Reformation Day

180px-Luther46cIf you know my family at all, you know that they are history buffs, especially Pam and Rebecca.  While most families would celebrate October 31st as Halloween, our family commemorates Reformation Day.  In fact, earlier this week, Rebecca posted as her status on Facebook a line to Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  Typically, I usually lead the congregation in that great hymn on the Sunday before Reformation Sunday, but I missed it completely and almost missed putting it in the order of worship this week.

The question is, why even commemorate the Reformation?  We aren’t Lutheran.  I will point to the fact that the Reformation is part of church history.  It was a correction point.  You’ve heard it said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  History is important in our lives and it is important in the life of the church.  The history classes that I took (Wesleyan Church History and General Church History) were among my favorite classes at FLAME.  The Church (big c, holy, catholic (little c-meaning universal), apostolic)has been around for a long time.  As Wesleyans, we’ve only been around a short time, but we share a common history with the saints who have gone on before.  (One of tomorrow’s posts will touch on that.)  Blessings….

Weekly Lectionary Reading

Proper 26, November 1, 2009
Ruth 1:1-18 * Psalm 146 * Hebrews 9:11-14 * Mark 12:28-34

28One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Greatest Commandment

The Pharisees were a tricky bunch – those who are looking to the letter of the law are always a tricky bunch. They came and asked Jesus a question and Jesus answered it from their own scriptures, but added that they must also love their neighbor as themselves. I really believe that sometimes we make the gospel so complicated. Here Jesus summarizes the whole Hebrew scriptures into two statements. I love the Wesleyan Church vision statement which reads Fulfilling the Great Commission in the Spirit of the Great Commandment. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach these new disciples to follow all that Jesus taught us. We do that in the spirit of the Great Commandment – which is to love the Lord our God, with all of our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I’ve taught from this passage from time to time and I’ve often said that if we got these two statements in line – everything else would line up behind it. One of the teachers that Jesus was speaking to responded and Jesus realized that this man really understood what the Kingdom of God meant. My challenge to you today is that you would go and make disciples in the spirit of loving Jesus with all you’ve got and to love your neighbor and Jesus reminds us that everyone is our neighbor as you would love yourself. Blessings….

Wednesday Night Update

Dismal Start — Beautiful Finish

That describes the weather today.  It started out damp and cool, but this afternoon was really gorgeous.  The leaves have passed their peak now, but we are still enjoying the colorful display of the leaves.  These have been some beautiful weeks here in the Shenandoah Valley.

House Update

Big news!  The sheet rock is installed and sanded.  We are ready for paint.  All the trim is painted and is ready for installation.  HVAC is completed except for trim items.  The best news is that our local power company came and finished the electrical hookup.  So there is now power at the house and we can now have heat for laying tile and electric for finishing the floors.  Everything is really coming together now — it shouldn’t be long until we make the move to Staunton.

School Bus Driver Training

This week I began training to drive as a substitute for Augusta County Schools.  Tonight I finished day 3.  I want to thank my great group of volunteers at church who helped me out tonight.  Thanks a ton — you guys are great.  I am learning a lot about transporting students.  We finish up next Monday night with the classroom training and then its on to road training.

Hi-Speed Internet

Yesterday, we had high speed internet installed at the church.  Yea!!!  I spent some time getting the modem working and tomorrow I need to spend time in the attic running Cat 5 cable to the router.  At the moment you can get internet in the storage closet, but that should change tomorrow.

Running Update

I already mentioned how well my run went this morning — that only means that I will need to begin to work harder to get the same results.  The good news is that I have lost another pound or two.  I didn’t weigh myself until this afternoon, after we had had lunch.  I still had a one pound loss despite that.  I plan on getting a better measurement tomorrow.

That’s about it — tomorrow will be another big day and Sunday is Friend  Day and we are expecting a big crowd.  Looking forward to it.  Seize the Day.

The Pilgrim Holiness Church

Several weeks ago I mentioned that one of our college profs, Dr. Keith Drury, was doing a series on the Pilgrim Holiness Church.  This was one of the two churches that merged to make The Wesleyan Church.  Here are the links to the entire series so far.

History of the Pilgrim Holiness Church

~ PH#8 Explosive Church Growth (1930-1946) (10/27)

~ PH#7 The Finch Dissention (1936) (10/20)

~ PH#6 Consolidation & Centralization (1930) (10/13)

~ PH #5 Did Pilgrims split from Nazarenes?(1917) (10/6)

~ PH #4 Mergers & Acquisitions (1919-1929) (9/29)

~ PH #3 Acting Like a Denomination (1905-1919) (9/22)

~ PH #2 Missional Expansion (1898-1905) (9/15)

~ PH #1 Founding of the Pilgrims (1897) (9/8)

I have been following this series with great interest.  I was only 5 when the two churches merged, but my family was in the Pilgrim Holiness church.  I have also had the opportunity to pastor several former Pilgrim churches.

I’ve mention before on this blog that I fell in love with The Wesleyan Methodist Church history.  There are some great stories associated with the founding of The Wesleyan Methodist Connection.  The history of the Pilgrim Holiness Church was never as exciting (that is until now.)  I have really enjoyed this series of Dr. Drury’s.

Over the last few weeks, it has become apparent that the founders and those who were part of the Pilgrim Holiness Church were passionate about the gospel.  They were passionate about seeing the sinner converted.  They were passionate about seeing the converted come into a full relationship with God (or sanctification.)  The did this through revivals — camp meetings — evangelism and a whole host of other things.  This little denomination doubled the amount of churches between the years of 1930 and 1946.  It was missional before missional was a word.  It really is quite an amazing history.  As I have been reading this history, it has been my prayer that we would and could recapture this sense of urgency and passion that our early church fathers and mothers had for the lost.  They were people of prayer and devotion.  All I have to do is think back to that little country church in Pocono Lake, PA and remember my great aunts (especially on a Sunday evening) coming in before the service and praying out loud.  I remember the prayer services around the altars of the various Pilgrim and Wesleyan Churches that we attended in Orefield, Allentown, and Pocono Lake – they prayed with passion and all at the same time — they prayed for the lost to be saved — they prayed for full salvation for the converts — they prayed for their pastor — they prayed they they could make a difference in their communities — oh that we could recapture that sense of passion for our Savior, Redeemer and Friend.  What a legacy to pass on to the next generation!

Running Update

50 Degrees and Damp

Turns out this seems to be the kind of weather that my body likes the best for running.  I had an awesome run today.  4 miles in 56 minutes — a 14-minute mile.  It is amazing how the body can respond to exercise.  Saturday will be my two month anniversary of running.  I remember those first days of running — completely out of breath and muscles aching.  Today’s run was much different.  Part of that was the moisture in the air.  I don’t deal well (apparently) with alot of pollen in the air.  I’m looking forward to running with my accountability partner (hopefully Friday) so that we can work on increasing my speed. Later…

Sunday Night Thoughts

Wow, what an amazing week.  Since I normally start by writing about the weather, I will mention that first this week.  The Fall Foliage peak is here in the Shenandoah Valley.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  Our drive to church this morning was a thing of beauty.  I am absolutely amazed at the beauty of this place.  We also took some pictures yesterday where the clouds were hanging over the mountain just behind our house.  It has warmed up and the weather is back to more normal temps.

Running Update

This afternoon, I decided to go out running since it was a nice day and it was a scheduled run day.  I took off for my normal 4 mile run but was on a much stronger pace — leaving me well short of my goal.  The stronger running pace meant I “ran out of gas” at about the 2 1/4 mile mark, leaving me to walk home.  The strange thing is that the entire 4 miles only took an hour, which means those first two miles had to be at a pretty strong pace.  Looks like my run on Friday got me overly excited — but you do need those strong, fast runs to build up speed.

House Update

The house continues to move along.  This week the power company ran power most of the way to the house — we are now waiting for them to hook up the meter and then we should really move along.  The house is now completely insulated and fully drywalled.  When I looked in this evening, there was at least one coat of spackle on the walls.  Almost all the exterior work is done including some nice columns on the front porch and the gutters and downspouts are done and the exterior lighting.  It is looking very nice.

—–

We had a great morning of worship — our handbell choir played this morning and did a great job.  The worship team sang their hearts out.  Pastor preached a great message.  It was a good morning.

This evening we gathered again for our Christmas musical rehearsal and that continues to progress along very well.    Looks to be another exciting week and I’ll keep you posted.  Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

October 25, 2009

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship – Handbell Choir

“All Glory, Laud and Honor” (Arr. Kevin McChesney)

*Songs of Praise and Worship

“Come, Now is the Time to Worship (Doerkson)

“We Fall Down” (Tomlin)

“No Other Name” (Gay)

*Connecting in Prayer

Song of Worship

“Praise Him, Praise Him” (Crosby/Allen)

“We Worship and Adore You” (Unknown)

Giving Back to God

Special Music – Handbell Choir

“What a Friend We Have In Jesus” (Arr. Susan E. Geschke)

Scripture Reading – John 14:1-6

Worship Through God’s Word

Unveiled: Jesus the Great “I AM”

I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Song of Commitment

“My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” (Edmunds/arr. Kirkpatrick)

*Benediction

Transformed Vs. Conformed

Several weeks ago we had our Minister and Spouses Gathering. This is an annual event sponsored by our district for ministers and their spouses. This year the format was a little different. We had our General Superintendent and his wife. Two of the sessions were teaching sessions and two of the sessions were “working” sessions. I applaud our General Superintendents for doing this. What they are doing is going from district to district, mainly in small groups and having round table discussions with local pastors. The idea is to see what The Wesleyan Church is doing right – what The Wesleyan Church is doing ok and what isn’t working in The Wesleyan Church. Again, I think it is a great idea.

One of the things that I picked up is that there is still an interest in teaching holiness in The Wesleyan Church. Dr. Armiger made it clear that we still teach the doctrine of holiness. I suppose that I already knew this. One of the themes that came through very strong in my seven years in the FLAME program was that The Wesleyan Church is a church that believes and teaches holiness. I suppose that is partially why I am a Wesleyan pastor. One of the benefits of attending FLAME is that this doctrine came through loud and clear in class after class.

I remember taking Doctrine of Holiness and it wasn’t long before there was controversy about what holiness is. One of the things that I appreciate about our denomination is those who have gone on before. The early founders were passionate about this teaching. Just check out this article by Dr. Keith Drury – Seth Rees got himself in quite a bit of trouble with a church. Sort of reminds me of contemporary church fights.

During our roundtable sessions, it was mentioned several times that the message that we teach and preach is a transformational message. Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God, because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship. Don’t copy the behavior and customs (and culture) of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Another translation says don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed. I like the way this passage reads because it is really what holiness is all about. It is about being transformed. We don’t do the transforming as Romans 12:2 reminds us. “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” This is the message of holiness – we consecrate ourselves to God – He transforms us through the work of the Holy Spirit to be a new creation. We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:17 —This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

All this brings me to the title of this post – transformed vs. conformed. I’ve already mentioned that I have a deep appreciation for those who have gone on before in the church universal and in both founding denominations of the church I serve – The Pilgrim Holiness Church and The Wesleyan Methodist Church. Again, I believe the message of holiness is one that needs to continue to be taught. Our lives can be transformed into a Christlike life through the power of the Holy Spirit working in his people. Notice that I have used the word “transformed” over and over again. The scripture makes this clear that we are to be transformed into the image of Christ. The gospel song “O To Be Like Thee” has a line in it that goes like this, “Stamp Thine own image deep in my heart.”

This message of transformation was important to Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism. Look at the message found in a familiar Christmas carol – Hark, the Herald Angels Sing – verses that aren’t often published or sung.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

As you can see the message of transformational holiness is something that God does within us. It is not something that we can do – or try to follow what others do to change us. That change comes from God through the power of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t always this way in the Wesleyan Church. Sometimes well meaning people tried to conform others into their idea of holiness. The good thing is that for the most part those days are over. You will find pockets of this from time to time, but for the most part, pastors are teaching the message of transformational holiness.

So the question becomes, “Are you trying to conform yourself by your own power into what you think holiness is?” or “Are you letting the Holy Spirit transform you into the image of Christ?”

Running Update

Today was a great day of running.  My goal was to finish running before the rain started.  I accomplished that goal.  My other goal was to complete 3 running laps at Gypsy Hill Park — which would be a 4 mile run.  It would also be my longest run — all my other runs have had at least a short walking component — to date.

I was able to complete 3 laps in 52 minutes.  For those of you who are runners that is a 13 minute mile.  While I haven’t broken any land speed records, that is a huge personal best — 4 miles in 52 minutes — all at a run.  Now I begin to work on my speed.  For those who have commented either via Facebook or this blog — thank you for your encouragement.  Later….