Our Mission Statement

Friday, February 27

L-1 & L-2, is it in you?

Andy Hadley, I am with you.

Last night I was on Facebook and I happened to stumble upon Andy Hadley’s Facebook main page. For those who may not know Andy, he is the son of Cary and Lori Hadley. If you do not know Cary and Lori, Andy is a kid from Florida. He stated on his Facebook page that he was struggling with L-1 and L-2.

L-1, L-2. Is it in you? For the 13,000+ people that were in Gatlinburg last weekend you know exactly what I am talking about. If you didn’t, this might as well be some sort of coded message. A secret message for those “in the know.”

Last weekend Gatlinburg was invaded by thousands of Christians who were attending the annual youth rally known as Winterfest. Since it first began, I have only missed a couple of the rallies, and I always look forward to the event. It is the one weekend of the year that I can hear some great lessons and to see so many friends that are in ministry. And this year did not disappoint. We even got a couple of inches of snow to complete the event!

L one, L two… what is it? To put it quite simply, it means love God (L 1) and love others (L 2). Jesus was challenged by an expert of the law by a simple, but very profound question, “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus responded by saying, "The most important one," answered Jesus, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (NIV, Mark 12:28-30) This is L-1 love. The second is like unto it. “Love others like you love yourself.” This is L-2 love.

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. These concepts are very difficult to understand and even harder to do. Of course, some may argue with me on this point, but I assure you I am right on this one. As Christians we might THINK we are all about L-1 and L-2 love, but when you sit down and really think about it, we struggle with both. And Jeff Walling did a masterful job explaining it to the masses.

Our love for God (vertical) and our love for others (horizontal) should intersect in our lives. However, this intersecting point is also the point of conflict between our spiritual self and our worldly self. And it is this conflict that we have to deal with everyday. For some, they are all about their L-1 relationship with God and they can quote book, chapter, and verse and have all of their ducks in a row but lack in their L-2 love for others. For others, they are all about their L-2 relationships with others and show love and concern for those around them but might lack L-1 love for God.

Our trip to Honduras has L-2 written all over it. Helping others who are less fortunate. Providing the needs of those who do not have… living out the words of Matthew 25. Loving others as ourselves is a driving force of our trip. But what about L-1? Do we love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Is our relationship with God growing because of the love we are showing to the people of Honduras? Does our love for the Hondurans grow because of our love for God?

It is easy for us to focus one or the other. Sometimes people go on a Torch Mission trip so that they can grow closer to God. Sometimes a person might go on a trip to apply what they have learned about God (James says to show your faith by what you do, right?). But doing both is what we want to accomplish on our trips.

And to be honest, trips like ours to Honduras make it easier to experience L-1 and L-2 at the same time. For a short period of time we put ourselves into an environment that allows us to focus on our relation with God. Morning and evening devotionals. Singing. Praying. Journals. All of these things help us focus on the Creator. Media fast. No TV. No newspapers. No news. This helps keep distractions from creeping in during the trip. Work projects. Service projects. Visitation. Bible studies. VBS. These allow us to demonstrate our L-2 for others day in and day out.

The problem with Torch Missions trips, and others like it, is the fact that the opportunities on the trips are short lived. We leave our hectic, busy, fast paced lives and routines for a week or two of “heavenly bliss.” We are focused on what is important and eternal. We pour ourselves into what we are doing and even the bumps in the road that we have to work through seem small compared to the greater good being accomplished. But eventually we have to go home.

You see, Satan is perfectly cool with you going on this trip. He is even OK with all of the devotionals and good deeds that you do. He is fine with the singing and prayers and journals and “where did you see Jesus today?” Why? The answer is obvious. Satan knows that you will eventually go home. He knows it is just a short period of time and he will have you back in his backyard. Back home you will have to deal with clients, patients, classmates and next door neighbors. You will have to deal with bills and schedules and meetings. You will have to put up with annoying phone calls, undercooked pizza and burnt toast. You will be put to test. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. Where will the L-1 and the L-2 be where it really matters???

Torch Missions provides meaningful opportunities for L-1 and L-2 to intersect. But it is up to each individual to apply the L-1 and L-2 to the everyday walk to make a real difference in who we are and how we impact others. It is only when L-1 and L-2 become real in our lives that Satan will worry. That is not part of his plan and that would truly mess up his day. Wouldn’t that be something, us messing up Satan instead of the other way around...? L-1 and L-2, is it in you?


Thursday, February 19

Stained Glass Masquerade

Stained Glass Masquerade
By Casting Crowns

Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?
Cause when I take a look around…Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover…that I don't belong.
So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe
I'll believe it too So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people…Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness…And smiles to hide our pain.
But if the invitation's open…To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain…On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone who's been there…Are there any hands to raise?Am I the only one who's traded…In the altar for a stage.

The performance is convincing…And we know every line by heart.
Only when no one is watching…Can we really fall apart.
But would it set me free…If I dared to let you see

The truth behind the person…That you imagine me to be.
Would your arms be open? Or would you walk away?

Would the love of Jesus…Be enough to make you stay?

Are we happy plastic people…Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness…And smiles to hide our pain.
But if the invitation's open…To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain…On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone who's been there…Are there any hands to raise?
Am I the only one who's traded…In the altar for a stage.
But if the invitation's open…To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain…On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone that fails…Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small.

Today at school we had our small group chapel. Once a month our high school student body breaks into groups of 10 and meet with a faculty member to have devotional. Today I had another group with me, so I had about twenty 9th and 10th graders in my classroom. Our discussion centered on the lyrics of the song by Casting Crowns (My favorite group!). This song hits home with me and probably everyone else too. Wearing masks.

Now, in the comic books and movies, characters like Batman, Zorro, the Green Lantern, Spiderman, and the Incredibles wear masks to conceal their true identities (I did not mention Superman because come on, how can you not tell that Superman is not Clark Kent with glasses!). With concealed identities they could live out different lives and be different people. Some wear masks to conceal physical looks such as the Phantom of the Opera (which also concealed deep his self-esteem and confidence issues). Others wear masks to protect themselves from danger (football players for example). Or to look like someone else (Mission Impossible masks… how cool are those masks! Especially when they peal them off at the end to reveal who they really are after they have caught the bad guy). And of course, Halloween masks.

But is that what Casting Crowns is talking about? As my younger brother used to say as a kid growing up, “It’s the same, only different.” The masks that Casting Crowns is referring to are the ones that everyday people wear everyday. People wear masks, sometimes a lot of them, as they walk around and interact with people throughout the day. Unfortunately, most people have so many different layers of masks on that no one ever sees the person for who they really are. We cover our feelings, emotions, thoughts, actions, warts and all, with perfect little masks, leaving the impression that “things are all good.” Plastic masks. Fake people. And we assemble in our churches with plastic steeples. Fake churches.

So, we enter our church buildings dressed in our Sunday best and shinny shoes and perfectly combed hair. We sit with smiles on our faces and we play our part to perfection, showing all around how “together” we are. And why? Fear? Pride? Embarrassment? Arrogance? Peer pressure? How many masks are you wearing right now? 1? 2? More??? And what are you hiding.

It is hard to be transparent. We want everyone to think that we are a rock, a strong hold, a mighty tower. We don’t want people to know that we struggle. That we are weak. That we are flawed. So we go around with masks, to hide who we really are and to “fit in” with those around us. Who are doing the exact same thing. And in the process we fit in with others doing the same thing we are… being plastic.

In verse 2 it states that the act is quite good and we have memorized our lines. It might go something like this: 2 are walking down the hallway and pass each other. Parker says to Leah, “Hi, how are you doing today?” Leah replies, “Good, how about you?” Parker replies, “Good.” And they continue on their way. They smile at each other, deliver their lines on cue and neither know what is real because all they can see is the masks. It happens all of the time.

Now, I am not suggesting that we share our deepest heartfelt thoughts with complete strangers that pass us by each day, but I am suggesting that we need to become more transparent with those who know us best and share our thoughts and concerns. By removing our masks people will get to know us for who we really are… and we will get to know them too. And that is a good thing. Satan wants us to live in a mask which isolates us from the body of believers. Wearing masks is a victory for him. Transparency is a trait that Jesus wants us to have, both with Him and with His body of believers. Sharing is caring and caring is a good thing. It draws us closer and brings us together as a family should be.

So, unless you are Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, loose the masks. Satan says you can’t do it. Maybe we need a “I double dog dare you” challenge! Are you ready to give up the stained glass masquerade?