Archive for September, 2017

Home Coming Sunday 2017 RSUMC

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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.

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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.

 

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Romans 14:1-13 Share Faith: Encouragement and Accountability

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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

  1. Be Ready. be prepared to share: (Prayed up, studied up, practiced up, and looking for opportunities.
  2. Think about
    1. The difference of what inspires you and what motivates you.
    2. What is the difference between what scares you into action and what compels you to action?
    3. 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:

  1. When I do and see how God uses our conversations to open hearts and minds that were closed.
  2. When I ready and prepare to share my faith, God does not let that preparation go to sit still for very long.
  3. 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.
  4. If they realize gaps and holes in their foundations, then God uses those as places to share my faith.
  5. Songs, stories, and movies that capture a moment of for God encourage in the moment and become faith conversations in the future.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.

Faith Encouragement:

My faith perspective might seem wrong/hurtful/different/old-school to you, I would be an encouragement to me to know:

  1. what brings you hope when you are depressed,
  2. how do you find joy when you sad,
  3. where do you find the strength to do what seems impossible?
  4. 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:

  1. Don’t judge
    1. Takes personal prayer, study and maturity of faith
  2. Act, think, speak in Christ-like ways
    1. List/Identify how Jesus treated people who struggle, sin, search and surround him.
      1. To the sinner, he invites into the fellowship, table, well,
      2. To the sick, he invites into wholeness
      3. To the separated, he enters their home
      4. To the closed minded, he opens convertations
      5. To the
  3. Practice supportive examples and stay involved.
    1. Invite to Sunday School
    2. follow up. if SS is not for you how do you study/grow
    3. suggest studies, groups, others,
    4. ask to share with them in their disciplines
    5. set time/date to check in
    6. wait
    7. follow-up and try another suggestion,
    8. repeat.

Ways to encourage without judging:

  1. Send a card, note, email, text, phone call or face-to-face expression care for the person.
  2. Pray for this person and the need, struggle, concern truing God to open doors, hearts, minds and spirits.
  3. Discern how many people/relationships you can actively support. and
    1. try adding more than you can handle alone and
    2. replace new people/relationship when closure comes.
  4. 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)

  1. Do no harm: “Don’t lead with judgment” let God sort that our for now.
  2. Do all the good: “Encourage rather than just motivate.
  3. 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.

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1 Corinthians 1:18-24 Sharing Foolishness

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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.

Our response

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.

Perspective:

  1. Tradition tells us the successes and failures of the past: learn from mistakes and successes.
  2. 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.
  3. Experience is the direct effect of God, Jesus, The Spirit, and the church that reveals something that tradition and reason cannot.

Remember:

  1. 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.)
  2. Love cannot be summed up by ideas, scientific study, research, and theories.
  3. Blame/Fault does not mend spirit, heart, minds: This is God’s work in us.
  4. 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.

Examples

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.

Home Work:

  1. 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.

 

 

 

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Romans 13:5-14  Faith Sharing: Love and Time

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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:

  1. Because of Love
  2. Because we have limited Time

LOVE Motivation

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.

Limited Opportunity

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.

THE PROBLEM

  • 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

  • divided,
  • self-serving,
  • 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The Caveat

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.

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Matthew 16:21-28 “Worth the Journey”

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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:

    • wholeness,
    • justice,
    • freedom,
    • meaningful relationship,
    • worth, value and
    • sacrifice.

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..

  1. Step one for today: Pray that I am not a stumbling block. (At least don’t let me lead someone astray)
  2. Step two for today: know it is a daily choice to walk with Christ ourselves
  3. 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

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