Archive | September 2015

God’s Glorious Grace

September 6, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Summer Sermon Series:

“Revive Us Again O Lord!”

Adapted from “Revival” by Adam Hamilton

Theme: The Necessity of Grace…

Ephesians 2:8-10

 

“God’s Glorious Grace…”

 

Ephesians 2:8-10Amplified Bible (AMP)

8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;

9 Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]

10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

Prayer for God’s Word to be heard through me…

 

I love the fact that we are given grace periods when we are making payments for something. There have been times when I have forgotten about a bill that I have had and paid the bill a little late. If it wasn’t for the grace period I am given I would have had to pay a late fee and we all know how large of an amount that may be. It is nice that I am given that grace by the company. I think we have a lot to learn from that practice of giving grace. We are given an amount of time that we have and the company will not penalize us for it.

Or how about when people show us grace when we have done something wrong? They forgive us even though we have wronged them. Grace is a wonderful thing that others give us even though we may not deserve it…I am glad that God shows me grace each day. He understands that I am a flawed human but forgives me anyway… This amazing grace that is showered down upon humanity is something I can’t do without…

This summer we have decided that we are going to be intentional with our faith and our God…that we want God to revive us again with that passion for Him and His word. As we do this, we are going to take a walk with John Wesley and see how he lived out his faith at times.  I pray that we will be challenged and changed…that our Spirit’s will be filled and energized so that when we leave our church each Sunday, we will go out into the world as light bearers of the King. As we become those light bearers I pray that we bring revival to our community and beyond…to the ends of the earth. But it all begins here…within ourselves…being intentional with our faith…with our Spirit…with our God. We want a revival within our souls…

Revival is a reawakening of faith or renewal of commitment to religion… we have talked about being intentional…wanting to awaken what may have fallen asleep within us… As we long for Holiness. WE talked about having a Crisis of Faith and we may be thinking that if we just do a little more God will do more in our lives. But the problem may be that we have forgotten one important factor in this thing we call faith, we are justified by faith-only through having faith in Jesus Christ we are made righteous. This is God’s grace that we are accepted by grace alone.  There is a necessity of and for grace.

From the Ephesians scripture I just read we can understand one thing. We are saved by grace. No matter how much faith we have, without God’s grace we cannot call ourselves saved. We are made for the good works in Christ Jesus…the good works is not what gets us there. It is only by grace we do the good works God has planned for each of us to do for His glory. Grace is offered to “ALL” of God’s children, even though they “don’t deserve it”. This is an act of kindness, an expression of selfless love, undeserved and given without expectation (something in return). God’s Glorious Grace! Many Christians grow up not knowing about this grace from God. They are taught that God is an angry being just waiting for humanity to mess up so that He can punish them. But our Risen Lord, Jesus exampled something completely different. He exampled a God of love and grace.

So this grace…two things I want to share…

  1. It is a quality of God’s character whereby God loves, blesses and forgives humanity despite our sin.
  • He is a shepherd who searches for lost sheep
  • Runs to me the prodigal son…or daughter
  • Friend of drunkards, prostitutes and sinners
  • Gracious and merciful
  • Compassionate and full of great love

It is…

  • Grace that led God to create all things
  • Grace that leads God to show mercy to humanity
  • An act of God’s generosity and love…the gift of life…
  • Grace is every good thing in our lives
  • And out of this grace we respond with :
  1. Worship
  2. Praise
  3. A Heart and life full of gratitude…
  1. It is God’s active work by the Spirit to draw us near and to restore us to what He created us to be.

Through this grace God draws us nearer to Him when we accept it, God forgives and justifies our faith. It is by this grace that we are sanctified by God, to form and shape us, and restore us to be the people of God.

Let’s talk for a minute about sin. Sin is the act of walking away from God’s way and it is the force within us that leads us to walk away from God’s way. John Wesley called it “missing the mark”…not quite hitting the target of who God would have us be…

John Wesley states there are 3 types of grace:

  1. Previenient Grace → God is at work even before we know to reach out to God. It is God’s way of “wooing” us back to Him. It is not irresistible so we have a choice. It may even be only in hindsight that we recognize it. (example)
  2. Justifying Grace → when we finally say yes to God’s invitation, we learn to trust Christ who died for us, saved us, delivered us from sin, and redeemed us. God declares we are delivered from sin and death at the same time He is working in our hearts to free us from guilt and death in order to make us new.
  3. Sanctifying Grace → gives us the ability to hear, understand and respond to God’s gift of salvation (when we experience the justifying grace…when we accept God’s offer…this is when this grace sort of “kicks in” so to speak). This is the grace that is an ongoing thing until we reach holiness. This is God’s work that helps us mature and grow and become what and who we are meant to be and is achieved through the Holy Spirit.

Now we can resist this sanctifying grace as we can the other two forms. The ultimate goal us that we become fully and completely sanctified…and are made holy. We will finally fully love God with all our heart, mind and strength and love others as ourselves.

So…how do we come by this glorious grace from God? How do these forms of grace come to us? Wesley talks about several practices through which God’s grace is communicated and conveyed. Through prayer, Scripture reading, and the Lord’s Supper (today we are experiencing all 3). He later added public worship, preaching, fasting and abstinence. There are also several other ways that God pours out His grace upon humanity:

  • Serving in mission and ministry with others
  • Reading books on Christian values and Christian lives
  • Walking in silence through the woods…being in God’s creation.
  • Within small groups of Christians talking about faith

Whatever or where ever we pay attention, listening for God’s Spirit with our ears and hearts.

Sharing this wondrous grace with others is vital. As we strive to make disciples of all humanity, we hear of some churches are no longer growing because they have lost their passion for those who don’t know Christ yet. How can we not want to share this good news of the free gift that God gives all who would accept Christ as their Savior? How can they come to this saving grace if we are unwilling to be gracious with them and show them…share with them…teach them about…God’s glorious gift of grace? In the song “Amazing Grace” there is a verse that says “I once was lost, but now am found”. How can the lost be found if we are not looking for them?

 

Without grace we are nowhere. But we need to accept it. Example…see this gift box…it represents the gift of God through Christ. This is God’s grace waiting for us (previenient grace). As we open…accept this gift we are given God’s grace and are saved (justifying grace). As we grateful for this gift we draw closer to God and begin to want others to know this grace…we love others into this grace (sanctifying grace). But as I have always said…it begins with you and with me. It is a heart thing. It is from within that we begin this wondrous journey of grace. As we begin that journey back we too shall cry out…”Revive us again O Lord”. This we pray in the strong and precious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

Amen…

Uncertainty Is A Killer

August 30, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Summer Sermon Series:

“Revive Us Again O Lord!”

Adapted from “Revival” by Adam Hamilton

Theme: A Crisis of Faith…

Romans 4:3-5; 5:1-2

Acts 8:1-3

Romans 1:16-17

Galatians 2:16, 19-21

 

“Uncertainty Is a Killer”

 

Prayer for God’s Word to be heard through me…

 

Galatians 2:16New International Version (NIV)

16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

 

There are so many things in life that are uncertain. We never know one day to the next what the weather will be. We don’t know if our car will start. We may or may not have a job when we go into work. We may not know if what we want that is on sale in a store is still there or not. We don’t know if…fill in the blank… In a life full of uncertainty we only hope that a least our faith is certain…right? What about those times when we are praying and asking for something from God…a healing… a relationship restored…a child to come home who has been wayward…whatever it may be may cause us to question God at times or even ourselves. You may feel you have faith that could move mountains and then something happens that causes you to doubt your faith and acceptance from God. We are not sure if all this God stuff is really worth it…God doesn’t listen to what I am asking, maybe if I work a little harder He might think I am worthy of an answer… We have a crisis of faith.

 

And so we work a little harder thinking that if we do enough for God He will listen. Maybe if we do more devotionals…work more hours at the food pantry…take on that new project at the church even though I don’t know how I am going to fit into my schedule… The only thing that seems to happen is that we get even more tired and we don’t have time to even stop and listen to see if God is even answering our prayers…

This summer we are on a faith journey together. We are going to be intentional with our faith and our God…asking God to revive us again with that passion for Him and His word. We are going to take a walk with John Wesley and see how he lived out his faith.  My prayer is that we will be challenged and changed…that our Spirit’s will be filled and energized so that when we leave our church each Sunday and go out into the world as light bearers of the King. As we become those light bearers I pray that we bring revival to our community and beyond…to the ends of the earth. But as I have stated …it all begins here…within ourselves…being intentional with our faith…with our Spirit…with our God. We want a revival within our souls…

Now remember…Revival is a reawakening of faith or renewal of commitment to religion… we have talked about being intentional…wanting to awaken what may have fallen asleep within us… As we long for Holiness.

So…we are here having a Crisis of Faith. We may be thinking that if we just do a little more God will do more in our lives. The problem may be that we have forgotten one important factor in this thing we call faith. Justification by faith-only through having faith in Jesus Christ we are made righteous. This is God’s grace that we are accepted by grace alone.  Bitterness and anger can result from lifes set backs. At this time in our faith walks faith needs to move from our heads…move from thinking if we do more we will be righteous …to our hearts.

OK…I have a few questions for you and I want to see a show of hands if you have thought this before:

  • During the sermon I have sometimes make a meeting agenda or tasks for a church activity
  • I have secretly thought how could the church get along without me
  • Sometimes it is easier to do a church job myself than to delegate. That way I can be sure it gets done right.
  • I sometimes think about who I have to talk to about a church thing during my worship time.
  • During worship I sometimes do…(fill in the blank)…instead of being present in worship.

Ok…ok…now that I have tortured you with these questions this morning you can put your hands down. We all want to please God and be holy as He asks us to be. But we also need to experience and understand grace.

Adam Hamilton in his book Revival explains it like this:

God has met the sin of humankind with the gracious gift of God in Christ, worked out in a plan for history inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles. This plan is the bases for life in Christ. Inclusiveness… Are we? How are we not?

It’s not a matter of trying harder but a matter of grace from God.

Paul from the New Testament knew well about works. Acts 8:1-3 tells us that:

1 Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder.

The church scatters

At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some pious men buried Stephen and deeply grieved over him. 3 Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison.

Saul…before he became Paul…was zealous for the law. He had experienced God’s acceptance but not quite enough. He had a crisis of faith thinking that being zealous was all that was needed…Until he had an encounter with Jesus that changed His whole life. He learned the truth of salvation…grace through faith. He was set free from trying, by works, to win God’s favor. He finally learned what the Galatians Scripture was saying… a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. You can work and work and never earn that justification because it is a free gift.

Martin Luther had the same issue. But the harder he tried, the more elusive, distant God’s acceptance and favor became. He did all the right things but felt there was more to do…

John Wesley…the founder of our denomination… Did early morning prayer, Fasted 2 days a week, studied the bible, communion weekly if not daily, visited those in prison and sick, visited the elderly, now that’s a list and a half, to be righteous but still felt unworthy. It wasn’t until Aldersgate that he got it right. His heart and his head began to work together.

In scripture…and in our lives…storms often lead to great revivals of faith. What do you remember that caused a revival in faith? Failures = success. Pain = moments of grace. We receive healing, grace, and new beginnings as we let go of anger (give to God) because of failure (difficult times in life). Give to God=great success. Pain = defining moments of grace.

We need to learn from our setbacks and failures. As we do Spiritual reading of the scriptures we can find comfort and hear God’s voice. Ok…Spiritual reading.

  1. As you read scripture look for a word or phrase that jumps out at you.
  2. Read it again
  3. Say it over and over again
  4. Memorize it
  5. Invite and inner dialog with the scripture
  6. Rest in Gods embrace

But as I have always said…it begins with you and with me. As we begin that journey back we too shall cry out…”Revive us again O Lord”. This we pray in the strong and precious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Let us pray:

Lord, I believe that you love me. I love You too. I offer all that I am and all that I have to you. Help me to trust, like a little child, that you are always by my side. And help me to live for you and honor you in all that I do. Speak words of love and hope as I read your word, especially in those crisis times so that I may know and feel your grace. Revive me again O Lord.

(adapted from Adam Hamilton’s “Revival” prayer on page 52 of Leaders Guide)

Amen…

A Better Way

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqMflpl35yE

August 23, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Summer Sermon Series:

“Revive Us Again O Lord!”

Adapted from “Revival” by Adam Hamilton

Theme: A longing for holiness…

1 Peter 1:13-16 MSG Bible

Ezekiel 37:1-10 AMP Bible

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/holiness

 

 

“A Better Way”

 

Prayer for God’s Word to be heard through me…

 

Ezekiel 37:1-10

37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

2 And He caused me to pass round about among them, and behold, there were very many [human bones] in the open valley or plain, and behold, they were very dry.

3 And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know!

4 Again He said to me, Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live;

6 And I will lay sinews upon you and bring up flesh upon you and cover you with skin, and I will put breath and spirit in you, and you [dry bones] shall live; and you shall know, understand, and realize that I am the Lord [the Sovereign Ruler, Who calls forth loyalty and obedient service].

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a [thundering] noise and behold, a shaking and trembling and a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

8 And I looked and behold, there were sinews upon [the bones] and flesh came upon them and skin covered them over, but there was no breath or spirit in them.

9 Then said He to me, Prophesy to the breath and spirit, son of man, and say to the breath and spirit, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath and spirit, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.

10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath and spirit came into [the bones], and they lived and stood up upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.

 

Have you ever been to or seen pictures of the desert? All of the pictures I have ever seen, it looks like a dead, sandy place. Not anywhere I would really want to live. Now I know there are places that don’t look that bad but my vision of it seems a little too rough and rugged to me. But I think that the most amazing thing about the desert is that when the rains come, it is transformed into something of beauty. What seemed dead comes alive in vibrant color. How beautiful it must be to actually be there when that happens…an awakening of something most may think is barren.

Like the desert scene and the scripture from Ezekiel that I read, our Spirit’s may feel as if they are a dry desert place. All things around us may seem dead to us. But as God breath’s His breath of life His Ruach upon us, we come alive and live again…the word Ruach means breath, wind, Spirit…of God. This is what we need as we are revived…given mouth to mouth by God. I have heard it said that it’s like having an elephant on your chest…you can’t breathe. And like those bones…we need the sinews and ligaments reattached…we need flesh and skin attached. Then we can receive the breath of God that brings us alive again. It can be a process not just a quick regeneration…

As I shared last week, this summer…we are embarking on a faith journey together. We are going to be intentional with our faith and our God. We are going to ask God to revive us again with that passion for Him and His word. We are going back to a time when people met in fields and sheep barns. We are going to look at what made a difference in their lives…why their era was different than ours and what is the same. We are going to take a walk with John Wesley and see how he lived out his faith.  My prayer is that we will be challenged and changed…that our Spirit’s will be filled and energized so that when we leave our church each Sunday and go out into the world as light bearers of the King. As we become those light bearers I pray that we bring revival to our community and beyond…to the ends of the earth. But as I stated last week…it all begins here…within ourselves…being intentional with our faith…with our Spirit…with our God. We want a revival within our souls…

So…Revival…

  • a reawakening of faith or renewal of commitment to religion
  • an evangelistic meeting or service intended to effect such a reawakening in those present.

Last week we talked about being intentional…wanting to awaken what may have fallen asleep within us… As we Long for Holiness we need to be intentional with what we do in order to achieve our deepest longing.

Longing for holiness is not a onetime thing…it is a way of life. We have heard the expression “holier than thou” about those who think they have achieved it in their life time. This is called a journey for a reason. When we stop longing for holiness or think we have achieved it, we need a long conversation with God…we need to look into His word and through that encounter with the Divine, God will either lift us up or correct us whichever is needed.

So longing for holiness…what does this mean?

Holiness is the state or quality of being holy. We want to be holy…as the 1 Peter from this morning states:

As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

We want to live a life pleasing to God for he has called us to be holy as He is Holy. This is something that cannot be completed…even attempted…without God. We are to live a life set apart from the world, not as the world. As we reach for this type of faith, it is not only about intellect and knowing God’s word but it also a heart matter. Studying His word as well as reading devotionals works both the mind and heart muscles. Reflecting on God’s word feeds both as well.

So how can we have this type of revival…how can we work both our minds and Spirits? Well one way is to do everything to the Glory of God. Brother Lawrence did everything in life for the glory of God. Even when he was washing dishes he did it for the glory of God. We can turn all the events of our daily life into holy ground as we think of ways…think of how we can do it to the glory of God. Sometimes it just takes a new way of view our daily lives as one set on the mission of doing it for the glory of God.

We can change the “feeling” of what we do by agreeing with “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” We can recite these words as we think about our daily lives and if it is bringing God glory or not. This is what I want you to try for the next week. Recite the Lord’s Prayer and when you get to this part think about if you are living your life in this way? If not…think of ways that you can.

 

Breath Prayers is another good way to refocus our minds. Some use scripture or a hymn to breath in and out their prayer. One piece of scripture is Psalm 115:1…breath in “Not us, O Lord, not us” then breath out “…but to you your Name give glory.” We refocus from us to You O Lord.

 

Revival is not easy…it requires change and intentionality. But if we but just turn our hearts back to our First Love, He is faith to return back to us. But again it’s all about choice. God will not “make us” come back to Him but woo’s us back through His Spirit within us. When we are intentional about our everyday life we become more aware of the divine within us as well as around us. We can again have that “joy of our salvation”. Maybe…just maybe…as we reach out to God with all we are and all we have we will be changed and renewed. But as I have always said…it begins with you and with me. As we begin that journey back we too shall cry out…”Revive us again O Lord”. This we pray in the strong and precious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Amen…