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There’s a moment in the New Testament when Jesus’ disciples freak out because somebody they’ve never met is driving out demons in the name of Jesus. They turn tattle-tale and run to Christ, and he reminds them that the “team” is bigger than just the twelve apostles. 

Why did this happen? It’s not like the disciples were anti-driving-out-demons. It’s not like they were anti-using-Jesus-name. In fact, out of all the people in Judea at that time, they were probably the biggest fans of both demon-driving and Jesus name. 

But it wasn’t what the man was doing or how he was doing it that posed the problem. It was that they didn’t expect him to be doing it. 

The disciples had, at this point, already become something of a tribe. They were the ones Jesus trained, sent, and taught. They were the ones they had seen drive out demons. So when there was someone else, that was different, and that different seemed wrong. 

It’s an all-too-common human reaction. Different = Wrong. We protect ourselves from what makes us uncomfortable by rejecting things we don’t understand. We even go so far as to ridicule or demean those things - all in an effort to make very sure we don’t have to interact with what makes us uncomfortable. The problem, of course, is that how we feel isn’t the same as what is true. 

Mark 9:41 | I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

- Pastor Kent Reeder

Emotion

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Jesus was emotional - but perfectly so.

The perfect way that Jesus used his emotions was an essential part of the way he experienced the love of God in both law & gospel. (His ability to perfectly experience and commune with God is the very thing that proved him perfect enough to pay for your sins.) The night before Jesus was killed on the cross, he was in a garden praying that God would save the world another way - instead of through his innocent and tortured death. 

His emotions were so strong, he "sweat like drops of blood." 

Jesus heard the law say to him that it would be too terrible to experience that pain and be forsaken by God his Father. He rightfully feared this. At the same time, Jesus heard the gospel say that it was okay that this experience would overwhelm and kill him. The unconditional love of God (also known as the gospel) made it good news that he would die. 

Remarkable. 

Jesus, understanding these simultaneous truths, felt extreme fear and extreme hope, all in the same sentence. "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) This isn't resignation or despair. This isn't denial. 

You are allowed to feel emotion, and to feel it deeply. God gave you those emotions to help you experience him. He is not just a set of truths, he is not simply a supreme being - he is love. Feeling emotions is part of how you feel him.

Pastor Kent Reeder

 

Next

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It's been a lot of years. What will be next? 

It will certainly be too nuanced to say that what's coming is exactly what came before, but it will also undoubtedly be more of the very same thing.

The same sin, the same grace.
The same failure, the same hope.
The same hate, the same love. 
The same lies, the same truth.
The same regret, the same potential.
The same doubt, the same faith.
The same old, the same new. 

Except, of course, for the fact that these ones start today, they are the only ones you have, and they start with you. Good thing there's also the same Jesus, and the same reason to reach as far and as hard and as generously as we can. 

Here's to the next chapter.
-Pastor Kent Reeder

Lamentations 3:22-23 | Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 

Nazi

This world does not have to be at war, but sin means it will not be at peace. 

The broadest strokes with which we can paint are less than a pixel to God.

You have the tools to see that part of the universe in which God has placed you. 

You have the tools to change that part of the universe in which God has placed you.

Hope that depends on earthly peace will become despair.

Hope that is not specific is fantasy.

God has not called you to be selfish. 

Christ's payment for all sin guarantees that no living person is irredeemable.

Grace is more important than justice. Both are more important than you. 

There is no reason to hate someone in light of the unconditional love of Christ.

God's heart breaks for the victim and the oppressor, but for different reasons.

The specific message of Jesus' work is the only change catalyst.

All other messages are the spectrum of selfishness.

Christians share the gospel to spread peace.

Christians, share the gospel to spread peace. 

1 Timothy 4:7-10 | Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

- Pastor Kent Reeder

Crazy

What if you ran

  • every thought you had,
  • every priority you made,
  • every word you said,

through the idea that "Jesus lived, died, and rose again"?

That is, what if, when you were deciding whether or not to exercise in the morning, to skip lunch, to knock one more thing off your task list, to scroll a little further into Facebook, you asked yourself, "How is this affected by the fact there was a pivotal moment in history, a moment at which a person literally conquered death?" 

At first, you might think that you'd look crazy. Life involves tons of decisions - can you run all of them through that filter? There are terabytes of information that your senses process each day - can all of that be subject to the resurrection? Aren't some things just not at all related to Jesus and his work? Wouldn't you seem really weird if people knew that the words you were about to say to them came out of the fact that you believed that Jesus was graphically murdered and then walked out of his own tomb?

It would come across as crazy to be so consumed by the resurrection, right? 

But then again, the fact that a crucified person rose from death is kind of...

And if it really happened, living as though it didn't (or as though it didn't have dramatic impact on everything) would be kind of...

Not to mention, if that resurrection means that sin, which caused death, can't dictate your life anymore and that you don't have to fear condemnation anymore and that you can fight back the devil with just the name of Jesus that's kind of...

If it works, who am I to call it...

- Pastor Kent

Romans 6:13 | Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

 

Front-Door

A church website has, for some time, been the front door to the church. 

Many surveys have indicated that before anyone crosses the threshold of a church building, they check out the website to see if it will be the kind of place they're looking for. Whether they are concerned about style, ethnic makeup, doctrine, or denomination, the website typically gives them enough of an idea to satisfy. (If it doesn't...they don't go.)

Illumine's website certainly serves that purpose, but there's a bigger idea that the recent redesign is meant to make possible. Should the website be a front door? Yes. But what if it could also be the foyer, and the living room. What if it could even be the kitchen? (This all builds off of a metaphor that organizations use to talk about how deeply people commit. Sometimes, it's just the doorstep, and they're out. Sometimes they go all the way, getting so comfortable they start pitching in and helping out in the kitchen.)

I'd like illuminechurch.com to make that possible. 

This website should be a place where you can benefit from the ministry efforts Illumine offers at very nearly the same level as you would if you were at all the live, physical events. If you want to worship, do it now. Watch/listen to a sermon. Sing with the music. If you want to learn, nothing should stop you. Dig into the resources. Follow the links provided. If you want to serve, you should be able to do it from your computer. Become informed. Contribute. Knock some tasks off of lists. 

It's not all here yet. But it is coming. This church doesn't need to be limited by location. Come see Jesus, in worship, in education, in community service. Come see life better. 

Welcome to the new illuminechurch.com. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder

P.S. (Are these allowed on blogs?) 500 years ago, minus a few months, a monk started with the front door of a church and changed the world. I'm not saying this website will do that, but the internet is changing the way these front doors work...

Scepters

 This is one of many staffs that were made at Illumine's midweek Lent services, which are taking an open-house, artistic approach to meditating on the passion of Jesus. 

This is one of many staffs that were made at Illumine's midweek Lent services, which are taking an open-house, artistic approach to meditating on the passion of Jesus. 

The scepter has an interesting history. 

When people were nomadic, traveling around following the migration of herds, they developed ways to control the movement of the animals. The winner was the shepherd's crook - basically a stick for keeping the animals out of harm's way. As time continued to roll on, the guy with the most and largest animals had the biggest stick, and was the most powerful. 

As people settled down, the stick stuck. Rulers and powerful people held onto a staff, which gradually didn't need to have practical uses and was replaced with a stick made of precious metals and inlaid with jewels. Thus, the scepter became a symbol of power. 

When Christ was mocked and beaten by Pontius Pilate's soldiers, they gave him a robe, a crown, and a staff. It wasn't a fancy scepter, though - evidenced by the fact that the soldiers immediately took the staff and beat Jesus over the head with it, repeatedly. 

Matthew 27:29-30 | They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

Remarkable. The king of the universe, beaten with his own staff. Authority turned upside-down. Power hidden in weakness, and weakness hiding in power. 

Christ's scepter, his symbol of power, is neither a jewel-covered stick nor a practical shepherd's crook. It's his LOVE. It both gives him his power and caused him to bleed. As God the Father watched Jesus suffer at the hands of the soldiers, this truth was confirmed: Christ is the one to whom all authority should be given, because he and he alone understands why authority exists. 

Authority does not exist for brow-beating others into submission - it exists for lovingly helping the wandering stay on a safe path. Your king loves you, enough to take the beatings you deal out by misusing authority and to gently remind you of the better way. 

One day, when Jesus comes into the throne room of heaven and all the saints and angels are singing, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive honor, and wisdom, and glory, and power, and praise!" Christ will not need a crown or scepter or throne for us to know that he has all authority. His love will make it obvious. 

The scepter has an interesting history, and a promising future.

Heroes & Victims

Sometimes people treat Christianity like there are two choices:
You can either be this bold, courageous hero,
or you can be this humble, long-suffering victim.

But Christianity walks a line between these extremes.

We don’t breed heroes, 
we don’t baby victims,
we just tell people somebody already saved them.
We don’t praise arrogance,
or shame the humiliated.
we just love like we’ve been loved, without discrimination. 

We admit that we aren't perfect, 
but we aren’t okay with the status quo.
We admit we don’t know everything,
but we don’t think we're stupid.
We admit we haven’t finished,
but we know how this is going to end.

We don’t oppress,
we won't belittle,
but we can’t enable.

We are here to fight, so that someone else can win.
We are here to preach, so that someone else can be heard.
We are here to love, because someone else first loved us.

We walk a line in between, 
where loving Christ and loving others can both be everything.
We take this narrow path,
careful to tread,
focused on the cross,
where that truth and grace and courage and humility come together in Christ. 

We do not stray toward the broken extremes,
they are sirens that would sink us.
We do not run as though fate would overtake us.
We do not stand like we have nowhere to be.
We press on, on this narrow path,
not as heroes,
not as victims,
but as people who have been saved, and who KNOW IT. 

This Could Be Your Year

This could be your year. Theoretically. You could keep resolutions, catch the right breaks, and accomplish great things, becoming the person you want to be.

This could be your year. Possibly. Depends on how much year there is to go around, and if you're one of the lucky ones who has things work out the way you hope. On the other hand, things could go well for someone else. 

This could be your year. Maybe. What would that accomplish? If it is "your year," does that mean that someone else doesn't get theirs? 

This could be your year. I guess. But it doesn't have to be. We could all focus on making it a successful year for Christ and for the people around us. That way, maybe, when we get to next January, we can look around and say, "This was our year." 

This could be our year, but only if we set our selfish agendas aside and focus on a universally applicable agenda of peace, hope, faith, and love (also known as the gospel.)

This could be your year if it stays yours. This could be our year if we give it all to Jesus.

"May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:21)

Happy New Year.

-Kent Reeder
Pastor - Illumine Church

The world is on fire.

That's a direct quote from a man with whom I was standing in a checkout line looking at newspaper headlines. "The world is on fire," he muttered, and we exchanged looks.

Just the other night, when talking about a drug that ISIS soldiers are taking to help them feel invincible, Stephen Colbert said, "I think I speak for everyone who has been watching the news when I say, 'Can I get some of that?'"

ABC News' December 14th article "The Anatomy of Trump's South Carolina Supporters" also paints a picture of people, people who live here in SC, who are so afraid of potential terrorist attacks and mass shootings at the mall that Donald Trump's strong words about immigration and defense have made this a one-issue decision for them. 

The world is on fire. Paris, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Charleston, military bases, Syria. A pile of words that are kindling to an escalating unease that every-once-in-a-while starts to look a lot like panic. And here we thought it was beginning to look like Christmas.

I don't want the world to be on fire. Most of us, in fact, would prefer those things that Christmas so often brings to mind - peace, love, hope, and joy. We like those kinds of things (it's part of why we like Christmas so much,) and we like them, mostly, because we believe that they work. When hope and optimism, compassion and kindness, love and grace are employed in a life, a community, or a nation they seem to lead to better and better things. They work. 

This fire stuff - violence, ignorance, oppression, fear - these don't seem to work so well. (You'd think we'd remember that, what with Star Wars paraphernalia everywhere you look. These things lead to the dark side, people.) All joking aside, though, when compared hope and kindness, violence and fear are broken. They do not lead to increased life or quality of life. They do not lead to better societies or communities or families. They lead to deterioration, destruction, and pain. They lead to fire. 

The world is on fire. The fire is sin, and sin is anything that doesn't work. The broken things that cause more brokenness. The ignorance that leads to hatred. The prejudice that leads to injustice. The ambitions that leads to deceit. The deceit that leads to ignorance. The sparks that lead to fires. The fires that lead to infernos. 

The world is on fire, and so I'm asking you, as a regular guy who doesn't want to see anyone else get hurt: Please, don't fight fire with fire anymore. You're allowed to be passionate about your beliefs and active to pursue your rights. But please, everyone, do not fight fire with fire. When people speak out in ignorance, do not respond in sarcasm. Both destroy. When people shout hateful things, do not respond unfairly. Both are broken. When people are deceitful, don't hate them. What will that accomplish?

Some may suggest that, sometimes, fiery words offer a kind of light to a situation that wasn't there before. Certainly, this particular presidential season has seen angry, fear-filled comments lead to important, necessary conversations. For some, it's been appealing to have light where there had been only dark deception or ignorance.

But even when the fire offers some light, are we okay with the destruction it guarantees? Isn't there some other way that light can be brought into our confusion without also bringing so much pain? I know we're frustrated, I know we're scared, I know we just want a safe and good world for our kids. Why aren't we doing the work that know, that we believe, brings a satisfying solution? If you're singing about peace on earth this holiday season, don't forget that "on earth" includes everyone, not only you. If you're singing about good-will toward men, don't forget that that includes people who aren't like you, who don't think like you, who don't worship like you. 

Do you want a solution that works? Do you want to put out the fire? Then please, please, stop fighting fire with more fire. Start fighting it with things that we know work. Let those good things that come up so frequently in the Christmas season shape your next steps. Follow them toward a solid solution to these increasingly complicated problems that we're all trying to navigate.

And, if I may, don't just follow them forward, toward a solution. Look back. See where they came from - identify their source. Realize that Christmas wouldn't be about those good things if it weren't for the best thing - the free, unlimited, peace-bringing love of God.

The world is on fire - don't add to it anymore! We have been given a better way to fight it - the same way that God did. With love and hope and patience. With kindness and compassion. With justice and fairness. With truth and knowledge. With hearts that seek not to be served, but to serve. May these good things give us a way forward and open our eyes to a vision bigger than our ideals, our desires, or our personal well-being. May our minds be the same as that of God himself, who sees each person on this planet as someone he desperately loves, and may we act accordingly.

Ministry as Art

The long play, the high risk. 

I probably don't "get" art, and maybe you're the same. I can appreciate the time, creativity, and effort somebody put into a piece of art, but I often struggle to understand why they think their finished product is worth $500.  

That being said, something struck me at an art festival recently. They have to charge $500, don't they? Putting in that much time and effort on a project means taking a considerable risk: betting that investing hours making something different than everyone else will be worth it. They have to esteem that as valuable, hoping those around them will, too.   

In that respect, art is like ministry. Not pastoral ministry, mind you. Personal, Christian, priesthood-of-all-believers, decision-to-decision, everyday, 100%-cash-back-any-time, regular ministry.  (What's in your wallet?)

Long play, high risk. Trusting that if we apply God's wisdom and love every day it's going to pay off. Living this way for Jesus costs a lot. Christians around the world are paying with their lives because they, too, esteem personal ministry as valuable. 

This kind of risk-taking in our lifestyle and language shouldn't be an every day concern for just for some Christians. It should be an every day concern for ALL Christians. We value what the majority of the people around us do not. We invest our lives and our time in it, and we bet that it is going to be worth it.

Being a minister for Christ is like being an artist. You invest yourself in something you believe is valuable even if it isn't what the rest of the world is clamoring for. Fortunately, we don't have to wait in a booth at a festival to see if it will be worth it. Our art (our ministries, our lives) have already been paid for by Christ at the high price of his life, suffering, and death. 

The long play, the high risk, yes. But all with a guaranteed reward.

Ephesians 1:13b-14 | When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.