There’s an app for that! Well, maybe not…

By Scott Armstrong

I use apps on my smartphone several hours a day.  You probably do, too.

Twitter? Fantasy Football? Tracking your steps every day? Yes, there are mobile phone apps for all of those.

But you already knew that.  Did you know there’s an app for virtually shaving yourself? What about milking a cow? Or that there’s even an app for nothing? That’s right.  It literally does nothing.  The screen goes gray…………and does nothing.

Make sure you download it today.

There seems to be an app for everything.  There are millions of apps for things I truly have never thought of in my life.

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But as far as ministry goes, there are still areas that apps have not touched.

Giving me 26 hours a day instead of 24? There’s not an app for that.

Helping me to fit in seamlessly in a new culture within 1 week? No app for that.

Getting my neighbor down the street to respond to the gospel and see his life changed? Nope.

Many apps help you save time.  But they don’t give you more time.  Time is the great equalizer.

Some apps help you to learn a language or discover more about a culture or country. But the hard work of spending time with real people and eating their food and beginning to love them for who they are with no selfish or ethnocentric motives? That can’t be microwaved.

I’ve explored lots of apps that provide ways to share the gospel, but no app exists that guarantees life transformation.

The idea of apps is usually to make life easier.  They might help us get work done, interact with others, or have fun. Apps are handy ways to directly assist us in some way and streamline sometimes complicated daily processes.

But ministry just isn’t like that.  Honestly, it drives me crazy.

Recently I was lamenting to my wife that the local church we planted in Dominican Republic just isn’t advancing like I want it to.  Supposedly we are equipped, capable ministers who have been effective in many different places and ministries.  We have not just gone to the training seminars on how to impact the city; we now GIVE the training seminars! What, then, is the problem?! Why aren’t all the neighbors we love and care for flocking to service every week? Why do new Christians take two steps forward and seemingly three steps back in their walk with Christ?!  On a less spiritual level, why are our accounts always so low and why does the stupid bathroom outside our sanctuary keep malfunctioning?!  Aaaargh!

Much of our lives are dominated by apps that help us do things quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently.  But almost always ministry – genuine, roll-up-your-sleeves, incarnational ministry – isn’t like that.

I would love for there to be shortcuts.  But no app exists for this stuff.  The Holy Spirit needs to do a deep work in people’s lives, finances, and even bathrooms.

Lord, quick or slow, app or no app, begin that work in us.

Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019

From February 24 to March 2, 2019, Nazarenes will be interceding for different requests! Join us in prayer!

And as you pray throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, remember that God is present and active! Our prayer requests simply encourage us to join Him in His redemptive purposes in the world. Pray faithfully! Pray passionately!

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Too often, when we pass through troubled and challenging times, we forget all that we have enjoyed by God’s good grace, and turn our focus inward, thinking only of our own present trials. When facing our troubled or uncertain times, turn our focus to others who “have no hope, and are without God in this world,” and those who are seeking to bring hope, and point to the God of hope and peace.

Remember our missionaries and the work of the church throughout the year in prayer. Many are often facing challenging times in the places in which they serve. They seek to be peacemakers and agents of transformation. They need your support through intercession.

Throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, we are partners together with God through prayer!

Click the following link to download the prayer guide: Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019

 

Think on These Things

By Carla Sunberg

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NRSV)

To quote John Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is often the case, whether in the secular world or in the church. These words from the Apostle Paul are a reminder that those who are in leadership must be careful about their attitude. The way in which leaders look at the world will have an influence on those around them.

I have recently read the book, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling. In this book, and in his TED talk, he begins to challenge our negative notions. Why do I bring this up? Because I find that the church often becomes a breeding ground for negative thinking and conversation. If we were to believe all we hear about Christianity and the church, we might all be ready to throw in the towel and give up. Spending much time on social media or listening to the news, can skew our perspective on the world. We have become addicted to negative news, and it is creating a crisis of anxiety in our world. Paul was trying to give us a prescription for that fear.

Rosling tells us that we have allowed the negativity instinct to kick into high gear, meaning that we focus much more on the negative than we do on the positive. Our instinct is “to notice the bad more than the good.” He gives three reasons for this: 1) “misremembering of the past,” 2) “selective reporting by journalists and activists,” and 3) “the feeling that as long as things are bad, it’s heartless to say they are getting better.”

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Just imagine if we were to put the church into this paradigm. Often we reminisce about the past and the “good old days.” We wish we could go back to those days when the “church was full” and “everything ran so well.” Unfortunately, we fail to remember the struggles the church faced then and that things may not be worse than that now. At the same time, we have a media that is ready to pounce on every negative story about a church leader they can find. As both religious journals and the secular news openly dissect them, we hear the details of major failures. Rarely is there news about the good work the church is doing in a community. Our hearts are stirred with empathy for the bad news we receive on a regular basis, but eventually compassion fatigue begins to settle in, and we become exhausted responding to the latest disaster.

Let us listen again to the words of Paul. “Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is the antidote we all need because it will help us to reframe our lives from a positive perspective. According to Rosling, “The loss of hope is probably the most devastating consequence of the negativity instinct and the ignorance it causes.” Leading people to a place of hope is possible when we pull away from the negativity instinct.

Leaders must intentionally lead the way, helping the church community develop a more positive manner of looking at our world. God is still on the throne. Christ has not changed His mind about His bride, the Church! Remember, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The reality is that in many ways the world is getting better. There will still be bad news and difficult times, but overall there is improvement. I believe this is true in the life of the church as well. Is the church in some parts of the world aging? Yes! Is that creating an issue that makes it difficult to show that there is a net positive increase? Yes! However, that does not mean that the church is not reaching out and still leading thousands of people to Christ every year. Did you catch that? Somewhere around 120,000 people made a profession of faith last year through the work of the global Church of the Nazarene. Last year 501 new churches were organized, and over 100 of those were in the United States and Canada.

As I write this article, I am in Mozambique. Yesterday I sat with leaders in this country who are passionate about following Jesus. A few years ago, the district superintendents and other leaders got together to talk about what was happening in their country. They recognized a deep spiritual hunger among the people and an open door to the gospel. Realizing that they had been handed a significant opportunity, they knew they needed to act. The synergy of God and man, working together, resulted in a five-year strategic plan for the expansion of the work of the Kingdom in Mozambique. This included the addition of new districts and centers for discipleship and pastoral development. In the first three years, the church grew by 10 percent, and soon they will be meeting to assess the current effectiveness of the plan. They could have been overcome by poor conditions in parts of this country. They could have made excuses about the lack of funding and the challenging climate. Instead, they chose to focus on the positive and move in a direction where God was leading.

It is time to change our thinking and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds. Then we can lead the church in the direction where Christ is going. This will only happen when we intentionally practice truthfulness, focus on what is honorable, do what is just, have pure thoughts, engage in pleasing actions, practice excellence, and spend time praising and commending others. Let us think on these things.

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.

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.

Mourning or Miracle?

By Scott Armstrong

“While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region” Matthew 9:18-26.

Where do you see yourself in this story? Each character has a different past, a different need, and different reactions to the circumstances around them.  Maybe you identify with the hurting woman who desperately longs to touch Jesus.  Perhaps you see yourself in the ruler who is not worried about himself as much as the ones around him. What great faith he had in order to believe Jesus could bring his daughter back!

Personally, I identify most with the mourners (vv. 23-24). Not because I am regularly sad or anything.  Just because I am very realistic and usually want to help people out.  You see, in Jesus’ day, the mourners served a very important purpose.  When there was a death in the family, the relatives would gather together and call professional mourners to help with the grieving process. In fact, it was required to have several professional women mourners at even the death of a poor family. These musicians and mourners would weep and wail and sing dirges and, although it seems weird to us today, they would help the family and community release the feelings of despair and hopelessness they were experiencing.

So if I am a professional mourner, I am doing what I am supposed to do here in verse 23. It’s my job to help these people in the most difficult time of their life. Then, just when I have really gotten into character, this guy named Jesus comes in and says the girl is merely asleep.  Sorry, but I have to laugh.  Is He crazy? I know what I see. The girl’s dead. There’s no hope.  Let’s help the family through the grieving process.

But Jesus’ vision is different. Miracles happen when He’s around. Sick women are healed. Dead people are raised to life. When He comes on the scene, transformation and healing take place.

The world is full of death, hopelessness, and sickness.  So, what will your reaction be to the despair around you? Will you go around life like it is business as usual? Or will you pray, plan, and expect that God will do a miracle in the toughest of situations?

Jesus in the E.R.

Por Scott Armstrong

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” Matthew 9:12-13 NIV.

(Read Matthew 9:9-13)

I have to admit.  The Emergency Room is not my favorite place in the world.  There is need all around you.  Children coughing, tired parents, twisted ankles, even some serious emergencies that waver between life and death.

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What would happen if a completely healthy man walked into the E.R. and demanded to be treated? All the sick people in the waiting room are miserably biding their time until they can be seen.  The hospital rooms are full with injured people in the middle of operations and treatments and care.  And one guy decides he is more important than anybody and has to immediately be seen by a doctor.  No reason, really.  He just wants the attention.

Does it sound ridiculous? It should.  And yet, many Christians—maybe you and I—spend our time focusing on all the healthy people while failing to recognize we’re in the middle of the Emergency Room.

I love the simple passage we read today.  Matthew is writing about his own calling.  He doesn’t spend a long time describing the scene, but you can tell Matthew remembers it well.  He remembers the things said about him, his friends, his Lord.  That day was the day that transformed Matthew.  He went from sick to healthy in a span of hours.  And now his mission is to tell the world that the Doctor has come with a cure.  That’s why he’s writing this in the first place.

If we have come to Christ and have a relationship with him, we are—at least according to these verses—healthy.  Sure, we all need to grow.  Not one of us has outgrown our need for Jesus.  But part of our responsibility after being healed is to leave the hospital and bring more sick people to the Doctor!  The day Matthew met the Doctor he was bringing others to him.  Years later he wrote the words that we just read because he wanted all to know that Jesus spent his entire life—and awful death—saving sinners.

The question is: are you doing the same? Are you really convinced that people are going to hell without Christ? You have been given the cure.  What are you doing to spread that cure to those who are dying without it?