Salt of the Earth

By Charles W. Christian

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” — Matthew 5:13

Salt has, in some ways, developed a bad reputation these days. It can cause high blood pressure and heart issues when it is over used. Part of the reason salt has developed its reputation is that it is so accessible. That has not always been the case, of course. In ancient times, salt was relatively rare. Salt that could be used for consumption was even rarer.

In ancient times, salt could be a method of payment, and until the invention of canning and refrigeration, salt was the main way in which food was preserved for storage. While the overuse of salt can have ill effects on health, salt is an essential mineral for human life.

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Jesus calls His followers the “salt of the earth.”

This means we are God’s agents of preservation and health for this world. That is a big calling! God actually wishes to use us to help keep the world from rotting. We are agents that prevent the decay of our world by sharing the good news of God’s love and grace. When we choose not to participate in God’s agenda for us and for our world, we “lose our saltiness” and can actually become part of the problem.

As Nazarenes, we define holiness as both an individual experience and as an ongoing experience of participating with all of God’s people in the furthering of God’s ways in the world. In other words, there is both an individual and a social component to holiness.

Individually, we are transformed by God so that together we may be the “salt of the earth.” May we look for Spirit-led ways to be agents of God’s transforming love in the world this week and always.

Prayer for the Week:

Lord, we are Yours. As we surrender to You, may you move us from the ways of darkness to the ways of light. In so doing, may we become your instruments of peace, love, and preservation in the world, so that others can be prepared to receive your Holy Spirit and walk with us in the eternal glory of Your presence. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

*Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.

This article was originally published at Holiness Today.

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You Will not die Before you see Him

By Hiram Vega

Prophets, priests, kings and peasants – they all waited for the signs of the coming Messiah.

Their constant question was, “When will the Messiah come?” He was to be the Anointed One of God who would end the disgrace of the people of God.  Four hundred years had passed since the Prophet Malachi, and God had not spoken.

Well, he did continue to speak, but only to a few chosen people.  It seemed that one in particular, an enigma named Simeon, had a direct line to heaven.  How important of a person must he have been to have God himself share what was going to take place?  Humanly speaking, he was completely unimportant.  He was a common old man with an even more common name. He was unknown on earth, but known and respected in heaven.  His character was of the same caliber as Joseph and Mary’s.  The gospel tells us that he was an upright man.  Not only that, he was a sincere seeker of God. Heaven took note, and God poured his Holy Spirit out on him.  Did you think that the Holy Spirit first came at Pentecost?  God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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We know almost nothing about this elderly man except that the Holy Spirit confirmed to him that he would not die until he saw the Anointed One of the Lord.

Today Christians await the return of the Lord, and no one knows the day or the hour of his second coming.  But Simeon was waiting for his first coming.  When the moment arrived, the Holy Spirit guided him to the temple just in time to find a humble carpenter from Bethlehem and his wife presenting a newborn.  On earth there was no fanfare, no great chorus, no royal assembly to commemorate the moment.  Heaven gave this aged worshiper the privilege that kings and prophets longed for: he was the first to recognize the Messiah.

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

People continue to live in darkness today. Millions have not experienced the salvation of our Lord.  God continues to speak to his Simeons—men and women who long to know God and to make him known.  Their hearts desire for more people to be saved, until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

 

Living Stones

By Ken Mitchell

The tour guide introduced herself at the entrance to Linville Caverns and immediately warned us not to touch any of the stones inside. She explained that these were living stones and that the acid from the human touch would cause them to stop growing.

It was Saturday afternoon and Janet and I and our two grandsons were on our annual outing. This year we had been gem mining and now were about to explore the inside of the mountain in Linville, North Carolina. I found the warning interesting, but the concept of living stones didn’t catch my full attention until the following Tuesday morning when I read 1 Peter 2. As I read verses 4 and 5, I was reminded of our Saturday tour. “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

I realized that if I am to be a living stone, I should know what a living stone is.

The Holy Spirit took me back to the tour guide. She had indicated that the stones were living because they were growing. As the mineral laden water flows over them it deposits additional minerals. These additional deposits cause slow growth. I believe she said they grow approximately 1 cubic inch every 100 years. This is slow growth to be sure, but it is growth. She defined “living stones” as “growing stones.”

We too must be growing stones if we are to meet the definition of living stones in 1 Peter 2:5.

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The stones in Linville Caverns are nourished by constantly flowing mineral water. I asked myself, How must I be nourished in order to grow and be a living stone?

I found the answer in verse 2: “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (NKJV). I was reminded of Elizabeth, our 7-month-old granddaughter. When she desires milk, everyone nearby knows about it. She will not calm down until her hunger is satisfied. What would happen if we fed Elizabeth only once a week on Sunday morning? Or 3 times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening? This would obviously not work. First, she would not give us any rest as she expressed her desire for milk, and second, she would not grow.

Is my “desire [for] the pure milk of the word” as strong as Elizabeth’s desire for milk for her stomach? Does my soul cry out for nourishment? This is a challenge to me. Elizabeth cannot feed herself or control her feeding times, but I can. As a mature adult I feed my physical body three times daily. How can I do less for my spiritual self? Thank you Lord for showing me how to become a “living stone”. May others read this and be challenged to, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that [they] may grow thereby.”

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

3 Ways to Become the Godly Elders/Mentors Today’s Youth Need – and Want to Follow

By Karl Vaters

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.

That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for senior citizen membership. But I assure you it is.

I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.

They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.

No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.

Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be

A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.

But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.

So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?

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I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.

Start by serving, not demanding.

Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.

This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.

When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.

First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.

Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.

Finally, there are the challenges they face that truly are different from anything we had to face. For instance, it’s likely that our kids’ and grandkids’ generation will, for the first time in our nation’s history, make less money than their parents did. They’re also facing a culture that is increasingly indifferent, even hostile to a Christian witness. None of that is their fault, but they have to live in the fallout of it. In such situations, the greatest gift we may have for them won’t be good advice, but a listening, sympathetic ear and prayerful, loving friendship.

To become the effective elders the next generation needs, we must have a similar approach as missionaries do when they go in to a culture that is new, and therefore feels strange and sometimes scary to us. In such situations, humility goes a long way. We have to listen and learn before we will have anything to teach.

2. Be Worth Listening To

We need to behave like elders worthy of honor. Living lives that people want to emulate. Following Jesus with such joy, passion and hopefulness that others can’t help but be drawn to him.

If you have a hard time finding young people who want to be mentored, seriously ask yourself this question. Are you behaving in a way that is worthy of being honored? Are you truly setting an example to follow? Not just in (self)righteous behavior, but in selfless generosity and humble teachability.

No one wants to listen to an old crank with a “what’s wrong with youth today?” mentality or a “when I was your age we knew how to respect our elders” attitude.

As elders, it is not our job to convict of sin or correct their behavior. That’s Jesus’ job. And he does it very well.

It’s our job to love them. To lead by example as we live a life of humility, holiness, patience and joy.

Certainly there will be moments of correction. But we have to earn the right to do that by showing ourselves to be trustworthy first.

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

3. Help Them Be Like Jesus, Not Like Us

The goal of an elder or a Christian mentor is not to help the next generation become more like us. It’s to help them become more like Jesus. The only way we can do that is becoming more Christlike ourselves.

The current and coming generations don’t want to do church the way we did it. This is a good thing.

Becoming like your elders isn’t discipleship, it’s mimicry. Repeating their habits and behaviors isn’t growth, it’s going through the motions.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too. Then, when they become more like Jesus, they’ll challenge us to keep growing even more. Each serving and blessing the other in an upward cycle of faith.

A servant will always become like their master. But an elder isn’t a master. An elder follows the Master, and helps others follow him, too.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

Called unto Holiness – Part 2 of 3

In the previous blog entry, I shared the introduction to a classic holiness message by Dr. Nina Gunter.  Today and in the final installment of the week, I am providing the remainder of her sermon.

In the 11 pages of the Historical Statement of our Manual, the words holiness and sanctification are referenced more than 70 times.

Holiness is our calling.

Holiness is our impetus.

Holiness is our passion.

Holiness is our fire.

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  • People are asking questions about holiness.
  • Mainline denominations are wanting to know more about the holiness movement.
  • The Roman Catholic church is asking questions. In fact, they sent a representative to the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project meeting.
  • Young people are drawn to the integrative force of the holiness message.

The Board of General Superintendents with general superintendents and bishops of the Wesleyan tradition participated, through Board representation, in a consortium to define the holiness movement.

The convenor, Kevin Mannoia, former bishop of the Free Methodist church and currently the graduate chaplain at Azusa Pacific University, released 10 phrases (the first five of which will be shared here, and the last five later this week) that are descriptors or characteristics of the holiness movement.

  1. Transformed character based, in large part, in the otherness of God.

We too will be “other.”

We have received the mandate: “Do not conform to this world.”

  • Jesus prayed for His followers, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
  • As believers, we are “set apart.”
  • Jesus gave Himself for us and purified for Himself “a peculiar people” or “a special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14
  • This does not mean we are extreme—if so, we would tend toward being sectarian. But we areto be a special people.
  • The community around will then see the followers of Christ as a different people with godly values, Christian principles, right attitudes, and as honest, upright citizens.
  • Across the years, all over the world, the Church of the Nazarene has gone where we were not wanted, stayed, and lived Christ-like until the community said, “Don’t leave. We can’t do it without you.”
  1. Responsible engagement based in God’s incarnation.

God was not satisfied to be “other”, but rather took the initiative to live with and in us.

As a result, we take the initiative to engage in that which is broken among us.  This is the Missio Dei that derives from the nature of God.

Social and Missional engagement—incarnational expressions of personal and social holiness.

This includes ministry—making Christ-like disciples in all nations.  You cannot separate holiness and missions.

This missional engagement is here—there—everywhere—and includes ministry among the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized.  It engages us to redress injustice.  Now we join with God in His purposes.  This is the optimism of grace.  Grace brings wholeness out of chaos.

The Missio Dei (The Mission of God) is best understood in the language of the Kingdom.  Kingdom living embraces God in worship in the midst of transnational, multilingual, multicultural, and transgenerational settings.

  1. Healthy relationships based upon the triune nature of God.

      Relationships based on the Kingdom model of mutuality.

  • Voluntary submission
  • Unity out of diversity

There is no unity until first there is diversity.  If there is no unity, there is no power.

  • We disagree, but we don’t destroy.

It was said of the New Testament church, “See how they love one another.”  That is, “See how they get along, accept each other, include each other.”

Healthy relationships are characteristic of a holy people—a holy church.

The Holy Spirit is the great unifier.  The proof of the Spirit is the works of love.  John Wesley spoke of a “pure love to God and men.”  God sanctifies together.

  1. Wise decisions based on the free choice of God to impart free will.

God has graced us with the freedom of choice.

Determinationdoesn’t make sense.

Wisdomcomes from the presence of Christ in us.

“If we lack wisdom, ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

God gives us freedomto use the wisdom He gives us.

  1. Curious thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

            In His creativity God made us in His image.  He releases His creativity in us.  God is not a micro-manager.  He is the Creator and He hands it off to humanity.  God said, “You go rule over the earth.  You take care of my creation.”

            This curious thinking relates to our philosophy of liberal arts.  We pursue God in all the disciplines . . . with all the adventures . . . all the great discoveries.  We become lifelong learners of God’s truth . . . of His world . . . His people.

Therefore, the church embraces education—liberal arts—learning.

J.B. Chapman said, “We must build schools or die as a church.  We must be spiritually right, intellectually correct and scholastically strong.”  In a holiness movement, there is curious, critical thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

***The rest of this sermon will be published later this week.

Called unto Holiness – Part 1 of 3

Several years ago, I had the privilege of translating for Dr. Nina Gunter in the Holiness Summit held in San José, Costa Rica.  Her message, as many of hers do, had to do with holiness.  As I was reflecting on her words anew just days ago, I decided to reproduce her sermon this week, with her permission.  The following is the introduction to her marvelous sermon.

Called unto Holiness
1 Peter 1:13-16

By Nina Gunter

A gathering of Wesleyan scholars and leaders explored the mission of the churches of the holiness movement.  This Wesleyan Holiness Study Project asked serious questions, such as, “Is the concept of holiness relevant for Christians in the 21stcentury or is it a relic of the past?”

I offer these conclusions for the Church of the Nazarene:

  1. The Church of the Nazarene unequivocally insists that holiness is not only relevant but essential in the postmodern world.
  2. Nazarenes hunger for a coherent message that is compelling.
  3. Nazarenes have an opportunity, as never before, to embrace the emerging realities of this holiness doctrine and become catalysts for spiritual renewal and growth in the Christian church through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. If Nazarenes would invest more effort in preaching and teaching holiness with conviction and clarity and in giving witness to the Spirit-filled life, there would be unprecedented victory and growth in our churches.

            Illustration:  A mischievous little boy caught a bird and thought he’d have some fun with a wise old man who was blind.  The boy held the bird in his hands, walked up to the old gentleman and said, “Mister—if you are so wise—tell me.  Is the bird in my hands dead or alive?”  

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The wise old man thought to himself, “If I say he is alive the boy will squeeze the bird to death. If I say the bird is dead, the boy will turn the bird loose.”

So the wise old man replied, “It’s in your hands.”

I ask you leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, will the doctrine and experience of holiness continue to be the blessed message, mission, and lifestyle of the people called Nazarenes?  Or will holiness become a nice, quaint, but antiquated part of our story?