Mark 4:26-34 “Kingdom Seeds”

cornears

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. [NRSV]

{Happy Father’s Day: You are here because some planted a seed of faith. Thank you for the gift of life.}

The Kingdom of God: 

Jesus uses parables to paint the picture of what the church is to look like to the world. Some parables are about the Kingdom of Heaven, Some are the kingdom of earth. But this sample directs our attention to the Kingdom of God.

Recall when we pray the Lord’s prayer that we have learn from repetition: I draw your attention to the phrase “..Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus describes what it looks like when we receive glimpses of heaven on earth. 

  • The image is the of someone scattering seeds that would grow night and day. 
  • How they grow is a mystery. 
  • How they continue to grow, night and day, is a mystery.

Growth is seen in stages:

There is a plan. There is a process. There are points to measure and signs for us to watch and anticipate.

  • The Shoot
  • The Stalk
  • The Head
  • The Full Head
  • Sickle Time
  • The Harvest is the fruit of the seed.

Parable TWO: The Kingdom of Heaven is like..

The tiny mustard seed with might potential

  • The fruit is not only in the seeds for its expected yield
  • Also it provides home and shelter for others

Holding these two parables of God’s Kingdom on revealed to us is:

  • a mystery
  • a process
  • a harvest
  • some expected
  • some unexpected.

How our world longs to see what God has to reveal

I want to invite you to see the kingdom here in Rock Spring.

Over the next two years, you and I will be planing seeds.

No, I’m not helping you plant your garden, we will be scattering seeds of the kingdom. 

How difficult is to scatter seeds?

  • What equipment do you need?
  • Seeds,
  • Hands or a spreader,
  • Some movement, locomotion, transportation, usually we picture simple walking

I know how many places we can expect seeds to sprout.

3,600

What 3,600? That is part of the mystery.

Where they take root first will be a mystery, but once our seeds start being scattered, we will begin seeing sign of the Kingdom of God, both night and day.

I know that over seeding will be needed.

Today I want to show  you the first part: The Mustard Seed.

  1. Hello, My name if John Brantley
  2. I am here today on behalf of Rock Spring UMC
  3. I would like ask you two questions today.
  4. May I?
  5. Is there some need our concern that I can pray for in your life?
  6. Is there anything our church can do for you? I can’t promise that we can do every thing you ask for, but I can promise you that we will try.
  7. Here is my phone number/ email I hope you will contact me if you think of a prayer or something we can help with you and your household.

The Seed:

May we pray for you?

Can we help you in any way?

Both are filled with potential to see the Kingdom of God. 

If they say no or no thank you, or ignore you. Promise them we will check later.

Practice for now:

First I hope that you will try this wherever you go. Work, School, shopping, sporting events, vacation, start to practice. 

We will begin planting rows of a garden in Rock Spring and you need to practice scatting seeds.

When we open our hearts in prayer to listen and serve others we will begin to see the Kingdom of God growing around us.

Will you practice? I need a volunteer.

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Mark 2:23-3:6 Sabbath Rest

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath, so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. [NRSV]

When someone speaks truth and it does not agree with our understanding of the truth:

  • Do we learn from them or attack them
  • Do we change our minds or put out minds to work how to get rid of them
  • Do we admit our sin, repent and follow them or become consumed with defending our own truth.

The question is put to them

  • Which is more loving?
  • Which is more harmful?

To break the rule and help a person

Or to keep the rule and harm the person?

There is a third option:

maybe there ARE exceptions to the rule AND maybe telling to truth hurts when we don’t want to hear something that sounds unacceptable or inconvenient to us?

God made the Sabbath for us

The concept of sabbath rest is time to rest from labor and enjoy walking in the garden of eden with God

We are no longer in the garden of eden and thus our resting with God, retreating with God.

yet, Sabbath is a basic and integral part of our relationship with God.

Creation is ordered, formed, filled and blessed as God’s good work for our benefit. Part of the order of creation is the reservation of space and time for walking with God in the Garden, Sabbath.

Q: What can you do today that would most reconnect you with the God of creation having a desired to be in a good relationship with you?

Is it for our benefit or God’s

In have a question: if there are two thousand years between Adam and Eve and Moses, where is are the instructions about the sabbath.

The opportunity is built into creation but not teach for thousands of year’s.

The direction to keep the sabbath holy begins in creation, is assumed in the wilderneness gathering manna during six says, but formally observe it as a practice and tradition comes for the Ten Commandments with Moses.

our benefit to in Gods presence

Jesus gives the life-long faithful a test. What honors God the most: keeping the law, rules and traditions or healing and making someone whole.

The dilemma in this case is not about is it good to heal, rather which is better: to sin or heal someone from sin.

sabbath is

Not just an absence of work

It is day to trust God

So we come to the table

The Lord has prepared for us

For our benefit

Come and eat, be nourished

And be present in God and gods Spirit in you through Jesus Christ

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John 3:11-17 He Gave His Life

Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]

He Gave His Life

Through this very familiar passage we find the treasure of assurance of God’s Love and Sacrifice and our Purpose and Salvation

Memorial Day

Honoring those who have given their life for country, church, faith and…

More that Remembering

Just as we honor and remember those who have died this Memorial Day, it is essential not only to recognize the loss of some family’s know more closely than others, but we also look at the greater good that comes when someone sacrifices for the rest of us.

This is not to be taking as lightly as we do.

In remembering what God has done for us through Jesus’s death and resurrection we acknowledge the love and sacrifice, but we also claim the greater good that comes through this service for us.

More than Memorial

Just as those who gave their life of our country and communities, they did not serve to get credit or fame or just to be remembered. They did it for duty, love, respect, trust and to save those who them they love and nation that is our home.

Jesus didn’t died to be remembered only. His death was a sacrificial death. God trades the value and meaning and purpose of his Child’s life for ours.

Response

Not only do we honor with words and songs and memories on an annual day of remembering, we honor their service by living on in their stead.

Likewise, God service and sacrifice being the greatest gift for us, is not simply to impress or to give a reason for honoring and worshiping God, it is so that we will live on in the place of Christ

The Body of Christ

This is the trade. We live because of the life of others. Graduates give thanks to the parents, grands, teachers, friends and mentors that guided them toward graduation. The students steps that follow graduation is to do something with the next part of their life that is fruit of the labor and seed of new life.

We, the church, are being tested. The exam is this:

  • Are we living as Christ or simply remembering the past traditions?
  • Are we honoring the memory of Christ, or are we sharing the living Christ with a suffering and broken world?
  • Are we honoring the idea of a loving God, but looking for every way to tear down our enemies?
  • Is God’s sacrifice and love being lived out in our words and witness?

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Romans 8:22-27 We’ve Got Spirit!

howboutyou

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [NRSV]

The Whole Creation is Groaning

Labor Pains, Growing Pains, vs Aches and Pains

 

School shoots, political thrashing, volcano eruptions, threats nations and neighbors. It is obvious in 360* view that someone, somewhere is groaning, complaining, fearful, and under attack. It is overwhelming!

Where do we turn? Where is our solid ground? Where is our safety net? Who can save us?

Where is our Hope? 

God is our hope and we most often experience God the the Spirit form. We talk more about God and Jesus, but the Spirit moving, speaking, singing, directing and guiding us is our most common experience of God in our lives.

Remind your neighbor. God’s Holy Spirit is in me. “I’ve Got Spirit, Yes I do, I’ve Got Spirit, how about you?”

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is a special day in the life in of Church we celebrate being people of the Holy Spirit.

Pente-cost: We celebrate this Sunday, fifty days since Easter, as a looking back in the grief, lostness and chaos of life without Jesus by our physical side, to see that the world continues to spare chaos and God is about creating order, purpose and relationship.

In our Weakness

Paul instructs us and the church in Rome:

  • While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And while we are afraid, God is Strong.
  • When we are doubting God is holding fast. When we are confused, God is the foundation.
  • When we are beaten down, weary and give out, God knows our hearts and intercedes..

When we are in the painful place of uncertainty: and we are even as a global church, The  Holy Spirit is calling us to the heart of God, to the Word of God and to the be the people of God for a world in chaos.

God intercedes for Us

The Good News is the God is expecting us to do the trusting and God do the leading. Our trusting we call HOPE>

  • Hope is trusting what we cannot explain nor understand
  • Hope is trusting God, when there are alternatives to place our trust.
  • Hope is leaning in, depending on God to be God and for us to follow, 
  • Hope is not protecting what we have dominion and control over, it is give God what we think of as our own and trusting God to use all that we are.

Trust God (Hope) to Show up through the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the voice of crazy-making: Call for God to speak words of peace

When you have no words, let God speak through your ‘sighs’ and ‘groans’ let me hear you  sigh and groan. You’re good at it. Sometime we need to not speak and turn to God’s word to speak for us.

Before we join in another chorus of complaining and blaming, sing two verses of trusting God to speak through you. Don’t add to the world’s blaming and complaining..

Share God’s words and wisdom of hope, faith, trust, power, and grace.

Have you ever had an attorney speak for you… they will help keep you out of trouble when you want to speak for yourself. Attorney’s get a bad wrap, but in times of chaos they help guide us through the law, speaking in our best interest, this is how Paul reminds us to trust the Holy Spirit.

Stop fussing, don’t fear, stop pointing fingers and assigning blame, turn to the Holy Spirit and God’s word to guide us.

Fight the urge to be correct, to be justified in the moment, to win the argument, to take offense at a post on social media, to label and objectify a person or group…. Lean into the trust/hope that God is longing to speak through us.

Hear the Bad News:

The world is in chaos, because we have placed our hope in other voice.

Hear the Good News:

God continues to love us and call us to hope/trust through the labor, through the chaos, God is with us. Listen to God, Follow God, Hope for God, live for God.

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John 17:6-19 Covenant People, Covenant Church

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. [NRSV]

The entering into and committing oneself to a continuing relationship. Christians see themselves as a people of a covenant with God. The New Testament or “New Covenant” is that covenant of the saving work of Jesus Christ through the grace of God and the response Christians make in their profession of faith and baptism. This understanding of covenant has been important throughout the life of United Methodism.

Source: A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/glossary-covenant

¶ 125. United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining “a vital web of interactive relationships” (¶ 132). At the same time, we desire to affirm and celebrate our relationships, covenants, and partnership with autonomous, affiliated autonomous, affiliated united covenanting, and concordat churches (¶¶ 570-574) as well as other partners in the Wesleyan and ecumenical Christian families. Our worldwide connectional relationship is one of the ways we carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries. For our connectionalism to become a living practice, we need to carry the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church deep into the life and mission of our local congregations. Only when we commit ourselves to interdependent worldwide partnerships in prayer, mission, and worship can connectionalism as the Wesleyan ecclesial vision be fully embodied. Guided by the Holy Spirit, United Methodist churches throughout the world are called afresh into a covenant of mutual commitment based on shared mission, equity, and hospitality.

In covenant with God and with each other:

We affirm our unity in Christ, and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be a worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world.

We commit ourselves to crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. We commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people, as we, in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust.

We participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry, recognizing that our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

We commit ourselves to full equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

We enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality, creating a new sense of community and joyously living out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.

People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.

People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.

People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.

People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.

People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-1-the-churches

Wesleyan Covenant Groups

WESLEYAN SMALL GROUP RESOURCES

• Books on the Class Meeting

• Covenant Discipleship resources

• Overview of Covenant Discipleship

• Introduction to Class Leaders

• In Mission Together

• Books on Wesleyan community

• Books and studies on discipleship

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, succinctly described the plan of discipleship in what he called The General Rules. As Christians, we are to (1) do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind; (2) do good to all people; and (3) attend upon all the ordinances of God like participating in worship, taking Communion, reading the Bible, praying, and more.

Unfortunately, knowing that does not always translate into living it. Learn more about how Wesley’s concept of small groups as a place for accountability and spiritual growth have been adapted for today.

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/wesleys-small-group-model-for-today

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1 John 5:1-6 Water and the Blood

wearethechurchEveryone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. [NRSV]

  1. When were you baptized? By whom? At what age were you baptized?
  2. What is the Spirit saying to the world through you as a baptized person in Christ?
  3. If you have not been baptized would you like to talk with John about Baptism?

Late summer in 1964, my parents handed me over to some old white-headed preacher in South Georgia, who I think was the District Superintendent at the time, who baptized me. The pastor asked my parents, my family, and the congregation gathered at the church to reaffirm their faith, to join in the promise to raise me in the faith. I believe I was less than three months old, but I don’t remember the details first hand. But I remember thirteen years later confirming that infant baptism. And in the past forty years have been lived on the roller coast of trust and doubt, obedience and sin, all grounded in life in Jesus Christ.

The water of salvation and the sacrificial blood of love have paved this ride. In the letter of first John there is in Chapter 5, the confirmation that belief in Jesus Christ is an ongoing choice of

  • Baptism as Incorporation into the Body of Christ.
  • Baptism as Forgiveness of Sin.
  • Baptism as New Life.
  • Baptism and Holy Living.
  • Baptism is the doorway to the sanctified life.
  • Baptism as God’s Gift to Persons of Any Age.
  • Baptism is appropriate for any day the community of faith is gathered.

 

Baptism by Water and the Holy Spirit.

Water is the cleansing from the fate of sin and death, the blood is that sacrifice in grace through Christ the we become part of the presence of Christ in the world, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.

“I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…

” The Church is the people of Christ.   [UM Book of Hymns #475]

  • Stories of the Believers:
  • Witness of the Believers”

 

From the UMC.org site below:

Who tells you who you are?

We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.

To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”

Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

God Initiates the Covenant

We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

God Has Chosen Us

Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”

The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

Baptism Is the Door

From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Why Baptize Babies?

From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.

Baptism Is Forever

Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.

Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End

You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

What Is a Sacrament?

The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.

 

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1 John 4:7-21 Love because we’re loved.

lovedgrand

Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. [NRSV]

We love because he first loved us.

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

It would seem simple, easy and direct to follow the commandment to love one another.

At the heart of this is the most recent addition to the promises we make when we become a member of the United Methodist Church. We promise our prayers, presence, gifts, service, AND our witness.

This last step is what brings our faith full-circle. The first four are a progression toward the fifth which was assumed since we know what happens when we ass-u-me too much?

Love must be shared to be found.

The idea of sharing our witness is the intentional living a life of Love that does not assume people will automatically see Jesus in my actions.

We gather in worship today to play music/sing and worship for whose benefit?

If we say the number one reason is my me, what I get out of it, we would benefit more from re-learning why do “church” in the first place.

The church is a place that we gather to pray, grow in spirit, share our talents and practice our faith with one another. But we come to worship, the largest gathering of our church for

#1 God.

#2 Those around us and those outside the church

#3 For our own faith and strength.

We live in a consumer society that generally assumes its a three-in-one product, but that is not always true.

Getting the Horse in front of the Cart

vs 21 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love”

Our witness is to a world that is afraid. Where we see and hear fear, we know love is absent or at best weak or at risk. We talked about making disciples and faith sharing for three months of sermons. Some of you have shared faith-sharing stories and I’m excited and proud of your boldness and progress.

When you hear me say, “I am afraid” I have lost hold of God’s hold on me.

We all know fear at different parts of our lives: new environments, as we grieve lost relations, when we cannot control a given situation, etc. When we meet people in moments of their fear, we have the very best opportunities to connect people with God.

It does not take long to hear someone share:

I’m scared,

I’m alone,

I’m afraid,

I’m lost,

I’m frustrated, etc.

it is a great time for faith sharing and witnesses of God’s love.

1 John Reminds us that God loves us. The example is most clear in the sacrificial gift of Christ, AND yet there are times we still let fear cheat us out of our inheritance.

Said another way: On our worst days and nights is the time we most need to be taught or reminded how very extraordinary it is to be loved by God and God’s people.

The tendency, when someone is scared, is to boldly retreat into protection and self-preservation mode or to rashly grab the reigns of self-made control mode. Neither example is relying on God’s love and strength to protect or order our lives.

God is love

There is no fear in love

When you see, experience or faced with those in fear, its time to practice loving as God loves us.

The Heart of the passage

We have the very best example of love in Jesus Christ

He takes our sin and makes us new, calling us to live lives free of sin and fear.

Some days we believe and trust this love

Other days we forget and trust something or someone else and we find the broken state of fear, hurt, rejection, guilt, shame, etc.

We belong to the body of Christ that reminds and encourages us to trust God instead of ourselves or our friends or our enemies, instead we challenges and inspire each other trust. God.

John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is an example of the witness we are called to share:

Put on these words and trust God to make you whole, give you peace, surround you with love and share this with the fearful divided world around us:

I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. [John Wesley, Covenant Prayer]

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1 John 3:16-24 Love: Trust in Action

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We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this, we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. [NRSV]

Since the formation of Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance of the 1600’s, we have been growing from simply trusting doctrines handed down through the tradition of the church to explore what it means to have an individual understanding of faith. Examples: forgiveness is no longer found through visits to the priest, rather we recognize that we only have to ask God in Christ directly and forgiveness is given. The understanding that each of us is a minister in the priesthood of all believers and clergy are those called to specific roles within the church’s ministry. We have had the opportunity to read the Scripture in our own native languages instead of exclusively in Latin, Greek or Hebrew. [Note: Those who cling to the KJV have no perspective that the 1600’s since the texts were first written still had scripture and those since have had the benefit of other translations and discoveries, but alas that is an aside.]

The Risk of Self over Community

With the individualization of faith, we have expanded to points of risk.

For both those who say they don’t need the church or are threatened when the church is called to following the Holy Spirit in new directions.Don’t stand alone. Don’t trust your own heart and mind, is our life God’s?

1 John 3 is a reminder to not simple love as the concept in our head, but to actually love people. The goal is not to simply know the truth in our head or heart, but to stand up for and live Truth in presence of evil and deception.

Love in Truth and Action

Jesus laid down his life for us—and are we to lay down our lives for one another? { We hope that is just a figure of speech, and only in rare, once in a lifetime occasions, right? }

We can have all love figured out in our head; we can understand what is just and good, what is right and wrong and separate that from the life we are called to live in our homes, work/school, community, and world.

The risk of leaving the church behind for the individual is that we most easily become self-determined, self-validated, self-understood, self-comforted, self-medicated, but never truly loved nor made whole.

The deception is what “I” figured out at the expense of those

What good does it do us, our God, or our brothers/sisters who are in need, for us to know love, blessing, grace, and peace

Again with the Little Children language

Like, little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us;

UMC Lesson of the Week: Our hearts and minds are but ONE way to know the heart of God.

Wesley: teaches us that the primary way God speaks to us is through scripture. So, as UM’s we trust scripture as our primary reason that we know God is love, and how God loves us, and how God calls and expects us to love in return and to love one another.  All these things and more come from scripture.

But how do we use scripture?

Scripture first, through (3) Three lenses, a. TRADITION, b. REASON, and c. EXPERIENCE. Never through one or two, but balanced through all three.

  1. What the believers have understood and experienced since the beginning.
  2. What our reason reveals from the study, testing and measuring.
  3. What the Holy Spirit reveals directly to us in our experience of God at work

Only a, and focus on rule and history

Only b, and we focus on mind, opinions, and ideas

Only c, and we have no foundation, and risk separation

1 John 3: reminds us to:

  1. Place ourselves in God’s perspective when we look at tradition and rules of the church.
  2. Place ourselves in the mind of God when we view ourselves and our neighbors.
  3. Place ourselves in the Spirit of God when we venture out on our own strength and ideas.

God is Greater than our hearts:

  • God has seen more than we see
  • God has done more than our experiences
  • God has loved longer than we have
  • God has waited longer than we wait
  • God has died that we might live

Bottom line: God knows more and knows better than you, me or us.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 

To trust God with our history, present and future is our goal and direction.

Am I on course toward God? or am I trying to fit a square peg into a God-shaped hole?

We believe in Jesus as God’s greatest act of love.

God loves us is not just the right answer to a good question.

  • God proves it, love us when we, build a tower with our will and call it God’s
  • God lives the word but coming to be one of us
  • God’s way is the way of reaching to us in sin, pride, greed, fear, and death and loving us even when we deserve it least.
  • That proves love in action.

 

Our response to this love, is to love

  • Our response to God’s commandments, is to trust and follow.
  • Our response to God living in us, is to live out our faith daily.

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1 John 3:1-7 Known as Loving Children

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. [NRSV]

This text embodies the simple yet life-changing message of salvation.

  • God loves us
  • God loves us even when we rebel and reject
  • Goes does not force us to love but hopes we will trust Christ
  • God knows we deceive and are deceived
  • God Be in God is to be whole, sin does not exist.
  • God calls us to be in the truth

Preventing Grace/Love: The Love the God has for us started before we were created, before we were born, before we came into this word, God was already loving us.

As United Methodist, we call this love the first part of our salvation. God loves the world, and all of us in the world. This does not mean that everyone is behaving, acting or thinking in ways that reflect God’s love. The starting point is God’s love for us, for us all.

As United Methodist, we call this love God’s preventative love. The love that goes first. As every loving parent loves the child before they are born, hoping and dreaming of the life and joy they will experience and become. (The truth of the human example is that not every parent loves their child. Not every parent hopes and dreams for the life that child might become. Not every parent knows how to love and certainly not love selflessly)

Our salvation is not based on our parent’s love, it is grounded in God’s eternal love, that Goes first.

This preventative love shows the example of love, trust, and hope for a shared relationship. Remember the first time you made yourself vulnerable to express to someone that you loved them and they rejected or ignored your feelings or declaration? It is emotionally painful, but we find other persons or other times that persons are ready and able to love and we try again.

Saving Grace/Justifying Grace: The second express of love that forms our faith and relationship as a Christian, as a child of God, is God’s second dose of loving us, not in our ignorance, but in our rejection of ignorance of God’s love. God sends his son, Jesus, to express human love and relationship.

Through sin: pride, greed, longing for self-reliance, and self-determination we declare: “I want” or “I need” or “I must” or “Look at what I made” and we in our immaturity and foolishness we express the world is for our purpose and our benefit. We grow and mature looking for rational and measurable ways to prove what we can measure, calculate, predict, plan and control and we leave little to no room for the love shared with God. It is self-love.

It is for self-loving people that Jesus came to show God’s love was extended first and continues to be offered even when we close the door to God’s love. God continues to love us; God continues to hope we will love in return.

The Cross of Jesus is God’s gift of grace that says, First I loved you when you didn’t know how to love and now I love you even when you reject, refuse, ignore or deny my love.

Note: For all the love God shows, God does not force love upon us. That would void any room for love in our relationship with God.

Christ is God’s second offer over love. This act of sacrificial love proves the nature of God’s love and the power and reality that sin is that which keeps us from returning love, trust, and faith in God’s love.

Can you remember a time when you reach out to help someone who may have hurt you in the past and you offer to try to renew or restore the relationship and yet they spurn, reject, ignore you even more? God’s love stands as an eternal love that spans all time and all generations. What Jesus did by allowing his life to be given for ours make a way for us to find God even when we burned our bridges.

As a child, I had the privilege of living near the woods, near a creek, both were filled with God’s creatures and seasons. The creek was deeper than I felt safe to wade across and I would find limbs and old board to try and reach to the other side, but being unable to reach the distance and not able to withstand the force of the stream, and unable to secure both sides without the current dragging my efforts away. I required someone who could bridge the distance.

Through the sacrificing love of the Cross, Jesus makes a way through sin, for me. He proves and paves a way to God, even where I have failed.

As United Methodist we acknowledge that God loves us, acting first and acting knowing our sin, through Christ.

Sanctifying Grace/Love: The third expression of love comes in the process of “abiding in God.”

You’ve heard a parent say something like: “as long as you are living in this house you will follow my word.” As a rebellious child we press the limits of these in our process of maturing. Especially if they “House Rules” are not loving. God’s law is eternally grounded in love.

We live in a give-and-take process of learning and practicing what it means to love as God loves. We grow practicing and testing what it means to trust God’s love, when we convince ourselves and others we have such great alternative choices. The choice eternally remains for us to choose how we see the world is better than God’s way, but that comes at the cost of our relationship.

Perfecting Grace/Love: The final expression of God’s love and grace is when we are in the heart of God.

There is not sin, no distance, no separation present; sin has no reality there. We are whole. We are promised this in eternity and we also experience moments in our faith journey in this lifetime. This is our shared journey.

The invitation of First John is to the community of faith, like ours, that knows God’s love, but we are called to be loved, love and grow in love in would that:

  • Loves it self
  • Love is defined by each individual
  • Love that not love but is temporary gratification
  • Love that is only physical and not eternal
  • Love that is contrived and manipulated.
  • Love that is not love AT ALL.

God is doubling down on LOVE being the language and path for our relationships.

We find it impossible to love some people.

Our seeming impossible to love in some circumstances.

This is where we point to the deception where the world is calling Love and Good and Truth that none of the above.

The most loving thing to do for one who is blind is to clear their path, help them when need help and let them practice seeing until sight is given in heaven.

The same is true in all our earthly relationships. (Do not home, do good, practice the path toward God.

What our of our differences in this broken and sin-filled world?? [ Look to 1 John 3:1-7 ]

See what love the Father has given us

that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.

  1. Seek the truth of God’s love and know God loves us.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be, has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  

  1. When the way is unclear, know the truth looks like GOD’s love.

And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. [WHOLE] 

  1. We complete the cycle of love, when we find ourselves in God’s love.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

  1. When we don’t trust God, our hearts are not in God’s.
  2. We live in a world filled with those who run from God, twist God’s word, and don’t love.

You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 

  1. To live in God is to be free from Sin.
  2. To live in God is to be in the truth.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

  1. We are frequently and easily deceived and mislead others.
  2. Just because a group says this is love, does not make it so..

God loves us even in our sin, hoping that we grow out of sin, toward wholeness in him.

PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING

Some people are born with an easier journey toward God

Some are born with a more difficult path

If the path is not leading someone to God, it is not the right path.

We come into the world that is sinful and divided, Our goal is to find our way to God’s heart

We cannot find our way to God’s heart without confronting our sin and the sins of the world.

If we excuse each other to remain in sin, we forfeit the God’s gifts of grace for self and others.

Where divided people call on the name of God that they are following the TRUTH

Know the power of deception is enormous, we must be willing to question ourselves and learn from one another, learning from our failure rather than fueling our division.

The final word in this passage is about deception, the final challenge is to NOT deceive nor be deceived.

  • The greatest threat to God’s love is that that we listen to a voice other than the voice of God.
  • The first story of faith in the scripture is the children and a talking snake, the children listen to the snake instead of listening and trusting God. Sin follows sin corrupts, sin divides.
  • 1 Jn 3 vs7 The Right path, the right direction, the way to God, has nothing to do with my opinion, nor my theology, not my understanding, nor my experience. It is about our continuing to find our selves right when we belong, together, IN God.

Where we are divided, we are separated from God: What must we do to return to the heart of God.

Here is the call for us to lay down our traditions, our brains, our opinions, our faith and place ourselves at God’s direction. God will complete all that follows.  (the sins we struggle with are not as much the Top Ten, but the little assumptions, fears and ignoring when God is with us, to love and help us, always.

john@brantley.net

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1 John 2:1-2 Children Need to Love Rules

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My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [NRSV]

Three perspectives about sin:

  1. I determine my reality and morality, you are responsible for your own.
  2. I occasionally sin, but not the “big ones” and if I do Jesus will get me out of hot water.
  3. I am a sinner, but Jesus covers me with Grace, so its ok to continue to do as I please and let Jesus step in when I need him. (Oh, that’s basically the same as number 2)
  4. I am a sinner and no matter how hard I try I will continue to be a broken vessel, in a broken world, and totally rely on God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and guide me, every hour of every day.

Most of the world lives with the confidence of option number one. I am the master of my own life and sin is either the infraction of a moral code or the ignorance or carelessness of someone else.

First John is a letter appealing to us in our weary state of sin to remember that sin is more than breaking rules, disobeying the law, or having anything to do with our definition of appropriate behavior.

Sin is..

[ http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/we-confess-our-sin ]

We Confess Our Sin

Genesis 1:27 asserts that we’ve been made in the image of the Creator. Like God, we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create. Like God we’re free, and we’re responsible. We’ve been made, says Psalm 8, “a little lower than God” and crowned “with glory and honor.” We believe that the entire created order has been designed for the well-being of all its creatures and as a place where all people can dwell in covenant with God.

But we do not live as God intends. Again and again, we break the covenant relationship between God and us. We turn our backs on God and on God’s expectations for us. We deny our birthright, the life of wholeness and holiness for which we were created. We call this alienation from God, sin.

A distinction should be made between sin and sins. We use the word sins to denote transgressions or immoral acts. We speak of “sins of omission and commission.” These are real enough and serious, but they’re not the essential issue.

The issue is sin in the singular. Sin is our alienation from God, our willful act of turning from God as the center of life and making our own selves and our own wills the center. From this fundamental sin, our various sins spring. Sin is estrangement of at least four kinds:

Separation from God

Sin is breaking the covenant, separating ourselves from the One who is our origin and destiny. It’s trying to go it alone, to be out of touch with the God who is the center of life. Based on the story in Genesis 3, the church has described this break in dramatic terms: the Fall.

Separation from other people

In our sin, we distance ourselves from others. We put ourselves at the center of many relationships, exploiting others for our own advantage. Instead of loving people and using things, we love things and use people. When confronted with the human need, we may respond with token acts of kindness or with lip service or perhaps not at all.

For some people and some groups, we’re totally indifferent or actively hostile. Sin is a denial of our common humanity and our common destiny on this one small planet.

Separation from the created order

In our sin, we separate ourselves from the natural environment. Greedily we turn upon it, consuming it, destroying it, befouling it. As natural resources dwindle, as possibilities increase for long-term damage to the atmosphere and seas, we pause to wonder. But our chief concern is for our own survival, not for the beauty and unity of all God’s creation.

Separation from ourselves

We turn even from our own center, from the goodness, happiness, and holiness that is our divinely created potential. Sometimes it seems that there are two wills warring within us. As Paul put it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

Paul continues: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Like Paul, we discover that we are powerless to extricate ourselves from sin. Though we work ever so earnestly at various means of saving ourselves—being good, going to church, reading the Bible—these in themselves cannot save us. Sin is not a problem to be solved. It’s our radical estrangement from God, a separation that only God can heal by a radical act of love. We yearn for this reunion, this reconciliation, this redemption, this salvation.

From United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 74-75

Sin is the reality of three important pillars/foundations:

  1. Sin is I think and act in ways that separate me from God and God’s people.
  2. Sin is the evidence that I am choosing and behaving in ways that distance myself from God and others.
  3. Sin is the evidence that I am not trying, working, trusting God to ‘save’ me in my daily life.

These correspond to the three rules of what it means to be a United Methodist:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the good you are able to do
  3. Practice being in love a loving and trusting relationship with God and the people of God.

We live in a broken and sinful world.

  1. When people, groups, governments, cultures, businesses, families, parties, agenda organizations, classes, families couples, and individuals declare and decide they know a better way to order and understand our self, our world, God and all in the universe that is OTHER than God’s design and purpose, we distance ourselves, we move away from God and this separation is sin.

Not all sin has the same immediate consequence, but all sin is a movement away from God.

In God’s grace, we have the ability to repent,

1. to acknowledge that we are wrong, incomplete, not the designer but the created, and we choose or ‘re-choose’ to follow, trust and seek God’s way. Turning away from our own strength, heart, soul, and mind and affirming our reliance on God and the people of God who are also following God.

Repentance is our way of returning to God, move from separation from God, moving back, thinking back toward God.

While we might need to repent every day. The hope in 1st John is that we might not continue to sin the first place

The Three Rules of Methodist Theology are intended to help us keep from sinning.

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do all the Good you can
  3. Participate in worship, studying, and serving and practicing the things of God so that we continually grow, moving and living in God.

The great divide in our culture is who is on the ‘correct’ side of what God is doing and believing and revealing.

We look at scripture as our first and primary resource. Jesus is our best example and our means of repentance and grace we discussed above.

Jesus preached to groups and to individuals without regard to sin, rather because all are sinful. God is revealed and shows up in Jesus because we are separated from God.

With every person, who comes to Jesus, or Jesus reaches out to be with, he accepts in sin, forgives, and calls them to sin no more.

God loves us no matter what, and is ready and willing to forgive us, but expects us to not living in the safety-net of grace.

Get back on the high-wire and live life fully, trusting God to be the source of balance, force, and function.

The three rules are simple enough to learn and remember, but built into them is the affirmation that we know without God, we are lost in sin/ we are separated from God, our purpose, our meaning, and our fulfillment.

  • If someone says that don’t need God, they likely don’t know God and cross the boundary into resisting God’s grace.
  • If someone says that DO need God, they try to trust God at times, but generally, wing-it their own way until that breaks down or becomes overwhelming.  [ The need to practice the three rules is key ]
  • If someone says that need God but are not reflecting God’s heart, they may be saying or thinking they need God but are further over the boundary from God than they suppose.

1 John is affirming that Jesus is working on you, and me and all of us and the whole world.

Keep in mind that Jesus offended many people, ‘followers and ignore-rs.’  [Our culture is lost in the murky waters of what is offensive to the destruction of us all.]

1 John reminds us that Christ is interested in loving, saving and extending grace to us all. —All who will refrain from moving away.

The test:

  • Is my way of living, thinking, acting revealing my trust of God’s word and God’s love?
  • Is my way of living, thinking and acting revealing my self-awareness that without God I am alone and lost.
  • Is my way of living, thinking and active revealing God’s desire to rescue and prevent, but not without choosing God’s saving help.

Examples: Am I loving rules more than a relationship with God?

  • Am I loving my comfort over your discomfort?
  • Am I loving my interpretation compared with what God is about to reveal to me through your faithfulness?
  • Am I loving my understanding of love more than God’s word call me to go and sin no more?
  • Sin is walking in the dark with saying “I can see fine.”

God is the light that exposes the darkness in all of us, calling us to trust Christ actions AND words.

Our culture is in a relentless attack on the body of the church, the scriptures, and the understanding of what God’s will and purpose for us truthfully is.

There is a collective and corporate sin, darkness leading into darkness for fear of the light. For the light of Christ may reveal that those who love without the Word and those who trust with Word without love are both wrong.

Back to the three rules:

The first two are directed toward our personal actions, how we love and avoid hurting.

The third is the affirmation that the Bible, the church and the traditions of the faith filter and keep us away from sin.

The key is not to keep one or two of the rules to faithfully balance all three.

  • Am I faithful in following Christ?
  • Am I a sinner?
  • Am I a United Methodist?

Practice all three rules and you will find the grace of Christ drawing you toward God and your enemies in love. This is the measure. God is not only interest in you, God longs for us all.

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