What’s In A Membership?
Intro: Today our congregation is going to grow by one more member. You probably won’t notice as he is always here anyway, but on paper we will have grown by one more person on our membership role. Church Membership something to be proud of, but too often it is taken to lightly. Today Lance is going to talk about what it means to be a member of a church, and Ray gets to be our Guinea Pig.
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 12:12-31
One Body with Many Parts
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,[a] some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[b]
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
Today Ray was accepted into the Mount Hope United Methodist Church. Oh, come one! Where is the applause and the cheering? Nope, not good enough, you can do better, hey Ray can see if your cheering for him or not he sits in the back! Now were talking that’s better. Did you know that this is not the only church that Ray has been welcomed into? Do you know that I also am a member of that church with Ray, but it is not this one? I technically am not a member of the Mount Hope UMC, my membership resides at Boscobel until I become licensed local. Who knows what church I am talking about?
The Holy Catholic Church. Not the Catholic Church that stands out on Irish Ridge Road, or anywhere around here that has a priest leading it. But rather a member of the Holy Catholic Church that the Apostles Creed speaks of. When we say the Holy Catholic Church, this is what the Apostles creed is speaking of. This comes directly from the UMC website. The Apostles' Creed is a statement of belief from the early church (probably from the first few centuries after Jesus' death and resurrection). When the creed states, "I believe in the holy catholic church," it refers to the universal church rather than a specific branch of Christianity. The word catholic comes from the Greek word katholikos which means "universal" or "general."
If you believe in Jesus Christ as I do, and as Ray stated that he did before all of us this morning then we are part of a much larger big C Church. We here at Mount Hope UMC are members of the little c church, but together across the world we are members of the universal big C Church. By being a true believer, we become members of the big C Church, thanks to the atoning blood of Jesus Christ we will all meet once again in Heaven after our earthly death. So, membership in the big C Church guarantees salvation through Jesus Christ. Ray’s membership to this little c church here at Mount Hope UMC, does not guarantee his salvation.
So, what does his and your membership to this little c church mean? Well let’s look at what the book of worship had to say. These are the words that our United Methodist book of worship suggest that we ask a member to agree to in order to join our church.
Lance: As a member of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?
Ray said yes to this statement, now let’s break down what Ray just agreed to here today. How many questions did I ask Ray? Only 1. Will you faithfully participate in its ministries? Then it goes into what those ministries may be.
First and foremost, the first ministry that Ray has promised to faithfully participate in is its prayer ministry. As a member of this little c church, it is pivotal to have a relationship through active prayer with your Heavenly Father. What is the best way to get to truly know someone? Read about them? Talk to someone who knows them? Google them? Stalk them? These might be ways to kind of understand them, but if you really want to get to know them you have got to meet them and talk to them. You want to get to know God, talk to him tell him everything and then sit quietly long enough to hear the still small voice of a response. As a member of this church if you want to see it grow then actively involve the church and the prayer list people in your daily conversations with God.
The second way to faithfully participate is this little c church’s ministry is by your regular presence. How can you actively pray for those on the prayer list and for the other members if you’re not in church on Sunday to see or hear about them? If you are a member than you need to be active in worship. The energy that you bring to worship helps fuel the person next to you. Like our scripture said about the eye and the ear, both are necessary for the body to function. If someone said “hey look at this,” how would your eyes know to look if your ears didn’t tell them too? Ray’s attendance here is important for Janet’s, and especially mine! If the members aren’t here, I got no one to preach at on Sunday morning! As a member, attendance is very important. 3 years ago, Mount Hope UMC had only 4-6 people coming each Sunday. Now we average in the upper 30’s yet the membership numbers have actually dropped; do you see the difference attendance makes. Attendance is pivotal for a thriving little c church. Bagley and Cassville both closed with people still on the membership.
Third, your gifts. Typical UMC money talks. Sorry, all jokes aside. As a member, you are accepting some of the financial responsibility it takes to help grow a little c church. But enough about money. I feel the gifts that should be really talked about here, are the gifts that are spoken about in Corinthians. The spiritual gifts that make up a whole body. Every member of this body has an important role, from janitors to preachers. Paul uses a great analogy of different parts of the body all being important though they are considered lesser or greater by our standards, but they all need to be there. Question for you. How many of you have ever lost a little skin? How many of you have ever lost a leg? That’s me! The skin is the largest organ in the body and our first and most important line of defense. Legs are overrated. Every piece of our body is important and so is every member here.
4th. Your service. It is kind of hard to get anything done anywhere without someone actually lifting a hand to do it. Let’s put on our own church camp! If that hair brained idea of mine would have stopped there as an idea; kind of like the hog roast last year, it never would have happened. The hands and muscles of the body get the work done to further the ministry of Jesus Christ in the little c church. When everyone works together like last week trimming the hedges it is a beautiful thing.
The last ministry Ray was asked to faithfully participate in was the ministry of his witness. Ray you now represent the United Methodist Church in Mount Hope WI. How you live your life and your actions now directly represent me and your fellow believers here in this little c church. The effectiveness of your ministry and changed life will speak louder and clearer than any words I will ever speak from this pulpit. Dad told me how to castrate pigs, but until he showed me how I had no clue. Yeah, I know I could have used a different analogy like driving a car or saving money, but that wouldn’t catch your attention like the visual you now have in your mind of me and dad castrating pigs, with mom trying to help and hold the legs down. See much better than driving a car. Which reminds me of the rocky mountain oyster feed next Wednesday night! Just kidding. But seriously Ray and all of you who call yourselves members here, how you handle yourselves in public and in business represents the little c church. Your changed life shows that something real happened to you and through Jesus Christ and this little c church, your now different.
Now I have talked a lot about the little c church and how our members faithfully participate in the ministry here. But what about the big C Church. The Holy Catholic Church as it says in the Apostles Creed. Well if you are a member of that church, because you have truly accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior and by his blood you have been forgiven and redeemed; then you are more than willing to faithfully participate in the little c church’s ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness out of gratitude for what Jesu Christ has done for you.
Today I challenge you with this. If you are a member here, are you faithfully participating in all of our ministries? If you are not a member here and you are faithfully participating in all our ministries why are you not a member? And if you’re not either of those two what more of a sacrifice could God make than giving his own son’s life in your place on that cross? God loves you unconditionally and God longs to have you become a member of the big C Church. Is it time for you to get your own membership?
Today we are going to be talking about being dedicated Christians. We have just finished our dedication of Mya to the church. Last night at Date Night we talked about marriage and the commitment of for better or worse. Each time I spoke about dedication in a different way for different reasons, and now today we are going to speak about being dedicated in our actions as Christians.
I googled the definition of the word dedication and these are the 5 different meanings of the word.
1 an act or rite of dedicating (see 2dedicate 1) to a divine being or to a sacred use the dedication of the temple
2: a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose the dedication of funds raised from the bake sale to the class trip
3: a name and often a message prefixed to a literary, musical, or artistic production in tribute to a person or cause mentioned his family in a brief dedication in his novel
4: self-sacrificing devotion and loyalty her dedication to the cause required hard work and dedication
5: a ceremony to mark the official completion or opening of something (such as a building) attended the building's dedication nearly fifty years ago
Now for my sermon today we are going to be using number 5 because I feel it best explains the word dedication from a Christian perspective. 4: self-sacrificing devotion and loyalty. her dedication to the cause required hard work and dedication. Our lives as representatives of Christ have to be different from the lives of those who do not live as representatives of Christ. Every aspect of our life needs to be touched and influenced by the scriptures, which leads to me the scripture that I have chosen for today.
Colossians 3:12-17New Living Translation (NLT)
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
How many of you know someone who is extremely dedicated to their physical fitness? How many of you know my friend Bobby Vale? I never asked him but I hope I have his permission to use him in this sermon. I doubt he will care, but anyway Bobby is a huge fitness nut. But he hasn’t always been. Bobby until his junior year in high school was a short and I’ll use the word soft young man. But something switched and Bobby got tired of that body and he worked extremely hard to change it, and if any of you have known Bobby for the last 15 years you have never known him as anything less than a solid piece of muscle.
But Bobby does not just live in the gym, well kind of he works at the gym, but his physical fitness is not only because of his hard work ethic in the gym. Bobby is very dedicated to what he puts in his body. I don’t know the last time that Bobby has had a pop or a beer for that matter. I’m not sure when he has had fast food besides maybe Subway, and even that is a maybe. Bobby pre-cooks his meals for the week and they are protein based and mostly chicken for what I see on snapchat. Now Bobby knows that what he puts into his body is equally if not more important that the hard work that he puts in the gym. If Bobby puts junk food in his body his performance and work out will suffer. And the hard work will not be spent wisely a lot will be wasted because of the extra sugar and junk he has to burn off. Also, is Bobby only eats health food, but never strengthen his body all the protein he eats will turn him soft once again. What Bobby puts into his body represents what he does with it and puts out. Bobby is very dedicated to his physical fitness. Bobby fills his body with good food.
Now back to our scripture. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. How many of us really train to be a Christian like Bobby does about his physical fitness? Have you fed your spiritual body with scripture for breakfast today? Have you daily fed your body with devotions? Have you daily spent time working out with God in your prayer time? You see life as a Christian is not too much different than life as Fitness guy. If your good about putting scripture in your life, meaning you read it each day, but then you never allow it to work through your body and change you; you will become soft once again. If you’re really good at standing up on for Christian beliefs and values and work then out by standing your ground and fighting for Christian rights and beliefs, but you haven’t opened your own Bible in the last year, you’re not going to be very fit either.
You need to be dedicated in every aspect of your life. We just dedicated Mya to the church. Congregation do you want Mya to grow up to follow Jesus Christ? Then work hard and dedicate your time to be a church congregation that allows for Mya to grow up in a church. Sponsors do you want Mya to become a young beautiful Christian woman? Then you have to work hard to point her in that direction and do what you tell her to do. Brent and Amber, do you want Mya to grow up to be a respectful, kind, and loving woman? The work hard to be one yourself and lead her by example.
Couples do you want to want to have a rock solid relationship with your partner? Then look at what you put in your relationship. If it is not filled with scripture and love why would you expect your marriage to be filled with love? Christians do you wan to have a faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Well you cant have a relationship with someone you don’t know. Dig deep into the word. Feed your body well. Then work it out. Live out what you have read. 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. If you are mean and bitter to those around you and arraogant and proud but try to live a Christian life, your going to be like the Gym junkie who eats donuts and monster energy drinks. You put crap in your gonna put crap out.
Then here is the really tough part. This is the part that hangs up most want to be Christians. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. I think the Christian who refuses to forgive is like the person who gets a gym membership but never works out and lives on pizza, donuts, cookies, and pop then wonders why they are not fit.
Living a dedicated life means that we live a self-sacrificing devotion and loyalty to Jesus Christ. And if he forgave us then we must forgive others. Bobby was not given a body that was built for fitness, he had to work very hard at it and he changed every aspect of his life. If you tell me that you just cannot forgive that person, then I challenge you with this. Change your diet. Read about what Jesus Christ has done for us, and for you. See how Jesus lived, loved, and forgave and he was nailed to the cross. Fill your insides with scripture about the Father and the Sons ultimate love for you. It will change you. You will see that there is nothing that you can do to lose his love and make him not forgive you. When you understand that, you will be allowed to forgive those who have hurt you.
When you become a Christian, you must change your whole lifestyle in the same way, that Bobby changed his body over 15 years ago. Hard work and dedication is just that hard, but the benefits of the hard work are worth it. The same goes for the dedicated Christian. What we put into our spiritual bodies is what we will get out. A dedicated life shows dedicated results.
So, my challenge for you all today is to start dedicating some time to prayer and reading. This week I want to all to read one verse or more of scripture and then spend 5 minutes in prayer each day. Start by dedicating 5 minutes of your time to prayer and watch your relationship with God grow.
Intro: Today’s sermon and scripture will be the longest sermon and scripture Lance has ever preached on that's why the name of the sermon is Long Winded, so Lance has decided to make the Intro short. So sit back relax and listen as Lance covers the entire Old Testament today, and when he is done I’ll be old enough to vote.
Scripture: Acts 6:8-Acts 8:1
OK, so I just read a lot of scripture to you and I am sure, when that much is read that it was hard to follow, so I will break the main points of Stephen’s speech down. Stephen had been accused of blasphemy. He was accused of speaking against Moses and the Temple. Now understand that the High Council is made of two parts, The Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Sadducees are the majority party accepted and studied only the writings of Moses. Those books would be Genesis through Deuteronomy. In their view it was a crime to speak against Moses. That crime of blasphemy against Moses could get you killed by religious law. (Leviticus 24:14) Then some men from a smaller religious group The Synagogue of Freed slaves, (a group of Jewish Slaves who had been freed from Rome) started these false accusations against Stephen, trying to get him stoned. They had Stephen put on trial on trumped up accusations saying that Stephen was teaching against the laws of Moses and against the Holy Temple. So in defense Stephen stands before the High Council, full of the majority of Sadducees who believe only in Mosses’ law and he unfolds the entire Old Testament relating to Moses and the Temple.
Stephen goes into a very long speech about Israel’s relationship with God. From the Old Testament writings and life of Moses he shows how the Jew’s had constantly rejected God’s message and his prophets, including Moses. He brings it up again, just like Peter and John that this very same Council had rejected their own Messiah Jesus and had him killed. Stephen makes 3 main Points in his offensive, defensive speech.
- Israel’s history is the History of God’s acts in the world.
- People worshipped God long before their was a Temple, because God is not confined to a Temple.
- Jesus’ death was one more example of Israel’s rebellion against God and rejection of God.
This last week some horrible things have happened in the world. In Boscobel my hometown a baby lost her life, in France 80 plus people lost their lives, in Texas 5 police officers were recklessly killed, and unfortunately I could go on for a long time about the atrocities that plague our world. Through these horrible acts it is hard to see how and if God is truly in control and if or how his plan can be worked out.
Stephen does this with his review of Jewish history. The history of Moses and the prophets give us a clear testimony of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. Despite the continued failures of God’s own chosen people and the swirling world events surrounding them, God was working out his plan. Stephen speaks about the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Stephen says how when God promised Abraham that he would inherit all the land and he his descendants would be as numerous as stars, at that point Abraham was childless and had no land to call his own. Then God tells Abraham your descendants would be slaves for 400 years in a foreign land. Through Jacob’s family and the evil the 10 brothers have their own brother Joseph, sold into slavery into Egypt. Joseph then saves his own family when a famine hits the land and brings God’s people into Egypt where they years later are enslaved.
Stephen is pointing out here, that the Jew’s God chosen do evil and still God is good to his people. The he points out how Moses, was an Egyptian slave as a baby. God allows the evil of the Egyptian Pharaoh by killing all the male babies, to be used for the people good. Moses is rescued by the princess and grows up as an Egyptian Prince. Then Moses stands up for his own people and kills an Egyptian who is beating a fellow Israelite. Shortly after Moses sees two Israelites fighting and says why are you fighting your brothers? To this the Israelite responds with who made you our judge? Moses, the very guy that these Sadducees follow was first rejected by his own people. This is a direct correlation to Jesus Christ.
Stephen is saying hey, anybody listening, history repeats itself. Our ancestors rejected Moses, and we think that we would never do this, but you have done the very same to Jesus Christ. Stephen then goes into great detail about how with God’s help Moses led the people out of Egypt into the promised land, but as soon as the people left Egypt they turned their back against God and wanted to return to Egypt into slavery. The Israelites then turned to idolatry and worshipped an idol named molech. Molech was an idol who was associated with child sacrifice. The Jews who had left Egypt and had seen first hand God’s wonders of the plagues and fire of pillar, parting of the Red Sea, manna from sky, and rocks bursting forth water in the desert, rejected their own God the one who saved them from the Egyptian’s and worshipped an idol who required child sacrifice.
Do you see how far the people of God have fallen away from God? All this evil that happens; happens when people reject God. Stephen proves with history that God is unchanging and never moves, it is the people that move away and reject God. Stephen really hits home in verse 51. This is where Stephen really lets the High Council have it. “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That is what your ancestors did, and so do you! Could you imagine the look on their faces, when Stephen stands before the experts of law of Moses and schools them? Then Stephen says you idiots! Your heathen, which translates as uncircumcised, you have cut yourself off from the Kingdom of God!
Stephen doesn’t stop there though, he keeps unloading. As he is being persecuted, he says verse 52. Name one prophet your ancestors did not persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One – the Messiah whom who betrayed and murdered! Verse 53. You deliberately disobeyed God’s laws, even though you received at the hands of angels! Do you understand at all what Stephen is saying to this Council? It would be as if I stood before our Supreme Court and scolded them in law, and said “hey you know why our country has so many problems? It is because you people of law who sat around a table and used our constitution and our rights to religious freedom as law to keep God out of our courthouses, schools, and any government building. You Supreme Court are the reason our nation is in disarray because you have with the laws intended to keep God as part of our nation have made our nation a Godless nation! Because you have Justices have perverted our system and rejected God, God had rejected our country and it is your hands that have killed our country!”
That is what Stephen did, he stood before people who knew the law of Moses inside and out and used it to pervert justice and God’s will, and he called them out on it. This boldness came with a price and Stephen was drug to the edge of town and stoned to death. His death and the evil the High Council did was used by God to work out his Master Plan. As Stephen is being stoned he recites the words that Jesus did as he died. “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” Stephen’s boldness, actions, and obedience to Jesus Christ has one of the most lasting effects on the early Church. The last verse of scripture today says, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.”
Normally I end my sermon with a challenge related to the person’s life, but today I challenge you with this. Go home today and read Act’s Chapter 7. See how God has worked out his plan throughout history, and how evil cannot spoil God’s plan for Good. Get to understand this story so that we can build into next week’s sermon on our lives impact on others. How Stephen’s life shaped Saul and how you’re life can shape all.
II'M STILL HERE
Here we are now 3 weeks out from Easter and our Easter passion is burning out and starting to smolder. This is the long stretch between Easter and Pentecost. We could call it 2nd lent, the 40 days that Jesus was with the disciples after his resurrection before his ascension into heaven. So Luke makes it very clear in his book of Acts that Jesus was physically (walking, eating, drinking) with the disciples for 40 days. The book of John and the Luke’s first book, (Luke) state that if they wrote down all the miracles that he performed during this time there would not be enough books in the world to contain them all.
There are stories of fishing, eating, and drinking, walking, talking, and put your hand in my side stories. Jesus was really alive these forty days! He was not a spirit, or a ghost, but rather as alive as you and me. A lot of people believe in Easter and that Jesus rose from the dead and they have no problem believing it, but their faith usually stops there. Just like their Sunday attendance☺ They show up for Easter then their good for another year. They have very seldom heard the Sunday after Easter sermon. Because of this their faith and knowledge is incomplete.
Jesus says, “When I was with you before I told you everything that was written about me in the prophets and in the Psalms that must be fulfilled.” Then I did it! It came true! I explained how the messiah must be tortured and die on a cross, but then 3 days later he would rise! Then I did it! I came for the forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed to all. I forgave everyone, even the man you pounded the nails into my hands and hung me on that cross. I forgave him! Then I commanded you to do the same! To forgive everyone to share in the forgiveness that I have freely given to you by freely giving it to those you have hurt you. Forgive them!
Jesus says all these things and did all these things and then he tells the disciples this. Now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father has promised. My Father has promised to me and you that he would do all these things, and he has done them trough me, now we will send the Holy Spirit to help you do all the things that I have commanded you to do. But……………………..First stay here and wait. You must stay here in the city and wait until it is times for the Holy Spirit to come to you.
Here is where we lose more people. We believe in the Father, because we see his creation and his son. The effects of his presence are hard to deny. We believe in the Son, because there is proof of his existence and numerous stories, and once again effects of his presence are hard to deny. But then we come to the Holy Spirit the third part of the Trinity and we balk. The Father-Son concept is easy for our simple minds to comprehend, because we have an earthy father and may even have a son, but What is this Holy Spirit?
Well I am not going to go to deep on this subject I’m just going to skim it a bit. I want you to think of the Sun, the big yellow burning ball of gas 93 million miles away. This is the simplest form of explaining the Trinity. 1. We have all felt the heat from the sun bear down on us, and have received a sun burn from its effects. 2. Every morning it returns to bring light into our world and the darkness disappears and the light cast shadows. We once again can see the effects of the sun’s light. 3 Gravity. The sun’s gravity keeps our earth in orbit and makes the seasons change. Gravity when you are younger is a harder concept to grab, and especially understand its effects. But as you age it is much easier to see the effects gravity has on your body!
The Holy Spirit is for simple understanding terms the gravity of Christianity. This is what keeps us grounded in our faith. It helps us hold ourselves together through difficult times. Many times people will say I feel as if God is telling me to do this, or I feel that God put this on my heart to do this. That is the Holy Spirit at work! So what is our challenge this morning? What have I preached at you that will make you want to do something different?
Well notice how Jesus told the disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit is poured out on them. He knew that the holy Spirit was a gift from the father, and that it would not be ready for them until they were ready to receive it. I believe it is a faith issue. When you are ready for the Holy Spirit, it will be poured out on you. But you have to do some work to prepare yourself for it. Believe in the Father, Believe in the Son, accept his forgiveness and this is the hard part, forgive others, then when you are ready to see the effects of the Holy Spirit it will be upon you. I say the Holy Spirit is like Gravity because when we are young are bodies show little effects of gravity, but as we mature and grow the effects become more visible. This is true of the Holy Spirit. When our faith is new and young the Holy Spirit is their and in fact it may have lead us to believe, but we don’t see it. With time and growth in spiritual maturity the effects are more visible.
So what does my Sermon title have to do with anything. I’m still here? The Holy Spirit is our reminder that The Father and The Son are still here. They are with us, they are real. I challenge you today on this sunny day, to go outside into the light. Feel the warmth of the sun. Then look for the effects of gravity with the changing of the season, and ask yourself what effects have I allowed the Holy Spirit to change on me?
Remember I Said NO - God
Intro: During Ash Wednesday Lance talked to you about the United Methodist book of worship’s meaning of Lent and his meaning of Lent. He summed up his meaning of Lent with this run on sentence; a time of remembrance for what Christ has done; repentance for what we have done against Christ; and a time of revival for our Christian walk. Our scripture will come from 1st Corinthians and is very familiar to us. We are reminded of it every time we partake in communion, and we stress it and talk about it on Maunday Thursday to great extent as we remember the Last Supper that the disciples shared with Jesus Christ. Now during Lent we are going to talk about the Remembrance, Repentance, and Revival pieces of Lent.
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 11:23-27
When I put the Ashes on your forehead the first word I said was “in Remembrance,” but now I ask you in Remembrance of what? Well in remembrance of what Christ did for us right? Well what about in remembrance of what God didn’t do? Follow me here, let’s jump ahead in the Lenten story and skip ahead to the night of the Last Supper and Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know that Jesus has just finished the Passover s meal with his disciples. A meal that every year the Jews celebrated the night that they sacrificed a lamb and put the blood of that lamb over their door post, then during the night the angel of death passed over the land of Egypt, entered the houses of all those who did not have the blood of the lamb on their door post and took the life of the first born male in every family. This Passover meal was very important that they remember it, and now Jesus Christ had just told them that he was the new lamb of the covenant.
As he broke the bread first before the meal, he says do this in remembrance of me because this is my body which is broken for you. The disciples said ok and finished their meal. After the meal was finished he took the wine and repeated do this in remembrance of me because this is my blood that I shed for you. The disciples understood the meaning of the wine and the blood from the lamb, but still did not know what the blood of their friend and leader meant to them. After the meal was over Jesus says this too his disciple Simon (Peter) in Luke 31-32. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Can any of you remember verse 31 and what Satan did? Scripture says, “He asked.”
Why would Satan ask to do anything? You can bet that he did not ask God the father out of politeness or respect, but rather because he had to get permission! This tiny verse in Luke 22 tells us so much about our heavenly father and that dirty snake Satan. The devil does not have free choice to cause havoc, he operates under constraints. He cannot do whatever he wants to do, he has to clear it with God first. We know the Job story right? Satan had to go before God and ask for permission to test Job, before he could do a thing to harm Job. God had to say Yes to the Snake before the Snake lifted a finger against God’s servants. This means that God must control evil, and it is proof to me that our God is Good. Could you imagine a world without God screening the devil, and letting him operate without constraints free to do whatever he pleases? Think about your life and some of the worst moments in your life, if the devil was completely in control of this world and free to do whatever he chose to our life, don’t you think that your life would be way more full of misery?
If Satan ran our World and our lives, we would have nothing Good, only pain and suffering, only Hell. He is not in control of our life here; he is only in control of the next one if we choose not to believe in Jesus Christ. The Snake can only raise his ugly head and evil ways when god deliberately backs away for a specific and intentional reason. Those reasons are always wise and good even if the reasons seem hidden from us. God permits what he hates, in order to achieve what he loves; it’s just that most of us won’t see that until we are on the other side of eternity.
Now notice how Jesus tells Simon, But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Here we have Jesus going before God pleading for Simon before the father against the devil and the father must have said yes to Jesus and no to the snake on behalf of Simon. Now we skip ahead a little later in the night, where we have Jesus in the garden. Let me read the story from the Matthew’s version verses 36-46.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” That cup that Jesus talks about we tend to think means the physical pain from the beating, whipping, and crucifixion that was soon to come, but it meant so much more. Sure the physical pain was more horrible than any of us could imagine, but that was not was Jesus was troubled by. The crucifixion and death on the cross, was not why Jesus said, “My Father, why have you forsaken me?” It was because God said NO to his son. Jesus begged three times in the garden for God to take the cup from him and God said no to Jesus and yes to the Snake who was begging for the blood of God’s son. Jesus knew that in order for God’s work to be done, that God and Jesus must be separated. God had to turn his back and leave Jesus. That pain was something that Jesus had never had to withstand, and it made him full of sorrow. Jesus had to be separated from God, and was placed in the Snakes control. Jesus had to endure Hell, the absence of the Father and placed in the Snakes control.
We all know Jesus’ obedience as he says, “Not my will but _______ be done.” God had to say No to his beloved and only son, and we need remember that. I want to read to you the words of Joni Erikson Tada as she comments on when God says No. Joni is a quadriplegic who broke her neck from falling off a horse when she was in her teenage years, and has completely devoted her life to Christ through her personal loss and suffering, now let me read her words about God saying No.
“For years I pleaded with God to give me hands and feet that would work. I never got what I wanted. Looking back, I can see God’s wisdom in not granting my wish. My faith is stronger. My love for Jesus is brighter. It wouldn’t be the same had my wish been granted. Great things happen when God does not give us what we want. Even the father did not abide by the pleading of his Son. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus longed to bypass the cross. He hoped it might be possible for his Father to take him in another direction. But at the close of his prayer, Jesus knew that his pleading was over. He was heading for Calvary. But, oh, the glorious things that happened as a result of the father’s “No”! Thank heaven that the cross happened. If God does not grant you your wish, please know that he wants to strengthen you as you accept what comes from his hand. Ultimately, that may be the very thing your heart desires most.” Jodi Erickson Tada.
If the cross never happened we are not here today, and our loved ones who died before us will never be seen again. The cross had to happen and God had to turn away from his only Son so that God’s ultimate plan of good for all of us would be fulfilled. If our Heavenly Father would say No to his one and only Son, who had never sinned and lived a perfect and spotless life, why would we expect him so say yes to us all the time? God is good, and his constraint of the Devil and Evil is proof of that to me. But constraint does not mean that Evil will not happen, it means that it only happens for the overall good. So many people have a hard time believing this, and because they cannot believe this they will not believe in God. How can a good and loving God allow Evil? Because the Evil of the cross brought about the glory of Easter Sunday.
How many of you have jewelry or Gold on? This beautiful golden ring that reminds me of my amazing wife’s love had to be held to the fire and purified and beat into the shape it is now. If the gold that we were had to be refined why shouldn’t we? The unrefined gold in the ground was not useful for our lives until it was refined; likewise we are not useful for God’s kingdom until we are refined. In order to be refined sometimes God has to say NO!
My challenge for you today is to start this Lenten season in remembrance of what the Son has done for us, and what the Father has not done for us. Remember that God’s No to his Son gave us all life, so God’s no’s to us should help strengthen us to bring life to others.
No God, No Peace
Know God, Know Peace
Intro: Many people when they start reading the genealogies start skimming and skipping over these areas. But today we are going to look at the two families and two very different lifestyles. We will see one line that starts to worship the Lord and one line that doesn’t even acknowledge God. We will look at the lives and the people that came out of both families and see what made the difference e in their lives. Then I will challenge you to decide which family you will choose to be.
Scripture: Genesis 4:17-25
Well we better recap the last two weeks quickly. First we talked about Adam and Eve and the FALL. When the first sin disobedience; seemed so insignificant and mute, I mean all Eve wanted to do was to be like God, led to the downfall of us all. We saw how the little sin of the parents grew into the first killing by the jealous brother Cain over Abel. God banished Cain from the land of his parents and he was forced to be a wanderer for all his life. His nomadic lifestyle and long life spread his family and his evil nature throughout the land. In just a couple verses we get a picture of what was going on in the line of Cain.
First off we see there is no mention of God at all in Cain’s family. We do see though another killing. Lamech is saying if anyone kills Cain he is punished 7 times to anyone who kills him will be punished 77 times. Numbers are everything in the Bible. The expression that I talked about last week when Cain was punished sevenfold meant a complete and thorough. So when we have Cain’s great-great-great grandson saying that anyone who kills him would be punished 77 times he is saying that it would be way worse than that man. God had put a mark on Cain’s head and offered complete protection for Cain. Lamech takes it to another level and put’s himself above God, and threatens to punish worse than God could. We all have heard the saying, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This is known as Lex taliones, and it is meant as a limiting factor.
Most people think that an eye for an eye means you are allowed to get even with the other person, to hurt them as bad as they hurt you. Lex taliones, is a limiting factor; if someone hurts you or takes something from you, then you are only allowed to do the same thing back not more. It stops people from repaying an evil deed with way more evil deeds. It stops someone from repaying the person who just took your parking spot, by slashing his tires, taking a baseball bat to his window, and keying his paint. When we read about Lamech, we see that he is establishing a system of you hurt me, and I will destroy everything and everyone around you. That type of attitude only breeds more hatred and evil.
A family or people without God are really a people lost and alone. Unfortunately, when people are left by themselves, people tend to get worse instead of better. The short summary of Lamech’s family shows us the variety of talent and ability God gives all people. It also shows us the continuous development of sin as time passes. I forgot the famous person who said this, I believe it was C.S. Lewis, but I’m not sure in my plagiarism right now so don’t quote me, while I quote someone else. It’s hard to give credit when you don’t know where the credit is due. Anyway here’s the story. I was listening to Ravi Zacharias. He was on a plane and talking with a young, green, straight out of college psychologist. He asked her if she could only give one piece of advice to anyone about what they could do with their life what it would be. She responded after thinking for a bit with this. She said I would tell them to get as much education as they possible could, and to never stop learning. To this Ravi replied with someone else’s quote who I can’t remember. If a man is caught stealing the steel pegs out of the railroad tracks and you send him to jail and educate him while he is in jail; when he gets out he will be smart enough to steal the whole train and tracks! The point of the story is the individual needs to be fixed first. We see Cain’s family was very advanced and talented, but as they became more advanced, without God they became more evil.
Then we have the line of Seth. Adam and Eve had another son and they named him Seth. Seth was the man who would stand in his older brother’s place and continue to worship God. This is the first time we see in scripture people worshiping God and it all started with Seth’s family and his choice to follow God. I didn’t want to read to you all the genealogies in chapter 5, but we will see that the world is saved in the flood by Noah who is direct descendant of Seth. Cain’s line was destroyed, Seth’s lived on. Two very distinct groups were emerging ; (1) those who showed indifference to sin and evil and taught their children to do the same and, (2) those who worshipped the Lord and taught their children to do the same. Notice a trend? For the family that has No God, they have No Peace. For the family that does Know God and worship him, they Know Peace.
My wife has always admired certain father’s because of the son’s they have produced. She has said to me he must have been a great Father to produce the quality of sons he has produced. That has challenged me as a Dad way more than you can imagine. I don’t just want to raise my boys. My boy’s will be boys if I raise them or not, but they will only be fine young men if I train them to be. I want to be a strong father who they love, respect, and at times fear. I want to show them what it means to be a man and how to act. I want them to grow up and be strong, independent, and good men. In order for them to do this, I need to teach them to first be dependent on God, and to Love God, and serve others. Of all the things I want to teach my children the only thing I hope they ever learn from me is to Love God first. Because if they don’t Know God, they can’t Know Peace. Adam and Eve had several sons and daughters, but the three we remember are the ones who either wholeheartedly loved God to the death or wholeheartedly rejected God. I want my children to all wholeheartedly love God, and as we all know I already had one who has followed my God in his death.
So my challenge for you today is this. What kind of family will you be? Will you choose to raise your children to Know God or will you raise your children with No God? If you don’t think that your family needs God, re-read the first 5 chapters of Genesis. It is very clear the two paths that the two different families follow. You must lead your family and your children and lead by your example. But every great leader, must first follow God. As I said earlier, I want my children to be independent adults but their independence must first come from a dependence on God. When I coached wrestling 2 years ago we had this great saying, it was never followed by the team, but it looked good on the shirts! It said this. Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way! I say Follow God, then Lead your family to do the same, and if you can’t Get out of the way. Because if you don’t Know God your family can’t Know Peace.
Scripture: Hosea 6:1-6
I just finished reading out of a small book called Hosea. To understand what is being said in this scripture you must know a little background info about him and what is going on. Hosea first was told by God to go and marry a prostitute. Yup you heard me right. He was told to marry a prostitute so that his life and love for her would mimic God’s love for the Israelites. How God would continue to be faithful and loving to his bride, but the bride would not remain faithful to him. He also did this so that some of Hosea’s children would not be biologically his yet Hosea would call them his, just like God does for non-Israelites. But that is enough on Hosea that will be a separate sermon at another time.
This book was written to the Northern kingdom of Judea during the last years of a time of prosperity. Their fall was looming over them, and some of them saw it and knew it was coming. They knew they were no longer following God they way they were told to. They were living in a time prosperity doctrine, where if you do God’s requirements and be good enough and fulfill most of the requirements then in return God would bless you. They were living life like God was a pop machine, (If we put in our two quarters worth; the requirement, then God will give is a pop.) As soon as they gave god something, he instantly blessed them back.
Understanding this the first three verses of Hosea chapter 6 is the people admitting and acknowledging fault. They confess their sins. They say “Let us return to the Lord, he has torn us to pieces now he will heal us.” “In a short time he will restore us.” “Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him.” O things are bad now let’s just go back to God and if we give him this, and meet his requirements he will instantly shoot that Mountain Dew out of the dispenser and we will once again enjoy hat sugary greatness! They were playing politics with God. Well if we say well do this and make it look like we really care and want to change; then God will vote us in. They are so sure in their plan that they say “He will respond to us as surely as the spring rains!”
Okay who knows this saying April showers bring…………………? Every year every spring those early warm rains that we wait for to draw the frost out of the ground come. They come when they want to, but we can expect them just like we can expect the moon to rise. You see these first three verses are a presumption, not true repentance to God. The people do not truly understand the depths of their sin, or do they ever pledge to make changes. They were only focused on the material benefits that God could offer them in this life, not what was being offered in the next life. It’s kind of like this joke I heard.
One day three brothers with nothing better to do decided it was time to get rid of the old outhouse. It stunk and they hated having to clean it out and it sat by the river, so they thought they would just go give it a shove in the river and be done with it. The youngest brother who we will call Johnny though this was a bad idea and said he would not be part of it. The older two Jim and Bill said they were going to do it anyway. So Jim and Bill ran at full speed and hit that old outhouse so hard it flew off the hill and straight into the water. As soon as they heard it splash all three of them took off running to the house to come up with an alibi. That night at supper time the boy’s father came in and asked what happened to the old outhouse. All three boys played dumb and said they had no idea what happened. So the father proceeded to tell them the story of George Washington and chopping down the cherry tree. The father said that when young George told his father that it was him who chopped down the tree his father rewarded him for being honest. Well little Johnny heard this and sat right up and said Dad it was me I pushed it in the river. At that moment his father got up and took a switch to the back of little Johnny’s bare butt several times. After Johnny stopped crying he said to his father, “Dad I thought George Washington’s father rewarded him for confessing. To this the father replied, “Well George Washington’s father wasn’t in the cherry tree when he cut it down!
This joke is similar to the Israelites confessing to God with hopes that they will be rewarded. To them like Johnny the truth didn’t matter. They just wanted to say the right words and do the right actions in order to gain false favor with their father.
Verses 4-6 are God’s response to his people’s false confession. “Your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.” You show me love with your words but like the dew when your words need to be turned to actions the heat from the sun burns them up. And when you do act you don’t act from your heart.
Verse 6 is the challenge for this sermon. “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices’.” Don’t just do my work here at the church, don’t just feed my children, don’t just give me your money, give me your heart! “I want you to know me more than burnt offerings.” Don’t just work for me, Love me! Don’t be like little Johnny and tell me the things you think I want to hear.
Verse 6 is so important you can find it in 1st Samuel 15:22 “Obedience is better than sacrifices.” Psalm 40:6-8 “God doesn’t want sacrifices’ or offerings; he wants us to take joy in doing his will.” Psalm 51:16-19 “God isn’t interested in sacrifice; he wants a broken and repentant heart.” Jeremiah 7:21-23 “It isn’t sacrifices God’s wants; he desires our obedience and promises that he will be our God and we will be his people,” Micah 6:6-8 “God is not satisfied with offerings; he wants us to do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with him.”
This church is growing and doing well. Let’s not be like the Israelites and treat this church and this building like a prosperity spring. Please don’t only give this church your time and gifts. Don’t sacrifice alone for this church, but rather give your heart to your God. Thank you for all of you have given to this place but give to God what he really desires, your heart. If you never give God your heart then all of your work and sacrifices are nothing more than disappearing dew in the sunlight.