My name is Keith Haney. The writer and architect of this blog journey. Candidly I am a pastor, but you will find no judgment, only encouragement at this site. I am not sure how you stumbled upon this blog. Maybe you were seeking ways to help your congregation better reach its neighborhood. Or you were looking to grow as a leader. It’s conceivable the system and culture are crushing you, and you need consolation. If inspiration is what you are pursuing you will find it here, if you want to grow as a leader, I will challenge you to do that. If you want your church to just improve and add people in the pew, this blog may not be suitable for you. The world is changing and our old ways of connecting isn’t working. This blog it will test your traditional views of church and ministry, it may stretch you beyond your comfort zone. So, if you read, follow and share its contents with your leadership I hold no personal responsibility for the metamorphosis you may experience or the stress and transformation you may thrust upon your leadership.
Some categories to avoid if you want to read this blog safely. Avoid the section on Millennials. It is based on actual research and verified by my Millennials friends. It will ultimately alter your misconceptions about this passionate, missional generation. You will discover why they are just passing on the local church in alarmingly large numbers. The post entitled, “A Worship Style That Connects With Millennials” will cause you to abandon many of your Millennial worship initiatives.
You will also want to stay away from the posts on missional communities. It is the wave of the present for connecting with the unconnected. This section will make you angry and uncomfortable if you love the Sunday morning gathering time because this movement is not centered on worship in the traditional sense. You will get a sense of this with the post entitled, “Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Chuch?”
And, you will want to not click on any of the leadership sections. There is one there entitled, “Leadership 101: You Can’t Stop Stupid, and trying to fix Stupid Hurts.” Leadership is a passion of this pastor. I believe it is the one thing holding the church back from entirely being what God created Her to be, a dominant force for change of hearts and culture.
This blog also tackles the difficult often ignored issue of racial division in America. The writing on this topic led to a Bible Study, published in 2015 by Concordia Publishing House, entitled “Healing One Nation Under God: Healing Racial Divides.” It will challenge your conventional ideas about race while providing Biblical solutions to a complex issue.
There are safer places to surf while visiting this site. The devotions and sermon starters while challenging and insightful dangerous in that the Word of God itself points out our sins put also leads us into the arms of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Read, inwardly digest at your own risk. It is all based on the Word of God so blame the spirit for any transformation.
This content was created to share. Every day is a share-a-thon. Share away. We can help shape the future of the church together.
Worldliness (James vv. 4–6)
4 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So, whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. 5 Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? 6 But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud but favors the humble.
James points out that the church in Jerusalem was committing spiritual adultery. They claim to be joined with Christ but were cheating on the groom with this love affair with the world.
Paul describes this intimate relationship in Romans 7:4, “4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also died with respect to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you could be united with someone else. You are united with the one who was raised from the dead so that we can bear fruit for God.”
He also shows this flirtation with the world in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, “2 I’m deeply concerned about you with the same concern that God has. As your father, I promised you in marriage to one husband. I promised to present you as an innocent virgin to Christ himself. 3 But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ.”
The church is being lured away from Christ by the temptations of the world. Warren Wiersbe makes this observation. James identifies four dangerous steps that take the believer into a wrong relationship with the world:
(1) friendship with the world, James 4:4.
4 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.
Jesus points out in the gospels that you can serve two masters, but you will love one and hate the other. Christians can’t live in two worlds. We can’t be friendly with the world and still be married to Christ. The world is counter to the life we are called to as a new creation.
(2) being soiled by the world, James 1:27.
27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.
It is easy to see this, the longer we travel this journey on earth the more difficult it is to keep the world at a healthy distance. It is so enticing, so easy to justify how our actions in the world don’t do our faith damage, but little by little we are being contaminated. “The world’s smiles are more dangerous than its frowns.” Source Unknown.
(3) love with the world, 1 John 2:15–17.
15 Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. 16 Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.
(4) conformity to the world, Rom. 12:1–2.
The result is that the compromising believer is judged by the world. Believers who are friends of the world are at odds with God. Their actions grieve the Spirit, who jealously yearns for their love.
“If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I …daily consorted with the assassin who drove the dagger into my brother’s heart; surely I too must be an accomplice in the crime. Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?” – C.H. Spurgeon.
Spurgeon affirms that they were giving to someone else the love and devotion that belonged to Christ and Christ alone. The world is an enticing lover. If we are honest with ourselves this enemy is driving another wedge in our unity, it is destroying the harmony of our worship, and creating divided loyalties. Our people are more in love with their world than they are with God!
James’s uses the term ‘world’ for life that is lived as if this present world were all that there is. When we live this one precious life without regard to God, we are treading on a dangerous path. A worldly life is one that centers on the values, the desires, and aspirations of a temporary existence. Paul reminds us that we are but mere nomads here. “18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.”Philippians 3
Next Week: The pathway back to God.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
and you give them their food right on time,
16 opening your hand
and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
faithful in all his deeds. Psalm 145: 14-17
8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:8-9
When we worship, and I am talking a right worship spirit not fighting over forms and making it about emotions alone. Good God-pleasing worship depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is, truth.
If we make worship an idol of our own creation, we are not really worshiping God. In the worship wars, there is a danger we are making worship into a God, instead of worshiping God. This quote below is eye-opening and deserves some deep reflection.
“How much church attendance and “Christian” activity preoccupy believers today with things they assume please God yet without ever really ministering materially or spiritually to the desperately needy people of our world? How much of our money is tied up in church buildings or spent only on programs and activities to make ourselves happy rather than caring for the hurting in our midst and across the globe? The more affluent sectors of Western Christianity frequently and frighteningly resemble the religion of the Pharisees as depicted here. God declares all such religion “vain” or futile (v. 9).” 
God created us to Worship Him.
True worship is based on a right understanding of the nature of God and coming before God valuing God’s worth. We get the honor to come together with a body of fellow believers and sing praises, offer prayers, hear accounts of God, of the history of God’s faithfulness; all to enhance our ability to treasure God above all things. This is true worship at its core, making God our crowning jewel of life, and lifting Jesus as the name above all names.
I love the words of A W Tozer, “Everything in God’s creation has its purpose. God created the silkworm to make silk; the bird was created to sing; the sheep for their wool. Throughout the Bible, the prophets and apostles all testify that God made us for a purpose and that purpose is to sing His praises before the hushed audience of all creation.
“The purpose of nature is to lead us to the Creator and to worship Him. The purpose of man’s feelings and emotions is to lead to the One who implanted those within the heart of man, to the Creator. Everything in all of creation is to point to the Creator and evoke within adoring wonder and admiration and worship. Wherever we go, we can worship.
“When God made the human soul in His own image, He did so that we might act according to that Divine nature. He never intended the virus of sin to infect that sacred place within man. Sin, therefore, is the unnatural thing. It is a foreign substance defiling man’s heart and life, repelling God’s gaze. Because of this [fallen] condition in man, sin is [now] natural, worship is unnatural; and so, few people really do it.”
Worship is a powerful way to connect us with the Creator. However, that worship is not limited to Sunday morning only. Every day our life is an act of worship. As Paul reminds us, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. ” Romans 12:1
Other posts on worship:
Prayerlessness (James 4: 2b–3)
“You don’t have because you don’t ask. 3 You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.”
I love this quote from John Piper on prayer. “God has established prayer as the means by which we receive his supernatural help. And without supernatural help, we cannot live a life worthy of the gospel. Everything that distinguishes Christians from the world in a Christ-exalting way is a work of God’s supernatural grace. And God has ordained that this grace flows to us through prayer. That’s why prayer must be central, not peripheral, in our lives and families and ministries.”
James points out this is lacking in the church in Jerusalem. It’s not an issue of no prayers, it is an issue with the nature and content of their request to the Almighty.
Warren Wiersbe describes their prayer life and sadly peeks into our prayer closets.
“Sometimes we use prayer as a cloak to hide our true desires. “But I prayed about it!” can be one of the biggest excuses a Christian can use. Instead of seeking God’s will, we tell God what He is supposed to do; and we get angry at Him if He does not obey. This anger at God eventually spills over and we get angry at God’s people. More than one church split has been caused by saints who take out their frustrations with God on the members of the church. Many a church or family problem would be solved if people would only look into their own hearts and see the battles raging there.”
James’s people allowed prayer to become another thing that caused divisions and fights among the body of Christ. They were wanting the wrong things as they came to church. They were wanting their own desires gratified. And when God refused to grant their requests, the vitriol was so destructive they committed murder in their hearts for each other. “You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight.” James 4:2
Because these members desired the wrong things, they could not ask God for the right things. People’s wrong motives led them to ask God for the wrong things, they were not receiving anything from God. “You do not have because you do not ask,” James says.
This was not only a terrible indictment of the Jerusalem Church, but it is also a terrible indictment of us.
Ever wonder why does God not answer our prayers? The reason: When we come to God superficially seeking his glory, and we end up seeking our own, offering as our pleas those things that will make life more comfortable and convenient for us. That posture in prayer is rejected.
Jesus teaches us about the proper approach to prayer in Matthew 7, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.8For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.9Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread?”
The heart of what is causing fighting in the church is we are selfish and self-centered. Satan loves to have us focus on ourselves and our wants and needs. Dwight Moody says, “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.” The church needs to unite around prayer. Prayer for the mission of God, the advancement of the Gospel into the hearts and lives of the communities we are called to serve. And for the upbuilding of the saints and sinners under our care.
More from the Book of James;
What the worship wars have done to good faithful pastors and congregations is take the focus off the purpose worship. In this series, it is my goal to lead us back. As a parish pastor, I spent the bulk of my week working with my small team of musicians and lay leaders designing worship services to help members have a service that reminded them of the work and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What worship wars and conflict has done to the unity of the church is troubling. It has caused church and leaders who use a modern or contemporary style to question every service they design that is not right out of an approved hymnbook. And on the other side of that has given comfort to those who use a hymnbook only, but I have seen those services conducted with little thought or careful preparation. Do not misread this opening. Or get the idea I am pushing for a worship service all about emotions. Because emotions without a purpose (a thankfulness for grace), a direction (offered to the One who gave His life for us), is just emotion. When I was a parish pastor the bulk of my week was spent designing a worship experience to keep that sense of awe that A. W. Tozer mentions in the quote below.
What is Worship?
“What is worship? Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven.” – A.W. Tozer, quoted in D.J. Fant, A.W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 1964, p. 90.
I wonder if part of the disconnect today is a matter of our definition of worship. A friend shared that same sentiment.
“My question is if the English word “worship” creates the problem. We come together to do something for/to God. The Norwegian “gudstjeneste”, German “Gottesdienst” is helpful, because we then more clearly see that the purpose of coming together is not to do something to/for God, but that God brings His people to do something to/for us. He is to feed and nurture us with his means of grace (Holy Communion and Holy Baptism). We really have nothing to offer God that He could not get much better and nicer from his angels. The only thing we have to give him that He does not have, and cannot get from anyone else are our sins. As I see it in Gottesdienst, God is serving us, giving us Grace, and receiving sin, and praise.”– Rev. Torkild Masvie
Rev. Masvie points out what the Psalmists sings.
The Lord is my solid rock,
my fortress, my rescuer.
My God is my rock—
I take refuge in him!—
he’s my shield,
my salvation’s strength,
my place of safety.
3 Because he is praiseworthy,
I cried out to the Lord,
and I was saved from my enemies.- Psalm 18:2-3
God is not some weak, needy, nor insecure heavenly being who needs the likes of us to come to feed a desire to be honored. Instead, the amazing, merciful, love God invites us to come to is worship for our benefit. He knows we have short memories. That we are beaten down by the world, by sin, by defeat. So, God invites us to come to worship to be refreshed, reminded of His love and grace. To be offered the gifts of forgiveness and life. It is not about the form as much as it is about the gifts, the forgiveness, the power of the Word, and the forgiveness in the Holy Meal, the washing away of original sin in the waters of Baptism. People of God come to worship and praise God for what He has done for us in the past, is doing for us in the present, and what He has promised to give us in a future glory with Him through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Future Worship Posts
Vibrant Faith– encouraging our flock to remain connected to Jesus and His word.
Engaging Sermons – the preaching of the Word of God is key to worship. Besides balancing Law and Gospel properly what should sermons attempt to communicate?
Have we underemphasized the Mystery – sacraments, faith, movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives in worship?
The Sending aspect of worship: At the end of the day we are sending people out into the mission field. It is a movement of people to mission. Equipped through Word and Sacrament we are moving people from worship to be salt and light in their community.
Other blog posts on worship:
In a 2013 Washington Post article that issue was addressed from a business perspective. What is interesting is that if you didn’t know it was addressing the workplace you would swear Jesus wrote this blueprint. Over the next two weeks, I will discuss how we overcome complacency in the church.
In Matthew 25 Jesus compares the Kingdom of heaven to ten virgins, some were ready and prepared others were complacent and not ready. Here is the end of that passage, “10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
When we talk about what is missing in the church today it is this sense of readiness. We have fallen asleep at the wheel. The church has gotten too comfortable. I visit many churches and rarely do I get that sense of urgency like the mission is urgent, the opportunities are fleeting, time is short. There is much long-range planning or very little planning at all. Imagine how this attitude would avoid taking ministry and the work of the church for granted.
97% of the world has heard of coke-a-cola
72% of the world has seen a can of coke-a-cola
51% of the world has tasted a can of coke-a-cola
Coke has only been around 124 years (1894).
If God had given the task of world evangelization to the Coke company it would probably be done by now. – Source Unknown
It is important to remember all people matter to God. To keep our people and God’s church focused, lift up the mission often. What a powerful message we have for the world. “However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!”Ephesians 2:4-5
3. Recognize exceptional service.
Exceptional service to God and His kingdom begins with the right heart attitude.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service.”
During the American Revolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” It was none other than George Washington.- Today in the Word, March 6, 1991.
I drove my congregations nuts because I never settled for poor performance in the parish. My rationale was this work that we are called to do is too important, the mission too critical, the One we serve demands and deserves more. After all, this Ancient of Days gave us His very best to redeem us, out of love for Him I want to give excellence back. So, when I found people struggling to serve, I first came alongside to find out why? Then I either helped them to improve or found a place better suited for their unique gifts and talents.
A December 2011, article in USA Today analyzed a surge in a group of Americans called the “spiritually apathetic.” They aren’t atheists. Instead, according to the article, “They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven, or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as ‘So what?'”
The article pointed to the following statistics from recent surveys:
One professor of religion concluded, “The real dirty secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.”
Here is the real problem with complacency, it is not limited to the church, the unbelieving world has not only stopped asking questions about eternity, no they don’t even care. Church, it’s time to wake up and realize that people will not start flocking back to your doors. You have to get re-engaged and go after the unconnected and disinterested. The mission is outside our walls, among a people who feel they have no need for God. The opportunity is great, the mission urgent.
“the sea, which he made, is his
along with the dry ground,
which his own hands formed.
6 Come, let’s worship and bow down!
Let’s kneel before the Lord, our maker!
7 He is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
the sheep in his hands.
If only you would listen to his voice right now!” – Psalm 95:5-7
I can’t speak for what It is like in your church or your church body but in mine the hot-button issue is worship. If you want to start fireworks just mention worship in a mixed crowd and stand back. To add more fun and intrigue but an adjective in front of the word worship and see what reaction you get. Here are conversation starters, Vibrant Worship, Engaging Worship, Traditional Worship, Contemporary Worship, and this one is my favorite, Classical Praise Worship. No one knows what to expect at the service. What gets lost in the worship wars is worship. When I asked the question recently of the people in the pew why do you come to worship the answer range from a guilt response, “I am supposed to be there,” to a grace response, “I need the gifts God offers freely at church.” For about four months I have toyed with doing a blog series on worship but stopped short many times from developing it because who needs that kinds of pain in their life. Unfortunately, God has given me prophet Jeremiah gene and I can’t shut up. Over the course of the month of October on Tuesday’s, I will highlight different aspects of worship. As a tease in November, I will release a series on Equality and Justice. A preview of things to come.
TD Jakes makes some good points about encouraging the men in your life. To balance out that video here is a biblical reminder of the leadership role men play in the family.
Like Christ, Ephesians 5: 22-29
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 5:22–29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Prayer is such a difficult spiritual discipline. We often find ourselves with our heart in the right place but the words to say come with lots of difficulties. I found this illustration funny.
A mother listening to the evening prayers of her sleepy little daughter is astonished and amazed to hear the following:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And when he hollers let him go,
Eenie, Meenie, miny, mo.”
As we continue to go deeper into this series on prayer, it seems only fitting to take a look at one of Jesus’ most famous prayers. This prayer in John is referred to by many as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer found in John 17. Over the next two weeks, this will be our focus.
This prayer was for special people. “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me because they belong to you”(v. 9). In reading this beautiful prayer through, one big question comes to minds; Who are the people described as “them,” or as “they?” Who are these favored individuals? Those who share a Savior’s prayers and are recognized by a Savior’s love? Who have their names written on the stones of his precious breastplate? Who have their characters and their circumstances mentioned by the lips of the High Priest before the throne on high? The answer to that question is in the words of our text.
The people for whom Christ prays are an “unearthly people.” They are a people somewhat above the world. “They are not of the world.” Just like our Savior, not of the world. They were a people set apart for a holy purpose which we will get into more next week so stay tuned.
A Prayer for Security – (v. 11-13)
Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to you. Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given me – so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I have kept them safe. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. “And now I am coming to you. I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy.
This section is unique because it is the only place in the Gospel of John where we find Jesus using the term “Holy Father.” One Bible scholar, Darby, suggests that Jesus uses this term because he wants God to watch over us like a Father would.
I love that image of an Almighty God with all his power and might watching over each of us with the affection of a loving Father. That should give us a great sense of peace and calm. When all else around us is uncertain and at times scary, we have a Father protecting us, with a never sleeping watchful eye.
For those asking the question, “But some Christians under attack and have not some died? Where was the Almighty God when those atrocities happened?”
The prayer is not that God would stop evil from ever happening to Christians, it is to protect them giving into the darkness around them. Jesus expresses this in his request, “Holy Father, guard them.” Christians are in direct contrasts with the world which is unholy. The request for God to protect or guard is in harmony with God’s will. We see that God defends the disciples against all unholiness while they are still in the world. God is holy in that he is absolutely separated from and actively opposed to all sin. God seeks, by his grace, to save men from sin, to separate us from the world and keeps us set apart for himself, separate and holy. Jesus prays to the Father, “…guard them in your name, which you have given me.”
There are two different forms of the word “keep” used in verse 12. One meaning more “I preserve” the other meaning more “I guarded”. Jesus is only reminding the Father:
“While I was in the world, I guarded them as a means to their preservation. Now I am no more in the world, and I come to you, Father to preserve them in your name.”
You almost see this from a parent’s perspective. You raised your children, kept them safe. Now they are about to go off to college leaving the safety of your house. You guarded them while they were with you. Now you are asking God the Father to protect them because you can’t do it anymore. That is the essence of what this prayer is capturing. “Lord, watch over the ones you have placed in my care. I can no longer protect them.” We see in this prayer the loving heart and concern of our Savior, Jesus Christ. What an abundant blessing our prayers lives could be if we prayed for others with the compassion of Jesus.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1044). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
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Everyday life from a biblical perspective.