It’s Part of the Landscape of Serving

It’s odd – in a good way – how sermon-writing works.

I have been reading and prayerfully contemplating my message for this week – a message regarding healing. I’ve been at it all day – and I have been pondering it for two weeks.

Today – just now – I was ready to pack it in for the day and move on to reviewing the material for tonight’s Bible study. But as I was closing MS Word (with about 10 lines of text typed) I thought, “Hey – I should write this….” and it flowed. Pages flowed.

It is amazing when God does that.

That kind of “flow” of the Spirit is not limited to sermon development and presentation. If you’re a believer, you’ve probably experienced it in other places. I’ve seen it in small group Bible studies. I’ve felt it while digging up a septic tank in the yard of a widow. I’ve noted it while shoveling snow from a friend’s driveway. And I’ve sensed it while talking with some buddies.

It’s the difference between pedaling up a long grade and coasting around some gentle curves. It can’t be manufactured or forced.

It’s part of the landscape of serving.

And it’s beautiful.

ThruTheBible: What Was the Strange Fire?

Presented at Curwensville Alliance Church on 2/23/2014

At Curwensville Alliance we are reading through the Bible. This past week we’ve spent some time in Leviticus, a difficult book for most of us to relate to. This is likely the case with Nadab and Abihu.

In Leviticus 10, two sons of Aaron, Israel’s high priest, are killed by God for offering what the King James calls Strange Fire. That’s one catchy phrase, isn’t it? Strange Fire. Maybe that’s why the term has been so often capitalized upon by people wanting to put down anything different from what they have experienced or what they believe in.

But what is the strange fire?

This podcast attempts to answer the question in ways that speak to our hearts.

PS: I hope you’re listening to the morning services from Curwensville Alliance Church. They can be found by clicking here.

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.