Year: 2014

How to Be Holy

How to Be Holy

In His model prayer, the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Hallowed by Thy name.” This means, “Let Your name be Sanctified.”

The word “sanctified” (hagiosmos) means to be set aside for a singular purpose. When God’s name is hallowed, it means that it is treated as a very special name.

Holiness is being unique.

God calls you to be holy, that is, to be set aside for a singular purpose. Your mind must concentrate upon one goal.

Holiness is being focused.

James 1:8 tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. On the other hand, verse 6 tells us to be unwavering, not driven and tossed like a wave of the sea.

Paul told Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

Holiness is being liberated, un-entangled.

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
~2 Timothy 2:21

Holiness is being useful.

Holiness is having a purpose.

Holiness is an honor.

How to Have a Holy Hallowe’en

How to Have a Holy Hallowe’en

revzackhead

The Hallowing of Hallowe’en

“In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils.”  [Sam Portraro, Brightest and Best : A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1998:Cowley Publications]

A martyr is a person who dies for his or her faith. A martyr chooses death rather than deny faith in Jesus Christ. (In recent years, there has been an increase of persecution and martyrdom of Christians. More Christians have died for their faith in the last century than in all previous centuries combined.) A large number of Christians were martyred in the first three centuries, especially under the Roman caesar/emperor, Diocletian.

At first, the anniversary of each martyr’s death was honored. Since there were so many Christians being murdered, it eventually became impractical to keep each of these holy days. A common day was selected to honor the deaths of all martyrs as well as the death of John the Baptist. The date was originally on the Sunday after Pentecost, later it was celebrated a week after Good Friday.

Later in Church history, the festival was changed to include all saints. In the late 700’s, Charlemagne adjusted the calendar and solemnized November 1 as a festival of all the saints.

“…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” [First Peter 1:15,16]

The word “saint” is from Latin sanctus which means “holy” or “sanctified”. The New Testament teaches that all believers in Jesus Christ are made holy, or sanctified, and should live holy lives. Many modern churches honor All Saints Day as a day to reflect on those members, past or present, who have died and are with the Lord. It is similar to our American tradition of Decoration Day or Memorial Day.

The evening before the festival of all the saints was a time to prepare to honor the dead. The word “hallow” is from Middle English hallowen which means “to make holy” or “sanctify”.  It became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallow Even” or “Hallowe’en”. Halloween means Holy Evening. It is a time of merriment and joking before the solemn days to follow. When Christianity spread through Europe, the festival picked up some of the games and harvest festival traditions of those people.

It is significant that Martin Luther chose this day, All Hallows’ Eve, October 31, 1517, to post his 95 Theses against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. At that time, indulgences were being sold by the church to remove the punishment of sins from those that were dead.

As time has passed, All Hallows’ Eve has evolved to include some non-biblical traditions, such as the veneration of saints or the placation of demonic spirits. Some people go so far as to celebrate it in honor of the devil instead of memorializing the deaths of those who believe in Jesus Christ.

revzackfoot

 

Does Hardship Strengthen Prayer?

Does Hardship Strengthen Prayer?

There is a difference between praying during difficulty and making it difficult to pray.

Adding Prayer to Hardship

When a person experiences hardship in life, it may be difficult for that person to pray. A hardship in life may be illness, financial problems, persecution, emotional duress, difficult in relationships or the stress of daily living. When a person continues to trust God and pray during hardships in life, those prayers are effective. Yes, hardship strengthens prayer.

Adding Hardship to Prayer

However, there are those who may think it is good to create obstacles to prayer as if this will make the prayers more effective. It is wrong to purposefully create burdens for those who need to pray. We should be clearing the path, lightening the burden, increasing grace for those who need to pray.

In some cultures, men piece their flesh with hooks or crucify their bodies in empty efforts to be holy. I have heard stories of people crawling on their knees along the path where they believed Jesus had walked… thinking that their prayers will be heard and answered. Christians should practice the discipline of prayer and not the ascetic punishment of prayer as if we were pagans.

God hears our prayers because He is gracious, not because you have done something to catch His attention. God hears our prayers on the basis of the works of Jesus Christ, not our good works.

The false teachers of positive confession want Christians to believe that God doesn’t answer your prayers if you don’t say the right words. Some false teachers want us to think that we are giving God orders to follow, taking authority. These are bad, non-biblical burdens that have been grafted onto the simple grace of prayer.

Pray Better, Not Pray Better Than Everyone Else

There are even well-meaning Christians who have fallen into an arrogance about prayer. “My prayers are better than your prayers” because I pray longer, because I use more eloquent words, because I use better prayer models, because I pray in a special Prayer Place, because I pray earlier, because I pray louder, because I am more dramatic.” It is a shame to see young impressionable Believers influenced by contemporary Pharisees.

If you are showing off, then you are not praying.

Let’s remove as many unnecessary burdens from those who need to pray. Let’s simply pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray in the Spirit. Persevere in prayer. Pray without wrath or contentiousness. Pray without hindrance. Pray for one another.

Philippians 4:5-7

 Let everyone come to know your gentleness. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

Are Church Elections Biblical?

Are Church Elections Biblical?

smooth-shepherd

In a church election, the physically attractive candidate is most likely to be elected.

 Do you look at things from the outward appearance?
[2 Corinthians 10:7]

The Deacon board and voting membership will believe with all their heart that they are looking for a candidate who knows the word of God, prays fervently, preaches effectively and has a heart to take the gospel into all the world. The nominating committee will convince you that they were led by the Spirit of God. The church board will know that they know that they have heard the voice of God.

Perhaps most people are not even aware that they are choosing the most physically attractive person, but who doesn’t want a tall and handsome person as the face of your fellowship to the community?

I am suggesting that Christians mistake physical attraction for the leading of the Spirit. They do it with gusto. They make whole-hearted high-stakes decisions this way.

The congregation is a flock, and they will follow like sheep. They will follow a leader because of his appearance and eloquence before they will follow a leader because of his spiritual qualifications for ministry.

sheep


samuel was rejected

But the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel, because they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in relation to all that they say to you. For it is not you they have rejected, but Me they have rejected from reigning over them.
[First Samuel 8:6,7]

Israel was motivated by pagan nations

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But surely a king will be over us!  So that we also will be like all the nations! And so that our king will govern us, and will go out before us, and will fight our battles.”
[First Samuel 8:19,20]

Saul was an attractive person

Kish… had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a better looking man among the children of Israel. From his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.
[First Samuel 9:1,2]

Samuel nearly made the same mistake

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
[First Samuel 16:7]

God’s criteria are different than men’s criteria

26 For observe your calling, brothers. Among you, not many wise men according to the flesh, not many mighty men, and not many noble men were called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. 28 And God has chosen the base things of the world and things which are despised. Yes, and He chose things which did not exist to bring to nothing things that do, 29 so that no flesh should boast in His presence.
[First Corinthians 1:26-29]

The approval of men is not the same as the approval of God

For am I now seeking the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? For if I were still trying to please men, I would not be the servant of Christ.
[Galatians 1:10]

Pastors should follow the Great Shepherd

I exhort the elders who are among you, as one who is also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, take care of them, not by constraint, but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly. Do not lord over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will not fade away.
[1 Peter 5:1-4]

 

Neither be partakers of other men’s sins. Keep thyself pure.

Neither be partakers of other men’s sins. Keep thyself pure.

That is how I memorized First Timothy 5:22 in the old King James Bible. The meaning of the verse was not lost.

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should do it.

Place your personal purity ahead of personal relationships, social acceptance or ambition.

Here is the entire verse from three other English versions:

 MEV
(Modern English Version)
 NIV
(New International Version)
 The Message
 Do not lay hands suddenly on anyone, and do not partake of other men’s sins. Keep yourself pure.   Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.  Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice.
The Goal of a Pure Heart

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, he was emphasizing purity. In chapter one, he wrote about true love:

…continue to remain at Ephesus so that you might command some to teach no other doctrine, nor pay attention to fables and endless genealogies, which cause debaheartpictes rather than godly edifying, which is in faith. Now the goal of this command is love from a pure heart, and from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. From this, some have lost their way and turned aside to empty talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, and understanding neither what they say nor what they affirm.

I live in a generation that has forgotten what love really is. We have switched the meanings of the two words love and gratification. People can say, “I love you” when they actually mean “You make me happy” or “You satisfy my need for gratification.” That ain’t love.

Love needs to proceed from a pure heart, a clean conscience and sincere faithfulness. Otherwise it is just meaningless words of a mindless person.

 

The Qualification Test for Ministry

The Qualification Test for Ministry

A young man desired to become a pastor.

At 5:00 a.m. on a dark and snowy morning, the young candidate arrived for his examination appointment. He was brought to an empty office where he waited silently until 8:00 a.m. for the interview.

The examiner, a retired presbyter, began his questioning, “Can you spell?”

“Yes, sir,” the mystified candidate replied.

“Oh, good. Spell bible.”

“Bible: b-i-b-l-e.”

“That’s just fine. Now, do you know anything about numbers?”

“Yes, sir, a little.”

“Please add two plus two.”

“Four,” replied the candidate.

“Thank you,” said the examiner. “I believe you have passed. I will speak with the presbytery board tomorrow.”

At the board meeting, the examiner summarized his interview. “He has excellent qualifications for the pastorate. First, I tested him on self-denial, making him arrive at my home at five o’clock in the morning. He left a warm bed on a snowy morning without any complaint. Second, I tested him on promptness. He arrived on time. Third, I examined him on patience. I made him wait three hours to see me. Fourth, I tested him on temper. He failed to show any anger or aggravation. Fifth, I tried his humility by asking him questions that a seven-year-old child could answer, and he showed no indignation. So you see, I believe the candidate meets the requirements. He will make the kind of pastor that we need in the ministry.”

Adapted from "Illustrations for Biblical Preaching" by Michael P. Green, p. 354, Baker Book House, 1984.
How can these cold, dead prayers be so right?

How can these cold, dead prayers be so right?

The Anglican Church might be considered to be a “cold, dead” denomination by some evangelical Christians. However, I challenge you to look over these prayers of penitence and consider taking them to heart.

Form 1

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.
Let the wicked abandon their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Turn back to the Lord, who will have mercy; to our God who will richly pardon. [compare Isaiah 55]

Pause for silent self-examination.

Lord God, we have sinned against you; we have done evil in your sight.
We are sorry and repent. Have mercy on us according to your love.
Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.
Renew a right spirit within us and restore to us the joy of your salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  [compare Psalm 51]
Amen.

May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in his image to the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Blessed be the Lord, who has heard the voice of our prayer.
Therefore shall our hearts dance for joy and in our song will we praise our God. [Psalm 28.7,9]

Form 2

Come, Holy Spirit of God, and search our hearts with the light of Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, The first commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Amen.
Lord, have mercy.

Pause for reflection.

Come, let us return to the Lord and say: Lord our God, in our sin we have avoided your call. Our love for you is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Have mercy on us; deliver us from judgement; bind up our wounds and revive us; in Jesus Christ our Lord. [Compare Hosea 6.]
Amen.

May almighty God, who sent his Son into the world to save sinners, bring us his pardon and peace, now and for ever.
Amen.

Form 3

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.

Pause for silent reflection.

Holy God, Holy and strong, Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he set our sins from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so is the Lord merciful towards those who fear him.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. [Compare Psalm 103.]

Form 4

When we cry out to the Lord in our trouble, he will deliver us from our distress. God will bring us out of darkness and out of the shadow of death.

Briefly express your penitence during your petitions of the Kyrie.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
May the Father forgive us by the death of his Son and strengthen us to live in the power of the Spirit all our days.
Amen.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and the wonders he does for his children. Let us offer him sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy. [Compare Psalm 107.]

Confessions

Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. We have not loved thee with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. In Thy mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thee, our God. Amen.

All Almighty and most merciful Father, we have wandered and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires
of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things that we ought to have done; and we have done those things that we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us sinners. Spare those who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may live a disciplined, righteous and godly life, to the glory of your holy name.
Amen.

Almighty God, long-suffering and of great goodness:
I confess to you, I confess with my whole heart my neglect and forgetfulness of your commandments, my wrong doing, thinking, and speaking; the hurts I have done to others, and the good I have left undone.
O God, forgive me, for I have sinned against you; and raise me to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Absolutions

May the God of love and power forgive you and free you from your sins, heal and strengthen you by his Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Amen.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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Cape Town, South Africa