Resurrection Sunday 2016

What a great Resurrection Sunday 2016 we had at church and as a family.  It was the first Easter without my father, but I know he is with the great cloud of witnesses awaiting the resurrection of his body even as Jesus Himself was bodily raised to life!  Just a simple thought I shared today regarding the significance of this day – “they beat Him, He retaliated with love. They crucified Him, He repaid them with forgiveness. They killed Him, He responded with resurrection!”  Happy Easter 2016 from our family to yours!

Hanna's Easter Sunday 2016

Lent 2016, Day 40

Lent 2016, Day 40Lent 2016(1)

“Follow me!” (John 21:19)

My Savior,

Jesus, at the very beginning of your Gospel when you said these exact same words to Philip in John 1:43 and to me and all who will listen to you, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Follow you? What does that mean?  What does that entail?  Yet as I’ve journeyed with you from beginning to end, and seen you suffer and die, but also in seeing the power of God raise you to life from the dead, though the journey is not always easy, and at times it is very difficult, it is definitely worth it.  I affirm here at the end of the Gospel the commitment I made to you at the beginning of the Gospel, to follow you.  To follow no other; to follow you all the days of my life and to follow you faithfully.  Thank you for calling me, Jesus.  Though I am unworthy to follow you, I am grateful that you called me.  May you find me/us faithful to the end.

Lent 2016, Day 39

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 39

“Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” (John 21:10)

My Savior,

Jesus, if there is one thing I’ve learned about you in this journey I’ve been on with you, it is that we never know what to expect when we give you what we have.  I’m reminded of what you did with the loaves and fish that were brought to you and how you ended up feeding thousands of people with just a handful of food.  But perhaps more importantly, it’s not just about giving you all that we have, it’s about giving you all that we are.  It truly is amazing how you can take us just as we are, and when we give you all of ourselves, not withholding any part of us, that you then can make something beautiful out of nothing.  If you can multiply and transform fish, it’s amazing to see what you can do with your children.

Lent 2016, Day 38

Lent 2016, Day 38Lent 2016(1)

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

My Savior,

Jesus, when Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” you came and helped his unbelief. And you revealed yourself to all the disciples and said specifically to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  It’s comforting to know, Jesus, that even though we are live by faith and not by sight, you understand our doubt.  I’m reminded of the word of the man who came to you in Mark 9:24 where his cry was, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  

Lent 2016, Day 37

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 37

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

My Savior,

Following your resurrection, Jesus, you continue to offer your peace. Some of the first words you speak after God raised you to life from the dead were, “Fear not,” and “peace be with you.”  And even as the Father sent you to offer peace, you send us to distribute your peace around the world.  Resurrection is about life, and when one truly has life, they have peace.  I’m reminded of the prayer of St Francis of Assisi –

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

Lent 2016, Day 36

Lent 2016, Day 36Lent 2016(1)

“It is finished” (John 19:30)

My Savior,

These final words that you uttered from the cross, Jesus, bring to finality your saving, atoning, redeeming work for which you came from the Father to accomplish here on earth.  You left nothing undone. There were no loose ends to tie up.  But not only that, the way you went about accomplishing your mission to the very end says everything about the finality of your atoning work.  The journey was filled with grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, justice, peace, integrity, determination, and a host of other divine attributes that speak to your divine character.

Lent 2016, Day 35

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 35

“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)

My Savior,

In talking to Pilate, Jesus, during one of your many bogus trials, you speak of the power of God which is greater than the power of any man, whether that man be a king, dictator, or even a Roman official. Yet the power of God is never lorded over another even as we misuse whatever power we might have.  You, Jesus, could have called ten thousand angels to rescue you from the hands of the Romans and from the hand of the one who betrayed you.  And yet you willingly set aside your power in humility to be handed over to those who would beat, mock, spit, flog, and ultimately crucify you.  Forgive us, Jesus, for the times we’ve misused our power over others when we should have served out of a heart of love.  Your example is still the one we strive to mirror, for truly, when we are weak, you make us strong!

Sunday Sermon Summary

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842great day in church today as we reflected not only on Palm Sunday, but also on Holy Week, the last week in the life of Jesus.  We looked at each day that Jesus experienced during Holy Week, as well as an hour by hour review of Good Friday and what Jesus went through that day.  This is indeed a significant time in the life of the church, one that deserves a time of extended reflection, prayer, meditation, fasting, silence, and worship.  As I talked about Palm Sunday, I felt compelled to make the following observation given the charged political atmosphere we are currently in at this time in American history –  on Palm Sunday, Jesus didn’t fly into the city angry and fuming in his private 757 with his name plastered on the side of it saying, “Let’s make Jerusalem great again!” No, He came weeping over the city, riding a borrowed donkey, ready and willing to lay down His life for the sake of selfless love.

Lent 2016, Day 34

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 34

“You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

My Savior,

You teach us here, Jesus, that truth does not originate from within us. We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) and there is no cure for our lying, deceitful hearts.  So if we are to know the truth and the truth is going to set us free, truth must come from beyond us.  And so you tell us, Jesus, that the very reason for your coming into our world is to bring to us what could never originate from ourselves, the truth.  And should we reject you, we reject the God who could never lie and we reject truth itself.  But should we listen to you and embrace you, we adhere to the truth of God as revealed in Christ Jesus, a truth that is desperately needed in the world today.  May we, as you say, indeed listen to you, your voice, your message, your truth, that we may know the God of all truth who sent truth to us in Jesus!

Lent 2016, Day 33

Lent 2016, Day 33Lent 2016(1)

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

My Savior,

There is nothing about you, Jesus, that originated from this world, and your kingdom is certainly no exception.  While the kingdoms of this world rule with oppressive power, greed, injustice, pain, suffering, dominance, etc., your kingdom is the exact opposite.  Instead of oppressive power, the kingdom of God is about selfless servanthood.  Instead of greed, your kingdom is about giving.  Instead of injustice, your kingdom is about righteousness.  Instead of pain, your kingdom is about peace.  Instead of suffering, your kingdom is about wholeness.  Instead of dominance, your kingdom is about non coercive love.  Instead of fighting, your kingdom is about being crucified.  May we not have our hearts set on the kingdom and ways of this world.  Rather, may we find our identity in the same kingdom that you Jesus, found your identity in, the kingdom of heaven!

Lent 2016, Day 32

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 32

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

My Savior,

Thank you for loving your followers so much that you would pray this prayer over us and for us.  It’s clear that your intent is that we remain in the world to do your work, to fulfill the mission you have for us to accomplish.  And there is indeed much to do.  But in the same breath you pray a prayer of protection over us as we are doing the work of the Father.  You acknowledge that there is indeed evil at work in the world, and you pray that we would be protected from such evil.  You even taught us to pray “deliver us from evil.”  While we do not fear evil and have no reason to be paralyzed by evil or fear, you taught us to be aware that evil exists and we must be on our guard.  But most reassuring of all is knowing that you are interceding for us, praying for us, praying for our protection while we live for you and serve you!

Lent 2016, Day 31

Lent 2016, Day 31Lent 2016(1)

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

My Savior,

It’s apparent that God came to humanity in the person of the God/man Jesus to give a great gift.  This gift, when received, has the power of life eternal.  This gift is received in knowing and believing in the one God, revealed fully in Jesus.  Not all will believe, and not all will receive the gift of eternal life.  I pray that, Jesus, that many will come to know the true God through Jesus.  And in doing so, will experience a life they never thought possible to achieve, and certainly a life they could never know on their own!

Lent 2016, Day 30

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 30

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

My Savior,

Jesus, you offer many things I need that you and only you offer – salvation, grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, etc.  I also need the peace you offer.  I cannot find peace anywhere else I’ve looked.  I may find moments of peace, and glimpses of peace, but I have found nothing that so fills and consumes my heart with lasting peace regardless of what I am dealing with or going through.  And you made it clear to us, you sugarcoat nothing, you told us that life is filled with trials and troubles.  Yet you offer us something that we cannot find anywhere or in anyone else – peace.  The comfort you extend to us means that no matter what trials or troubles we may find ourselves in, your peace can rule and reign in our hearts to the point that we do not have to be discouraged or dismayed.  Thank you my Savior, for extending to us what we can only find in you!

Lent 2016, Day 29

Lent 2016, Day 29Lent 2016(1)

All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.” (John 16:1)

Savior,

I have to ask myself, if it were not possible to fall away, why then, Jesus, would you make this statement?  There are those who teach that it is impossible to fall away from the graces of the Lord, and yet we understand that we are created with free will.  We make the daily decision to either walk in obedience to the will of the Father, or we make decisions that are contrary to what your perfect will is.  We have been given every resource, including the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live as faithful followers of you, Jesus, and what we do with those resources is indeed up to us.  Grant us the grace and power to walk faithfully with you, and keep us from following away.  And for those who have fallen away, bring them back to you, as you will welcome them with open arms back into your fold!

TobyMac in Eugene

Fun concert tonight with the family at the TobyMac concert and a bunch of other Christian artists with thousands of our closet friends in Eugene at Matthew Knight Area

Concert1

Concert2

Concert3

Lent 2016, Day 28

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 28

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16)

Savior,

These words are absolutely true!  We did not seek you out.  We did not search after you.  We wanted nothing to do with you until you sought us out.  You, Jesus, indeed chose us, and you grafted us into the true vine (verse 1) where we must remain so that we might bear lasting fruit.  There is temporary fruit that quickly decays and must be thrown out.  Such “fruit” is really no fruit at all, but it is amazing how many people do not know the difference.  The fruit that is evidenced by the divine is lasting, imperishable, and enduring.  And when our will is in tune with the will of the Father, what God gives in accordance to His will is always good.  So I ask, not for what I want, but for what the Father wants, so that what is given to me and through me will last.

Lent 2016, Day 27

Lent 2016, Day 27Lent 2016(1)

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

Savior,

I remember a time growing up in church, Jesus, that the Christians I knew truly wanted to glorify the Father by how they lived their lives, how they talked, how they dealt with others, etc.  It was important to them that their witness lined up perfectly with their walk.  It was their desire to glorify the Father.  I’m afraid I don’t see much of that desire any longer among your followers.  I see Christians who go to church who want to be entertained, coddled, have their ears tickled and their egos stroked.  Yet it is apparent to me, Jesus, that to glorify the Father and that the Father’s glory be manifest in us, we are to demonstrate the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And the qualifier is that we are to bear much of this fruit, not some or little.  Much love, much joy, much peace, etc.  This is how the world will know we are disciples of Jesus, when our lives bear much love, much fruit!

Lent 2016, Day 26

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 26

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

Savior,

I see three key words here – love;  obey;  command.  Love carries with it the connotation of adherence, that true love brings devotion and faithfulness.  Our love for you should inevitably lead to obedience to what it is you require.  There are those who resist the notion of obedience to anyone for they make themselves accountable to no one.  They become their own sole authority because they love themselves.  But if you, Jesus, are the object of love and devotion, we will glad obey you.  In doing so, we are attentive to your every command and will gladly comply.  I realize this is counter to what we are accustomed to, but then again, you are unlike anyone we have ever known before!

Lent 2016, Day 25

Lent 2016, Day 25Lent 2016(1)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God;  trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

Savior,

It seems to me, Jesus, that sometimes, trust is all we have.  When our hearts are troubled, when we face heartache, loneliness, pain, hurt, betrayal, and issues of every kind, when we come to the end of the rope, trust is all we have.  Yet the issue is, what do we trust?  Who do we trust?  How do we trust?  We’ve put our trust in all kinds of various people only to be let down.  We’ve put our faith in institutions, and programs, and promises, only to be gravely disappointed.  Your words here are direct and straight to the point – trust in God.  And we trust in God by trusting in you, Jesus!  I’m reminded of the song we used to sing in church “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” with the chorus that goes, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!  Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  O for grace to trust Him more!”

Lent 2016, Day 24

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 24

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

Savior,

Jesus, I can’t help but wonder how and why so many of your “followers” miss this command that you give.  You not only command this, but you embodied it as you modeled what true, sacrificial love is. Yet with so much dissension, division, and divisiveness among your people and in your church, it’s no wonder this simple, beautiful ethic of yours gets overlooked.  I suppose if your entire message could be summed up in a sentence, it would be this.  Because you go on to state that the entire world will know that we are followers by our love for one another.  Jesus, grant us the wisdom, grace, and motivation to fulfill this command of yours with urgency so that we might true to who you are and the mission for which you came to earth!

Lent 2016, Day 23

Lent 2016, Day 23Lent 2016(1)

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8)

Savior,

The setting of course was the washing of the disciples feet.  Peter initially was not willing to have his feet washed and his resistance highlighted this struggle that we tend to have with you.  We do not want to accept the cleansing that you offer but that we so desperately need.  Why do we fight with you? Why do we struggle with you?  Is it pride?  Is it ignorance?  Is it arrogance?  I suppose it’s a combination of all the above, and more.  What we need to understand is that we need the cleansing work that you offer in our lives, for without it, we remain unclean and not useful.  Even as you humbled yourself and washed the feet of the disciples, we need to humble ourselves and allow you to wash us so that we then can serve others in love.  Cleanse me, Jesus.  Wash me.  Make me clean and free from my sin so that I can join you in your mission.

Sunday Sermon Summary

basinToday in church we talked about a passage of Scripture in John chapter 13 that, in my estimation, the church as a whole does not visit as frequently as we should.  It is the account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, including the one who was going to betray him.  The phrase that I feel is at the heart of the passage is in verse one that reads, “he [Jesus] showed them the full extent of his love.” Other translations read, “he loved them to the end.”  In other words, we see the revolutionary power of humility with the only “tools” that Jesus needed – a basin and a towel.  These are tools of love, selflessness, servanthood, and compassion.  And after washing their feet, Jesus said to his disciples words that should resonate with anyone who would be a follower of his – Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15).  What an example to emulate!  May we find ways to serve one another in love, out of a heart of love and an attitude of humility, even as Christ first loved and served us.    

Lent 2016, Day 22

Lent 2016, Day 22Lent 2016(1)

“Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36)

Savior,

I notice several important themes here in the Gospel of John.  The theme of life and life eternal / everlasting is a prominent theme.  The theme of love also dominates this fourth Gospel and your call to love others even as you first loved us.  But also this theme of light of very significant as you declare yourself to be the light of the world.  I’ve met people who shine with a brightness, a divine light from heaven.  They radiate a heavenly glow.  They also happen to be filled with love and life.  I also want to shine brightly as I put my trust in you, the light.  For your promise here is a significant one.  In putting our trust in the light of the world, we become children of the light.  And our dark world needs children who radiate the light of Christ now more than ever!

Lent 2016, Day 21

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 21

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:8)

Savior,

Jesus, your concern for the poor has always been paramount.  It was actually prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 of Messiah, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”  And you teach us to have special concern for the poor – to feed, clothe, house, befriend, and care for the poor.  I’ve come to realize that I truly cannot be a follower of yours, Jesus, if I do not have compassion for the poor as you do.  And the fact that there will always be the poor among us simply means that we will always have occasion to live out the virtues of our faith in caring for the less fortunate.  But you were also preparing your followers for your ascension into heaven when you will no longer be on the earth.  Your Spirit however will be on the earth and in lives, the spirit of holiness and compassion that will continue your work through your church!

Lent 2016, Day 20

Lent 2016, Day 20Lent 2016(1)

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

Savior,

Jesus, how many times have I missed the glory of God because of my unbelief?  The glory of God is all around me, everyday, and yet I am too blinded to it due to my selfishness, my inability to stay focused on you, my desire to look at the creation rather than the Creator.  Lord Jesus, help my unbelief.  Help me to see the work of God in everyday life, in every situation, both the big and the small.  I do not want to counted among those who miss the glory and goodness of God.  You spoke these words before you raised Lazarus from the dead, for you wanted your followers to anticipate the glory of God through your deeds.  I believe Jesus, by faith I believe you will continue to shine the glory of God by your presence at work in my life, in the church, and in the world.

Lent 2016, Day 19

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 19

“Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)

My Jesus,

You explicitly ask if we believe in you, and believe in the eternal life that you offer.  I listen to many of the other things that people believe in and put their hope in and it’s simply foolishness.  But they seem to have a resistance to the one and only offer they need most, which is your offer of eternal life. Jesus, I believe in you, because repeatedly you prove time and time again you unlike any person who has ever lived.  You fulfill Messianic prophesy that was foretold hundreds of years before you came to earth.  You healed the sick and raised Lazarus from the dead.  I believe you are God incarnate, God in the flesh who raises the dead because you’ve given me life from the deadness of my sins.

Lent 2016, Day 18

Lent 2016, Day 18Lent 2016(1)

I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

My Jesus,

In this short verse, you Jesus, declare your singular, unified personhood with the Father.  In you, Jesus, we see all the fullness of God the Father in human form.  If we want to know what God is like, all we have to do is look at Jesus.  If we want to know what God’s agenda is for the world, all we have to do is look at the agenda of Jesus.  If we want to know what it is that God the Father requires of us, all we must do is listen very carefully to the words and message of Jesus.  If we want to know how to be in the perfect will of God, all we must do is follow Jesus.  I find that I simply cannot know God without Jesus.  My I continue to draw nearer to God as I drawer closer to Jesus.

 

Lent 2016, Day 17

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 17

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

My Jesus,

I see here the struggle for our lives.  On one hand, the evil one has a three fold plan to 1) take that which does not belong to him, 2) choke the life from it, and 3) annihilate any last remnant of that which was created by God.  This three fold plan underscores the relentless power of evil and should not be taken lightly.  I’ve unfortunately seen the effects of such evil and how people have succumb to the ploys of the thief.  On the other hand, you counter the effects of the evil one by offering 1) life, and 2) abundant / eternal life.  I’ve also seen people come alive because of the power of life you offer to those who will receive it.  In this culture of death that we live in, what is so desperately needed that only you can offer is this two fold promise of life and life to the full.  Jesus, I receive you, and I receive the gift of life you offer to those who believe and follow you.

Sunday Sermon Summary

GlassesWe had a great Sunday in church today.  To summarize the message from John chapter 9, we talked about the story of Jesus healing the blind man from birth but really how it’s a story about our spiritual blindness.   The Pharisees who interrogated the man and his family were themselves blinded to the fact that the Messiah was standing right in their midst but they could not “see” him for who he was.   They could not see through their self-righteousness.   The key to John chapter 9 is in verse 39 where Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”  Those who want to see with spiritual eyes or glasses, Jesus will enable them to see.  Those who think they already “see” without Jesus, apart from Jesus, or simply out of religious zeal are actually blinded to the truth.  We concluded the service by singing this 19th century hymn that sums up my prayer and the prayer of my congregation so wonderfully –

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes; illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Lent 2016, Day 16

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 16

“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39)

My Jesus,

I confess that this proclamation of yours perplexes me to some degree. As I read the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John, I read of how you healed the man who had been blind from birth.  And I think I understand that story to imply that I am that blind man;  we/humanity are the ones who are blind, and you came to open our blinded eyes.  But I think I also understand that the Pharisees, the religious elite of the day who “knew it all” and had no need for enlightenment because of their self righteousness are the ones who will become blinded because of their arrogance.   I must also confess any Pharisaic tendencies within me because that too will keep me from truly seeing you at work in my life and in the world.  It is by grace you make the humble to see, and it is by judgment you make the arrogant blind.  Open my blinded eyes, Jesus, and open the eyes of your church, and help us to keep our sights fixed on you.

Lent 2016, Day 15

Lent 2016, Day 15Lent 2016(1)

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4)

My Jesus,

You invite me to co labor with you.  You say “we” must do the work of him who sent you.  I feel so unworthy to co labor with you.  What can I bring to the table?  What can I offer to this momentous work that you are calling me / us too?  And then I am reminded of the Twelve you handpicked to work along side you – fishermen, tax collectors, ordinary men who had nothing to offer themselves.  Yet they were willing, and you worked with them, and they learned from you.  And I too want to join you, Jesus, in the work that you are doing in the world.  Night is indeed coming.  The sun of Christianity is setting on America as our country is turning our back on God the Father.  But this doesn’t cause me to sulk in despair, no!  It actually fires me up and makes me want to work even harder for the Father.  Night is indeed coming, but before the darkness overcomes us, I want to make the most of the daylight!

Lent 2016, Day 14

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 14

“The One who sent me is with me;  He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:29)

My Jesus,

I wish I too could say as you say that I always do what pleases the Father.  Sadly, this is not always the case.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to always please the Father, but I find that I’m still drawn to doing what I want to do.  I completely understand the apostle Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  He goes on in verse 19 and says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”  I resonate with those words and the inner struggle.  It seems that in my own power and in my own strength it is not possible to always do what pleases the Father.  But that’s precisely the problem – I’m trying to do it in MY own power and in MY own strength.  Paul comes to the conclusion to this problem in Romans 8:5b, “…those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”  And if it was true of the apostle Paul to live fully in the power of the Spirit, and true of you, Jesus, to always operate out of the power of the Holy Spirit flowing out of you, then it is true for me as well if I am always to to do what pleases the Father.

Lent 2016, Day 13

Lent 2016, Day 13Lent 2016(1)

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

My Jesus,

I read this story about the woman caught in the act of adultery, and immediately I recognize that she could easily be me.  I am just as much as sinner as she is.  I am just as guilty as her.  I am no better as a person than this woman for I too am a sinner.  I too, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  She just so happen to be caught in the act of adultery, I could have been caught in the act of… you name it.  The more I learn your heart, Jesus, the more I realize that I should ever find myself among those who throw stones.  I deserve stones to be thrown at me.  What I do not deserve is the gracious act of mercy you offer to sinners such as I.  You teach us that instead of throwing stones, we should embrace forgiveness.  And in the process of embracing forgiveness, we leave our life of sin and walk with you.

Lent 2016, Day 12

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 12

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)

My Jesus,

These words of yours remind me of Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”  In verse 2, the Psalmist goes on to ask, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”  The answer is in you, Jesus.  We find God in you.  We find our thirst quenched in you!  I’m also reminded on the Beatitude in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  I’ve been hungry and thirsty for too long, and I seek to find complete fulfillment in you!  The words of the song we sing in worship come to mind –

All who are thirsty,
All who are weak,
Just come to the fountain,
Dip your heart in the stream of life.
Let the pain and the sorrow,
Be washed away,
In the waves of His mercy,
As the deep cries out to deep, we sing…
Come, Lord Jesus come…

Lent 2016, Day 11

Lent 2016, Day 11Lent 2016(1)

“You go to the Feast.  I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” (John 7:8)

My Jesus,

I suppose the old saying really is true, “Timing is everything.”  As I read about your life and ministry in the Gospels, I am continually amazed at how you operated according to a divine plan and purpose.  You had it all planned out, and you knew how it was all going to play out.  You were not swayed when your brothers tried to persuade you to go to Judea.  But you instinctively knew that the timing was not right.  You lived your life in perfect sync with the Father, and if it was not the Father’s will, you did not proceed.  I see so many who live their lives with no plan or purpose.  They do not get their cues from the Father and their life is lived “on the fly.”  Sometimes things work out for them, most of the time it does not.  I want to live my life so in sync with the Father that I have perfect timing;  that I am patient enough not to jump ahead, and sensitive enough to go when the Father tells me to go.

TWO20 Men

220 logo(2)Yesterday was February 20, 2016 or 2/20.  The last couple of years on 2/20, and with that date falling during the season of Lent as we journey with Jesus to the cross, my mind goes to the greatest 2/20 verse in the New Testament – Galatians 2:20.  At our guys MANcake breakfast yesterday, I challenged the guys who were there to join me to be TWO20 guys, men who are crucified with Christ so that Christ might live in us.  Our country, our communities, our churches, and our homes desperately need men who are completely sold out to Christ, men who have crucified the sinful nature so that it is no longer we live, but Christ lives in us!

Lent 2016, Day 10

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 10

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. (John 6:67)

Jesus,

What a haunting question to ask those who are the closest to you.  I understand why you asked it.  To me, one of the saddest verses in all the entire New Testament is John 6:66 – “From this time many of his (Jesus’) disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  These were people who were at one time devoted to you, Jesus.  The Gospel writer makes it clear that they were disciples who followed you.  But when the cost of following you became too much, when the sacrifice was more than would be burdened, when the going got tough, there were many who turned back and were no longer followers.  And I supposed you wanted to make sure that those closest to you were all in.  You wanted to give them an out, if they wanted out.  You do not coerce anyone into following you.  We freely enter into relationship with you, and we can freely walk away.  But the journey to the cross would certainly give people cause to determine if they wanted to go all the way with you, Jesus.  It will cost us everything, you have made that clear.  So a clear and concise decision needs to be made – do I stay or do I go?  I suppose this is where I make the decision that Jesus becomes my Jesus, to the end.

Lent 2016, Day 9

Lent 2106, Day 9Lent 2016(1)

“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)

Jesus,

There is that phrase yet again, “I tell you the truth” (you never lie).  I for one thank you for this oft repeated phrase in the Gospels that reminds us that your words are trustworthy and true.  And then you remind us of the time in the Old Testament when, after Yahweh delivered His people from slavery out of Egypt, as the people of God wandered in the desert, they began to grumble and complain because they were hungry.  Just like my two boys grumble and complain when they get hungry (they are indeed growing young men), the Israelites where whining because they had nothing to eat.  And Yahweh spoke to Moses and said to him, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4).  And sure enough, the next morning, thin flakes appeared on the ground, and everyone had as much as they needed.  And not only that, it tasted like wafers made with honey.  God had provided for His people!  Jesus comes on the scene in the New Testament and says that just as God provided bread for His people in the Old Testament, God has now provided “true” and lasting bread for the new Israel, the church.  And whoever eats of this bread will live forever (John 6:51).

Lent 2016, Day 8

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 8

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned;  he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Jesus,

I notice a phrase that is used repeatedly in the Gospels, it’s when you say, “I tell you the truth.”  In a world where we don’t know who speaks the truth and we don’t know who necessarily to trust, you continually highlight the fact that you indeed can be trusted.  I also notice two ways we are to respond to your coming to the earth.  First, you ask us to “hear” and to truly listen to what you have to say.  There are so many competing voices and words that vie for our hearing and attention that your words frequently become marginalized and ignored.  I want to “hear” what you have to say.  I want to listen to your words and rationalize and take to heart your message.  Second, you ask us to “believe” in the God who sent you and receive the eternal life that you offer.  In doing so, we bypass condemnation as we move from a position of death to life.  I’m listening, Jesus, and by your grace and mercy, I accept life eternal in your name!

Lent 2016, Day 7

Lent 2016, Day 7Lent 2016(1)

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17)

Jesus,

I’ve had my share of letdowns, breakdowns, screw-ups, and mess ups.  I’ve had friends walk out on me, walk over me, and walk away from me.  I too have been less than faithful, less than fruitful, and less than ambitious.  Yet your words here are a wonderful reminder that God the Father is always working on behalf of His children, never about to give up, never to walk away.  Even in those times when we do not see, understand, or realize that God is working behind the scenes, I take comfort in the knowledge that the same God who never sleeps and never slumbers is watching, guiding, and loving.  And you, Jesus, take your cues from the Father.  For just as the Father is always at work, so too are you working at bringing men and women in alignment to the will of the Father.  I find this unending labor of love of the Godhead on behalf of humanity that works to only serve ourselves a reflection of your sacrificial love.  May I also never tire of doing your work.  May you find me and your church diligently working six days a week, and resting / worshiping on the seventh day to be rejuvenated to continue your work.

Lent 2016, Day 6

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 6

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)

Jesus,

I must confess these words take me by surprise.  People walk past me all the time.  Some make eye contact, most don’t.  People barely take the time to even say “hi” to each other, let alone acknowledge how others are doing.  It seems we live in a time in history when people are so cold and inhospitable toward one another.  But you, Jesus, you are different.  You took the time to stop and talk to a man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years!  All those years he just laid there, people walked past him, maybe occasionally having pity on him and giving him something to eat or drink.  But for the most part, he was a nobody, no one special, or worse, an inconvenient eye sore.  He was so insignificant that the Gospel writer doesn’t even tell us this man’s name.  Yet you, Jesus, stopped and talked to him.  You acknowledged him as a human being, a special child of God.  Before you even healed him you restored dignity to him.  And then you did for him what no one could do – you restored his livelihood and gave him full health and hope.  Jesus, you continue to both surprise and amaze me.  I am drawn to your compassion and healing for humanity.

Lent 2016, Day 5

Lent 2016, Day 5Lent 2016(1)

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

Jesus,

Of everything I ate today, I may be full physically, but spiritually I am still hungry.  I have hunger pains for the same God that sent you to do His work.  I find that doing my work or the work of others is more of a chore.  But I read about the way you went about doing the work of Your Father and it seems it was more of a privilege for you, not a chore.  Even when fulfilling the will of Your Father was difficult and very demanding, it still comes across in the New Testament as an honor for you, Jesus.  I’ve known too many people who claim to do the will of the Father with no joy, no delight, no sense of the high calling that comes with fulfilling the will of God.  It makes me wonder why they are even doing Christian ministry.  But for you Jesus, doing the will of the Father fueled you.  It was the motivation that kept you focused on the path that the Father had for you to fulfill.  It was your food.  It was your energy.  It was your passion.  Even when your very life was hanging in the balance, it was only the will of the Father that sustained you.  I want to feed off of the very same food as you, Jesus, for I am hungry to do the will of the Father.

Valentine’s Day Dinner

valentinesThe most well known Scripture verse in all the Bible known around the world is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…”  The Greek word for love in that verse is agapáō.  Among other things, agapáō means “unwilling to abandon or do without.”  On this Valentine’s Day 2016, people remember this – God is not willing to abandon you, do without you, or give up on you.  That, it seems to me, is the truest essence of what it means to love!  If you don’t have plans tonight, you are more than welcome to join us for our Valentine’s Day Dinner at the church.  There are rumors swirling around that Cupid might make a return and let us know what he’s been up to this past year.

Lent 2016, Day 4

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 4

“…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Jesus,

Drought, parched, dried, scorched, arid, and withered.  No, I’m not talking about what our land has experienced lately, Jesus.  I’m talking about my very soul.  I am dehydrated to the core.  There is nothing left in me.  I’ve given all I can until I have nothing left to give.  It turns out the well within me is limited.  When I was younger I thought I had a boundless supply, an unending reservoir.  That was foolish thinking on my part, of course.  Turns out I have very little to offer on my own.  So I am quite intrigued by this offer of living water, Jesus.  Intrigued is probably not a strong enough word.  I am more like desperate for such an offer because I’m not sure I can go much longer on a completely empty tank.   I am urgently seeking relief from this barren experience of living in the torrid desert and ready to soak in the rains from heaven.  I need divine rain in my soul.  Like the woman you encountered at Jacob’s well that day so many years ago, I ask, “Where can I get this living water?”  I realize now, Jesus, that you freely offer yourself as Living Water.   While people search high and low for something akin to the fountain of youth, what we need more than anything is the fountain of truth.

Lent 2016, Day 3

Lent 2016, Day 3Lent 2016(1)

“This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

Jesus,

In exactly six weeks from today, we will commemorate Good Friday, the day You were scourged, beaten, crucified, killed, and buried.  That terrible day occurred precisely because our deeds are evil.  If we were not evil, we would not be in need of a savior and there would be no cross.  I confess the evil lurking in my heart that causes me to sin.  I confess that rather than embracing the light, too often I have embraced the darkness.  Jesus, how can I be so blinded to the light?  How is it possible that for too long I actually loved that which leads to death, rather than the light that leads to life?  I have lived my life backwards for far too long Jesus.  This world and I love things that are not only inconsequential, but deathly.  May I stop living in the darkness of this world and instead embrace the light of God that has come into the world.  The verdict is in indeed in, and it is the correct verdict.  Have mercy on me, Jesus.

Lent 2016, Day 2

Lent 2016(1)Lent 2016, Day 2

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

Jesus,

These are such reassuring words, especially in light of the fact that I’m pretty good at condemning myself.  I’m also good at condemning others even as others are good at condemning me.  We are a condemning, even damning world.  Even in the church which bears your name, Jesus, condemnation is rampant.  We are already beat down, beat up, and some of us are knocked out.  The last thing we need is more condemnation because must of us know we are already condemned.  Some might even say we are doomed.   We don’t need more doom and gloom.  We already have too much of that as it is.  We need a savior.  We need the hope of salvation because of a savior.   These words give me optimism that I cannot find anywhere in the world.  But as I look to the One who came to the world, I see now that salvation doesn’t come from within our sinful world or even from within my sinful self (how can it?), but from the One who came from heaven.  I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   

Lent 2016, Day 1

Lent 2016, Day 1Lent 2016(1)

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:7)

Jesus,

To my astonishment, I’m actually not surprised at this saying.  I see the need in myself to be born anew.  I feel the weight of the depravity of my sin that the only way to be free of it is a completely new start, a fresh beginning, a rebirthing.  There are times that I’ve tried justifying my sin and my selfish ways.  I’ve rationalize my ways to no end.  At other times I just blatantly give into my sin with no regard to the fact that I continue to hurt myself, hurt others, and distance myself from God.  The consequences of my sin, those that I am aware of anyway, are real.  I can’t seem to figure out how to “fix” the problem on my own.  I’ve tried, believe me.  But I could never seem to drop this nagging feeling that I could never “fix” myself, neither could anyone else “fix” me.

Yes, Jesus, I see the need to be born again.  I see how this is the only way to begin a new life, a new direction, a different path than I have been on.  I’m not sure what all this entails yet, but as I listen and learn from you, I know I’m ready for something new, because the old just isn’t working for me anymore.

Ash Wednesday 2016

AshYou and your family are invited to officially begin the season of Lent 2016 with an Ash Wednesday Prayer service at our church, Wednesday, February 10, 2016 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.  Lent is a time of preparation before Easter.  It is the 40 days prior to Easter not including Sundays.  Sundays are excluded because Lent is a time of fasting (giving something up for Lent) and Sundays are a day of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and we do not fast on days of celebration.  Beginning on Ash Wednesday, I will also post daily online Lenten devotional thoughts that I’m calling “My Jesus, My Savior” looking at the words of Jesus from the Gospel of John.  You are welcome to follow along with our church in this study during Lent 2016.  As we enter into the trials, sufferings, death, and burial of Christ this season, we do so knowing that we rise with Christ at the resurrection!

John M. Hanna

Super Bowl 50 Champions

denverIt was exciting to watch Super Bowl 50 and to see my hometown Denver Broncos win their third franchise championship.  I grew up in Denver during the Elway era, and it was exciting to see Elway and Denver win back to back championships in 1998 and 1999.  After the 1999 win, Elway retired on top which is exactly what I believe Peyton Manning should and will do.  He’s one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history and he has nothing more to prove.  As everyone speculated, it was the Denver defense that won Super Bowl 50.  I predicted a score of 31 – 27 and the final score was 24 – 10.  It wasn’t the most thrilling game, to be honest, but we did get the win.  With Manning retiring, as I believe he will, Denver can continue to build on their defense and continue to develop Brock Osweiler as their QB.  So my daily post today is dedicated to congratulating the Broncos, and all my friends back in Denver on a unique season that culminated in a Super Bowl victory!

John M. Hanna

The Super Life

My message this morning in church was entitled “The Super Life.”  Now, with today being the Super Bowl, I wasn’t trying to be cute and play on words, I really wasn’t.   Before I even knew the Super Bowl was today, I had planned on preaching from John 10:10 and the amazing words of Jesus when He said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  As I went to study the Greek more closely, I wanted to further explore the meaning of the word “abundantly.”  As you can see below, the Greek word perisson can be translated from the Greek to English as “excessive” or “super abundantly.”  The life that Jesus offers us is not just merely existing, but He offers to us a full life, the “excessive” life, the super abundant life.  So while we will all be glued to the television to watch a 60 minute football game, Jesus offers us that which will never end, eternal life, the fullest of life, literally “the super life.”  As we find our life in Christ, may we truly live our lives to the full to the glory of God!

super life

 

 

Super Bowl 50

Super BowlIn American culture, tomorrow really is something of a National holiday – Super Bowl Sunday!  Super Bowl 50 will take place tomorrow, and I’m especially stoked because my team is once again in the big game.  I was born in Denver and grew up watching the Orange Crush Denver defense of the late 1970’s and 1980’s, along with John Elway.  Two weeks ago, before the AFC Championship game between Denver and New England, I wrongly (thankfully) predicted that Denver would lose to New England.  I was wrong in large part because I have never seen the Denver defense play as hard hitting, tough, and smart as they did in shutting Tom Brady and the Patriots down in that game.  It was intense watching that defense play.  It reminded me of the Orange Crush defense of the past!  If the # 1 defense in the NFL this year can shut down Cam Newton and the # 1 offense, Denver will the Super Bowl.  I believe the Broncos will beat the Panthers in Super Bowl 50 by the score of 31-27.

They are saying that 30 second commercial spots during the Super Bowl will cost $4.3 million dollars.  Since I don’t have $4.3 million dollars to buy air time for the most viewed segment of television, allow me to use this platform to get this important message across – you are immeasurably loved by God. His love for you knows no boundaries or limits. The Lord truly loves you with an everlasting love, and nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John M. Hanna

Chapel Services

I had aLogos1 great time speaking at the chapel services this week at Logos Christian Academy, a private Christian high school here in Springfield.  My messages were from the Gospel of Luke and I was very well received.  These high school kids were so attentive, and I pray that God will take what happened in these chapel services and shape their hearts and minds as they grow in Christ.

John M. Hanna

 

 

 

 

2016 National Prayer Breakfast

NationalPrayerI would encourage you to take some time to watch the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast that took place earlier today in Washington DC which includes the first husband and wife couple to ever speak at the breakfast, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

Click here to watch the full schedule of the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast

John M. Hanna

President Obama’s Speech at Mosque

I watched with great interest today President Obama’s visit and speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a mosque.  My analysis of the visit is twofold.  One the one hand, I appreciate his efforts to stand with law abiding Muslim Americans who worship and live peacefully among us, and to acknowledge their place as contributing citizens in American culture.  The United States is a great melting pot of diverse religions and multicultural ethnicities. I also appreciated the President speaking firmly against ISIS and other radicalized terrorist groups that perpetrate violence in the name of Islam.  On the other hand, it seems as if the President is particularly concerned with the rights of Muslim Americans to worship according to their religious practices and not face discrimination (and rightly so) to the degree that he has not given conservative Christians.  Last week for example, the White House added three Christian advisors to President Obama’s list of faith based advisers, all three being liberal, none representing conservative Christianity.  The point being that while the President is standing with American Muslims and a progressive version of Christianity, more conservative Christians, such as Kim Davis the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who was jailed last year for not issuing same sex marriage licenses strictly due to religious conviction, appear to be without Presidential advocacy.  The President’s full speech from earlier today can be seen below –

Aramaic New Testament

I haven’t counted lately, but I must have thousands of books aNew Testamentnd Bible resources in my library at the church and at home.  Yet today, I was given as a gift a resource that I do not have.  My dear friend Ron Snyder gave me a new copy of an Aramaic New Testament, translated by Victor Alexander who is a native speaker of ancient Aramaic.  The New Testaments we have today (which are good translations) were translated from Greek and Latin into English from the giants of church history like Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and other Protestant translators.  In this translation however, the Greek is bypassed as the translator attempts to translate the ancient Aramaic directly into English.  Scholars are in general agreement that Jesus and His disciples spoke Aramaic which was the common language of Judea in the first century.  So, for example, let’s compare the Lord’s Prayer in the popular King James English translation to the Aramaic to English translation:

King James Version – “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

Aramaic translation – “Our heavenly Father, hallowed is your name.  Your Kingdom is come.  Your will is done, as in heaven so also on earth.  Give us the bread for our daily need.  And leave us serene, just as we also allowed others serenity.  And do not pass us through trial, except separate us from the evil one, for yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory to the end of the universe, of all the universes.  Amen!”

I think it’s a beautiful transition that can give us yet another perspective into the New Testament as we study and seek to better understand the message and ministry of Jesus, or as is translated in this version, Eashoa.

John M. Hanna

Happy Birthday, Mom!

no-smokingToday we celebrated my mother’s birthday.  I won’t publically share how old she is, I certainly know better than that.  Although she did say today that she is 29 which would make my mother younger than my wife.  Anyway, on this my mother’s birthday, I want to acknowledge this amazing woman of God who is an excellent mother and grandmother.  We’ve had an emotional year due to the passing of my father, but I’ve admired my mom’s strength through it all.

I want to share a humorous story about how my mom put an abrupt end to my smoking habit.  I was around 3 or 4 years of age, and my mom and I were in a busy, public area, and I watched a man finish smoking a cigarette and throw the butt on the ground.  When she wasn’t looking, I went to the butt, picked it up, put it in my mouth, and pretended I was smoking. As a little child, I certainly didn’t know better.  I was just emulating what I saw the man do.  When my mother turned around, she saw what I had done with the most horrified look on her face.  She marched over to me and smacked that cigarette butt right out of my mouth, and that right then and there ended my smoking habit.  I’ve never since picked up a cigarette nor do I have any desire.  Thank you mom for raising James and I right, for praying for us, for teaching us the Bible, for modeling Christ to us, for loving us unconditionally, for loving your grandkids, for having the most gracious heart, for ending my smoking habit, and most of all, for simply being you!  I love you!

John M. Hanna

James 2:1-5

Several yMoneyears ago, I had breakfast with one of the associate pastors of a much larger, wealthier church on the “nice” side of town.  He was telling me that they had an extra twenty thousand dollars just laying around and they needed to do something with that money, so they decided to remodel their fireside room.  I didn’t say anything, but as I was listening to him, I was thinking to myself, “Man, twenty thousand dollars is a third of our annual operating budget.  Must be nice to just have thousands of dollars to remodel one of your rooms while we’re struggling to pay the water bill because four days a week we had anywhere from 30 to 40 homeless people a day shower in our church and eat a hot meal.”  We don’t offer that ministry anymore because we simply can’t afford it.  You see, our church is not on the “nice” side of town.  We’re on the side of town where just this morning when I pulled into the church parking lot, I found a homeless man sleeping in a sleeping bag up against the building (which happens often) and asked him if he needed anything.  After the worship service was over, I found another homeless man urinating in the bushes up against the church building, and when talking to him, it was apparent he was on some kind of drug.  We’ve lost many people who no longer wanted to go to a church in a neighborhood that was deteriorating, and we are finding it difficult to retain families who would rather attend church on the “nice” side of town.  If the socioeconomic gap between the upper and lower class is widening in American culture, it’s sad to see the gulf is even greater in the church.  Wealthier Christians generally tend not to worship with poorer people.  Yet here is an important question – which side of town would you find Jesus?  Would Jesus hang out and worship on the “nice” side of town, or would He more likely be on the other side of town with the marginalized, the homeless, the drug addicted, the poor?  Think about it before you answer too quickly.  Oh, and read James 2:1-5, too.

John M. Hanna

Veggie Trays and Friends

Vegie_tray_1Renee and other pastor’s wives and women ministry leaders from all across the Oregon Pacific District are at Camp Kellogg this weekend for a Women in Ministry Retreat.  I spoke to Renee briefly today and she said they are having a great time.  They will worship together there Sunday morning and return home Sunday afternoon.  This also means that the boys and I are spending the weekend together – eating healthy, cleaning the house and keeping it clean, doing the dishes, watching nothing but educational programming, and being in bed at 9:30 pm sharp (ahem).  I have a friend who even offered to bring us over a veggie tray to ensure that we were eating healthy while Renee is away.  Being unfamiliar with this thing called a “veggie tray,” we googled it and decided to make a Taco Bell run instead.  All kidding aside (we actually did go to Taco Bell), we are blessed with great friends and try to be good friends in return to those who God has put into our life.  My prayer for the women at the retreat this weekend is that God will rejuvenate each of them with divine refreshment as the women in our lives and in our churches indeed are partners with us in ministry.  We are a church that values and affirms the gifts and graces that God gives women for ministry, including preaching and teaching, and we are a better church for that!

John M. Hanna

God Doesn’t Have Grandchildren

Renee made a comment a couple of wgrandpaeeks ago that nearly made me fall out of my chair.  She said, “You know, in ten years, we could be grandparents.”  Good thing I wasn’t drinking something at the time otherwise liquid would have spewed out of my mouth.  Even though I certainly do not think of myself as being old enough to be a grandparent in ten years, I suppose technically Renee is correct.  After my boys graduate from high school, and should they consistently apply deodorant so as not to repel any young ladies, I suppose the day will come when Renee and I will be grandparents.  One of the things I hear from those who are grandparents is that they get to enjoy their grandchildren, and then they get to enjoy giving them back to their parents.

As I thought about this, it struck me that this is how many people today view the church.  Take my friend Rick Dancer, for example, who is quite vocal about his love for God and “being the church” but has grown weary of “going to church” and hasn’t been to church in over a decade.  He’s certainly not alone as many people who were raised and developed spiritually in the church have walked away from the church.  They want to be like grandparents and enjoy the grandkids, but they don’t have to change dirty diapers, clean up vomit, and all the many other things that go with the daily grind of raising kids.  Sure, grandparents will chip in because they love their family, but it’s not their primary job anymore.  They’ve been there, done that, and now it’s their time to enjoy life!

When people talk about “being the church” without “going to church,” it’s like being a grandparent that gets to send the grandkids back to their parents.  Just as being a parent is difficult work, it’s very hard work being committed to a community of believers.  To be part of a church is to deal with the messiness that comes with living in covenant community.  It’s easy to talk about God in a bar to a stranger, or go on a beautiful three hour hike with a friend in the mountains and talk about each other’s lives, but at the end of the day, the stranger goes home and the friend goes on their way.  However, in the covenant community called the church, which is the weekly (or more) gathering of those who worship, fellowship, study, grow, grieve, laugh, fight, forgive, and love together, there is a family bond with one another.  Just as Jesus was committed to His church of twelve apostles through the good and the bad, the covenant community of Christ is also bonded together in love for one another.  Sure, people are free to leave, and people walk away from the church all the time.  But thanks be to God there are still people who are committed to being committed to the church, the Body of Christ, and helping raise God’s children with all the messiness that comes with raising kids.

John M. Hanna

Sixpence

SixpenceIn July 1999, on a segment of the Late Show with David Letterman, Letterman was interviewing guest Leigh Nash, lead singer for the group Sixpence None the Richer.  He asked Nash to explain how her band got that unusual name.  She replied, “It comes from the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  In the book, a little boy asks his father for a sixpence (coin)… to get a gift for his father.  The father is happy with the gift but also realizes that he’s not any richer for the transactions because he gave his son the money in the first place.”  David Letterman summed it up then, saying, “He bought his own gift.”  Nash said, “That’s right.  C.S. Lewis was comparing that to his belief that God has given him and us the gifts that we possess, and to serve God the way we should, we should do it humbly, realizing how we got those gifts in the first place.”  Letterman, though certainly not a theologian or even a professed Christian, took in that concept and said, “Well, that’s beautiful.”  We can give nothing to God that He hasn’t already given to us.  Everything God demands of us He gives to us first.  And what God has given us is ourselves, the gift of life.  We owe God our very lives because He is the One who, as the sustainer of life, gave us life.  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

John M. Hanna

The Earliest Nazarenes

In 2008, the ChuNazarenesrch of the Nazarene officially celebrated its 100th anniversary of officially being a Protestant denomination in the Christian Church, birthed out of the Methodist revivals of the 19th century.  The earliest Nazarenes were consumed with spreading Scriptural holiness across the land.  It was their mission to teach, preach, and embody the message of entire sanctification, that through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, God enables believers to live a holy life that empowers them to do the will of God.   Unfortunately, with the rise of fundamentalism, the lines between upholding Scriptural holiness and holding Biblical truth (preserving the fundamentals) became blurred.  Much of Protestant Christianity became all about believing the right things (orthodoxy) rather than necessarily doing the right things (orthopraxy).  I believe we need to recapture this “holiness ethic” which is so much more than preserving Biblical truth and knowledge (that is still desperately needed in a Biblically illiterate post Christian America).  We once again need that holiness zeal and fire that so consumed our early movement and gave rise to a holy people called Nazarenes that sought transformation at every level, beginning in the heart of each person that moved on to the heart of each city.

John M. Hanna

I’m No Dummy

TrumpWhen I decided to blog everyday beginning January 1st, it certainly was not my intention to delve into politics, although I try to stay current with what’s happening in American politics especially in a national election year.  The “breaking news” this evening is that Donald Trump is not going to be part of Thursday’s FOX News debate because anchor Megyn Kelly was going to be a moderator.  Trump is very upset because he felt that Kelly unfairly targeted him with her line of questioning at a debate last August.  In response to this “breaking news”, I tongue in cheek tweeted the following on my Facebook feed –

So, if Donald Trump is pulling out of the FOX News debate Thursday night because Megyn Kelly will be a moderator, if Kelly announces her candidacy for President will Trump bow out of the race? ‪#‎kellyforpres

I also did something I have never done before, I tweeted the above on the national FOX News Facebook feed.  When you do that you open yourself up to the entire world.  It was no surprise then that I got called a “dummy” from Patsy in Modesto.  I think Patsy’s response typifies why Trump is so popular.  He says whatever comes to mind without filtering what he’s saying and without regard to who he offends.  It’s not that he’s wealthy, or “successful”, or has real solutions (he has answers but not solutions) to real problems.  People see in Trump a “tell it like it is” brashness with little regard for thoughtful exchange (we see this in the debates).  In short, people resonate with Trump because they see themselves in him, and I’m not sure I want to see the worst of myself in the next President of the United States.  And oh, to Patsy in Modesto, I truly pray the Lord’s best for you.

John M. Hanna

Empire and Kingdom

There has alwayGovs been tension between the State (government) and the Church.  Both serve very different functions, but does that mean they should always be in constant tension?  Hippolytus of Rome, arguably the most important 3rd-century theologian in the Church in Rome, saw the Roman Empire as a demonic imitation of Christ’s kingdom.  Eusebius, the Church historian and court bishop saw the Empire as divinely ordained to prepare the way for Christianity since both had arisen about the same time, and he saw the Christian Emperor as the Church’s defender and protector against irreligion and false gods.  Much of the literature and talk the last couple of years has only perpetrated tension between the Church of today and the Empire (government) of today.  I believe as citizens of the Empire we have a responsibility to honor and respect those in authority, and admittedly this is much easier to do when those in authority are honorable and respectable people and truly seek the common good of their constituency.  Yet we also must realize that we have a higher obligation to the Kingdom of God.  As citizens of the eternal Kingdom, we live in the temporal tension of residing in the Empire while awaiting the consummation of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  Until that day however, we will live in this constant tension between the two.  May the Lord grant us wisdom as we eagerly await the Kingdom while living in the Empire.

John M. Hanna

Sunday Sermon Summary

Staying Alive picIn my current series “Staying Alive in Christ,” I talked this morning from that amazing passage in Ephesians chapter 2 where the apostle Paul writes about how once we were dead, but made alive in Christ in order to do good works.  We are saved by grace, not works, but having been made alive now in Christ, our lives as followers of Jesus ought to be characterized by good works.  But what are these good works?  I took the word “works” and made an alliteration to help give guidance.  This is by no means exhaustive, but gives us a good starting point:

Witness – having been made in alive in Christ means our lives are to be a good witness of the saving and redemptive work of God.  Acts 1:8 talks about being a witness of the Gospel after having received the Holy Spirit.  We’ve all unfortunately known people who were bad witnesses of the Gospel, yet I’m convinced that good works should amount to a good witness for Christ.

Obedience – in Ephesians 2:2, one of the characteristics of being dead in sin and transgressions is disobedience.  Yet when one is made alive by God there is a desire to fully obey the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:60, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”  A willingness to obey God and do His will is a clear indication that you are alive in Christ.

Reconciliation – a good work of one who is alive in Christ is that they are actively engaged in the ministry of reconciliation.  In 2 Corinthians 5:18 we are asked to do something great – “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  We all have a ministry, and as reconcilers we are called to help bring people to God so that they too can be made alive in Christ.

Kindness – in Ephesians 2:7 we are reminded of the grace and kindness that God expresses to us in Christ Jesus.  We then are to exhibit kindness to others.  Two chapters over in Ephesians 4:32, Paul talks more about this and says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  This is most certainly a good work that shows we are truly alive in Christ.

Serve – a life dedicated to good works will inevitably be a life who serves others, even as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  In Galatians 5:13 we read this, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

May our lives be characterized by good works!

John M. Hanna

When Men Gather in Christ

cakesLook at the size of those pancakes!  They are actually MANcakes as we had our first MANcake guys breakfast of the New Year this morning at the church with a dozen great guys!  I was able to share the vision I have for the guys who showed up and even a couple guys who came who are not part of the church.  I believe God has given me a message that I’m going to continue to share about all year regarding what it means for a Godly man to have success.  How the culture defines success for a man is very different than how God defines success for a man, each taking two very different trajectories.  As a pastor, it’s my desire to help all people, but especially men, reach their full God given potential!  Thank you to Caleb who helped make the MANcakes.  Also, thank you to Jacob who shared some great insights into the Bible (it’s moving to hear an 18 year old thinking about theological things).  And congratulations to Jerome for winning the Dutch Bros gift card!  Our next breakfast will be Saturday, February 20th at 10:00 am.

John M. Hanna

MANcakes, not Pancakes

MANcakeI’m very excited for the first MANcake breakfast of the New Year at the church tomorrow for any and all the boys, young men, and guys who want to attend.  We won’t serve measly pancakes, oh no.  We serve guy sized, MAN sized cakes, enough to satisfy the heartiest of appetites! And while we will eat and hang out together, the real reason for our gathering is that I’m thrilled to be sharing with the guys my vision for the New Year about what I believe God wants to do in our lives. I believe, more than ever, that if a man is focused and hungry and thirsty for the things of God, God then is able to move in our lives in ways He never has before! If you don’t have plans Saturday, January 23rd from 10:00 – 11:00 am, come join us at Springfield Church.  We will also have a drawing for a gift card from Dutch Bros!

John M. Hanna

Marco Rubio and his Faith

There are numerous times I’ve watched candidates running for office espousing their “religious” beliefs but are clearly pandering to the audience they are speaking to at the moment.  You get a sense that they, like most every other politician, will say whatever needs to be said simply to get support and votes.  Being the type of person that I am in giving people the benefit of the doubt, I must admit that I’ve become quite jaded when it comes to the rhetoric of professional politicians, especially when it comes to matters of faith.  I would love to believe that Marco Rubio was being authentic in his response to an atheist recently who asked a question in a room presumably filled with believers.  I will say that the more I listen to Rubio, the more I like him.

Our Next President

PresidentExactly one year from today, January 20, 2017, the United States of America, and the entire world for that matter, will watch the swearing in of the new President and Vice President.  It’s been rightly noted that our government has perhaps one of, if not the smoothest administration transitions of any nation.  While we are not a perfect country, we are, as noted in the Preamble to the United States Constitution, striving to “form a more perfect Union.”  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we are the greatest nation in the world when it comes to the freedoms and civil liberties we enjoy as a people.  Yet, until our next President is sworn in, what we have to deal with between now and Election Day on November 8, 2016 is the circus-like atmosphere of presidential wannabes going at each other like my two boys fighting over which video game they want to play next on their XBOX 360.  There are days I watch the candidates on TV to try and really listen to their positions, and then there are days I ignore political news altogether because they are going at it like cats and dogs.  The one thing I absolutely cannot avoid however, and I would ask you to not avoid either, are daily prayers for our country and our civil leaders.  The strength of a great nation is not the leadership charisma or savvy of our elected officials, but in the wisdom of the populous who prayerfully and thoughtfully elect our leaders – that’s you and me!

John M. Hanna

Prepare the Way Seminar

I am happy to announce that our zone area Nazarene pastors met with Stephen Williams of Prepare the Way Ministries this morning, and Springfield Church will be hosting their apologetics seminar on Saturday, April 16, 2016 from 9:00 am – noon for our entire region.   This seminar, which is open to anyone, will help equip us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15).  Stephen is planting Nazarene house churches in Bend, Oregon and working toward becoming ordained as a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene.  He came to faith in Christ as an agnostic and atheist.  This video below gives you a summary of Prepare the Way Ministries.  Be sure to mark Saturday, April 16th from 9:00 am – noon on your calendars.  For more information about Prepare the Way Ministries and to read Stephen’s full testimony, click here.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016

MLKOn this Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016, I am reminded of the cross country road trip Caleb and I took from Oregon to Orlando the summer of 2009 when he was 7 years old.  We had a blast and it was definitely a father / son bonding trip.  One of our stops along the way was Memphis, Tennessee so that we could visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley (Caleb was enamored with Presley at the time).  We also stopped at the Lorraine Motel, the site where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  Caleb had written a report on MLK in first grade and so stopping to visit what is now the National Civil Rights Museum was definitely a highlight.  Dr. King was certainly not a perfect man, no one is, but God used him in great ways to help bring about profound changes in how race relations were being perceived in America at the time.  Many quotes by Dr. King are floating around social media today, so allow me to share one of my favorites – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

John M. Hanna

Zombies and the Gospel

I attempted an analogy in my sermzombieson today to try and help illustrate the Biblical teaching that without Christ we are dead.  The Bible teaches in Ephesians 2:1 (and in other places) that “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”  It’s hard for us to imagine “being dead” since we obviously move, and work, and run, and live our lives, etc. Because our entertainment culture is inundated with zombies, I talked about how this must be how God views us without the resurrection power of Christ at work in our lives.  We must appear like zombies to God – dead, without spiritual life and vitality.  Truth be told, without Christ, we feel like zombies and probably act like them too, looking only after our own interests, devouring and hurting others.  The Gospel (or the Good News) is that God came to us in the person of Jesus to save us from our deadness, to resurrect us, to give us life.  In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  The essence of life in Christ is a complete transformation from death to life.  Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…”  I ended my sermon by saying this:  if we need money, we go to a broker.  If we need a house, we go to a realtor.  If we need to learn something, we go to a teacher.  If we are sick, we go to a doctor.  If we want to be entertained, we turn to an actor.  If we need something fixed, we go to a contractor.  If we are dead, we look to the Resurrector (term I coined) as the only One who can take us from death to life!

John M. Hanna

What About the Others?

detainedThe news today that the Iranians have released four American prisoners as part of a prisoner swap is exceptional!  It would be outstanding if every such situation ended like this, but sadly we know this is not always the case.  The Americans released are: Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and a recently detained student.  For the past couple of years, my Facebook and email feeds have been inundated with prayer request after prayer request for the release of Pastor Saeed, whose family lives in Idaho.  He is a native of Iran, convert to Christianity, and was sentenced to prison for eight years for supposedly undermining the Iranian government.  While I’ve very much appreciated the call to pray for the release of Pastor Saeed, which God in His mercy has answered today, I can’t help but ask, “What about the others?  Where were the urgent calls to prayer from the Christian community for the others detained in Iran and in other hostile places around the world?”  I understand the need to pray for Pastor Saeed, I really do, and if I were in his position, I would want people around the world praying for me.  But I would also want an equal emphasis for others in the same situation.  I’m not presuming that Christians did not pray for the others, I’m just saying that the emphasis on social media, from what I observed, might have well indicated that Pastor Saeed was the only one in captivity, and the only one released today, for that matter!  I’m grateful that Pastor Saeed’s family, as well as the other families, are celebrating the release of their loved ones.  Yet we must continue to urgently pray for the many others who are currently being held captive in adverse environments around the world.

John M. Hanna

Statement from Canterbury

episcopal-churchThe widening rift between denominations and churches over the issue of homosexuality took a more dramatic turn today when the Anglican Church in England voted to censure its American branch, the Episcopal Church.  The censure means that for three years the Episcopal Church will not be able to vote and make decisions that impact the wider, worldwide Anglican Communion representing approximately 85 million Christians.  I have particular interest with what’s happening in the Anglican Communion because as a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, a branch of the Methodist church which was founded by John Wesley who himself was a lifelong Anglican, I tend to ask, “What would Wesley say about such matters if he were alive today?”  While Wesley embodied a catholic (not Roman Catholic) spirit, which sought to unite and not divide Christians, I’m not convinced that Wesley would have taken the position that the Episcopal Church has taken in recent years in performing same sex marriages and ordaining actively gay persons.  This is in no way is homophobic or hateful for Christ loves all people and His church is welcome to all.  Yet I am convinced that Wesley would have affirmed the statement from Canterbury and Archbishop Welby today, which reads, “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.”

John M. Hanna

Better Than a Billion

Tim Baldwin walks off after adding the letter "B" to a Georgia Lottery billboard Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Atlanta. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over 1 billion dollars, and the drawing is still two days away. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Largest lottery in history…

No, you didn’t win $1.4 billion dollars…

and no one you know won either.

I hate to burst your Powerball bubble…

but you will never win millions playing the lottery…

and neither will anyone you know.

However…

The God who created you…

is the very same God…

who will take care of you!

“Look at the birds of the air,” said Jesus…

They do not sow or reap or store away in barns…

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Yes you are!

John M. Hanna

Ancient Texts

QuranIn response to my post yesterday entitled “Same God?” about whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I not only received some great feedback, but my good friend Matt and I engaged in a robust online discussion regarding this topic.  Matt is a smart guy and recently graduated with his Master of Divinity degree from George Fox Evangelical Seminary.  I very much appreciate Matt as a friend and love our ability to challenge each other.  As Matt and I were discussing, I asked him if he had even read the Quran.  His response was, by far, typical of the vast majority of people I dialogue with about Islam – he hadn’t.  To be fair, many Christians I know do not read their Bibles either.  Full engagement with these ancient texts requires not just a surface reading, but a lifetime of in-depth reading, study, reflection, evaluation, etc.  Beyond that, there are a myriad of critical interpretative processes when looking at any ancient text including historical, theological, cultural, socio-political, etc.  In other words, it’s one thing to say, “Oh, I’ve read the Bible or the Quran” (a cursory reading), it’s another thing entirely to spend a lifetime of engagement with these texts and explore them fully from varying angles.  I’ve toyed with the idea of even having a Quran study like we have Bible studies to help familiarize people with what the Quran teaches so as to be informed.  But as a Christian pastor, if I can just get people to a Bible study, I am elated.

John M. Hanna

Same God?

ChristianDo Christians and Muslims worship the same God?  While there is much to be said about this, and with the debate about the recent decision by Wheaton College to terminate a tenured political science professor who not only wore a hijab during Advent, but also declared that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the short answer is “no.” Christians and Muslims worship the “same” God conceptually only in the sense that a banana and a guava would each be considered fruit.  They may share vaguely similar properties but clearly are distinct.  Yet this analogy falls short because both in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in Islam each God declares Himself to be the one, true God.  Yahweh (the Hebrew word for God) in the Old Testament empathically declares this, and Allah in the Quran also declares this.  A close study of these two Gods shows that who they ontologically (their state of being), and how they relate to humanity and how they expect humanity to relate back to them are distinct and incompatible.  And while Arabic speaking Christians and Muslims both call God “Allah”, which is the Arabic word for God, there is a slight nuance linguistically in how “Allah” is pronounced between Christians and Muslims.  It’s a minor pronunciation differentiation that non Arabic speaking people do not notice.  Obviously much more can be said, and perhaps I’ll revisit this.  I love Muslims as we ought to love all people.  And when a Muslim (or an atheist or anyone for that matter) discovers the God who is love and that love fully revealed in Jesus Christ, they will say they’ve discovered something they’ve never known before.

John M. Hanna

God Calling

god-is-callingA pastor friend of mine in southern California was put on a committee on his District to interview those who are up for ordination in our denomination.  He’s new to this committee, and since I’ve been doing this for a while, he asked me for my opinion and thoughts regarding what types of theological questions to ask ordination candidates.  I’ll be doing the same thing this week on my District for the twelfth consecutive year, and I always approach these meetings prayerfully and diligently because the Kingdom work we are doing is of eternal value.  Yes, there are theological questions we need to ask pertaining to our Wesleyan understanding of Scripture, salvation, and sanctification, etc., but what I told my friend was this:  while there are many important aspects that need to be evaluated and assessed during these ordination interview meetings, the single most important quality to look for in every candidate is whether or not they are truly called of God to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The ordination board will need to be able to discern if the person is genuinely called of God.  If a person is not called of God, they will not endure the pressures and trials of ministry and potentially do great harm to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  The call of God is the ONLY reason why pastors should go into ministry.  If someone does not know without a shadow of a doubt that they are called of God, then the very best course of action for them, their family, and the church is to help them find another calling.  God calls all people to be saved.  God calls all saved people to be sanctified.  And God calls some people to service as ministers of the Gospel.   This is the verse that helps me summarize the ordination interview process:  “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He (Isaiah 43:10).

John M. Hanna

Rev. John Miller

What a gJohn Millerreat day in church today with my friend Rev. John Miller who is a Nazarene pastor in Hawaii and visiting Oregon for the first time ever!  His ministry to us was like a revival service!  I love the passion and enthusiasm he has for the things of God, and he shared story after story, of miracle after miracle, of breakthroughs after breakthroughs of God doing amazing things in his life!  I hadn’t seen him in years and it was like we never skipped a beat.  One of the things he said as he was nearing the end of his message really resonated with those of us who were listening.  John said, “I’d take the worst day of being a Christian over the best day of being a sinner… any day!”  Then he quoted Psalm 84:10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”  The faith journey we have with God through Jesus Christ is far greater than the drudgery of living in sin and not knowing God.  It was a great day of me listening to my friend bless us with his presence today.  If you’d like to hear his message, click here.

John M. Hanna

Journey to the Center of the Heart

My friend Pastor John Miller will be speaking at our church tomorrow at 11:00 am.  John and I were pastoral colleagues in Colorado, and he is now pastor of the Wahiawa Community Church of the Nazarene in Hawaii which also hosts Nazkine Studios where he delivers messages of hope and encouragement on local cable TV to the Island of Oahu.  He has never been to Oregon and he’s excited to share the story of how God completely transformed his life.  John was born into a family of domestic violence and alcohol abuse, and later became addicted to alcohol himself.  Providentially, he was delivered from alcohol addiction and has been sober for 23 years.  His book “Journey to the Center of the Heart” is his personal story of how God can transform a person’s life and offer them a second chance.  It’s one man’s journey from hell to paradise.  He will be selling copies of his book at church tomorrow for $10 each.  If you don’t have the money, we’ll still get you a copy if you want one.  I invite you to join us at Springfield First Church of the Nazarene, Sunday, January 10, 2016 for worship and to hear John’s story of redemption and what God can do for you!

Devotions for Kids

Devotions for kidsRenee and I try and do devotions with our boys every night.  That basically means we try and sit down every night as a family before we go to bed and read and learn from the wisdom of the Bible as well as spend time praying together. If you want to supplement devotional time with your kids with additional reading material, there are a million kid type devotionals out there and it can be hard to decide which one to pick.  I came across this one recently and we started it the first of the year.  We are finding that it’s one of the more creative and engaging kid devotions that we’ve seen.  It’s fun with informative and interesting material that ties in with the Bible verse for the day and also allows us to discuss what we’ve just read.  While it seems to be geared more for older elementary and middle schoolers, I think my freshman in high school is enjoying it as well.  If you are looking for a family devotional you can do together as a family that won’t take up too much time but still daily help teach your kids wisdom from the Bible, take a look at this one by Nancy Hill published by Tyndale House.  At amazon.com you can get a used copy for very cheap!  If you have kids, take the time to teach them the wisdom of the Bible.  It’s an eternal investment in their life!

John M. Hanna

Your Ministry Sweet Spot

pulpitI had the privilege today of spending most of the day interviewing and mentoring people who are responding to the call of God upon their lives to pursue ministry.  I listened today to amazing testimonies of how God literally rescued people from a life of hopelessness, drugs, alcohol, loneliness, depression, and with no direction or purpose in life.  Some of them gave up high paying jobs to pursue the less than glamorous, much lower pay of the ministerial calling.  The educational process they must go through is rigorous, and they are accountable in various ways to the highest levels of integrity in their lives.  I am humbled and honored to have been on this committee for the last 12 years and be part of this journey that ministerial candidates are on.

Today reminded me that God really does have a calling for every single person, not just those who are called to be pastors.  It is true, according to Ephesians 4:11, that “It was He [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,” and I’m humbled that God would call someone like me to be a pastor.  Yet God has a divine plan and purpose for your life even if He doesn’t call you to preach, or teach, or be a missionary, etc.  You have certain gifts, abilities, and creativities that when utilized for God have a far reaching, eternal effect.  When you discover and then live out your “sweet spot”, that area that is uniquely you, you feel a sense of fulfillment about your life that you didn’t have before.

John M. Hanna

The Remnant: Restoring the Call to Personal Integrity

RemnantThe first book of the New Year that I’ve completed is this short, 180 page easy to read book that packs a punch entitled “The Remnant:  Restoring the Call to Personal Integrity” or earlier publications of the same book were subtitled “Restoring Integrity to American Ministry” by Larry Stockstill.  The first time I heard of Larry Stockstill was when he was appointed as one of several men to help restore Ted Haggard after his very public fall from grace in 2006.  It appears that this book is in part a response to that situation but certainly applies to all pastors and ministry leaders.  Stockstill pastored Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for 28 years which is now being pastored by his son Jonathan.  While they lean more charismatic than my own faith tradition, none of which is apparent in the book by the way, I very much appreciate the emphasis on purity, integrity, family values, etc.  The book is simple and straight forward as he begins by talking about the five dysfunctions of the American Church in Part 1.  Part 2 of the book is what Stockstill calls “the Ten Commandments of Ministry” which are basic, straightforward principles that ought to govern the lives of all who are in ministry.  I very much recommend this book to my pastoral colleagues and even as a resource for your ministry/leadership teams.

Click here to see a short video of Larry Stockstill talking about his book

John M. Hanna

Guns and Grace

Gun“For it is by guns you have been saved…”  America 3:16

This could very well be the mantra of many Americans, even Christian Americans, who are clinging to the second Amendment with more tenacity than they cling to the second Testament.  I’m not a Democrat, and the current frontrunner of the GOP in the 2016 presidential election rubs me the wrong way, so politically right now, I’m in limbo.  But earlier today I did watch President Obama exercise executive authority in an attempt to curb the gun violence problem in our country, violence that includes homicide, suicides, and mass shootings resulting in mass injuries and causalities.  While the issue of gun violence is multifaceted and does not rest solely on the government to find solutions, I appreciate the President’s efforts to deal more effectively with background checks, community safety, mental health, and gun safety technology.

Wherever you stand on the issue of guns, it is not a gun, or a hundred, or an entire army that will ultimately save you, your family, and our country.  Yes, national security is an issue, and yes, we need to live wisely so as not to put ourselves in harm’s way.  Yet the great declaration of the New Testament is “For it is by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:8).  It is an amazing grace that enables us to live without fear, whether we are packing heat or not.  If you do pack heat, remember the words of Jesus – “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).  There are no easy answers and we live in a messy, complex society.  In a perfect world, there would be no violence, hatred, and bloodshed.  Until the peace of Christ reigns supreme in the eschaton (the end of the age), I will seek the grace of God.

John M. Hanna

Click here to watch President Obama’s gun control speech from this morning

 

Derailed

Train-DerailedI came across an interesting quote today, “A train is actually most free when on the track.”  Too often we think that freedom means doing whatever it is we want to do.  No limits, no boundaries, no restrictions.  After all, isn’t that the very essence of freedom, that we are not bound to anyone or anything?  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  We need structures and guidelines built into our lives to help us excel and become productive.  Without structures and guidelines, we become sidetracked and preoccupied with matters that tend to be insignificant or even harmful.

If you’ve ever taken a college course, for example, the professor’s syllabus for the course is the track that will take the class from point A to point B.  Without a syllabus there would be chaos and disorder and the course would be a waste of time.  The Bible says it this way in one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament, “You were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature;  rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).  A derailed life is as ineffective as a derailed train.  Neither are going anywhere.  May we use the guidelines given to us by God to stay focused and on track so that we may serve God, others, and ourselves for that matter, effectually.

John M. Hanna

Whiter than Snow

SnowWe woke up to a sprinkling of snow this morning which is somewhat surprising here in these parts.  Last winter we had no snow whatsoever.  Growing up in Denver I’m accustomed to real blizzards and major snow fall.  Here in western Oregon a sprinkling like this might as well be perceived as a blizzard. I had people calling me this morning asking if I was going to cancel church!  I joked in church today that I was going to have t shirts printed up for everyone who made it to church that says, “Even the blizzard of 2016 couldn’t keep me home!”  When Caleb saw the snow he was hoping that school would be cancelled tomorrow.  Keep hoping, buddy!

There is something to be said of the beauty of newly fallen snow.  The scenery and serenity exudes a peaceful calm.  It makes me wonder if King David wrote Psalm 51 on a winter day when a light covering of snow was blanketing the landscape.  Psalm 51 is David’s cry for repentance and salvation from his great sin.  The stain on his soul was dark and it haunted him.  David cried out to a merciful God to forgive him.  In Psalm 51:7, David prays, “Cleanse me with hyssop (which was a plant used in ancient times for cleansing and medicinal purposes) and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  I heard a pastor once say that “hyssop” was “high soap.”  In other words, when God forgives, He cleanses the stain of sin so clean that our soul is not just as white as snow, but whiter than snow.  How that is possible, I have no idea.  But neither do I know how God could forgive a sinner like me, and like you.  It all must have something to do with what is mentioned at the very beginning of Psalm 51, perhaps the greatest of all the qualities of God, His unfailing love!

John M. Hanna

You’ll Be Back, Just Like Our Ducks!

Alamo BowlThose of us living in Oregon watched college football history tonight.  Unfortunately we were on the losing end of a remarkable football game in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio where after our Oregon Ducks were up 31-0 at halftime, Texas Christian came back from behind and in triple overtime won 47-41.  It was the greatest comeback win in NCAA bowl history.

Life is very much like that football game.  We may be on top of the world and feeling great about our job, our marriage, our finances, our family, our health, etc., and then the tables get turned and before we know it we find ourselves on the losing end with the wind knocked out of us.  And we can become discouraged and demoralized.  It’s happened to the best of us.

Tomorrow in church, on the first Sunday of 2016, I’m going to read from Acts chapters 10 and 11 in the New Testament.  In Acts 10:34-35 listen to the words of Peter who was a follower of Jesus, “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.’”  When life knocks you down, when you face defeat, discouragement, and despair, remember, God accepts you.  So fear Him by putting Him first in your life, ask God to pick you back up, shake it off, lift your head high and do what is right!  You’ll be back, just like our Ducks!

John M. Hanna

Prayer in the New Year

War RoomHappy New Year 2016!  Last night as part of our New Years Eve celebration at church, we watched the movie “War Room”. Aside from a few minor theological issues, I thought it was a great movie dealing with the power of prayer and a great motivator to begin the New Year!

I want to share with you a simple method to help you make prayer a priority in your life because prayer is our connection to God and the means by which miracles happen.

On this first day of the New Year, take one minute to pray.  Get alone for 60 seconds and talk to God.  Tell Him how grateful you are for the opportunity for a new beginning; tell Him a need you have;  ask Him for guidance, etc.

Tomorrow, take two minutes to pray.  Get alone somewhere for 120 seconds of uninterrupted prayer and talk to God.  I know this may seem trivial at first, but if you continue adding a minute a day for the rest of the month, at the end of January you will be praying for thirty minutes, and by the end of February, you, yes you, could be spending a solid hour of prayer in the presence of God.  Can you imagine how different your life would be as you spend an hour basking in the divine presence of God?  Will this take dedication and effort on your part? Of course it will, but as with anything important in life, if being connected to God is to be a priority, we will prioritize and make it happen.

If you try this method of incremental prayer on a daily basis and it makes a difference in your life, I would love to hear about!

John M. Hanna