For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them, this is evidence of their destruction but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. [NRSV]
I’ve Got my ticket, Who Cares if you have yours?
One of the reasons that we find to justify why to NOT share our faith is summed up in the thought: “I figured it out, they can too.”
“They have the bible to read.”
“They could have gone to church.”
“They should have made other choices.”
“It’s their choice/fault/responsibility/issue.”
Paul acknowledging an affirmation we need to remember: Through Christ, we have salvation. While salvation is a ticket to heaven, it is not a pass from suffering.
The joy of finding Salvation ourselves is that we have the most wonderful and appropriate gift to share with those who are suffering.
Even though life is not easy, we have hope beyond this life, we have encouragement in this life, and we know how to love when everyone else is [Hobbes:] is selfish, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. T
In Jesus Christ, we have Joy knowing our future is more certain than our past and present and that What God has done for us in Christ and what God’s Spirit is doing through us now.
We live in the assurance of our place in heaven AND in the assurance that even though we might be experiencing hell on earth, we continue here to help each other progress in JOY and in FAITH.
We don’t want to be like Lot’s wife, don’t look back.
The tragedy in Las Vegas shows how broken one person’s mental illness can affect hundreds of others.
The tragedy of flooding in Texas, Peurto Rico, Culebra, Florida and again now in the gulf, the earthquakes in Mexico, Japan, and New Zealand; the nastiness in social media and divisive words, accusations and assumptions upon people’s character, the threats of war from
When the signs say run.
With melting glaciers, erupting volcanos, multiple hurricanes, and storms,
When we heart of attacks, wars, rumors of wars, and see people value political principle above God’s, when people would rather blame and attack rather than forgive and love.
It is no wonder we feel the call to be “traveling on”
I feel like traveling on,
My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
No pain nor death can inner there I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on I feel like traveling on
My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
Its glittering towers the sun outshines I feel like traveling on
That heavenly mansion shall be mine I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…
The Lord has been so good to me I feel like traveling on
Until that blessed home I see I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…
Written by J. R. Baxter, William Hunter • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group, Popularized by Loretta Lynn, All Time Gospel Favorites.
The Reason for Staying and Standing In (Why doesn’t Vanderbilt call the game at half-time?)
If everyone who believed in Jesus left and went to heaven how would those who doubt, question, reject and run the other way have a chance?
We remain to encourage others.
We remain to enjoy each other’s company
We remain to strengthen each other faith
We remain to be that light on a dark night
Stay without Standing Still
Paul see’s the importance of sticking with people who are difficult, sticks in the mud and working with persistence for some measure of progress.
Joy is the passion that we are making a difference in a broken world
I’ve not reached my goal, but at least I’m making progress.
Joy in the progress
Celebrate the advances in what is Godly
Remember where we see God is faithful
Highlight where we experience the Holy Spirit showing up
Continue to call and challenge each other to progress.
Progress in Faith, Progress in Joy, Progress in Sharing
If you go-to story of faith is over a year old, we have not progressed in faith since that time.
We affirm the historic ways we meet God, but let’s be about the business of progressing, even where it weary, dry and difficult.
We welcome former PK, ‘preacher’s kid’ of Rev Jerome & Maxine Hamm, Hans Hamm who will be preaching as our guest pastor for 2017 Home Coming at Rock Spring UMC in Rock Spring GA. We will have one worship service from 10:30 am until noon with dinner on the grounds following. Hans and his wife Margaret serve the New Hope UMC in Clayton County, Georgia. Come join the great music, stories, Good News and good eats at RSUMC Home Coming 2017.
We had an enormous crowd at the 48th annual Show & Sell craft show yesterday with every vendor spot taken and lots of cars parked, fried pies flipped, cakes, pies, burgers, dogs and hand-made crafts galore. Thank you to everyone who made it a wonderful day. The featured prayer quilt containing pieces of 300 prayer quilts, tickets for music benefit this fall and the great live local music was enjoyed by all.
Join us next Sunday when we resume our preparing series: Sharing my Gift resume this fall to help us give the gift of Jesus Christ this Christmas.
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. [NRSV]
The “E” Word
We are generally good at encouraging one another. Sometimes we are encouraged by fear. Examples:
- The Hurricane is coming our way, it’s time to evacuate! or
- There is a brush fire out of control next door, call 911 now!
- I heard a gunshot outside, take cover and call the police!
Coaches motivate players by saying things like:
- If you don’t come to practice you will not play Friday night
- if you don’t play Friday night you are off the team
- If you are off the team you will not be picked up by any college scouts
- Now get out there and run stadiums until you remember why not to miss practice.
While this is motivational, it is never encouraging. (Even if you say you’re being helpful)
Encouragement is more than motivational
Paul offers us instruction and challenge to encourage one another.
The Bishop has motivated the clergy saying, if you want an appointment next year, you will baptize 3-5 new Christians each year. [This motivates me to put an advertisement out in the paper and social media for unbaptized folks offering @ $100 to meet the requirement, but it does not encourage me to share my faith in transformative ways.]
To encourage someone with your faith sharing gift calls on you/me to
- Be Ready. be prepared to share: (Prayed up, studied up, practiced up, and looking for opportunities.
- Think about
- The difference of what inspires you and what motivates you.
- What is the difference between what scares you into action and what compels you to action?
- From that perspective of encouragement: write out these constructive ways to be supported.
Examples for John/Me
Deadlines, Requirements, Contacts, Leverage, Time, Money, Pier pressure, Approval are all motivators in my life.
When inspires me to share my faith is:
- When I do and see how God uses our conversations to open hearts and minds that were closed.
- When I ready and prepare to share my faith, God does not let that preparation go to sit still for very long.
- When I ask people to tell me what gives them hope, what they are passionate about that gives their life meaning and purpose, and they begin to talk about God it affirms my faith.
- If they realize gaps and holes in their foundations, then God uses those as places to share my faith.
- Songs, stories, and movies that capture a moment of for God encourage in the moment and become faith conversations in the future.
- Hearing someone say, I’d like to be baptized. I’d like to become part of the church. I’d want to learn more. I want to experience what my head know in my heart. These are open doors of affirmation and faith sharing.
If I’m not preparing and I’m not guiding conversations and relationship toward faith.. then I’m at best standing still, loosing time and opportunities.
- That becomes a movtivation.. to return to encouragement
Paul starts with don’t lead with judgment.
There is a time for decerning judgment and correction and accountability, but it comes after we are mature int he faith.
The gift for criticism.
Paul is challenging us to lead from the love of Christ.
- Rather than I know you are a sinner! What are you at the well all alone in the heat of the day?
- Rather than I know you have been taking advantage of people and working the system and calling it your job, I’m inviting myself over to your house.
- Rather than sort out who is to blame, how can God be glorified in this broken situation?
- Rather than stone the guilty, let’s talk about who is not guilty
PRACTICAL STUFF: There is a part of me that might want to tell a young man with his pants hanging nearly to his knees, “Are you applying for the Universtiy of Sloppy or Thugs college this fall?” But that is neither a helpful motivator nor encouragement.
Encouragement: You can do it; keep trying; learn from your mistakes, let it go, keep up the good work, I appreciate you. I love you. I need you. We are honored to have you with us.
There are starting points. Resist the first response of pointing out the infractions, sins, failures, and shortcomings.
Motivational: If you want to get ahead in life, you need to stop playing video games and get a job.
Encouragement: I’m sorry to interrupt, I know you have good eye-hand coordination from your video games, come help me rake leaves for a few minutes?
Motivational: If you don’t keep your things clean you are out of this house.
Encouragement: I would like to know what it means to be a responsible part of this household.
Encouragement: After we establish who is to blame what, it would be most helpful to know what you understand each person’s responsibilities are in this household.
My faith perspective might seem wrong/hurtful/different/old-school to you, I would be an encouragement to me to know:
- what brings you hope when you are depressed,
- how do you find joy when you sad,
- where do you find the strength to do what seems impossible?
- who do you turn to when your friends turn on you
- The “A” Word
Accountability is a word we too often excuse ourselves from invoking so that others will take it easy on us.
We are free to say whatever we want to say, but saying something will have consequences.
We are free to do what we want to do as long as we do not deny someone civil rights, but with those actions come consequences.
So much of the division of political parties, interest groups and fear-mongering individuals is the idea that we are not accountable for our words, thoughts and actions.
Paul is clear that our religious practices, our signs of spiritual growth differ among people and groups. Some express faith through rules about eating, some about which day they worship or which days are holidays. Don’t neglect encouraging all those in Christ despite our differences, encourage Christ’s in everyone.
Accountability to keeping the Rules or the commandment to love our enemies?
Pass on Encouragement to one another
Pass over Judging one another, leave judging to God.
Paul is writing from the experience perspective at the end of ministry which differs from his beginning in ministry.
Proclaim Jesus, Encourage One another
A plan to encourage:
- Don’t judge
- Takes personal prayer, study and maturity of faith
- Act, think, speak in Christ-like ways
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- To the sinner, he invites into the fellowship, table, well,
- To the sick, he invites into wholeness
- To the separated, he enters their home
- To the closed minded, he opens convertations
- To the
- List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
- Practice supportive examples and stay involved.
- Invite to Sunday School
- follow up. if SS is not for you how do you study/grow
- suggest studies, groups, others,
- ask to share with them in their disciplines
- set time/date to check in
- follow-up and try another suggestion,
Ways to encourage without judging:
- Send a card, note, email, text, phone call or face-to-face expression care for the person.
- Pray for this person and the need, struggle, concern truing God to open doors, hearts, minds and spirits.
- Discern how many people/relationships you can actively support. and
- try adding more than you can handle alone and
- replace new people/relationship when closure comes.
- Open our mouths, minds, and hearts to real conversations and relationship led by Christ.
As we prepare to be those who give the gift of faith: (Wesley Rules overlap)
- Do no harm: “Don’t lead with judgment” let God sort that our for now.
- Do all the good: “Encourage rather than just motivate.
- Practice Spiritual Exercises to keep us in shape for not judging and being ready to find the way to heart that doesn’t beat up the head and spirit.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [NRSV]
We live in a world with a growing distrust of the faith we share.
- Feed the hungry school children is important because of fairness rather than as an act of love of God and neighbor.
- Caring for the sick has been identified as a human right instead of as an act of love of God and neighbor.
- People want to live a neighborhood where folks love their neighbors but don’t make it a religious thing.
- Business rally to support the Red Cross but not UMCOR and the church
- I don’t need God or the church because I have government and laws instead
- I don’t need Jesus because I can live with a different reality of what pleases me.
- I trust what is preached in the name of “news” but not the “Good News”
- NOTE: We waste precious time assigning blame, so may we encourage one another to be faithful to the task.
Blame: Because a few have been foolish
We must take responsibility and ownership, confess our sin and remain faithful to God.Before we share our faith: Our task is to be clear about our faith, hold to it, through the storm.
Foolishness and Wisdom
The Problem: Culture says, “When I can get enough people to agree with me that YOUR wisdom is foolish, we can call our approved-proofed foolish pure “Wisdom” and truth.
The Reality: Wisdom and Truth have not changed. But the pillars of our faith have been discredited by unfaithfulness, exploited by those who are threatened by the Christain Faith and our believing/wanting more than God as our hope.
The reason why it is foolish to use social media to persued beliefs is: Anyone with any purpose can log on, speak what they call truth, wisdom, and salvation, but that does not make it wise, true nor the hope of our salvation.
Our charge is not to be ignorant, stubborn or inflexible, rather relying on SCRIPTURE, understood through Tradition, Reason, and Experience to inform and encourage us and God will not fail or forsake us.
- Tradition tells us the successes and failures of the past: learn from mistakes and successes.
- Reason tells us that God has purpose, order, relationship and love hard-wired into us and the universe and expects us to use the mind and reasons that set us apart from everything else in creation.
- Experience is the direct effect of God, Jesus, The Spirit, and the church that reveals something that tradition and reason cannot.
- Being faithful is not a political position. My ultimate allegiance is to God, not any government. (We are called to participate in our civic community, but it will never be our hope, purpose or salvation.)
- Love cannot be summed up by ideas, scientific study, research, and theories.
- Blame/Fault does not mend spirit, heart, minds: This is God’s work in us.
- Being faithful is not something someone else can do for me. Faith is our way of life. with every breath, our task is to grow closer to God and one another.
Wise Acts of Foolishness
- To assume God and religion were created and thus we can create something we like better.
- To believe that the majority of voices of self-focused blindness can see better than God.
- To believe the Bible is only a history book rather than a living point of access.
- To let the world define
- you and
- your mission
- your identity and
- your value.
- It is foolish to write off God and the church because you have been hurt, judged or offended by someone in the name of God.
- It is foolish to think we have told our story once and that is enough.
Foolish acts of Faithness
- To forgive
- To trust
- To give our gifts, tithes, support
- Devoting time to prayer and acts of service
- The study, exploration, and celebration our faith milestones: Staying current with our examples as witness and testimony. Don’t just tell the big story, also tell today’s story of faith.
- Be diligent, committed, intentional to hold, grow and share your faith
2. Trust God will guide us through the most twisted and backward reversal of what is good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish.
3. Test it: Take something you hear our culture say and ask what does God say? What do God’s people say? What Scripture says? What is God trying to have us hear/know/experience now compared to times in the past?
4. I mean we are called to wrestle with the hard stuff in our lives, in our families, in our word and trust God will guide us through. When we do this for the world to see, we are sharing our faith in everyday ways.
Therefore one must be subject [to authorities], not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason, you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [NRSV]
Faith Sharing: Early in our journey toward sharing the gift of our faith, we need to address the WHY question. Why share our faith. Over the next few weeks, we will explore some basic reason WHY we share our faith.
Today’s text from Paul in his letter to the church in Rome we will look at two:
- Because of Love
- Because we have limited Time
Paul reminds us of Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor. God loves us and how to relate and interact with others around us reflects and influences others.
Invest/Trust/Living Sharing LOVE
- Don’t get side tracked with politics, trust God is using every authority for God. If they are not, they must answer to God, err on the side of being a responsible citizen.
- Don’t get weighted down with debt, If you must be in debt, do so in showing love, respect, and honor, to THOSE who it is due.
- Do not split hairs over the law of the land or the church, devote your selves to loving sinners, so they/we will go sin no more.
Look at the times, read the signs, know it is closer to the end than the beginning.
Live as though the test is TODAY, rather than next week.
Our physical bodies, our earthly structures, our laws and rules, needs and wants need to be focused on what is spiritual, Godly, and Christ-like.
- Live worried about your wealth of love instead of things
- Live focused on caring for sinners instead of comforting the found.
- Live devoted to satisfying the hunger of your spiritual relationship/s, for eternity instead of pacifying your physical urges and weaknesses.
Our Question: Why do we need to be sharing our faith with others?
We who know love trumps and triumph over all, need to show a
- self-gratifying society,
that accepting world’s idea of good and the world’s understanding of love is not the love that stands with you in ‘firey’ furnace.
How do we share our faith in these conditions?
- One way is by honoring and respecting those whom honor and respect are due.
- One way is by being the best citizen and neighbor under the laws of the world’s authorities. If any leader, authority or government is not Godly, the leaders and representatives will be accountable,
- One way is loving sinners, as sinners, who a seeking to not be sinners. (We don’t love a gambler by betting our farm when they have lost theirs, we love them but help them make new better choices.)
Why not let someone else share their faith?
- God loves you and me. God instructs that we respond to love by loving. We have skin in the game because we have been loved, we respond in love.
- Jesus is coming soon and you and I have to answer for those we have not reached out to love.
Examples of Loving
Jesus gave the command to feed, clothe, visit and encourage not as an exclusive list of rules/laws to fulfill, but as examples of everyday loving…
Love those who need to be loved so that your loving acknowledges God’s love.
Witness Trusting God by being honorable, respectful, contributing the good of neighbors and citizens. AND let people know that is your drive/motive/purpose.
Model for your neighbors: honor, respect, and responsibility so they see you trust God.
Love, not so that they see YOU are a good person, rather that they KNOW God’s love drives you.
Participate in community responsibility not so they approve of you, but they see God can conquer brokenness.
The Temptation is to leave the light shining on ourselves.
This is the daily, “home work”
love others, participate in community life
1. In response to God’s love, AND
2. with the urgency that the world comes to know Christ through your faithfulness.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [NRSV]
Making Disciples: What is a life worth?
A very difficult thing asked of me was after mom’s death, from being hit in a head-on car accident was to give a value of her life. The attorney asked my brother and me, what was the value of mother’s life for the court case. To come up with a number for the judge. The determination was to be made on what her contributions to the common good would be. The value of her reading to middle school students, mentoring graduate school students, visiting in prison ministry, writing Sunday school lessons, volunteering at her church, and the impact would have a neighbor and citizen. If one were compensated for volunteering at a reasonable rate a figure could be determined for the projected number years she would likely live to serve and that number came to roughly $200,000. But was that value of her life? The young man who drove his uninsured luxury car into her had no assets, and his family had twenty-six previous suits against them, so the final assessment of her life was valued at 1000 hours of community service and no dollars. Is that justice? Is this how God measure our lives? For me, it was a life lesson about the misplaced value of one’s life.
What is your life worth to God?
- You are worth the life of his only child,
- You are worth designing energy, matter, gravity, physics, and mathematics,
- You are worth sharing a relationship with God.
- God has paid for our life, but does not force us to pay God back,
- God offers a way to joy, peace, and wholeness, yet wants us to want to appreciate, trust and follow.
- God says your life is worth it all, hoping you will choose the life God paid for you to live.
The journey of our life is about what we do with the time we have: Choosing God or humanity as our highest goal.
Discipleship: It Ain’t Easy
- Peter declares: God forbid it to be difficult, hard, challenging, unpleasant or demanding
- Jesus responds, Get away your evil thoughts away from me.
- It is evil lived from only a human point of view.
Remembering we are Spiritual People in a Physical Incubator.
There are times that we make following Jesus even harder,
this is a charge against the church if we hold the keys and call the shots for what it means to follow, then there is room for abuse
Jesus models choosing God’s call for his life or the voice of emotions and reason alone.
Peter says: Don’t take the hard path, choose the path most traveled.
Sometimes things get in the way of our best plans:
A story about a country farmer who had a mule with blocked-up plumbing, he called the new veterinarian in town to come help. The young vet had a bottle of large laxative pills that modeled the phrase, ‘horse pill’ that was fast acting and guaranteed to unstop the most stubborn gastric stoppages. He found a long piece of pipe with a contraption to secure one end into the mouth of the mule and the other end he would insert the pill and make certain the pill went right to work. He secured the pipe and straps around the mule, added two horse pills, took a deep bread, but the ass blew first.
Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block
setting one’s mind on human things instead of divine things
Pray right now!
ACTION: “Lord, forgive me for being a stumbling block..”
- Disciples recognize that life devoted to Jesus is greater than the life we can make without him. (justice)
- Disciples recognize that life is a gift and God gives us a choice to use our life as we choose. (freedom)
- Disciples recognize God desires good for us but does not force God on us. (meaningful relationship)
- Disciples recognize that a good life is not measured by having stuff, or a comfortable life. (worth/value)
- Disciples recognize God is willing to follow the choice we are called to make. (sacrifice)
Choose God’s self over the self you choose
To follow God is to find:
- meaningful relationship,
- worth, value and
in 2017 We live in mountain top period of thinking that is human focused.
- What is best for humanity, the majority, the minority
- What is best for me and those like me
- My right and the right of others to choose what it good and right
- It’s my life, my decisions, my definition, my right, my understanding, my dream, my ideal
When we exclude God or even allow God to slip into second place, we choose with the best of humanity has to offer, but without the love, wisdom, grace, and power of God.
When hearing this when others say things like: (Human limitations)
- Love me or accept me for choosing myself
- It is my life, my will
- Accept me for choosing my own way,
- Accept me for believing the common denominator is our safest place.
- Shame on you for not accepting my choice made from my perspective.
The court of public opinion may have the majority of human perspective and still miss the mind and heart of God.
Peter, one of Jesus’ chosen, is telling Jesus,
you know what is best for yourself,
we don’t want to see you suffer
You have God powers, just zap trouble out of your way,
The Heart of the passage: Losing and Finding
finding ourselves in following Jesus
The Journey of sharing our faith is affirmed where our trust, faith, and allegiance is grounded.
Faith means we see that for all you and I can do, we never can do enough on our own
Trust God means we know we are awesome creations with great minds and dreams, but without God death is our worst limitation.
Walking with Christ, we bring together the best of being human into a relationship with God.
Choosing a different path is ends in trusting what is evil, broken, limited, empty and apart from God.
How many people do you know today who have:
evil rules in their lives?
experience brokenness in their bodies, relationships, minds, and hearts?
find themselves living at the limits or out of bounds on a daily basis?
someone who feels lost and empty and distant from God and God’s people?
These are the people who need the gift of Christ that guides us..
- Step one for today: Pray that I am not a stumbling block. (At least don’t let me lead someone astray)
- Step two for today: know it is a daily choice to walk with Christ ourselves
- Step three for today: acknowledge it is not easy, and we need Christ to lead, bless, carry, push and call us on.
Let’s get to the journey today
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea, Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. [NRSV]
Why Tell No One?
“Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” v. 20
Ceaserria Phillipi was a worship center for many different faiths and deities in the region at the time Jesus visited with his disciples. Now it is but a historical site where pilgrims and tourist come to visit the remnants of a shopping-mall of temples at the edge of one of Herod’s many palaces. Jesus gathers with his core leadership and asks for a status report. “What are people saying?”
Opinion vs Completing the Circut
Somewhere in the past generation of 15-20 years, we have upgraded the value of opinions over the value of facts. One of the dangerous tools that we have come to accept is public opinion polls.
My undergrad major is in sociology. When I changed from Chemistry as a pre-pharmacy student, I jumped 180 degrees into contextual perspectives of the human experience. As a social science, this discipline tries to make observations and predictions about human behavior. A random selection of people targeted for their similarities or differences is given questions to ask about perceptions and opinions. The bottom line on all opinion polls is that the collected information gives feedback for strategic planning, marketing, and predictive observations. The dangerous part is when we use feedback to validate rather than inform.
Example: If sixty percent of you sitting here said the wall appeared to be painted beige and 40 percent say white, what color is the wall? We have shifted from caring that Sherman Williams calls it bisque 106 to say that the 60% have a better perspective in the context of this room.
Jesus is not concerned with opinions. Jesus asks the disciples about what the people are saying and what the disciples are saying not to be validated, but to read the measure of progress or failure in informing and preparing people for their Messiah.
Listening to Feeback
The word on the street was divided about Jesus’s role and identity. Most data suggested Jesus was a prophet. Someone who taught and spoke for God, but not in the Messiah category.
Jesus asks the same question and asks the disciples about themselves. Who do you say Jesus is? So as a congregation of disciples the question is posed to each of us. When you are asked about Jesus, how do you first describe Jesus?
- As a historical figure?
- As a teacher
- as healer
- as the son of God
- as God in human form
- As a friend
- As Savior
- As a liar, a lunatic, or as Lord? (CS Lewis, Rabbi John Duncan, Bono, W)
- I suggest that most of us have some answer in our head, but hope it doesn’t come up in conversation and if it does we just as likely to say nothing.
“A Reality Check with the Truth”
- Jesus Want to know where things stand,
- Jesus wants to hear what the world says
- Jesus wants to hear what the disciples say
The World is most likely to have a general idea but lacks the relationship to know for sure
You and I have the advance of some form of relationship, but our answer might be either a desire to be correct and give the ‘right’ answer so as to be rewarded for our knowledge, OR we speak from the heart and declare who Jesus is in our heart and faith.
Ask you neighbor today: Who is Jesus to you?
I challenge every member to begin preparing an answer to the question. “Who do I say Jesus is?”
- This is not to be answered swiftly with the goal of having the accurate answer.
- This IS a question to help us gauge where we are in a relationship with Jesus and each other.
- This IS a question that we need to be ready to share with:
- Those who ask
- Those who need to know but don’t ask
- As an affirmation of our faith to Jesus himself.
The Need to Know, then Tell
- Pre-resurrection the charge is to NOT tell.Post-resurrection until his return, we have to tell everyone.
- Post-resurrection until his return, we have to tell everyone.
- We are people of the resurrection and world needs to hear, we need to be ready to tell, share, shape, instruct, inform, encourage and enrich the spiritual life of others.
Our missions to feed, clothe and visit those in prison FALL short if we don’t use these opportunities to make disciples.
We need more than daily bread, we need the bread of eternal life, and so does our neighbor and our enemies.
The time to prepare ourselves to share the Good News is at hand.
A Four Month Goal
One of the 5 Practices of an effective church is based on our commitment to be spiritually informed, spiritually maturing, growing in understanding, Bible study to feed our spiritual self.
In the next four months, in preparation for Christmas, I expect every member to find themselves part of a Sunday school class, a small group or a Bible study.
That might mean you have to start one of these yourself.
The CASE: If we are to be prepared to answer who Jesus is in each day, it takes real effort and practice.
Making Disciples is an all member responsibility. Job number #1 is making disciples. Helping introduce, equip and support others to know who Jesus is in their life, in my life, in your life.
What does this mean? What does this look like to me?
Starting in September we will be learning the process of sharing our faith. Starting this fall are classes and small groups and studies that some of you will be leading and facilitating to encourage others.
Starting in October we will begin preparing our leaders for 2018. Every ministry and service area of the church will share the goal of making disciples. We will make sure every leader in the church is modeling our discipleship goals.
By November will begin asking every member to report how they are connecting for study and spiritual growth, for those who have not connected or begun we will help find at least one connecting point for each member.
In December we will celebrate the season of Advent with a church-wide emphasis on faith-sharing as a Christmas gift.
Rock Spring is our foundation in Christ. It is our nearest access to living water. We want to prepare for a near year of Sharing Jesus Christ as a congregation.
- Are you ready?
- Are you scared or doubtful?
- Are you willing to invest your time?
- Are you with me?
First commitment: I want to know from every member which is the very best way to personally contact you? Contact me: Give me your Name and number or email or cell.
- a phone call 404-DAD-JOHN
- an email firstname.lastname@example.org
- a text 404-323-5646
This will be the best way for you to stay informed about what is going on and how we are doing.
Clean and Neat
A Timely Teaching
(2) Accusation of Fundamentalism
(3) Who is correct in the Context?
What Defiles, what makes us unacceptable?
- evil intentions:
- Wishing, work and hoping that evil will come to another. “I wish he were dead, gone, out.”
- Willful taking of life, and the neglect of loving one’s enemy
- Disregard of marriage and family covenants
- Misplaced use of our sexuality
- Taking what does not belong to us, taking advantage of the system
- false witness
- Speaking in ways that protect ourselves over what is true in the eyes of God.
- Discrediting our enemy and our neighbor instead of loving and encouraging them.
Here are the power questions to answer honestly:
Our society has it all backward:
- It is not about having the correct ideas in our heads, it is about having trust in God in our requests.
- It is not about putting down the establishments, leaders, and systems, it is about telling the world how to trust God to show up.
- It is neither about being made whole,
- fair nor equal, it is about the power of God at work in the crumbs, in the small things,
- in the daily bread, in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
- in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
- in the every moment of our real actions.
- When you hear evil, divisions, and fear: This is our call to trust God.
- When you are tempted to join in the tradition divisive agenda: Trade that for a crumb of faithful trust.
- When you see, read words of hate and separation: Persistently remind yourself and all others what God can do.
Holy Communion is a ritual that we practice in worship and as a community of faith in Jesus Christ whenever we break bread together.
The table of Holy Communion is Christ’s table, not the table of The United Methodist Church or of the local congregation. The table is open to anyone who seeks to respond to Christ’s love and to lead a new life of peace and love, as the invitation to the table says.
Our Book of Worship says, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive” (page 29). This statement means that in practice there are few, if any, circumstances in which a United Methodist pastor would refuse to serve the elements of Holy Communion to a person who comes forward to receive.
By Water and the Spirit affirms: “Because the table at which we gather belongs to the Lord, it should be open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership. The Wesleyan tradition has always recognized that Holy Communion may be an occasion for the reception of converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace.”
(REF The United Methodist Book of Worship. Copyright © 1992 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)
Communion is not about the type of bread or the frequency or the correctness of words, it is about remembering who God is and who we are in God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act.
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?
Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?
Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.
Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).
May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?
Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.
(REF) Excerpt from United Methodists and Communion: Some Questions & Answers by Hoyt L. Hickman. Copyright © 2001 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
Communion is our invitation to sit at the table.
God has secured a place for us at Gods table
What happens at the table?
- As well as
- Making plans, budgets. dreams, accountability, etc
What does it mean to you to be included at God’s table?
[Ask your neighbor to name one thing and allow them to ask you for what it means to you.]
In Genesis: Communion with God is seen as a struggle.
Jacob’s wrestling with God teaches us that persistence in the struggle to hang on to God yields blessing. GEN 32:24-28 (We want the blessing without the struggle: jo’stein)
From Jacob/Israel’s experience we learn:
- If you want to be at the table expect
- Alone : on your own. You can’t struggle in behalf of others
- Wrestle : give and take of position and adjust
- ( told the wreak ring coach that the sport was all fake)
- Endurance through the night, darkness
- The fruit of wrestling is to
- see God,
- know God,
- be named by God,
- blessed and
Reminders of the Struggle become our story to share and retell:
Jacob/Israel’s Hip is a reminder that the struggle is very gift of life and not the measure of our strength.
How have you struggled, wrestled to remain with God?
Where have you fallen away and found your way home?
Paul wishes he could trade places with those who are lost, but it is our charge to bring people to their own journey with God. [Rom 9:4-5]
Through the journey and struggle we are reminded we are ALL:
The reality check Psalm 17:1-7 (Listen to my words, watch my actions, am I wrestling with God or some one else, some things else of just myself? Isa 55:1-5 Struggle for bread or bread of life?
Q: Are we always welcome at the table?
Q: Do we welcome everyone to gather at God’s table?
Q: Are we in fellowship today?
Q: Are we always in Worship, prayer, service?
This is why we return to the table
- In Grace
- In Struggle
- In Promise of Salvation
- So come to the table now.
32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” [NRSV]
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
17:1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right. If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress. As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. [NRSV]
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. [NRSV]
The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever. [NRSV]
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. [NRSV]
Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. [NRSV]
Jesus the parable painter
- Mustard seed
- Treasure hidden
Every story is a out the same thing. The kingdom of Heaven. Billy Graham preached for all his years and always the same sermon: Jesus Christ and him crucified fir our sins.
Parables train us for what is new and old.
Scripture through the eyes of
Not any one or two of the other.
The Old is the scripture the new is the contemporary context. Jesus is giving the new as examples of the old
Jesus is establishing building blocks: look at the pieces.
The kingdom of heaven is larger and with more purpose then we can imagine
The kingdom of heaven spreads and transforms whatever it comes in contact with
The kingdom of heaven is worth security and investing in pursuing
The kingdom of heaven is something to be searched for and pursued and is worth more than what we have
The invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to a home but not everyone will find it is their home for eternity.
The kingdom of heaven:
1. TKoH is more than we expect
2. TKoH is to be shared
3. TKoH is worth the journey
4. TKoH cost everything
5. TKoH is open to all but all will not find it home
- begins here and now
- Is found when we share it
- Is the labor of our life
- Is priceless
- Some will give it up
Is Gods Heavenly Kingdom
- Something you are experiencing
- Are you Sharing it
- Is your life devoted to loving God completely more than thinking God correctly
- Are you at home in God, with the People of God now?
Bottom line: get to
- giving & sharing
- loving & trusting
- Building & doing and
- worshiping & growing
Or else (Parables can kick us in the butt)
- You just have a seed stuck in you shoe
- You just have the ingredients but no cake
- You just have treasure but never use it
- You just stay busy without joy
- You talk and think but are like the grass that withers when it dies.