Archive | November 2014

One People Under God…Indivisible…With Liberty and Justice For All

Ephesians 2:11-22 Common English Bible (CEB)

The reconciliation of God’s people
11 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. 12 At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. 13 But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. 15 He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. 16 He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.

17 When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. 18 We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. 19 So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. 20 As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. 22 Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

Loving God, full of wisdom and insight, full of mercy and grace. Forgive us Lord when we let our differences get in the way of our work for Your Kingdom here on earth. At times we seem to concentrate more our “rules” instead of the Law of Love You have given us. Help us, I pray, to set aside our differences and to come together as one body of and in Christ. Help us to break down those barriers that we have put up that separate us from each other. May we truly become the hands…the feet…the face…the voice…of Christ in the world as we stand together in brotherly and sisterly love.

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The GPS of my Soul

Loving God, full of grace and mercy. Thank you that You are always with me. Even in those “dark night’s of the soul” You are there to comfort me and bring me into Your light. Thank you that You are my guide who leads the way even in the darkest of desert places. Thank you that I never walk alone. Lead me out of the darkness and into the light of Your love those times when I can’t seem to see the dawn. Show me the way to Your heart. Thank you that You are the GPS of my life…

Just Plain Thankful!

November 23, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: The I Am Statements of Jesus
Sermon 8 of Series:
“I Am the Vine”
Thanksgiving Service
Psalm 95:1-6 CEB
Psalm 107:29-32 CEB
John 15:1-8 CEB
Matthew 7:16-20 CEB

“Just Plain Thankful!”

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s leading and that God’s word would be heard…

Good morning. Well here we are…I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is only 4 days away. The time has passed so fast. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Easter. Now here we are at the holiday that we give thanks for all that God has done and provided for us. We are at a time when we gather with friends and family to celebrate another year of God’s goodness and mercy.

Over the past couple weeks I have been thinking a lot about how God has provided for me and my family. I have been thinking about how God has been there for me giving me strength and hope. It has been a difficult time with my mom and God has given me so much in order to endure and be that “adult in the room” when I thought that there was no way for me to do that. I am thankful for His mercy and grace. I have hope because through it all Jesus has been with me as I have drawn closer to Him. As long as I have been drawing closer to Him by spending time with Him I have felt ever closer to Him. “For a time such as this” God has prepared me…strengthened me…so that I can be His hands of healing…His feet of purpose…His voice of comfort. As the Psalm that I read this morning resounds…I am just plain thankful that God is the one who is in control and I need not fear…

We, as Christ followers, have a hope and can be thankful that He is always with us. Even in the tough times…those desert times…we can identify with the Psalmist in Psalm 107:29-32:
29 God quieted the storm to a whisper;
the sea’s waves were hushed.
30 So they rejoiced because the waves had calmed down;
then God led them to the harbor they were hoping for.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all people.
32 Let them exalt God in the congregation of the people
and praise God in the assembly of the elders.

So…what happens as we draw closer to Jesus? What are the benefits of staying close to Jesus? Why would we even want to stay close to Jesus? Well…I think one of the benefits of drawing closer to Jesus can be found in His last of the I Am statements in the Gospel of John. Jesus states in John 15:1-8:
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”
We can be thankful that because of Jesus and His words that are spoken in the assembly of God, as we draw close to Jesus He will draw close to us…as we remain in Jesus He will remain in us. How awesome and faith-giving is that? If we draw close to Jesus…as we turn to Him in those times of trouble He is with us and helping us through. We can feel the presence of the Vine as we work in the vineyard. But if we decide to not remain in Jesus…well, we can do nothing…we dry up and wither just like the branch of a tree does if it is cut from the strong, life giving trunk…

Jesus also states in Matthew 7:16-20:
16“You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.”
We are known by our fruit…people know that we are disciples of Christ by what we do and say. We are given the name Christian because we act and speak as Christ.

This reminds me of something that Rick Hill said in our Thanksgiving letter about the Saints of this church. These saints lived their lives on and in the vine of Jesus. They showed others who Christ is by the lives that they lived. These are the ones who made Stetson Memorial UMC what it is… a hope and life giving church. We owe a debt of thanks to God and to them because of their service and love.

We are all saints in Christ but these saints stood out in the world in which they lived and still live. They have left us a legacy to continue the good work and bear fruit that they began so long ago. They gave their tithes and their service to Christ so that His work could be continued. As we remain in the vine we become so thankful that we too want to produce good fruit…we too want to leave a legacy to those who are with us and those who will come after us. As the world sees us producing good fruit they will give thanks to God for His goodness and mercy in and through us.

But…there are many “disciples of Jesus” who don’t produce that fruit that lasts. They produce worldly fruit in their lives instead of eternal fruit that gives glory to God. They have forgotten the legacy that was left to them from the saints in their own lives. They have broken away from the vine and now are withering in the chaos of the world. They may think that they are producing fruit of heaven but in reality they are producing the rotten fruit of the world. Like all fruit…one bad piece can make the whole bunch go bad. That is why when we find the bad fruit we throw it out to preserve the good that is left…

We have so much to be thankful for. We are thankful to God for all that He has done…is doing…and will do in the future in our lives. We can be thankful to the saints that have gone before us who have showed us how to produce that fruit that lasts. We can be thankful that they remained in the vine…remained in Jesus…and gave of their lives so that others may have. We can be thankful of their gift of faith that they shared in a world full of chaos and hopelessness. And we can show our thankfulness by taking their example in life and life it out in our own.

Life on the Vine may be hard…and we may be asked to do things that may cause us fear of the unknown but as we remain in the Vine we are provided for with abundance. How do you want to be remembered? As one who gave or one who took? What will we do with the legacy that was left for us? These are tough decisions but they are ones that have to be made. Perhaps as we remember those saints in our lives we will be encouraged to model our lives as they did. Maybe, just maybe, if we, as disciples of Christ, begin to live more fully on the Vine we too will be remembered for our fruit we produced in our lives and for the lives of others. Just think about the lives we would live as we lived a fruitful life on the vine being nourished and cared for by the Master Gardner our God and King. Let us leave a legacy for those who come after us…a legacy that can only be found living on and through the Vine of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. My question to you today is this. What will you and I be remembered for? The choice is ours to make. What will you choose?

Let us pray…pray about living in and on the Vine…

Amen!

Show Me the Way…

November 9, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: The I Am Statements of Jesus
Sermon 7 of Series:
“I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life”
John 14:1-17 NIV Bible
Acts 4:12 NIV Bible
“Show Me The Way…”

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s leading and that God’s word would be heard…

Each time we come together for church, we spend our time praising God for what He has done through Jesus Christ. We praise God for how He is involved in our lives. We spend time in prayer with one another thanking Him for how we have seen what He has done in our lives and in the lives of others. We bring our joys and our sorrows to God as we pray for ourselves and for others. It is a time when we are able to be there for one another in their sorrow and despair. We comfort one another with our prayers and our hugs we may give to each other. When we are lost…we can be found within our church communities…

Now I want you to picture this…Jesus’ followers felt as if there world was falling apart. They felt lost…with no direction. They must have been afraid because the One who had showed them by example how to live their lives was not going to be there anymore. Jesus has just told them that He was leaving and they couldn’t come with Him. As they are in their time of despair and sorrow, Jesus speaks words of peace and then makes a statement that just astounds them. I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life…

We are continuing that Season where we begin to journey towards a manger…the Season that we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. As prepare for the pilgrimage we are looking at the seven “I Am” statements that Jesus made while He walked among us. I pray that as we do, we will realize what really happened that day, how that one day changed the tide of sin and death. You see…it’s all about the name and what goes along with that very same name…not just who a person is but also what that name implies.

We have talked about the name I Am and that Jesus, the Great I Am, is always with us even when we don’t feel His presence with us in those times when we feel we are walking in a dark tunnel and not seeing the light at the end. Jesus is The Bread of Life and Jesus fills us spiritually so that we never will hunger again for those Spiritual things that we need for our faith walk. He is “The Light of the World” giving us light for the journey. He is “”The Gate” that keeps us safe in the pasture of His love and grace. Being the perfect gate…Jesus truly is “The Good Shepherd” who shepherds us with His love and peace. We came to the realization that Jesus is also the Resurrection and the Life last week and it is through Him that we rise again and have life eternal. It is He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life…

In the scripture I read this morning, Jesus states that He is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” that no one comes to the Father except through Him. What does that mean to and for all believers Jesus? What that means is that there is no other way into the presence of God. It means that by accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection, we believe that the payment has been made in full for our sins. Peter tells us in Acts 4:12 that Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. It means that Jesus is the only remedy that has been provided for the forgiveness of sin. He is the only Way to eternal Life. This is the Truth of God’s Word… There is Hope in Jesus.

Now… some people may think that we, as Christ followers, may be a little narrow minded as we proclaim that Jesus is the only way to God. But…this is how I see it. It is only by living the way that Jesus taught and exampled that we live in the truth that he taught and still teaches by the Holy Spirit given to us that we can have that eternal life that is promised to all who believe…just saying…

Looking back at the scripture this morning is where we can find such hope. Jesus tells us what He will be doing while He us away. He is preparing a room for us so that we can be with Him in Heaven. As He is preparing this room for us He is also preparing us to be with Him. As we follow His way and believe in the truth He taught we are being prepared daily to be with Him…to have that life He offers us…life eternal. We are being prepared to be with Him as we use our gifts and talents for God’s glory…doing what Jesus did and even greater things that we have been prepared to do since the foundation of the world…

So now…with all this being said…how do you want to live your life? Jesus offers us a better way to live our lives. It is by following His ways that we learn the truth of the Gospel of Grace. As we live into that truth, we will do what He did when He walked among us…even greater things that have been prepared for us to do. And through this living and knowing we are given eternal life in that room He is preparing for you and me. So what will it be? Will we live a life that is lived out in truth or a life that is lived out in the lies and deception of the world? Maybe if humanity started living in truth instead of chaos and deception there really could be a change in the truth in which we live. Perhaps if we prayerfully decide to follow Christ we would see the truth that sets us free. Free to live a life of love…free to live a life of hope…free to live the life the Way…the Truth and the Life…our Risen Lord Jesus Christ intended for His disciples to follow all the long. Maybe…just maybe…perhaps we would do all those things that were prepared for us in Christ Jesus long ago…Think about the kind of life that would be…

Pray about Jesus being the Way, the Truth and the Life…
Amen!

Faithful God

Gracious God, You are the Living God who stands firm forever and ever. Your Kingship and Kingdom know no end. You are the Rescuer and Savior of Your faithful ones…performing signs and miracles for all to see. You are faithful, Faithful God…
(Daniel 6:25-27)

Bringer of Peace

All Powerful, Compassionate God, the One who saves me and is with me through anything I may go through. You are with me when I am in the calm and when the storm arises on my sea of faith. You are the ever present help even when I do not perceive You in the midst of the chaos. Forgive me for those times when, like the disciples, I am asking You if You care as I go through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Thank you that You are my resting place and there is nothing that can take me away from Your ever present love. I love you and I need You. Thank you for calming my Spirit when the storm clouds rise and the seas become rough. You are my Rock of strength and hope.

Rise Again

November 2, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: The I Am Statements of Jesus
Sermon 6 of Series:
“I Am the Resurrection”
John 11:17-27 the Message Bible
http://www.churchyear.net/allsaints.html

“Rise Again”

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s leading and that God’s word would be heard…

Today we celebrate All Saints Day. It is a day that we celebrate those saints among us and those who have gone before us. Now let me give you a little history about All Saint Day. (From: http://www.churchyear.net/allsaints.html)
“It is when the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches commemorate every saint, known and unknown. The concept of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. This is the concept that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory in the West), are spiritually connected and united. In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians (and some Protestants) believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.

Remembering and honoring the saints are beneficial practices, because to remember the heroes of the faith and follow their examples are good things. Many Christians seem to strongly oppose remembering and celebrating the lives of great Christian men and women, yet have no problem celebrating the lives of secular heroes like George Washington. All Saints Day is kind of like a Christian Memorial Day or Presidents Day, a day to celebrate the lives of all the great heroes of the Christian faith, and to celebrate the deep communion we have with them. While celebrating secular heroes is admirable, how much more admirable is celebrating those who fully dedicated their lives to Christ!”

Our church knows a lot about the saints. We have had many go before us in the past year and we may have our own questions of what happens after we die. We may be asking if there really is a resurrection of life. We may be asking if there is really anything after life. It has been hard and we may find ourselves losing hope as we have seen one after another go on to glory. But Jesus has given us the answers to our questions. You see He is the Resurrection and the Life.

We have entered into the Season that we begin to journey towards a manger…the Season that we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. As prepare for the pilgrimage we are looking at the seven “I Am” statements that Jesus made while He walked among us. My prayer is that as we do, we will realize what really happened that day, how that one day changed the tide of sin and death. It’s all about the name and what goes along with that very same name…not just who a person is but also what that name implies.

We have talked about the name I Am and that Jesus, the Great I Am, is always with us even when we don’t feel His presence with us in those times when we feel we are walking in a dark tunnel and not seeing the light at the end. Jesus is The Bread of Life and Jesus fills us spiritually so that we never will hunger again for those Spiritual things that we need for our faith walk. He is “The Light of the World” giving us light for the journey. He is “”The Gate” that keeps us safe in the pasture of His love and grace. Being the perfect gate…Jesus truly is “The Good Shepherd” who shepherds us with His love and peace. Jesus is also the Resurrection and the Life. It is through Him that we rise again and have life eternal.

In the scripture I read this morning, Jesus said the He is “the Resurrection and the Life” but what does that mean to believers? What that means is that through Him we may die but we will have life with Him in paradise…in heaven. Now does that mean we will never die? Certainly not…at least the death we may think…that death that leads to nothingness. It means that though we may die to our earthly bodies, we will live eternal with Him.

The life we now live with Christ is one with promise. The life we live now gives us hope since we have accepted His invitation to new life. When we accept that invitation we die to self, we die to the life we once lived in order to live out that new life in Christ. We know that we WILL have life eternal with Him because we have the hope of His promise. Can you imagine living your life not knowing what the future holds? Can you imagine living life thinking that “this is it…it is all there is…”? We have hope about our death and the life beyond. Not just for us but for all the saints before and after us. Can you imagine losing a loved one and not know that there is a hope in their “afterlife”?

We may have all suffered some kind of death in our life. The loss of a job, the end of a life that we are living, a situation that seems impossible, the list goes on. But…but…we may have also seen new life come from something we thought was dead. I am reminded of a scene in one of the Harry Potter Movies. It is one where Harry is talking to a Phoenix and all of the sudden it burst into flames. Now he is all upset because he thought he did something to cause it. He is happy when he is told that the phoenix must die in order to be reborn. His face lights up as he sees the phoenix begin to rise out of the ashes. What ashes are you sitting in waiting for Jesus to rise you up out of?

In the scripture Jesus does something that gives us hope. Before Jesus here talks about eternal life in John 3:16, “Anyone who believes in Me will not perish but have eternal life”, but here, Jesus provides more detail saying that even though a believer experiences physical death, he will still have life. He is referring to those who die in faith. Here Jesus id confirming that the single qualification…the single thing that has to be done, for eternal life is to believe that His death paid the entire cost for our sins…

Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday…we celebrate those saints that have gone before us as well as the ones we still have. Jesus’ words of hope are perfect for a Sunday like this…I Am the resurrection and the Life…those who believe in me though they die they will have eternal life… May we go forth as the Saints of this world bringing it the hope and joy that it so richly needs. May we bring wholeness and healing to those who are morning their “death situation”. May we rise above the ashes of life into new life. May we have the persistence of the Saints as we usher in a new way of life…one that brings life out of death. May we proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection and the Life…our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Pray about Jesus being the Resurrection and the Life…
Amen!