Thursday, June 26, 2014

LBC Listed with AmericanTowns.com

Heading further into the twenty-first century, Lansdowne Baptist Church has now made a connection with the Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, community through AmericanTowns.com and you can expect to see more from us there soon. We'll provide news releases and updates for all major upcoming events. You can take a look at us over at: http://www.americantowns.com/pa/lansdowne/organization/lansdowne-baptist-church-1

Stop by and see us online ... and in the church on Sunday. Tell your friends that they are invited to come along as well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sharing the Joy Found in Our Faith

From time to time, I share the
joy I take from my faith with others
as the Christian clown, Joyful Noise.
In our day to day lives, sometimes we forget that the Christian faith is suffused with joy. That certainly appears to have been forgotten by many who appear in the public and project a far more dour and judgmental version of the faith. Let's look at joy in the Old and New Testaments for a different perspective. 
Joy in the Old Testament had a very public dimension, referring to visible acts of rejoicing. Practical reasons for Old Testament joy included having a loving spouse or wise children as seen in Ecclesiastes 9:9 and Proverbs 10:1. Theologically, Old Testament joy was a celebration of who God is and what God had done for God’s people, including deliverance, steadfast love, and salvation as seen in Isaiah 25:9, Psalm 30:5, and Jeremiah 31:12-13. Furthermore, God’s very self also rejoices, as illustrated in Psalm 104:31.
Moving to the New Testament, its books are suffused with joy. This joy emanates from the inauguration of the new age in which the Messiah has come. The angel’s pronouncement of good news of great joy for all people in Luke 2:10-11 becomes central to Jesus’ ministry in both word and deed. Joy is in the very character of God’s kingdom and once discovered, as stated in Matthew 13:44, the discoverer will sell all he or she has to retain this treasure and will do so joyfully. Paul puts a fine point on the matter when he states that the ultimate source of joy is in Christ and the Holy Spirit (Phil 3:1; 4:4; Rom 14:17). Therefore, if we know the ultimate source of joy, certainly we should share that source with others, and visible acts of rejoicing while doing so would not be out of place, according to the Old Testament. Of course, sharing Jesus with others is evangelism.
This is taken from the article "Joy in Evangelism" published in Witness Magazine and written by this pastor, Jeffrey B. Snyder ... who expresses his joy in Christ every chance he gets. 
Wishing you joy ... a contagious joy you'll share with others. 



Missionary Sue Hegarty Reflects on Her Mission Call and Mission Trips

Nicaragua
This month I thought that I would share an important experience in my missionary calling. I can thank my parents for instilling an interest in missions from a young age. Later when Steve and Sheila Heneise spent their home assignment in our area, they encouraged our church to do a mission trip to Nicaragua where they were serving at the time. 

Our church voted to do this, raising money and collecting things like clothing and school supplies. About 10 people went, some of whom had never traveled outside the U.S. before. We definitely had culture shock as we rode in the back of a pick-up truck to a dusty little town in Nicaragua to put a new tin roof on their church. The old one had been corroded by volcanic acidic gases! 

People lived in homes with dirt floors, animals wandered everywhere, the food was different and water had to be carried in huge buckets from the river below town. Yet, there was so much hospitality despite the language barrier. Fortunately I had some Spanish and was able to have deeper conversations with some of our hosts. We were inspired when the church members shared the children's clothing we brought with non-members, even those who had made fun of their faith. 

I can honestly say that going on this work tour was a major step in my journey to becoming a missionary. It was a way of giving but, honestly, of receiving more than I gave. It was a way of seeing others live out their faith in difficult circumstances. I learned so much! God also used that trip to begin calling me to serve internationally. 

I firmly believe that mission tours and work groups are opportunities for the participants to serve God as well as their brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time it provides an experience out of our comfort zone for us to learn about other people and cultures and see what God is doing. It is a learning and receiving experience that can change you forever! 


Costa Rica

Perhaps you can open yourself up to the possibility of visiting Costa Rica in one of the planned tour groups. You can also work with Angela Sudermann of International Ministries' Volunteer Office to find out about organizing a team and how to "help without hurting" (being culturally appropriate). Write her at angela.sudermann@internationalministries.org to explore the possibilities. 

Lansdowne Baptist Church is pleased to support Sue Hegarty in her ministries in Costa Rica.

For more from Sue Hegarty, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/04/news-from-american-baptist-missionary.html

Scholarships Presented to Two Deserving Graduating High School Seniors

On Sunday, June 22, 2014, the Aaron M. Royal Scholarship Committee of Lansdowne Baptist Church awarded two $500 college scholarships to deserving graduating high school seniors from the William Penn School District or the church. The competition was steep this year and the decision was challenging. Both recipients expressed their thanks for the work of the committee and promised to put the funds to good use to further their college educations and academic aspirations. 

The congregation of Lansdowne Baptist Church is pleased to be able to offer this scholarship opportunity annually. 

Coping with Anxiety through Faith

Life is tricky, unpredictable, full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, surprises both positive and negative, and futures often uncertain at best. As a result, we all suffer from anxiety ... regularly. Even with the wonderful advice in Matthew 6:25-34 about not worrying because God is there with you always and cares for you, we are anxious, we are afraid, we worry. To define our terms: while fear is focused on a specific, identifiable danger, anxiety is unfocused, vague, and even lacking in any specific danger upon which to fix that anxious state. Both conditions can leave us feeling equally miserable. Normal anxiety revolves around the everyday uncertainties of life and can even spur us to grow in spiritual maturity. That form of anxiety can prod us forward, whether we like it or not. However, out of control anxiety leads to a level of anxiousness that is way out of proportion to the problem, is battled to be repressed, and leaves us feeling isolated and could cause us to employ inappropriate, flight, fight, or freeze defense mechanisms. In other words, anxiety unleashed will make us miserable.

Our faith in God helps us to face our anxieties, come to grips with them, and move through them. We turn to God for courage and strength. We remember that God promises to be with us always ... and God always keeps God's promises.God's love, grace, mercy, and presence are with us. From Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, we learn that God, like the father in the story, is looking for us to return to God's loving embrace when we make mistakes and get far off course. Take a look at Luke 15:11-32 and really take that parable to heart. See if that doesn't help reduce anxiety.

God also doesn't want us to go through our lives and our challenges alone. Seek out others who can help you when you are struggling with anxiety. Seek people of faith you can trust who can help you face your anxieties and who will remind you that you are not alone.

I also recommend that anxious readers turn to Brian D. McLaren's book Naked Spirituality and take a look at pages 115-117. There we find a valuable method for reframing our anxieties and renaming our needs.

God bless you and please know that you are not alone in your anxieties.

If you are anywhere near Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and are seeking a caring community who can help you face those anxieties, please join us any Sunday. We are here to help. 

End of School Year Bash a Community Success!

The Sunday School teachers have done it again! Lansdowne Baptist Church put on an end of the school year bash for the children of the church and the community. Children of all ages enjoyed the antics of Joyful Noise the Christian clown, who billed himself as the Ringleader of the Ridiculous for the Almighty; Court Jester for Jesus; and the Minion of Mirth for the Holy Spirit. He put on a "spirited" performance that kept everyone entertained and involved.

Also featured were a "Bouncy Castle" irresistible to all children ... and a few adults when no one was looking. Games of musical chairs, water balloon toss, and pinata kept up the activity level throughout.

Of course, wonderful food was available for everyone. Nobody left hungry.

The activities ran from 11 AM until 2 PM and we were all sorry to see it end. A wonderful time was had by all and LBC members and the pastor had some wonderful conversations with members of the community. The pastor's wife and daughter went down to the local music store about a block away and were asked what LBC was up to. More than one person observed "There always seems to be something happening at LBC." We hope so. We are working hard to be about God's business in our community. It was truly joyful business on this beautiful day God gave us.

Hope to see you at next year's bash! You'll be welcome, warmly greeted, fed (physically and spiritually), and sent away with a smile. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why Do Baptists Baptize?

While most Baptist churches have heated baptismal pools installed,
sometimes we have been known to head down to the river!
For us Baptists, "believer’s baptism" has always been central to the Baptist witness. By "believer's baptism" we mean that, for ourselves, only those who are mature enough to learn about Jesus and Jesus’ commandments, to understand them to an extent (understanding continues to grow throughout a believer's life), and accept them for themselves may be baptized. That baptism is a public profession of faith in what God is already doing inside the believer, redeeming that person through Jesus. Baptism also becomes the gateway into the church of God’s saints. It is a beautiful service our whole church community celebrates, in which the pastor submerges the person baptized into a pool of water and raises that person back up (right away), following the example Jesus set for us by his baptism in the river Jordan, as described in the Bible in Mark 1:4-11: 

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Our Baptist name comes from this penchant for baptism. It was first given to us as a negative name, in the same way Christian, meaning “little Christs” was given to followers of Jesus at first to shame them. In both cases, to their credit, believers stubbornly accepted the names and made them their own.

For Baptists, that plunge into the water represents the death of the old sinner and the rebirth of the new follower of Jesus. The journey begins with teaching, which blooms into faith, turns into the public witness of baptism, and continues with the gathered, faithful witnesses and all the saints of the church who have gone before us. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Who Is Jesus?

American Baptist Churches USA, our denomination, states, "American Baptists celebrate the fact that belief in Jesus Christ assures salvation and eternal fellowship with a loving God. The events of the first Easter week are the cornerstones of our faith: the death of Christ, in which He took upon Himself the sin of the world, and the Resurrection, which gave proof of His triumph over sin and death. Holy Scripture always has been for American Baptists the authoritative and trustworthy guide for knowing and serving the God who is revealed as Creator, Savior and Advocate."

Henri Nouwen, in this devotional book, Bread for the Journey, gives admirable insight into one facet of Jesus. On page 63, he states,

“Jesus, the Blessed One, is gentle. Even though he speaks with great fervor and biting criticism against all forms of hypocrisy and is not afraid to attack deception, vanity, manipulation, and oppression, his heart is a gentle heart. He won’t break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick (see Matthew 12:20). He responds to people’s suffering, heals their wounds, and offers courage to the fainthearted.

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (see Luke 4:18-19) in all he says, and thus he reveals God’s immense compassion. As his followers, we are called to the same gentleness.”

Christians are to follow Jesus' example, approaching the world with Jesus' gentle heart. 

Jesus also guides us to the two greatest commandments, to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the parable of the "Good Samaritan," we learn by the kind actions of the Samaritan, an enemy of the people of Israel, when he helped a wounded Israeli, that our neighbors are everyone who needs us. It's a very all inclusive love we are to offer. 

Jesus is a friend of sinners, a blazer of trails for us to follow, a wonderful teacher who used humor to make his points and memorable stories known as parables, a controversial character who had little patience for those who quibbled over the letter of the law while entirely missing the law's spirit, and Jesus is shown as the true shepherd of the sheep, willing to lay down his life for the beloved flock (all of us). Jesus is our savior. Through his actions he closed the gap humanity had created between us and God when we refused  to love God, who loves us. 

Now, I could go on and on. However, I suspect you might find that just overwhelming. There is no end of what might be said about Jesus. Instead, I recommend getting to know Jesus for yourself through the Bible, which tells us best who Jesus is and what he intends for us all. 

The other thing you can do is ask believers for stories of what Jesus has meant in their lives. There you will find some wonderful insights into what Jesus means to believers who have dedicated their lives to Jesus. You can find one example of such a story right here on this blog site: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/06/statement-of-faith.html

Jesus wants to develop a personal relationship with you, today. Jesus is calling to you. Will you respond?

We also invite you to visit us, worship with us, and come to know Jesus through our community. We welcome you. 

For a post about Jesus changing expectations, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/04/sermon-summaries-palm-sunday-king-of.html

Summertime Hours In Place

Beginning on Father's Day, June 15, the summer worship hours will be in place. The worship service will begin at 10 AM and there will be no Sunday school until the fall rolls around again. We look forward to seeing you at this earlier hour ... and then out and about around town enjoying summer and spreading the good news.

You are invited. You are welcome. Please come.

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Statement of Faith: My Belief in Jesus




I created this video in 2011, back when I was a licensed but not yet ordained American Baptist pastor. This is my personal witness to my belief in Jesus Christ, answering the question about why I believe with a little story. Using story to speak of our faith is highly recommended by the denomination as a non-confrontational approach to sharing our beliefs with a little personal evangelism, including some hopefully engaging humor.

One of the great challenges facing churches today is equipping congregations to speak freely, confidently, and pleasantly about what we believe. Here's one approach ...

You may also find these video posts moving: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/04/it-is-well-with-my-soul-powerful-hymn.html and http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/03/be-still-my-soul.html

To learn more about what it means to be American Baptist, see: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/04/american-baptist-churches-usa-serving.html