Warning: ​Transformation May Occur

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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 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, this movement is not centered on worship in the traditional sense. Missional communities is centered on authentic relationship with the marginalized and missions. 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 in the hearts and minds of today’s 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.

This blog is moving to a new address. Sign up now if you don’t want to miss out on some great new content. See you May 1st
http://alightbreaksthrough.org

This Blog is On the Move

Starting this blog has been a long journey. It began with a webinar where the sponsor talked about what a powerful influence a pastor could make doing a blog. That put a calling on my heart to consider it. However, that just created more questions in my mind than answers. Like, what would my blog to address? Do I have something people want to read? Do I have the dedication to keep it going? After months of prayer and wrestling in a Jacob-like way with God. On January 15, 2016, my first blog was launched.

New content coming May 1st we are taking things up a notch. A new website. New exciting content.

Busy on my downtime writing new content for my new blog. Working on new articles now: “Cracking the Millennial Code.” “How to Reach the Elusive Unconnected Family with Young Children.” and “How to Unleash the Army in Your Pews” New devotional words for 2019. You will not want to miss this. So it is goodbye for now. I will leave the old blog site up so you won’t face major withdrawl symptoms. If you don’t want to miss the the next chapter sign up now! Until then, have a blessed Easter! Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed, Alleulia!

Here is the new blog address:
http://alightbreaksthrough.org

Here is a link to subscribe. Come join the party. This blog will be deleted on June 1st.

https://mailchi.mp/ca109a931548/alightbreaksthrough/




See in down the road!!!

How To Keep The Church Accountable?

Even the church can go astray.  We need to listen to the leading of God and not men.

Charles Swindoll shares this story in his book, “Living Above the Level of Mediocrity.” Several years ago, I met a gentleman who served on one of Walt Disney’s original advisory boards. What amazing stories he told! Those early days were tough; but that remarkable, creative visionary refused to give up. I especially appreciated the man’s sharing with me how Disney responded to disagreement. He said that Walt would occasionally present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining. Almost without exception, the members of his board would gulp, blink, and stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing. But unless every member resisted the idea, Disney usually didn’t pursue it. Yes, you read that correctly. The challenge wasn’t big enough to merit his time and creative energy unless they were unanimously in disagreement!

Now while that works for Walt Disney because his creativity was far ahead of his peers, that does not work with the truth of God’s Word.  We as pastors and church leaders are not called to create some new creative truths that are not grounded in what is already written in Scripture.  The apostle John gives a stern warning against such theological creativity at the end of the Book of Revelations. 1I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  In an attempt to create a theological checks and balances Luther describes the danger of any church leader, even the Pope, claiming to have supreme authority.  In an earlier post I review the three walls Luther challenged, because they were ignoring warning signs that have led to doctrinal impurity in the church.  And now that these errors were in the church’s teaching, the walls were preventing the church from correcting the false teaching.  These walls are easy to build but even harder to tear down once they are erected.  In this final post we examine the final wall.

In his 1520 Letter to the Christian Nobility. Luther’s attacks the premise that only the Pope can call an Ecumenical council to deal with errors in church doctrine.

It is important here to define what an Ecumenical council is: ecumenical councils are assemblies of Patriarchs, Cardinals, residing Bishops, Abbots, male heads of religious orders, and other juridical persons, nominated by the Pope. The purpose of an ecumenical council is to define doctrine, reaffirm truths of the Faith, and extirpate heresy. Council decisions, to be valid, are approved by the popes.[1] Participation is limited to these persons, who cannot delegate their voting rights.

Luther’s argument: For when the pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, it is our duty to stand by the Scriptures, to reprove him, and to constrain him, according to the word of Christ in Matthew 18:15: “If thy brother sin against thee, go and tell it him between thee and him alone; if he hear thee not, then take with thee one or two more; if he hear them not, tell it to the Church; if he hear not the Church, consider him a heathen.” Here every member is commanded to care for every other. How much rather should we do this when the member that does evil is a ruling member, and by his evil-doing is the cause of much harm and offense to the rest! But if I am to accuse him before the Church, I must bring the Church together.

They have no basis in Scripture for their contention that it belongs to the pope alone to call a council or confirm its actions; for this is based merely upon their own laws, which are valid only in so far as they are not injurious to Christendom or contrary to the laws of God. When the pope deserves punishment, such laws go out of force, since it is injurious to Christendom not to punish him by means of a council.

Summary; no person regardless of their place, position, or education level can be considered errorless. That position is reserved only for the Word of God.  We need to have in our congregations, our churches and church bodies a way to regularly have a healthy check and balance on our theology. It is easy to get sloppy and allow all kinds of false teaching and practices to creep into churches.  We need to regularly be in God’s Word and not be tempted to have reached a level where continued growth is not needed.

As Luther points out in this letter, Let us, therefore, hold fast to this: No Christian authority can do anything against Christ; as St. Paul says, II Corinthians 13:8: “We can do nothing against Christ, but for Christ.” Paul says to the Corinthians, II Corinthians 10:8, “God has given us authority not for the destruction, but for the edification of Christendom.” Who is ready to overleap this text? It is only the power of the devil and the Antichrist which resists the things that serve for the edification of Christendom; it is, therefore, in no wise to be obeyed, but is to be opposed with life and goods and all our strength.

[1]Hubert JedinKleine Konziliengeschichte, Freiburg, Herder, 1960, 9

Prayers for Sri Lanka

Loving God,

We pray that you will comfort those saints in Sri Lanka in their suffering. We pray for the families who lost loved ones. For those needing healing and surgery lend skill to the hands of their healers.

Provide comfort for the long days of recovery and bless the people who will be Your hands, Your feet and Your heart on the ground.

Give all the confidence in the power of your grace, that even when they are afraid, they may put their whole trust in you; through our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Morning After


46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands, I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.

47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” 48 All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. Luke 23:46-48

After Good Friday I often wonder what Saturday was like. The disciples were hiding. It was the Jewish Sabbath during the celebration of Passover. But the nation had just witnessed a great phenomenon. A popular rabbi claiming to be the King of the Jews suffered a humiliating death of dying on a cross between two thieves. During those final moments of His life, the earth seemed to groan and react violently to the events. There was an eclipse and an earthquake on that Good Friday. Even the unbelieving soldiers stopped and were confronted with this divine revelation, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” The crowds who had just been mocking Jesus suddenly realized the horror of their actions. “All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened.”

After witnessing those events what do you do? Could people just go back to everyday life? 

How could they? What was the chatter around the community well?

Maunday Thursday Message

From a Sermon preached by Martin Neimoller in the Dachau Extermination Camp to a small group of fellow prisoners, Maundy Thursday, March 29, 1945.

“‘My body given for you, my blood shed for you.’ This message does not age, nor does it lose any of its living strength with the passage of time. For in its need for God and its longing for Him the human heart remains ever the same. And when all the dead are at once forgotten, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ will ever be preached and confessed by his church because there flows the the source of its life, and the church will continue to gather around his table and confess thereby its crucified Lord in repentance for its transgression, in gratitude for his love, and in the praise of God for His inconceivable loving-kindness, until – yes, until its Lord will come at the end of time, and with him that Kingdom of God in which all patch-work ceases. There we see him as he is, and there we shall be with him forever. To this great community of those who proclaim the death of their Lord as a message of joy belong this evening also we, who come here to this table. A small company, every one of torn away from his earthly home and from the circle of his dear ones, all of us robbed of freedom and ever uncertain about what the following day or even the following hour will bring. But, despite all this, we are at home.”

Prayer for Holy Week

Dear Lord,

As this Holy Week begins, it reminds us of how hard it is sometimes to get our priorities straight. The Jewish people and Pharisees were busy looking for signs. Judas Iscariot had many faults. One was his failure to see beyond his greed and expectations. He and many others wanted an earthly Messiah, not a Savior. Mary seemed to have the right priorities. Father, sometimes we struggle to decide which one of several good things should take priority.
Help us Lord, this week, this season to do a better job of identifying priorities. Jesus reminds us to set heavenly priorities and give us the strength following through on them. “25 Those who love their lives will destroy them, and those who hate their lives in this world will guard them for everlasting life. 26 Those who serve me must follow me. My servants will be with me wherever I will be. If people serve me, the Father will honor them. ” John 12:25-26.
Jesus also reminds us not to let others define our priorities, “42 Many rulers believed in Jesus. However, they wouldn’t admit it publicly because the Pharisees would have thrown them out of the synagogue. 43 They were more concerned about what people thought of them than about what God thought of them.” Help us, Lord, mold us Lord into the people you want us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Three Lessons from the Cross



The Foundation text: Mark 15:21-41

In the first century, Rome executed criminals by crucifixion. It was intended to be a humiliating and agonizing experience. There was no concept of death with dignity for the guilty. According to “Roman Antiquities”, after a man was sentenced to die, he was stripped of his clothes and paraded through the streets of the city, so that his punishment would be seen by all. He was required to carry a 50 pound cross-piece, (or sometimes the entire cross, which weighed about 200 pounds) and as he stumbled toward his execution the soldiers would follow closely behind, whipping him along the way.

When they arrived at the place of execution, the criminal would be both nailed and tied by rope to the cross beam, and then would be lifted onto the cross. One minor inaccuracy we see in films and paintings of the crucifixion scene is that the cross didn’t tower high above the crowd. Part of the point of the point of the crucifixion was that the criminal should experience the torment of dangling just above the ground, and his tormentors could easily look him in the face.

The position in which the condemned man hung made it difficult for him to exhale. That’s why his legs were bent and his feet nailed near the base of the cross–so he could push his torso a few inches and gasp for breath, until the pain in his legs became unbearable and he collapsed again. The process was intended to be slow and agonizing. Sometimes the one crucified died because of shock or dehydration, but most often it was because he lost the ability to support his weight and therefore suffocated. However, it didn’t happen quickly; it was not uncommon for death to take two days. Whenever the authorities decided (for whatever reason) to expedite the criminal’s death, his legs would be broken so that he could no longer push himself up for breath, and he would suffocate within a matter of minutes.

Throughout the history of the Roman Empire, untold thousands were executed in this fashion. As enlightened as their society might have been in many ways, they certainly didn’t place much value on human life–especially the life of one obscure Jewish peasant from Galilee. After Pilate sentenced Jesus to die, he turned him over to the soldiers, whose job was to lead him to his execution. The soldiers mocked him with words such as “Hail! King of the Jews!” The beat him and spit on him and placed a crown of thorns upon his head.

(v 20) When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

Today I want us to look at three spiritual truths that are found in the story of Christ’s crucifixion; three lessons for meditation that will help us experience his healing presence in our lives. First of all…

1. Jesus couldn’t carry his own cross…

Since Mosaic Law required that executions be made outside the city, the Romans accommodated this custom and criminals were put to death on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Roman custom was to position places of execution near well-traveled roads so that people could easily see what became of those who opposed Caesar.

It was now time for Jesus to begin to the journey to his death. Last week we talked about the type of physical punishment that Jesus had already endured up to this point–the scourging with the Roman whip–so it is not surprising that he was physically unable to carry his cross.

(v. 21) A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.)

Cyrene was a Greek settlement on the North African coast of the Mediterranean, in what is now modern Libya. It had a large Jewish population, and since “Simon” is a common Jewish name, he had probably come to Jerusalem as a pilgrim to celebrate the Passover. The Bible says he was just a passer-by when he was recruited by the Roman soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross for him. Most likely it was against his will–Roman soldiers had the authority to demand such things, and since he was able-bodied, he could not refuse. Mark includes an additional detail about this man…

(v 21) (Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.)

Since Mark believed his early readers would know who Alexander and Rufus are, most probably they were believers active in the church in Rome, where Mark wrote his gospel. The apostle Paul also mentions a Roman Christian named Rufus (Romans 16:13), and this could be the same person Mark refers to. When this man–Simon of Cyrene–was pulled out of the crowd and compelled to carry the cross of a convicted criminal, maybe he saw something in Jesus that caused him to want to know more about him, and ultimately he became a follower.

Jesus couldn’t carry his own cross, and so this unknown man–a man just like you and me–had to carry it for him. This is ironic, but one of the most important lessons of the crucifixion is that even though Jesus couldn’t carry his own cross…

…but he is the only one who can help you carry yours.

Do you know what it is to have more on your shoulders than you can possibly bear? Do you know what it is lo feel absolutely helpless? Absolutely powerless? Jesus does. Through most of the Passion story we see him standing strong and bold and courageous in the face of the worst kind of abuse. And now, with the end so near, his body completely gives out. He cannot take another step in his own strength.

When you come to the place in your life when you cannot take another step in your own strength, I want you to know that Jesus has been there, too. Remember the verse from Hebrews…

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Whatever the cross you have to bear in life–illness, weakness, trials, temptations, mistreatment–whatever it may be, you don’t have to bear the burden alone. Jesus will help you carry your cross. Earlier in his ministry, he spoke these words…

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus came into this world to identify with the human race, to experience all that we experience–the same challenges, the same temptations, the same desperation. He understands you. He knows what it is like not to be able to go on, and he will be there to give you strength in your time of need.

The second lesson in the crucifixion story is…

2. Jesus could not save himself…

(v. 22-23) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

There’s some scholarly speculation about what the wine drugged with myrrh was intended to do. It might have been a drug intended to deaden his pain. It might have been a poison intended to expedite his death. Either way, Jesus didn’t accept the offer. He had been destined to “drink the cup” of his sacrificial death, and he intended to remain fully conscious until the bitter end.

(v. 24-32) Then they nailed him to the cross. They gambled for his clothes, throwing dice, to decide who would get them. It was nine o’clock in the morning when the crucifixion took place. A signboard was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “The King of the Jews.” Two criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of his. And the people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, can you? Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!” The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!”

Oftentimes executed criminals were the subjects of taunts and derision from a crowd of spectators. There’s something in human nature that causes some to want to gloat in the punishment of others, doing everything possible to add to their agony.

We see this even today. When a person is executed by the state there are always two groups gathered outside the prison walls: an anti-death penalty group holding a candlelight vigil, and another group of people who are not merely pro-death penalty, but who have gathered specifically to celebrate the execution of the criminal. They often carry signs that say things like “Burn in hell, so-and-so” and “We hope you suffer like your victims” and so on. I don’t want to get off track here into a debate about the merits of the death penalty, but I’ll say this: most people who support the death penalty do not support the festive atmosphere that takes place at executions. I can’t imagine considering such an event an evening’s entertainment.

In first century Jerusalem, there were some who considered crucifixions that very thing. When a man was condemned to die they would follow the procession out of town to the hill called Golgotha and entertain themselves at the dying man’s expense.”

As Jesus hung on the cross, stripped, beaten and bloody, he must have been an easy target for ridicule. They taunt him as the one who supposedly had claimed he could destroy and rebuild the temple in three days; watching him die helpless and alone must have made his claim seem laughable.

Some of the leading priests were also there, saying, “Let this Messiah come down off the cross so that we can see it and believe in him.” Of course, we know now that Jesus could have done that. He could have saved himself, just as he could have prevented himself from being there in the first place. He was there, not because he was the victim of circumstances beyond his control, but because he chose to lay down his life for the sake of the world. Earlier he had said to his disciples…

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I lay down my life that I may have it back again. No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it again. (John 10:11, 17-18)

As Jesus was arrested, he said to his disciples…

Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” (Matthew 26:53)

In that sense, Jesus could have saved himself. But there is another sense in which he couldn’t save himself. This is an important lesson in the crucifixion. Jesus could not save himself…

… because he wanted to save you.

Saving you–forgiving your sins and giving you eternal life–meant that he had to die on the cross to pay the price for your sins, and he was willing to do it. He was willing to die so that you can live. He was willing to die so that you–and everyone who chooses to believe in him–could be reconciled to God. Paul said…

All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did…For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them…For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, 21)

Jesus died on the cross because that’s what it took to bring about our reconciliation, and that was a price he was willing to pay. In the Garden of Gethsemane he had prayed, “If it is possible, take this cup from me”— but it was not possible. He had to go to the cross. So, in spite of all the power available to him, he couldn’t save himself, because he wanted to save you. It wasn’t the nails that bound him to that tree; his love for you held him there.

There’s a third lesson in the crucifixion that I want us to consider.

3. Jesus experienced separation from God…

(v. 33) At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This is the most difficult part of the story for me to tell. It’s also the part that Mel Gibson couldn’t capture on film. We saw Christ’s anguish in the garden, the injustice he suffered at the hand of Pontius Pilate, the mistreatment he endured from the Roman soldiers. These scenes were all heartbreaking. But this scene is beyond our ability to understand. At this precise moment the Son of God’s own Father abandons him, because at this precise moment, the words spoken in Isaiah have become true…

The Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

As I read earlier from Paul…

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

In that one horrifying moment, Jesus experienced separation from God…

…so that you can experience reconciliation with God.

Jesus cried “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” so that you will never have to cry those words. Here is the heart of the gospel–the reason for it all. We can be reconciled to God, we can be in a right relationship with him, we can be forgiven of our sins and receive everlasting life…through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Paul…

But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight–not by obeying the law by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. (Romans 2:21-22)

CONCLUSION

A comment I have heard from many who have seen the Passion movie is that it gives a person greater understanding of what Christ did for us. That’s true. The movie tells us what Christ did for us, but it doesn’t really tell us why. It shows us his sufferings, but it doesn’t explain them to us. I doubt that any movie could, but the Bible can. The Bible says…

He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds! (1 Peter 2:24)

Peter is quoting a verse from Isaiah. We read it earlier in this series; it’s the verse that appears on the screen as the movie begins…

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

The passion of Christ–his suffering and death–is our healing and our salvation. Through his wounds we can experience the healing of our wounds. So I encourage you to meditate on the Passion of Christ.

Remember the garden. He was all alone in his agony, but you are not alone in yours. When you face your Gethsemane, he is there with you, and through praying a “Gethsemane” prayer, you will experience power over temptation.

Remember his trial. He was declared guilty of crimes he did not commit and received a death sentence he did not deserve, but he endured man’s injustice so that you won’t have to face God’s justice for your sins–you can instead experience God’s mercy.

Remember his crucifixion. He could not save himself, because he wanted to save you. He experienced separation from God so that you can experience reconciliation to God.

Moments before Jesus died, he cried…

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

And then he said…

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Though his work is finished on the cross, his work is not finished in you. He wants you to experience the fullness of a relationship with him. He wants you to come alive with his life inside of you. He wants you to experience the power of his resurrection. That is why he gave his life for you.

Prayer On Philippians 3

Dear Father,

As we approach this new week, help us to have a discerning spirit. Guard us against false teachers. The world tries to tell us there is no ultimate truth and that all opinions are equally valid. So, there is no danger of being led astray, so there is no need for caution and vigilance. Others will tell us our salvation depends on our good works. We can easily make our jobs, our careers, our generosity, and our accomplishments ways to gain God’s favor. Paul reminds us, all of those things are garbage, empty, void of righteousness. What matters is “knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. In Christ, I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings.” Philippians 3. Encourage us in our race to keep straining for the prize. Lord lay hold of us with the strong, unbreakable grip of the risen, sovereign Lord and point us to the Divine purpose you have called us to accomplish for You and Your Kingdom. In the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Word for 2019: Faithful

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field
. Isaiah 40:6

The word this week is one I needed to be reminded of: faithful. Sometimes in life as Christians we get discouraged. When those times come we have a tough choice to make. Do allow discouragement to take us down or do we press on and do the work God has called us to accomplish? This week started out like that for me. I was ready to throw in the towel and just walk away. Seeing my church body ramping up the in-fighting as our national convention draws near was heartbreaking. I have talked to enough pastors to know I am not alone in this feeling. When I was in the parish it was a regular Monday morning battle. Ministry is hard, the work of the church seems fruitless. Now working with the church at large, ministry becomes even more daunting. I read a statistic that eighty (80) percent of the churches in America are either dying or stagnant.

As a pastor, my role is not to discourage the sheep but point them to the promise of brighter days. Isaiah is reminded of this by God. Remind the people to be faithful, brighter days are coming. So in this devotion I want to faithfully remind the church, don’t lose heart. Don’t allow Satan to distract you from the mission of Christ and the grace and mercy of God to accomplish the mission. Don’t get into the politcial arena and start throwing mud, instead fix your eyes on Jesus. Ignore the typical things you measure, church attendance and offerings, instead be about the work of an evangelist. Go out and plant seeds of faith it is God who waters it and makes it grow. The results are not drive my your efforts but by the working of the Holy Spirit. I love this illustration of John Wesley.

A lady once asked John Wesley that suppose he was to know that he would die at 12:00 midnight tomorrow, how would he spend the intervening time. His reply: “Why madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Rev. Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, talk and pray with the family, as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”

Dear Father,
You are Lord of All; we come before You asking for the strength to be faithful followers. We know You and You alone solve our problems and can overcome our frustrations. Bring us peace about ministries you have called us to serve. We leave the fruits of work in Your capable hands. We are here to serve you Lord Jesus. Use us. We trust You to guide and protect us. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Are we Too Casual with God?

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”[1]Hebrews 12:18-21

I once encouraged my church members to consider taking off their shoes when they entered the house of God. Many pointed out what a bad idea this was for many reasons. My point inmaking this request was I think we are losing our sense of awe and respect for God. In losing this we are making God into a kindly old grandfather-type easy to ignore. Albert Einstein said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder, is as good as dead.” And Madeleine L’Engle replied, “I share Einstein’s affirmation that anyone who is not lost on the rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe ‘is as good as a burnt-out candle.’”

Hebrews 12 ties together the two images of God. The Mount Sinai God and the Mount Zion God.

As P. H. Hacking describes this tale of two images: “What we believe about our future inevitably affects how we react here and now. Hebrew Christians no longer lived in the Old Testament dispensation, centered on Mount Sinai, but in the New Testament era, centered on Mount Zion. This is a kingdom of joy, not of fear, and yet God has not changed and needs to be approached with reverence and awe. So, this chapter will end with the reminder that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (v. 29).”

The Image of God from Mount Sinai

William Barclay points out the three things stressed about God from Mount Sinai. In the law’s giving at Mount Sinai we see: 

(1) The sheer majesty of God. The story stresses the shattering power of God, and in it, there is no love at all. 

(2) The absolute unapproachability of God.Far from the way of being open to God, anyone who tries to approach him meets death. 

Exodus 19:12–13 describes in great detail the unapproachability of that awful mountain: “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.’

(3) The sheer terror of God.Here is nothing but an awe-stricken fear which is afraid to look and even to listen.[2] 

While this is not the image of God we focus on, it is a imagine we need to keep in mind. Not to create a sense of fear, but maintaining the awe. To have love mixed with proper respect for the Creator of the universe, who still hates the sin, yet gave His son as a ransom to rescue sinners. 

The Image of God from Mount Zion

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.[3] 

What Christ’s blood did for us as believers was open a pathway to the Mount Sinai God. While Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance (Gen. 4:10), Christ’s blood declares from His cross, salvation and forgiveness. The blood of Christ is the perfect and complete sacrifice to redeem humanity. Mount Zion is a grace place whereas the writer points out “the righteous are made perfect.” Christ is a mediator of a new covenant, a minister of grace. The New Covenant is a covenant of grace. God’s grace does not fail, though we may fail His grace because we fail to appropriate it. 

The sense of awe is not based on a knee-buckling fear of God but guided by a knee-bending understanding of the grace of God. Obedience to God is not motivated by the sheer terror of God instead we are compelled by love to follow. Maybe the idea of taking off our shoes would help us remember who we are there to worship. It might take our focus off ourselves. Off who is preaching, or who is leading worship, whether our favorite hymns or praise song is sung, and focus our eyes on the all-consuming God. Just something to ponder as you enter the house of God, or spend time with Him in prayer. 

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[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:18–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2]Barclay, W. (2002). The Letter to the Hebrews(pp. 219–220). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:22–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


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