ECWA Weekly Spiritual Digest: Why Problems Should Not Overwhelm Us

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot |The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zeph. 3:17.

Job rightly pointed out that: “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” Job 14:1. Jesus Christ concurred that in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble...” We individually have our share of troubles and some of us are going through the worst of it now. If you live a little longer you will yet face more problems.

ECWA Weekly Spiritual Digest

Here is a short verse with five big promises affirming that you will not only survive your troubles but thrive in spite of them. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zeph. 3:17.

  1. God is with you. Jesus promised that He is with us to the very end of time. The Holy Spirit lives in us and will not depart. Don’t let your tears blind you from seeing God right beside you, walking you through your situation.
  2. Mighty to save. This is not just a confirmation that God can save; it does imply that He is actively engaged in saving you even right now.
  3. God delights in you. If we believe this fact, we will surrender all to God and not become overly anxious over our troubles.
  4. Quiet you with His love. Like a nursing mother, God will rock you to sleep while handling your troubles at the same time.
  5. Rejoice over you. Can you even begin to imagine God celebrating you with singing and even dancing? Be encouraged today dear friend. God is with you!

When faced with an enormous obstacle, it’s easy to fall into despair believing that the obstacle may be too big to solve. Regardless, we must have faith that nothing is too big or difficult for the Alpha and the Omega of our life to overcome.

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



Christianity to North America

Jesus Christ Savior | The first Mass of Thanksgiving on North American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida.

Christopher Columbus reached America in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. Following the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1513, St. Augustine, Florida became the first permanent European settlement in North America in 1565, from which missionaries spread Catholicism to the Native American Indians. The first Mass of Thanksgiving on North American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. Spanish explorations extended as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico, established in 1609.

A wave of explorations to the New World continued. Jamestown was founded by the British in May of 1607, and the Anglican Church of England was established in Virginia. Samuel de Champlain explored the St. Lawrence River and founded Quebec, Canada for Catholic France in July of 1608. Henry Hudson sailed for the Dutch East India Company and explored the river that bears his name in September of 1609; the Dutch Reformed Church was established in New Amsterdam after the Netherlands purchased Manhattan in 1626.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Christianity continued to thrive in the New World as our young Nation developed. Four of the original 13 English colonies were specifically chartered for religious freedom, as a refuge from religious persecution in England at the time. William Bradford and the Pilgrim Congregationalists arrived on the Mayflower at Cape Cod in 1620 and the Calvinist John Winthrop and the Puritan Protestants in 1629 in Massachusetts. Lord Baltimore George Calvert and his son Cecil Calvert received a charter for the Catholics in 1632, and Cecil’s younger brother Leonard Calvert arrived on the Ark and Dove in Maryland in 1634. The settlers soon enacted the Toleration Act of Maryland and founded St. Mary’s Chapel in St. Mary’s City, Maryland. Roger Williams established a Church for the Baptists in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638. William Penn and the Quakers settled in 1682 in Pennsylvania. The Mennonites also moved to Pennsylvania in 1683 at the invitation of William Penn. The universal toleration offered in Pennsylvania continued to attract groups such as the Amish, Moravian Pietists, and Presbyterians. Early American writings reflect the Christian Heritage of our nation, the United States of America.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Jesus-Style Experiences of Discipleship for Your Teenagers this Summer

Check out Lifetree Adventures® offering of domestic and international mission trip experiences

Lifetree Adventures® is a team of people who create experiences with one goal in mind: to help people grow in relationship with Jesus and each other. They have over 40 years of experience providing safe, worry-free, short-term mission experiences both domestic and international in nature. They create an endless stream of ideas, lessons, events, and service opportunities for the ever-transforming world of church ministry.
The bottom line: they love the church! And they’re doing everything they can to equip ministry leaders and volunteers to do best what matters most—loving God and loving others.

Service
Whether you’re painting a house yellow, making a group of kids tickled pink, or lifting a lonely old lady out of the blues, you’ll be filling lives with the color of Jesus through your daily service experiences.

Discipleship
Discipleship changes your reasons and motivation for serving. Their  daily adventures in becoming disciples of Jesus transform the way you think, the way you view others, and most of all, the way you see God all around you.

Mystery Excursions
These transformative surprises range from personal prayer experiences to exciting scavenger hunts, quests of generosity, and looking for the heart of Jesus in a community—and they springboard into a lifelong journey with Jesus.

Culture
Each location offers unique experiences that connect you to the locale and its individualized, deep heritage. You might yodel, dance, cook, craft, clog, powwow, or sing—all kinds of unforgettable, cultural wows.

Jesus
Every day you dive deep into Jesus—who he is, how to know his heart, and why we’re designed to love and share our unique gifts and talents (even ones we didn’t know we have yet!). You’ll find God’s love flowing through you in miraculous ways.

Friendship
Not only will you make everlasting bonds with the group you come with, you’ll also form lifelong friendships with new people as you serve alongside each other during the week. Faith is a relationship, and with Lifetree Adventures®, relationships are everything.

Easy Adventures
When you team up with Lifetree Adventures®, all you need to do is show up ready to serve. They take care of all the details—setup, lodging, meals, materials for projects, work descriptions, programming, and more.
You’ll also get a personal adviser to be your travel agent, concierge, and prayer partner throughout the entire process. Your job couldn’t be easier.



Evangelization and Doctrine Are Inseparable

by David G. Bonagura, Jr. | Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. (Image: Reynaldo Amadeu Dal Lin Junior Juba from Pixabay)

We preach doctrine, and doctrine exists to be preached. If that sounds circular, then we understand correctly that doctrine and evangelization are two sides of the same coin.

Recently announced plans for Pope Francis’s reform of the Roman Curia have produced euphoria among liberals and concern among conservatives that evangelization is being elevated over doctrine by the creation of a new “super-dicastery” for evangelization that will outrank the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Francis’s closest collaborators working on the Curia reform project, rushed to draw the battle lines: “Pope Francis always underlines that the Church is missionary. For this reason, it’s logical that we put in the first place the dicastery for Evangelization and not the one for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

This falsely perceived dichotomy between evangelization and doctrine, of course, has roots that extend back to the fallout from the Second Vatican Council. Partisans of a mistaken “Spirit of Vatican II” sought to suppress doctrine and Church regulation so they could essentially do as they liked theologically, morally, and liturgically.

Therein lies a particularly important point: after the Council, in the minds of many, “doctrine” was reduced to “rules” that could, or could not, be broken. No one was—or is today—complaining about the content of the Nicene Creed, which is the real core of Catholic doctrine. Instead, there were attempts to make us more like Protestants by altering the Mass and deemphasizing Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist; to make human beings seem like angels by turning sin into psychosis and forgetting confession; and to undermine the Church’s authority to teach morality so that any sexual appetite could be fulfilled as willed.

It is no wonder, then, that conservatives have become so skittish whenever doctrine, which is supposed to be the bedrock foundation of the Catholic faith, is raised in Church circles: it has been under siege by some forces in the Church—with the help of secular, Church-hating allies—for decades. Francis’s ambiguous teachings on marriage and family life over the course of his six-year pontificate have been gasoline for a fire that has long since been burning. Writing with professional restraint, one author said of this latest Curia-inspired dust-up, “The decline in the congregation’s status has accompanied an increasingly lax attitude in Rome towards the gravity of heresy and other forms of deviance from Catholic doctrine, emphasizing unity and ‘accompaniment’ more than doctrinal truth.”

If not for these ecclesial fault lines, this fight over which office should have pride of place—evangelization or doctrine—would be more like arguing over which person of the Trinity is the most important. And the Trinity is the correct analogy here: just as there are three persons inseparably united as the single Godhead, evangelization and doctrine are two manifestations of Christ’s single mission of salvation.

Through his words and deeds, especially his sacrifice on the cross, Christ saved us from our sins and taught us how to live. What he did and what he taught together comprise his doctrine, which he commanded his followers to preach to all nations. The Church, then, has been entrusted with preserving Christ’s doctrine from corruption and distortion precisely so that all people may hear his saving teaching. His doctrine was never intended to be kept in a book away from the world; he gave it to the Church to give to the world.

Properly understanding the teachings of the Church requires keeping two seemingly opposing realities in balance. When we fail to balance properly, problems arise. For example, Christ is fully human and fully divine; most Christological heresies are caused when one of these realities is elevated to the denigration of the other. Likewise, the Catholic view of creation keeps nature balanced with grace and reason balanced with faith. Martin Luther created his own Protestant doctrine when he deemed the former items in each pair intrinsically flawed. He did the same with the law and the gospel, works and faith, tradition and Scripture. By pitting the spiritual items against the natural, Luther impoverished both, since none of these can be properly understood without its parallel.

Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. So long as the other side remains within our purview, there is no problem with speaking more of one side.

The same goes for evangelization and doctrine: the two work in tandem, as we cannot have one without the other. In certain ages, it may well be helpful to emphasize one or the other: when the Holy Office, the predecessor of today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was founded, it was at the height of the Protestant revolt when doctrine needed to be protected from distortion. Today, when religious apathy is spreading daily across the West, it makes sense to prioritize preaching the gospel. But in neither instance should the other be minimized: those swept up by Protestant doctrine needed the true faith preached to them in full, and those today who need to hear the word of God need to hear it in its fullness.

Today, with all the problems within the Church, fierce arguing over which should take priority—evangelization or doctrine—is akin to arguing over which saints should be honored in the Titantic’s chapel. There should be no conflict between the two. The fact that there is shows us that the Barque of Peter needs to find balance again while navigating the stormy waters of Modernity.

David G. Bonagura, JrDavid G. Bonagura, Jr. teaches classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism (Cluny Media).



9 Signs You’re Burning Out in Leadership

by Carey Nieuwhof | Your coping mechanism has gone underground or dark. Whether that’s overeating, overworking, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care. Ironically, my self-medication was actually more work, which just spirals things downward.

Burnout. 
Been there?
Seven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life.

People had always warned me I would burn out. I thought I could prove them wrong.

And usually I did. I would get tired – out of balance – but when I saw the edge, I could always pull myself back.

Until seven years ago.

I found the edge, and as I was falling, I knew this time I realized I couldn’t pull myself back. 

Although I’m not a person who suffers from depression, I’m sure I would have gone to the doctor and received a diagnosis of clinical depression that summer seven years ago.

It wasn’t your stereotypical depression.

I could get out of bed every day, and I did.

I kept praying and reading my bible.

But my speed decreased to a snail’s pace.

And hope felt like it had died.

My motivation and passion dropped to zero. (Make that zero Kelvin).

I had never been there before. 

I knew many in ministry had gone down this road before me, and what scared me is that some of them never made it back.

For them, ministry was done. And sometimes, tragically, they were done – hope never fully returned and they didn’t ever become the person they were before.

That was the last thing I wanted to happen to me.

Looking back, the diagnosis is still a little elusive and mysterious.

Who really knows what corrodes the soul to the point where it deflates?

But I’d say the most likely candidate for what derailed me is what I’d call emotional burnout. 

In caring for others I had not adequately cared for my heart or soul, or let others who wanted to care for it do so.

I spiralled down for about 3 months before I hit bottom.

Then with the love and assistance of a great wife, board, leadership team, close friends, a counselor, and a very gracious God, I slowly began to recover.

It took, honestly, a few years to really feel full stride again, but I recovered to 80-90% of full strength in the first year. The last 10% took two or three more years.

The good new is, there is life after burnout (my next post will be on ways to recover from burnout).

I’m writing this because burnout seems to be an epidemic in ministry leadership.

In fact, there are more than a few of you who know you are right on the edge of the cliff you could so easily fall of of.

And probably a few of you who are in free fall right now.

Why is that?

More than most environments, ministry combines what you do (your work) with what you believe (your faith) and  your community (your congregation/friends). Without skillful navigation, that can creates a roller coaster of emotions that push leaders toward burnout (I’ve written about the emotional roller coaster of ministry here).

So how do you know if you’re heading for burnout? 

Here are 9 things I personally experienced as I burned out.

I hope they can help you see the edge before you careen past it:

1. Your motivation has faded. The passion that fueled you is gone, and your motivation has either vapourized or become self-centered.

2. Your main emotion is ‘numbness’ – you no longer feel the highs or the lows. This was actually one of the earliest signs for me that the edge was near. I wrote more about emotional numbness here.

3. People drain you. Of course there are draining people on the best of days. But not everybody, every time. Burnout often means few to no people energize you anymore.

4. Little things make you disproportionately angry. When you start losing your cool over small things, it’s a sign something deeper is very wrong.

5. You’re becoming cynical. Many leaders fight this one, but cynicism rarely finds a home in a healthy heart.

6. Your productivity is dropping. You might be working long hours, but you’re producing little of value. Or what used to take you 5 minutes just took you 45. That’s a warning bell.

7.  You’re self-medicating.  Your coping mechanism has gone underground or dark. Whether that’s overeating, overworking, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care. Ironically, my self-medication was actually more work, which just spirals things downward.

8. You don’t laugh anymore. Nothing seems fun or funny, and, at its worst, you begin to resent people who enjoy life.

9. Sleep and time off no longer refuel you. Sometimes you’re not burnt out; you’re just tired. A good night’s sleep or a week or two off will help most healthy people bounce back with fresh energy. But you could have a month off when you’re burnt out and not feel any difference. I took three weeks off during my summer of burn out, and I felt worse at the end than when I started. Not being refueled when you take time off is a major warning sign you’re burning out.

Identifying with just a few of these signs might just be a sign that you’re tired.

If you identify with half, you might be close to the edge.

If you identify with most or all, well, you might be in the same place I found myself–burnout.

If you are burnt out, I would encourage you to seek immediate professional help – a medical doctor and a trained Christian counselor.  I would also encourage you to talk to a close circle of friends (again, my next post will be on recovery from burnout).

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from many of you on your stories around burn out?

What did you learn? How can we help each other?

Carey NieuwhofCarey Nieuwhof is a leader with over two decades of leading a local church, being a husband, dad, authoring books, speaking to church leaders around the world, podcasting and more…all the while learning to keep his heart and mind alive and healthy. Plus, every week he talk to world-class leaders who share their secrets through his blogpodcastbooksHigh Impact Leader Course, and speaking. You can also connect with Carey by subscribing to his email list. He has helped tens of thousands of leaders make real personal and ministry progress by sharing proven strategies to help them lead like never before.



The Power of Faith in Drug Rehab

by Sharon Torres | It is important to understand that no one wants to become an addict, but it can happen to the best of us. Once we understand this, it is very important to choose the right rehab program. The addict first needs physical detoxification and then a center for rehabilitation. (Image by Free-Photos)

Challenges for Young People
More and more addicts are young God fearing people from responsible families that are loved, cared for, and with a great future ahead of them. Drug addiction has become a very common problem today and cannot be overlooked. It is important to understand that no one wants to become an addict, but it can happen to the best of us. Once we understand this, it is very important to choose the right rehab program. The addict first needs physical detoxification and then a center for rehabilitation.

Luxury Drug Rehab Programs
Luxury drug rehab programs will be able to provide thorough care while also helping the patient to overcome the addiction. In addition to physical dependencies, addictions are also likely to entail strong psychological dependencies and a luxury rehab center will help to overcome this side of addiction also.

Faith-Based Treatment
Some of these programs also involve faith and prayer as a way to fight drug addiction. A strong belief in God along with a luxury program that lasts up to a year can change a person deeply.

A luxury drug rehab program will offer the best addiction treatment that money can buy. Counselors, therapists, and other trained staff are some of the best in the industry. Many of them have had years of experience and know exactly how to go about treating a drug or alcohol addiction. They take pride in alternative therapies, which are also included in their programs. Fitness, meditation, yoga, massage, but also prayer and faith and are all beneficial for helping a patient both physically and mentally heal their wounds.

A clean mind and strong faith are both very important in fighting addiction, but also positive thinking. There are many addicts that believe that prayer is a form of positive thinking. The belief that “up there” someone listens to you and loves you to keep your part, regardless of the human and social condition you have, whether you are rich or poor, beautiful or not as beautiful as others, smart or poor in spirit, has exceptional effects on the soul and the human psyche.

The first step is a positive and optimistic way of thinking: the belief that addiction can be defeated. This way our subconscious is immediately mobilized to help us. But equally important is that the will, well-being, resistance, and struggle be doubled by the conviction that you are not alone in the world, that God is always near you, whether you call Him and seek Him through prayers. Even if it’s seen with suspicion by the scientific environments, this truth goes from the area of “miracles” into the most realistic of medicine.

The Role of Prayer
There are many types of treatment to choose from in a luxury drug rehab program. Individuals suffering from acute addiction often require a combination of individual psychotherapy, group therapy, specialized therapies, and complementary therapies – all monitored by a medical team.

Prayer and trust in superior protective power can create a state of well-being that helps the immune system function at maximum. Therefore, wounds heal better, microbes and viruses neutralize faster and cancer cells destroy more easily. The state of peace and quiet, generated by prayer, has a positive influence on every inch of our bodies.

It is a known fact that many diseases nowadays are caused by negative situations and heavy stress. During prayer, however, worries move on to a secondary plane or even disappear altogether, and so mental and physical healing becomes possible.

Sharon TorresSharon Torres is a freelance writer from Michigan who loves the outdoors. You can reach Sharon via her blog, Sharon Torres Writer or sharontorres875@gmail.com.



God Called Me to Save A Child Bride

by Martina Adhiambo | This is the story of a 14 year old Maasai girl named Evelyn who did not support being married away as a child. Today,  Evelyn has grown into a mature 18-year-old lady, beautiful and loved by all. My sons see her as a sister and my mother sees her as a granddaughter. Recently Evelyn completed her final exams. In the future, she hopes to train to become a doctor.

My story is about a Maasai girl named Evelyn. At 14 years old, Evelyn (last name withheld) completed her primary education in Kenya. While she awaited the results of her final examination, her father arranged for her marriage, received the bridal price and was anticipating the ceremony.

Evelyn did not support this marriage. The night of the ceremony, she escaped from her parents’ home and sprinted to the area chief’s house. The area chief took Evelyn in and sent his security men to fetch her father. They locked him up until the following morning when the chief took him to the police (according to Kenyan law, 18 is the minimum age for marriage). Thereafter, her father went to court.

By this time, the village’s Lutheran pastor had alerted our national women’s coordinator for the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church of this issue. Because the coordinator lived many kilometers from the court, the church called me, its regional women’s coordinator, to support Evelyn during her father’s trial.

In court, a children’s welfare officer represented Evelyn. Her father was on his own. Judgment was fair. The church received custody of Evelyn and her father was sentenced to six months in prison.

The Journey Begins
After the trial, we discussed who from church would care for Evelyn. I agreed to take responsibility as I was the one who signed the court documents. I have a husband and three sons, so my main problem was to explain this to him. Thank God my husband understood and agreed with me.

Day by day Evelyn adjusted to life in our home. Soon the national women’s coordinator enrolled her in a boarding secondary school 72 kilometers (45 miles) from our home. No one apart from us was allowed to visit her at school. I also received strict instruction not to send Evelyn on any errands while at home as the Maasai had sworn revenge on us.

The following year, we heard Evelyn’s father completed his jail term and was breathing fire! People told us to be vigilant as we were marked for death.

Evelyn was also uneasy with the situation. Her school performance, which had gradually improved, started dipping. Every night, Evelyn had nightmares about her father. Something had to be done and done very fast.

Then Evelyn took matters into her hands and spoke with the church’s national coordinator to request a visit with her estranged father. This angered us. After several discussions, we agreed and embarked on the dangerous trip to her village, accompanied by our pastor.

Reconciliation
When we arrived at the homestead, a group of armed Maasai was there to meet us. Pastor exited the car and greeted them in their native language, which put them at ease. When Evelyn stepped out of the car, her siblings ran to her, sobbing.

Next Evelyn’s father came toward her, staring at his daughter like he was seeing her for the first time. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. He touched her hair, her hand, then asked, “Is this my daughter?

At some point he gave a signal that made the warriors who were ready for war stand up and leave in anger. “She’s grown so big; she is healthy and very beautiful,” he sobbed. “People have been lying to me that my daughter is being mistreated and may soon die.

Then he asked, “Is this the daughter who took me to jail?” Evelyn immediately apologized to her father and he forgave her. Evelyn’s father then apologized to us for the threats he had sent and for cursing us for taking his daughter.

A small cleansing ceremony was conducted to lift the curses, followed by prayers led by Evelyn’s father. We felt so happy—a heavy burden had been removed from us. While leaving, our pastor asked Evelyn’s father if we she should stay with her father.

No. Evelyn has a new mother and they have a mission,” he answered. “Let them complete their mission with my blessings.

We left happy, thanking God.

Transformation
Evelyn has grown into a mature 18-year-old lady, beautiful and loved by all. My sons see her as a sister and my mother sees her as a granddaughter. Recently Evelyn completed her final exams. In the future, she hopes to train to become a doctor.

Today all Maasai from her area now take their daughters to secondary school as they fear the arm of the government. May Almighty God be glorified for opening the minds of the Maasai in Evelyn’s village. I pray this expands to all areas where girls are denied education.

Martina AdhiamboMartina Adhiambo is a member of Mombasa Parish and the national vice chair-lady of women, Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church. Martina is a Lutheran leader in her Kenyan parish, last November she participated in the ELCA Global Leadership Academy in India.



What Is Worship?

by John Piper | The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ. (Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash)

Vain Worship
Let’s start with the inner essence of worship and then work out to the more public expressions of worship services or daily acts of love, which Paul calls our “spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

“True worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things.”

The reason I make the distinction between the inner essence of worship and the external expression of it is because I think Jesus did in Matthew 15:8–9: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.”

For Jesus, this worship amounts to zero. That is what “vain” means. “In vain do they worship me.” Zero. It is not worship. This is a zero worship. It is zero if there is no heart dimension to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church services as you want and never be worshiping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is in essence a matter of the heart. It is more, but it is not less.

Thinking Rightly

Then the question becomes: What is this inner, authentic, godward experience of the heart that we call the essence of worship? Jesus pointed us toward an answer in John 4:23–24 when he said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Notice that worshiping in spirit is not contrasted with worshiping in the body or with the body. Instead, it is put alongside worshiping in truth.

So what would that mean, that we are to be spirit-worshipers, worshiping from the spirit, and truth, driven by truth? I think the point is that when we worship — right worship, good worship, pleasing worship — depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is, truth.

If we worship an idol of our own creation, we are not really worshiping God.

Infinte Worth

Secondly, worship depends on a right spiritual or emotional or affectional heart-grasp of God’s supreme value. So true worship is based on a right understanding of God’s nature, and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.

“Right worship, good worship, pleasing worship depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is.”

Of course, his worth is infinite. Thus, true worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things. That would be the closest I am going to give to a definition, I suppose. True worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things.

The inner essence of worship is the response of the heart to the knowledge of the mind when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God.

Or you could use words like treasuring or prizing God or delighting in God or reverencing God or being satisfied with God. All of these inner responses to God reflect his infinite worth and beauty. That is what worship was designed to do: put the supreme worth of God on display.

In fact, the English word “worship” comes from worth ship. That is, worship is showing, displaying the worth of God.

Two Acts of Worship

We worship God authentically when we know him truly and treasure him duly. Then the word “worship” refers to that valuing, that inner valuing, becoming visible in the world in two basic ways in the New Testament.

One is acts of the mouth: acts of praise and repentance in worship services or small group gatherings.

The other is acts of love with the body and the hands and the feet: acts of love that show the supreme value of God by what we are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

“True worship is based on a right understanding of God’s nature, and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.”

I get those two things from Hebrews 13:15–16. Listen to this amazing summary. It says, “Through him, then,” — through Christ — “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Those two verses begin and end with the term “sacrifice.” Of course, the sacrifice is an echo from the Old Testament sacrifices which were at the center of the worship and were to display the value of God as we gave up a bull or a goat and showed that God is precious to us.

We value his redemption that comes to us through the sacrifice and now through the sacrifice of Christ. So through Christ two things become worshipful sacrifices in our life: the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name; that is, worship services in singing and praying and repenting and confessing, and secondly, the fruit of deeds.

Don’t neglect to do good. Share what you have. Such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Both of those are acts of worship.

Heart of Worship

You see it again in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual service of worship.” So all of our bodily life done in love for other and in reliance upon God display the worth of God above all things and make us worshipers in our daily life.

So, here is my summary: The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 36 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.



What is Holy Week?

by Got Questions | It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. (Image by Chico Barros from Pixabay )

Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).

Following the trials, Jesus was scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution (the Cross) through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.

It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. What should our attitude be during Passion Week? We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His Gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection.

GotQuestions.org is a ministry of dedicated and trained servants who have a desire to assist others in their understanding of God, Scripture, salvation, and other spiritual topics. We are Christian, Protestant, evangelical, theologically conservative, and non-denominational. We view ourselves as a para-church ministry, coming alongside the church to help people find answers to their spiritually related questions.



Palm Sunday

by All About Jesus Christ | Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. (image: Assisi frescoes entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti. Assisi, Lower Basilica, San Francesco, Southern Transept – Wikicommons)

History
Palm Sunday (first known as Pasha) originated in the Jerusalem Church around the late third or early fourth century. Ceremonies consisted of prayers, hymns, and sermons as people moved through the numerous holy sites within the city. At the last site, the place of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the clergy would read the biblical account of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Then as evening approached, the people would return to the city reciting: “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). By the fifth century, the celebration had spread as far as Constantinople. It wasn’t until the sixth and seventh centuries that the ritual blessing of the palms was added. A morning procession replaced the evening one and by the eighth century, the Western Church was celebrating “Dominica in Palmis” or “Palm Sunday.”

Tradition
Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday in recognition of the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to His crucifixion. Falling on the sixth Sunday in Lent and the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday is celebrated in all major Christian churches—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. In many Orthodox churches, Palm Sunday is known as Entry into Jerusalem. In some countries, the graves of loved ones are decorated with palms. Since palm trees are not indigenous to colder climates, branches of sallow, willow, and yew are often used.

Today, many Palm Sunday traditions remain much the same as those celebrated in the tenth century. Some ceremonies begin with the blessing of the palms. Afterward, many people take the palms home and place them in houses, barns, and fields. In many churches, children serve as an integral part of the service since they enjoy the processions. Children often craft crosses from palm leaves which were used in the Sunday processional. The traditions of Palm Sunday serve as reminders of the life-changing events of Holy Week.

It was traditional in the Near East to place a cover across the path of someone deemed worthy of highest honor. The palm branch was a Jewish symbol of triumph and victory (Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9). In 2 Kings 9:13, Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, received the customary announcing of a king with the spreading of cloaks upon the ground. Jesus, the Messanic King, was given a similar honor. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:8)

Remembrance
In the simplest of terms, Palm Sunday is an opportunity to reflect upon the final week of Jesus’ life. Jesus did not deny the image that the crowd expected — the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel that He would be their earthly king, destroying the Roman government. Instead, Jesus humbly entered Jerusalem to give His life on a cross, saving mankind from sin and death. One day, Jesus will return gloriously as a mighty warrior in battle (Revelation 19:11–16). Palm Sunday serves as a preparation of one’s heart for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.

Matthew 21:1-11 says,

    • As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
    • This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
    • “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
    • The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
    • “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    • “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    • “Hosanna in the highest!”
    When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

All About Jesus Christ
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Although we reject man-made religion, we consider the personal pursuit of God as paramount in each of our personal life journeys. We also believe that ultimate, saving Truth is found only through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

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EMS Urgent Prayer Needs and Financial Appeal

by Rev. Simon Yako | For more than three decades, the education of EMS Missionaries Children became a major issue to the Ministry. In the early sixties, an EMS Children School was built in Wushishi, Niger State and later in Miango Plateau State, but could not survive due to poor funding.

Please Donate directly on their website

EMS URGENT PRAYER NEEDS AND FINANCIAL APPEAL

REAL SITUATION OF OUR MISSIONARIES THAT ARE SERVING IN THESE VERSATILE AREAS

EMS of ECWA which is one of the largest indigenous mission agencies in Africa started when the then Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) now Serving in Missions (SIM) saw the need of involving Nigerian indigenes in planting churches across the country and beyond. Therefore, in 1948 a movement began by the name African Missionary Society (AMS) and after ECWA was registered, the name AMS was changed to EMS in 1964.

EMS of ECWA is a faith-based agency as well as a non-profit organization. Presently, EMS has about 1800 missionary couples that are serving in different location in Nigeria and beyond.

SECURITY CHALLENGE

Though many of our EMS missionaries are facing enormous security challenges of attacks from Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, Bandits and Abductors, yet, they are willing to serve until Jesus takes them home to be with Him; this is at the detriment of their lives.

HEALTH CHALLENGES

Many of our EMS missionaries are facing health challenges of different types because of the nature of the areas they are Many are serving where there is no good drinking water. Recently, many of our missionaries were examined and it was discovered that many have Hepatitis and from 2018, the Head Office spent over 9.1 million Naira on medical treatment alone. We have also lost 5 missionaries in the last 2 years as a result of that.

BRIEF HISTORY OF MISSION/FIELD SCHOOLS

For more than three decades, the education of EMS Missionaries Children became a major issue to the Ministry. In the early sixties, an EMS Children School was built in Wushishi, Niger State and later in Miango Plateau State, but could not survive due to poor funding.

As years passed by, missionaries became more concerned about the plight of their children’s education, and this resulted to the attrition of many missionaries. In 1996, EMS took the challenge to open the EMS Children School in Jos, EMS Children School Lakwame, EMS Children School Kufana, trusting God to help expand the scope, and to reduce the risk of travelling long distances with the insecurity challenge from Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen etc. For there would be no better successors of the missionaries in future than their own children. Praise God that despite the field challenges the missionaries are still in their duty post.

Currently, EMS Children School Jos has about 398 pupils with 40 orphans. It was started to meet the educational need of children of missionaries who are working in Central Region of Nigeria where we have had a lot of insurgency attacks in areas where our missionaries are serving.

EMS Children School Lakwame has about 156 children with 16 orphans. This was started to meet educational need of children of missionaries who are working in the Eastern part of Nigeria where we have the activities of the Boko Haram going on.

EMS Children School Kufana has about 90 pupils with 8 orphans. The school was also started to meet the educational needs of our missionary children whose parents are serving in the core-north of Nigeria where we have a lot of persecution.

EMS Urgent Prayer Needs and Financial AppealThe ongoing Jos campus EMS children school dining hall building project
Therefore, as you pray, we are also appealing for financial support towards the following projects:

  1. For God to provide funds to complete the dining hall building project costing N5, 000,000(N5M) Naira or $14,000 before the rains
  2. To help pay outstanding medical bills of our missionaries costing N 5m to 6m or $14,000 yearly
  3. To help in buying more grains to feed the EMS missionary children in the three schools costing N9m or $25,000
  4. To dig more wells in our mission fields costing N50 to 100 thousand naira per well or $ 300 to 400

Rev. Simon Yako is the Director of EMS of ECWA. He was the Foreign Missions Coordinator
for EMS OF ECWA for almost 31 years beginning in July 1988 in Jos, Plateau Sate Nigeria. Rev. Yako received his Bachelor’s degree in Missions in 1992 and M.A in Missions and Evangelism in 1995 from ECWA Seminary Jos.



Sacrifice and the Death of Christ

by John Goldingay | When Christians think about sacrifice, they commonly make two assumptions. One is that sacrifice is essentially a way of dealing with the problem of sin. The other is that it deals with sin by causing God to stop being angry with us. Neither Old Testament nor New Testament supports these two assumptions. Sacrifice does sometimes have something to do with sin, but dealing with sin is not its main object. God does get angry, but sacrifice does not relate to God’s anger (image, Falco – Church Painted Glass – Pixabay).

The Meaning of Sacrifice

The New Testament speaks of sacrifice in a number of connections apart from seeing Jesus’ death as a sacrifice that deals with sin. For instance, when we give ourselves to God in response to God’s giving himself to us, it is an act of sacrifice (Romans 12). Paul talks about being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of the Philippians’ faith and of the Philippians’ gifts to him as an offering to God (Phil 2:17; 4:18). When we testify to what God has done, it is a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15).

The New Testament’s way of thinking coheres with the Old Testament’s way of thinking in this respect. In the Old Testament there are a number of reasons for offering a sacrifice; the most systematic account of them comes in Leviticus 1–7. First, there is the whole burnt offering, when people sacrifice a whole animal to God. They give up the entire animal. It really is a sacrifice. Second, there is the grain offering, which accompanies other sacrifices. Third, there is a sacrifice that the New International Version (NIV) calls a “fellowship offering,” the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) calls a “sacrifice of well-being” and the Common English Bible (CEB) calls a “communal sacrifice of well-being.” While it is hard to find the right title in English, in general terms the sacrifice’s significance is clear. Its distinctive feature is that God and the offerers share the sacrifice. Some is burnt and given directly to God; some is eaten by the family that makes the offering. There are three slightly different reasons why people might offer this sacrifice. One is that God has done something for them and they want to express their gratitude—maybe (for instance) they have a new baby in the family. Another is that they had promised to bring an offering in connection with asking God to do something, and God has done it—again, maybe they had prayed for a baby and they now have one. Another is simply that they want to be able to give something to God—a freewill offering (that expression comes from the name of this sacrifice).

These first three sacrifices are expressions of worship and fellowship between people and God and one another. After these, Leviticus comes to two other forms of sacrifice that do have to do with solving problems (as one might put it). The CEB uses the terms “purification offering” and “compensation offering,” which bring out their significance. The purification offering deals with situations when people have become “unclean” or “taboo.” They may have had to bury a family member and thus have been in contact with death, or they may have made a promise that they accidentally failed to keep. The purification offering puts one aspect of that problem right. The compensation offering puts the other aspect right, in making some restitution for what they did wrong. In addition, once a year on the Day of Atonement there were special purification offerings to deal with the various ways in which the people might have been affected by uncleanness of which they might be unaware. These special purification offerings made it possible for the community to clean its slate for the new year.

So none of these sacrifices dealt with real sin. Sacrifice was not designed to deal with real sin. If you had worshiped another God or set fire to someone’s grain, you could not solve the problem by offering a sacrifice. You simply had to repent and cast yourself on God’s mercy. You knew that God was a God of love and compassion and you just had to plead for God’s forgiveness. You would offer the appropriate purification offering and compensation offering as well, but the more basic resolution of the problem lay in repentance and forgiveness. As the Old Testament sometimes puts it, you would ask God to make expiation for your wrongdoing. That idea is paradoxical—expiation is, by nature, something an offender is responsible for. But the only person who can put the situation right when you have done wrong is God. It is God who pays the price for keeping the relationship going by being willing to forgive. And this is what God does in Jesus.

The New Testament uses the practice of sacrifice as a metaphor to help people understand what Christ was doing in being willing to sacrifice himself for us, but that is what it is doing—using a metaphor, using the imagery of sacrifice in a way that does not correspond to its original meaning. As is often the case with the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, it is adapting as well as adopting its way of speaking.

Anger and Sacrifice

Christians often assume there is a link between sacrifice and the assuaging of God’s anger. It is certainly the case that the Old Testament and New Testament talk a lot about God’s anger as well as about sacrifice. But they never bring these two together. Leviticus, the book that tells us most about sacrifice, never mentions God’s anger in this connection. Insofar as sacrifice deals with problems, the problems are the need to be made clean and the need to make compensation for wrongdoing. No doubt God might be annoyed if people fail to make these sacrifices (though Leviticus does not say so), but the mere fact of needing to find purification or to make up for wrongdoing does not mean there is any anger around.

In the Old Testament God does get really angry from time to time, and that anger relates to actions such as the ones we have noted—worshiping other gods or stealing someone’s land. But what you have to do when you are guilty of such actions is stop what you are doing, put right what needs putting right, and plead with God for mercy. The story of the making of the gold bullock at Sinai is a classic illustration of these dynamics. When the people make this image and make offerings before it, God gets very angry and threatens to annihilate the people. Moses’ reaction is not to offer a sacrifice but to urge God to have a change of mind, and God does so. It fits with this reaction that God later describes himself to Moses as one who is characterized by compassion and forgiveness even while also being one who will punish people.

It fits with the Old Testament data that while the New Testament describes Jesus’ death as a sacrifice dealing with sin, passages such as Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 2:17; 9:26; 10:12; and 1 John 2:2; 4:10 do not see this sacrifice as operating by assuaging God’s anger, but rather a means of cleansing that makes it possible for us to be in the presence of the holy God. Conversely, while the New Testament emphatically declares that God is angry at human sin and that Jesus’ death saves us from God’s wrath, in passages such as John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5–6; 5:9; and Revelation 6:16–17, it does not link this with the idea of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice.

Jesus and His Compensation Offering

There is one other Old Testament passage about sacrifice that has been especially influential on Christian thinking about Christ’s death. Isaiah 53 speaks of God’s servant offering his life as a compensation offering to God, and also of his bearing our punishment. Oddly enough, neither of these two lines is quoted in the New Testament, unlike much of the rest of Isaiah 53. Karl Barth comments that the New Testament does not speak of Christ’s death as his taking on the punishment for our sin, but that Isaiah 53 does do so (Church Dogmatics IV/1, p. 253). Actually Isaiah 53 does not do so, in the sense usually understood. In Isaiah 53 the word for punishment is one that usually means “discipline” or “instruction”; most of the occurrences come in Proverbs to describe teaching or correction by a parent or teacher. Thus in Isaiah 53 the King James Version (KJV) translates it “chastisement.” When Christians think of Christ bearing the punishment for our sin, they are thinking of the punishment meted out by a law court for wrongdoing, but this is not the regular connotation of this word, nor the connotation suggested by the context in Isaiah 53. The servant of God in Isaiah 53 is going through chastisement all right, going through ill-treatment at the hands of his own people and/or at the hands of the imperial authorities, but he is not going through a judicial punishment that other people thereby escape.

If you go through persecution at the hands of your own people and at the hands of others, what do you do with that experience? The possibility raised by Isaiah 53 is that you can turn it into a compensation offering. The people among whom this servant ministers have failed in their relationship with God; they have deliberately gone their own way. At the moment they have no inclination to throw themselves on God’s mercy in the way I have described above. The servant himself is someone who has not gone their way. He is someone committed to walking God’s way. So the vision raises a daring theological possibility. Supposing he asks God to take his life and commitment and ministry, which look likely to end in death, as a kind of sacrifice, one that could compensate for the rebelliousness of his people? (Of course by normal reckoning there is no way in which one person’s obedience to death could balance the rebellion of thousands, but sacrifice never works by that kind of weighing and mathematics.)

It is that possibility that is picked up in applying this vision to Jesus. He offers his life and death as a kind of counterweight to the sin of the world; obviously the person he was opens up bigger possibilities than might apply in the case of anyone else. So Jesus’ death is a sacrifice, but not in a sense that has anything to do with God’s anger or with his being punished in our place.

The Chasm

According to a common understanding, human beings are on one side of a chasm and God is on the other side. The chasm is caused by human sin. Alongside that understanding is the implication that God relates to humanity chiefly as a judge, with judges and justice understood in a Western sense: the key point about justice is treating everyone the same, and a judge’s key role is to safeguard standards of justice. God therefore cannot relate to us because of our legal guilt, which makes it necessary for us to be punished. In terms of the picture, human beings cannot cross the chasm except by means of Christ as bridge. This works within the legal image because he bears the legal punishment for sin, thereby making it possible for God the judge to relate to us.

From an Old Testament perspective this looks unscriptural, as well as being unlikely to aid the proper preaching of the gospel. It emphasizes the image of God as lawgiver and judge, and God is both of those, but the Old Testament does not draw the same inferences. As lawgiver, God is entirely free to pardon people if they repent. As judge, God is committed to taking the side of people in the context of relationship, even when they are in the wrong. This understanding emphasizes a more relational understanding of God than the Christian one. Thus Jewish theologians contrast faith within Judaism, which is a matter of a relationship of trust, and faith within Christianity, which is a matter of believing correct doctrine.

Although Christians link sacrifice and atonement with law and punishment, as if an animal (or a person) that is sacrificed is being punished in someone else’s place, the Old Testament does not link sacrifice with legal categories. And although a price has to be paid before someone is forgiven, this need not be understood in a legal way. A more relational understanding of God fits Scripture better.

The Old Testament has a number of relational pictures of God, as friend of Abraham, as husband of Jerusalem, as restorer of a needy relative, or as mother or father in relation to son or daughter. Those images may help us understand what Christ achieved on the cross.

  1. In 1969, Eric Clapton fell in love with the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, wrote the song “Layla” about her, and eventually stole her from Harrison. Whereas one would have expected Harrison at the very least never to want to talk to Clapton again, they actually stayed friends. That implies that Harrison absorbed within himself the pain of what Clapton did and the anger it surely aroused. Their friendship could therefore survive the wrong. (I do not know whether this is actually what Harrison did, but the story nevertheless illustrates the point.)
  2. Imagine a professor coming home after a faculty meeting. It has reinforced her feelings of being powerless, underpaid, undervalued, and put down. She thus acts “crabby” in relation to her husband, who has been cooking dinner and looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine with her. She complains that the curry is too hot and the wine isn’t properly chilled. He has two choices. He can respond in kind, “I’ve been here slaving over your dinner and all you do is complain.” Or he can lean into the wind and absorb the bitterness that he did not earn. He can wait untill it is used up, and thus look for the moment when they can relate to each other because it is gone.
  3. The year I went to university, my sister married a man who my parents thought was no good. He abandoned her just after their first baby was born. Our parents had enjoyed the opportunity to begin a new life after their children had left home, but they welcomed her and her baby back into their home. Without a murmur they reshaped their life again so my sister could go to work while my mother looked after the baby, and they helped her gradually to get back to independence as a single parent. They acted as parents and next-of-kin to her, paying the price to redeem or restore her.
  4. The ordinary meaning of the Hebrew word most commonly translated “forgive” is “carry.” It is what parents do for their children’s wrongdoing and what God was doing with Israel through Old Testament times. It was a process that came to its climax with the cross, which is the logical end to the Old Testament story. Seeing the way the relationship between God and Israel worked helps us see why the cross was necessary. Through God’s life with Israel God was paying the price for that relationship, making the sacrifices to keep it going. God’s people keep doing their worst to God, so eventually God paid the ultimate price for them. God showed that even killing God cannot put God off from relating to them. God will just come back from the dead.

That is the nature of sacrifice and the nature of what Christ did for us in making atonement.

This article was published in Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2012, “No Cross, No Christianity: The Biblical Shape of Atonement Theology.”

John Goldingay is the David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology. His most recent publications include the 17-volume “Old Testament For Everyone” series (WJK/SPCK, 2010–15), which provides clear, concise comment on all the Old Testament Scriptures, and “The Theology of the Book of Isaiah” (InterVarsity Press, 2014).



Christianity Thrives Under The Carolingian Empire (732-814)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Carolingian Empire was among the most significant early medieval empires in Europe. It came into being on the turn of the 9th century and came to end by the first quarter of the 10th century. The Empire was very significant for the later history of Europe, being the precursor to the later Holy Roman Empire and to the different monarchies which later ruled different regions of Europe. (image, The Age of Charlemagne – Refers to an important period in the History of the powerful Carolingian empire who’s expansion into other territories had a lasting impact on medieval Europe.)

The Carolingian Empire effectively began with Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian Franks. He stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours near Poitiers in 732, and supported St. Boniface in his conversion of Germany.

His son Pepin and the Papacy formed an historic alliance. Pepin needed the blessing of the Pope in his seizure of leadership of Gaul from the Merovingians. Pope Stephen II, besieged by the Lombards in Italy, was the first Pope to leave Italy and cross the Alps in 754. He named King Pepin Patrician of the Romans,and in turn Pepin swept into Italy and conquered the Lombards, securing the Papal states. Pepin died in 768 and divided his realm between his two sons, Carloman and Charles.

Charles, known as Charlemagne (742-814), took over all of Gaul upon the death of his brother in 771, and soon conquered most of mainland Europe. He was a vigorous leader and ruled until 814. Charlemagne was a strong supporter of Christianity. During his reign, Christianity became the guiding principle of the Carolingian Empire, as the Church established a powerful presence throughout Europe. He instituted a school of learning in his palace at Aachen. In the Middle Ages there was in theory a division between temporal power and spiritual authority, but in practice one saw a strong Emperor take control of some spiritual affairs and a strong Pope take control of some affairs of state. Charlemagne, as Constantine, considered himself the leader of Christendom as political head of state and protector of the Church. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day 800, and this marked the formal alliance of the Carolingian Empire and the Papacy. The historian Christopher Dawson called this the beginning of medieval Christendom.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



We Are Saved by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ

by Michael Bradley | Eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins. (image, Pinterest)

These first 16 verses all have to do with our own personal salvation in the Lord. Each one of these are major power verses and they all have to do with the first definition of grace – which is that grace is the unmerited favor and mercy of God towards mankind.
In these verses are complete and full revelation on exactly what our eternal salvation in the Lord is really all about. If you can grasp what the Lord is trying to tell you in these specific verses, you will then be able to walk away with a much better and clearer understanding as to who you really are in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and exactly how you were saved in the first place.
I will go ahead and run all of these verses together, and then point out key words and phrases in these verses so you can see exactly what God is trying to show you.

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
  • “… who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)
  • “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men …” (Titus 2:11)
  • But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 15:11)
  • “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
  • “… that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7)
  • “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Romans 3:23-24)
  • “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
  • “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace …” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence …” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • “For if by the one man’s offense, many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5:15)
  • “… having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
  • But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20)
  • I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

The first thing to pick up from these verses is that our personal salvation in the Lord is not earned by any type of good works that we can do in this life – no matter how many good works we may end up doing, and no matter how good and holy those works may end up being. The quantity and quality of our works for the Lord do not matter to Him.

The very first verse listed above is the absolute number one power verse on exactly how we are to receive eternal salvation from the Lord. This verse specifically tells us, without any other possible spin or interpretation you can possibly put on it, that our individual personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by “grace” through our personal faith in Jesus Christ.

This first verse, and the two that follow right after it, specifically state that our eternal salvation is simply received by grace through faith – not by any type of works. The first verse tells us that our eternal salvation is a direct, free gift from God and “not of works.” The second verse once again says that God has saved us through His grace and not “according to our works.”

The third verse then really hammers this point home when it literally shouts out that we cannot be saved by both grace and works. It says if we are saved by grace, then works has no part in our salvation whatsoever. You cannot have this revelation both ways. If we are saved by grace, which we are, then works has absolute no part in our personal salvation with the Lord. It’s all Him and none of us. The first verse says that being saved by grace through our faith in Jesus all comes direct from God and that it is “not from ourselves.”

As simple as this revelation is to fully grasp and understand, there are still some Christians who are walking around thinking that they still have to try and earn their way into heaven by doing as many good and holy works as they possibly can.

As a result, they spend most of their life in misery and torment as they never know for sure if they will make it into heaven after they die and cross over. These first set of verses are absolute top priority for any newborn who has just been saved or any unbeliever you may be witnessing to.

Bottom line – eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins.

I am going to highlight some of the key phrases in the above verses so you can see how the Lord is really trying to drive home the point that we can only be saved by and through His grace.

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith
  • Who has saved us … according to His own purpose and grace
  • We have access by faith into this grace
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men
  • Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved
  • By grace you have been saved
  • Having been justified by His grace
  • Being justified freely by His grace
  • Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
  • Given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Notice in every single one of these key phrases the word “grace” is specifically being used in reference to our own personal salvation in the Lord.

With the basic definition of the word “grace” being “unmerited favor,” there can be no question that our own personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by God’s grace through our faith in His Son Jesus.

No amount of works, no matter how good and holy we think those works may be, will ever be good enough to get us back in the good graces of our Lord and Savior.

Ritualism, legalism, and works are out the door!

They have no place in our personal salvation with the Lord – and they have absolutely no place when working with an unsaved person in an effort to try and get them saved. God has made accepting His free gift of eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ as easy as He possibly could.

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael Bradley was very intelligent and gifted with an ability to break down topics and easily explain and lead by a step by step as to really help people grow with their walk with the Lord. My brother Chris and I decided to start an online ministry in the summer of 2004 and officially went live in Jan of 2005. It started with us answering peoples questions via email and they became excellent teaching articles and with the feedback and fruit we were receiving, we felt led by the Lord to take these teachings to the world.



How to Share Your Faith This Week

by Chris Russell | Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Don’t be bashful. Send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church!

Jesus said in the John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” If you are a follower of Christ, I hope you realize how important it is for us to actively be a part of the harvest of souls in our generation. It is absolutely essential that we put our finest efforts into rescuing lives from destruction.

But as I mention this subject, I realize many readers begin to tremble with fear. We worry about rejection or not being able to give an answer for those tough questions. Some do not even know where to begin with this mission.

Let me suggest five simple ways you can begin to share your faith this week:

1. Begin by living your life consistently with what God has said in His Word.

Many people get tripped up in sharing their faith because they know their lifestyle is not what it needs to be. The solution to this is very simple: turn your entire life over to God completely. Do it now.

2. Begin to publicly identify yourself with Christ through social media.

Social media can provide a subtle approach to sharing your faith. Change your “religious views” on your profile to “Christian.” Once or twice a week consider posting a Bible verse on your timeline. Link to your church’s website or to other Christian websites on your timeline. Let friends know you are praying for them when they express a need.

3. Volunteer to serve in a ministry at your church on Sunday mornings.

God’s strategic plan for evangelizing this generation is through His Church. When you serve in any of the weekend church ministries, you are becoming a part of the evangelistic machine that changes lives forever. Don’t underestimate the value of changing diapers in the nursery at your church. By serving you are opening up opportunities for people to hear the Word and surrender to Christ. That is a big deal!

4. Keep something on your desk or counter at work that identifies you as a Christian.

I had a dear friend (who has now gone on to be with the Lord in Heaven) who kept his Bible on his desk even though he never read it during business hours. And he told me often of how that symbol brought many people to his office asking questions about his faith and asking for prayer for needs in their lives. I would suggest you do something like this to identify yourself in your office as a follower of Christ. This could mean putting a Bible on your desk or something as simple as setting a coffee mug with your church’s logo in some visible part of your office. Better yet, put candy in the mug for coworkers to swipe when they stop in to talk to you!

5. Invite someone to church this Sunday.

Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Don’t be bashful. Send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church! Then you can allow the entire church body to be a part of bringing them to Christ! I would suggest that you invite them to church and lunch right afterward. This will turn it into more of a relational event, and you can have a chance to see how they felt about the church service.

Some of Jesus’s last words are found in Matthew 28:19-20. In this passage we are commanded to go out and make disciples. And in Acts 1:8, Jesus promises us the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to help us in that mission.

So then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s tell the world of the joy we have in knowing Christ!

Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God’s Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. For more, visit Sensible Faith