Pastor's Blog
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September 27, 2017, 12:00 AM

Going to Church: Why Bother?

When you were a kid, did you have to do chores? Maybe you’re a kid (big or small 😉) NOW – do you have chores to do? CHORES – things that someone requires done. For me, my dad was that “someone,” and my list included things like practicing the trombone, cutting the grass, weeding the garden. What was – or is – on your list of chores?

Maybe “going to church” felt like – or feels like – a chore. Believe it or not, for a while it felt like that for me. Social privileges were tied to church attendance. And yes, I thought it was long and boring. But the “requirement” – the chore – of church attendance gave God’s Spirit opportunity to change my experience from “going to church” to “attending worship.” I realized over time that what we were doing “at church” was interacting with the One God – who was, and is, and will always be. “Going to church” became a place of encountering God, who God says I am and what my purpose for living is all about. It changed from a “chore” to a choice to stay grounded in what ultimately matters.

Why do you go to church? Is it out of a sense of “duty?” Is it because someone says you have to – is it a “chore?” Is it from a place of fear – “if I don’t, something bad will happen to me?” Is it because you have found the One who was, is, and will always be when the people of God gather for worship? Is it because when you worship, you stay grounded in what ultimately matters?

I have just finished reading Deuteronomy in my daily time with the scriptures. Deuteronomy is often described as Moses’s final “sermon” to the people of God before they entered the Promised Land. Moses reviews the journey that the people have been on from Egypt, through the desert, to the border of the land God had promised to give them. He also reviews the festivals the people are to observe, and how daily worship should be conducted. As you read this part of the Bible you get the sense that the festivals and the daily worship practices were “grounding rituals” – acts and observances that kept the people in touch with Who they belonged to and the things that ultimately mattered. Their identity as God’s people flowed from consistently being part of these worship events – the seasonal and daily ones. The books of the Bible that come after Deuteronomy – those that trace their origins to the time AFTER the people had entered the Promised Land – record multiple moments when the people neglected these grounding rituals and then suffered terribly. They got distracted by things that offered them alternatives to who God said they were and what God said the purpose for their living really was. They walked away from God, from their story, and from their real purpose as God’s people – all because they neglected the worship practices that kept them grounded in ultimate reality.

The things that distract us from worship practices may be different from our faith-journey ancestors, but the outcome is exactly the same: we lose our mooring to the One who was, is and always will be, and to the things that ultimately matter. See, going to church is not about fearing something bad will happen to us if we don’t. Going to church isn’t about duty, or “doing our chores.” Going to church is about being able to stand sure and confident and courageous in the face of life’s storms and turbulent times because we are connected to the One who was, is and always will be, and to who that One says we are and what our lives are really all about. Confidence and courage like that needs consistent nourishment – and the place where we receive that nourishment is………………… “going to church.”

Hope to see you this Sunday…..and the next………and the next………and the next…………and the……. 😉

Keep Lookin’ Up!

Pastor David



Comments

09-27-2017 at 7:33 PM
Joan S.
AMEN!
09-27-2017 at 7:03 PM
Vicki Heller
What a great read! Thank you for always striking the correct note st the right time.
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July 14, 2017, 12:00 AM

Flying in the Storm

Yesterday (July 13th) Betsy and I awoke to our older dog panting and whining beside the bed. That usually means one of two things: she needs to go out or it’s going to storm. A quick look outside confirmed the later, and the time of morning confirmed the former. I got her outside before it started to rain, and then poured a cup of coffee and went out on the front porch to watch the storm. See…..I LOVE thunderstorms. Not really sure why, but I do. It was hot and humid, with very little breeze. A flash or two of lightning followed by the rumbles, and soon the rain was coming down with force. The wind picked up and the rain became sheets blowing down the road and across the tops of the trees. I was standing on the porch, back from the edge, when I noticed a flutter of white among the raindrops. I looked closer, and sure enough, there in the driving rain was one of those small white butterflies that hang around flower beds and gardens this time of year. Their flight path is never very straight or predictable in good weather. Here – in the midst of the storm – it wasn’t much better, BUT…… the bug was flying – he/she was airborne and going somewhere right through the rain. The wind and water did not seem to be a deterrent to wherever it was headed. It may have taken a bit longer to get there, but it was on its way.

I watched it for a moment or two, and as often happens in my life when I experience things that are a little strange, God spoke in my spirit, “pay attention. Your life can be like that butterfly. You can keep flying in the storm. You may get wet and blown around some, but I am still teaching, still revealing, still guiding even in the storm. Will you trust me?” I thought of that story where Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. They started out in decent weather, but suddenly a storm swept in from the surrounding hills and canyons. The boat was being battered, and the disciples were sure it was going down. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. When they wake him in a panic, he calms the storm and wonders about their faith. (Mark 4:35-41) He was with them in good weather, and in the storm - and he is Master over both.

Storms do not deter God’s work in your life or mine. They are simply other tools God uses to help us know more of who God really is, and how God operates in our lives. The question is not “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38). Rather, the PROMISE is that there, with us in the storm, is the one who is Master over it. Because of that truth, every moment of sunshine and driving rain serves God’s purpose for you and me. Like a small white butterfly, we can still fly in the storm……..if we’ll trust the One with us through it all. As always….

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.



Comments

07-20-2017 at 9:32 PM
Colleen Holtz
I love storms also. I'll remember these beautiful words the next time I watch one.
07-17-2017 at 10:10 PM
Mikki Chmiel
Storms in our life are God's teaching moments. "I am here hold onto me". Thanks for your story. It's the little things that make a memorable one.
07-15-2017 at 2:08 PM
Lynn harriger
I love to watch storms also, good lesson. I always enjoy your sermons and Through you God makes me think! Thank you
07-15-2017 at 9:24 AM
Pat Mann
When we walk in the Spirit with our Lord, we will always see these teachable moments? We need to open our Spiritual eyes. Good read, thank you!
07-14-2017 at 8:45 PM
Patty Hughes
I love this reminder. 😊
07-14-2017 at 7:32 PM
Becky Martin
Very beautiful! I really needed to see this today. Not sure how you do it but your word always has tremendous meaning to me. Thank you for all you do!
07-14-2017 at 6:47 PM
Michelle Schull
Amen. I am so grateful that God chose you to be my teacher!! And to remind me to weather the storm and rely on God trust Him. Thanks friend!!
07-14-2017 at 6:34 PM
Elaine Young
Thank you Pastor David. You KNOW why this is especially meaningful to me right now!
07-14-2017 at 5:16 PM
Kelly
I love this!
07-14-2017 at 4:29 PM
Christy Doody
So thankful for you and your guidance, wisdom and faith when I was weathering the storm of my life. Thank you
07-14-2017 at 4:26 PM
Lois Carr
Really needed to be reminded of God's presence always with us in fair weather or the storms in life.
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May 19, 2017, 12:00 AM

A Pizza Parable....

So it’s May 19, 2017 – Day 1 of the “Garage Sale for Missions” event here at Christ Church. (Day 2 is tomorrow, May 20 from 8am-1pm.) The place is bustling with people and activity. There is a wonderful group of servants helping the folks who have come to look at the items. There is another group of people working in the kitchen with the baked goods sale. Others in the parking lot are selling hotdogs and offering places for conversation on a beautiful sunny day. And then Louie Slautterback shows up to make pizza for the volunteers – HOMEMADE pizza – all the way down to the crust! As I type these words Louie is walking through the halls of the church announcing a fresh pepperoni coming out of the oven in two minutes (guess I should type faster……) I can say – from experience – absolutely delicious pizza! He and I were in the kitchen talking, and Louie said, “Isn’t this amazing!? All these folks serving and interacting with our community friends! This is such a GREAT place!” What struck me was the joy in his voice. “That’s what life should be like when the body of Christ gets together and serves together.”, I thought.  “There’s supposed to be joy, and laughter, and connection - not to random people, but to people on the journey with us.”

As I have spent time in the church – better said, WITH the church - over these 33 years of ministry, I know JOY can be on the short side sometimes. Tasks needing attention can seem endless, volunteers to help can seem few and far between, funds to do what needs done trickle in if we’re lucky… and all while the brokenness of people’s lives present themselves with unceasing consistency. Folks who do show up to help get burned out from caring and trying to make a difference, and frustration grows because “church” – the kingdom things we are to be about -  was not intended to be done by a few, but by ALL of us living fully into and out of the giftedness God has given. What made this morning so joyful was that multiple people were giving of themselves in multiple ways. No one person was overwhelmed - all were serving as they chose to and were being used in diverse ways for what God was doing here today. Reminds me of some scripture verses from 1 Corinthians 12: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…Now the body is not made up of one part but of many… But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (7, 14, 18, 21, 26, 27)

In worship these past few weeks I have been saying that God needs every one of us. We ALL matter to the plan and purpose of God – our gifts matter, our talents matter, our stories matter. What God wants to do in and through Christ Church in Franklin will happen completely only as EACH of us surrenders ALL of us to the God who chooses to use EVERY ONE of us to bring his kingdom fully to His earth. And when we are all “employed” in the business of God’s kingdom work, joy will be frequent and full in our life together.  

Now then………… where’s Louie with that pizza…………..

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor David

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March 17, 2017, 12:00 AM

Words Matter...

Betsy and I are blessed to be part of a small group that meets for prayer and fellowship and spiritual conversation once a week (at Christ Church we call them “Connection Groups.”) We are currently reading a book together called “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” by John Ortberg. It’s a book about getting in touch with the real target of the Jesus-thing, what God really did when he came among us as one of us. “The primary goal of spiritual life is human transformation.” John writes. “It is not making sure people know where they’re going after they die, or helping them have a richer interior life, or seeing that they have lots of information about the Bible, although these can be good things. Let’s put first things first. The first goal of spiritual life is the reclamation of the human race.” (p. 21) The book builds on that idea by presenting several different “practices” (Celebration, Slowing, Prayer, Confession and others) that are really pathways that God travels with us so that we can live into the reclamation that was secured for us on the cross and the abandoned tomb of Easter morning.

The practice we are looking at this week is “servanthood.” It is the prescription John offers for the tendency we all have to think more of ourselves than we ought to – “the messiah complex” he calls it. We all struggle with pride – every so often, frequently, or habitually – (pick where you are in those descriptions – BE HONEST). All of us – from the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis 3, right down to the present moments of life in the now – have tried to take God’s place – to manage life for God, because we think God needs our help. John says, “In place of pride, Jesus invites us to a life of humility: ‘All who humble themselves will be exalted.”… Humility has to do with submitted willingness. It involves a healthy self-forgetfulness. We will know we have begun to make progress in humility when we find that we get so enabled by the Holy Spirit to live in the moment that we cease to be preoccupied with ourselves, one way or the other. When we are with others, we are truly with them, not wondering how they can benefit us.” (pp. 111-112)

John says one of the primary ways we can pursue humility is through the practice of servanthood. Servanthood involves devoting ourselves to things like recognizing the sacred in the mundane, and seeing kingdom opportunities in interruptions, and being real and honest about and thankful for our weaknesses and limitations. The one that really got my attention was “The Ministry of Holding Your Tongue.” Now isn’t that an interesting phrase – the notion that holding one’s tongue – being attentive to what one says, how one says it, and where one says it – is actually a ministry – a way of serving others. John quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words… It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.” (p. 123) Reminds me of something Bishop Tom Bickerton used to say: “Here in Western Pennsylvania, if you think it you say it, and when you say it, it comes out twice as bad as when you thought it.”

The war of words has multiple battle fronts these days: news media, newspapers and magazines, internet news, and of course, social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. The “soldiers” in this war include everyone from Trump’s tweets to Hillary’s emails to the Facebook posts that show up on my newsfeed moment by moment. Pastor David addressing Trump’s tweets or Hillary’s emails is wasted energy, but can I say a word to those of us who post things on Facebook - especially to those who are my sisters and brothers in Christ? Can I encourage us to remember Who we are following as Lord? Can I challenge us to keep our allegiance to Jesus front and center when we are engaging stories or situations via social media? Can I remind us that as followers of Jesus it is absolutely right and proper to interact with the issues of our day in the light of who Jesus is and what Jesus says, but we must express our thoughts about those issues in the Jesus way (take a look at Matthew 5-7) I get concerned when I see responses to Facebook posts from folks who I know claim Jesus as Lord that don’t look a lot different from the responses of people who don’t give much time to Jesus at all. As Christ followers, we are to be vessels of grace and peace – calling for rational and respectful conversation about things, even if others would choose to be hostile and heated with their words. And believe me, after writing those last four sentences, I am going to get up immediately and read them back to myself while looking in the mirror. My wife, my daughter, our Administrative Assistant – all would be voices telling me to “practice what I preach!”

 WORDS MATTER sisters and brothers – what we say, how we say it, when and where we say it. Our words either honor the Christ we follow, or betray Him. If you’re game, look back over some of the things you’ve written recently – emails, tweets, Facebook posts – and shine the light of your allegiance to Jesus on them. In that light, ask yourself a simple question: Honor or betrayal?

Now then…….let me hit print and make my way to the mirror…………..

Keep Lookin’ Up!

Pastor David

 



Comments

03-18-2017 at 12:42 PM
Lynn Harriger
I was confronted with love by a special friend about one post I posted! God moment, very careful now! God first in everything!
03-18-2017 at 9:14 AM
Tom Lux
Hi. This is off subject but we met a amazing teacher/pastor at Ft. Meyers. He said he studies and from 4-8 every day. He mentioned that the 20-30 minutes or sermon most Christians hear is close to nothing. He owns a full time business, but the Word is his passion. He teaches/preaches a 5 HOUR lesson at Naples on Sunday but considers Saturday as his Sabbath. He explains the Bible in old Hebrew & Aramaic and considers him self a Rabbi but we do not think he is Jewish.He lives the dream.no haircuts or beard cut, wears four (forgot name0 tassels on his pants and that we should too! I could go on but just wanted to share We love ya Tom&joyce.
03-17-2017 at 12:08 PM
Pat Mann
Often I've "opened mouth, inserted foot" and regretted that. I ask the Holy Spirit daily to keep a check on my mouth, to give me the "mind & mouth" of Jesus. I would like to borrow that book from someone, someday.
03-17-2017 at 11:54 AM
Mikki
Thank you!! We all need a reality check once in awhile.
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December 26, 2016, 12:00 AM

Passing On...

I taught my 18 year old daughter to shoot a gun today. I will not take time or space to say why I felt this lesson important for her - that’s a topic for another conversation. Suffice it to say we took advantage of a rare “warmer” day in late December to make our way to the shooting range. The lesson began with basic safety elements common to handling any firearm. Then came the specifics of handling the gun she would learn to shoot. Following that, we spent time with shooting positions and postures, and dry fired the weapon several times. At that point we were ready for ammunition. I showed her how to load the gun, and then fired it a few times so she could get familiar with the sound. Then she sat down, took aim, and squeezed the trigger - a hit! By that I mean her first shot actually appeared on the target - not close to where she was aiming, but it was on the paper. As she fired subsequent shots, she got better and better - putting a smile on her dad’s face.

But as I stood behind her while she continued to practice, another thought occurred to me: everything about today - the lessons, the gun and ammunition, even the binoculars I used to watch the shots - my father first shared with me. Dad taught me the basic safety lessons that I shared with Kate. The process of handling and firing a weapon I taught her were the ones my dad first taught me. As I looked at her standing there, arms extended toward the target with the revolver in her hands, I realized the gun she held belonged to dad, and had been fired numerous times by him during his life. He had passed on his knowledge and experience and equipment to me, and I in turn was passing those things on to her.

Reminded me of a brief conversation we had via Facetime with our son on Saturday night. He was asked by his new bride’s family what traditions were part of the Janz Christmas Eve observance. Ben said simply, “church, food at home, midnight mass on TV.” Betsy and I didn’t sit down and say, “Here’s what we want our kids to remember about Christmas Eve.” That’s simply what has stayed with him from the Christmas Eve’s he remembers - that’s what we’ve “passed on” to him, which could be some of what he passes on to his children.

We pass on a number of things to those around us - some things intentionally, some things without even realizing it. Connection to God is one of those things, I think. We pass on what we believe and experience about God through intentional things like teaching Sunday School or daily family devotions. And our God connection is also passed on by the simple ways we choose to live - the choices we make, the patterns of life we live by. I remember reading once “The Gospel is as much caught as it is taught.” The reality is that for all of us, our connection to God has been “passed on” - through intentional and unintentional ways - by the people that surround us.

That leads me to ask two questions: who has passed their faith on to you - whether you’ve realized it before or not? And who - right now - might be on the receiving end of your connection to God? I’m recalling the end of a song we sang a lot when I was a youth: “I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found. You can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound. I’ll shout it from the mountain top - HEY WORLD! - I want my world to know. The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.” As always…

Keep Lookin’ Up!
Pastor D.

 



Comments

12-27-2016 at 6:58 AM
Pat Mann
Reminds me of Deut 11:19-20 to continue this tradition / pattern on to the next generations. What is seen and experienced continues throughout the generation of family whether spiritual or otherwise. Great blog.
12-26-2016 at 9:54 PM
Jenny
Very nice blog! We also sang that song a lot in our youth group.
12-26-2016 at 7:09 PM
Robyn Ohmer
Always enjoy your posts. This one hits the heartstrings. Just what do I want to pass on?
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