Archive | May 2015

Remember and Be Filled…!

May 24, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11 NIV Bible

 

Remember and Be Filled!

 

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2 verses 1-11. Listen to and for a word from God for us the people of God…

Let us pray…

Creator God in heaven, you who set your children on fire on the day of Pentecost…we pray for that same spirit to fall upon us this day on those gathered here in this church and in all of your churches around the world. Speak to those gathered in your house today so that we may know your will for our lives. We thank you for your ancient words that still guide us today. I ask that Your Word be heard through me or in spite of me…Speak Lord… we are ablaze for You and Your kingdom. Amen

I think I have seen almost all of the Star Trek Movies that have been produced. But I think that my favorite one is the one where as the ship was going to be destroyed, Spock knew what had to be done. In order to save the ship he had to go in to the room that was filled with all this radioactive stuff in the air and he knew he was not going to be able to make it but the ship would not be destroyed. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one… And just before he went in McCoy tried to stop him. Well of course he used one of his Vulcan neck pinches and knocked McCoy out. But as McCoy laid there Spock used the Vulcan Mind Meld on him and said “Remember…”…remember.

Today we are celebrating Memorial Day. . . A day when we remember loved ones and those who gave their lives for our freedom. It can be a day of sadness for some as they remember those who have gone before us. . . those who touched our lives in a special way. Even though there is sadness, we also have those memories of them that give us joy still.

When I think of those who have gone before me, there is one who really stands out in my mind. . . our Risen Lord Jesus. Jesus came to teach you and to teach us a new way of living, a radical way of living and even though we are saddened by His death. . . there was and is great joy in His resurrection. I am sure the first disciples were saddened by His death and had great joy in His resurrection and His coming back but when He came back it was only for a short time. When He left again He promised He would always be with them and as well as with us through the Spirit that was given on that first Pentecost morn. Pentecost was the completion of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

Today we also celebrate Pentecost Sunday!!!!! It is one of my favorite celebrations in the Christian calendar. It is the birthday of the church! Without it…we would not have the church as we know it today. It is a day that we celebrate the gift of the Counselor…the Holy Spirit…the promise made to us…the followers of Christ when He ascended into heaven. It is the fire that burns within our hearts that keeps the church growing. It is that unquenchable fire that enables us to do extraordinary things in our ordinary lives for the kingdom of God here on earth. I was telling Ray this morning that if he sees me starting to float to the ceiling to get out the tethers.

This wonderful gift of Pentecost, the Spirit within us, is the Spirit of God. It enables us to hear God’s voice and guidance. By the power of that same Spirit we can walk on water and not be afraid. We can cry out to the Lord in the midst of our fear for help and step out in faith. You see…we are given the Spirit of power and might. We have that hunger within us to

  1. Learn more about God…
  2. To study God’s Word…
  3. To serve God…
  4. To right wrongs…
  5. To bring more people into the presence of God

We can come like a child, by the Spirit, into the throne room of grace and not be afraid. (Children aren’t intimidated by limits or risks) We will have the fruits of the Spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-26…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness, and self control (This is one that helps us fight against the temptations of the world). (Are you feeling it…that fire within you…Just waiting to be released.) Fruitiness…when the Spirit is alive in our hearts, the character of God comes into us as the Spirit works to conform us ever more closely to the image and character of Christ.(remember and be filled with the fire of Pentecost)

 

Now in those times when I have come before God not knowing how or what to pray (and I’m sure that some of you have too) those times when I am in such a state that I can’t utter a word and it is this gift of Pentecost that has helped me in my weakness. But…the Spirit not only helps us as we pray in our weakness but in all of our weaknesses. That Spirit…that fire of Pentecost…helps us when…

  1. We need words of hope…
  2. We need to step out in faith…
  3. We need to follow God’s plan for our lives…
  4. We need to reach out to those who are “unlovable”…

The list goes on. Remember and be filled with the Fire of Pentecost

OK…since we have this Pentecost fire within us…how can we use it for God’s glory you ask? Well…let’s look at what the Apostles did on that glorious day of Pentecost. The scripture tells us that they spoke in people’s native tongue about the greatness of God. This made me stop and think for a moment…How do we speak in others language, in their native tongue so that they can understand about God’s saving grace and love for all? Well one way God speaks to us is in the different translations of the bible. I can’t believe how many there are. But the way that I see it…God speaks to each of us in a different way, by reading a certain translation of the Bible, the Word is broken down in a way that we understand what it is telling us better. By reading this version, that we can understand, we are equipped to share that message to others.

One way we can reach others is to meet them when and where they are. We need to speak plainly, in ways that they will understand. Jesus spoke in parables to the people. These parables were for (for the lack of a better analogy) certain types of people. They worked for those whom He was talking to at the time but if he used only one type, there would have been people left out…people who wouldn’t understand the meaning of the parable. He came for the lost and confused sheep not the ones who understood. In order to bring people to an understanding and be saved we must meet them where they are as Jesus did. You see…the Pentecost fire within…enables us to become God’s servants, Christ’s friends, in order to carry on Christ’s ministry to the world. We meet others where they are…in their “native language”…not shunning them because they are different but embracing them for our diversity is a way we speak other languages. Remember and be filled with the fire of Pentecost

We need to, no, we have to, reignite that Pentecostal fire within Christ’s Church as well as in the life of every single believer. We need to begin by looking within ourselves. . . within our own mirror to begin the change. Then and only then, we can go forth in Jesus name with that fire in the hole of our own lives to spread the hills ablaze with a fire that cannot be quenched. We will be emboldened to go forth, in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, and preach the gospel to ALL nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and yes. . . the Spirit. Then and only then we will be able to help fill the hole in humanity with the fire that burns bright. Remember and be filled with the fire of Pentecost

Let me give you an example for this. This is a life without the Spirit within it…and here is a life full of the Holy Spirit…the fire of Pentecost. As the song from Kathy Tricoli states…Take your candle (that fire within you)…go light your world.

Amen!

I Say A Little Prayer For You

May 17, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Sermon 4 in Sermon Series

“Five Marks of a Christian”

Adapted from: “Five Marks of a Methodist”

By Steve Harper

Matthew 6:5-13 NIV

Ephesians 6:10-20 NIV

I Say A Little Prayer For You!

 

Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

 

The moment I wake up

Before I put on my makeup

I say a little prayer for you

While combing my hair, now

And wonder what dress to wear, now

I say a little prayer for you

 

When I was growing up, my mom taught me many things…some good and some not so good. But the one thing she instilled in me was that I could and should pray to God when things were going bad in my life. I was taught that I could find comfort in those times and that God was always there to listen to what was troubling me and He would help me in those times of adversity. When all else fails…pray When all else fails…pray…

But the problem with that is that I never really built a relationship with God. I would come to Him in prayer expecting Him to fix all my problems. It was almost like He was the “Candy Man’ and He would give me or help me in my times of trouble. It wasn’t until much later that I built a relationship with God and prayed in good times and in bad. Now people call me to pray for them because they know that I pray on and in all situations with prayers that can move mountains. It is because of my relationship with God…my trust in God…my belief that He hears my prayers…that I am able to pray without ceasing…until there is an answer from heaven.

 

With this type of theory in life, my mom grew to believe that God was too busy to help or that her problem wasn’t important enough for God to help her. Unfortunately she never really had that real relationship with God that we are called to have with Him. There are many people out there that still have that assumption in life and miss out on the richness of His grace.

We have begun our journey of looking at the five things…five ways…that we can see that we are “being changed by the story” of Easter. I have adapted this Sermon Series from a book written by Steve Harper that is titled “Five Marks of a Methodist: The Fruit of a Living Faith.” But this book is not just for “Methodist”, it is for all who follow Christ. It gives five distinct ways to tell…to visually see…that you are being “changed by the story”, not just reading it.

The five ways are as follows:

A “Christian” not just Methodist:

  1. Loves God
  2. Rejoices in God
  3. Gives Thanks
  4. Prays Constantly
  5. Loves Others

We have talked about the fact that “we love God” and that it is not just a fleeting love but a love that encompasses all that we have, all that we are, and all that we will be. It is what drives us in our relationship with Him. The more we are in love with Him the more we want to know Him. And the more we know Him the more we want of Him in our lives.

We have discovered that not only do we love God but we rejoice in Him. Not just simply rejoice in Him but rejoice in Him from the bottom of our feet to the tops of our heads. How can we not…look at all that He has given us in our lives…look at all that He has done in our lives and the lives of others. Now that’s reason to truly rejoice.

 

Giving thanks to God is another way to tell we are living the Easter life. Giving thanks is so important because as we do, we don’t forget that it is God who gives us all that we have. It is God who grows us. It is God who has given us our talents so that we can use them to further His kingdom here on earth.

The next sign is that we pray continually. In the good and bad times we pray to God and build a relationship of love and trust with Him. As we pray without ceasing, we see that God does answer pray and that He does care. I have seen so many answered prayers here at our church. There are many who are “prayer warriors” and all it takes is a call from someone who needs prayer and they go right into action. They don’t just say I’ll pray for you…they actually do it…

 

How do we know how to pray? Is there some kind of formula that guides us in prayer? Is there a right or wrong way to pray? We can glean the answer for these questions from the Matthew scripture I read this morning. Jesus’ disciples wanted their teacher to teach them to pray. They saw Him on many occasions going away alone to pray. They wanted to know what He knew. So He gave them an example of how not to pray.

The people of the temple would go out and pray these long prayers that had no real meaning behind them. They just prayed lots of words that were kind of hollow so to speak. Then He gave them not only the perfect prayer to pray but told them the right state of heart to pray in. they didn’t need all kinds of fancy words to pray to God. They could just go to God and pray from their hearts. We too don’t need all kinds of fancy words or to pray for hours at a time. All we need to do is to pray from our hearts to God…that’s it…that’s the formula for prayer…

I run for the bus, dear

While riding I think of us, dear

I say a little prayer for you

At work, I just take time

And all through my coffee break-time

I say a little prayer for you

 

One of my favorite pieces of scripture tells us how important prayer is. It is one of the tools in our arsenal for our work in God’s vineyard. It is found in Ephesians 6, verses 10-20. Listen to what it says about prayer and its importance in our lives as Christ followers…

Read the Ephesians Scripture…

 

We are to pray without ceasing for one another. We are to pray continually for those who are in need.          As we suit up with God’s armor, we are not to forget that it is within our relationship with God…our continual conversation with God…that we are strongest. It is within our prayer life that we are able to fight off whatever the enemy has to offer us. WE actually help others grow in their trust and love of God as we pray for them and they see the answered prayer in their own life.

We are connected to Jesus as the branches of the vine in which He is the One who gives nourishment and without the vine we are nothing. We are no longer servants but friends of the One who gave His life for us. We have gone from servants to sons and daughters of the Most High God… Even our earthly friendships require communication and communion…being with one another…so it is also with our heavenly relationship. You see…as we love God we will rejoice in Him. As we rejoice in Him we will give thanks to Him for all He has done. Because of our thankfulness we want to communion and communicate with God through prayer. There seems to be a pattern forming here… As we pray we become more aware of God in our daily lives and we are able to “hear” His voice.

         

Beloved child of God…if you thought of prayer as a response to God for all He has done…is doing …or will ever do in your life, how would that change your prayer life? Would you find it easier to pray? Would you pray without ceasing? God is waiting to hear from His children, in good times and in bad. How will you respond? He is so approachable…as a matter of fact…that He even came and walked amongst humanity. Think about that for a moment…God’s door is open 24/7. He wants to hear about your day…He wants to hear about your joys and sorrows. He wants to be the first and last thing during your day. Through our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, He has paved the way for something more than just being acquaintances but to be the Love of your life.

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart

And I will love you

Forever, and ever, we never will part

Oh, how I’ll love you

Together, together, that’s how it must be

To live without you

Would only mean heartbreak for me

Amen!

I Will Give Thanks!

May 10, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Sermon 3 in Sermon Series

“Five Marks of a Christian”

Adapted from: “Five Marks of a Methodist”

By Steve Harper

Psalm 73:24-28 CEB

Philippians 4:4-9 NIV

I Will Give Thanks!

 

Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

 

When I was growing up, my mother taught me to say please and thank you. No matter what the situation was, whether I wanted a drink or something to eat, whether I wanted to go out and play with my friends, whether it was a gift that I was given, there had better had been a please and thank you somewhere in there. Even when I got that sweater that could have been in the ugliest sweater contest…I had to say thank you to the person that gave it to me…

But to me…it seems that the habit of being thankful is a forgotten thing. Humanity seems to have forgotten that “rule” in life. Many feel entitled to everything they want and when they get it they are not even thankful because they have received it. This sense of entitlement is one way we can see how far away humanity is from being thankful when given something that was not even merited.

The sad part is that even people who call themselves Christians have forgotten about why and to whom they should be thankful to. Why is it that we, as humanity…as Christ followers…don’t think that a thank you is in order when given a gift? Some have even forgotten to say thank you for the gift of salvation that we don’t deserve but God has graced us with any way. This gift that we are given should bring us to our knees in thankfulness to God but some seem to have forgotten the price of that gift…

We have begun our journey of looking at the five things…five ways…that we can see that we are “being changed by the story” of Easter. I have adapted this Sermon Series from a book written by Steve Harper that is titled “Five Marks of a Methodist: The Fruit of a Living Faith.” But this book is not just for “Methodist”, it is for all who follow Christ. It gives five distinct ways to tell…to visually see…that you are being “changed by the story”, not just reading it.

The five ways are as follows:

A “Christian” not just Methodist:

  1. Loves God
  2. Rejoices in God
  3. Gives Thanks
  4. Prays Constantly
  5. Loves Others

We have talked about the fact that “we love God” and that it is not just a fleeting love but a love that encompasses all that we have, all that we are, and all that we will be. It is what drives us in our relationship with Him. The more we are in love with Him the more we want to know Him. And the more we know Him the more we want of Him in our lives.

We have discovered that not only do we love God but we rejoice in Him. Not just simply rejoice in Him but rejoice in Him from the bottom of our feet to the tops of our heads. How can we not…look at all that He has given us in our lives…look at all that He has done in our lives and the lives of others. Now that’s reason to truly rejoice.

The next tell tale sign is that we give thanks. Not just your typical thanks that we may give to someone who has given us a gift that we wanted but a thank you for the gift that we didn’t ask for or deserve but are given anyway…

The scripture I read this morning from Exodus is a song of thanks to God. The Israelites have been in captivity for many years and God has delivered them from their captors. Well their captors had decided that they had made a mistake in setting them free so now they had to flee for their lives. When they had lost all hope because of the sea that stood in front of them and their adversaries hot on their heels, God opened the sea for them. They walked over on dry land but those who were chasing them were drowned in the Red Sea. They were so overjoyed and thankful that they sang this song to God. They sang about God’s goodness and mercy…they sang about their deliverance by God. Is there something that God has saved you from or saved someone we know and love from? Are you singing a song of thanksgiving or the dirge of the world around you?

Our God is a God of wonders. Our God is a god of salvation. Our God is a God of mercy. Our God is a God of deliverance. Our God is a God of hope, love and joy. Our God is a God of redemption and wholeness… We have so much to be thankful for. Not just giving thanks but “thank full”.

Romans 8:33-39 gives us even more reason to give thanks. Let me read it for you and you tell me whether or not this would make you thank full…

Romans 8:33-39Amplified Bible (AMP)

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect [when it is] God Who justifies [that is, Who puts us in right relation to Himself? Who shall come forward and accuse or impeach those whom God has chosen? Will God, Who acquits us?]

34 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?

35 Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?

36 Even as it is written, For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are regarded and counted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.

38 For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,

39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have reason to be thankful…we have reason to rejoice…we have reason to love God…

Gratitude…thankfulness…is grounded in the nature of God. It has nothing to do with what is going on around us and in our lives. It is solely about God and His goodness. That may be a hard thing but we must first realize that it is not God’s fault nor did He call our situation upon us if we are in a bad place. God is love. God doesn’t cause our distress. We live in a fallen world and because of that we may experience pain. But God has promised to walk with us through our pain to the other side if we but only take His hand…as long as we hold on to the notion He is mad at us or is punishing us we will never feel that feeling of gratitude or thankfulness towards Him…

A Christian gives thanks…even when our situation may call for something else… We give thanks not for what is happening to us but because there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. As we take on the mantel of thankfulness we become content in any situation because we know that God is there…as the saying goes “God brought us to it He will bring us through it…”  We are thankful that we can cast all our stress…all our fears…all our anxiety…on God because He is good and loving. We are thankful because we can bring all our prayers to God…day or night…and He hears us. It doesn’t mean it all just disappears…what it does mean is that there is someone there with us as we go through to the other side…

          Beloved child of God…are you having trouble being thankful in your life? Do you have the concept that God is angry and distant? Come and see that the Lord is kind, loving and good. Come to the font of joy and come away thankful…thankful that our God is an awesome God. And it is in and through the blood of our Risen Lord Jesus that we may come. He says come…

Amen!

I Will Rejoice For He Is My God!

May 3, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Sermon 2 in Sermon Series

“Five Marks of a Christian”

Adapted from: “Five Marks of a Methodist”

By Steve Harper

Psalm 73:24-28 CEB

Philippians 4:4-9 NIV

 

Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

 

I love getting good news, be it for myself or for someone else. Good news is so needed in a world that seems to be nothing but bad. We see it in the news and in the news paper. This world seems to have gone from bad to worse. So when someone has good news it really is something to rejoice about.

Even in heaven there is rejoicing. We are told in scripture that there is much rejoicing when one soul turns from sin and turns to God. When God created the heavens and the earth and all that is within it, He stepped back and rejoiced in His creation and called it very good.

I would rather live my life rejoicing…looking to find the good that there is in the world and rejoicing about it…than the alternative of feeling down all the time…finding not much to rejoice about. At dinner time, we sit around the table and give thanks…rejoice about…one thing that happened that day that was good…something that we are thankful for.

We have begun our journey of looking at the five things…five ways…that we can see that we are “being changed by the story” of Easter. I have adapted this Sermon Series from a book written by Steve Harper that is titled “Five Marks of a Methodist: The Fruit of a Living Faith.” But this book is not just for “Methodist”, it is for all who follow Christ. It gives five distinct ways to tell…to visually see…that you are being “changed by the story”, not just reading it.

The five ways are as follows:

A “Christian” not just Methodist:

  1. Loves God
  2. Rejoices in God
  3. Gives Thanks
  4. Prays Constantly
  5. Loves Others

Last week, we talked about the first of these character traits. We love God. We love God with all that we are…and all that we have within us. This love we have for God is what drives us in our relationship with Him. The more we are in love with Him the more we want to know Him. And the more we know Him the more we want of Him in our lives.

The next tell tale sign is that we rejoice in God. The Psalm that I read this morning, talks about rejoicing in God…being so overjoyed that there is nothing that compares to Him. We are so overjoyed that we can’t help but talk about Him and all that He has done. As we rejoice in the Lord, we witness to a world that is in such need of the Good News. There are so many that need the hope of the gospel. As they hear the news and accept it in their lives, they too begin to rejoice in our God and Savior…

In the Letter to the Philippians, Paul talks about this rejoicing in God. In the fourth chapter He gives these instructions:

Philippians 4:4-9New International Version (NIV)

Final Exhortations

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

As we rejoice in the Lord we are changed…the story has changed us…we become gentle and “fearless”. We know that we can go to God in prayer and He will answer. We are given peace. Instead of concentrating on the chaos around us we are concentrated on what is good. And that brings us joy instead of the despair that our world seems pretty abundant with.

Joy…real joy that makes you “dance in the streets”…flows from the love of God. The joy of the Lord truly is our strength. Being a Christ follower…being a disciple of Christ …is a whole-life response to God’s grace…With all of our heart…all of our mind…and all of our strength. This joy is not a fleeting or superficial thing but it takes over our whole being. Being loved by God and loving God builds a bond that produces a life that can only be found in relationship with Him.

A Christian rejoices in God…they rejoice with God…for God is there all in all. So how is it with your joy meter? Are you rejoicing in god or is the chaos of the world creeping in and stealing your joy? Come to the fountain of joy and be revived again. Come to the life giving waters our Savoir offers and come away rejoicing in the streets. Come to the font of blessings and have the joy of your salvation restored. Rejoice in God for He is good.

Amen!