Life Notes—August 27, 2009 

“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21-23                                   

Jesus went on this diatribe in response to a group of Pharisees and scribes complaining that his disciples were not following the tradition of washing their hands prior to eating.  He tells them they are missing the point about what defiles a person.  In essence he says no amount of hand washing will clean a dirty, evil heart.  And this was a common theme of Jesus’ to the scribes and Pharisees—that they focused on the letter of the law and missed the spirit of the law.  They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. 

It seems to me most, if not all of the evil Jesus lists comes from a selfish heart.  Selfish-ness shrinks our world view so we see everything in terms of its impact on us, rather than the impact of our actions on those outside of us.  We focus on the tree (me) and miss the forest (others).  Once I was told by a friend in the corrections industry that what separates convicted criminals from the rest of us is a social conscience—they commonly fail to value the impact of their actions on others.  Evil results from a selfish heart. 

I know my own selfishness stems from a fear of lacking something I may want or may need someday, be it food or talent or diet cherry coke.  Honestly, I have never truly lacked for anything of substance in my life; but I often fear a lack of things, sometimes only in the quantities I desire them.  But there is no lasting satisfaction for those types of desires of and for the earth.  The hunger always returns and the renewed longing of the heart can lead us to seek satisfaction at an evil price.  And no amount of hand-washing will cleanse us.  When we turn those desires over to God and trust in God’s provision, our hearts can open and be filled to overflowing in ways previously unimaginable.  This is what Christ’s followers were doing, dirty hands and all. 

Tom’s sermon title is “What Are You Full of?” based on the scripture from Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.  Life worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. Contemporary worship on the west campus is at 9:30.  The teaching, fellowship and worship of Sunday morning at First Church may be just what you need for a good, spiritual heart-cleansing.  If not, we have plenty of sinks for a good hand-washing… 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  We’ll leave the Light on for you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator

Nowhere Else to Go

Life Notes—August 20, 2009 

“So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”   John 6:67-69                                   

One evening when I was seven or eight years old I became very angry with my parents and decided I would run away from home.  I was convinced they didn’t love me anymore, so I decided to leave and teach them a lesson!  I remember gathering a few things into a sack, probably a few favored toys, and heading for the door.  Not the back door, mind you, where I could’ve slipped out of the house unnoticed.  I walked very slowly through the living room with my few possessions in tow and looked at my parents with my saddest eyes.  Dad asked where I was going.  I told him I was running away from home, expecting I would receive hugs and apologies and assurances that I was loved beyond anything else in their world.  Once they had sufficiently repented for their offenses, I would forgive them and life would go on.

 What do you think happened?  Actually, my bottom was spanked very soundly and I was sent straight to bed.  Although I do not remember, I am certain I felt betrayed and cried myself to sleep that night.  In the passages preceding the above verses Jesus had shared some difficult truths with his followers that caused many of them to walk away.  His were not words they were prepared to accept and they went seeking elsewhere. 

 Simon Peter’s response is piercing Truth: “Lord, to whom can we go?”  Where was a self-absorbed kid feeling sorry for himself going to go where he would be more loved?  In my case, at least, there was nowhere else to go.  Ditto for the twelve disciples.  And ditto for us, today.  We may not always like the teaching of Christ or the direction God seems to be directing us.  But where else can we go?  To whom can we turn?  We know there is no one more truthful or loving or who has our best interests in mind or who understands and is prepared to meet our deepest needs better than our Lord.

 Tom’s sermon title is “Plenty of Places to Go,” based on the scripture from John 6:56-69.  Life worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. Contemporary worship on the west campus is at 9:30.  Certainly there are plenty of places you can go this Sunday morning.  But turning to God is the only direction where our needs meet the One who can best meet our needs.

 Come home to worship this Sunday.  We’ll leave the Light on for you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator

Imperfect Praise

Life Notes—August 13, 2009

“…as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20

I am not one to spend a lot of specific, dedicated time just praising God. While I try to be aware and appreciative of the awesome wonder around me, and while I try to give at least partially conscious credit to God for the countless blessings of my life, I seldom take intentional time and devote it to just praising my merciful and generous Creator. Until Sunday mornings, that is. Maybe that is why our worship services feel so good. Maybe that is why, when I miss a Sunday or two (as I have the past two weeks), I can hardly wait to pick up my guitar and sing the next Sunday morning. I can just close my eyes and sing songs of praise to God and, sometimes in spite of the congregation present, it feels like it’s just me and God. And that feels awesome!

Don’t get me wrong. I do not claim to have any special talents that my God would find impressive or amazing. I know there are probably hundreds of people in Lawrence alone who can sing or play guitar or write songs much better than I can. But no one in the universe can praise my God in the very personal and specific way I do. And the same is true for you (yes, you!). God created each of us as unique and gifted individuals. And, according to numerous scriptures in the Bible, God longs to have those unique gifts returned, whether in song or word or deed.

I feel my closest connection to God when I sing songs of praise. I really don’t think God cares whether I sing in tune or sing the right words or hit a wrong chord—what means the most to God, I suspect, is the praise pouring out of my heart. Somehow, I doubt God hears with human ears.

Won’t you join us in ‘singing and making melody to the Lord’ this week? Tom’s sermon title is “A Wise Use of Time,” based on the scripture from Ephesians 5:15-20. Life worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. Contemporary worship on the west campus is at 9:30.

Come lift your heart singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with us! Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator


Life Notes—August 6, 2009 

“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’  Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.”   John 6:28                                   

The whole idea of there being power in the belief in Jesus has been a puzzling one for me for much of my life.  Intellectually, for something to have power or influence there must be action involved.  Someone must be revving an engine or swinging a sledgehammer for there to be power and, at least for me, belief just never fit that category. 

When I was studying psychology in school I was fascinated by Pavlov’s dogs and the long line of behavioral research that grew out of those early experiments.  The theory is that rewarded behaviors are repeated.  When a dog (or a rat or a teenager) was given a treat for a particular action, say ringing a bell, the behavior of bell-ringing was reinforced.  They came to believe that when they wanted a treat, all they had to do was ring the bell.  When the treat no longer followed the bell, the bell-ringing ceased.  The researchers also learned that if the animal was rewarded with a treat only occasionally, the bell-ringing behavior persisted much longer.  Perhaps this gives some insight into the tenacity of some peoples’ belief—that their belief is ‘rewarded’ on an occasional and unpredictable timeline.  Our prayers may not seem to be answered each time we pray, but if some are answered our belief is strengthened and our faithful acts prolonged. 

When I was studying English in school I learned that verbs were action words.  Maybe my confusion about the power of belief has to do with my lack of verb-alizing my belief.  My belief in electricity motivates me to plug things in to watch TV or listen to music or make toast.  What action does my belief in Jesus result in?  Perhaps what I was missing in the passage above was the action inspired by the belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  That is where the power comes from, through which we perform the works of God. 

This week Tom’s sermon title is “One Day At A Time.” The scripture is John 6:24-35.  Life worship is at 10:45 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. Contemporary worship on the west campus is at 9:30.  Communion will be served at all four services. 

Life Notes are now at: www.lifeworshipnotes.wordpress.com.  Follow the link and verbalize! 

Keep ringing that bell!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator