Represent Faith By Pursuit of God

I was privileged to be able to share the message at Hanfield UMC last week.

During the season of Lent we’re looking through the book of Daniel with a series called “Thriving in Babylon.” The idea is that we’re living in a culture that reflects the ancient, pagan culture of Babylon more than it does the Kingdom of Heaven, but we’re called to reflect Christ at every turn. It’s also paired with the background of Pastor Tim and I discussing a book called “Revangelical” by Lance Ford whereby we as Christians need to redefine or even recapture the word “evangelical” from the strained, political connotations it has been stuck with.

So in the third week of this series I was preaching out of Daniel 3, the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story. The main idea or “Focus” is: The best evangelism (way to represent God) is our pursuit of God.

For every message I write a “Function” statement, essentially the “So what?” idea: As a result of this sermon, we should set aside time each day this week (for example, in place of our TV/streaming/youtube) to seek Christ in prayer, Scripture, and/or service (30 min per day).

I hope this quote from one of my favorite theologians helps prod us to better pursuit.

“Whosoever then would fully and feelingly understand the words of Christ, must endeavor to conform one’s life wholly to the life of Christ… Vanity of vanities, all if vanity, except to love God , and Him only to serve. This is the highest wisdom, by contempt of the world to tend towards the kingdom of Heaven.” – Thomas A’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Without further so, here’s the message. I hope you enjoy and are challenged.

Represent

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Poems that were actually songs…

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

C.A. Tindley

I didn’t know this was a hymn set to music until just a year or two ago. I’d often read the poem “Nothing Between My Soul and the Savior” by CA Tindley after seeing the above verse of it in a book from undergrad. I love the idea in this verse of getting so close to Christ that I can be a conductor of His Light and love to people. A couple years ago I stumbled across a video of this “poem” as a song, and I was enamored. I’d had no idea!

So today I was struck by the idea to learn more about CA Tindley, and I found out that Mr Tindley was an African American Methodist preacher and church planter as well as a hymn writer. This song about sanctification, written by a person that I have appreciated and been inspired by for years, turns out to be written by a spiritual giant from a stream I am sadly too unfamiliar with! I am again blessed by the diversity of the Body of Christ and so thankful that the Church, at it’s healthiest, is welcome to ALL. May we, Christians, overcome any division with love, repent of our complicity in building barriers instead of bridges, and root out anything that may come between our soul and our savior.


You can discover more about CA Tindley on his Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Albert_Tindley

A list of CA Tindley’s more well-known hymns can be found here.
http://www.hymnary.org/person/Tindley_CA?tab=tunes

#BlackHistoryMonth

Icons and Black History

I’ve always found a comfort, inspiration, and theological stretching in looking at ancient and medieval icons. I grew up in a Quaker church with whitewashed walls and am grateful for the foundation that all we need is Christ – all of these decorations and icons can tend towards excess or ego, sure. With age (and maybe maturity?) I can look at them with a certain intellectual moderation – they are not essential but they are valuable to imagining and looking at faith in ways that whitewashed walls cannot help.
This ancient icon called “Paternitas” is of a variety that shows the Trinity in a unique fashion – one divine essence seated on the Supreme and Ancient throne. The interesting choice to show Christ Emmanuel (the childlike Christfigure) has always comforted me. The books of Daniel and Revelation both factor in with the cherubim (those 8 winged angels) and the footstool of flame. Daniel and Simeon, two stylites (monks who hung out on pillars in devotion to Christ) may be the ones depicted in the background while Philip who evangelized the Ethiopian eunuch (probably) features in the lower corner. There’s a lot more going on here, and you can read here if interested: https://myweb.rollins.edu/aboguslawski/Ruspaint/paternitas.html
 
Ultimately, I’ve loved this icon for a long time. It showed up in my “On this day” a couple weeks ago and I sort of skipped it. It’s been in the back of my mind until a co-worker and I were talking the other day, and this came back to me last night. I love this icon anew because it stretches me theologically and forces me to confront old, unchallenged assumptions. Today I am contemplating again the idea that Christ is not white. I am grateful that, although He may not look like me, I am created in His image, too. He is the Messiah for all people, all times, all cultures, all backgrounds, and yes, all skin colors. I must reach out to those not like me to more fully understand the love of Christ and participate in it fully. Nobody is allowed to be beneath my notice simply because of Jesus Christ being my Lord and Savior. And if there are any that I have hurt intentionally or by association, I must repent  (turn from my selfish actions) and do my best to make it right.
I hope that I can emulate Christ’s humility and be sure to love and reach out to ALL people instead of just the ones who seem like me. #BlackHistoryMonth

Merry Christmas

Wherever you are in the Christmas journey (blessed beyond measure though it means great trial and consequence; bearing another’s shame for life to help guide and shape; emptying yourself of pride, position, or power for the sake of others; simply living life when something miraculous lights up your existence; journeying you’re not sure what for but following the path anyways; sitting at the Temple courts waiting for gracious judgment to burst into your scene… The list is endless), please know you are loved. You are not alone. We’re in this together. Without you, life and ministry simply wouldn’t be as rich. Merry Christmas.

Attributes of God Prayer Stations

Hanfield UMC has gone through Chip Ingram’s “The Real God” series, and it was a great set of messages and small group lessons to help our church go deeper in their theology. As the youth director I want to help my students experience God in vast and varied ways. I love teaching them and giving them the Word, but I want them to realize we’re not just talking about some dusty, ancient ideas. We’re talking about a living God who desires relationship with each of us and all of us.

We concluded the series last week, so to help them synthesize all of the ideas about God that we discussed through the series (Goodness, Sovereignty, Holiness, Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Faithfulness) I put together a prayer walk for them on Sunday night. This was really well received, so I thought I’d share it with you. It can easily be reproduced for small groups, youth groups, or even congregations. It also does not require having gone through The Real God series. If you’re seeing this at a different time of year from “Fall”, please message me – I’ll be happy to send you the raw files for editing.

May this be a fruitful resource for you and your group.

God is Faithful

So often we struggle to believe or remember that God is with us. God is loving, just, merciful, gracious, sovereign and on and on, but so often we forget that God is also those things TO US. My life has had plenty of ups and downs like so many people, but I can look back from this side of things and acknowledge that God has not stopped chasing, reaching, and rescuing me. I am simply asked to surrender my own will. As it turns out, that has made all the difference.

This is a sermon I got to preach at our church on October, 28, 2018 as part of our “The Real God” series. I hope it helps you find another reason keep moving forward.

Go with GOD,
Jeff

Lord’s Prayer Litany

One of my biggest passions as a pastor is helping conduct and lead worship. I don’t mean the music – I stopped playing bass a long time ago. I mean helping frame the experience whereby the hearts of the people are united in seeking God’s holy presence and God miraculously shows up to receive our praise.

The worship service is, in my humble opinion, the most sublime part of any congregation’s existence.

One of the things I don’t get to very often is write portions of our worship service. I got such an opportunity this summer at Family Camp, and I have had numerous requests for the material. I put it together into a PowerPoint and figured since I was sharing it for a few I’d put it here.

This is a litany I created using the Lord’s Prayer and additional Scripture. So often the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13) is recited by rote and rushed through, but I wanted us to pause and give a little more thought to what we were saying in each line. To help aid in this I added verses that speak to each line/point of the prayer, attempting to use verses from wider passages that spoke to those ideas (not proof-texting). It’s set so that the leader gives lines from the Lord’s Prayer and the congregation affirms those with the verses, then it ends in a crescendo of praise with all the voices praising together. I hope you enjoy and can even use with your congregation sometime. (Full text will be below if you want to simply use it as a handout/prayer sheet, pics of slides will follow, and finally there will be a link to download the PowerPoint at the very end.)

Go with GOD,
Jeff

*Disclaimers*
1. The background picture is from a Google Images search using the “Labeled for noncommercial reuse” option so the congregation can use it. Feel free to shift it around or choose your own.
2. All Scriptures use the NLT which I prefer for congregational readability and understanding, even while the dynamic equivalence of this translation is backed by solid scholarship.
3. The Lord’s Prayer is based on the Matt 6 verses in the NLT with some acknowledgement of conventional use being tinged by tradition – if reciting the prayer straight through I try to use a more traditional version because most of the people will just roll right through without paying attention to the screen. I didn’t want this experience to be jarring but rather a fitting adoration of God.
4. I also kept off the Protestant tradition of “For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.” In ancient tradition this was reserved for later at the conclusion of what we would understand as the Pastoral Prayer (Lords->Pastoral-> “For thine…”). In the camp setting this Litany was used in it was immediately followed by a pastoral prayer which intentionally ended with the “For thine…” benediction.

Full text:
LORD’S PRAYER LITANY
Leader: Our Father, who is in Heaven…
People: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God! (Rev 19:1)

Leader: Hallowed be Your Name.
People: O Lord, glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders (Ex 15:11)

Leader: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
People: Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. (Ps 103:22)

Leader: Give us this day our daily bread…
People: God has no needs. He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need. (Acts 17:25)

Leader: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
People: Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full. (Luke 6:37-38)

Leader: Don’t allow us to be tempted, and deliver us from evil.
People: God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

ALL: “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
ALL: For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
(Matt 19:19-20)

Lord_s Prayer Litany