The Sacrifice of Praise

sacrifice-of-praise_t-960x250Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17 (22) (August 28, 2016)


Hebrews 13:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”[b]

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”[c]

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:15-16 | New Living Translation (NLT)

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.


The Sacrifice of Praise

The title of this week’s devotional reminds me of the old praise and worship chorus of the same. name.  I remember that it seemed quite contemporary at the time, even though it seems dated now.  In the late 90’s the writer added some verses, slowed it down to get rid of the um-pa beat. It was one of those songs that we sang so much that we got tired of it and yet the principles that are listed in this week’s scripture are as relevant today.

These are the final paragraphs of the letter to the Hebrews – a letter that was written to the Hebrew people that were scattered throughout the world.  It was written to show the place of prominence that Jesus had over the Old Covenant – Jesus was the perfect replacement for the old.

In these few verses, we see some things that would have been familiar to God-fearing Hebrews.  The writer admonishes them not to forget the down and out – the aliens and strangers – to keep on loving each other. It’s interesting even to see the parallels to Jesus’ teaching – to show hospitality to strangers – to visit those in prison – to give a cold cup of water in Jesus’ name.  We are suppose to have empathy and compassion – the writer says remember those who are being mistreated – as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.  In our culture today, it is way too easy to dismiss. After all we need to assert our rights – I say that sarcastically, because that is not what the writer is saying…the writer says have a compassion for those who are not well-off – it really doesn’t matter how they got there.  It is interesting because while Israel did get in trouble for not remaining holy as God is holy, they also got in trouble with God because they forgot the alien and stranger – the widows and the orphans – those who were down and out.  God gives the Israelites some very specific instructions – in fact, we see some of those in the book of Ruth, when Ruth is gathering the grain that has been intentionally left behind for those who couldn’t afford it – the widows and the orphans.

The writer then goes on to remind the Hebrews to keep marriage sacred – to remain faithful to your partner…God will judge those who are immoral…and those who commit adultery.

We are getting quite a list of things that honor God – a list of the sacrifices that please God.  We are reminded – much like Paul writes in Philippians to be content with what we have…not to be lovers of money.  For remember…money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

We are reminded to be content with what we have — interesting – that could apply to money or things – or even what is mentioned in the paragraph above about relationships.  So many are looking for the right relationship, that they forget the relationship they have right in front of them.

We are to remain content because God will take care of us.  This was something that became very clear in the year that we were in transition.  Even now God is taking care of us.  I try not to worry – I think that is some of my personality – but God is taking care of us.  The words of the writer remind me of the Christ Tomlin song Whom Shall I Fear God of Angel Armies. The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people to do me?

We are then reminded to think of leaders who have set the pace – who have been faithful to preach the Word of God – the examples that they set – the great cloud of witnesses – and we are encouraged to follow after them.

These things are what the author means when he says to offer up the continual sacrifice of praise.  Even though we don’t need to constantly sacrifice animals because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, we are commanded to praise him continually – to do the things that please Him – because through this we proclaim our allegiance to God.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to pledge allegiance to anything but God and his Kingdom.

The writer finishes with where he started – don’t forget to do good and share with those in need, because these are the sacrifices that please God.  I want to encourage you today – even as I preach about worship on Sunday to offer up to God the things that are pleasing to him.

Your Church Needs Two Side Doors

The front doors of many churches today are closing. “Front doors” is a term that describes how most newcomers first come in contact with a church—as visitors to worship or to some other special event.  It is out of this visitor pool that churches have traditionally identified prospective new members.  However, in the past 20 years both the total numberof church visitors has been declining, as well as the percentage of visitors to total attendance in most churches.

If you want to see your church survive, let alone thrive, I suggest that you build some new “side-doors” that will create new ways to connect with people in your community.

What is a “side-door”?  Here is a definition:

Side-door: A church-sponsored program, group, or activity in which a non-member/non-Christian can become comfortably involved and develop meaningful relationships with people in the church.

A side-door provides a place where church members and non-members develop friendships around something important they share in common. And such friendships are an important key that describes the most important means by which people come to Christ and the church.

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What Your Pastor’s Wife Needs Most in a Friend

Amy Carroll OCTOBER 3, 2014

What Your Pastor’s Wife Needs Most in a Friend
AMY CARROLL

{Editor’s Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We recognize there are women serving in churches in a variety of roles, and encourage you to show your appreciation for all those serving in ministry this month.}

“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

I sat in mute sadness, as I listened to the woman sitting in the driver’s seat beside me.

Tears streamed down this pastor’s wife’s face as she described her family’s financial struggles. No one had asked her about her return to the workforce. She felt nobody cared about her as she transitioned from home to full-time work. Years before, a “friend” in the church gossiped about a confidence she shared, so this woman felt she could no longer trust anyone with her pain.

Another pastor’s wife stoically described the 20 years she spent alone in a pew Sunday after Sunday until one woman finally reached out in friendship. Her face lit up, as she told me about her new friend who now sits with her and banishes the painful loneliness she felt amongst the crowd at her own church.

Isn’t it strange? Pastors’ wives are often some of the most admired women in the church, and yet they are often the most lonely. When listing my life-long friends, I realized two of the five are pastors’ wives.

That’s a pretty big percentage, so what binds me to these women? Their loyalty, love and acceptance. They’re a treasure to me, so I’ve been thinking: What does a pastor’s wife most need in a friend? How can I be that kind of friend?

When talking to my besties and searching Scripture, two main needs emerged. Pastors’ wives need their friends to be: 1) free from expectations and 2) free from self. Here’s what I mean …

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Why Millennials Long for Liturgy

Is the High Church the Christianity of the future?

Here Are 10 Ways to KILL Your Church

Via churchleaders.com

6.26.ChurchMembers_238768845Recently, one of the senior members of our congregation — who has been there for all 80 plus years — handed me a church newsletter that was written in 1959. As I delicately flipped through the tattered pages of this precious document, one article in the newsletter pricked my attention. The title, which I have borrowed for this blog post, was simply “10 Ways to Kill a Church”.

The thing that interested me the most is how this list of “church killers” written in 1959 looks so much like the usual suspects in many church deaths today.

Here is my slightly paraphrased version of the 1959 list of “10 Ways to Kill a Church”:

6 Ways to Serve Your Pastor’s Wife On Sunday

pastor's wife banner 1200x400sih6 Ways To Serve Your Pastor’s Wife On Sunday

In many churches, the most thankless job is that of the pastor’s wife. Though the pastor alone is paid, the pastor’s wife is often still saddled with a host of responsibilities and expectations. She is expected to be a model wife, nurturing mother, friend to everyone, run a women’s ministry, throw every baby shower, and cook every meal. These expectations are often unfair, unhelpful, and most importantly, unbiblical. “Pastor’s Wife” is not a secret third office of church leadership. The Bible contains no job description for the pastor’s wife, which is why extra-biblical expectations are often placed upon her.

Biblically, the only expectations you can have of your pastor’s wife are the ones Scripture places on all Christian wives: She should love Jesus, respect her husband, shepherd her children, and serve the body with the spiritual gifts the Spirit of God has given her.

Instead of enslaving the pastor’s wife with expectations, we should seek every opportunity to love and serve her; this is especially necessary on Sunday mornings, as she doesn’t have the help of her husband. So here are six simple ways you can serve your pastor’s wife on Sundays when your church gathers for worship:

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Two Questions

Two QuestionsIt seems hard to believe that District Conference happened over seven weeks ago.  District Conference was an amazing time and it became clear that God was speaking to us as a district and Pastor Barry, Pastor Pam and I felt that God was speaking to us as a church – about the importance of renewal and revival – about making the main thing the main thing.  Over the last four weeks we have been hearing about those four main things:

  1. Evangelism – God has called us to be Fishers of Men
  2. Worship – God has called us to be a worshiping church
  3. Prayer – God has called us to be a praying church
  4. Family – God has called us to be a place where relationships are important.

Last year about this time I was introduced to a book called “When Hurting Helps,” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  One of the key pieces to Parkway’s DNA is missions.  You heard about that last week.  Several months ago our missions team decided to look at this same book.  During our last meeting together, we discussed the first chapter of the book “Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?”  The first chapter of the book begins with these two important questions:

  1. Why did Jesus come to earth?
  2. What is the primary task of the church?

I know that in a congregation of this size this morning, I could ask this question to each one of you and it’s possible that each person might give me a different answer, especially to the second question.

So let’s take a look at the question, “Why did Jesus come to earth?” If you ask this question of many believers, they would say that Jesus came to earth to save people from their sins.  If you said that, you would be correct, but the answer would be incomplete.  Some of you may question why, but we will get there.

The second question asks, “What is the primary task of the church?” Like I’ve already said, the answers are all over the map on this one.  Some would say the church’s task is evangelism – some would say discipleship – some would say worship – some would say missions – some would say relationships with other believers.  Those would probably be the top answers at least.  While I was studying for ordination, I read a book “Exploring our Christian Faith.” It was written by Nazarene professors and written in the early 60’s. One of the chapters was “The Nature of the Church” and in that chapter they boiled down the purpose of the church as:

  1. Worship
  2. Evangelism
  3. Discipleship
  4. Ministry Service
  5. Fellowship

Let’s fast forward to 1995, a book was released that year called “The Purpose Driven Church.” Amazing the author came up with the same 5 purposes.  The difference is that he created systems for these 5 purposes.  If we look at Acts 2:42-47, we find these words:

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

We can see that the early church – just days after the Holy Spirit came – were involved in these purposes and yet I believe that this passage implies something even deeper.   Jesus came for something more and therefore the primary task of the church is something much deeper.

In order to explore this further, I want us to turn to Colossians 1:15-20.  We sang these words earlier in our service.  It’s appropriate that we did because the “Colossian Hymn” is another ancient hymn that is quoted by Paul in his letters.  The last time I preached, we looked at the “Philippian Hymn” that is found in Philippians 2:5-11.  The key to why Jesus came to earth and the primary task of the church is found in Colossians 1:15-20:

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Let’s dive into this passage to answer our two questions.  The first question is “Why did Jesus come to earth?”  We see from this passage who Jesus is – how he is described.  First we are reminded that Jesus is God – that he is the firstborn of all creation and that he existed before anything was created.  We are told that Jesus is the creator of the universe, the sustainer of the universe – he holds the whole universe together and he is the reconciler of the universe.  So yes, Jesus died to save our souls, but so much more importantly Jesus died to reconcile us back to God – that is to put us back into right relationship with the Father and – all that God and Jesus created.

At Christmas we sing the carol, “Joy to the World” which contains this line, “He comes to make his blessings known, far as the curse is found.” The curse that was put on Adam and Eve in the garden is universal in scope – there is decay, brokenness, and death in every speck of the universe.  Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords is making all things new and this is the good news of the gospel.

In my research for this sermon, I came across another Christmas carol – one that will be somewhat familiar and yet because of the changes that happen to these songs the original meaning has been lost.  It is one of my favorite carols, Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

1. HARK how all the Welkin rings (not angels – but the whole universe)
” Glory to the King of Kings,
” Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
” GOD and Sinners reconcil’d !

2. Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumph of the Skies;
Universal Nature say,
” Christ the Lord is born to Day!

3. Christ, by highest Heav’n ador’d,
Christ, the Everlasting Lord,
Late in Time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s Womb.

4. Veil’d in Flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ Incarnate Deity !
Pleas’d as Man with Men t’appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here !

5. Hail the Heav’nly* Prince of Peace !
Hail the Sun of Righteousness !
Light and Life to All he brings,
Ris’n with Healing in his Wings.

6. Mild he lays his Glory by ;
Born ; that Man no more may die,
Born ; to raise the Sons of Earth,
Born ; to give them Second Birth.

7. Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.

8. Now display thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.

9. Adam‘s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place,
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy Love.

10. Let us Thee, tho’ lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Heav’nly* Man:

O ! to All Thyself impart,
Form’d in each Believing Heart.

 

I’ve always loved this carol, but I’ve found a new love in this carol, especially with the original lyrics – Jesus has come to restore his creation.  On Sunday mornings, we have been hearing about this during our “Faith Lessons” series.  God through Jesus is restoring Shalom back to the earth.  One of the things that we have learned over the last year, is that the Egyptians believed that God wanted to reign over chaos.  However in their scheme of things – it was Pharaoh’s job.  Can you imagine being a Pharaoh and knowing that the job of bringing peace and balance to the whole universe was on your shoulders – because you were considered God?  I wouldn’t want that kind of responsibility.

So Jesus came to reconcile the world back to himself.  That is the Good News.  Jesus gave us a great example of what the church was to be and what the church should be.  In Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist is trying to figure out if Jesus is truly the Messiah or if there is someone else.  Here is Jesus’ reply:

22 Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 23 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Luke 7:22-23)

So what do we learn here? Jesus’ deeds were essential to proving that he truly was the promised Messiah, Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom, and He showed the good news of the kingdom.

Which brings us to the second question: “What is the primary task of the church?”  The task of God’s people is rooted in Christ’s mission.  “Simply stated,” say Corbett and Fikkert “Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom in word and in deed, so the church must do the same.”

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to be a sneak preview of the coming attraction of Jesus – they were to give their viewers an idea of what the main event would be like.  When people saw the people of Israel they were supposed to say, “Wow! These people are really different.  I can’t wait to meet their King. He must really be something special.” Hence since King Jesus would bring good news for the poor, it is not surprising that God wanted Israel to care for the poor as well. We hear these declarations over and over in the Old Testament – take care of the widows – take care of the orphans – take care of the stranger – take care of the foreigner. If you read Isaiah, one of the Lord’s accusations of Israel is they forgot to do exactly that.  Yes, they made themselves an adulterous nation – they worshiped idols instead of the true god, but they also forgot those who were downtrodden.  So what does that have to do with us?

The church is God’s people and we are more than just a sneak preview of Jesus – we are the body, the bride, and the very fullness of Christ.  When people look at the church, they should see the very embodiment of Jesus!  Wow!  I wonder just how many people see Jesus when they look at the church.

In the letter of James, we find these words, “27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

In 1 John 3:16-18 we hear these words:

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

What is the task of the church? We are to embody Jesus Christ by declaring what He did and what He continues to do through us; declare – using both words and deeds – that Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of lords who is bringing a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.

So what does that have to do with us?  What does that have to do with Parkway Wesleyan?  Several weeks ago we were discussing this book amongst the Global Ministry Team.  We asked ourselves the question, “How do we meet the needs of our community and at the same time – just like Jesus did – share the good news?”  We heard several great testimonies last week during the El Salvador Team presentation about the doctor and his wife and their team that not only attend to the physical and health needs of their patients, but also to the spiritual needs of their patients.  This is a great example of the church at work.

Over the past two Saturday evenings, there have been a small group of people meeting for prayer.  We have been asking God  for several things:

  1. For the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives
  2. For revival
  3. For salvation for those who don’t know Jesus
  4. For us to be able to reach our community more effectively
    1. Preaching the Good News
    2. Touching them in tangible ways.

As the praise team comes to close the service with a song of commitment, let me share one final thought:

One of the things that we talk about at Chick-fil-A all the time is creating emotional connections – creating raving fans.  What if we could do that as a church – what if we could create emotional connections as a church – what if we could create raving followers of Jesus? What would that look like?  Could we make a change in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County?  I really believe that we can.  It will take much prayer and it will require our commitment to doing the things that Jesus did.  As we close, I’d like us to sing this song that says, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.”

Four Lies About Introverts

Another great article on introverts called into the ministry

I’m an introvert. Most people who don’t know me well wouldn’t guess this about me, but it’s true. On a practical level, being an introvert means I’m generally more energized by time alone than by time with people, and I have a preference for a less externally stimulating environment. I feel very alive in a quiet, empty room. On the introversion/extroversion spectrum I fall closer to the middle, but still lean decidedly toward the introverted side.

The process of understanding introversion and the way it’s expressed in my life has been both a tremendous relief and also an ongoing source of doubt and concern. My daily reality is people-intensive and externally stimulating. I’m married to an extrovert, we have four children, and we live in an urban setting. Our home and surroundings are fun and energetic—not exactly low-stimulus. My husband pastors a large church, and we’re involved with many congregations and ministries throughout the world; consequently, our social circles are large and complex. To complicate things even further, my spiritual gifts are often expressed publicly as are the (non-innate!) social skills I’ve managed to learn and practice over time. These realities, combined with my definite need for quiet and solitude, have often left me and others confused about who I really am.

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7 Pitfalls of Being an Introverted Pastor

This is a great article that I found on Facebook tonight from Ron Edmonson

I am an introvert. From all public appearances on Sunday morning that surprises many people, but in my private life and with those closest to me there is no questioning of that fact. If anything, I have become even more introverted the larger our church has grown. I can wish I was otherwise, but this is how I am wired. Being an introvert has its downsides as a pastor.

Here are 7 pitfalls of being an introverted pastor:

  • People often think I’m arrogant, aloof or unfriendly. I’m a lot of negative things. Those are not really the main three. I sometimes have to go back and apologize once I hear someone thinks I avoided them. This happens especially with extremely extraverted people.
  • I hesitate to make the connections I should sometimes and miss opportunities to build my network.
  • I’m worn out after a long day of talking and need time alone to rejuvenate, which can impact my family time if I’m not careful. It also leads to people at the end of the day telling me I look tired…guess what? I am!
  • Crowded rooms, which I love in terms of reaching people for Christ, are actually intimidating to me as a person.
  • I’m not as quick-witted when in crowds and sometimes appear awkward on first impressions when I try to be.
  • I realize the need to talk with people…it’s what I do, but wrestling through the introverted tendencies actually adds even more stress to my life.
  • If I’m not careful, and thankfully I’m fairly disciplined here, I will close out people from really knowing me, which subjects me to all kinds of temptations, anxiety and even depression.

How’s that for transparency?

Are you an introvert? Do you see how it impacts your work?

(In THIS POST I share how I handle being an introvert without injuring my ministry.)

Why Young Churches Want Old Buildings

Sojourn's Midtown campus meets this summer in the new facility for the first time.

Sojourn’s Midtown campus meets this summer in the new facility for the first time.

The story of St. Vincent de Paul, a Roman Catholic church in Louisville, Kentucky, is like many others in our age of changing religious and economic dynamics. Cornerstone laid in 1878. Slowly abandoned as the neighborhood deteriorated into one of the most dangerous in the United States. Finally sold. But here the story takes an unexpected turn, because the building has recently enjoyed a $4 million makeover from a young, vibrant, and growing congregation.

Sojourn Community Church began meeting in an arts center in Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood before it purchased St. Vincent de Paul a few years back from the local archdiocese. The upgrades signal a multifaceted effort by Sojourn to trust God for spiritual and economic renewal in this inner city neighborhood. In fact, Sojourn is one of several prominent churches across the country undertaking multimillion-dollar renovation projects to breathe new life into historic churches or other structures, instead of building a contemporary big-box.

– See more at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/14/why-young-churches-want-old-buildings/#sthash.oGMwVBhj.dpuf