Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

Eclipsed by the Son

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

This coming Monday there will be a much anticipated global event – the solar eclipse of 2017.  The last time a solar eclipse of this magnitude occurred was 1918…we’re talking a coast to coast (United States that is) total eclipse of the sun.  (cue the song – total eclipse of the heart…)  Many cities, like mine, have sold out of glasses.  My son stood in line for three hours today in order to buy a couple of pairs, there were people in lawn chairs.  It’s simply astounding.

IMG_0815
Isaiah, standing in line for solar eclipse glasses

People are excited.
Schools are giving parents the option to keep their children home this Monday so families can watch the eclipse together.
There are of course the doomsdayers out there who are calling for the end of the world, or an alien invasion…there’s always a few crackpots out there.

I don’t know about you, but I am in awe of God’s creation.
He spoke our world into existence.
He formed us out of clay and dirt.
God breathed life into our lungs…and here we are attempting to take in the majesty of God’s amazing artistry.  The Universe is vast, and yet in the tremendously immense expanse, God comes down to our level and wishes to fellowship with us.  He loves His creation, despite our fallen nature and sin that permeates us on a molecular level.  His love extends to us all the way to a cross with shineHis only Son dying in our place.
This.
Is.
What.
Love.
Looks.
Like!

Jesus, God’s Son – faced death on a cross so that we could be made worthy of standing in the very presence of God once more; for the purpose of fellowship and restoration!   Salvation is found in Christ alone!

Then this Jewish zealot, by the name of Saul perceived the Christ-followers to be blasphemous and heretical, so he sought to cleanse the Hebrew world of them.  He began to seek them out and bring them to his perceived understanding of godly justice.  He looked on with approval when Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death.  He pressed onward, in the hopes of exposing them all in his righteous religious cleansing campaign… but God had other plans for Saul.

On his way to Damascus, Christ showed up in all of His glory – pouring so much light intosaul.jpg the eyes of this zealot that it seared him blind. Saul was then confronted by Christ himself.  He was forced to answer the question of why he had been persecuting God’s Son – the Messiah.   Only later, when the scales had fallen from his eyes and he began a new mission – to preach Christ to the world, did he truly begin to live.  He had been eclipsed you see (pun intended).  Paul – had been eclipsed by the Son and he would never be the same again.  From that point on he had one purpose, one mission, one life and that life was Christ’s alone!  He would pour out himself upon others as a fragrant offering to God.  He would invest himself in the lives of new believers…even from a prison cell hundreds of miles away.

He declare in Galatians 2:20 “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Paul was eclipsed by the Son of God, and his life became a vessel that enabled the world to be changed!!

How about us?
shine2Has the Son Eclipsed our lives?  This is what Holiness looks like – us dying to our old sinful selves and living for Christ alone – through the amazing power of the Holy Spirit!!

Let me ask you, have YOU allowed Him access to the very fiber of your existence, or are you holding back a portion just for yourself?  Can you make this bold claim as Paul once did, “I have been crucified WITH Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.

A total solar eclipse may only arrive once every 90 years or so, but on a daily basis – Christ comes to us and longs to shine His mercy and love in and through us.  How is your relationship with Him today?  Has your light gone out?  Are you in need of more of His grace?  Call out to Him, He is never far from you.  Begin to live for Him again and be willing to be eclipsed by the Son so that others might find Him!

Something more to ponder today!

The Art of Letting Go…

I must confess that I am not very good at this yet.
I still clutch with white knuckles and cling with all my might as if this is what God has called me to do.  Embarrassingly,  I sometimes internally kick and scream when I don’t get my way like a rageful, tantrum seeking kindergartner.  I am no good at letting go.

I have become a professional “holder-on”.
A legacy protector…I have become too good at preserving that which is dead instead of believing in resurrection, a new way and innovation.  (it takes pain and awareness to realize that, like the disciples staring up into the clouds at an ascended Jesus, I too must get on with life and mission)

Words echo in my brain like “Be still and know that I am God…” when all along I am anything but still.  I am a turbulent storm, a freakishly fast flowing river.  I am a cacophony of thought and ceaseless effort.  Could it be that in my many ventures and efforts I have become effortless? (and not the good kind of ‘effortless’)  Ineffective?  Static?  Something about beating a dead horse or the definition of insanity…could this sum up my effortless-efforts?  Is this just evidence of works without faith?  Is this what preserving legacies instead blazing trails looks like?  After all, the disciples didn’t build a monument marking the exact location of Christ’s ascension into heaven; They didn’t remain in that place for the rest of their lives; They didn’t build this ‘holy shrine of ascension’  and preserved His memory… No!  They had to let go of that place.  They were reminded by two white robed figures, who suddenly appeared before them:  As they were straining their eyes for another glimpse, suddenly two white-robed men were standing there among them, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!” Acts 1:10-11

This reminder sparked action in the disciples – forward movement while at the same time they had to let go of the Jesus they had walked with and studied under.  They had to let go of the laughter and the tears of their past journey, because the present road was waiting for them.  It was their time to move forward, but they had to first let go – of their former identities, of their former disciple status.  They had to let go.

let go andThe old phrase, which I have made fun of, it is posterized, monetized, and placed on car bumper stickers…yet in my present context the truth is no less poignant.  What phrase you ask?  “Let go and let God”…before you toss that phrase away and chalk it up to one more Christianese marketing ploy, let me expound:
In order for us to exercise faith with our actions…we have to let go.
-We have to let go of our own academic efforts.
-We have to let go of our own ingrained realizations and understandings.
-We have to let go of our presuppositions and some of our Sunday school lessons.
-We have to let go of our “I’ll go in my own strength” – I got this, and I don’t need anyone else’s help.
-We have to let go of our own understanding…and in all our ways acknowledge Him. (Proverbs 3:6)

We have to…I have to let go…and yet sometimes I imagine myself being that lowly disciples still staring at the clouds despite the words of the alien-angelic figures who visited us.  I am still plodding on into life with the old ways when God has given me a new means of life, a new mission, a new purpose…and I’m still trying to do it in my own strength.  I still need to let go, and yes, let God lead instead of me…how about you?
Do you still have a dead-grip on the reins of your life?  Do you have trouble putting feet to your faith? It’s time stop staring up at an ascended Christ and time to live for Him.

So…I’m letting go.

 

Sunday Help: Video Illustrations

You know that last minute rush to find just the right video to drive home your point, and no matter what you do it seems that video is illusive and hard to find?  Today, let me help you with some videos I have found and have used in my sermons.  Please note that the use of videos should be a tool and not main focus of your sermon preparation.  Video illustrations can help bring the visual learner along with you and keep your audience attentive.

Sermon Nuggets (Video Illustrations):

1>  Cristiano Ronaldo In Disguise: 

Scripture:  1 Samuel 3:1-10, John 10:27
Main Idea:  Ronaldo is one of the best soccer (football) players in the world.  He went undercover in the streets of Spain and no one recognized him wearing the beard and sunglasses.  Similarly, in the midst of the noise of the world around us and all of life’s distractions, I wonder if we would recognize God?  Would we recognize His voice in the middle of our noisy day?  What distractions get in the way that prevent us from hearing or seeing evidence of God in our lives and in the world around us?

2> Hearing for the first time:  

Scripture:  John 10:27, Romans 10:17, John 8:47, Luke 11:28
Main Idea:  Some in our world have never heard about or from God.  As ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20) we are called to proclaim His name.  Sometimes the truth of the gospel is like this little boy who finally hears his mother’s voice for the first time.  God can do miracles in the lives of people and when His voice is heard, lives are changed!

3> Seeing God’s Glory and our response:

Scripture:  Isaiah 6:1:8
Main Idea:  These special glasses allow colorblind people to see in the full spectrum of color.  Can you imagine the Theophany that Isaiah experienced in heaven?  How his eyes must have been opened and it was like seeing everything for the first time.  God wants to do that with all of us.  He is calling us to go into various places of the world, but first we need to truly see for the first time!

4> Sin & Redemption: 

Scripture:  John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20
Main Idea:  Nothing we do in and of ourselves will save us from sin.  It is within us, God’s saving love can and will rescue us if we accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His blood covers our sin and restores us.

5> Prayer & Praying

Scripture:  Philippians 4:6-7, Mark 11:24, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:9-13
Main Idea:  We have these ideas about God and how he answers prayers or how WE think He should answer prayer, but does He really work like that?  Prayer doesn’t always produce the answers we are looking and how we come before Him in prayer matters.

These are just 5 Sermon nugget illustrations.
I know that there are much more, and I will post more later…how about you?  What are some video illustrations that you have used that you seem to resonate with your audience?  Please share them with us in the comment section below.

More to ponder….

Dear Salvation Army, Why The Holiness Movement is Dead…

As with many of these articles, hear me out before you tell me how outraged you are that I would say such a thing.
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Let me start by asking you four questions: 
1.  What is your Sunday service called?  Is it called a Holiness Meeting or “Worship Service” (or perhaps even Church Service)?
2.  Is Holiness lived and taught in your corps?
3.  Is Holiness a focal point of your corps and it’s ministries?
4.  What is the thrust of your local mission in your corps/appointment?  Is Holiness a portion of this?
officers
If you can’t honestly say “Yes” to these questions, then perhaps we ought to see where the grave of holiness is located in your building.  The Salvation Army was a large part of the Holiness Movement.  I do not believe that our numeric and spiritual growth stemmed from obedient officers or because we had a “tighter” core group of leaders in our Army world, instead I believe we as an Army, recognized and believed in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  I think the crux of our present age is that fewer and fewer soldiers have this realization any longer.  Dare I say this is true for Officer and Soldiers in the corps.  I am not questioning our salvation, for I think this remains intact, but I am questioning whether or not we believe in an Almighty God who still performs miracles in the worst of sinners?
Mercy
Brother and Sisters in Christ, we cannot live and die by our seeker’s registry.  This is a tremendous indication of changed lives, but it MUST not stop there.  We ought not to simply celebrate the statistical measure of our seekers at the mercy seat.  We ought to be discipling those newly saved souls.  This is where I believe the Army has fallen short and is in dire need of changing.  There has to be more than just converting people to Christ…once they get up from the mercy seat what do we do with them?  Do we have measures of accountability?  Do we have saints who can mentor and disciple them?  Salvation at the altar is only the beginning!!

(Let me also interject for a moment that statistics can become a poor surrogate for a disengaged style of leadership.  What I mean by this is, statistics by themselves can be a helpful tool when used correctly, but a harmful tool when context is not considered).

I digress…

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have worshiped at the church of numbers and figures instead of at the altar of transformation and grace.  We have lost our movement and exchanged it for a growing organization dependent upon successful programming and business operations.   Some of this cannot be helped.  A growing Army requires more guidelines and policies to govern its structure, but at the same time I fear we have sacrificed our very soul in an effort to remain our country’s top charity or top nonprofit…but perhaps we have lost something much more vital within our DNA as an Army of Salvation.

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have exchanged The Holy Spirit’s leading at times for ambition, power and dollar signs.  Many of our sacred spaces have been relegated to tiny chapels with no vision for growing souls and more vision for feeding stomachs.  Please don’t misunderstand me, we do indeed reach lives for Christ by first feeding and clothing people, but what if we have become so focused on the feeding and clothing people that we have neglected the salvation?  What if we have, in essence, told Jesus to wait in the vacant chapel while we filled the box of food for families?  What if we have forgotten our hearts to God while we have been reaching out to man?

A Resurrection? resurrect
I pray that we can bring the dead back to life!
I pray that we would wake up and recognize the deep need of a Holiness Army once more. I pray that we would wake up and recognize that in all of our strength and power and might we are nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading.   In my American slang, perhaps we have “grown too big for our britches” and in our pride and even arrogance we have begun to lead ourselves instead of allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.
heart
Make no mistake, the enemy, The Father of lies is perfectly content in watching us self-destruct in our polarizing visions and missions and efforts.  Satan would celebrate in our death as a movement in exchange for another social service organization or social club.  But with God all things are possible!  With His power we can come to life again in the places of dormant holiness and floundering mission.  We do not need more meetings to do this.  We do not need more programs to institute this.  What we need are soldiers willing to commit to prayer and discipleship.  We need soldiers committed to living lives of holiness, which is very contrary to the society around us today!  We need an Army mobilizing on Holiness and not just a march in uniforms.  There has to be an inward change before we can externally represent His presence in the streets!!

Lord resurrect our Army!
Resurrect this passion in me!
I want to be Your reflection
Resurrect your presence in me!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
Now, tell us what YOU think, leave your comments, questions and snide remarks below.

**Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are that of the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.**

The Passion of The Christ (by Colonel Dennis Strissel)

The title of our devotional today bears a similar title of the 2004 Mel Gibson Biblical drama of the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, through the crucifixion with a brief glimpse of the resurrection. You’ll recall it was very controversial for its brutal description of the crucifixion scenes and brave for filming the entire film in Aramaic at the same time. The film grossed over $612 Million during its release and received three academy award nominations. And we’re still talking about it today as probably one of the best depictions of this day in history.

It never ceases to amaze me, and I have said this before and will probably say it many more times before the Lord calls me home, we, as the church, continue to recreate these significant days in our church history. In fact millions of Christians already have retraced the steps of the Via Delarosa this day, both in Jerusalem and in various other parts of the world. It is sad to say but there probably some Christians who have followed the cross today and have lost their lives for doing so. via

So that I do not assume too much, when using the term passion – I am talking about the extreme suffering, originally referred to as the last agonies of Christ. This is the supreme act of Agape’ love from God to mankind.

Isa 53:4-6

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The key thought in Isaiah’s prophetic word, (Isaiah 53:4-6), deals with the sweet exchange – Our weakness/He carried – our sorrows/that weighed him down –He is pierced/for our rebellion –He is crushed/for our sins – He is beaten/so we could be whole – He is whipped/so we can be healed.

So for the few minutes that I have your attention, I challenge you to consider two things during this dark moment in our church history…

  1. LET’S TRY TO UNDERSTAND CHRIST’S SUFFERINGsuffer

William Barclay writes about the common criminal customs amongst the Roman government: “It was custom that he, the criminal, should carry the cross beam of his own cross; the other part was already waiting for him at the place designated for crucifixion. The charge for which he was being executed was written on a board; it was either hung around his own neck or carried by an officer in front of the procession, and was later affixed to the cross itself. The criminal was led to the scene of the crucifixion as long a route as possible, so that as many as possible might see him, and take warning from the grim sight.”

We know, from reading the passion story, that the procession to the cross only happened after three illegal trials, with Christ being subjected to insults and allegations, all while refusing to defend himself. He was passed from soldier to soldier, humiliated, stripped, beaten, spat upon and new being dragged down the main street of Jerusalem.

This treatment of Christ did not fit into the neat concept, dream and hope of the majority of Jews when it came to the coming of the great Divine, The Messiah.

I loved the picture that Matthew and Luke paint for us in their narrative of the Triumphal Entry. Can you imagine the likes of Judas or Simon the Zealot mumbling under their breath…? “The colt of a donkey? Never! Messiah should be galloping into the city of God and Kings on the back of a Stallion, signifying his coming as the triumphant victor.” But that is not the way he came, which warns us of our own preconceived ideas of who Christ is and what his desired outcome should be.

See him struggle under the weight of the cross/beam, falling to his knees, looking up into the face of crowds of people, some of whom are compassionate, while others are shouting condemnation. Hear, if you can, one Simon of Cyrene being conscripted into service by the harsh voice of the Roman soldier in Luke 23:26.

churchThere is a series of very beautiful pictures in the cathedral at Antwerp, which represent Christ hearing His cross from the Praetorian to Calvary. These pictures embody the popular idea of Christ’s weakness and exhaustion. In one He stands calm and erect, in another He is bending under the weight of the cross, and in another He has fallen beneath the load that was laid upon Him. It is at this stage of the proceedings that Simon, who is passing by, is arrested, and compelled to bear the cross after Christ.

I suspect Simon had no idea what he was about to be called on to do…likewise, bearing the cross of Christ today could come out of surprise. Please be aware that all you may endure in this life should not necessarily be considered as bearing the cross of Christ. Many of the issues we face may be as a result of our own poor, selfish decision making and does not deserve the high honor of bearing Christ’s cross. Bearing His cross brings him glory and honor to the church. Living with the consequence of our own sin does not. So be careful of misusing the noble term of “Cross-Bearer.”

We need no commentary to explain the suffering of Christ, Lamb of God, We simply paint the background and that is descriptive enough.

  1. Vernon McGee would say, “The pain will attract the people.”

Church history records the following regarding Clovis King of the Gaul’s from 481 – 511, “When Clovis Leader of the Franks, was told about the crucifixion of Christ. He leaped to his feet, drew his sword and exclaimed, ‘If I had only been there with my Franks.” But Jesus didn’t need the Gaul Army or any army for that matter. As the old song says, “He could have called ten thousand Angels to destroy the world and set him free, He could have called ten thousand Angels, but he died alone for you and me.”

crossAs he hung on the cross, the voyeurs standing watch challenged Jesus to show them his power. Another way we might put it is, “we would just believe if you would just show us you can Houdini your way off that cross.” Listen to them using the glory of Christ to mock him…

Matt 27:39-44

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

William Booth is recorded as saying, “It is precisely because he would not come down that we believe in him.”

No amount of descriptive words will ever do justice in describing the horrible humiliation and suffering our Savior endured for you and me.

O sacred head once wounded,
With grief and pain weighed down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown!
How pale art thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!
Paulus Gerhardt

 

  1. LET’S TRY TO COMPREHEND GOD’S SUBSTITUTION PLAN

I don’t know about you, but I get chills up and down my spine when I see or read about those times when the team, as they were, could not win the prize or accomplish the goal. The coach then calls on the one person, the person that no one expects to accomplish the seemingly impossible. When the substitute enters the arena and accomplishes what seemed all but lost, we rise to our feet and stretch out our arms and cheer for all we, and they, are worth. The substitute is worthy of the team’s acknowledgement and praise.

John Stott, author and theologian writes: “The concept of substitution lies at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”

We see the picture of Christ, the substitute, implied and explicit, all the way through Scriptures.lamb

  • We see an act of redemptive bloodshed in Genesis 3:21, as an animal sacrifices its life and coat to cover the nakedness of mankind.

 

  • We are witnesses to the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, along with the surprise substitution that arrives through a ram caught in the thickets (Gen. 22:13).

 

  • In Exodus 12:21 we note the instruction of the preparation of a Passover lamb whose shed blood will serve as an act of Salvation for God’s chosen. Interesting that the substitute is always a willing participant in the Divine transaction.

 

  • As one moves to the New Testament we hear John the Baptizer declare upon seeing Jesus, his cousin, coming to be baptized, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

  • The transformation of Peter should amaze us, it does me. You hardly recognize the impulsive, blustering Peter at the end of his life compared to his first baby-steps with Jesus. That’s the way it should be in all our lives I suspect. Listen to the Holy Spirit-filled wisdom of the more mature Peter helping us understand that God’s plan of substitution was no accident and that it all began way before the creation of the world.

1 Peter 1:18-21

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

And this brings us back to our text from Isaiah 53, verse 7 & 8; perhaps one of the most descriptive portions that help us note God’s plan for this substitute for your sin and mine.

What we deserve is death but we need not experience it all because of God’s amazing grace.

Hear Isaiah’s voice clearly state…

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

…led away to die in our place. God went out of his way to redeem mankind by the substitution of his only begotten.

Rom 4:25

25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

A story is told about a farmer named Blake who was drafted as a soldier during the War Between the States. He was deeply troubled about leaving his family because his wife had died and there would be no one to support and take care of his children in his absence. The day before he was to leave for the army, his neighbor Charlie Durham came to visit him. “Blake,” he said, “I’ve been thinking. You’re needed here at home, so I’ve decided to go in your place.” The farmer was so overwhelmed that for a few moments he was speechless. The offer seemed too good to be true. He grasped the hand of the young man and praised God for this one who was willing to go as his substitute. Sadly, Charlie was shot and killed in the first battle. When the farmer heard the bad news, he immediately saddled his horse and rode out to the battlefield. He found the body of his friend and arranged to have it buried in the churchyard near the spot where they had often stopped to talk after the services. On a piece of marble he carved the inscription with his own hands. It was roughly done, but with every blow of the hammer on the chisel, tears fell from his eyes. He placed the marker on the grave of his devoted substitute. Many villagers wept as they read the brief but touching inscription: He died for me.

Isaiah finishes his prophetic word this way…died

Isa 53:10-11

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted                                                             righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The outcome of his Suffering and Substitution allows you and me the privilege of being His descendant and being counted as righteous. Please, do not let His death be in vain…

25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Rom 3:25-26

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

Messy Church: Lent & Light

Theme:  I am the Light of the world
KEY VERSE:  John 8:12 –  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Other verses for the stations:
Genesis 1:3 “Let there be light”
Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking around in darkness have seen a great light”
Acts 9:1-6
Psalm 119:105
1 Samuel 17:45-47
1 John 1:5-7
Matthew 5:16

Welcome (Chapel):  Introduction of Lent & Light…  5 Minutes.
Introduction and Welcome to Church today!
Today we are going to explore the Light of God through a “Messy Church” experience.
Some of you might not be all that comfortable with the notion of not being in this chapel for the entire service today, but let me reassure you that this will be an entire family teaching time today.  Grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, you will all be working side by side with your children and grandchildren and adopted children of this corps to learn more about Christ and His light.  This week also begins what the Church call the Lenten season.  This season is all about reflecting and preparing Christians around the world for what Jesus did at the cross and at the tomb in resurrection.  So, with that thought in mind today, we are going to explore the very important topic of light in our messy church service today .  For those of you who are extremely worried about getting messy, don’t worry – you won’t have to, but I would ask that you all participate in some way as we go from station to station today.
Table #1 Light Bulb Cards:  (5 Mins)
Need:  Pencils/Crayons/Scissors
Make Lightbulb shaped cardstock papers by drawing a light bulb, coloring it and then cutting it out.
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Read:  “The people walking around in darkness have seen a great light”…Isaiah 9:2

Discuss: Talk about different kinds of light and light sources…make a list of them.
-Which kind of light is your favorite?  Why?
-Have you ever had a time when you had to walk in the dark?  Talk about that experience.
Say:  Lightbulbs and electricity help us in our homes to see at night.  Before lightbulbs they used candles and oil-filled lanterns.

Ask:  Have you ever experienced a time when the power went out and everything went dark?
What do you do when something like that happens?  What kinds of tools do you use?
How did you feel when the power was restored and you have light again?

Close by saying:
God’s great light can shine into the darkest of places in our world.   He can light up the darkest night.  Tonight, when you go to bed, thank God for his great light that shines in our hearts because he loves us!

Table #2 Stained Glass Windows (5 Mins)
Card Stock Rectangles Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and table
Pre-cut moons, stars, crosses, fish, candles
multi -Colored tissue paper
Create stained glass by gluing two shapes then placing tissue paper behind the shapes.
Blend colors using multi-colored strips of tissue paper.
(show a picture of a stained glass window)

Talk about the way Light transforms stained glass.
What colors are visible in the stained glass?
Look at this picture of the stained glass, can you see different shapes and symbols in it?
What do you see?
Stained glass like this are used to tell stories.  It is much more than just decorations in a church.
These windows convey to use bible stories that we know and help to remind us of God’s light shining down upon us.

Read:  Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.[a] So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  Acts 9: 1-6

Ask:  How did Jesus get Saul’s attention?
(God’s light shone from heaven).
Saul was blinded for a short time because of this light from heaven, but after this experience, he changed his name to Paul and began to preach and teach about Jesus to everyone he met.  God’s light shines upon all of us just like this stained glass.  He wants us to live for him and to reflect that light in all that we say and do.

Ask as you close:  How can we shine for Him this week?

Table #3 A Lamp Unto My Feet (5mins)
Card stock pages with slices in themImage may contain: 1 person, indoor
a Scripture passage on a strip of paper
A Paper handle strip

Read:  “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105

Talk about:  God’s word will direct our lives if we are willing to listen to Him.
He wants to help us make wise decisions in life.
Ask:  Have you ever walked around the darkness and tripped over things?  How did that experience make you feel?  Were you afraid?  Did you hurt yourself?
What happens when you turn the light on in a dark room?  You can see right?
What once was dark is now light.
Ask: Why do you think parents have rules for kids when they are growing up?
What happens when those kids break the rules?
What happens when adults break the law?
There are consequences to breaking the law or the rules right?
But those laws or rules are there to protect us right?
In the same way, God’s word is there to protect us and to keep us safe.
He wants us to follow it so that we don’t wander around in the darkness.

Hold Up Your lamps:  And read the scripture passage on the handle together:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path.”

Table #4 Make Paper Hats (5 mins)

Need:  Card Stock & Glitter, Makers, Crayons, Tape.
We are going to make party hats.
We all know the Story of David and Goliath, but did you know David had the light of God inside him?  He was brave and he had faith that God would help him defeat this giant!  The Giant had huge weapons and a was very fearsome and frightening to all of the Israelite soldiers including the king.  But David had faith in God and he said to Goliath:

Read:  …“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

Ask:  How did David win the battle?
Did he do it with his own strength?
How important is it to trust in God?

Do you know people who seem to have God’s light inside of them?
Do they seem to be bright and cheery people who have peace even when they face their own giant problems?  How can we become like David and have courage and the light of God in us?
Put on your party hats…each one looks amazing and colorful…and bright!  You can shine for God in your life too if you have faith and know that He is with you in every situation especially those that involve giant problems and worries.

Table #5 Star Cookies (5 mins)
Need:  Yellow Frosting, Sprinkles,
Families will frost their cookies and sprinkle them.
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Talk
about how stars give off light in the night sky.
How far away are stars?  Hint: millions of miles.
Our nearest star is 4.24 light years away.

Read:  Genesis 1:2-4
God gave us light in the darkness:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

God spoke creation into being, and he gave us light so that we can see.
Light also gives us life.
Ask:  Can plants grow without sun light?
Talk About:
The Sun in our galaxy is a giant star.  It is a great big ball of fire made up of gas.
If you even go near it we would not live for very long, but God placed this star and our planet at just right location in order for all of us to live.  If the sun had been placed any further away, our planet would freeze.  If the sun was too close Earth would be way too hot to live on.  God knew exactly how to create light and darkness ( and the rest of creation for that matter) in order that we might live and love Him.

Table #6  Walking In Light or Darkness?  (5 mins)
Need:  Little water bottles , plastic cups, baby oil, washable markers (for color) sparkles. Image may contain: drink and indoor
Pour the water into the plastic cup.
Grab a washable marker and dab it into the water until the water changes color. (only 1 per cup)
Pour water back into the bottle about half way, then fill the rest with a little bit of baby oil.
Close the lid and then shake it up.

Read:  “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7

Talk:  Before Christ came to the earth, the people in ancient times have to make lots of sacrifices so that they could remove the darkness of sin from their lives.  When Jesus came, he died on the cross for our sins and become the ultimate sacrifice so that sacrifices were no longer needed – Christ’s was enough for everyone in the whole wide world!  Think about that: God’s one and only son, bringing his perfect light into a dark world.  Look at the dark section of your bottles –  When we choose to follow Jesus, we stop living in the darkness of sin and we begin to walk in the light of His love.  When we do this we can shine so that others might see Jesus too.

Table #7 This Little Light of Mine  (5 mins)       
Need:  2 Flashlights.  One with batteries and one without.  Put wads of paper and coins and whatever else in the second flashlight.
Begin by Singing:  “This Little Light of Mine”
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Read:In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

Take turns reading the verse together. I like to read the verse normally, then read it super-fast and super-slow. Sometimes we read our verses “underwater” meaning I rub my fingers up and down over my lips while I speak to make the underwater sound. After you read the verse together, have kids sit quietly and answer a few questions.

Say, “What do you think it means, ‘Let your light shine before men…” Encourage kids to answer, let them know there’s wrong answer. After they have shared what they think, bring out the flashlight that doesn’t work. Don’t tell them it doesn’t work. Flip the switch on and try to shine a light. Say, “Wow! This isn’t working.” Shake the flashlight. “I think I hear batteries in there. Should we check it?”

Open the battery and show kids the junk that’s in the flashlight. Say, “Wow! These aren’t batteries. No wonder it’s not working. You know, we are kind of like these flashlights. When we have junk in us, we don’t shine our light. Now let’s see what happens we do have a flashlight that shines correctly.” Flip on the working flashlight and turn off the lights to show how bright it is.

(Object Lesson Source: http://ministry-to-children.com/shine-a-light-object-lesson-for-sunday-school-matthew-516/)

 

Total Table Time:  40 minutes

The Wrap Up Back In The Chapel –   15 minutes

Sing:  Marvelous Light
Here I am to Worship

Devotional:
Today we explore what topic in Messy Church?
That’s right the topic of light.  More importantly Jesus said:
John 8:12 –  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In all of our stations today we have explored all kinds of ways that we can share that light with outs and how we can shine as well…right?  Jesus told this to many people, and he wants us to follow him as well.  He wasn’t just any light…like a light bulb that can be replaced when it burns out – NO!  He is THE light of the world.  In fact it says in Revelation 22:5 about heaven that “there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”  Imagine that!  God’s light will never go out, never become dim, or ever, ever be extinguished.
Jesus came to this earth and told everyone he was the light of the world and that they should follow Him…I have good news today for you!  He still is the light of the world and when we choose to follow Him, we have this light inside of us and it shines too.

Now, perhaps this is the first time you are hearing about Jesus in this way.
And maybe you would like to receive this light for the very first time.
Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins and when we accept this sacrifice, we become His people.  We become Christ-followers, and he said that one day we would all be with him in eternity or heaven.  But do you know what we have to do?  We have to accept this gift of eternal life.  The light Christ offers will last for eternity, and with that light comes love, peace and hope.  Would you like to accept this light today in your lives?  If so, I would like to pray this prayer with you and if you would like to accept Jesus for the first time, or maybe just reaccept Him, would you pray this prayer with me?

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I have walked in the darkness for far too long.   I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will.  I pray that you help me to be Your light in this world.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

 

*This lesson plan was adapted from the book: “Messy Church: fresh ideas for building a Christ-centered community.“*

Day 40 – “Do You Love Your Frienemy?”

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44

It easy to love those who reciprocate that expression, it is a lot harder when that love is only one way.  Jesus takes the teaching of loving your neighbor to a whole new level when we tells those listening to love your enemies too.  Loving your enemies is extremely hard to do, especially if there is still resentment and hurt involved.  How could Jesus expect us to love THOSE people?  We might say to God, “I can’t love that person, he has said unkind things to and about me.”  or “God, you must be mistaken, that person is hateful and I don’t even think his mother loves him.”  Regardless of how we may feel, this kind of love does not naturally happen, but Christ displayed it for us in how he died.

Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross.
He could have refused, he certainly had the power to do so, and yet he did die…by the hands of those who HATED him.  He poured out his life upon those who were his enemies and friends.  His death signified our life.  …”But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”  (Ephesians 2:4)   We were his frienemies…but we were dead because of the things we had done.  Yet Jesus came and loved even his enemies, which happened to be all of us because we were blind in our sin.
friends
This calling to love our enemies isn’t just for the enemy or the person who has hurt us or dislikes us…this calling to love is as much for them as it is for us.  When we choose to love in this way, we can begin to let go of the trappings of resentment, anger, revenge, malice, and hate.  Loving even the unlovable lifts the burden from us that used to hold us captive and bound to this world.  This isn’t a fake or phony kind of love either, no, instead when we begin to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, we begin to realize just how much grace and mercy plays into this relationship.  What I mean is, we don’t deserve this love from God…and neither do our enemies…and yet like Christ, we must give it freely.  This might be the hardest thing you ever do – let go of the hurt, the grudges and the hate and simply love even your frienemy…without strings attached or any ulterior motives.

heartDon’t let hate rule you.
Don’t let it hold you as its slave anymore.
Release it, surrender it to Christ’s perfect love and allow Him to transform and shape you with his grace and mercy.

Prayer:  Lord today I ask that you soften my heart towards those who seem unlovable.  Regardless of how they feel towards me and what they may do to me, help me to turn the other cheek as you work within my life to transform it.  I want to be your reflection to the world and this includes even those who do not like me.  Fill me with your grace and mercy today.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer -Amen.

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Day 39 “Have You Unfollowed God?”

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me...” Matthew 15:8

Have you unfollowed God?
godI would imagine most of us would say “no”.
We wouldn’t even think about doing something like that…and yet our actions sometimes speak louder than words.  We praise Jesus one minute and the next we curse someone who has irritated us.  We acknowledge God on Sunday, but forget to include him in our work or school week.  In some ways, we conveniently unfollow God and we don’t even realize it.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be labeled by Jesus as one whose heart is far from him…and yet, if I’m honest it sometimes is.  There are many distractions in life.  There are many time consuming efforts that I engage in that do not edify me and preoccupies my time.  Perhaps it’s more like my mind has unfollowed God, because I have failed to include him and invite him even into my thought patterns.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2b “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we allow god2this transformation to take place within our minds – change happens.  We check the box to follow God again.  We are then able to filter what we allow into our minds which bleeds over into our actions.  Without this transformation of the mind and the inclusion and fellowship of God into our lives, we will live but live unfulfilled, empty lives.  This sounds stark and cold, but the reality is that we were created with this very relationship in mind.  If we either consciously or subconsciously unfollow God, we break this relationship and in our hearts we acknowledge that there is something missing, but we can’t quite put our finger on it.  If you’re there right now, perhaps its time to reconnect with God.  Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the many distractions that have taken His place.  We can try and try to fill that void with other things, but nothing will fill that God-shaped hole.  god3

Make it your desire to follow after God today!
Train your thoughts, and renew your mind…need help?  Ask Him, he’s always available and ready to give you strength.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, I confess that sometimes I have unfollowed you.  I have failed to include you in my day.  I desire today to converse with you and to include you in it all – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.  Lead me Lord.  I long for your fellowship, and a constant conversation with you.  Help me in this discipline of presentness.  I want to show up, I want to be present with you through my day today.  Grant me your strength through the difficult moments of this day, and allow me your discernment in the decisions that must be made, both great and small.  Lord, be in them all today.  I choose to follow you Lord.  -Amen.

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