending time in Ephesians this season, certain words and phrases have come alive for me: living in Christ, the glories of His grace, being rooted and grounded in His love, and that wonderful word we rarely hear anymore: mercy. Our God, says Paul, is rich in mercy. To be merciful is to show kindness or compassion to someone whom you have every right to judge or even harm. Mercy captures the miraculously good news that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God pours out His grace and mercy on us, undeservedly, abundantly.  As the old hymn puts it, there is a wideness to God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea…. As we read the gospels, we see the wideness of mercy of Jesus time and time again, from healing the blind man, the hemorrhaging woman, the leper – all the way to forgiving the thief on the cross.

As I was reading some tweets this morning about a range of topics (including the Superbowl halftime show!) – I could not find much mercy. And yet we are called to show others the same mercy that the Lord has shown us. As I was reflecting on God’s mercy in my own life, I remembered a Rich Mullins song with lyrics that speak straight to my wandering heart:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God.

May we be drenched in His mercy. And may we broaden our circle to include others to whom the world is often unmerciful, that they too might know the blessed wideness of God’s mercy.

In Him,

January 31, 2019

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  ~John 14:3

Dear Friends:

As a pastor, I have so many privileges – I baptize babies and proclaim that they are children of God, crying or not! I preside over weddings which are full of goose bump moments – that moment when the dad walks his daughter down the aisle or when a misty-eyed bride and groom whisper “I do”. I also have the immense privilege of being with you in the sad times – holding your hand in prayer when you are in the hospital or standing with the family graveside as they say a final heartfelt goodbye to a beloved parent or grandparent. I want to talk a little about this last one with you now.

Loss is such a difficult thing – I can’t even begin to find adequate words to describe the experience of the valley of grief. The good news is that funerals and memorial services can be a time of real healing for family and friends as we talk about Jesus’ sure promise of eternal life. We here at Liberty want to do the best job possible on this service. So, we have come up with two documents to help:

  • One is a Liberty Funeral Planner, to use as a guide when you lose someone you love. It answers many of your questions and gives ideas for scripture and other service parts. It is available on our website under worship. A pastor (of your choice) will walk beside you in this time and through this planning, but this gives you some of the information you may like ahead of time.
  • The second document is called Liberty Funeral Wishes and this helps you plan for your own service. It is a very simple brochure designed to help your family know your wishes ahead of time.  Given the height of emotions in a time of loss, discussions over what the deceased would have wanted can be difficult. To let your loved ones – and our pastors – know your thoughts ahead of time is a great gift to them and to us. Your wishes will remove much of the burden of planning from your loved ones. You can download either form from our website: Go to worship/ funerals.

Thank you for allowing me to bring up such a sensitive topic. This is part of what a family does with one another – discuss the hard things. And remember: the good news that we as people of faith can hold onto is that death is not an ending, but a doorway into God’s waiting arms.

With warm blessings on these very cold winter days,

January 24, 2019

Dear Friends:
One of the themes that stands out in our journey through Ephesians is Paul’s call to unity:

Therefore (I)… entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ~Eph. 4: 1-6

And yet, when I read the news, I see anything but unity – in our nation, or in our world.

And it is beyond discouraging.  I find myself asking, where do we as Christians start to do this?  How do we model unity and the bond of peace for others?

What came to mind was something I read on Monday – the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s contract from the 1963 Alabama Christian Movement for Civil Rights. A word for his time, and a word for our time too.  It struck me as a starting point. The Contract reads:

I hereby pledge myself to hold to the following:
1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
 2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory. 
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love. 
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free. 
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all might be free. 
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
 7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world. 
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
 9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

With warm blessings on these cold winter days,

January 17, 2019

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ….”
Ephesians 1:4

Dear Friends:
I am loving our journey through Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. How about you?

Ephesians is a letter where Paul’s sheer wonder at life in Christ overwhelms him, and in phrase after phrase he pours out passionate praise to God. The writer Anne Lamott has said that there are only three basic prayers: “Help!”, “Thanks!” and “Wow!” Ephesians is chock-full of wow moments.

Running underneath all these Wow moments is a description of the new life we have in Jesus Christ. The phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent is used about 27 times by Paul in this letter. “In Christ” is one of the hinges of the letter – a shorthand for the vital, life-giving union between Christ and his people. Paul is reminding us of our new identity since we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul says that we have been adopted by God; we are now not just followers but family.

Taking the first seven verses of Ephesians, we are told that in Christ we are:
and Redeemed.

And that’s just the first seven verses! I hope you can take some time these coming days to ponder these promises and how they shape who we are (and Whose we are). And of course, enjoy some WOW moments!

With warm blessings on these cold winter days,

January 10, 2019

“ See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
~Isaiah 43: 19

Dear Friends:

I don’t know about you, but John and I spent last weekend “de-Christmasing” the house.  It is never fun to take down all the bright red and green decorations, the beautiful silver bulbs from my mother, the handmade, heavily glued ornaments from the kids, the creche scenes I have collected over the years with Mary holding Jesus so serenely, and the shepherds looking on in wonder.  The house feels bare when we are done. Is it really all over until next year?

And then I read this poem by Ann Weems, and it was a great reminder that Christ is born anew every day; that He is always doing a new thing.  May that be our prayer.

It Is Not Over
by Ann Weems

It is not over,
this birthing.
There are always newer skies
into which God can throw stars.

When we begin to think
that we can predict the Advent of God,
that we can box the Christ
in a stable in Bethlehem,
that’s just the time that God will be born
in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.

Those who wait for God
watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
always listening
for angel words.

New Year Blessings,

January 3, 2019


Dear Friends:

This Sunday, we will begin our winter sermon series exploring the Book of Ephesians. It is hard to imagine a part of Scripture more relevant than the Letter to the Ephesians. Throughout its beautiful language, this letter is clear about three things: ravaged by evil, sin, and brokenness, our world is not the way it is supposed to be; God rules over every speck of creation, and in Jesus Christ, God has acted decisively to make all things right; and, as the Church—Christ’s body on Earth—we have work to do. This is a letter that tells us who we are, calls us to lean into the calling we all received when we first believed in Christ.

As we begin this series, and with a letter as relevant as this one, I encourage you to dive deeply into Ephesians with us. Read the letter in its entirety—ideally more than once. Savor its soaring language, take comfort in its promises, and be challenged and encouraged by its call to live as Christians in the world. Consider joining the Pastors’ Bible Study and learn even more about how these ancient words continue to give life and hope.

Grace and peace,