Courageous

April 17, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sermon Series:

“When in doubt…read the instructions”

Beware, Don’t Worry

(What did Jesus instruct His disciples then and now…?)

Mark 13:9-11

Matthew 6:25-34

Psalm 23

Philippians 4:4-7

 

“Be Courageous…”

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

 

Philippians 4:4-7Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Worry…worry…worry…how many of you have worry in your life? It seems that so much around us can be so dangerous. All we have to do is to read a paper or listen to the news and our fear is fed once again our fears are fed. From bombings to hijackings, from abductions to war…from fill in the blank…there is a lot to fear out there. But in the face of fear, how are we to react? What are our instructions as we face those fears both named and unnamed? The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

Let me tell you a true but tragic story: A woman was once walking along a riverbank with her child. Suddenly the child slipped into the river. The mother screamed in terror. She couldn’t swim, and besides, she was in the latter stages of pregnancy. Finally, somebody heard her screaming and rushed down to the riverbank. The utter tragedy was, when they stepped into those murky waters to retrieve that now dead child, they found that the water was only waist deep! That mother could have easily saved her child but didn’t because of a lack of knowledge.

 

We are all on a reading journey as we read the instructions that Jesus gave the first disciples and what He intended all to follow to do. We are gathering the knowledge that we need to be Christ Ambassador’s in a world in need of a Savior. Now Jesus wants us to “go and do likewise”…to take His example, His instructions and follow them. Some of the instructions may not be words but actions that Jesus showed His disciples. Now I hope you all brought your bibles this morning. If not there are some in the pews. I want us each to look up the instructions…for ourselves…instead of me reading them to you. Who knows, maybe after we are done it is something we will continue to do… just sayin.

 

Let’s back track for a moment. The first instruction was on Easter Sunday to a woman called Mary Magdalene…Go, tell. Just that simple…go tell the disciples I am alive…tell them you have seen me…tell them to Galilee and they will see me. Go and tell…ministry is an action. The next were stay…wait…witness (stay where they were and to wait for the Holy Spirit, then to witness to and for Him all over the world). Last week it was touch…heal. We may touch lives by our words or actions but either way…it…we…can bring healing to others…

 

No this week’s may seem a little confusing but once we read the scriptures it will become clear… “Beware…don’t worry”. We are to beware but not worry as we are doing so…how are we to beware and not worry at the same time. Doesn’t that seem a little backwards? Shouldn’t we worry about those things out there we are to beware of? Ok…let’s look at each of these instructions one by one. Beware…let’s read Mark 13 9-11 together as we hear Jesus telling His disciples to beware of something that will happen in their lives and not to worry…read the Mark scripture together…

 

The disciples needed to be on guard because of what was going to happen to them because of what they would go through and continue to go through even today. Think of how many are persecuted today because they are Christ’s followers. But when they were persecuted they didn’t fear because they laid their faith and trust in Jesus. We, as Christ followers, are to be on guard when those who may not believe approach us. Now I am not saying that you have to take self-defense classes…. What I am saying is to be on guard and trust that when we are questioned about our faith God will give us an answer for them. You never know…in trusting God for the answer…in letting God speak through you…there may be dancing in heaven because another non-believer has become a believer.

 

The next is do not worry…do not worry…remember that I began with worry but what was the scripture I quoted after? ‘The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Let’s read Matthew together and see what my bible entitles “The Cure of Anxiety” is. It is found in chapter 6 verses 25-34. Read the Matthew scripture together…

 

Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Speak from the Spirit…

Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? Speak from the Spirit…

‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters[b] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God[c] and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.  Speak from the Spirit…

 

Maybe…just maybe…if we stopped worrying about the what if’s…our rainy day…maybe we can touch the life of someone who is having a present rainy day with the hope and life that is found through and in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ…Hmmm…Perhaps if we decided to leave our lives in the hands of God and leave it there with Him, trusting in His goodness and love we just might not  need that full storehouse of the earth and empty our barns with the love of Christ…

 

Go, tell…stay, wait, witness…touch, heal… be on guard, don’t worry these seem pretty simple things to do right? We as the body of Christ…as the hands, feet, voice and image of Christ in the world…need to understand the instructions and follow them to the point of us truly being that image of Christ. There are going to be times when we forget these instructions but if we spend time daily with the Author of the manual, Immanuel we will have more of a chance of following the instructions for life.

 

May be if we begin to “be aware” and don’t worry about the “small stuff” and by the way with God…all of our stuff as well as our big stuff small is stuff for Him … We will get back to our roots…You know the ones of the first church. They shared everything…they sold everything and shared what they had with all so that there was no one in need and if there was anyone in need, they reached out to them. We truly can be that church again if we so choose. But it is a choice…yours and mine. I don’t know…what do you think? Can we truly be what our Risen Lord Jesus wanted us to be? I say yes with the help of the Holy Spirit which guides us in all truth…the truth of our God and king. How will you spend your life? In fear and worry? Or in the freedom found in and through the blood of Jesus Christ? Perhaps maybe if we …fill in the blank…

Amen.

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Stay, Wait,Witness

April 3, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sermon Series:

“When in doubt…read the instructions”

(What did Jesus instruct His disciples then and now…?)

Acts 1:1-14 NKJ

Psalm 150:1-6

 

 

“Stay…Wait…Witness”

How many of you read the instructions when you get something new? I know many times I don’t and then when there is an issue I have to go and find the instructions then read them. I think that if I had read the directions in the beginning I may not have had the issue I did. Ok…how about this…how many of you have ever tried to train a puppy or dog? You give the animal instructions on what you want them to do and you can just see in their eyes the conflict in their head. “Ok…this nice person who loves me wants me to (Fill in the blank). But I don’t want to follow that…I want to be running around and having fun…ready set go!” they are off running doing what they want… Sometimes it leads to things they had not expected like a run in with a skunk or worse. If they only followed the instructions they would be ok.

 

We sometimes go through life saying” I wish I had an instruction manual for life. It would make it a whole lot easier.” Well the first question is, would we read it if we had one…remember…we hate reading instruction manuals…the second is this, what do you mean there is no manual…there is a perfect one that we tend not to read. There is one that I like to call “everything you need to know about life and then some.” It’s the BIBLE silly… It is full of all kinds of information…

There is so much information in the bible that pertains to everything from how to raise kids to how to raise your spouse… But we just don’t pick up the book. There seems to be some kind of taboo so to speak about looking for answers in the bible. We, as humanity, go everywhere else but to the source of all wisdom.

 

We, as Christians, should know better. We know that the bible is our love letter of instruction and hope but we don’t seem to want to read it. As a matter of fact…we, as Christ followers, sometimes don’t know what Jesus wants us to do. We use the phrase “what would Jesus do” but we don’t even know the answer and don’t bother to look it up. We can be so silly at times… Jesus taught…instructed…His disciples then and now what they needed to do.

 

I would like us to take a look at some of those instructions. Now…this is what I need…ok would like….for you to do. Over the next few weeks…OK up until after Pentecost…I would like you to bring you bibles to church. Yes I am going to make you read the bible. I want us each to look up the instructions…who knows, maybe after we are done it is something we will continue to do…just sayin.

 

Let’s back track for a moment. The first instruction was on Easter Sunday to a woman called Mary Magdalene…Go, tell. Just that simple…go tell the disciples I am alive…tell them you have seen me…tell them to Galilee and they will see me. Go and tell…You see ministry is an action…sometimes we can get all caught up in our programs that we forget what ministry is all about. Go…tell.

 

Next…”Stay, Witness”…I like to add wait in that instruction. Let me read this account to you…it’s found in acts 1:1-14…Read the account…

Now I can see these disciples now…much like training the dog. Mark 6:7-13 tells us they had already been sent out by Jesus and given the authority to heal and drive out demons. They know what it is like to “be in ministry”. But Jesus told them to stay where they were and wait… OK wait…they knew what they were doing…they didn’t need the instructions…they already had success. Now Jesus wants them the…and here s the wait I put in…wait to receive the Holy Spirit. Luckily they followed the instructions that Jesus gave them to stay and wait otherwise it could have be disastrous for them. We too, as Christ followers can tend to rush into things in which we “think” we know only to find out we knew nothing and there is a disaster sitting in front of us…

 

If they hadn’t followed the instructions they would not have been able to complete the other part of their instruction…Witness. Without the Holy Spirit they could not have done so. Without following Christ’s instruction to us through the Holy Spirit we too cannot go forward. And what did they do when they waited? They got together in the place they met and prayed…they prayed in one accord…they prayed in one voice. We can tend to be there like the disciples did in the beginning, staring up looking for Jesus. But that really doesn’t get us anywhere. We are looking intently to the sky for His return but in the meantime we are “called to action.” Talk about the instruction I have been given to share…pray together at our church one night a week…

 

We as the “hands, feet, arms…” of Christ need to hear the instruction that God is giving us to be whom He has ordained us and yes we all have been Ordained and Anointed by God to do His work in the world. And the only place we are going to find it is in His word…not from any self-help book that is on the market. Let’s spend some time together in God’s Word and in prayer. Maybe as we do this…we will once again hear God’s voice. Perhaps…maybe…just maybe…we will again activate the power of Pentecost…the Power of the Holy Spirit…within our ministries and our church’s. Just think of the possibilities as e step out in faith and trust in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Just imagine…

 

Amen.

A Higher Calling

February 28, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Third Sunday of Lent

“The High Way”

Adapted Sermon Series

 by Marcia McPhee

“The Way”

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 139: 1-18

Acts 10:9-16

 “A “Higher” Calling”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter Fifty-Five, verses one thru nine…listen to the Word’s of Life from God to you and me, pilgrims on a journey…

 

Eating for free…getting to drink without a cost…buying something for nothing…why that is completely absurd…you can’t get something for nothing. In the world we live…we tend to think that if it doesn’t cost there must be some sort of catch. There must be some sort of hidden agenda if I am being offered something that I need for free.

 

We, as humankind, seem to think we have everything all figured out. We tend to think that we know it all and at times just close our ears and eyes to a new way of thinking. Remember…we have it all figured out. Or do we? Is there another way that we do not perceive? Is there a “higher calling” on our lives as Christ followers?

 

We are continuing our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross. During this journey we will bring Marcia McPhee with us as we look at her sermon series “The Way”. We are going to be looking at the different “ways” or paths that we take in life. My prayer is that as we journey together we will help each other and those in our lives find “the way”.

 

We began this pilgrimage on Ash Wednesday as we talked about “the way back”… taking a u-turn so to speak…back towards God…back to the relationship that God intended from the very beginning. We have talked about “the wandering way”…As Marcia McPhee would put it…when we walk through that maze trying to find the way to the right path instead of hitting those walls of a wrong turn. Last week we talked about “the way around” when Erica told us about how we need to follow God’s plan in our life and sometimes we need to make a way around those in our lives that would try to tell us different.

 

So, the question I asked was “do we as Christ followers have a higher calling in our lives? Do we understand differently than those who are not Christ followers? And if we have a higher calling in our lives what does that look like?”

 

So…how sure can we be the scripture from Isaiah I read this morning gives us food for thought. God offers us living water when we thirst, the bread of heaven when we hunger, and all of this for free. Well it is free because Jesus paid the price for us to come to the table and be fed. So technically it did cost but God offers us the result of that cost for free.

So God offers all of this for free…even if we, as creation, do not understand why the Creator would do such a thing. Now here’s the question…because we follow Jesus, should we offer to others a place at the table, as we are offered, for that same price? Does God expect us to accept the higher calling on our lives to invite others to the table for the same price that we pay? Do we follow the thought process of the world or the thought process of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

 

Peter, The Rock, thought he had it all figured out. He followed the rules and regulations of God and he did it with all that he was. But one day, he was shown a blind side so to speak. He was living a life that had exclusion in it even though he thought that he had it all figured out. Listen as I read Acts ten, nine thru sixteen. This reminds us of a high calling and thought process that we are challenged…commissioned to live…

9 The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” 16 This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven.

 

Peter thought he had it all figured out but God had a different plan. The vision was not so much about food as it was about exclusion. Peter followed all the rules but he had this blind side that God needed to illuminate. He told God that he had never broken the “rule of man” and God showed him a better way. We too at times can be blindsided and need to have the blinders taken off to restore our vision.

 

We are taught that everything costs. But our ways are not God’s ways, praise God. It is a higher way that we are called. We are all invited to the table of Grace without price. This is our higher way in which we are to embody others. Hospitality is the way. Now here’s the thought provoking, higher way thought…even when we do not agree on everything, we are still one family at one table.

 

Is God trying to lower the sheet before your eyes to show you something new? Is God trying to spring up a new thing in your life but you are blinded by the way you think? Do you want to follow the Light of the world but the world is clouding your view? Then have I a deal for you. It costs you nothing but it will be more rewarding than all the glitter and glimmer of the world. Taste and see that the Lord is good and He will give you new eyes to see a higher way, a new heart that beats only for Him and a new song in your soul. Try it…I assure you that you will like it…

 

Amen

A Time of Trial

January 24, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Fourth Sunday of the New Year

All Scripture is from the AMP Bible

Luke 4:14-21

Psalm 19

Habakkuk 4:17-19

Matthew 19:26; James 1:2-3;

2 Corinthians 4:16-17; Hebrews 4:16

 

“A Time of Trial…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

16 Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]!

(2 Corinthians 4:16-17Amplified Bible)

 

 

“The deepest level of worship is praising God in-spite of the pain, thanking God during trials, trusting Him when you are tempted to lose Hope and Loving Him when He seems distant and far away. At my lowest, God is my hope. At my darkest, God is my light. At my weakest, God is my strength. At my saddest, God is my comforter.” Touching Lives May 13, 2014

 

A time of trial, there seems to be no way around them. We are going through life and it is pretty good until that thing happens…that monkey wrench in the works, that situation of event we didn’t sign up for. We find ourselves in the midst of a time of trial. Now they may seem senseless at the time but are they really?

 

2 Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. 3 Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. (James 1:2-3)

 

 

OK…let me recap this year, we have had epiphanies, those moments when we really understand and get a glimpse of who God is. We have visited the shore of the Jordan River and step into the water with Jesus as remembered our own baptism. We have at by the never ending bottomless well of God and drank deep of its life giving water. We came to realize that there is no end to what God offers. There is no end of God’s love for us. But now here is where it may get a little shaky…a time of trial.

 

As we look at the world around us we can see that not only may we be going through a time of trial but the world in which we live is certainly going through one. Joblessness is up…more homelessness…war…people dying of starvation…not to mention natural disasters…just to name a few. We can become dismayed and frightened because of these times in our faith walk but be strong and courageous…I bring you good news…

 

From the Luke Scripture this morning we see our hope and the good news that can and will make us courageous through our turn on the trial road. It is a one word answer that shook the world to its knees and changed the tide of trials. The word is “Jesus.” When He pronounced in the end of this scripture “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing and in your presence”, He changed everything! (Speak through the scripture through the Spirit…)

 

How can this be…how can things change? How am I going to fix what is going on in my life? I just can see no way out of this mess I’m in, I don’t even know how I even got to this point in my pilgrimage…

 

26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26Amplified Bible)

 

We don’t have to be discouraged because our moment of trial is producing eternal things in our lives. Sure it is hard and tough…been there, done that, I won one of the t-shirt franchises…but we have hope that in the end it won’t be the end but the beginning of something new. And even more so…we can come up next to those around us as they are in there “trial period” and help them along. We can sit by them and just be because we know what it is like to go through trials…maybe not the same as they are going through but a trial anyway. We can be like the man in the story of the starfish…Tell the story with the starfish helper…

 

We have hope…we have help…we have someone who has been there in our Risen Lord and we have our fellow journey people as well who can walk a while with us as we journey the often rocky road of trials…

17

Though the fig tree does not blossom

And there is no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive fails

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock is cut off from the fold

And there are no cattle in the stalls,

18

Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;

I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19

The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];

He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet

And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]. (Habakkuk 4:17-19)

 

 

As it is written in the Scriptures:

16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]. (Hebrews 4:16)

 

AMEN…Amen…and amen!

 

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…

It Began With A…

August 16, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Revive Us Again O Lord!

All scripture is from the NIV Bible

Revelation 2:1-2, 4-5

Galatians 5:22-23

 

“It Began With A…”

 

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

 

Revelation 2:1-2,4-5

To the Church in Ephesus

2 “To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

 

revival (rɪˈvaɪvəl )

noun

  • the act or an instance of reviving or the state of being revived
  • an instance of returning to life or consciousness; restoration of vigour or vitality
  • a renewed use, acceptance of, or interest in (past customs, styles, etc) a revival of learning, the Gothic revival
  • a new production of a play that has not been recently performed
  • a reawakening of faith or renewal of commitment to religion
  • an evangelistic meeting or service intended to effect such a reawakening in those present

Have you ever started to do something and then it just sort of looses its joy and so you just stop doing it? I know for myself, there have been many times that I have heard about or seen a new way to exercise and I am so excited in the beginning. Then sometimes, after a short time, it begins to just become such a chore that I just stop doing it. Or it just isn’t what I expected it to be so I think to myself, well what’s the use and stop trying. Sometimes we just get so excited about something and for some reason we just stop having that joy about it…the excitement is gone. What happens to that joy we once had?

It can be the same with our faith. We are so excited and on fire for God and then something happens to that joy…sometimes it just kind of sneaks up on us, so to speak. We stop doing our daily devotions and prayer…I am just too busy this morning…I’ll do it tomorrow, I need the extra sleep, God will understand…I’ll get back to it tomorrow…  Then we may stop reading our bible…I don’t need to read my bible anymore…I get it, why should I keep reading my bible…there are so many other things I would rather read… We may then stop going to church and before you know it…there is something missing in your life…that joy that you once knew…that excitement you had for God is gone…you are still doing good for all around you but the joy has gone and now your just going through the motions. What happened?

This is not a new spiritual deadness. It has been happening for a long time. From the scripture that I read from Acts this morning we hear about one such church. The church in Ephesus had this same issue that some of us have today. They were doing a lot of good but they were just going thorough he motions. They had lost their first love. They had lost their passion for God and the work that they were doing in His name. They were like what Jesus called the Pharisees…”White Washed Tombs”. They looked good on the outside but they were dead on the inside. They were seen as all holy from others perspective but inside they had lost that vitality and zeal for God.

John Wesley saw the same thing in the churches. He led a Christian revival in his time. Christians were experiencing a severer crisis because they were a religious minority…what do we face today that make us a religious minority? What day to day stresses effect our faith? Are we just going through the motions and not truly expressing the fruit of the spirit…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Are we having an outward appearance of vitality but inside dead…sort of a burn out? Is there no fruit of the Spirit or a decreased amount …we do all the right things…say all the right things for God but there is no Sprit…passion…purpose…in what we do? Are we just going through the motions to just check another thing off the list that we do for God?

John Wesley saw that there needed to be more to Christianity…a Christian life than what he knew…he wanted something more. This is where the Methodist revival began…the seed was planted. He knew there had to be more. His mother, Suzanna Wesley, showed him a different way. She held family devotions for her family, she was intentional about forming her children’s faith, and it continued when they were adults. Are we intentional about and with our own faith? Are we caring about the children and their faith…the next generation?

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. As we look around the world we see that there is something is missing…something that has been forgotten. 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 it all begins here…within ourselves…being intentional with our faith…with our Spirit…with our God. It begins here…within you and within me…recapturing that joy of our salvation…that joy that keeps us clinging to the cross of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. Are you willing to open your heart to a reawakening of your faith and commitment to God? Are you ready for a restoration project…one of your inner most being? Will you join me on this journey…really join me on the journey back to our first love…our God…our Creator…the lover of our souls as we pray “Revive us again, O Lord”?

Amen…

Joyful…Joyful

August 2, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

The Joy of the God!

All scripture is from the NIV Bible

Psalm 51:12; 98:4; 27:6

Isaiah 35:10

John 15:5-11

Jude 24-25

http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PERSONAL/k/280/Fruit-of-Spirit-Joy.htm

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joy

 

“Joyful, Joyful…”

 

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

 

Psalm 98:4New International Version (NIV)

4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,

    burst into jubilant song with music;

 

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…down in my heart…down in my heart…

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…down in my heart to stay.

And I’m so happy, so very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

And I’m so happy, so very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

(Every body!)

 

Joy noun \ˈjȯi\

: a feeling of great happiness

: a source or cause of great happiness : something or someone that gives joy to someone

: success in doing, finding, or getting something

Full Definition of JOY

1       a :  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :  delight

b :  the expression or exhibition of such emotion :  gaiety

2       :  a state of happiness or felicity :  bliss

3       :  a source or cause of delight

I have this coffee cup that I like to start my mornings with. It says “Today is a Good Day”…but the other part of the saying is “to have a good day.” I choose to have a good day no matter what else is happening. It doesn’t always work out like that but at least I try… I want my days to be filled with joy. But I must make that choice to have a day filled with joy…regardless of what may be going on it my life. Joy is a choice we each can choose. We can choose anger and resentment or forgiveness and joy. Joy truly is a choice…as well as an action we take when we choose it…

We are continuing our journey of the many facets of salvation. We have been talking about the word salvation and what it really means.  For not just Christians but for humanity.

Salvation:

  1. the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc.
  2. the state of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc.
  3. a source, cause, or means of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc.
  4. deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.

We have talked about the grace that we receive from God within salvation. The grace freely given to us even though we don’t deserve it but it is through the blood of Jesus that we receive this incredible gift. We know that we are chosen by God and are adopted by Him through the blood that was poured down a wooden cross on a hill for you and for me. We have rejoiced in the fact that we are delivered from sin and death through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. How awesome it is that we receive love and mercy, joy and hope… hope that is not defined by our circumstances but is defined by our great and loving God…through the blood of Jesus Christ.

This wonderful gift of salvation should fill us with joy but sometimes…well…that joy just isn’t there. We have so many things that go on in our lives that we just can’t muster up even the slightest bit of joy. How could we feel joy in the world in which we live? There is not much to be joyful about with all this crime and addiction going on in the world around us. Where is the joy in that?

Church…you can have the joy of the Lord if you choose to…we can have over abounding joy as we ponder the fact that we have a great God who has control over all…even when we don’t see it. Let’s see what scripture tells us about joy:

John 15:5-11New International Version (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

 

We have the joy of knowing we are dearly loved by God that is seen as we remain in Jesus and trusting His word.

Psalm 27:6New International Version (NIV)

 

6 Then my head will be exalted

    above the enemies who surround me;

at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;

    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

We have joy in knowing that if God is for us…who can be against us. As we give our day…as we give our battles…as we give our lives to God, He will be faithful to keep us safe…even when we can’t see Him working…

Isaiah 35:10New International Version (NIV)

 

10     and those the Lord has rescued will return.

They will enter Zion with singing;

    everlasting joy will crown their heads.

Gladness and joy will overtake them,

    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

As we trust in God, we can have joy in knowing…this too shall pass…and that God will bring us in from exile…from that desert place we may be walking a pilgrimage through.

I was reading “The Work of God” (Bible Tools.org) and what it said about joy was pretty interesting…

“Joy that is a fruit of God’s Spirit has its roots in the realization of God’s purpose and its outworking that transforms us into His image. Biblical joy begins when God calls, and we hear the gospel, understand and believe it.

Biblical joy is bound up in our relationship with God and our understanding of what is happening to our minds. We walk to the beat of a different drummer than this world because we understand God’s overall purpose. We know we have been forgiven and have a place in His purpose because we now have His Spirit. No more life-changing experience can ever happen to a human than when God calls and understanding dawns. It forever alters our perspective on life itself and on the things we formerly trusted to give us satisfaction.”

(And I love this part)

“Therefore…our joys must arise from yielding to fulfill God’s great creative purpose and seeing it accomplished. This is why we were born! Because of this, we can look forward to hearing Him say:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21)”

Joy is a choice…joy is about trusting in God and His goodness…true…real joy has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with our relationship with God.

Joy…it is a choice. When we are feeling “joyless” are we going to go with that feeling or are we going to cry out to God as in Psalm 51:12:

Psalm 51:12New International Version (NIV)

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Restore my…restore our joy…the joy we once had…the joy that overcomes all obstacles…the joy that is only found in God through our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. How will you respond when you are feeling all is lost and there just is no more joy in your life? Will you agree with Jude when he penned?

Jude 24-25New International Version (NIV)

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!

Will you sing:

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…down in my heart to stay.

And I’m so happy, so very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

And I’m so happy, so very happy I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

Amen…

Faith…Believe It or Not

June 28, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

“A shooting in Charlestown, NC”

What does faith look like?

Matthew 17:20New International Version (NIV)

Mark 11:22-23New International Version (NIV)

Romans 1:12New International Version (NIV)

Romans 1:17New International Version (NIV)

2 Corinthians 5:7New International Version (NIV)

Galatians 2:15-16New International Version (NIV)

2 Timothy 4:7-8New International Version (NIV)

Hebrews 11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

“Faith…Believe It Or Not…”

 

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

“Love is stronger than hate. So if we love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where love is.” “We already forgive him for what he’s done, there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.” “I acknowledge I am very angry. But my daughter taught me that we are the family that love built.” “I forgive you, my family forgives you. We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Do that and you will be better off than you are now.”

These and many more words like these were spoken to Dylann Roof after he opened fire and killed 9 people who were at a bible study in Charlestown, SC. How in the world to you forgive someone that takes away a life that had so much promise. These people were mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers…they had lives to live and it was taken away from them in a moment. What is the secret of being able to do something like that…to forgive while you have just begun the grieving process?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have talked about being “Fearless” and posed the question, “what would you do if you were not afraid?” and we decided that we didn’t need to be afraid because God was with us always…and that Our Father in heaven knows really does know best…But in order to believe in what I have talked about…in order to live a life with these assurances…you need to have faith…The kind of faith that this church in Charlestown, SC showed and is continuing to show…the kind of faith that moves mountains of pain and suffering…hatred and racism.

To John Wesley, faith was one of the most important theological concepts. At first he thought of it as believing the truth of the Christian revelation. But he also realized that faith also involves trust and confidence. As a matter of fact, having trust in God became so important that he eventually considered faith as the evidence of God’s love that could secure our trust and confidence. He began to talk about faith in degrees to indicate how people grew in faith. As you grew in faith and assurance of God’s love it would show more and more until a person is completely filled with love in return. It seems to me that the people of this Charlestown, SC African Methodist Episcopal Church have reached that point in their faith…

So…what is the meaning of faith? What are some examples in God’s word of faith…the kind of faith that we should have as Christ followers…as Christians? That answer can be found in Hebrews 11. This whole chapter is about faith so we are going to take a look at a few verses…1-3

The Meaning of Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

It is the assurance of things unseen…we have faith that the air we breathe is there even though we cannot see it. We believe that gravity will hold us in place even though it is not seen. We believe and have faith in the Holy Spirit even though it too is unseen… It is all about trusting in the unseen…

So what are some examples of this “faith” thing?

Abraham…8-9, 17-18:

“8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.”

“17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”

Moses…23-25:

“23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

Some others…29-30, 32-34

“29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

“32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”

There are many more proofs…many more examples within God’s word to give us hope and strength…they help build our faith.

Jesus had a few things to say about faith as well…

Matthew 17:20New International Version (NIV)

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Mark 11:22-23New International Version (NIV)

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

Faith had and has everything to do with our relationship with God…as well as with others. Faith is at the ground level of building a life that is pleasing to God.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about what faith is and how it looks:

Romans 1:12New International Version (NIV)

12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Romans 1:17New International Version (NIV)

17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

2 Corinthians 5:7New International Version (NIV)

7 For we live by faith, not by sight.

Galatians 2:15-16New International Version (NIV)

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 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 Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

2 Timothy 4:7-8New International Version (NIV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

We are to help others on their faith walk. We are to keep the faith no matter what…remember faith is about relationship with God and as we build that relationship, our faith will be stronger than anything we could ever imagine. We are to put our faith in Jesus. We are to live by faith in what is unseen not in the world we see around us.

As I read those responses earlier from the people of the church in Charlestown and their families there are things that stand out about them…

  1. They came from hearts that themselves have felt the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
  2. They loved their enemies as we are called to do.
  3. They overcame evil with good.
  4. They blessed those who cursed them.
  5. They shared the message of repentance and redemption with this young man.

We too are called to do the same by and from Jesus Christ…being His hands, feet and image in the world.

Faith…it is the beginning of a journey into the unseen. Faith…it is the foundation of our relationship with God and Christ. Faith…it can be hard at times but we are called to live radical lives for Christ. Faith…is loving through and in our whole being. Faith…it brings people together for a common purpose. Faith looks evil in the eye and says “death O death where is thy sting”. Faith is seen in a church that forgives even as they are processing their own loss. Faith…it really does a body good… our own physical and the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith…it truly is the tie that binds. Faith…you can believe it or not…it is our choice to make. What will you choose this day?

Amen…