Memorial Day Tribute: We Will Not Forget

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Today is about more than a day off and a time to spend with the family. It is also a day to remember those who gave their lives for our countries freedom. It is about the families who today have a hole in their lives that can never be replaced. Today we stop and say a prayer for you and continue to pray for you. We will never forget your sacrifice.

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Leaders Must Be People with Emotional Stability and Unquestionable Integrity

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This leadership series has been good therapy for me. It has been awhile since I have had the chance to lead a body of believers, over ten years now. During that hiatus, God has been developing me as a leader. This leadership series is a by-product of what God is teaching me. Today we dive deeper into the heart of leadership. You can have the tools to lead. You may be blessed with the instincts to lead, but I am a big believer in character. Too many leaders have had a great ministry legacy destroyed by finishing poorly. One moral failure will erase an entire lifetime of kingdom accomplishments. Our attention then turns to two essential safeguards for all leaders spiritual and secular.

These come from Myron Rush’s book. “The New Leader.”

You must become master of your emotions.

“Fools show all their anger, but the wise hold it back.” -Proverbs 29:11

Some say of me I wear my emotions on my sleeve. While I try to be transparent, I am cautious not take people around me on an emotional rollercoaster too often. No one wants to take that ride with you. Your people usually care about you, tend to respect you and generally want to support you, but have little desire to journey into your emotional craziness. Leaders can be candid without becoming reactionary messes. I love this quote about Jesus and how he dealt with emotions.

“I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: Not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My feelings are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.”  G. Walter Hansenin, Christianity Today.

Our emotions can be an influential force for driving innovation and motivate our communities if we master them. The other side of that coin is our feelings can betray us as unstable and untrustworthy leaders. Insert what whatever example that is running through your mind.

You must strive to remain above reproach.

“So, the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching.” 1 Timothy 3:2

Scientists now say a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.

The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.

Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.

USA Today, April 9, 1997.

It doesn’t take a massive rip in the ship of our character to sink our boat, but small cracks are all the space Satan needs to destroy all that God is doing in our lives and ministry. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” R Zaccharias

All leaders must set up a hedge of support and boundaries to protect the integrity of their lives and ministry teams. Commit to prayer, remain in the word and guard your life and teaching. Have prayer warriors praying for you and with you. The devil would love nothing more than to take you out. Be wise, be on guard be proactive the ministry you save may be your own.

This Love Story Is Better Than Any on the Hallmark Channel

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The Bible is a book of love stories: the love of Jacob for Rachel, of Boaz for Ruth, and of Joseph for Mary. But the greatest story is not one of these; rather, it is the story of God’s love for ordinary people!

  1. It is the story of an unreasonable love. ‘‘For God so loved the world . . .’’

Unreasonable because God’s love is not requested, respected and is seldom reflected. When things go wrong in the world like war, terrorism, homelessness, disease, drug addiction, or political campaigns, people tend to blame God. The world’s response to trouble is to seek diplomatic, judicial, economic, and social solutions. God’s love is not respected (valued) because it is viewed as old-fashioned, rigid, and restrictive. God’s love is seldom reflected in a world that worships at the altars of success, popularity, and power. In the midst of all of that, God’s love breaks through, and He freely loves the world, with what is an irrational and unreasonable love!

  1. It is the story of a unreserved love. ‘‘. . . that He gave His only Son . . .’’

William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice in the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself, the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria, and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.- Max Lucado

Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Songs 8:7-9 Unreserved is God’s gift given freely. Without hesitation, no debates, committees, conferences, or deliberations, what He gave was the only one—unique, incomparable, unmatched, and without equal – His Son! What a unreserved love!

  1. It is the story of an unrestricted love. ‘‘. . . that whoever believes in Him . . .’’

A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say. How beautiful is the power of the cross? The cross proclaims loudly that Christ’s work on our behalf is a story of unrestricted love in that there are no qualifications to measure up to, achievements to master, or requirements to maintain. The gift of salvation is universal and offered as a free gift to the world.

  1. It is the story of an unrestrained love. ‘‘. . . should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

Unrestrained in that God’s love for you has no limits (there is nothing it cannot do), knows no bounds (there is no place where it is hindered or ineffective), and it will never end. As the writer of Hebrews describes it, “Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5. What an unrestrained love!

  1. Sadly, it is also a story of an unrealized love.

There are many who have yet to respond or even hear of God’s love. ‘‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’’ (vv. 17, 18).

At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholars were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. One person suggested that what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone else quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about the resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Another participant slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally, during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”

The room fell silent.  Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached.  No other religion makes that claim. After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements. But the beauty of Christianity is that God’s grace is completely and totally free. We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it. It was not given to us because we were better than others because we gave more than someone else, we worked harder than another, were more talented, better looking, or more fit. None of that matters to God. – “What’s So Amazing About Grace” – Philip Yancey

Hear the text again from the Message Bible: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one, and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

So, our mission is clear, those who know God’s love have the privilege to take it to those who have yet to hear, so that they may not only understand the most significant Love Story ever told, but receive the full benefits of that love first hand through a life of eternity with God who made your salvation possible.

Are We Setting the Church Back 2,000 years?

 

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Philip Yancy shares this story in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” “At the height of the Cold War, Billy Graham visited Russia to meet with their political and religious leaders. Many conservatives in the US criticized him for not taking a more prophetic role. One accused him of setting the church back 50 years. Graham responded, “I am deeply ashamed. I have been trying very hard to set the church back 2,000 years.”” (Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? 264).

I long to be a part of that Acts church.  It was a young church, with its flaws, but it had something special.  In this continuing look at movements and community, we will revisit some of the qualities that made that first church historic.

  1. The church was unified. (a healthy inward focus) (vv. 42, 44-46)

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [1]Acts 2:44

Once these believers were baptized the 3,000 new converts immediately began devoting themselves to one another. If you want an example of the power of the gospel; the gospel radically transformed them into generous people. People who understood that their possessions, their time, even their identity no longer belonged to them alone. The gospel converted them into a new people (v.41), with a deeper level of devotion (v.42), and a new vibrate community (v.44).  All of this transformation was not self-infused but showered on them by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Christ-centered message of the gospel.

  1.    The church unified around a common confession and inspiring worship. (vv. 42-43, 46-47)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.[2]

What grieves my spirit most is the loss of the church’s one true confession and the ability to gather together in inspiring worship.  Our fighting and discord have hindered our ability to truly experience God deeply as an authentic community.  I can hear some of you now yelling at me again.  “Worship is not about experiencing God!!”  Really then, where did the sense of awe come from in the early church’s worship? Granted the Greek word Phobas means more fear in a literal translation, but fear with a sense of reverence.  I often told my congregation that we Christians today come into the house of God with very little fear and awe.  If we did we might kick off our shoes in the house of God for we are standing on Holy ground.  The people in the Acts community got the sense of awe, that we take for granted.

As one pastor put it. “Churches should protect their posture toward God. A church may move through an entire year of sermons, services, and Bible studies and never really experience God. Peter says, ‘Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk’ (1 Pet. 2:2).  Many interpret Peter as saying something like ‘Long for the Word of God the way an infant longs for milk.’”

  1.    The church was united in mission. (a healthy outward focus) (v. 47)

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.[3]

The issue of conversion numbers has caused so many churches and pastors guilty consciences. Let me clear up something here.  You cannot control your congregation’s growth, that is the work solely of the Holy Spirit.  I had a congregation ask me in an interview, “How I was going to grow their congregation’s Sunday morning attendance?”  I told them, “I was not.  I can’t control what God does in the human heart.”  This community in Acts grew because as the verse above says “the Lord added to their number.”  Not the pastor, not some new fancy packaged evangelism program, nor some dynamic new praise band, or the most talented organists on the planet. It is all God.  This community was united to each other, around a common confession, sent out with a common mission and God blessed their ministry. God redeems His people to send them out and engage the non-believing world with the gospel.

How do you do this? As a community, eat with non-Christians, have conversations with the unconnected, do life with those outside the body of Christ.   This is how Jesus accomplished His mission.

I will leave you with this question to ponder this week: Do you have a burden for non-Christians?

To answer the opening question are we setting the church back 2,000 years, Lord I pray so!

Next Tuesday, “How Christian Community Can Have A Transformational Impact.”

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/15/can-the-church-do-a-better-job-at-being-a-community/

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:44). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 2:47). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Transition: Three Lesson From The Call of Isaiah

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When King Uzziah died, the throne of Judah was empty. In times of transition everyone is on edge, but for men of faith, we have a clear advantage.  We like Isaiah turn to God for His help and comfort.  In our hour of darkest need, Isaiah teaches us three key things to do.  When the hour seems most bleak, the times more trying, and hope all but lost, what an opportunity for the greatest spiritual blessings.  Isaiah looked up to the throne and saw it was not empty but Yahweh was still seated there.  When in times of distress and uncertainty your first move is to look upward.

  1. Look Upward He Saw the Lord (6:1–4)

“When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook!”[1]

There are some similarities between Israel and America.  For fifty-two years, Uzziah had led Judah in a program of peace and prosperity. During his reign, there was an economic boom. The economic growth and temporary peace served as a band-aid to cover a deeper national spiritual poverty.   Like far too many people of power and influence King Uzziah had rebelled against the Word of God and died a leper (2 Kings 15:1–7; 2 Chron. 26). Isaiah realized that though the nation had prospered materially, it was in terrible condition spiritually.

Facing this dire situation, God lifted Isaiah’s eyes from himself and his people to the throne of heaven. While we as the people of God might be facing confusion and unrest on earth, look upward and find perfect peace in heaven.

 

     2.  The Inward Look Isaiah His True Condition (6:5–7)

 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;[2]

It is amazing how standing in front of a Holy God, shatters any sense of pride we may have about ourselves. As Isaiah faced God and His holiness he realized his sinfulness and failure.  And Isaiah was not the first one to come to this realization.  “What’s wrong with the world?” a newspaper editorial once asked. G.K. Chesterton wrote in reply, “I am.” The biblical list is long:

Job saw God and repented (Job 42:6); Peter cried out, “I am a sinful man” when he saw Christ’s power (Luke 5:8).  And for us, we too need to come to this revelation.  We are lost, we are people with unclean lips and hearts, and we serve, work, live and love a people with the same ailments we possess.

3.        The Outward LookIsaiah Responded to the Need (6:8–13)

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”[3]Is 6:8

The first two stages all were about preparation.  Isaiah was called by God and used to preach His Word. To be an effective servant the prophet had to move beyond his own needs and set aside his wants, to carry out the will of God. His burden of sin is lifted and he has been cleansed. The discouragement he was facing has been replaced with the comfort he finds at the throne of God.  Now he is ready to respond to the needs of the people.

The call we receive from God to go and serve is evidence of God’s grace. Evidence of God’s willingness to use flawed, sinful, and rebellious human beings to accomplish His will on earth. His plan could be better executed with one of the seraphim, and it would have obeyed instantly and perfectly.  Nevertheless, he sends us with a simple message “Go and tell!” “You shall be witnesses to me … to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).

There is no guarantee this mission will be without its challenges.  We cannot control how people will respond.  It will take great faith to faithfully carry out this mission, but our work is not done until the final flag is placed marking our journey on this earth complete.  Just remember God’s Word will accomplish its task.

[1]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted(pp. 28–29). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 6:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 6:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Are You Willing to Be a Reckless Leader?

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You must be willing to make decisions others don’t want to make.- Myron Rush in “The New Leader.” 

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ Luke 15:3-6

 For me, as a Christian leader, everything comes down to the mission of Christ.  Leadership is essential because the mission is crucial. We lead so that the main thing remains the main thing.  Luke 15 gives us the clearest insight into the heart of God.  Luke 15 has three parables that take you deeper into the nature and focus of God when it comes to lost people.  For this leadership lesson, we will study the parable of the Lost Sheep.

The Nature of Lost Sheep

Once a sheep is lost it becomes so traumatized that it is unable to walk and must be carried back to the flock or the village. Unaided, the lost sheep cannot find its way home and will most certainly become the victim of a predator.

 

We Are Called to Be Reckless Leaders

One of the most frustrating aspects of ministry for me was ministering to the ninety-nine.  Leading the faithful was a challenge because they believed my entire ministry should be focused on them.  I keep pointing them to the lost sheep because just like actual sheep those unconnected to God are in the same position.  Those unconnected cry out to be found.  The lost sheep may not even realize they are crying out, but the Good Shepherd hears that plea for help.  He sees it in the choices the sheep is making.  The shepherd hears it in the prayers of desperation that are prayed in their hour of deepest need.  And just like actual sheep, the lost soul’s only hope is the Good Shepherd who will come after us and find us, pick us up and carry us back to safety.  There are two critical actions the shepherd must take.

The shepherd must come after the lost sheep, which in itself is a costly endeavor for the Good Shepherd to come rescue it.  Then, the Good Shepherd has to lay down His life on Calvary’s cross and three days later pick up that life again.  He does this because a price must be paid by the shepherd to restore the lost sheep to the flock.  That is why when any lost sheep is restored there is rejoicing in heaven, because the cost for each sheep is precious.  God desires all lost sheep be restored.  That is just how valuable the sheep are to the Good Shepherd.  Now you see why Jesus will drop everything to go after the one.  The one matters to God. Jesus is a reckless savior and to be faithful to the mission he calls us to be reckless leaders.  Are you willing to upset the ninety-nine to faithfully accomplish the mission reaching the lost?

Next week the series continues: “Leaders Must be people of emotional and spiritual integrity.”

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/04/24/warning-bold-leadership-required/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/01/leaders-must-be-willing-to-stand-alone/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/10/are-you-willing-to-risk-failure/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/31/leaders-you-must-be-willing-to-make-personal-sacrifices/

 

 

 

Church, We Can Do A Better Job at Being A Community?

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The community is the featured topic this week.  Every Thursday or Friday I tease the featured item on Facebook.  Most times it gets one or two snarky comments. Occasionally, a subject hits a nerve.  I rarely comment.  I let the friends go back and forth and allow them to help me shape what path the post might take.

With this issue of community, there were extreme reactions to the subject.  A few opinions display a level of pain; somehow it felt like the church community has caused hurt.  Others were defensive like we should not even talk about the topic at all.  Strange, maybe they sense that community in congregations is lukewarm to non-existent and when we speak about it the unchurched world will discover our hidden brokenness.  I have news for you the unconnected world already knows many churches struggle to be the church in Acts 2 even if they never read about the church in Acts 2.   Starting with the Acts 2 church passage is far too easy.  We will get there, but we will not begin there.

Let’s ease into the discussion of community with 1 Timothy 3:15, “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar, and buttress of the truth. [1]

How Community Gets Broken?

As we reach the end of the school term, this was my least favorite season of the year.  All of my past procrastination would pay off or come back to haunt me.  The report card would come out and get sent home.  It was a race to the mailbox.  If the report were positive, I would take it to my parents with pride, if not, time to break out the pen and be an artist.  Ok, I only tried that once.

What Paul is giving out is a report card on the church in Ephesus.  Like any evaluation, there are positives and negatives.  Some of the church’s struggles were; these dear Christians had allowed themselves to be side-tracked by false teaching, divided by arguments, and distracted by rules and decrees proposed by their new teachers. Paul hoped better, God expects better, the unbelieving community around needs better.  By the power of God’s grace, they could do much better! In this section of Paul’s correspondent to young Timothy, he sets out the standards at which the church should be aiming.

The church is no fly-by-night organization; it is not a cut-rate business. This is the church of the living God, the Bride of Christ.  Jesus gave His blood for her and then he gave her the authority of spreading the good news and live according to his Word in a pagan environment. Stand up strong church; your mission is too critical, your savior too robust to allow minor disagreements to comprise the effectiveness of your message. The gospel message is the heart of community and discipleship is how we grow and then share this gospel message, but we do it as a unified community.

Now that we have established that, next Tuesday come back as we break down “What Happens in Community?” And then “The Impact Community Has on a Pagan World.”  Thanks for reading and thanks more for sharing.  We are creating a movement together.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 3:15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/22/are-we-setting-the-church-back-2000-years/

Pentecost: This Holiday Has Not Gone Commercial!

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This day of Pentecost is a special day like none other. It’s the third biggest celebration of the Christian year, behind Christmas and Easter.

Christmas and Easter have been hijacked by the secular culture. We have reduced Christ’s work of salvation in His birth, death, and resurrection into pagan festivals. In the secularization of Christmas, we replaced the shouts of angels in Luke’s Gospel.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Christmas’ blatant consumerism and feel good motto of “buy that something special for the ones you love” has watered down its significance.  The message has shifted focus from God’s miracle of the incarnation to trinkets treats and tribal rituals of the season. What gets lost in the commercialism is the Christ of Bethlehem.

Unfortunately, Easter has not escaped a similar fate. Society has turned the shouts of “Christ is Risen. He is Risen, indeed!” and the focus Christ redemption of a world lost in sin to a celebration of the passage of the dreariness of winter and the rite of spring. Lost in that transition is the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. The proclamation from the Savior that, “It is Finished!”, the realization of the soldier, “This truly was the Son of God”, the joy of Easter morning, “the Tomb is Empty. And Christ Is Risen” have been lost.

In the case of secular Christmas and Easter, you’ll have no problem finding decorations and greeting cards. Many of them feature the embodiments of the season, Santa, and the Easter bunny. And symbols of the season, scents of pine trees, or, my favorite, chocolate bunnies (or chocolate of any kind, for that matter). We could celebrate that at least these celebrations have high name-recognition and in the past have lead people who never darken our church doors back to us on these two occasions.

But Pentecost is different. Pentecost still belongs to the church. Pentecost has not gone commercial … yet! You will be hard-pressed to find a rack of Pentecost cards in a drugstore. Unfortunately, there are not Holy Spirit dove chocolates. I can’t imagine the Dove ever competing with Santa and the Easter bunny.  It is unlikely that we in the church will ever feel the need to remind each other to keep Pentecost in our heart like we usually have to with Christmas. Pentecost is ours alone.

Contained in this Pentecost story are some powerful images:

  • The significance of the Holy Spirit as wind. That essential breath that seems to be the very life-force itself. The concept of breath points us back to the first interaction man had with the divine. Let me transport you back to the beginning: Genesis 2. The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. It was there the mighty wind of God gave man life.
  • The Holy Spirit as fire. Fire is an essential element in the world’s cultures. It not only provides light and warmth on the cold nights but it has a consuming nature with it that goes viral. As the Holy Spirit is introduced in the narrative of the birth of the church, it does become a transforming force consuming sin and burning down the stronghold of unbelief.
  • Speaking in tongues. The strange detail of how, miraculously, the disciples are briefly given the gift of speaking in other languages illustrates that God is breaking down the barriers between nations and cultures. I miss how the readings for the Pentecost in some years would have the bookend accounts of the Tower of Babel (language confused and multiplied) with the parallel account of Acts 2’s Pentecost chronicling languages united around the message of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. It puts on full display the brilliance and completeness of God.
  • The Rejection of the Power of God. The resulting scorn sometimes heaped on those who encounter the living God, who are all too often dismissed by those who say of them, “They are filled with new wine!”

Pentecost Is a Community Event

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

It is no accident that Pentecost is also known as the Jewish holiday “the Feast of Weeks.” It is essentially a harvest festival. The Feast of Weeks was the time in ancient Israel when the first grain harvest came in.

As we examine the significance of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the church, it is this great harvest of new believers. The good news of the gospel brought many to faith and caused them go out into the world bearing these newfound fruits of the Spirit.

The most striking thing about this verse is the phrase, “They were all together in one place.”

So much has happened in a short period to the disciples. They had been all together in the upper room when Jesus broke the bread, shared the cup and gave a new and deeper significance to the Passover Seder meal. We then witness how the news of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion scattered the faithful disciples and all His hundreds of followers.

The disciples’ grief over the loss of their teacher, shepherd, and mentor has now brought them together again.

You have witnessed in your church how funerals often do this. The loss of a loved one connects a once widely dispersed family and gathers them together for mutual support and remembrances.

Then came for the disciples the wonder and comfort of the resurrection. When Mary Magdalene, in John’s gospel, runs back to tell the other disciples the good news notice there’s no mention of her going from house to house in seeking them out. She knows just where to find them. The disheartened group is collected together in one place supporting each other.

They now move from the highs of the resurrection to the uncertain future of Christ ascension into heaven. They may have thought that with that event it was “game over.” Last out of the World Series, time to go home and live in the memory of all we have seen and heard. What more could God possibly have in store for them? It was like the silence following the grand finale of a fireworks display. What could they possibly do at that moment except fold the chairs and go home?

Notice the Optics.

That is most certainly not what the disciples do! “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” Why? What were they hoping for?

Maybe the clue is found in the mission Jesus had left with them before He went to assume His rightful place on the throne of heaven. In Matthew 28, also known as the Great Commission, it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ….” The full weight and meaning of this get lost in the English translations. However, in the original Greek the verb “make disciples” is plural. Jesus isn’t commanding them to go out like marbles and individually witness to everyone they meet.

We are so tempted as churches to send out people out with this charge, “You go and make disciples, and good luck with that!” No, Jesus is commanding them to come together and, as one body, the Church is to devise a strategy for sharing the gospel with the lost and broken world. “Go, make me more disciples, but do it together!” We are not just individual church sites, we are the church universal, over 2 billion strong. Strategically placed around the world, yet called to come together and given a charge by our Risen Lord, “Go, make me more disciples, but here is the key: do it together!”

Hands off-world, Pentecost is ours. It is the birth of the church, and you can’t have it. But we will share the saving message of Christ with you. That is our charge after all.

SaveSave

Are You A Leader Willing to Risk Failure?

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Our lessons in leadership continue. These series of posts are based on the work of Myron Rush in “The New Leader.” We turn our attention today to the issue of risk. Every leader knows that at some point each must weigh how much risk they are willing to take. Early in my ministry, my goal was to avoid epic failures, just play it safe, but safe is boring. I am also not sure safe is godly, but that is a subject for another day. When I think about this question I remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff being dared to jump. Some of the most difficult decisions a leader must make mirrors that sense. Does the leader have the courage to risk it all, to chance failure? Of course, be willing to risk it all if it is God telling you to trust Him and jump. Some opportunities warrant a “take the hill attitude”, others require a more cautious approach. Leaders need to discern when you go for it and when the risks are too great. “One of the reasons why mature people stop growing and learning,” says John Gardner, “is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.”

You must be willing to risk failure.

Our Scriptural grounding this week is based on Joel 2:17, “Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, Lord, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Joel is called upon to lead the people in a time of repentance and renewal. For Joel being in the will of God meant risking failure. What if God’s people ignored his message? It would be much easier to avoid the risk of failure. Joel addresses several different groups of people as he describes the terrible plague and its devastating results. To convince the people first Joel turns to the old men (vv. 1–4) asking them if they can remember such a tragedy from the years gone by. Sadly, they cannot. Joel then turns to the drunkards (vv. 5–7) who are mourning because the vineyards have been destroyed and their supply of the nectar of the vine is gone. He then turns to the worshipers (vv. 8–10) who must go to the temple without any sacrifices to bring. He references the farmers (vv. 11–12) whose livelihoods are all ruined. Finally, Joel turns to the spiritual foundation of the nation, the priests (vv. 13–14) and tells them to lead the renewal through fasting and praying. The nation is on the verge of judgment, God is preparing to punish the nation, due to their unfaithfulness. Joel is willing to risk failure because if the people do not turn from their sinful ways and repent, God will act with power and wrath.

As a leader, you must be willing to stand in the gap, risk failure for the sake of your people, facing the possibility of coming up short of the success meter. Failure at times is a very real option. Are you willing to do what it right when God is leading you there? Which leads us to the next leadership lesson which I will save for next week. You must be willing to make decisions others don’t want to make.

 

 

[1]Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing,1988, p. 32.

Other posts in this leadership series:

https://revheadpin.org/2018/04/24/warning-bold-leadership-required/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/01/leaders-must-be-willing-to-stand-alone/

https://revheadpin.org/2018/05/31/leaders-you-must-be-willing-to-make-personal-sacrifices/

 

 

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 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.

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