What Will Be Remembered

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Although FDR rightly described it as a day that would live in infamy, my mother, being 21 years of age, said to herself, “Ugh! War! Well, I will pay it no attention at all,” and set her mind to ignore it completely.

That worked for one day.glennandmarymilitarymarriage

On December 8, 1941, my father and mother met.

They fell in love and Dad was drafted to serve in the European Theater.

On December 12, 1942, just over a year later, they married.

The war Mom had resolved to ignore turned out to be the focus of her attention.

On October 16, 1944, Dad was wounded on the battlefield and had to be evacuated to England, and then returned home to the farm near Brookville, where he and mom lived a good life until he died in 2001.

It’s strange to imagine that one day people will regard these events in much the same way as I regard World War I or The War of 1812 — mere historic events, void of personal connection. It’s strange. Kind of sad. And a bit sobering.

We like to think that the memories of our loved ones will live on in the course of human history, but, as someone has rightly observed, our great-grandchildren will probably know nothing about us much beyond our names. Any knowledge beyond that will be merely trivial and quite impersonal. And choosing to ignore this reality is no more realistic than a 21-year-old choosing to ignore World War II.

But there is an event in human history that never fades and always remains personal. It’s the Advent of the Christ Child. This event — this divine life — is as personal to you and me as we want it to be. It can be as personal to us as it was to those who witnessed it firsthand, because what Jesus offers is a relationship with himself — the Risen King, the Living God.

On the wall of their home, Dad and Mom had a plaque that contained these words: Only one life; ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

It’s good to recall days that live in infamy. It’s important to study human history. But here’s something I constantly remember — what lasts throughout eternity has Christ at the center.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.
Always work enthusiastically for the Lord,
for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT).

Swimming Against the Current

Driving the babysitter home she said something that made me feel old. It was only 1990 and I was only 29 years old, but her words made me realize how quickly time was passing.

“In history, we are studying the counter-cultural revolution,” she said. Not wanting to appear as clueless as I was, I replied, “Really — what are some other names for that?” She said, “My dad calls it the hippy movement. You know, the sixties.” Now, I was just a prepubescent kid in the sixties, but I was alive. And I was struck by two things: First, that a period of my life was now considered fodder for tenth-grade history teachers, and second, that the hippies had a name that made them sound quite impressive: counter-culturalists.

The Little Falls at Toccoa

Counter-culturalists. I think it’s a safe bet to say they show up in history books more than any other kind of person. Why? Because counter-culturalists make history. Whether it’s Socrates corrupting the youth of Athens, or John Hancock signing his name boldly enough that the king could read it without his spectacles, or Teddy Roosevelt riding his horse through what later became known as D.C.’s Rock Creek Park with pistols firing, or a group of college dropouts in a VW van with a peace-sign painted on it — people who make an impact, good or bad, are people who swim against the current.

So Laurel and I are sitting on a rock watching the family climb up “The Little Falls” and she recounts a story of someone criticizing a church for “accepting just anybody”. The suggested criteria is irrelevant, but Laurel’s friend was distressed because this church was not discriminating regarding the cleanliness, clothing, intelligence, social status, race, marital status, relationship status, sexuality, addictions, or biblical literacy of those it was allowing to come and worship. As Laurel told me the story, I remarked, “What we are doing at Curwensville Alliance is like trying to swim up these falls.” Laurel nodded quietly.

It is. We are swimming against the current, pushing against religious wisdom, countering the culture. And it’s a challenge. But isn’t that what makes history, not just in the secular world, but in the spiritual world?

  • God pushed Moses into pressing against the culture.
  • Samuel, anointing a shepherd boy while Saul was still on the throne — that’s pressing against political norms.
  • Elijah calling out the prophets of Baal — that’s a little out of the ordinary, pressing some buttons of people like Jezebel.
  • And Jesus… Yeah…. Jesus…. He was all about violating cultural norms, whether they were regarding prostitution or propriety in worship, Jesus made history by pressing against the religious culture — a religious culture that grew from what he had decreed centuries earlier through men like Moses.

At CvilleAlliance we are swimming upstream. But that which floats downstream is generally lost and forgotten. It’s not that we want to be remembered in history. I really couldn’t care less about whether I am remembered a generation from now. And that’s probably good — because I will not be remembered. Can you name your great-grandfather’s favorite Bible verse? I didn’t think so. We’ll almost certainly be forgotten by those who come later, most likely within two generations.

But what we do as we swim upstream can have impact that will change history — and in that sense, while our names will be forgotten by this world, the difference we make will influence all eternity.

In the words of Josh in his message today (2/10/2013), Press On!

Being The Missional Church

From the opening of my 2012 year-end annual report…

One of the things that has made the Alliance distinct is our missionary emphasis.

Well over 100 years ago, Dr. Simpson felt led by God to swim against the flow of doing church the normal way, and to reach out to people who didn’t know Jesus – particularly overseas. Simpson’s relocation from Toronto to Louisville to New York was intentional: He wanted to get near the Atlantic so that he could begin to send people overseas to proclaim grace to those who hadn’t heard. In that regard, we were purpose-driven before Rick Warren was born! (On occasion, you’ll hear people who object to being purposeful in ministry or folks who talk and blog about the dangers of the missional church. Those people aren’t Alliance. And, frankly, I worry that they aren’t even in tune with Jesus, who was undeniably missional.)

This missions heart beats deeply with me, personally. Since I first surrendered to Christ sitting in the car in the driveway of my parents home, I have been concerned about those who don’t know – and don’t care to know – Christ. But in addition to (note I didn’t say rather than) overseas ministry, I have felt God leading me (and us) to be mission-driven on a local level. This fire was kindled in me in a real way when I heard, then missionary, Carl McGarvey, speak at a Men’s Retreat. He said, Think globally; act locally. I’ve personally worked to do that ever since.

Many of you are new to Curwensville Alliance. We love having you here. And I am guessing that you like the atmosphere, the music, the message, and the presence of the Spirit. If you ever wonder, “Why do I like this so much?” part of the answer is in the reality that we are mission-driven. We are working to help you like it here so you can connect with God when you come. But my desire as your pastor is not just to keep you comfy here. I want to inspire you, yourself, to become mission-driven. In fact, that’s probably a big part of the corner we need to turn as a church.

How can we move from being a group of spiritual consumers to becoming spiritual contributors?

One way is to think like Dr. Simpson thought. He looked around at the needs he saw. He looked beyond himself at the needs he could only hear of. And he prayerfully considered which ones he could meet and which ones he could not. What are the needs you are aware of in our own community? What about the needs around the world? As much as I dislike cable news, it serves a purpose that can be beneficial, if you let it: It shows us how desperately this world needs Jesus. From Syria to North Korea, we see people in need — in need of peace, in need of everyday things, and in need of Jesus. When we see how messed up this world is, we should ask God to show us how we, as a church, can be involved in meeting those needs. And beyond this, let’s give consideration to what we can do locally. We do much – from stocking the local food-bank to assisting the ministerial association in their missions of showing the love of Christ to others. But let’s not be satisfied with what we do. Let’s press on to do even greater things.

It’s an honor to serve as your pastor. You are a great group of people with great potential. In 2013, may we examine how we can live out that potential for the benefit of those who don’t know Jesus and for the glory of God.

Quote from Rock Dillaman…

It was great, hearing Rock Dillaman at Mahaffey Camp. He spoke to those present about the ministry of the Church in society. I took a few moments and typed these words from his first sermon at Mahaffey Family Camp, 2012.

I want to begin this first night by reading something that Bill Hybels said a few years ago, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources to those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness. Still, to this day, the potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp,” he said. “No other organization on earth is like the church — nothing even comes close.”

But notice how he began: “There’s nothing like the local church when it’s working right.”

But let me tell you something that I think you already know: There is nothing more tragic, more heartbreaking, more discouraging than the local church when it isn’t working right. Because when it isn’t working right, the ugliness is indescribable. The weakness is breathtaking. The potential is unfulfilled. And rather than comforting the grieving, it just creates more heartache than there already is in this world. And as I look across the church scene in our own nation, in many places, I see the church being ugly rather than breathtaking.

We’re not even evangelizing our own children very well. Do you know that a recent study has indicated 57% of young men and women raised in evangelical churches — as soon as they get out of high school — walk away from the faith and walk away from the church. 57%. I don’t think that many would be walking away if they were seeing something breathtaking. But I think many are walking away, by their own testimony, because they’ve just seen ugliness, division, infighting, power struggles, personality cults, love of tradition rather than love of lost people, refusal to change, lack of Spirit-power, lack of vision, business as usual, excuse-making, deadness of spirit, deadness of heart. When the church isn’t working — just makes you want to weep. — Rock Dillaman at Mahaffey Family Camp, 7/20/2012

May God make our local church breathtaking.

~Pastor Steve

Oh Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type…

Today I listened to Blaine Workman’s podcast: Learning to Speak TOBOG. He was speaking about our speaking — the words we say. He noted that if Paul were writing to the Ephesians today, he might say words like this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth or flow from your fingers. Texting, twitter, facebook, blogs — they are all helpful tools for communicating in our digital age, none of them good or bad in and of themselves. But the rotting verbal garbage that some Christians are willing to post in texts or online is just appalling. It has no place among God s people. In some weird inexplicable way, talking to their electronic device somehow frees people to spew the most vile and corrupting talk in ways they’d be ashamed to do, speaking face to face with the real person. And brothers and sisters, the anonymity of cyberspace is no license for corrupting talk. If your brother sins against you, Jesus says, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. Today, we go tell the whole world in an anonymous post in a blog somewhere… ~Pastor Blaine Workman

That’s a bold thing for a pastor to say. It’s especially bold today, because it’s a quick way to be unfriended in social media.

Take a listen to Pastor Blaine yourself. Maybe you could post it on your own facebook or other social media page.

I dare you.