Archive for category Faith-sharing

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]

Leave a comment

Mark 1:21-28 Living with Authority

capernaum

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. [NRSV]

Capernaum was home to the alternate to the Jerusalem temple for the people in the Galilean region to come and worship. It was also the home of Peter and near where the Jordan River emptiness into the sea of Galilee and also need the area where the Sermon on the Mountain was delivered to the gathers of ten thousand.

In some ways, Capernaum was the home to Contemporary worship and Jerusalem home to traditional worship. Jerusalem was a small big urban centre and Capernaum was a big little town for fishers and farmers. Jerusalem was an urban hub of politics and religion.

Mark’s newspaper-like account of the story of Jesus connects Jesus spiritual cleansing as a new teaching:

Everywhere from Jerusalem to Galilee and all places between folks had folks filled with spiritual dysfunction, possession, strange physical illness, mentally ill, all sorts of manifestation that get lumped into ‘filled with evil spirits. The typical remedy was for people to live outside the city wall as “UNCLEAN” and people separated themselves from what they could not change and could not mend.

Jesus silenced the evil, removed the evil and restored the man to health and into the community. It reminds me of the character, Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women:

Julia: “I’m saying this is the South, and we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ’em right down to the living room and show ’em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”

Phyllis: Oh? And which side are yours on Mrs Sugarbaker?

Julia: Both. (Southern Living article: 13 of Julia Sugarbaker’s Best Takedowns on Designing Women, https://www.southernliving.com/culture/julia-sugarbaker-designing-women-quotes)

The perspective of the community was that Jesus was teaching something new, drew on a different authority and was something worth sharing with other people.

  • New will only get us so far before we need “new and improved”
  • We will share all kinds of news with other people, good and bad
  • The different piece is authority

Authority: is approved use of power.

The Good News is that Jesus entrusted to disciples and now to us through the Spirit, the authority of God as the church.

  • As the chur, h we have allowed politics to steal our authority.
  • We have let historical misuse of the power defame our authority.
  • We have allowed others who use God’s power for evil to speak for us unchallenged.
  • With so many speaking evil in the name of truth…

These other voices say: you don’t even need to talk about your faith because you don’t have anything to do with us.” Have you come to destroy us?

Jesus was about silencing evil and allowing the people of God to speak.

A restoring of authority.

  • Remind your neighbor, you have the AUTHORITY, the power: to prayer, love, forgive, heal, bless, teach, restore, trust, lead, witness, and many more things.
  • Is this the week you remain quiet and blame evil or is this the time you speak grace, love and truth and healing and all the other witnesses of God’s power through you?
  • Living as one with authority, don’t just possess a spiritual carry-permit, speak the word that restore the kingdom of God. This is our work, this is our mission.

God in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit: Make disciples, speak truth to evil, transform instead of blame, heal instead of complain, love instead of divide. show of the power of God, Evil does not have the authority it claims in outlives, speak God’s healing word.

Leave a comment

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

Can

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.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: