Life Notes—September 24, 2009 

“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches; but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”  1 Timothy 6:17-19                                   

This Sunday begins a six-week study series focusing on financial management, entitled “Enough!”  The series follows the book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, by Rev. Adam Hamilton.  Tom’s sermon this Sunday is “Faith in the Midst of Financial Crisis.”  The scripture focus is 1Timothy 6:11-19. 

Are you rich?  I have a friend and co-worker who’s name is Rich.  He loves to approach people and say, “Hi!  I’m Rich!”  He will smile, knowing not everyone will catch or appreciate his play on words.  My friend Rich is ‘rich’ in subtle, dry humor and being around him is always an enriching experience for me.  

But are you rich?  Compared to who or what would you consider yourself rich?  What do you lack that would make you feel rich?  Do you, like me, confuse financial riches with security?  I remember early in our marriage, Carrie and I identified an amount of money we believed would signify financial security for us if we could only get our savings account up to that figure.  Did we think achieving that number would make us rich? Hardly, but we did think it would bring a measure of comfort and security.  

The writer of Timothy speaks of the ‘uncertainty of riches’ and warns us not to set our hopes on them.  He encourages being rich in good works and generosity and taking hold of ‘the life that really is life.’ Richness.  Fullness.  Enough.  Today, my family’s riches are not in the bank.  They are in the rich relationships we have built with family and friends, co-workers and brothers and sisters in Christ through church. Those riches are not threatened by life’s hardships and challenges; rather they grow and strengthen through adversity.  They are not dependent on the economy or financial advice.  The interest those riches accrue make our lives richer, fuller….and more interesting. 

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.  I always find the worship and fellowship at First Church enriching.  I pray you will, too… 

Come home to worship this Sunday. 

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator


Life Notes—September 17, 2009 

“But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.  He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’”   Mark 9:34-35                                   

As I prepare to write this week’s Life Note about servanthood, I try to model what it is to be a good and faithful servant.  I contemplate what I can say that might be relevant to you.  I pray for God’s guidance, asking what God would have me say to you.  I have read and reread this week’s scripture looking for something useful I can glean from it for you.  Finally, I try to sit in silence and listen for God’s guidance of my words—all for you.  Isn’t that what being a servant is all about—me, doing something for you

So, here I sit in semi-silence listening for something for you and what do I hear?  I hear me talking to myself about things I want to do for me!  Even now I’m thinking how yummy one of the cookies Carrie made would taste for me.  This is not what I had in mind, but it is exactly what makes me such a poor servant.  Every time I try to focus on serving you, I end up focusing on what’s in it for me!  Lame?  Yes, but too true. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus’ twelve disciples, those specifically chosen to carry his gospel to all peoples and all nations for all time were doing.  They, in his presence, were arguing over which of them was the greatest.  Me!  No, me!  No, it’s ME!!! 

What makes being a good servant so difficult for so many of us?  It’s me!  I would love to help serve the LINK meal after church on Sunday, but then I would miss the football game at noon.  (If they’d schedule the meal at 3:45, I’d be there for sure…)  I know how much a phone call or note would mean to a number of my aging relatives, but between work and kids and the yard and all the me-items in life, I find it difficult to do anything for you.  And yet, if the disciples found a servant-attitude so difficult, why should it be any different for us?  It requires constant doses of will, grace and persistence. 

Tom’s sermon title this Sunday is “Being the Greatest Servant” based on the scripture from Mark 9:30-37.  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.  Who are you serving in your life?  Who should (or could) you be serving?  In spite of my me-ness, I notice I have finished another Life Note.  Was it just another me exercise?  Maybe, but I sincerely hope there is something here for you, too.  Me serving me…and you. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Your imperfect and selfish servant will be looking for you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator

Humanly Divine Things

Life Notes—September 10, 2009

 “…If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”   Mark 8:34-35                              

Whoa there!  Someone needs a media consultant!  I have had the opportunity to receive training in framing a message for the media and this passage, along with the ones preceding it, breaks about every principle of good media management I was ever taught.  Of course the message needs to be truthful, but there are ways to frame a negative message so it is truthful, yet doesn’t sound so painfully awful.  There are ways to present an undesirable truth that help minimize the loss of customers, or in Jesus’ case, followers.  We see politicians and corporate spokespersons do it on a regular basis.

 But Jesus was no politician.  A few verses prior to the ones above, Peter was playing the role of media consultant for Jesus and took him aside and privately rebuked him for being so bluntly negative.  Jesus, who must’ve been on quite a roll at the time, criticized Peter publicly and said,”Get behind me, Satan!” Ouch!  Then he explains, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 

 And therein is the key to much of what confounds us: we set our minds on human things, not divine.  And through our limited human vision divine things often appear dreadful.  I treasure my home and family life above everything else on earth.  Yet my overwhelming appreciation for home and family is the direct result of several painful years in my young adulthood where I was extremely lonely and miserable.  In order to prepare us for beauty and wonder, God must sometimes lead us through dark valleys, often valleys of our own making.  Through earthly eyes it is hell.  Through divine eyes it is all related, necessary and part of the adventure!

 Tom’s sermon title this Sunday is “Who Do You Say That I Am?” based on the scripture from Mark 8:27-38.  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.  What cross are you bearing in your life?  Remember, Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow, which implies we are not to bear our crosses alone.  Bring your cross to church this week.  Bring a friend and their cross, too.  We have plenty of room.

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

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator

A God-Shaped Hole

Life Notes—September 3, 2009 

“They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”   Mark 7:37                                   

It is often said that we are born with a God-shaped hole in our being and much of our lives are spent trying to fill that hole.  We know from the Bible that many of Jesus’ followers followed in the hope of being made whole.  The sick, blind, deaf, mute, crippled—all sought him out believing he had the power to restore them to wholeness.  Through the many healings documented in Scripture we know he did, indeed, have the power to heal physical infirmities.

 But what of non-physical ailments?  What about worry or fear that paralyzes us into inaction?  What about that nagging sense that our lives are directionless?  What about that amorphous desire for a new something or other that we feel certain will make us happy and whole—New shoes?  Ice cream?  A new guitar?  But experience teaches us those types of voids in our life are seldom, if ever, satisfied by things of the earth.  Those types of ‘ailments’ may be manifestations of the God-shaped hole in our life.  And new shoes simply cannot fill it.

 Jesus’ followers were not only people with physical ailments.  It would seem the majority were, like the majority of us, physically fine.  What they lacked was harder to define.  Some had a thirst for the knowledge Jesus imparted.  Some ached to be in his presence.  Many were just curious; but all were all drawn to him hoping to have some ‘hole’ in their lives filled, some deep need satisfied.  Even today, in the absence of Jesus’ physical presence, we gather to learn, seek and follow and to be made whole.  In Matthew, Jesus says wherever two or more are gathered in his name, there He will be, also.  The healing presence of Christ in our midst, is that what we seek?  I know I do…

 Tom’s sermon title this Sunday is “A Healing Touch,” based on the scripture from Mark 7:24-31.  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.  What is ailing you this week?  Whatever it is I suspect is no match for the healing power and presence of Jesus Christ.

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

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Worship Music Coordinator