Showing posts with label SERMONS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SERMONS. Show all posts

Wednesday 7 March 2018

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought



7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.”
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I've written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, "What should we do?"   It's the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them.

What should we do?  You could add, "now?" to the end of the question.


Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John's advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit's guidance and power.

Do things that don't serve your self-interest, don't be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren't.... pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same - in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!




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Monday 5 March 2018

Ministry of the Average Christian

Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)

The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him


11  And to some, his ‘gift' was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12  to knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13  until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]  (Italics mine)

Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.  (Italics mine)

Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time.  I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition.  I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.

There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley.  The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people.  A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate.  It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people.  It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!

We don't always get this correct.  Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church.  Pastors don't save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church.

We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).  He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.

Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don't understand this.  They don't get that the ministry is God's, entrusted to the entire church together.  It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God's desire to reconcile all to Him.   Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry.

Such a responsibility isn't to be hoarded like Gollum's precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks.  Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines.  It is best done, when all, so in awe of God's love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God.    Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.

We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.

It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world.  AMEN!



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[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Make Me Yours

Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds



Key Scripture Isaiah 53:7-11

The Mark you bear….the passion it represents

A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead.   Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.

Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.

As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden.  We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.

Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….

The prayer tonight?  It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.” 
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”

An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight.  A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.

The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross

Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away…  Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.

Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.

We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness.  To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.

And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.

The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!

The Mark of Bliss 


As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.

The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

 It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish.  The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears.  All that is necessary for a time.  But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,

The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.

In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…

Make Me thine


And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.

He has made us His own.

We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”




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Thursday 15 February 2018

We MUST Go to Others!

A Sermon on Mark 1:29-39



May the gifts of the love, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so accompany you in your life that you are aware of those who lack it, and may that lack inspire you to reach out to them with your greatest treasure!

Must?

As I tried to come up with a sermon title this week, knowing I was preaching on the gospel I tried to come up with something special, something that would inspire and catch on, a phrase you can’t get out of your mind, encouraging you to walk with Jesus, just as the apostles did,

I couldn’t come up with something, so I figured a great title is found in Jesus’s words,

“We must go on to other towns” or in these days, we can make it simple, “we must go to others.”

The problem using that as the title is that it sounds different than it really means.  It sounds like work and obligation that is demanded of us by God.  To use Lutheran-speak, it sounds like the law, and therefore it points out where we fall short, where we fail God and deserve to be punished.

But that isn’t at all what Jesus is telling the apostles when he says “We must go to others, and I will preach to them too, for that is why we came.”

We need to hear Jesus, and more than that, we need to understand Him.  This isn’t about us being good children of God or good members of the church.

It’s concerning understanding for ourselves those things Paul explained to the people in Athens,  Repeat along with me.

'In him, we live and move and have our being,'' Acts 17:28 


What did “they” do?

Let’s go back a few verses, as Jesus and the apostles go to Simon Peter’s house.  There, Jesus finds Peter’s mum sick, so sick that with a very important guest at her house, she is lying down, burning up with a fever.  I mean, think about it, how sick would our ladies here be, if they didn’t get up and be hospitable?

So Jesus heals her, helps her up, and the word spreads.

The next thing you realize, we have a people at the door and it seems busier that St Jude’s Hospital ER during flu period.  People with every type of illness and disease, people even possessed by demons, every one being brought to Jesus.

Mark’s gospel tells you that the entire town turned out to watch these miracles….

But how did they know all this was happening?

Someone, more excited than someone winning the Superbowl had to have told them.

That’s what happens when we begin to realize the depth of God’s grace, the depth of His mercy.  When we find out in Him we can live, really live.  When we see our souls begin to be healed, we see others who need it, and then rejoicing even more that there is no limit.  When the demons that torment us lose their grip. And we are freed from them and the guilt and shame that they try to plague us with disappears.

As we get used to that freedom, we never want to leave His side… so how will people know God’s love?  How will they have the blessing of God’s love, the blessing of His mercy and forgiveness revealed to them?

Remember those words


In him, we live and move and have our being!


Jesus doesn’t say, “I must” or “you must”

For that is why he came, to give us the knowledge that in Him is everything we are, our life, our breath, what we do, everything we are.

It is exactly what the cross is centered on, and all sorts of those church words, redemption, justification, reconciliation, renewal, revitalization, the many words picture that in Christ we have died to sin and all that isn’t of God, and our lives, our very being is found in Him.  It is why he was born of a virgin, suffered and died, rose from the ascended and sent the Holy Spirit.

So that He could transform us so that He could give us life.

You see that as He doesn’t just say, “I must go to others,”  and He doesn’t say “you must go to others.”  What does He say, “we must go to others”

We must, Jesus and all those who are with Him must go to others.  All those whom He has joined to Himself.   We Must Go, We being Jesus and you all and me.

And then He is the one who reveals Himself to them, as He draws them here. And we don’t have to go all that far.


Why He Came


Perhaps many of us are called to travel to another country, to go along with Bernie to Sudan, or with Christina to Turkey, however, if Jesus says “we must go to others” it may be to our neighbor, who might be from Sudan, or Guyana or Indonesia or France, or Germany or Switzerland or possibly somewhere really strange - like Boston or Wisconsin.

All of us live in a temporary age when individuals from every country on earth save 1 or 2 have arrived at our neighbourhoods!  We must go, with Jesus, to them, so that He can demonstrate to them His love.  They even come to us occasionally, as they did yesterday.  As I pulled up, 16 people were in the parking lot, playing a game called Pokemon go, a few hours later, I went to the bathroom and there were another dozen people.  Both times, as we waited for the game to set, they asked me how I heard about the game being live on our campus.  I said… uhm, I am the pastor here… and they asked questions about the church and about the school. People as young as a five-year-old, as old as all of us. came here to play a game on their phones,

At least that is why they think they came…

We, you, me and Jesus need to go to them and let Jesus reveal Himself, and the news of His love.

We, you and me and Jesus, need to go to others and let them know about the love and mercy and healing of their hearts and souls.  Whether that means going across the parking lot, or across the street, state, country or world.  We, Jesus, you and I must go..

Because this is why He came…

And as He goes to others, we simply go with Him, for in Him we live and move and have our being!

AMEN!




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Monday 12 February 2018

Slogans, Sermons, and The Celebration

Celebrations


Christian obligation in work should not be restricted to just spending the hours. This implies doing a job with technical and professional efficiency and, most of all, with love of God.

Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early.  Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favourite part of tomorrow!)

The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office.

The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favourite slogan for sports and ministry.  "Do Your Job" which is actually a vital consideration in football, at the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry which is created by God in our lives.

We merely should walk with Him and do as He leads.  Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Ephesians 2:13 (KJV)) to do what pleases Him!   Do Your Job, do it trusting in God.  Do Your Job, loving God

Another slogan now hands on my office door, a couple feet from me.  No Days Off!  Perhaps surprisingly, this slogan had not been revealed through the entire march to last year's Superbowl victory, but afterwards, during the victory parade.  What was the secret to the victory?  The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season.  They lived based on the standard of their slogans... and did their job, whatever it required.

Can you imagine if the church did this?  If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day?  If it dwelt in His presence, relied on His mercy, recognized His love and peace satisfies our lives?  If we ceased treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and wished to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus?  That is really what our "job" is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him.

Plus there is the motto I haven't got anything on, one which I could not find out relevant within the Kingdon of God.  The latest slogan, 'Not Done Yet"

However, I knew that where that slogan is actually in the church.  It happens the moment sermon ends, and for a number of us, this is actually the very high point of our church time together.

This is not even close.


For the sermon is merely enlightening God's plan in our lives.   Still, we're not near to being done at that point.  The finest time in the church comes when we approach the rail with each other, as we bow as a group, acknowledging the presence and invitation of God, and people who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.

As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people.  To be accepted at the dining room table, completely righteous in the eyes of God, entirely washed by Him and made able to celebrate.  Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord's Supper is the start of the celebration of Jesus finishing His work in us,  For He has done all it takes to make us His own.  And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.

He Has done and is doing, His job.
He takes no days off...
And Then He is not actually done yet and maybe, while he brings in the very last prodigal home.

For the time being, allow us to walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God.  AMEN!



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Credit:  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sunday 11 February 2018

High Cost of Love

Cost of Love


The joyful love that satisfies the soul with happiness will depend on suffering. There is absolutely no love with no renunciation.



44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.   -Luke 7:44-50 (KJV)

There was a song when I was growing up called "Love Stinks" and though it was talking more about infatuation, there is some truth to the idea.

For love is a commitment, knowing that commitment usually entails us to go without, to make sacrifices, to lay all we are on the line, in order to genuinely take care of the one we love.

Parents know this very well, as they will go without to provide for their children,  From little things like watching television shows their kids like, and not watching the ones they want to because they are inappropriate for their child's ears and eyes.   Teachers who give up time to plan, or to think of how to reach "that" student understand this as well. 

It is a puzzle, a contradiction, that waiting or refusing your happiness in the interests of the one you love can bring about much more joy, greater happiness.

The woman in the gospel reading found this out. She did something very costly, anointing Jesus feet with oils that cost her much, oils she most likely bought to treat herself well, to help her ignore the discomfort of life, after having suffered the embarrassment of submitting to others desires.

However, in the wonder of God's mercy, she sacrificed the benefit of her labours to take care of Jesus with love, to absolutely adore the Man who didn't push her away.  Perhaps she was one of several people invited to Zaccheus' house, one of many sinners Jesus was accused of drinking and eating with by the Pharisees. She tried to pay back that love, with the most expensive thing she knew of, by using an action of love that demonstrated how much she reverend the man that didn't want sex from her, and still spoke with her and interacted with her.

The suffering that loves costs is high, and often it stinks.  However when it comes to loving God, what it really demands, though pleasurable, or rewarding, is really what stops us from finding joy.  We go without having pleasure, without having gain, to get ourselves free.

Just at the prostitute seen herself free of sin, and humiliation, and sense of guilt.   Instead, she knew love, and that she was welcomed in the presence of God. She gave up what was costly and pleasurable and found a joy so much greater, and happiness that comes from being accepted and loved.

knowing this, realizing it in our heart, gives us the motivation, the ability to desire to give up what we need to give up.  Not because we have to, but for the joy set before us, the same joy that drove Jesus to endure the cross, for us.

Lord, help us to embrace you, receiving your love.  And as our love and adoration "costs" us, help us to realize the joy that comes from knowing that love.  AMEN!




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Credit: Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2743-2745). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Our Life in the Christ

Revealed in our Church’s liturgy, music, artwork...



10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, 11 When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: 13 And that their children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. -Deuteronomy 31:10-13

Christ has died. 
Christ has risen
Christ will come again
We were dead in our sins
Now we're buried with Him
We have risen in Christ
We are given new life
And Christ will bring us home
Making us his own
Christ has died
Christ has risen
Christ will come again!

The Christian images, as we find them in the catacombs, simply take up and develop the canon of images already established by the synagogue, while giving it a new modality of presence. The individual events are now ordered toward the Christian sacraments and to Christ himself. Noah’s ark and the crossing of the Red Sea now point to Baptism. The sacrifice of Isaac and the meal of the three angels with Abraham speak of Christ’s Sacrifice and the Eucharist. Shining through the rescue of the three young men from the fiery furnace and of Daniel from the lions’ den we see Christ’s Resurrection and our own. Still more than in the synagogue, the point of the images is not to tell a story about something in the past, but to incorporate the events of history into the sacrament. In past history, Christ with his sacraments is on his way through the ages. We are taken into the events. The events themselves transcend the passing of time and become present in our midst through the sacramental action of the Church.

The centering of all history in Christ is both the liturgical transmission of that history and the expression of a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord. As we have seen already and now find confirmed anew, liturgical presence contains eschatological hope within it. All sacred images are, without exception, in certain sense images of the Resurrection, history read in the light of the Resurrection, and for that very reason, they are images of hope, giving us the assurance of the world to come, of the final coming of Christ.

324 Looking at his mercy, faith comforts and consoles us. Our opponents teach wrongly when they praise merits in such a way as to add nothing about this faith that takes hold of mercy

The readings this morning were just crammed full of thoughts that I needed to hear.  I could have doubled the amount I quoted, and foregone writing.  Except that I need to, for as I've said before, my devotions have to be thought through, meditated upon, and brought together in my writing.  It used to be called spiritual journaling, and someone once suggested I put it out there to be shared.

Today, it seemed like a lot of my readings were set up to talk about living within the story.  About faith is a life of dependence on God, living in harmony with Him, rather than a statement of what theological statements we hold to be true.

We see that in the words from the Lutheran confessions, as we take hold of mercy. That is faith, this incredible love of God that is revealed to us, that floods our lives so that we can hold onto it.  For faith is an engagement with God with not our mind at first, but our heart and soul.

Pope Benedict in the longest quote talks about this in the imagery in the early church and the synagogue, when visuals made our sacramental life part of the narrative poured out in visual representation.  And all of that representation is reflected in the resurrection, the very summit of our being made one with Christ.  For we are united to Him in His death, in order that we can rise to our new life with Him.

That is the reason for the reading of the entire community of Israel, over 2 million people, plus the foreigners that make their home among them.  (Note that part about the aliens!) They were to know the covenant so that they could be in awe of God's love and provision for them!  Even more than that, this awe was lived out before Him. In other words, not just in His are of vision, but right before Him, in His presence.

As I was reading all of this, I thought of my friend's version of the liturgical hymn, the Memorial Acclamation.  Chris is not only an incredible musician and professor of worship but has a great understanding of sacramental covenant theology.   So when he recomposed this ancient part of Christian worship, he not only told Christ's story, but he made clear what was inferred.  That we share in that death, and in that resurrection, and in Christ's coming again.  What has become veiled and vaguely visible, Chris revealed in a glorious way. ( You can hear a rock version of it at the link!)

Every aspect of our ministry, from the music to the artwork and images, to the words we speak and lessons and liturgy are geared to help us make this transition.  We are not just people reading about history, we aren't just witnesses to the story, we are the characters in the story, living and interacting in great awe with God.  Just as people have done since Adam and Eve walked through the garden.  Our people may not realize this, so we need, like Israel, to teach them more and more.  They need to know it, they need to experience His love. as do we, as do our communities.

May the Lord make this happen, opening our eyes more and more to His love!

AMEN!



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SOURCE
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: M├╝hlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

The Memorial Acclimation by Rev. Dr. Christopher Gillette

Saturday 3 February 2018

Knowledge and Love

Knowledge and Love: A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:8-13


As you experience the length and width, the height and depth of God’s love for you, may your knowledge be tempered by the love that God creates in your life, as you live your life through Him


Given a choice...which will you choose for those you love?


There is a cute picture floating around the internet, of one of these.

It says above it, “it doesn’t matter how old or mean you are, when w toddler hands you one of these and say’s ‘it’s for you’, you take it and start talking into it.”

I think that is pretty much true, and I am tempted to try it on some of you afterwards.

It’s because we care for our children, or grandchildren, or nephews or nieces or students. Or in the case of the teachers, our students. We love them, and they can melt the hardest heart.

So I want to think of that kid, who could get you to answer one of these.  Close your eyes, picture them in your mind and answer this question.

If you could choose what would be said about them at the end of their lives, would you desire it to be said they were geniuses, or that they loved and cared for the people around them and made a difference in their lives?

Not a difficult decision, or at least I would hope that it wouldn’t it be!

And in our gospel reading this morning, this is what the apostle Paul is talking about. And it is what we are talking about this morning, Knowledge and love.

Importance versus building up the community?


If I may, I would like to use a personal example.  When I was younger, there was this game called trivial pursuit.  Some of you may be familiar with it.

I loved it!  And I was…. pretty good at it.  Enough so that I usually won and proved the apostle Paul correct when he said, knowledge makes us feel important.  Some translations phrase it a little differently.  Knowledge puffs us up talking about our egos, and our minds.  And then one day, I looked at the name of the game again…

Trivial Pursuit.  What I was doing was chasing after what was trivial, what was meaningless.  And in the end, about all odd bits of knowledge were good for was putting little pieces of plastic inside another piece of plastic and annoying some friends.

While there is a lot of knowledge that isn’t trivial, there are enough examples of people who think they are more important than others because they have the knowledge given to them.  I won’t list the occupations, but I bet you are thinking of one or two professions that act that way.  Or you see yourself in this.

That is why Paul will say in chapter 13 if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Instead of focusing on knowledge, Paul tells us it is love that builds the house, in this translation, it translates the house as a church.  But the concept works the same in the church, in the home, or in the community we call home.

In each, in our homes, in our church, in our community, it is love is what binds us together, it is love that makes that bond strong and causes us to grow as a family.

The challenge is loving others the way we love the kid handing us the phone.

In the example Paul uses, he talks about how this love changes us, using the example of food offered to idols.

For him, with all the knowledge of one who was a leading Jewish theologian and became the greatest of Christian pastor-theologians, the idea of food offered to idols was silly.

The idols were carved pieces of wood or rock, metal fashioned to look like how man imagined God to be. And because there was no inherent power in them, because they weren’t gods, eating the food someone else dedicated to them was of no great importance.

But it was of great importance to those who didn’t know different.  They saw the world as a cosmic battle between these false gods and the One True God who came to us, love us and died for us.

And while knowledge would say debate with them and show them the truth, love said that we needed to remember they weren’t ready for to hear that; be patient.  Winning the argument isn’t worth driving them from Jesus. We can go without being proved right in the small stuff, we can even go without that piece of bacon wrapped shrimp or stuffed pork chops rather than cause them to stumble and do what they thought was wrong.

It’s not worth the fight, it’s not worth the debate.  Such debates can destroy faith, but love puts it in the correct priority… and eventually, love will straighten it all out.

How it happens


But how do we love others, especially when we some people are just darn difficult to love?  And how do we teach our children, grandchildren, students and other children we come into contact with to love like Jesus loved us?

The answer on how to love like that, how to make a difference in someone else’s life isn’t found in some instruction manual, it isn’t found in a series of podcasts or videos.

It is found in knowing that we are God, as Paul said,

There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.

It is found in living for and in God that we find the love that changes us.  It forgives and removes our sin, and makes us holy, set apart to love God, to love His people.  It is something that is realized more than learned, something that we spend our life growing in, and as He changes us, we love, even those others see as unlovable.

For that is what knowing God’s love does, it changes us, and it gives us hope in the middle of what seems a lost and broken world.  That is why we are here, and why we have a place for kids, who will hand us a phone, and learn from us how to love.  As we learn it from God our Father.  AMEN!



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Saturday 27 January 2018

When Pastor is building personal kingdom instead of Christ’s kingdom

Some Signals that your Pastor is Establishing His Personal Kingdom



The term pastor comes from a Latin word indicates “shepherd.” In Ephesians 4:1, Paul identifies shepherding “pastors” as a single functionality in the Church alongside teaching, missionary work, evangelism and prophecy. The significance of this role can be viewed through the importance that Jesus placed on it in John 21:15-17 where Jesus charges Peter to feed and tend to His sheep. How is a pastor required to feed and tend to the flock of God? He does this when he is capable watch over and teaches the flock the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:1-2), To develop the flock into readiness and maturity.

Additionally, he carries a responsibility to safeguard the doctrine of the church. Retaining the integrity of the Gospel is considered among the pastor’s greatest callings. Several pastors obtain the title “overseer” as a general command to have their hand in all the things as well as the command to rule the church may well come to extremes too. What are examples of the signals your pastor is establishing his personal kingdom instead of Christ’s kingdom? Listed below are few indicators.



If Pastor Doesn’t Delegate or Assign 

A considerable warning sign that your pastor is creating their personal kingdom happens when he starts to do everything, declining to delegate and assign just about anything. If this occurs, your pastor has excessively control which is no more centred on Christ’s kingdom as well as the role of the church. The gifts of the many people in the church need to be useful to the ministry of the church. Every member of the church needs to be permitted to minister within their unique place in the body. One person can’t do it all.


When the Pastor is the Focus and attention, Not Jesus

Here is one of the truthful threat for pastors. Any time a ministry starts to grow and develops larger in capacity, there exists a real danger of the fact that pastor begins building his personal kingdom rather than the Kingdom of God. Ultimately that gradually, as time passes and practically undetected, the pastor turns into the core of attention and Jesus is swapped on the altar by the man. Without a doubt; this kingdom never will last since it is of man. It may well flourish for a while, however the same is true of a flower after which it’s all gone.


When the Pastor is Surrounded by "Yes Men"

This is often a relatively substantial warning sign and may have very unfavourable ramifications. “Yes men” is the term for those people who only say yes or agree with everything that is made available to them. When a leader desires to achieve success, they need to be prepared to say “no” to “yes men.” The challenge with yes men and people not wanting to differ, lead-up or question their leader is allowing their leader at risk of accepting things as they are. It’s necessary for leaders to develop an atmosphere where people will be open and sincere. In case your pastor isn’t performing this, you ought to be worried.


When the Pastor Overrules the church Board

What if your pastor a loosened cannon? Should they, this will be a wake-up call that possibly they are too controlling and get their eyes focused on a different kingdom. A pastor must not hold the church chequebook in their control. The church deacon or treasurer ought to be in possession of it and need no less than two signatories, and none should be the pastor. When you notice your pastor starting to violate the policies of the church, in that case, this can be a key warning that something is happening that shouldn’t be. A pastor is answerable to the church.


When Pastor Avoids and Resists Accountability

The word accountability means “the quality or condition of being accountable; a responsibility or readiness to acknowledge commitment or to account for one’s actions and activities.” Unfortunately, pastors are certainly not omitted. Attention must be given to a pastor who may have ceased being accountable for job duties. Here is a tremendous warning sign that the pastor is setting up his personal kingdom and not that of God. Pastors create the example for accountability. Keep in mind, a pastor’s basic responsibility is to oversee the church combined with elders, and his emphasis must be mainly spiritual, taking care of issues, for example, edifying believers and equipping the saints to do the ministry work.


When the Pastor is Always and Constantly Right

The moment your pastor is at all times making themselves right or perfect, this is often troublesome for many different reasons. Nobody is always right or perfect, plus pastors. A pastor’s responsibility isn’t to interpret the Bible; their job is to preach the Gospel. It’s not depending on what they think or assume. It’s according to what God says. When your pastor is hesitant to recognize or admit their errors or doesn’t admit an evident mistake, that can be a big warning sign.
Furthermore, if there’s an issue in the church, your pastor needs to be approachable and friendly. If a pastor is indeed unapproachable and not open to constructive worries or criticisms, then he his heart is simply not in the proper place in regards to the ministry.


In conclusion


Generally, all signs including the above mentioned must not be ignored or overlooked. Pastors that don’t delegate and assigns, do not allow input or suggestions, refuse any correction are creating their personal kingdom and never God’s. As soon as they rarely take accountability, always do what they desire no matter what the church policies and bylaws say, this is definitely a pastor that isn’t centred on advancing God’s kingdom. A church can’t survive under this type of leadership.



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Friday 5 January 2018

Expressions of God's goodness

EXPRESSIONS OF GOD’S GOODNESS-LOVE & GRACE 


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. -2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

The God of biblical revelation is no impersonal absolute. The living God is the God of love and grace. But what do such terms mean? It is in Scripture that big terms such as “love” and “grace” are embodied in stories as well as in direct affirmations. In particular it is Jesus Christ and his story that provides the lens through which to view what the big biblical ideas are about.

What does divine love look like? 


Love is manifested in action, as the story of Jesus exemplifies. Jesus embodies the divine love in his coming and his cross. As John 3:16 famously affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Paul elaborates, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John adds to this testimony: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). As in the OT, in the NT practical consequences follow. Jesus exhibits a new paradigm for loving others (John 13:1-7). This love serves. This love shows hospitality. This love washes the feet of others. We are to love like that. Love is the new commandment (John 13:34). It is new because it is informed by the story of Christ.

This newness carries over into the Christian household. As in the OT, the NT presents no mere duty-ethic. This love is an answering love to the divine love as experienced in Christ: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is not manufactured by us; it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ living within us (Gal 5:22). This love cannot possibly claim to love God while hating other believers (1 John 4:20). Some things - like knowledge and prophecy - fade away (1 Cor 13:8). But love remains (1 Cor 13:13). It never fades.

What does grace look like? 


Divine grace is undeserved favor of a superior bestowed on an inferior. The Israelites experienced God’s grace when he delivered them from Egyptian oppression. God proclaims to Moses on Mount Sinai, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God” (Exodus 34:6). The exodus event also shows that when God acts graciously, it means salvation for some (Israel) but often judgement for others (Egypt and its gods as in Exodus 12:12-13). In Jesus the divine grace comes into view in the most personal of ways, as John points out in his prologue (John 1:17). By coming among humankind and dying on the cross, Jesus Christ did what he was not obliged to do, and he did so not for his own sake but for ours, undeserving though we are.

The nature of this undeserved favor removes any grounds for our boasting before God about our meritorious works. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “It is be grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Even though the accent on grace in Scripture focuses repeatedly on God or Christ as the gracious one, those who have received such grace must be gracious themselves. This graciousness must show itself especially in Christian generosity (2 Cor 8:9) and speech: “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Col 4:6). Unsurprisingly such gracious speech characterized Jesus Himself (Luke 4:22).

Grace and love occur together in the Bible, and both express his goodness. We deserve neither God’s love nor his grace. Church leader Irenaeus rightly said in the second century, “[Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.” Such is grace. Such is love.

How does the grace and love you receive from Jesus Christ affect the way you treat others?





Cred: Bible Connection News


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Tuesday 2 January 2018

Bible Stories About Forgiveness

Five Inspirational Scripture Summaries



The Bible is one long story of how God reaches out to show His love and forgiveness to mankind. In Genesis 3:15 God gives His first promise of a Redeemer who would forgive the world of their sin. God gives various stories in His Word demonstrating forgiveness.

Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25, 27, 32, 33)- Forgiveness Bible Story


The twins Jacob and Esau were very different from one another. One was a man’s man. Esau loved outdoor activities like tending the sheep and hunting. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learn from his mother.

One day Esau came in from the field famished. He begged Jacob to give him something to eat. In return Jacob sold a bowl of soup to his older twin in exchange for the birthright. Esau traded the larger portion of their inheritance for a bowl of beans. (Genesis 25:29-34)

The deception continued. When their father Isaac knew he was near death he requested that his manly son Esau kill a deer to prepare a fine meal before dividing the estate. Rebbecca, the mother of the twins, heard the request and helped Jacob pull off a grand scheme to fool Isaac into giving Jacob the larger portion of the inheritance.

In the end, Jacob had to run for his life. He fled to another country to find his mother’s relatives who would care for him. It was many years before he returned to his own family. When he did, he heard that his brother Esau was looking for him. The deceiver Jacob was scared. He devised a plan so that his brother could only destroy half of Jacob’s wealth if he was caught. (Genesis 32)
When they finally met, Esau ran to Jacob and hugged him and kissed him and showed forgiveness and mercy. He had so forgiven Jacob that he was surprised Jacob would even think that there might be hard feelings between them. (Genesis 33)

Joseph (Genesis 37-50 )- Forgiveness Among Brothers


The 11th son born to Jacob was Joseph. God revealed His plan for the life of Joseph when he was still a young boy. Joseph excitedly talked with his brothers about God’s plans. His brothers became jealous and eventually sold him into slavery while telling their father Jacob that his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal.

Joseph was bought by a man who eventually recognized Joseph’s honesty. The man gave Joseph great freedom even though he was still a slave. Eventually Joseph was wrongly accused of a crime and ended up in prison. Joseph’s integrity won him favor with the jail keepers and he became a guard over other prisoners. Through time God elevated Joseph to great power within the kingdom.

The brothers thought Joseph was dead. They did not suspect that the man they stood before was their own brother Joseph. When Joseph revealed himself, they were shocked to know he was alive. They even feared for years that he would seek retribution. After the family was reunited they lived together in Egypt. When their father passed away, the brothers began to fear even more that Joseph would finally show his hatred towards them (Genesis 50:15). Joseph was heartbroken when he learned they still did not trust him and that they feared what he would do to them (Genesis 50:17).
This amazing story of forgiveness culminates with these words from Joseph to his brothers:


“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” (Genesis 50:19-21)

David and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9 )- Another Great Bible Story About Forgiveness


Though King Saul tried to destroy David throughout the book of 1 Samuel, David responded with kindness and forgiveness to the household of Saul. After he became king, David looked for anyone who was still living from the household of Saul so that he could demonstrate his love and friendship for Jonathan, Saul’s son.

David showed kindness to Mephibosheth by restoring to him and his family the land owned by the former king. David paid to have the land farmed and cared for. As for Mephibosheth himself, David made a place for him at his own table so that he was accepted as part of the kings family.


Prodigal Son (Luke 15)- Forgiving Bible Story Between A Father and a Son


Jesus taught a story that illustrates redemption, love and forgiveness in Luke 15:11-32. It is commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

There was a man who had two sons. The oldest was obedient and content to live with his father. The younger couldn’t wait to get away from the family to live life on his own terms. When he was able, he went to his father to ask for his portion of the inheritance. When he got his money he ran off to a far away land. Jesus says that the young man wasted his money in wild living. A short time later the economy bottomed out and the man had no money, no job and no friends. He was willing to take whatever job he could get and ended up taking care of pigs for a farmer. He was so destitute that he was willing to eat the pig feed to stay alive.

The young man wised up and realized that he had a loving father who treated his servants better than the boy was currently living. He decided to return home as a servant to the father. At least he would have food to eat. Little did he know, his father was expecting the boy’s return. As soon as the father saw the young man on the horizon, he ran to him with open arms of forgiveness.
Though the boy returned with hopes of just being a servant, the father accepted him as the son he always was. The boy was forgiven and restored to his former position in the family.

Woman Taken in Adultery (John 8 )- A Bible Story Where Jesus Examples Forgiveness


In a show of His own divinity, Jesus forgave a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the Lord by the spiritual leaders in town. They wanted to see if Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, would obey the Law of God and have the woman stoned. Instead, Jesus said that they were welcome to start the stoning as soon as they felt like they were without sin and did not deserve a stoning of their own. They dropped their rocks and walked away.

Jesus feigned surprise when he looked up from playing in the dirt and the woman was standing there alone with no accusers. Asking her if there was anyone left to accuse her of her sin, she answered “No.” Jesus responded, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Forgiveness is an attribute of God that we are consistently taught in the Bible that we too can demonstrate to others.





By  David Peach

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Living in Christ

“LIFE IN CHRIST” IS IMPORTANT



The Book of Acts registered all the events happened after the Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST.  It begins with a wonderful line. 
Acts 1:1 [NLT] – “In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach…”
“Jesus began to do and teach”
He did and taught! 

JESUS CHRIST is our only role model to be followed.  He taught what HE lived on this earth.  A Godly man once told: “JESUS didn’t study many books and taught the Sermon on the Mount.  But HE preached what HE lived”. He also said: “why are these days preaching are not powerful? Because many want only to preach (nicely).  They don’t want to live (nicely).”  
Ministry is important.  But not as important as life in CHRIST.  

Life in Christ is like a basement of a building.  Ministry is like a floor which should be built on the basement (life).  But today many are not willing to build a basement, but they want to build the floor first.  

Living with and living in Christ is very important.  Ministry will come automatically from that overflow of love on Christ.
In Ezekiel 36:27[NLT] we read that:
“…I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful with my regulations.” 

Why is GOD giving us HIS Spirit? To do miracles? – NO! The power of Holy Spirit is given to us to follow his WORDS on this sinful earth. That is what Jesus told in Acts 1:8[NLT] – “…you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” 

What is that power? 


The power to LIVE in CHRIST in this world.  
I saw and seeing many other religious people who want to come to JESUS are not coming to HIM because of the bad testimony of Christians[not all] today.  They may do miracles, they may cast out demons, and they may prophesy.  But see what answer they’ll get from JESUS on the Judgement day.  We can read that in Matthew 7:21-23.

As a servant of GOD, Bible has some very good examples for us to follow.
2 Kings 4:7[NLT] – we read that Elisha got a testimony from the lady that: he is a man of GOD! See the 9th verse also: I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of GOD. What a testimony! 

Today I see many fights for titles.  But see Elisha.  He never said I am a servant of GOD or I am a holy man.  If you see someone saying that I am a man of GOD for himself, then surely he is not at all a man of GOD.  A true man of GOD won’t say himself that he is a man of GOD.  His life in CHRIST will automatically give that testimony.

Here’s another testimony for Elisha in 2 Kings 3:11: “He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah”.  
If our ministry for GOD stands before us means then it’s a testimony from people
If our life in GOD stands before us means then it’s a testimony from GOD.  Those who have testimony from people won’t go to heaven, but the testimony from GOD will.

The Book of Revelation 12:11[NLT] says – “and they have defeated him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.” A life with a Good testimony in GOD has great power. Revelation 12:10 says – satan is an accuser.  What will he accuse us about before GOD? Not about the ministry but Life.  

Dear brethren – let us think about our lives today.  We may have been called to do HIS Ministry.  Yes, it is important but not important than life. JESUS CHRISTS’ 30years of life is what turning people’s lives today to HIM.  Ministry (3 ½ years) is next.

Yeah GOD gives us HIS Grace to live a good LIFE before HIM.
Amen.








Author Bio-
Pastor M. Lazar from Tamil Nadu, South India. GOD has chosen him from a poor family. Started serving GOD while in Chennai.  During that time GOD gave a vision that: He was taking the Bible and walking in a valley of dry bones.  After that, he prayed to GOD so as to understand the vision and GOD said to him to preach HIS WORDS among poor people and to plant Churches in villages those who don’t know CHRIST.  (According to Ezekiel 37:1-14)

According to that vision, he obeyed GOD and came to a village named as Walajabad in Oct 2001 and started to serve GOD.  Now V.A.Koil(a village) as center serving GOD for the past 17 years also in many villages.

Pastor M. Lazar contact details
Facebook Page
Email: pr.lazarwbd@gmail.com

Pastor M. Lazar


Wednesday 23 August 2017

Pastoring in the Age of Celebrity

How famous Bible teachers impact local Bible study


More than a decade ago, Thomas Friedman declared The World Is Flat in his bestselling book about how technology has collapsed the barriers between local and global. The American church has also experienced this “flattening,” as trends in media and ministry bring faraway leaders and national organizations into Christians’ everyday routines.

Believers can chat with Tim Keller in one of his Twitter Q&As, Facebook Live with Judah Smith, or play a Rick Warren podcast in their earbuds while they hit the gym. Though teachings from prominent theologians have spread across the church throughout its history, never have they been so immediate or intimate.

Plus, there’s the bigger, 21st-century scope: More Christian leaders are releasing “content” than ever before, giving evangelicals overwhelming opportunities to hear from nationally known figures alongside the leaders of their own congregations. “People are hungry for answers, even from a disconnected authority figure,” said Philip Nation, an author and pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida.

As with most things in the Christian life, the draw to outside teachers is not merely an issue of personal preference-it stems from and impacts involvement in the local body, as well. In some cases, Christians take interest in the kinds of leaders they don’t see in their own churches. As Christianity Today magazine reported last fall in “The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker,” this phenomenon has surged among women, with famous figures such as Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp fetching mass followings through their popular blogs, books, and conference sessions at events like Catalyst and the IF:Gathering.

“When [local women leaders] are missing, the voices of women with national platforms can become too loud in the ears of younger women, in particular,” said Jen Wilkin, minister at the Village Church in Texas. “National women leaders should be a reference point, but not a replacement for female leadership at the local church level.” Bestselling authors and biblical scholars contribute to Christians’ spiritual development and scriptural savvy, as pastors and churchgoers alike can attest. However, the work of Bible application is-by necessity-personal and incarnational, as well. It’s studying in community that allows Christians to disciple one another to live out gospel truths.

Are You My Pastor?


John Mulholland, associate pastor at Worthington Christian Church in Minnesota, wrote on his blog:
The pastor in your church will never out-preach Francis Chan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Alistair Begg, Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, or any other pastor that you listen to through podcasting.
As much as I enjoy listening to Matt Chandler, he is not my pastor. I belong to a local body of believers that I am called into to be an active member. The attention around a popular Bible teacher and their work can make any given Bible study or sermon series from a local leader seem lacking in comparison. So Christians have fretted the influence of celebrity pastors.

“When a Christian author writes a book, it takes months or years. The work is unintentionally held up as a standard [that] local pastors must meet,” said Nation, who has written several small-group studies and books on discipleship. “We are trying to deliver biblically sound and soul-stirring messages on a weekly basis while also leading, counseling, and the like. It sets up a pastor to feel completely inadequate as a communicator of eternal truth.”

Jenny Rae Armstrong, teaching pastor at Darrow Road Wesleyan Church in Wisconsin, agreed. At smaller, rural congregations like hers, pastors “have to do everything from hospital visits to organizing music to serving on boards in the local community to making sure someone’s coming to pump out the holding tank.”

“I can’t compete with Bill Hybels or Lysa TerKeurst with a schedule like that,” she said, noting that Baby Boomers in her congregation typically follow some leaders they know from Christian TV, while younger congregants aren’t as interested in Christian celebrities. “Small church pastors are generally more focused on the pastoral aspect of their work than on polishing their presentation skills. The goal for teaching is ‘solid,’ not ‘spectacular.’”

The Best of Both Worlds


But churches can also benefit from exposure to different styles and perspectives on biblical teaching. Christians have always encouraged gifted teachers to use their skills to serve the body as a whole. Back in 2 Corinthians, readers find what might be the first reference to a celebrity pastor, though he remains notably nameless: “With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel” (8:18, ESV). Bringing in other leaders or referencing their scholarship, whether or not they are famous, can give congregants a more robust understanding than a single preacher could.

“A pastor can’t be expected to address every specific need of every Christian in their congregation through their preaching,” said Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher at LifeWay. “Good pastors seize the opportunity to resource their people with likeminded, trusted Christian leaders who may be especially strong in certain areas or speaking on certain subjects.”
For smaller congregations, the proliferation of well-known Bible teachers can be somewhat of a double-edged sword, according to Jeff Breeding, pastor of Midtown Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“On the one hand, it allows church members to take advantage of many more resources than our small church can offer,” said Breeding. For instance, the church does not have a formal counseling ministry, but members can access resources on the topic from teachers such as Paul David Tripp, the author and pastor who teaches on Christian living, parenting, marriage, and suffering. “On the other hand, the prevalence of Bible teachers also seems to have dulled some people’s discernment,” Breeding added. “If a person has a podcast or is featured at a conference, then he or she is assumed to be solid. Sadly, as you know, that’s not the case. Overall this current situation calls for pastors to be much more in-tune with what church members are listening to and reading.”

At Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, pastors preach expository sermons from the Bible, design small-group curricula around those messages, teach the Bible through classes and seminars, and encourage members to read the Bible regularly. The church also opens up to the wisdom of those outside their staff and congregation, featuring authors like Keller and Voskamp.

“Hosting well-known writers for speaking events, quoting them in sermons, and relating to them on social media are other ways to signal to our people and our community who our thought leader friends are,” said lead pastor Scott Sauls. “Having a public friendship with and/or affinity for well-known writers and authors also gives a certain credibility to our church for those who know the work of the authors well, but are still getting to know us.”

Such networking also helps the preachers themselves. Regardless of location, denominational support, or congregation size, they can access the surplus of Bible resources now available-a chance for them to find inspiration and new insights years after seminary is over.

“The proliferation of teachers available through podcasts, books, and conferences also gives the local pastor the opportunity to grow in the skill of preaching,” said Wax. “Yes, it raises the standard of excellence, but at the same time, it offers pastors the possibility of improving their craft as they benefit from prominent pastors they respect.”

Over Influenced?


Taylor Turkington, co-director of Western Seminary’s Verity Fellowship, describes the difficulty in analyzing how Christian women are influenced by the leaders they find online.

“Following someone on social media doesn’t mean they have become your dominant spiritual influence; neither does reading their book,” she wrote. “While it is hard to measure the quantitative impact of many of the online teachers, it’s not hard to find the devotees in our churches.
“Their books become part of Bible study; they are quoted from memory. The women speak of their beliefs as settled on an issue because of what they read in a blog post, and they presuppose others should follow suit.”

On the web, readers can find and follow compelling, gifted teachers without assessing where their theological affiliations or beliefs fall in comparison to their own. And at times, a leader’s popularity, presence on a certain book list, or spot on a speaker lineup might be enough for churches to share or endorse that leader.

Mulholland urged pastors not to let name recognition and amenability substitute for theological examination. He suggested they review all materials used in a leader’s ministries, asking, “Is it biblical? Do we agree with the doctrine being taught? Ask ‘Why this?’ and ‘Why now?’ and ‘How does this fit with the rest of what we are doing?’”

Of course, Christians need not limit their reading to teachers whose positions line up exactly with their own. But discerning readers know how to engage various teachers in relation to their own beliefs and the beliefs of their tradition.


According to Sauls, emerging conflicts can sometimes lead Christians to doubt their own pastors’ teachings or position them to choose which they see as more authoritative: their church or the blog in their browser bookmarks. But rather than continually creating a crisis of faith, exposure to outside teachers is, largely, helpful. It prompts curious, engaged Christians to ask deeper questions and learn more in their church context.

“These sorts of differences almost always lead to fruitful conversations between church leaders and members who are reading conflicting material from this author or that author,” Sauls said. “It also forces us to sharpen the ‘why’ of the things we say we believe.” These conversations are only going to become more common in small groups, Bible studies, and church offices as Christians continue to supplement their spiritual lives-like everything else-with what they find on social media and Google searches.

Michelle Van Loon, a writer on spiritual formation, recalled the warning from Ecclesiastes: “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). These days, we could add Facebook debates, trending topics, blog controversies, and hashtags to the unending issues vying for our attention. Local church leaders find themselves at the point of convergence, helping to equip their congregations to process teachings from both inside and outside their church and inside and outside their belief system. Put simply: It all comes back to them.

The context keeps shifting, but fortunately the truth does not. Sauls stated:

The role of the local pastor is to affirm that which is true and beautiful according to Scripture, and to challenge that which is not true and beautiful according to Scripture, especially with the flock under said pastor’s spiritual oversight and care. This applies not only to well-known authors, but also to politicians and secular writers and philosophers and such. In every school of thought, there are things to affirm and, perhaps, things to also critique. But the measuring stick for the pastor should always be, “What does Scripture say about this?”






By Kate Shellnuttis online associate editor of Christianity Today. Follow her on Twitter @kateshellnutt.

Thursday 17 August 2017

Tips For Spiritual Growth

7 Spiritual Growth Tips


The children’s song says, “Read your Bible. Pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” Daily prayer and Bible reading are two of the foundations for spiritual growth.

Read Your Bible

Get into God’s Word daily. You don’t have to dedicate every waking moment to Bible reading, but you should spend time in God’s Word each day. Find a Bible reading plan that you can stick to. Many people read three chapters a day in their Bible to help them read completely through in one year. Instead of reading for a certain number of chapters each day you can choose to read for a set amount of time.
The last two years I have taken the number of pages and my Bible and divide it by the number 300. For me that works out to just over five pages a day. With that schedule I can read the Bible in a little over 10 months which gives me a few extra days to linger on certain passages or get distracted in studying a topic if I want.

Pray Every Day

While reading the Bible is God’s way of communicating with us, prayer is our way of talking to Him. You should have a prayer list that you pray through. A few suggested items for daily prayer are your spouse, kids, extended family members and missionary families you know. You can also pray as God brings needs and blessings to your mind. Certainly you can pray at any time or place; but having a dedicated prayer time each day will help you stay connected with the Lord.

Attend Church

Fellowshipping with other Christians is one of the things Jesus taught us while he was on the earth. Those who refuse to congregate with other believers are often those who have trouble avoiding temptation in their lives.

God has given His blessing on the organization of the church. It is the authority which God has established in the life of a believer. The church does not exist to tell an individual Christian what he can and cannot do, rather it was founded by Jesus to give Christians a place where they can serve in the body of Christ and get the spiritual help they need.

Baptism

Obedience is a key ingredient to spiritual growth. The first step of obedience after salvation that the Bible teaches is baptism (Matthew 28:19, 20). This announces to others that you have been saved. Baptism does not save the believer, but spiritual growth will be limited if the believer refuses to follow the Lord in baptism.
Baptism is a public identification that the person trusts in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for their salvation. Jesus was baptized as an example for us (Matthew 3:13-17).

Serve Others

Finding a way to be involved in the lives of others is a sure way to grow spiritually. When other people are asking you questions about the Bible you will become more studious of God’s Word.

Witness

You should be active in sharing your Christian testimony with others. In Romans 1:16 Paul states that he is not ashamed of the Gospel. As a child of God you have been given the gift of salvation through the Gospel. This is a gift that is available to others as well, but they need someone to tell them about the love and forgiveness God offers. You can do this by being a witness to them.

Give

As a Christian who is involved in a local church, there are plenty of opportunities to give to the needs of the church and the needs of others. Besides the fact that the Bible teaches us that everything belongs to God, it teaches the principle of the tithe. There are differing opinions on tithing and whether it is necessary still today; however, whatever you believe about the teaching of tithing, the Bible clearly shows that we should support the work of the ministry (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 9:7), and particularly those who teach us God’s Word (1 Timothy 5:17).

I hope these seven spiritual growth tips have been a help. These are just the basics. Any time God teaches you something from His Word you can continue to grow only as you obey.





by David Peach

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