Palm Sunday worship: 10:30am
Good Friday Communion Service: 6:30pm
Easter Sunday- Fellowship Breakfast: 10am, Resurrection Celebration: 10:30am
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, beginning Holy Week. Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the last week of his earthly ministry. Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to shouts of praise and prayers for the deliverance of God’s people. Hosanna is essentially a Hebrew prayer for deliverance: something close to “Save, I pray!” The people longed to be delivered from Roman cruelty. And Jesus was arriving to set them free. But it was a different kind of freedom he came to bring. Jesus experienced the political problems that every resident of Judea and Galilee experienced. But he knew he needed to attack evil at its source: the stain of sin in the human condition. There would always be another conqueror, but there will only ever be one savior. Jesus was a king of a different kind, a king who would lay down his life, absorbing the full violence of an empire to set his people free from sin. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord to bring full salvation to everyone. From slave to emperor, from laborer to President, everyone needs Jesus. Thank God, he came to save us!
Yesterday was an interesting day. My first destination was interesting: the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. A Jewish man who is a follower of Jesus and a member of our church invited me to a luncheon with an introduction to the Passover Seder meal. I felt extremely welcome as perhaps the only Gentile in the place. They were all interested in my ministry and family. It was a very meaningful presentation on the events of Passover and a sacred meal which remembers God’s mighty acts in delivering His people from slavery. Then we shared a lunch together loosely based on the elements of a full Seder meal. Nice. God’s theme of redemption did not begin in the New Testament and I gained a richer appreciation of God’s early redemptive work as recorded in the Old Testament. Everything in the New Testament builds on this foundation.
I got up from my chair and drove 4 hours to watch Iowa defeat Indiana State in the first round of the NIT. All the while, I was sitting next to one of my best friends. Lon is a Christian Counselor with ministry training who has a keen interest in theology and happens to be married to a girl my wife and I grew up with. It’s endless what we have to talk about. Our discussion turned to Rob Bell and the controversy surrounding his new book. If you know theology, my opinion is that Rob Bell is trying to be like Paul Tillich, a theologian from the 1950′s. He wore big plastic glasses and started writing a series of popular theology books. The most famous was The Courage to Be, which, in my opinion was very similar in topic and impact to the new What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Bell. Tillich’s book was not really aimed at academics. It wasn’t full of long footnotes because it was trying to have a conversation with the thinking public. He went on tours, gave lectures and became a pop culture icon. When he visited the campus of the University of Chicago it was pretty big news. TCtB focused on the sense of God that all of us have in common. It became part of a larger conversation. Frustrated many, encouraged others. So I think Tillich is Bell’s template. He’s talking past the academics, trying to speak to a different audience. Now that would be fine, but here’s the problem.
Since Bell left the pastorate he never mentions being part of a community of faith. A lot of Bell’s recent public comments seem to be based on how the church needs to keep up with the world “just because.” In talking about gay marriage he said “that ship has sailed” and the church needs to affirm people where they are. No biblical justification offered. So, while I’m not one of these alarmist people who freaks out every time Bell does something new, I am a bit more concerned about the foundation of his ideas lately. I would like to hear some public comments about how he’s attending a church and serving others and in conversation about the stuff in his books somewhere besides book signings. I’m not actually going to purchase and read this book until I know more about Bell’s context. But the man does know how to come up with fresh language for talking about what he believes. Preachers should take note of that.
This brought me to reaffirm a couple things I’ve always believed. First, what Christians believe has to be grounded in what we understand the Bible to be saying. We need to give the Bible authority to speak into our lives no matter what year it is, or we’re just making up our own religion. Second, what we believe has to be continually lived out with others in the church. We are called by Jesus to be a community. I’m naturally held a accountable knowing I’ll have to see my friends there who may ask me how it’s going. If I fail to attend, someone will notice and check on me. We all need that encouragement to be faithful. By being present and caring, I do the same for others. And when we have disagreements we can talk about it based on the Bible until we get it right.
You can’t really get Jesus in a package that doesn’t include the church. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about God with my faith community.
Zion is the new album by Hillsong United. This album contains the most layered and well-produced music the group has ever created. It meshes with today’s radio sounds, but finds it’s own voice. Try it, I think you’ll like it.
This group’s music is new to me, but I love what I hear! Hymns have been reimagined for today in a very artful way. One album has even been remixed by Derrick Webb. It’s so great to hear these amazing lyrics in a fresh way.
Also new to me is Josh Garrels. Right now you can get his music for free at the above link. I’m still working my way through his material, but so far I am challenged and inspired. Get it while it’s free. If you can afford it, give him a tip!
Ashes to Fire series now through May 19th
Palm Sunday Worship: 10:30am March 24, 2013
Good Friday service: 6:30pm March 29, 2013
Easter Sunday Fellowship Breakfast: 10:00am March 31, 2013
Easter Resurrection Celebration: 10:30am March 31, 2013
Pentecost Event: 10:30am Sunday, May 19, 2013
Church fellowship meal: 11:30am Sunday, May 19, 2013
I’m thinking today about how God works in the world. It seems like there’s no end to the variety and depth of God’s work. The physical creation is mammoth and beautiful. The human spirit is deep and amazing. And people trying to live together can inspire or destroy. For Christians, the gospel is the story that pulls all this together. The season of Lent is a time set aside to make sure that gospel story is defining the boundaries of our story.
There’s no question that brokenness defines our world as it is and to some extent all of our lives, individually and together. That’s why we need the gospel. God says the brokenness is so deep that only God’s love can heal it. God says the creation groans and longs for salvation, so God has invited us to care for it, individually and together. God says people are meant to share life together, to be on a journey that’s going somewhere.
Life on our own has left a valley of ashes that clog us up, threaten our world, and hide our potential. God is calling us to be alive with a cleansing fire that brings warmth and light. God is calling us to walk in that transforming light together.
So let us leave behind the valley of mediocre living in the cold, filthy, dark. Let’s leave behind coming together to build the empire of “us” vs “them”. Let’s leave behind using up this world so that it’s resources feed our temporary wants.
Jesus entered our world to serve us, to call us together, and to send us out to serve the world. In Lent, we can identify the sources of ash in our life and trade them in for the sources of fire. We can lay aside our own control and submit to holy discipline. We can lay aside false goals and false stories and embrace God’s vision for life. We can lay aside our independence, choosing to be in relationship with God & others.
All of this gets us ready to celebrate the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We celebrate it best not with a holiday. We celebrate it best by living into this new reality, which can fuel a holy fire that lights this world with love. Lent comes before Easter because repentance comes before new life.
I’m thankful to be part of a church family on a journey together to live Jesus’ continuing mission in our world. I’m thankful to be part of a huddle of fellow pastors who love and pray for each other. I’m thankful for a family I can serve and love. These all make me thankful for the cycle of Lent->Easter->Pentecost. It’s an opportunity to live on purpose. Lent=Repentance, Easter=new life, Pentecost=living God’s mission in God’s power. This continual process eventually writes me fully into the gospel story and helps me invite others along. Ashes to Fire. It’s the story of our faith. Come truly live your life, if you dare!
The linked blog above raises some interesting questions about North American church conference culture. Good food for thought.
The article does not even address the extreme Calvinist bias of the Passion Conference event. John Piper is inexplicably given a platform each year to mold young minds. His views are often reckless and narrow. He tends to reduce the gospel to being equal to the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement. Too bad it didn’t exist for the first 1,000 years of church history. Oh, well. In reality, the Gospel is the whole story of God creating and redeeming fallen humanity in Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. What Jesus accomplished and what he offers to us is so much more than forgiveness. It is transformation. We become good news in a fallen world when we submit to his saving, transforming work.
Piper is passionate about what he believes, but what he believes is so bound up in rigid human-built interpretations that it confines the gospel to a tiny box. Yet he is put forth at these conferences as a brilliant theologian. (A brilliant theologian who says God is judging people when storms strike them.) His unquestioned celebrity at this event is without a doubt another weakness.
For me to take Passion seriously as anything other than a venue to sell music and books for Louis Giglio’s friends (and let’s face it by growing up best buddies with Andy Stanley he’s got some pretty cool and talented friends) it will need to offer some alternative voices, present a fuller picture of the gospel, and feature the music of lesser known disciples who create beautiful art in the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it should probably be offered as a local thing each community organizes right where real people sleep and go to work. (How can all these college students miss all these classes?) I have no doubt God will use Passion for good. But is it really the BEST use of kingdom resources? As cool as it is, probably not.
Let’s allow the Spirit to fill our lives right where we live. Lets live passionately in his power among those who know us. You don’t need to drive to a football stadium where you waive your smartphone candle app high above your head. Use the $200 + travel and meals to love and serve your neighbor through a local church that will help them become a full disciple of Jesus every day of the year.
I’ve been a preacher for many years now. One of the consistent challenges in ministry is consistency with one’s health. Us ministry types tend to be highly motivated to affect the lives of others. We have a lot of faith in what God can do and we also tend to want in on the action. Also, because our work involves volunteers we can’t always move at the pace we desire. We need others to catch the vision. So their level of engagement has a lot to do with our time schedule. Summer tends to bring lots of flexibility in schedule. I work out a lot in the summer. Riding my bike is my drug of choice. Long days, fewer urgent demands (people go on vacation…) and mild weather make it easy.
But the transition to Fall is a challenge. This year I dropped the ball. I had so much fun riding bikes with my wife that I was pouting in my spirit when the days shortened and the fall term commenced. It cost me dearly. Less energy and a compromised immune system left me open to two fall respiratory infections. Ugh. I realized that the increased demands from others required me to be energized and there are no shortcuts.
Just as it’s easy to stay in the habit of exercise and health, it’s hard to restart those habits. I needed a nudge. Enter the Nike Fuel Band (image above). It’s ridiculously expensive ($149) but I had a Christmas gift card from a relative. I needed an everyday wrist watch and a fresh start, so I took the plunge a little over a week ago. The watch/wristband tracks your overall level of activity, syncs by bluetooth with your phone, and gives you feedback in a series of red, yellow, and green dots. If it’s 2pm and you’re still in the red you know you need to get more active or you’re losing ground for the day. That’s about how sedentary I had become. Sitting at my computer, sitting studying, reading, and praying, driving in my car, sitting in meetings, sitting in someone’s living room, sitting at a restaurant meeting… Well, you get the idea. I set a basic low goal of 2,000 Nike Fuel Points/day and managed to hit it 8 of the first 9 days. A little animated guy in the iPhone app did lots of little victory dances for me. I completed some treadmill walks (which I had been specifically resisting). I started feeling better.
So in the early going it has accomplished the mission of getting me in motion. That’s a pretty high endorsement. If I keep it going it will definitely be worth the investment. Plus it is a pretty cool watch that is extremely comfortable. Your results (and need) may vary.
If I want to fuel the fire for life and ministry I have to take care of the only body God has given me…
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
(2 Timothy 1:6 NIV)
The hurricane Sandy recovery need continues on the East Coast. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is there serving. Donations can make a huge difference as workers race against the arrival of winter…
How do we prepare for Christmas? The same way we prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus… Anticipate is an Advent experience coming soon to NewHope. Be sure get your daily devotional guide (for $10 a copy is waiting for you at NewHope). This year, let’s make more than a shopping list for Christmas. We can make our lives His home.