Worship FAQ – What is the Benediction?

1D274907362970-today-goodbye-at-the-door-141204-tease.blocks_desktop_largeAs we have been welcomed into God’s House, wiped our feet, talked with God in the living room, and dined at God’s table, we now prepare to go.  If we put this into the context of visiting a good friend, they will normally walk us to the door where we will exchange a handshake or hug before leaving their home.  This is typically pretty brief.  The closing of worship is as well.

So, what is this thing called a benediction?  Is it a prayer?  Is it a pep-talk?  What is it?  It is similar to the Invocation, in that it is God’s name being placed on God’s people.  It is a reminder that the God who called us to worship is now sending us out into the world.  But, unlike visiting a friends home, God goes with us.  God walks us to our car, gets in and goes where we go.

The most popular benediction is a blessing God gave Aaron, the high priest, to place on the Israelites in Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Another less common benediction is found in Psalm 67:6-7:

God, our God, has blessed us.

May God continue to bless us;

let all the ends of the earth revere him.

There are many other benedictions found throughout the Bible (Hebrews 13:20-21; Philippians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 13:14 to name a few).  This benediction is found in an 11th century worship liturgy:

May God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, bless you.

Interestingly, the benediction does not appear in worship services prior to the 4th century AD.  Christianity became the Roman religion at this time and began to take on the trappings of the Roman celebrations.  It could be, that the benediction was added at this time to bring worship to a close.

This is the final article in the Worship FAQ series.  If you have other worship questions or ideas on what you would like to read, let me know.

Advertisements

Entrepreneurship Lessons Learned in Honduras

honduras with flagAt the end of March, I went on a mission trip to Tegucigalpa and Lepaterique, Honduras with 25 people from my congregation.  As I reflect on the trip, the word “entrepreneurship” continues to surface.  Our congregation has a 12 year partnership with a congregation, Betesda, in the town of Lepaterique (pop. 4,000) through Compassion International child sponsorships.  During the last six years, we have really seen God fan the flames of an entrepreneurial fire.

Lesson #1 – Entrepreneurship is hard work.

Five years ago, God connected a farmer with Betesda who was brought to faith in Jesus and then had the crazy idea of allowing the congregation to use a mountain meadow to grow corn, beans, potatoes, coffee, and the like.  The only way to access this piece of ground is via 4 wheel drive into the mountains followed by a 45 minute hike.  Supplies and produce are carried in and out by people, horses, and donkeys. During the last few years they have learned many things about farming.  They are bootstrapping it as they build off an angel investment from our congregation.

Lesson #2 – Entrepreneurship creates job opportunities for people to create a better life.

Betesda is utilizing their farming produce to help provide meals for the children in Lepaterique and 13 surrounding villages where they are planting congregations.   Each congregation is being equipped and encouraged to also take up farming to raise their own food.  During this years trip, Pastor Omar shared that there was a widow in the Betesda congregation and she was beginning to work with the coffee with the goal of her having her own coffee business at some point.

After a few days working with Betesda, we spent a couple of days in the capitol city of Tegicugalpa where I had the chance to talk with Pastor Pedro about his congregation and how they are working to change their community.  Pastor Pedro leads a congregation which worships 700 people per Sunday and includes a wide range of people from the neighborhoods surrounding the church.  Just downhill from the church is a group of houses which sit next to a river containing raw sewage.  These are some of the poorest of the poor.  Pastor Pedro’s congregation provides entrepreneurship classes to people in this neighborhood to teach them jewelry making and other activities that could create an income for their families.  This congregation also turns part of their facility into a restaurant where they serve lunch, creating some more opportunities for people to be employed and earn an income.

Lesson #3 – Entrepreneurship requires faith and hope.

After leaving Pastor Pedro, we went to work at Pastor Jorge’s church.  Pastor Jorge’s congregation is in a changing neighborhood.  20 years ago, it was probably middle class.  Now, the gangs make it dangerous to the point that we are not able to venture far from the church to connect with people in the neighborhood.  Pastor Jorge’s congregation has 300 people in worship on a Sunday, only 15% of whom are men.  During the week, in a partnership with Compassion International, they connect with 240 children for tutoring, Bible lessons, and to give them a meal.  Some of these children have parents who are gang members.  Pastor Jorge’s congregation is outgrowing their space and their staff is stretched.  However, he is confident that when they need money it will be there.  He said, “A lack of money will not hold us back.”

Lesson #4 – Entrepreneurship means valuing quality over short term profit.

One of our translators, Mundo, is in the process of earning his business degree.  Mundo and his cousin were looking for a business idea.  Popsicles are big business in Honduras.  In the United States, we have ice cream shops.  In Honduras, they have popsicle shops.  Mundo and his cousin decided to go into the popsicle business and carve out a niche with their fresh fruit, certified organic popsicles.  The day we left Honduras, Mundo was headed out to deliver 900 popsicles to the nine retail businesses that sell them.  At times, friends have encouraged him to add more water to his popsicles to increase his profits.  He refuses to compromise on quality for a short-term gain.

Lesson #5 – Entrepreneurship takes time and encouragement.

Another one of our translators, Liz, is working on a French-Honduran fusion Bistro.  To achieve her dream, she gets to wade through government paperwork and processes for up to six months before even getting to realize and run her dream restaurant.  At times, it is hard to deal with the setbacks.  But, Liz has a group of friends cheering her on and offering her support in making sure the grand opening receives media attention.

Lesson #6 – Entrepreneurship overcomes obstacles.

In the middle of our trip, we met a man named Virgilio Pena.  Virgilio was in a terrible accident 20 years ago and only given a short time to live.  30 years later he is still alive.  Before his accident, Virgilio played the guitar and could walk and sing.  Since the accident, he is bound to a wheelchair and does not have much breath support from his diaphragm.  Though his hands can no longer play a guitar, they can work wood.  Virgilio makes different products from wood, including the pan flute, which he plays.  Virgilio plays the pan flute for the joy of music and to be able to work his lungs.  He sells his recordings and the wooden pencil cups and pan flutes to help support his family from his wheelchair.

Entrepreneurship is hard work.  Life in Honduras can be hard.  It was inspiring to connect with people who insist on working to make their world a better place in spite of the obstacles and setbacks they face.

Lessons Learned from a Blind Skier

blind_skier136In January, my son and I spent a day at Monarch ski area near Salida, Colorado.  On one run, we got separated and I beat him to the lift we were meeting at.  While I was waiting, I noticed a fellow skier with a bright orange vest that said, “Blind Skier.”
So, I shuffled over and said, “Hi, I’m Dave”  and she replied, “Hi, I’m Amy.”  Then, I asked my question.  “So, I notice that you are a blind skier – how does that work?”  Amy graciously explained that she wasn’t completely blind.  She had a guide who wore a bright orange vest that she could see.  As they made their way down the mountain she would follow close behind him and he would shout out commands to let her know what was coming that she needed to be aware of.  Amy shared that a person who is completely blind has their guide right behind them so they are better able to hear the commands and the guide is able to keep an eye on them.  Some blind skiers ski the whole mountain, including the crazy double black diamond runs.  Amy was planning on spending her day on the blue intermediate runs.

As I saw my son coming over I thanked Amy, wished her a good day, and thought out loud, “I have a hard enough time skiing some of these runs with my eyes wide open, maybe I am seeing too much.”

As I’ve thought more about this, I’ve found some similarities with my life as a follower of Jesus.  There are times when I see Jesus in his bright orange vest going ahead of me and I am following blind skier1closely, listening all the while to his words of encouragement, wisdom, and warning.  We are in sync and tracking together perfectly.

Yet, there are other times when I am so busy gawking around I miss where he is leading and end up somewhere else.  Sometimes I miss out on the green pastures and still waters, of Psalm 23, that Jesus is leading me to and I get cranky because I’m hungry, thirsty, too warm, too cold, or well, you get the picture.  At other times, I zig instead of zag and lose track of where Jesus is leading me in “paths of righteousness for his names sake.”  I miss out on opportunities to serve God and others.  I miss out on making an impact in this world for him.

So, the question I am left with is, “What do I need to tune out in order to tune in to where Jesus is leading?”  What distracts you from following the lead and listening to the voice of Jesus?

Worship FAQ – What is Communion?

tableAs we have been welcomed into God’s House, wiped our feet, and had conversation with God in the living room, we now move to God’s table.  We celebrate a meal which has names like:  Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, Sacrament of the Altar, and Lord’s Table.

Sitting at God’s table, this feast doesn’t look like much on this side of heaven – some wine or grape juice and a wafer.  It’s actually more like a sampler platter of what is waiting for us at God’s feast in heaven (see Isaiah 25:6-9).

When Jesus gave us this meal, he did so in the context of the Passover Meal (Exodus 12).  God’s people celebrated this meal every year as they remember how God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.  He saved them by the blood of a lamb.  When Jesus ate this meal with his disciples, he gave it a little twist.

eucharist

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples,  saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”  And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it,  for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. – Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)

 

Did you catch that?  Jesus gave them bread and wine and told them it was also his body and blood poured out as a sacrifice to forgive sins.

God has rescued us from slavery to sin through Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection and we have this meal to celebrate that victory as we enjoy God’s gift of forgiveness which leads us to life and salvation.

It is believed that early on in the Church, communion was celebrated as part of a meal.  Today, it holds it’s place during worship as we gather at our Lord’s Table.

 

“Communion” by Third Day

Worship FAQ – What is an Offering?

 

table

As we have been welcomed into God’s House, wiped our feet, and had conversation with God in the living room, we now move to God’s table.   We bring a gift with us to God’s table.  This gift is an offering.

The concept of an offering goes back to Genesis.  After Abram had rescued his nephew Lot, Abram was visited by Melchizedek and responded to God’s goodness by giving him 10% (or a tithe) of what he had (Genesis 14:17-24).  Jacob also makes a commitment to give a tithe God in Genesis 28:18-22.  The tithes of God’s people as they wandered in the wilderness also provided for the Levites, the temple working tribe of Israel who in turn tithed to the Priests (Numbers 18:21-26).  There was also an annual tithe to support God’s House (Leviticus 14; 22-27) and a tithe of produce every three years after which was also given a tithe for those in need (Deuteronomy 14:28, 26:12).  The tithe was the financial backbone of the church-state of ancient Israel.  An offering of 10% (or a tithe) of one’s possessions was the minimum expected worship response to God’s goodness.

offeringDuring Jesus’ earthly life, while he was fulfilling the law, he observed the Jewish ritual law and encouraged the practice of tithing (Matthew 17:24-27, 23:23; and Luke 11:42).  After Jesus died and rose again, the Jewish ceremonial law was abolished.  Yet, the practice of giving still continued.  In Acts 2, we find the early church pooling all of their resources to help anyone who was in need (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-47, 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-3).

The offerings given by God’s people have and continue to be e response to God’s incredible love for us (2 Corinthians 5:11-15, 9:6-15.

“Offering” by Paul Baloche

Worship FAQ – What is Prayer?

living-room-3As we continue the conversation with God in our virtual living room in worship, we have the opportunity to talk to God.  We call this prayer.  We pray individually  and as a community.  We can pray with one voice, as a group of voices in unison, or as individual voices praising God, apologizing for our wrongs, thanking God or seeking God’s help for us and for others.

Jesus taught his followers to pray using what we call the Lord’s Prayer.  These words are recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4, followed by teaching more about prayer.   Jesus also prays a more lengthy prayer for himself, for his followers, and for us in John 17.  These are examples and guides for the Divine Conversation which we get to enjoy in the living room of our worship experience.

For more on prayer, feel free to read my earlier post on 4 Types of PrayerPrayer1.

Worship FAQ – What is a Sermon and Why Do We have Them?

living-room-3As we find ourselves sitting in God’s living room, we get to hear from God through God’s words in the Bible.  We get to speak to God and each other using a creed or statement of what we believe.  We also get to hear the application and interpretation of God’s Word in the sermon.

In the beginning, God spoke the world into being.  God spoke directly to and through the prophets and apostles.  God speaks to us today through the words of the Bible and through one another.  In worship, we set aside a time for God’s word to be explained and the death and resurrection of Jesus to be proclaimed.  We call this time, the sermon or homily or meditation or message.

King Solomon, who was the wisest man of his time, wrote down his words of wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes.  The Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes is Qohelet, which means preacher.  It comes from the root word qahal which means community.  It would be fair to say that the preacher speaks God’s word in the context of a community.

Preaching in the Jewish synagogue took place after the appointed reading was read in Hebrew and then translated and commented on in the local language.  Take a look at this in Nehemiah 8 (NLT):

All the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey. So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand.  He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law.  Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. To his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriahbible-Sunlight, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet. Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—then instructed the people in the Law while everyone remained in their places. They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.

In the New Testament, preaching was carried out by Jesus (Matthew 5-7), Peter (Acts 2), Paul (Acts 17) and others.  Today, we continue this time of God connecting with the community of believers in worship.

Life is Hard…

On Sundays this Lent, we looked at the challenges we face in this life.  Martin Luther once wrote that the three things which lead to growth as a child of God are “Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.”  These are prayer, meditation, and struggle.  As we pray to God and meditate on His Word, we continue to encounter struggles in this life.  God works through those struggles to make us who we are.  This Lent, we spent some time looking at the struggles we, and others, have faced and how God is with us in the midst of them.  If you want to listen to the message, click on the title.  If you want to read the Bible verses, click on the reference.

People on a Mission

On Wednesdays this Lent, we looked at People on a Mission.  We dug into the stories of God’s people as they lived out their faith and made an impact on the world around.  Take a listen to the messages below by clicking on the title.  If you would like to read the Bible verses, click on the verses and a window will pop up in Biblegateway.

St. Patrick – Missionary to Ireland

patrick_shamrock_0Terrified the Irish raiders would spot him, the youth hid at wood’s edge as he watched eager flames consume his family’s house. Suddenly powerful hands jerked his arms behind him. Coarse ropes burned his wrists. He and dozens of others were herded to boats grounded in the cove. He was now a slave.

The sixteen-year-old watched his whole way of life slip away as the rhythmic oarbeats pushed the boats steadily west. A British nobleman’s son, he’d had it easy enough. He hadn’t cared much for school, preferring to go off with his friends. Christianity didn’t mean much to him either. His father was a deacon in the village church, but Pat knew he held that office more for tax advantage than out of love for God.

The sound of pebbles crunching beneath the hull signaled their arrival. Yanked from the boat, he was thrust into a guarded pen to await sale. He was sold to a pagan chieftain and became the shepherd of one of his soldiers.  During this time, He also began to talk to the God his Christian grandfather had told him about. The despair of slavery and solitude of the mountain compelled him to reach out. “Our Father, which art in heaven,” he began hesitantly, “hallowed be Thy name. . . .” The words recited in childhood now became a cherished prayer.

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God’s—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission—to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.

When Patrick began his 30 year mission about 430 A.D., Ireland was gripped by paganism. Druid priests performed human and animal sacrifices to appease the local gods. They practiced spiritism and black magic through incantations and occult rituals. Idolatry prevailed. The Irish knew nothing of Jesus.

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

By the time of his death he had baptized tens of thousands and established hundreds of churches throughout Ireland. Within a century this once pagan land became predominately Christian, possessing such a vigorous faith that Ireland in turn sent out missionaries to Scotland, England, France, Germany, and Belgium.

The old saint died in his beloved Ireland, March 17th, about 460 A.D. The land which once enslaved him, he had set free.

Worship FAQ: What is Lent?

AshWednesdayToday we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.   On Ash Wednesday, worshipers have the opportunity to receive the ashes on their forehead in the shape of a cross.  Ashes symbolize repentance and are a reminder of our own mortality.  We are dust and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19).  The ashes are a reminder of our need for cleansing and purifying.  Traditionally, these ashes are made by burning the palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and then mixing them with a little olive oilash cross

Lent is a 40 day season (not including Sundays) to reflect on our baptism, a time for rebirth, renewal, prayer, and learning and growing in faith, as we prepare to celebrate Easter.  Our Bible readings will begin with Jesus’ temptation and then continue with Jesus interacting with people like the Pharisee Nicodemus who comes to Jesus at night, the Samaritan woman at the well,  Lent-40days-921x1024the man who was born blind, and raising Lazarus from the dead before we celebrate Palm Sunday.  Purple is the main color for Lent.  Purple is a royal color which also symbolizes penitence and self-discipline.  We see the color white on Maundy Thursday as we celebrate the gift of God’s forgiveness in the Last Supper and remember Jesus commanding His disciples to love one another.  We strip the altar on Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus being betrayed and arrested.  On Good Friday, our altar is bare to remind us of the nakedness of our Savior dying on the cross, the Lamb of God dying for the sins of the world.

Worship FAQ – What is the Athanasian Creed?

958c1-trinity1What is the Athanasian Creed?  Many of us have heard and spoken the Apostles‘ and Nicene Creeds.  The Athanasian Creed is much less familiar, but is a statement of faith which is embraced by many of the world’s Christians.

Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicea.  Following that council, the Church continued to wrestle with Arianism.  The Athanasian Creed was written towards the end of the 5th Century, about 100 years after Athansius died.  It may have been written by his followers and was a response to issues regarding Jesus’ divinity and humanity.  It also addresses the mystery of the Trinity.

Unlike the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the Athanasian Creed is not written with three distinct sections which lay out specifics for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The first portion of the creed speaks to all three persons of the Trinity, their uniqueness, inter-relatedness, and their differences.  The second portion of the creed speaks to Jesus and his work in securing our salvation.

Traditionally the Athanasian Creed is spoken on Holy Trinity Sunday, which is the Sunday following Pentecost.

Athanasian Creed

Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith.

Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.

And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.

For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

And yet there are not three eternals but one eternal.

As there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties but one almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

For as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every person by himself to be both God and Lord,

So we cannot by the catholic faith say that there are three Gods or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten.

The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as has been said, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.

He, therefore, that will be saved is compelled thus to think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God of the substance of the Father, begotten before all worlds; and man of the substance of his mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father as touching his Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching his manhood; Who, although he is God and man, yet he is not two but one Christ:

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking the manhood into God:

One altogether, not by confusion of substance but by unity of person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, he sits at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and will give an account of their own works.

And they that have done good will go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

This is the catholic faith which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Worship FAQ – What is the Nicene Creed?

As we sit down in God’s living room, we hear God speak to us through the words of the Bible.  We also speak to God and each other.  One of the ways we do this is through speaking about God through a creed.  A creed is a statement of what we believe to be true about God, according to what God has revealed in the Bible.  The word creed comes from the Latin word “credo” which means “I believe.”

Throughout Christianity, there are three creeds which have become central for a majority of the world’s Christians.  They are:

  • The Apostles’ Creed
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Athanasian Creed

Council of NiceaA few days ago, we looked at the Apostles’ Creed. Today, let’s take a look at the Nicene Creed.

Christianity was illegal in the Roman empire prior to Emperor Constantine, who ruled from 306-337AD.  During Constantine’s reign, there was a controversy as people wrestled with the questions, “Who is God?” and “Who is Jesus?”  A pastor named Arius, and his followers, believed that Jesus (the Word) was created by God and was not God.  Under Constantine’s leadership, over 300 bishops came together at Nicea in 325AD.  Many of these men bore scars on their body from being tortured prior to Christianity’s legalization.

To make a long story short, Arius and his followers were deemed to be heretics and were banished.  The council affirmed what had long been held to be true, that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human.  The Nicene Creed was created by this council.  They used language like “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made” to assert that Jesus is God who also became human to live and die for the sins of the world before rising from the dead to return to His heavenly throne.

Saying that Jesus is “Light of Light” is like experiencing a candlelight service where the light that is taken from the Christ candle is passed through the worship space as more candles are lit using the same light.  In the same way, Jesus as God’s Son, is God just as the Father is God.

The wording of the Nicene Creed that we have today was finalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381AD.

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered and was buried.  And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.  And he will come again to just both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.  And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love and Marriage

“It is God’s will that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his or her own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” 1Thessalonians 4:3-4

ImageValentine’s Day is here!  This may bring up warm feelings of love and romance for many.  Unfortunately, there are also feelings of loneliness and emptiness for others.  In our culture we have a disease that causes this – Divorce.  It is epidemic, nearly 50% of first marriages fail and that percentage climbs for each marriage after that.  Countless numbers of men, women, and children have their lives turned upside down because of divorce.  The vast majority of divorces (74%) took place to adults who had been happily married when first studied five years earlier.  In this group, divorce was connected with drastic declines in happiness and psychological well-being compared to those who stuck it out and stayed married.   Unhappy marriages are less common than unhappy spouses; three out of four unhappily married adults are married to someone who is happy with the marriage. Parental divorce approximately doubles the odds that adult children will end up divorced.

One of the lies fueling the fires of divorce is “living together prepares us for marriage.”  Living together before marriage actually prepares people for divorce.  The divorce rate for people who live together before getting married is 80%.  For 25 years, researchers have been looking for positives to support couples living together and they haven’t found any.  All they have found is a way for couples to short change their chances for a happy marriage.

Celebrate love and marriage and its benefits!  Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in other family forms. The health advantages of married homes remain even after taking into account different social and economic status. Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.  Marriage appears to reduce the risk that children and adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.

Celebrate love and marriage the way God intended it to be – “until death do us part.”

Image“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” – Matthew 19:4-6

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Worship FAQ – What is the Apostles’ Creed?

As we sit down in God’s living room, we hear God speak to us through the words of the Bible.  We also speak to God and each other.  One of the ways we do this is through speaking about God through a creed.  A creed is a statement of what we believe to be true about God, according to what God has revealed in the Bible.  The word creed comes from the Latin word “credo” which means “I believe.”

Throughout Christianity, there are three creeds which have become central for a majority of the world’s Christians.  They are:

  • The Apostles’ Creed
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Athanasian Creed

Apostles Creed3Let’s start with the Apostles’ Creed.  Who wrote it?  Where did it come from?  Who are the Apostles’?

The Apostles’ were Jesus’ followers who were sent out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostello which means “to send.” Ironically, the Apostles’ Creed was not written by the original Apostles’ but it does reflect the beliefs that they lived and died for.

The Apostles’ Creed has its roots in creeds that date back to late second century Rome, which were used as statements of faith during baptisms.  This is why the Apostles’ Creed is used during baptisms today.  The earliest version of the Apostles’ Creed that resembles what we speak today is from about 710 A.D.  Creeds give us a ruler to measure beliefs against concerning who God is.  These statements of belief have been used to battle false teachings and instruct the faithful throughout the centuries.

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Worship FAQ – What is the Bible?

bible-SunlightAs a Lutheran-Christian, I believe that the Bible is God’s Word that He communicates to us through the hands and voices of those that have walked before us in faith.  For me, the Bible is the supreme, ultimate authority for faith and life.

The Bible is divided into two sections

  • The Old Testament (39 books, the latest of which was written more than 400 years before Jesus’ birth)
  • The New Testament (27 books that were written about the life of Christ and the life of the Christian Church after He went up to Heaven).

The Old Testament

Genesis-Deuteronomy are believed to have been written by Moses (except for the part about His death.

  • Genesis contains the stories of God’s people before they were in Egypt in slavery.  Creation (Genesis 1-3); Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-9); Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12-25); Jacob (Genesis 25-35); Joseph (Genesis 27-50).
  • Exodus contains the story of God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt and beginning the journey to the Promised Land.  Moses early life (Exodus 2-4); Moses trying to get the Israelites released (Exodus 4-12); Crossing the Red Sea and heading into the wilderness (Exodus 13-40); Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)
  • Leviticus is a book of ceremonies and sacrifices for worshipping God and gaining His forgiveness.
  • Numbers continues the journey to the Promised Land and the troubles the Israelites caused themselves by rebelling against God.
  • Deuteronomy continues the journey through Moses death and Joshua becoming the leader of the Israelites.  This book also contains a repeat of the Law for God’s people.  The Ten Commandments are also found in Deuteronomy 5.

Joshua-Esther continues more history of God’s people as they enter the Promised Land and get settled.

  • First Samuel-Second Chronicles are parallel histories of the same time period, being told from differing perspectives.
  • Ruth and Esther sharpen their focus on the lives of two women.
  • Job-Song of Solomon (aka. Song of Songs) are books of wisdom and poetry.  The story of Job probably occurred at the same time as the book of Genesis.
    • Job also contains two descriptions of animals that could be dinosaurs (40:15-18; and 41).
    • Psalms is a prayerbook and hymnal for God’s people with a wide range of styles and content.
    •  Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are books of wise sayings.
    •  The Song of Solomon/Song of Songs is a book of love poetry.

The Old Testament closes out with books written by men who were called by God to warn God’s people that they were walking away from Him.

Isaiah-Daniel are the considered to be the Major Prophets because of the length of their writings.  (Lamentations is a writing of Jeremiah).

  • Isaiah walked around naked for three years as a visual warning to the Israelites (Is. 20:3).
  • Jeremiah wears a yoke around his neck to warn the people that they will become slaves again (Jer. 27-28).
  • Ezekiel sees a vision of the Valley of Dry Bones where bones come together and receive flesh and the breath of life (Ezek. 37).
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego survive being thrown into the fiery furnace after refusing to pray to a statue of the king (Daniel 3:12-30).
  • Daniel survives being thrown into a den of hungry Lions after refusing to pray to an idol (Daniel 6)
  • Hosea-Malachi are the Minor Prophets because their books are shorter.
    • Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer to show the people how they were prostituting themselves to false idols instead of being faithful to God.
    • Hosea names his children with names that mean “I will not show love” and “not my people” to remind the Israelites of the trouble they were in with God (Hosea 1).
    • Jonah was swallowed by a large fish and lived in its stomach for three days because he was afraid God would save the wicked people in Ninevah

The New Testament

Matthew-John give us stories of Jesus life on earth.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar regarding the sequence of events, and the stories they contain.  John is a very different Gospel.

  • Matthew was a former tax collector and wrote to speak to a Jewish audience.
  • Mark was written by a man named John Mark and records Peter’s perspective of Jesus.
  • Luke was written by a physician, who was a very dear friend of Paul, and focuses more on healing.  Luke was writing to a non-Jewish audience.
  • John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”  He is not mentioned by name in this Gospel.  He wrote this Gospel to reach Greek thinkers.

Acts is the story of the first Christian church.  It was written by Luke and begins with Jesus going up into heaven.  It contains the beginning of Christianity and the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the missionary work of Peter and Paul.

Romans-Jude are all letters written to individuals or churches.

  • Paul wrote Romans-Philemon, with the letters of First and Second Timothy, and Titus were written to two young pastors that Paul had trained.  Philemon was a letter to a Christian slave owner asking him to release his slave who had converted to Christianity and was now a brother in Christ.  Many of Paul’s letters were written before or after trips, or while he was in prison because of his faith.
  • The author of Hebrews is unknown.  It was someone who had standing in the early church and may have been Barnabas, Apollos, or a woman named Priscilla.  It was written to Jewish converts to Christianity.
  • James, Jesus’ half brother, wrote his letter to the church at large.
  • Peter, the apostle, wrote his letters to Christians who were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire.  He instructs them in dealing with persecution and in dealing with false teachers who were infiltrating the church.
  • John, the writer of the Gospel, wrote his letters to the church at large to straighten out some false teachings and encourage the believers to use their reasoning when listening traveling teachers and to get rid of false teachings.
  • Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, was written to warn believers of the immoral people who were distorting the truth.
  • Revelation was written by John, the apostle, as he received this vision of the end of the world.  This book is full of things which should be read symbolically and not literally.

Worship FAQ – Where do our Bible readings come from in worship?

living-room-3I’d like to continue with our metaphor of worship being like going over to a friend’s house.  After we greet each other and we wipe off our feet, our friend invites us to come in and sit down and visit.

In worship, after the Invocation, and Confession and Absolution, we take time to listen and talk with God.  This time of worship includes God speaking to us through the Bible, interacting with a sermon, responding to God in prayer and speaking to God and each other using one of the Creeds (typically ancient statements of faith with names like Apostles’, Nicene, and  Athanasian).

So, where do these Bible readings come from?  The Bible, of course!  But, that’s really not the answer you are looking for.  How are Bible readings chosen for worship?  That sounds better.  There are two ways to do this.  One way is that a church selects a worship theme and picks a reading, or two or three or more that speak to that theme.  There are also churches who will spend a significant amount of time going straight through a particular book of the Bible.  There are other churches who follow what is known as a lectionary.

The lectionary works through the church year with readings selected for that time period.  The concept of a lectionary goes back to Judaism, and it seems Christianity inherited it.  There is evidence of a lectionary being used among Christian churches by the 4th century.

There is a one year lectionary, which is the oldest set of prescribed readings, and there are three year lectionaries.  The most commonly used three year lectionary among Protestant Christian churches is the Revised Common Lectionary, though there are denominations who have made slight alterations to it.  The Roman Catholic lectionary is similar.  I have also stumbled onto a narrative lectionary, which is a four year cycle of readings.  There is also a daily lectionary for devotional use.

The one year lectionary gets repeated each year.  In the three year lectionary, there is a three year cycle of readings which cover about 70% of the Bible during the three year cycle.  One year the readings are based off of Matthew’s Gospel, the next year year utilizes the Gospel of Mark, and then the third year is built off of Luke’s Gospel with the Gospel of John being sprinkled in each year.

bible-SunlightThe lectionary utilizes the Gospel readings as the foundation, then pairs them with an Old Testament reading and a Psalm which speak to the same theme.  During the Easter season, readings from the New Testament book of Acts replace the Old Testament reading.  A fourth reading is typically taken from the epistles, or letters in the New Testament, as well as the book of Revelation.  Most of the epistles are attributed to Paul, however there some are also written by James, Peter, John, and the unknown writer who wrote Hebrews.

Tomorrow, I’ll write more about our time in God’s living room.

Worship FAQ – What is an Invocation?

Early in pastoral ministry, I attended a “Renew Your Worship” conference by the late Dr. Robert E. Webber.  As Bob described the movement in worship, he told a story that went something like this.

painting-door-300x289When you go visit a friend or family member, you walk up to their door and greet each other by name.  Before you go in, you take time to wipe off your feet.  Once inside, you enjoy each others company in the living room as you “yakety-yakety-yakety-yak.”  After a while, it is time to go to the table to eat and enjoy each others company.  After a wonderful meal together, you get ready to leave and bid each other a fond farewell until you get together again.

One of the first things we do as God brings us together for worship is “invoke” or call on God’s name with what is called, “The Invocation.”  During the Invocation we are calling on God’s name, which is the name God placed on us when we were baptized.  Jesus gives us this name right before he ascends to heaven:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

baptism crossTraditionally, the Invocation follows the pattern Jesus gives us in Matthew 28, with the worship leader speaking these words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.”  The sign of the cross, a reminder of our Savior’s love, accompanies the Invocation.  The sign of the cross is placed on the congregation if the worship leader faces them, or the worship leader places the sign of the cross on himself if he faces the altar.  Either way, it is appropriate for worshipers to place the sign of the cross on themselves as a reminder of the cross signed on their head and heart when they were baptized.

At other times, the Invocation is the blessing the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:

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 (ESV)

Still at other times, the Gloria Patri (Latin for “Glory be to the Father”) is also used,

“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.”

As we gather on God’s doorstep to connect with Him as a community, we begin with Gods’ name.

Worship FAQ – Why don’t pastors wear robes and vestments in more contemporary worship services?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

Why don’t pastors wear robes and vestments in more contemporary worship services?

In my last post, I talked about the symbolism and significance of items like an alb, cincture, and stole.  I also mentioned the term adiaphoron which refers to things that are neither commanded or forbidden by God.  What to wear to lead worship is adiaphoron.  A pastor can lead worship in jeans in a t-shirt, suit and tie, or in the traditional alb, cincture, and stole, with even a chasuble thrown on for communion.

The setting sometimes determines what is appropriate.  Jeans and hiking boots can be a good option for worship at a retreat in the mountains.  An alb, with the appropriate accessories can be a good option for a chanted service using an organ.  When worship involves a style designed to intersect with our culture, clothing that is normal to see in our culture makes sense.

baptism chasuble

Worship FAQ – Why do the pastors wear white robes and a scarf looking thing at traditional worship services?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

Why do the pastors wear white robes and a scarf looking thing at some traditional Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic worship services?

priestAs God’s people were being led to the Promised Land, God set apart some of the people to be priests.  The priests led worship and offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.  In Exodus 28, God lays out the details for what the priests would wear.

When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and there was no longer a need for a human mediator between God and humanity as Jesus is our mediator and we have a direct line to God with Jesus as the one who forgives our sins.

Through the centuries, there has been some variety in what pastors wear in their daily lives and to lead God’s people in worship.  The white robe, or alb, is a connection to the church of all time.  The name alb comes from the Latin word albus which means white.  The white color is a reminder of the innocence and purity that belongs to all who are connected to Jesus.  It is a symbol of the robe of righteousness that Isaiah speaks of:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:9-11 NLT

The prophet Isaiah also wrote:

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” – Isaiah 1:17-19 NLT

The pastor also wears a cincture, which is a rope-like belt.  The cincture symbolizes the spiritual readiness Jesus calls for in Luke 12:

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. – Luke 12:35-36 NKJV

The item that looks like a scarf is called a stole.  It is typically about nine and a half feet long and goes around the pastor like an ox yoke.  The prophet Elijah wore something similar, referred to as a mantle or cloak, that he passed on to his successor Elisha.  The prophet Jeremiah wore a yoke for a time to communicate to the people that they would be enslaved.  The yoke is a reminder of the office of prophet.  The stole is also a reminder of the yoke that Jesus talks about in Matthew:

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

The stole comes in different colors to match the seasons of the church year and there also might be different pictures or designs which connect with that season.  

Ultimately, what the pastor wears is up to personal preference and the preference of the congregation the pastor serves.  In this way, clergy clothing falls under what is called adiaphoron in that it is neither commanded nor forbidden by God.

Worship FAQ – Why is there a candle in a red glass jar hanging in the sanctuary?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

What is the significance of the candle in the red glass jar hanging in the sanctuary?

This candle is known as the Eternal Light.  This light burns continually as a symbol of God’s eternal presence among us.  Each week, the Altar Guild takes the light from the burning candle and transfers it to a new candle so that we have a constantly burning light reminding us of God’s constant love and presence.

eternal light

Worship FAQ – Why is the white candle on the stand next to the altar not lit every Sunday?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

Why is the white candle on the stand next to the altar not lit every Sunday?Christ Candle

The white candle on the stand next to the altar is known as the Paschal or Christ candle.  This is a special candle which is lit for baptisms as well as during the Christmas and Easter seasons.  The Christ candle symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection victory over the darkness of sin and death.  Sometimes this candle has a P and an X which are the Greek letters for Ch and R – the first letters for Jesus’ title as the Messiah or Christ.

Worship FAQ – Where did the Advent Wreath come from and why is one of the candles pink?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

Where did the Advent wreath come from and why is one of the Advent candles pink?Adventwreath

In the history of the Church Year, the season of Lent which prepares us for Easter was created before the season of Advent.  When Advent came about, it was patterned after Lent.  The original color for Advent was purple, like that of Lent, before the option of blue was born.  The third Sunday in Lent is “Joy” Sunday.  This comes halfway through the Lenten season and gives us a bit of a boost as we make our way to the cross and the empty tomb of Good Friday and Easter.   In the ancient Church, the Pope used to give a citizen a pink rose on this Sunday each year.  The pink rose of Lent has become the pink candle of Advent.

The Advent wreath was patterned after a ritual of pre-Christian Germans who made evergreen wreaths with candles whose light symbolized  hope during the darkness of December.  For Christians, the circular shape is a reminder of eternity.  The evergreen reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

There are several different traditions regarding the meanings of the candles.  The most common tradition is that the first candle means hope, the second peace, the third joy and the fourth love.  Another tradition names the candles Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels.  Still another one states that the first candle symbolizes expectation, the second symbolizes hope, the third joy and the fourth purity.

Worship FAQ – Why do we light candles in worship?

For some of us, worship has been a weekly part of our life’s rhythm for as long as we can remember.  For others, worship is something new or something we experience less frequently.  When I pick up a new hobby one of the first things I do is dig deep and learn as much about it as possible.  The more I know about a hobby, the more I tend to enjoy it.  While worship is not a hobby, there are times when we don’t always realize why we do what we do.  Knowing the meaning behind what happens in worship may deepen the experience.  So, I want to share answers to what I believe are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about worship.  If you have a question you would like answered here, let me know and I will do my best to answer it in a future post.

candleWhy do we light candles in worship?

In the Genesis 1 creation account, the first words God speaks are “Let there be light.”

Jesus speaks in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In Revelation 21:22-23, we read these words, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Candles in worship are a reminder to us of God’s presence just as they were for our spiritual ancestors of the Old Testament.

Happy New Year!

happy new year

Happy New Year!  Some of you might be thinking I am a bit early, others may realize that me being early may be one of the signs of the apocalypse.  We are getting ready to start a new year of worship.

AdventwreathOn December 1st, we will begin the season of Advent and focus on preparing for Jesus to come as we prepare to celebrate when Jesus came to earth the first time.  During Advent, we will light an additional candle each week as we anticipate the coming Christmas season.  Our altar, pastors, pulpit and lectern (the podiums we use for reading and preaching) will be decked in blue.  The color blue represents the hope and anticipation we have in Jesus.

baby-jesusOn December 24th, the 12 days of Christmas begins as we celebrate the gift God gave us when Jesus was born.  Our Bible readings will focus on Jesus birth and childhood.  White is the color of the Christmas season, symbolizing joy, celebration, gladness, light, purity and innocence.

 

epiphanyOn January 6th, we kick-off the season of Epiphany.  The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning reveal.  Our Bible readings will focus on Jesus revealing Himself to the world, beginning with the visit of the magi or wisemen which we will celebrate in worship on January 5th.  The season of Epiphany ends with Transfiguration Sunday when we celebrate Jesus revealing that He is God to Peter, James, and John.  The color for the Epiphany of our Lord Sunday and for Transfiguration Sunday, March 2nd, is white.  However, the rest of the Epiphany season is green which is the color of growth, leaves, foliage, fruit, and life, suggesting a time of spiritual growth.

lentOn March 5th, we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.  Lent is a time to reflect on our baptism, a time for rebirth and renewal as we prepare to celebrate Easter.  Our Bible readings will begin with Jesus’ temptation and then continue with Jesus interacting with people like the Pharisee Nicodemus who comes to Jesus at night, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man who was born blind, and raising Lazarus from the dead before we celebrate Palm Sunday.  The main color for Lent is purple, a royal color which also symbolizes penitence and self-discipline.  We see the color white on Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus commanding His disciples to love one another and celebrate the gift of forgiveness in the Last Supper.  We strip the altar on Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus being betrayed and arrested.  On Good Friday, our altar is bare to remind us of the nakedness of our Savior dying on the cross.

easterOn April 20th, we will celebrate Easter and the reality “Christ is Risen!   He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!”  The Bible readings for the Easter Season focus on Jesus’ resurrection and the time following that as He walked the earth before ascending to heaven. White is the color for Easter, symbolizing joy, celebration, gladness, light, purity, and innocence

 

pentecostOn June 8th, we kick off the season of Pentecost with Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the Holy Spirit bringing thousands of people to faith through the Apostles preaching.  The Bible readings for the season of Pentecost focus on the life of the church and how we live as God’s chosen people.  The season of Pentecost ends in November with readings focusing on the end of the world and the triumphant return of Christ, our King (November 23rd).   The color for Pentecost Sunday is red symbolizing fire, and the blood of those who have died for their Christian faith.  Red is also used to celebrate Reformation Sunday (October 26th), while white is used for Holy Trinity (June 15th) and All Saint’s Sundays (November 2nd).  Green is the color for most of the Pentecost season symbolizing growth, leaves, foliage, fruit, and life, suggesting a time of spiritual growth.

The Church Year provides us with a rhythm as we walk with God, with times of preparation, reflection, and celebration.  As we follow a three year, preset cycle of Bible readings which include a Psalm and reading from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles (New Testament letters) we will read through 70% of the Bible.

Luth Church Year

What Do Your Roots Look Like?

roots

I know, November is not the time of year to be talking about planting and root systems.  But, with the holidays coming soon, the things that are feeding our own roots will definitely be coming out in the stresses and strains of the holidays.

Our lives can be like a wheat field, when things are going well we are like a healthy wheat field – golden, with full heads of healthy grain on the ends.  At other times, we have the appearance of a wheat field that has been hit with disease – the grains are empty, the plant appears to be rusting.  Sometimes when things don’t go the way we want them to, we get angry and frustrated.  When these feelings hang around too long, the disease of bitterness sets in.  At times, it is a bunch of little things that have added up.  At other times, it is one big disaster that has hit us in the mouth.

What do you do to battle bitter roots?  Many times, our gut response is to strike back.  But, most of the time, that makes the disease worse – feeding the cancer that is eating us from the inside out.  Here is another way.

  1. Look for how you are helping the disease (look up Matthew 7:1-5).
  2. Figure out where the bitterness is coming from so the issue can be dealt with in a way so everybody wins (look up Matthew 18:15-18).
  3. Look for a way to bring forgiveness into the situation.  None of us is perfect, that’s why God sent Jesus.  When we are wrong, we need to admit it and receive forgiveness (look Matthew 18:23-35).
  4. Accept the reality that life may not always go the way you want it to (Look at the story of Job, especially chapters 1-2, as well as Jesus words in Matthew 5:11-12).
  5. Be thankful for what you have.  If you are blessed to grow up in America, you have a better life than over half of the world.  Look for the good things in life.  In the words of the apostle Paul,

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

While we are on this earth, we will never be completely disease free (especially when it comes to bitterness and resentment), but we can look forward to the cure that God gives us for free through Jesus Christ.

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Why do we call ourselves Lutherans?

Originally the term “Lutheran” was used by Roman Catholic theologians as a slur against anyone who followed Luther in particular, or opposed the Roman church in general. Luther’s followers began to wear the slur as a badge of honor. Dr. Luther opposed this, preferring that Lutherans call themselves Evangelicals (Lutheran churches in Germany to this day are called “Evangelische”), or simply Christians.  Martin Luther even said, “I pray you leave my name alone and not to call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one…How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes.” (Life of Luther, by Michelet, p. 262).  In spite of Luther’s protests, those who agree with his understanding of the Bible continue to call themselves Lutheran today.

Conflict and the Reformation

As I am looking forward to celebrating Reformation on Sunday, October 27th, I am struck by the reality that October is also Conflict Resolution month.  How odd is it to end Conflict Resolution month by celebrating an event that eventually brought about a division in an already divided Church?  The Church began to divide in 1054, which brought about the eventual formation of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.  But, on October 31, 1517, the wheels were set in motion for the mass of denominations and non-denominations which exist today.

Luther and 95 ThesesOn October 31, 1517, a Wittenberg University professor, a Roman Catholic priest Dr. Martin Luther (not King, Jr.) posted 95 theses, or statements for debate, on the Wittenberg Castle Church door.   Did Martin Luther intend to set into motion the ongoing denominational divisions that exist today?  I don’t think so.  Martin Luther was following the norms of his day.  If you had something you wanted debated, you wrote it up and put it on the church door.  Luther’s goal was to address some problems that he saw in the church.

At that time, the Roman Catholic Church was selling indulgences.  People could pay money to have their sins forgiven.  People could even pay money to get forgiveness for their dead relatives with the goal of buying them a place in heaven.  I know it sounds a little bit crazy but stop and think for a moment.  How often have you felt you needed to earn someone’s love or forgiveness?  This deep seated desire keeps the card and flower companies in business.

Now, think about living in a world where a priest named Johann Tetzel was travelling around painting horrific pictures of hell, followed by amazing pictures heaven.  Tetzel was offering a way to heaven through having people buy indulgences to gain forgiveness for sins.  He offered a way to heaven for the living and the dead, who he stated were in a place of limbo between heaven and hell that the Catholic’s call Purgatory.  Tetzel was known to say, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs.”

solasAs a university theology professor who taught courses on the Bible, Dr. Martin Luther had discovered that God’s grace and forgiveness were free gifts.  Luther believed the Bible stated that we are saved by God’s  grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.  As Luther studied the Bible, he had growing concerns about the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of his day.  He hoped that these concerns could be discussed and wrestled with using God’s Word to guide the Church towards some needed changes.  Martin Luther’s writings, lectures and sermons inspired others to push for reforms in the church.

Instead of following the path of peace-making and having a discussion and some negotiation on these issues, the Pope went on the attack and eventually demanded that Luther take back his statements that were in conflict with Church teachings.  When Luther refused, a price was placed on his head and Martin Luther was wanted – dead or alive.  It was illegal to defend Luther’s ideas and the punishment was seizure of all property, with half going to the Imperial government and half given to their accusers.

As Luther was excommunicated and kicked out of the Church, there were those who wanted to get rid of everything that tied them to the Roman Catholic Church.  In some places people got rid of all altars, crucifixes, paintings, icons, and stained glass windows.  There were some who wanted to completely reformat the worship service.  Luther embraced those things which he found helpful, which is why our churches still have altars, crucifixes, crosses, paintings, and stained glass.  Luther also found the Catholic Mass had a solid foundation for worship and only removed those things which he believed opposed the Bible.  This is why a Lutheran feels somewhat at home in a Catholic worship service today.

So, while it may seem odd that Conflict Resolution month and celebrating the Reformation happen at the same time.  The reality is that Luther did not want to divide the church further.  He wanted to promote change through dialog.

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

At our Men’s retreat this last weekend, we dug into what is means to be a R.E.A.L. Man.
– Reject passivity
– Empathize
– Accept responsibility
– Lead courageously

We got our discussion of leading courageously started with this video. What do you think? What is courage? What does it mean to be courageous?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

What is Courage?

What Keeps People Out of the Pews?

Pew Research recently conducted a survey about what keeps people out of the pews among those who are affiliated with religion and not affiliated.  Among those who consider themselves affiliated with organized religion, these are the reasons people aren’t more active in worship:

  • 24% cite personal priorities—including 16% who say they are too busy.
  • 24% mention practical difficulties—including work conflicts, health problems or transportation difficulties.
  • 37% point to an issue directly related to religion—including disagreements with the beliefs of the religion or their church leaders, or beliefs that attending worship services is not important.
  • 9% do not attribute their lack of attendance at religious services to anything in particular.

What do you make of these statistics?

nones-relig-8

Change is Hard

parting-red-sea

Change is hard.  I know, that may be quite the understatement.  But, it’s true, change is hard.  Think about the last time you tried to change a habit, get into a better exercise or eating routine, or even the last time you changed a baby’s diaper.  They don’t even like that change, at times.

The Israelites are, for me, the epitome of humanity’s struggle with change.  Even after experiencing God’s miraculous rescue from slavery, crossing the Red Sea and spending the night in the midst of streams of water and palm trees, one of the first things that happened was “buyers remorse.”  They said, “We should go back to Egypt.”

“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” – Exodus 16:3 (NLT)

Now, this was with God leading them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Imagine what they could’ve been like without that!  Change is hard!  Even with the promised land flowing with milk and honey awaiting them, they would rather die or go back to Egypt to be slaves.

It seems crazy, but think about your own struggles with change.  Even with the promise of something great ahead, it can be hard is it to keep going.  Even with the promise of God’s presence, it can be hard to tough it out and push through wanting to go back to what we once knew instead of getting to experience something new.

What lessons about change do you learn from the Israelites?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

How has your past paved the way for future success?

Every once in awhile, my mind wanders to the story of Moses.  Moses’ story is fascinating to me from the start.

When Moses was born, he wasn’t supposed to live.  The Egyptian Pharaoh was killing every Israelite baby boy.  But, baby Moses ended up in a basket which floated to where Pharaoh’s daughter would find it.  From that point on, Moses was raised with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth in Pharaoh’s house.  40 years later, Moses saw an Israelite being abused by an Egyptian and he took matters into his own hands and killed the Egyptian.  He learned he had been seen so he ran away and stayed away for 40 years, working for his father-in-law as a shepherd.  That’s where God found him when God tapped him on the shoulder and said Moses should go lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.

ImageWas Moses perfect for the job?  He didn’t think so.  Moses said, “Who am I to do this?  Why should they believe me?  I’m not a good speaker.  Each time Moses spoke, God answered and took away the excuse.  God was with Moses and would work this out by giving Moses everything he needed.   God already had provided many of those things.  Moses knew Pharaoh and Egypt.  Moses was an Israelite.  Moses had learned leadership lessons as a shepherd.

When have you felt like you weren’t the best person?  When have you struggled with God’s leading?  Looking back, how did that work out?  How has your past shaped who you are today?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Who can you invite to worship and Bible study on Sept. 15th?  Neighbor? Friend?  Someone who used to share your pew, but you haven’t seen them in a long time?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

If you missed worship this morning, you missed this video – check it out!

Big Ministry in Small Churches – Part 2

Here’s a follow-up to Dan Reiland’s views on small churches. Enjoy!  As always, feel free to like it, share it, or retweet it.

Big Ministry in Small Churches Part 2

Lakeside Wesleyan Church, in Lakeside, California was the first church I served as a staff member. It was a small church and I learned much! Rich Lauby was the pastor then and the church accomplished significant life changing ministry. For more on that story, see the previous Pastor’s Coach article, (Part 1) which includes “6 Words for Small Churches.”

I’m convinced the number one difference-maker in a small church is the pastor as leader.  The pastor sets the pace for the rest of the pack! He influences the other leaders and volunteers, and we all know that next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership.

In Part 1, I offered “Six Words for Small Churches.”  That is, of course, for leaders, but now let’s jump into something specifically about your leadership.

Six Words for Small Church Leaders

  • Courage

Leadership requires courage, and courage doesn’t recognize the size of a church. When you face a fear or take a risk, it doesn’t matter if you have 50 or 190 attending your church. Whether you are at the edge of your budget or need to confront a board member, it feels the same regardless of the size of your congregation. The difference is the size of the leader. Leaders grow by gaining courage. It may sound strange, but you have to practice courage. You can’t read about it and get it. You can listen to a talk or read something and be inspired to do what you need to do, but you don’t really gain courage until you take action. What is before you today that requires courage?

  • Invest

Think of pouring into your leaders like consistently depositing money in a bank account and leaving it there. At first it doesn’t seem like much, but in time the dividends are substantial. That’s how leadership development works. It’s ok to start small. It fact, that’s a good idea. Leadership development is not an event oriented program in which you see how big a crowd you can draw. Here’s how you start. Gather your top 5-8 leaders. Pick a good leadership book. Meet monthly and ask these two questions. 1. What are you learning? 2. How are you applying what you are learning? That’s it! In time you’ll have other groups and add to the learning experience, but simplicity and consistency are essential to the process.

  • Faith

Great leaders have great faith. This thought has humbled me over the years because I don’t know that I always have such great faith. But God is kind and grants favor for belief even the size of a mustard seed! I’ve learned it’s not just how big my faith is, though that matters, but it’s more about the source of my faith! The fact that I trust God for my daily breath and bread, and for every moment of leadership favor, leads to my own increasing faith! I think that is true for you too. You have faith in God for your salvation. You know His grace and love. That’s the foundation you build upon to see Him do great things in your church through your leadership!

  • Competence

What are you good at? That’s the question all leaders must grapple with. What is the strength of your leadership? Are you a good communicator? Perhaps you’re more of a recruiter and equipper? Maybe you are a fantastic administrator, or you are really good with people. Are you a visionary with great ideas?

No leader is good at everything. So figure out what your strength is and lean into it. Improvement is always worthwhile, but don’t try to be great at something that’s not your gifting. Surround yourself with others who can buttress your weaker areas. Let me address one specific area.  What if you don’t consider yourself to be a great speaker, how do you fix that? First, speak shorter, about 25 minutes is good. Second, let others teach too, perhaps 12-15 times a year.

  • Patience

We all want our people to mature in less time, we want the budget to increase quicker, and our church to grow faster. But it doesn’t work that way. Even for churches that seem to experience explosive growth, I promise there are things that challenge the patience of the leader.

Growth is organic, not a result of a mechanical function. You can’t “make” your church grow. You can do the right things like pray, encourage, develop leaders, share your faith, invite people, and teach God’s Word. It’s important to remain consistent in those things, with passion, but also with patience, because ultimately the harvest is up to God.

  • Love

I’m reading a couple of good books right now. Love Does by Bob Goff, and Love Works by Joel Manby. They are great practical reminders of a truth that we as leaders know, but might lose sight of under the pressure of daily leadership.  God’s love for you is extraordinary and the core of your leadership is based on that love. No matter how tough it might get, or how blessed you might be, or discouraged you might become, God calls you to love people! Take time to reflect on God’s love for you. Really. Take a minute. Let that love flow through your leadership.

My prayer is that will continue to bless you and your leadership!

Big Ministry in Small Churches by Dan Reiland

This is a repost of an email I got from Dan Reiland.  Enjoy!

Big Ministry in Small Churches Part 1

The first church I served on staff was Lakeside Wesleyan Church in Lakeside, California. I was the very part time youth pastor and lots of other stuff, and a full time private investigator – just out of college at the ripe old age of 23. The church had less then 200 in total attendance but was thriving with meaningful ministry. Richard Lauby was the pastor then, and under his watchful eye I learned much in ministry. From delivering my first sermon to reaching teens for Christ, it was a great adventure in learning how to make things happen with modest resources.

I remember those lessons in ministry well. There are so many wonderful memories of tender moments, laughter and big dreams. And of course, lots of late night pizza! I remember the people’s names and faces — like Lee and Carolyn, Jack, Jennie, Rene, David and Jeannette, and so many more. The memories are so vivid because my time at Lakeside was filled with significant and life changing ministry.

God does big things in small churches. The point is not the size of your church as much as what God wants to do through your church!  Let me ask three questions.

  • Is the gospel being taught?
  • Is there a vision for reaching people?
  • Are lives being changed?

If yes, then keep doing what you are doing! We all want our churches to be larger, but I believe that ultimately the size of your church is up to God. Your job is to serve and lead well with all your heart and leave the rest to Him. I love the saying “work like it’s up to you and pray like it’s up to God.” That sums it up well.

Six Words for Small Churches:

Leaders of small churches often get stuck in the struggles and difficulties of ministry. It is easy to get discouraged, but vital to focus on what is good. I’m offering you six key things to lean into. You don’t need to work on them all at once. In fact, with the exception of the last one, you could spend about a year working on them, at two months each.

  •  Uniqueness

There is a reason that 60 or 90 or 140 people have chosen to attend your church over all the other choices in the area. There is something that makes your church special, it’s your “secret sauce!”  It’s part of your unique DNA and you need to know what it is and lean into it. It might be wonderful worship, or a compassionate culture or perhaps a particular ministry that God is blessing in your community. You can’t make it up or force it. You can’t sit in a meeting and decide what you want it to be. It’s already there and you need to discover it and leverage it as a force for good in your city.

  • Agility

A big church is something like an aircraft carrier. It is powerful and can do much good, but it can’t move or turn fast. It can get bogged down in the complexity of operations. A small church is more like a speedboat, it is fast and can turn on a dime. That’s a powerful feature in a local church. You can make decisions faster and respond to the needs of people and your community quickly. You can sense what God is up to and jump in. It’s easier to experiment with a new ministry for a short time. If it gains traction, you keep going, if not, shut it down and ask God for the next endeavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do keep your list of ministries very short.

  • Intimacy

This is one of the most common things that people love about small churches. The closeness, connection and fellowship are fantastic. It helps people feel at home and cared for in your church! Enjoy all that this brings! It can, however, be a two-edged sword so keep a keen leadership eye toward balance between intimacy and inviting new people.  As long as you genuinely welcome new people, this sense of closeness is one of the best things you have going! Encourage your congregation to make friends in the community and invite them to church. Don’t make inviting a program for a special “big day,” encourage it as a lifestyle.

  • Creativity

Some of the most creative things come from small churches with very modest means.  When you don’t have lots of staff, money and people it’s really cool to see how creative you can get. Focus on what you do have, not what you are without. It’s not always easy but it can be inspiring and often fun! People in the community will volunteer for special projects, businesses will give you equipment, and local politicians will lend their influence. You need to dream, be creative and ask for help. I don’t mean help for the little underdog church, but for the innovative, nimble and efficient small church that loves people and wants to make a difference! Christmas is right around the corner, start thinking now about something special you can do!

  • Seeds

In order to grow and multiply your ministry, we as leaders need to be sowers of seeds. There are so many kinds of seeds to sow. Love, kindness, and compassion are one group of seeds that return great dividends in time. Generosity and encouragement form another group. You and your church are probably good at those already. Another kind comes from thinking big and thinking unusual for a small church. For example, would God allow you to raise up several young next gen leaders to send out into pastoral ministry? Perhaps you could send a missionary or even plant a church! Planting these kinds of seeds has a way of extending the scope and reach of your church in really big ways. And in my experience, God always blesses when you give yourselves away.

  • Favor

God’s favor is not reserved for big and powerful churches. In fact, I believe He’s looking for humble and available churches that want to reach spiritually unresolved people and lift up the name of Jesus regardless of their size. God’s favor is indeed a mystery. We can’t buy it or get it upon demand. Yet, it’s not mysterious. We know God wants to bless His church! Sometimes it’s no more complicated than asking God for His favor upon your church and other times it’s about patient waiting and continuing to be faithful about doing the right things.

God’s favor isn’t a magic bullet for church growth. It’s a divine touch that brings the supernatural into the natural. It provides life change and momentum. Favor is as much about grace as it is Kingdom power. Favor is that holy presence that makes hard work become fruitful results.

May God bless you with much favor.  And I pray that your heart is renewed and encouraged for the unique ministry positioning that small churches play in the Kingdom of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxS2wtUeMJk

As I watched this clip of Matt Hasselbeck talking about his faith, I couldn’t help but think back to all the times well-meaning church members have connected me with unchurched/dechurched family and friends because I am the pastor.

I have always wondered why they are bringing them to me. They are a baptized child of God, like me. Many of them have even been following Jesus longer than I have.

Could it be that they aren’t comfortable with their knowledge of the Christian playbook?

How are comfortable are you with the playbook?

How can your church and your pastor help you get more comfortable and confident with the playbook?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

How Well Do You Know the Playbook?

I’m Baptized – What Do You Mean I Have to be Nice?

Children of the Western PlainsRecently, I read Children of the Western Plains by Marilyn Irvin Holt.  The book utilizes journals and history to chronicle the lives of the children who braved frontier life while giving glimpses on travel, education, family, play, and spirituality.  Initially, I chuckled when I read the excerpt below but it has gotten me thinking.

“Generally youngsters sorted our religion to their own satisfaction.  Lettie Little thought it was quite basic.  Once you were baptized, there was a place in heaven.  The only problem, she explained , was her mother, who ‘seemed to think that now we were Christian, [sister] Nellie and I ought not to quarrel or fight.  I couldn’t see just why being right with God and Jesus should make me feel I should be nice to people.'” (pg. 61).

How often do we still buy into this type of “once saved always saved” way of thinking?  As a Lutheran Christian, I admit this is a challenge for my theology.  These verses weigh heavily on my view of the eternal gifts God gives in baptism.

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:16 (NLT)

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”  – Titus 3:4-7 (NLT)

So [Jesus] went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.  And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NLT)

The blessing is that we have eternal comfort in clinging to God’s work in baptizing us.  The curse is that, we can fall into the same boat as Lettie Little and become spiritual couch potatoes – neglecting our faith and potentially living like the Devil.

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. – Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)

baptism alive in Christ

As God’s baptized people, we are to be moved by God’s grace to live lives that reflect God’s presence.

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Selecting Music for Worship

Image

I once had a friend tell me that if he was writing worship services, he would put “Amazing Grace” in every service because it was so meaningful for him.  I’ve heard of a congregation ending each Sunday worship service with “Beautiful Savior”.  It has been said that each congregation knows about 25-50 hymns, yet most hymnals contain much more music and the modern worship movement produces an amazing amount of music each year.  So, what is a worship planner to do?

Consider the Context

What is the worship language of the community?  Are they looking for Gospel hymns, Reformation era hymns, modern hymns, modern worship songs or a mix of all of the above?  What type of music will speak to the hearts of all who gather?

Consider the Theme

What is the worship theme for the day?  What is the pastor preaching on?  What other readings are available and what themes are in those that connect with worship music the community knows and enjoys singing from their hearts?

Consider the Singability

Is the song or hymn accessible by the community?  Is the community familiar with it?How are the rhythms and the range?  Are the rhythms predictable or varied?  Can a person other than Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman access the high notes without having to go down an extra octave?  Likewise, are the low notes of the song high enough for people to hit without modulating up an octave?  If the song is unknown, never put it at the beginning or end of the service and find a way to teach it or introduce it to the community using a soloist or group of vocalists.  Repeat unfamiliar songs a few weeks in a row to help the community become comfortable.

Writing worship services can seem like a daunting task with all of the options available.  Yet, we live in an exciting time as God pours out many blessings through music and media to enrich our lives as God fills us with His grace!

Image

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

What music is good for worship?

Selecting music for worship is an interesting task.  We live in an age with an unprecedented amount of music available.  Yet, not all of it works for worship.

It’s easy to see how “Lick it up” by KISS, Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance” and the new hit from Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” aren’t appropriate for worship.  The message of the songs clearly goes against God’s teachings from the Bible.

ImageBut, what about songs by Creed, U2, or other popular artists who drop a song about God onto their albums?  Do we look at the artist, their lifestyle and personal beliefs?  Do we merely look at the lyrics and if they seem fitting, utilize the song even if it was never intended for Christian worship?

ImageBut what about classical and instrumental music?  Is all classical and instrumental music appropriate for worship?   Does the composer need to be a Christian?  Does the composer need to be writing with a sacred purpose in mind?

These are some questions that have been rolling through my mind lately.  I am interested in hearing what you think?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Married to Your Mirror

ImageMy wife and I have been known to say that our marriage is evidence of God’s sense of humor.  My wife and I are mirror opposites according to Myers-Briggs and how we prefer to live life.  My wife is exceptionally organized and planned, while I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when left to my own devices.  My wife is very tender-hearted and empathetic while I tend to process life through a rational matrix.  My wife is very practical and hands on, while I can get lost wandering through the realm of ideas.   These characteristics are fairly obvious for those who know us.  But the one thing that leaves people scratching their heads is the reality that I am the extrovert and my wife is the introvert.

ImageWhat causes people to be puzzled by this is the reality that I am blessed to be married to an introvert with a warm, bubbly personality.  Her smile and laughter can light up a room and she genuinely cares for people.  Me?  Well, I have been described as socially awkward, quiet, shy, reserved, loud, boisterous, impulsive – pretty much a social schizophrenic.

My wife enjoys having quiet time by herself to recharge her batteries, while the most draining day in my week tends to be Friday.  I am off on Fridays and my wife and children are at school.  The quiet solitude of our home would be a dream come true for my bride, while it is torture for me (nails on a chalkboard would be an improvement).  She needs peace and quiet to recharge, while I draw my energy from interacting with people.  These things have been, at times, challenging to navigate as a married couple.

I have had a number of articles on introverts pop up lately.  They have all been interesting and have caused me to reflect on what I have learned being married to an introvert.

  • I have learned that the radio and/or TV don’t need to be on every moment we are home.
  • I have learned the joy of being able to sit and read a book in silence.
  • I have learned the value of thinking before I speak instead of always thinking as I speak.  The latter has great potential for confusion and has been known to get me into trouble when I voice conflicting views while I am still thinking – albeit out loud.

These are just a few lessons I have learned by being married to an introvert.  Additionally, I have learned, from my mirror, that lists and planning can be good things and feel doesn’t have to be a 4 letter word (even though it really is).

Here’s some good reading and viewing on introverts to help you understand your friends, family, or even yourself.

Are you an introvert or extrovert?  What blessings and challenges do you find in your personality?

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

 

Did You Know…

  • The United States makes up the 3rd largest mission field in the world
  • Only 18 percent of the U.S. population goes to church in a given week
  • The average church size is 75 in worship
  • 90 percent of churches are declining or on a plateau in worship attendance
  • 50 congregations in the United States close every week

Many congregations are faced with declining membership and resources for a variety of reasons. When this happens, the natural tendency is to focus on survival issues, and the Great Commission suffers.

Invite someone to join you for church.  Click here and see a video clip on how not to invite someone.

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Got Light?

Many of us are wrapping up another busy summer – a summer filled with travelling, camping, sports and music camps.  It leads us to this question, “Is more better?”  We live in a time when we seem to have more choices, we try to pack more things into our lives.  With more things crowding in, sometimes some important things are crowded out:  time for ourselves, time for our family and friends, time for worshiping God shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

medieval-churchIt has been said that several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople.  He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church.  No one was permitted to see the plans of the inside of the church until it was finished.  At its grand opening, the people gathered and marveled at the beauty of the new church.  Everything had been thought of and included.  It was a masterpiece.

lampBut then someone said, “Wait a minute!  Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here.  How will the church be lighted?”  The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship.  “Each time you are here'” the nobleman said, “the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark.  This is a reminder that your presence brings light to our community of believers and your absence leaves us with a spot of darkness.”

As we enjoy all of the ways we get to spend our time, we also need to remember to gather as a community in the presence of the One who created time and in the fullness of time pierced the darkness of this world by sending us the Light that no darkness can overcome.   The Light of Christ draws us together and shines through us as we live our lives as God’s people in this dark world.

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

Conflict – Let’s Fight!

imagesThis summer, we were in Chicago during the Stanley Cup finals and hockey fever was evident everywhere we looked as the Chicago Blackhawks squared off against the Boston Bruins.  Hockey is an interesting sport, fast paced and very physical.  The physical nature of the game has led to a number of humorous comments over the years.

“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” ~Rodney Dangerfield

“Ice hockey is a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept.”  ~Doug Larson

“We get nose jobs all the time in the NHL, and we don’t even have to go to the hospital.”  ~Brad Park

“Hockey players wear numbers because you can’t always identify the body with dental records.”  ~Author Unknown

hockey fightWhen conflict gets heated in a hockey game, you can bet that sooner rather than later someone is going to drop their stick and gloves and go at it.   Since the 1970’s, National Hockey League teams have employed an enforcer or “goon” to do the fighting and provide intimidation on the ice.  Even with a five minute penalty; which has been around since 1922; and additional penalties for being the third man, and for being the instigator, fighting remains a large part of the North American professional version of this sport.

How is hockey like life?  How often do we want to “drop the gloves” when situations get heated in life?  How helpful is this?  How does this reflect who we are as God’s people?

Previously, I have written about conflict and how we try unsuccessfully to escape conflict by fleeing.  Sometimes, instead of taking flight we decide to fight.  This is equally unhelpful.  Fighting can take the form of litigation, assault, or even murder.

God speaks pretty clearly against all three of these.

“You Shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 (ESV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  – Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:25-26 (ESV)

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.  – 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 (ESV)

As God’s people, we are have been given the ministry of reconciliation and called by God  to encourage others to be reconciled to Him just as Jesus reconciled the world to Himself through His sacrificial death and resurrection.  We get to face conflict and work through it to God’s glory.

Now, that we have looked at the “Peace-Faking” and “Peace-Breaking” approaches to conflict we will spend some time looking at healthy responses to dealing with conflict.

Previous articles on conflict are available on my blog, allrevedup.wordpress.com:

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

4 Types of Prayers

Nearly every Sunday, for over 20 years, my wife has talked with her mom and dad on the phone.  This began when my wife went away to a college over 700 miles away from home and continues to this day.  This is one way that my wife and her parents stay connected.

We like to be connected.  We connect with people on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and the list of online social media keeps growing.

We have a God who likes to be connected with us as well.  That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus, to become a human being who would pay the ultimate price to connect us to God.  Jesus gave up His life before taking it back again and rising from the grave.  God promises to always be there for us and always has a listening ear open.  God wants to hear from us.

Prayer1So, how do we talk to our God?  We pray.  We can pray with prayers written over the centuries.  We can pray a quick prayer as we are going about our daily routine.  We can pray the prayer Jesus gave His followers to pray in Luke 11:1-4.  Even when we can’t find the words to say, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26b-27 NIV)

There are four types of prayers we can offer to God.  These are the ACTS or PATH of prayer:

prayer11

 

Adoration                       Praise

Confession                      Apology

Thanksgiving                 Thanks

Supplication                   Help me/Help others

Prayers of Adoration/Praise are the “God you are amazingly awesome!” prayers.  These prayers speak of God’s power, creativity, love, protection,  and provision.

Prayers of Confession/Apology are going to God and telling Him our mistakes, short-comings and sins.  This is when we come clean with God about how we have offended Him and others with our thoughts, words, and actions as well as those times when we didn’t speak or act when we should have.  We come to God and ask for God to forgive us for Jesus’ sake.

Prayers of Thanksgiving are just that – a THANK YOU to the One who has made us, saved us, and promises to always be with us.  This can be a prayer thanking God for being who He is or it can be a thank you for a specific event, occasion, or relationship.

Prayers of Supplication are when we go to God and ask for help for ourselves or someone else.  I don’t know about you, but this might be the prayer I offer up most.  It’s good to put ourselves and others in God’s hands, while not treating him like a Genie in a bottle.  Yet, the other three types of prayers are also good prayers to lift up to God.

FamilyPrayingHandsWhen I taught the “God and Me” program for Brownie Girl Scouts and Tiger Cub Scouts, P.R.A.Y. offered  a paper dice craft which had the P.A.T.H. of prayer on it.  For awhile, when we did bedtime prayers with our children we would have them roll the dice and we would pray prayers based on how the dice landed.  At times, this was challenging because the dice would land on a type of prayer our heart wasn’t ready for.  But, it was worthwhile.

Which type of prayer do you pray most often?  Why don’t you stop and pray to our heavenly Father right now.  I know He wants to hear from you.

 

***If you enjoyed this post – feel free to like it, share it, retweet it, repost it, or do whatever else you could do to share it with the world.

WARNING: Career Change Ahead

After 17 and a half years as a pastor, I am making a career change. Yes, the half year counts as much for me as it does for your five year old.  Over the next two months, I will be transitioning out of pastoral ministry and into a new challenge – owning and operating AllRevedUp Internet Solutions powered by WSI.

Some of you may be wondering – what is Dave doing going into the world of the internet and digital marketing, after all Dave appears to be more analog than digital? True enough, I only stopped wearing an analog watch a couple of years ago after having an allergic reaction to the metal. I also occasionally long for the simplicity of my old flip phone and have been an ardent user of a paper calendar after burning through two PDA’s when they were the cool thing to have. Raise your hand if you had a PDA and remember what that acronym stands for. I figured paper isn’t going to stop working and I didn’t like buying a new PDA every 18 months.

Now, I am the proud owner of a Galaxy Note 5 and am learning to enjoy the power of a smart phone. That being said, my teenage son did ask me why I had to buy the largest smart phone on the market. What can I say? I have bifocals and enjoy having a stylus to prevent me from fat fingering things. But, I must admit that my new phone/mini-computer is almost as large as my tablet. If you can set aside the paper planner and flip phone, you can see the digital footprints I have been leaving as an early adopter of Facebook and LinkedIn, a recent Twitter convert, occasional blogger and someone who loves the auto-scheduling feature on HootSuite – just when you were thinking I was actually on Facebook all the time.
FaceBook_Social_Social-01So, what is AllRevedUp Internet Solutions powered by WSI? This is a digital marketing franchise powered by WSI – We Simplify the Internet. WSI is global company who has been around 20 years, which is technically longer than Google. WSI partners with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo/Bing, Hubspot, HootSuite, Constant Contact and others. Go to www.wsiworld.com to learn more about them. I am excited to be backed up by an experienced innovative leader in the internet.

Ray Kurzweil, world-renowned futurist and director of engineering at Google, has said, “The Internet will change more in the next 5 years than it has in the last 25 years combined.” [WSI (2015-10-26). Digital Minds: 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing (2nd Edition) (Kindle Locations 2787-2789). FriesenPress. Kindle Edition.]

If you are in business today, you need to maximize your investment in the online world. That’s where AllRevedUp Internet Solutions comes in. I want to work with you to “rev up” your online presence through:

  •  A compelling website which is optimized for people to connect with you easily and quickly on anything from an old desktop computer to the newest tablets and smartphones.
  • An internet marketing plan custom designed to target your unique niche in the marketplace.
  •  A social media campaign which will maximize your use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, track me on Twitter, look me up on LinkedIn or go over to Google+. Let me know if you, or someone you know, could benefit from what AllRevedUp Internet Solutions has to offer.