thinking out loud

…things that are on my mind, heart, and soul

12.12.20 Worship Confessional

This morning was the third Sunday of Advent and our theme was active anticipation. Our Director of Spiritual Formation, Marlaena Cochran taught from Romans 8:15-25 and she talked about three ways in which we wait during this season of Advent:  we wait as parents who are pregnant, we wait as children and we wait for the glory that will be revealed.

One of the lectionary readings this week was a personal favorite –  Zephaniah 3:14-16. Many people equate worship with singing songs to God. However, this text in a sense turns the tables on us. The prophet speak not of our winging to God, but the Father singing over us:

“Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

After a time of listening and quiet prayer, we sang together a beautiful song by Matt Maher and Jason Ingram based upon this text. The chorus declares:

Out of the depths you cry “Come and be satisfied?”
Father you sing, Father, you sing over Your children.
Let us see through Your eye, we are Your great delight
Father you sing, Father, you sing over Your children.

If you are not familiar with this song, I would encourage you to give it a listen and think about including it in an upcoming worship gathering.

One of the other dynamics of our worship this weekend was the inclusion of a number of students in our music team.  We had a high school student playing keys and three college students as well (on drums, acoustic guitar and vocals). Korey, Natalie, Vince and Caleb all willingly offered their musical gifts to God and our community of faith. I love to serve together with the next generation of worship leaders and am grateful for the heart and passion they bring to the ministry.

Our music set included:

  • All Bow Down (Tomlin)
  • Glory to God Forever (Fee)
  • Jesus Messiah (Tomlin)
  • Sing Over Your Children (Maher)
  • Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Daniel Renstrom arrangement)

Learn what other worshiping communities experienced this weekend at The Worship Community.

Filed under: advent, hope, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

The Present Future

I love the Church and believe it is God’s chosen vehicle to carry the good news of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 3:10). My life’s call has been to help the Church become everything God intended, created, redeemed and gifted her to be.

Over the past seven years it has been one of my greatest joys to provide leadership to a community of faith that describes its mission as helping people connect with God, one another and our world. And even more important than the words we speak are the actions we take.  Day in and day out our community demonstrates a faithfulness (not a perfectness) to being this sort of presence in the world.

During this Advent season I have been using the Mosaic Bible as a devotional and these words about the “present/future” dynamic from Brad Harper greatly encouraged me and renewed me in my call to do whatever I can to serve the Church and help her live as deeply as possible into her purpose:

“The future is about a community in which barriers that separate people from God, one another and creation are no more. Every broken relationship, every wounded heart, every chronic pain of body and soul will be healed. In the church, this community of the future has already been inaugurated by Jesus Christ. As God’s eschatological community, we hope for ultimate redemption in the future. But in the present, we must break down the barriers and bear each others brokenness. Through this here-and now experience, Christ’s bride, the Church begins to take on the beauty that will be hers when he comes to claim her as is own.”

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, hope

12.5.10 Worship Confessional

Today was the second Sunday of Advent and our focus for the morning was hope. The words of the prophet Isaiah provided the shape for our gathering:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1-6)

During my message I shared Doug Pagitt’s description of the significant role that hope plays in our faith: “Christianity has always been the hope of God through Jesus played out in the lives of real people living in real circumstances.” To illustrate this reality, two members of our community, Brandon and Heidi, shared the signs of hope they witnessed during their recent mission trip. Brandon and Heidi served as team leaders for 14 students from Waynesburg University and they served about 80 children in the Nutritional Center and Home for Children in Patzun, Guatemala. You can read some of Brandon’s reflections in his Friday column in the Herald Standard.

What signs of hope do you see during this Advent season? How does hope inform the practice of your faith?

Our music set included the following songs:

  • All Down Down (Chris Tomlin)
  • Salvation is Here (Hillsong)
  • This is How We Know (Matt Redman)
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel ( Traditional)
  • Comfort Ye (Daniel Renstrom)
  • This is Our God (Chris Tomlin)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced today in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, hope, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

10.10.10 Worship Confessional

During our worship gathering on Sunday we joined with thousands of other communities of faith around the globe  partnering with the Micah Challenge in the Lend a Hand campaign. 2010 is a year of great challenge and opportunity in the fight against global poverty. It’s ten years since the nations of the world made promises to the poor amongst us and the Lend a Hand campaign was an initiative designed to bring 100 million people together in a worldwide cry that the poor and our promises to them cannot be forgotten.

If the nations of the world did what they promised to do in 2000, half a billion people would be lifted out of poverty by 2015. With full recognition that poverty will not be solved solely by governments, I do believe that as citizens and as followers of Christ we can ask our leaders to follow-through on the commitments we made to do our part in eliminating the sin of extreme poverty. And as Christians and members of the Body of Christ we have a special calling to love and serve the poor. As Micah 6:8 reminds us: “What does the Lord require? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbling with your God.”

During our worship gathering we provided the opportunity and space for people to gather around prayer stations to “lend a hand” We invited them to promise to live justly or to advocate for the poor around the world. And we invited people to pray passionately because we can’t achieve anything as big as this without God’s help. The image in this post contains that hand-prints of many who participated in this time of prayer and commitment.

What is the connection between worship and justice? Is it right to advocate for justice in the context of a worship gathering? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Our worship set for the morning included:

  • Marvelous Light (Charlie Hall)
  • Not to Us/Here is Our King (Todd Fields version)
  • Small Rebellions (song from Jars of Clay new project, “Shelter”)
  • Follow Me (Leeland)
  • You Have Shown Us (Compassion Art Project)

You can learn what other churches experienced in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: global poverty, hope, worship gatherings

A Beautiful End

First off, I thought the final episode of LOST was a beautiful and appropriate ending to this amazing series. Did it answer all of my questions? Absolutely not. Did it bring resolution to all the story lines? I don’t think so. Do I understand the significance of the number sequences, the names on the wall and Elose Hawking’s pendulum? Not so much. Was I upset about how they corrupted the beauty of the chapel with the hideous stained glass window that contained the symbols of every imaginable religious system under the sun? You bet. Did it have some lame moments (like Kate’s last words to UnLocke, “I saved my last bullet for you”)? Indeed. Nonetheless, in my mind Sunday’s finale was the most gripping and moving evening of television I have ever experienced and I embraced it as a beautiful end.

I have been pretty slow all along in grasping the complexity of the storyline and the layers of connections in LOST.  But last night as each character experienced his or her awakening in sideways world, a little light bulb went off inside of me and each one brought a sense of satisfaction and joy. Sun and Jin at the ultrasound; Charlie and Claire holding Aaron; Juliet and Sawyer at the vending machine; Kate touching Jack at the concert–connections made. What about Ben asking Locke for forgiveness and the words of Scripture that came to mind as Jack heroically gave his life for his friends (“no greater love than this than a man lay down his life for his friends”).

I like what James Poniewozik from Time magazine wrote:

The moving, soulful finale that Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse gave us met that challenge. The Island world, we learned, absolutely mattered to the physical fate of the survivors. (And sci-fi purists ticked over the spiritual ending should at least give it up for this: what happened, did, indeed happen.) And the Sideways world mattered because it was the culmination of the spiritual, moral, human lives–the souls–of the characters.”

And I was deeply touched by the power of community. It is interesting that this week in our Tangible Kingdom study we are exploring this idea of community. Community is a mysterious kind of thing and in many cases it seems to promise more than it actually delivers. But the episode reminded me to push into the power of community and it brought to mind the words of Gilbert Bilizekian who passionately insists that “only community remains.”

Recall this dialogue between Jack and his father:

Jack: Where are we?
Christian: This is a place you all made together so you could find one another…Nobody does it all alone. You needed them and they needed you.
Jack: For what?
Christian: To remember and to let go.

Thank you LOST. See you in another life, brotha.

Filed under: hope, reviews

Our Story

Over the past nine months our community of faith has been collectively working through a wonderfully creative and compelling narrative process. This process was designed to not only help us explore the story that God is writing through our lives but also to help us live more deeply into that story. I am grateful for Leanne Meyer and her leadership; she facilitated this process and masterfully led our leadership community through this journey.

Yesterday in worship we shared the results of this journey with our community. Six members of our community, through story, images and song, shared their perspective of the past, present, and future (the audio will be available via our podcast on iTunes and through our audio site Thinking Out Loud on Tuesday). Hearing these stories brought great joy to my heart as I was reminded of the ways God has been at work  forming and shaping our community of faith over the past six years.

We crafted a one page narrative summary which you will find in this post. My thanks to Dianne Polome who carried the freight on this project and spent many hours drafting and editing this document. As well, you can read the longer narrative on our CCCSH Blog. If you are a member of our community, I pray you would be encouraged by our story and challenged to live more passionately as a cast member of this drama. And if you are not a member of our community, I encourage you to reflect upon the story that God is writing through your community of faith and celebrate God’s activity in the past, acknowledge God’s work in the present and look forward in faith to the future God has in store for you.

Christ Community Church of the South Hills Narrative Summary

(Past) In the fall of 2003, God birthed a dream in the hearts of a small core of discerning men and women, boys and girls. What would it look like, they asked, to build a great church for God in the south hills of Pittsburgh, an alternative community of faith that would focus its resources upon the mission of God, by prioritizing relationships and by creating a welcoming environment for people who did not resonate with or had been disillusioned by a traditional church setting and context. With the firm conviction that men and women together reflect the image of God, this group of people committed to creating a community of faith that would keep Christ at its center. Empowered by these God-given convictions, the community called Terry Timm to be their lead pastor and in 2004, Christ Community Church of the South Hills was formally launched. Early on the community of faith saw itself as a small church with a big reach, believing that God would do great things, far beyond our imagination, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of committed Christ followers.

(Present) Six years later, CCCSH has remained true to our original intent and foundational values. We prioritize relationships and create catalytic worship, learning and serving environments where our mission is being accomplished. We live out our calling by providing an alternative worship environment featuring contemporary music and relevant messages from God’s Word. However, our worship gatherings are but a starting point for our participation in God’s work, as we understand our mission as helping others connect with God, one another and our world. Our learning environments for children, youth and adults help people make meaningful connections as well as rooting them more deeply in the way of Jesus. And our missional activity occurs throughout the week in the places we live, work, learn and play and through formal partnerships, joining in God’s work both near (Shepherd’s Heart and CCO) and far (Guraghe, Ethiopia) and in places in-between (Gulf Coast work teams).

(Future) As we look back on what God has accomplished in, with and through our community of faith, we have much to celebrate. Moving forward, we envision God enabling us to have an even greater reach, as we continue to grow our roots deeper in the way of Christ. Our focus will be on the formation of disciples, rather than simply making converts. We continue to be committed to an action-oriented ministry, one that helps people live more deeply into their faith and then exercise that faith in our world through their unique God-given strengths, gifts and passions. We remain a work in progress and believe that the One who began a good work in us will indeed one day bring it to completion.

Highlights

  • In the fall of 2003, a group of believers gathered around a God-sized dream to build a great church for God in the south hills of Pittsburgh.
  • In February 2004, Christ Community Church of the South Hills was formally launched.
  • We focus on creating dynamic and healthy worship, learning and serving environments and helping people connect to God, one another and our world in organic ways. Growing in our love for God and others is at the heart of our life as followers of Jesus.
  • We will accomplish our mission through people living into their unique giftedness and by establishing partnerships with like-minded ministries, near, far and everywhere in-between.
  • Fueled by a desire to follow Jesus into the world, we established the Uptown Center as a communal presence in the Mt Lebanon area.
  • Through the narrative process we pause to celebrate God’s work over the past six years and to root ourselves firmly in our identity as a community of faith as we anticipate God’s continued work in, with and through us.
  • Moving forward we seek to live out our original vision and values in deeper, stronger and broader ways, believing that God will do things far beyond our imagination, through the power of His Spirit at work in our lives.

Filed under: hope, leadership, Uncategorized

Warrior Princess: Fighting for Life with Courage and Hope

Imagine losing your mother, father, sister, brother and husband to a deadly disease. Then imagine carrying the killer HIV virus in your own body as well. To be honest, that scenario is beyond my capacity to imagine – and yet it is the reality Princess Zulu of Zambia lives with each and every day.  And yet, in her book “Warrior Princess: Fighting for Life with Courage and Hope,” Princess Zulu tells a compelling and inspiring story that will not only capture your heart, but  hopefully will move you into action as well.

On January 2, 1998 Princess discovered that she was HIV positive. However, she refused to be defeated by that diagnosis, but instead committed herself to doing everything humanly possible to educate, inform and to fight for life. Her own nation of Zambia and the entire sub-Saharan region of Africa has been devastated by the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Consider some of the most recent statistics:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV worldwide, accounting for over two thirds (67%) of all people living with HIV and for nearly three quarters (72%) of AIDS-related deaths in 2008.
  • An estimated 1.9 million [1.6 million–2.2 million] people were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2008, bringing to 22.4 million [20.8 million–24.1 million] the number of people living with HIV.
  • In 2008, more than 14 million children in sub-Saharan Africa had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
  • The nine countries in southern Africa continue to bear a disproportionate share of the global AIDS burden—each of them has an adult HIV prevalence greater than 10%.

Early in Princess Zulu’s spiritual journey she received a series of prophetic words and Scriptures that would guide and empower her life and mission. She tells the story of a word she received in 1996 from the Prophet Zimba who shared a vision of Princess “standing at an airport carrying suitcases. There were flights going in different directions, all around the world. The flags of many nations were waving about, but some were standing out stronger than others: the flags of Canada, Australia and America. And the American flag had come to a standstill” (pages 78-79).  Little did Princess know that God would one day carry this simple Zambian woman to the places of power in her own nation and around the globe to speak as a advocate for those suffering from the impact of  HIV and AIDS – especially women and vulnerable children.

Princess is one gutsy woman. One of the techniques she used to raise awareness about HIV was to pose as a commercial sex worker and “work” the truckers who would travel through her region. When they would solicit her for sex, she would make them aware of her HIV status and then educate them about the dangers of their own behavior and how they were contributing to the spread of the virus. While at times controversial, Princess would not let the conventional wisdom set the pace for the education of Africans regarding this deadly disease.

Princess is a wonderful storyteller and one of my favorite stories in the book recalls the famous “President Bush Kiss.”  Princess was invited to the White House to speak the President around the occasion of his PEPFAR initiative. The picture I included in this blogpost is worth one thousand words, but I encourage you to pick up the book to read the story behind the kiss.

From the White House to the gym at Eisenhower School. In 2008 our community of faith was fortunate to have Princess Zulu with us for a worship gathering. She shared a powerful message of compassion and hope and I encourage you to listen to it.

Please read Princess Zulu’s story. You will be inspired and I pray you will be moved into action. If you would like to learn more about the work of World Vision and our partnership in Guraghe, Ethiopia, please leave a comment and I would be pleased to connect you to this important work.

Stay connected…

Filed under: global poverty, hope, Uncategorized, world AIDS day

Hope for Haiti Now

On Friday evening artists and celebrities around the globe collaborated on a very special music event entitled Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief. The event was designed to raise both awareness about the crisis in Haiti and funds to provide real help and hope to the people of that devastated land.

While I only had the opportunity to watch the last 30 minutes of the event live on Friday evening, when the audio and video of the event became available on Saturday I quickly downloaded it via iTunes. This morning on my walk I listened to all twenty of the performances (it was a long walk) and while there were a few performances that musically didn’t quite make it for me, here is my bottom line: the Hope for Haiti Now project found artists doing what artists do best  – inspiring people. Inspiring people to live more deeply into the story and to find their part in being part of the solution.

And so I ask you: what’s your part in the solution to the crisis in Haiti? How can you be an answer to the prayers of the Haitian people for real help and hope in their time of real need?

Today I had my first cup of coffee in eight days. During that time I was drinking only water and pooling the money I saved on coffee and diet cokes (and milk and juice…). Tomorrow I will be making a gift to Deep Springs International, an organization with a vision of making clean water available to the people of Haiti through a novel approach to fighting poverty that integrates sustainable solutions to the problems of lack of safe water, lack of job-relevant education, spiritual poverty, and unemployment. I am learning more about this organization and the work they are doing in Haiti day by day and I would encourage you to check them out as well.

As well, in the days ahead our community of faith will be prayerfully asking God what our part might be in the longer term solution to the rebuilding of Haiti.

What organizations and ministries are you partnering with? I would love to learn more about how God is inspiring you and moving you to action. Together we can bring real help and hope to Haiti now!

Stay connected…

Filed under: global poverty, hope

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity

A couple of weeks ago I received an early Christmas gift – a preview copy of Mark Batterson’s latest book, Primal. I’m a pretty big fan of Batterson’s work, not only as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC, but even more so as an author. Last year, I used his book, “Wild Goose Chase” with a group of guys for an early morning Wednesday study and it was a tremendous resource as we pursued the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Straight up, Primal is an excellent read. There are very few books that I read cover to cover and this was one of the rare ones that captured my attention from the first page to the last. Batterson is a gifted storyteller and whether he is describing his descent down the stairs of the Church of San Clemente in Rome, his son Josiah’s adventures in sleepwaking or the remarkable story of Jasper Toe’s vision and his subsequent conversation to Christ – Batterson has the capacity to engage your mind and your heart and invite you into the story that God is writing in your life and mine.

The soul of the book is a call to a new reformation – Batterson writes:

“Reformations are not born out of a new discoveries. Those are often called cults. Reformations are born out of  rediscovering something ancient something primal. They are born out of primal truths rediscovered, reimagined, and radically applied to our lives.”

The primal truth Batterson calls the people of God to rediscover and reimagine is the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Primal explores the four elements of the Great Commandment – compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power – and invites his readers to become a part of a movement that turned the world right-side up two thousand years ago.

One of the things I most appreciate about Batterson’s writing is his ability to bring fresh perspective to Scripture. Let me provide one example. In a section entitled, “Idea Stewardship,” Batterson illuminates Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Most of us view this text in negative terms. Take our sinful thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. And while the text certainly contains that truth, Batterson suggests,

“This verse is also about capturing creative thoughts and keeping them in our minds. It means stewarding every word, every thought, every impression, and every revelation inspired by the Spirit of God. I call them God ideas. And the way we create culture and change culture is by taking those God ideas captive and turning them into reality via blood, sweat and tears.” (117)

Make Primal one of your first reads in the New Year. Or even better – in the week between Christmas and New Year, pick up a copy and head into 2010 ready to join a new reformation of men and women, boys and girls living compassionately, creatively, and courageously for the cause of Christ in our world today.

Stay connected…

Filed under: hope, leadership, reviews

Living the Usual Unusually Well

Yesterday morning we kicked off our one year experiment with the lectionary readings. It was also the first Sunday of the Advent season and it was quite interesting to me to note that the Scriptures texts for the first Sunday in the new liturgical year pointed to the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom here on earth. Talk about beginning with the end in mind.

I found Jesus’ words in Luke 21:28 especially potent:

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Often when people consider the words of Jesus and the end times, things can get amped up pretty quickly. Sometimes I feel that people actually believe they can sped up the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom here on earth through their frenetic activity.

While I applaud passion and seek to live a more passionate life of faith myself, I find that at certain times and in certain contexts, people feel a compulsion to focus on the unusual and the extraordinary (kind of like the season leading up to Christmas when people can get amped up over all sorts of external and nonessential things). So my question this morning is, “in light of the reality that our redemption is drawing near, what kind of life does the Advent of Christ invite us to live?”

These words from Dianne Bergant speak strongly to that very question:

“The Advent way of life does not necessarily require unusual behavior on our part, but it calls us to live the usual unusually well. It affects the everyday events of life; it directs the way we interact with people; it informs the attitudes that color our judgments and motivations. It is as ordinary as the birth of a child; it is as extraordinary as the revelation of God.”

Jesus calls us to live the usual unusually well. This reminds me of Eugene Peterson’s translation Romans 12:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

God is not looking for extraordinary and unusual acts of faithfulness, courage, daring or sacrifice. Worship is offering our everyday, ordinary lives back to God for the life of the world.

What would it look like for you to live the usual unusually well? And how might God take our simple acts of faith, hope, and love – infuse them with His Spirit and use them in the establishment of His kingdom here on earth?

I will give the last word this morning to Francis of Assisi:

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, hope

about me

my name is terry and i've been married to a great woman, patty for 29 years and we have four children, (ranging from 17-25) and an awesome grandson. i serve as lead pastor of christ community church of the south hills in pittsburgh, pa (lets go pens!). i am currently working on a book on worship with a working title of "a movable feast: a liturgy for our everyday, ordinary lives."

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