Archive for category Witness
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSA: Matthew 5:1-12]
The Roman Catholic tradition of honoring and venerating persons as Saints is to recognize that there are some persons who’s lives, and witnesses reveal God’s work and actions in concrete and remarkable ways. The added tradition of asking these persons to pray for them is similar to the practice we have when we ask our family, friends, and pray warriors add their prayers to our own.
There are ways that their tradition elevates these Saints above all the rest of us is one of the differences that are not helpful to us, but I ask you to look at what we share in common about the first two points: 1) recognizing God’s works in the lives of others, and 2) relying on others to share the burden of our spiritual journey.
The familiar selection from Jesus’s sermon on the mount, was shared on a hillside because no one building could contain the gathering of thousands, in the norther edge of this was a singular place that this enormous crowd could gather to hear Jesus without being in direct view of those who in the government or establishment would not initially come to interrupt or stop. In this very open, yet secluded spot, Jesus paints images of what the saints, the disciples, the followers, the church was to be known for doing with their lives.
The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:
- The poor in spirit
- The lost in sadness
- the simple,
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
- the merciful,
- the pure in heart,
- the peacemakers,
- those persecuted for doing what is Godly,
- those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness.
If the example of saint living is not for the exceptional example, but for all who followship Christ. The veneration of Saints by the Rom. Cath. Might be the ‘excuse-factor’ for us to not take this list seriously.
The Yoke of Christ is easy, when we share the faithful work with Christ who is ALWAYS faithful.
Think of poor example: imaging a sports team, let us say it’s a high school team, but one of the team members is a current member of the professional all-star legion hero of the sport, is playing on their team. If you take field or court and that caliber of player is on your team do you want them to help your team? Do you want to learn from their experience? Do you want to model their skills of preparation and planning for the game plan, or would you rather they sit the bench?
It would not be fair would it, but would it be helpful if your team continued to slip up, show up ill prepared, or failed to execute the plan as practiced and hoped? Sure, it would, but that is what it means to be on Christ’s team. Alone I would fail, continually; with Christ, is my only hope.
But Jesus is not taking the field with us in the way an athlete might, but there are those who are showing up in our daily lives that we have something great examples to both learn from and lean on in being the church. We rely on other Saints, and in the process, we are the Saints that others will turn in at other times.
The best news of the nine examples in the Sermon on the Mount are not a check list. We do not have to master the who list. Each of us, firming committed to know Christ is with us, working together as a collective pool, team, or church can do all things, for Christ is our strength. Do you see how these fits?
In preparing to cease the day for Christ we have cloud of witnesses both on our team, and those in training in the grapefruit league.
The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:
- The poor in spirit — those who know they have more to learn, give, and trust in Christ.
- The lost in sadness – those who have compassion and will be compassionate
- the simple, — those who know our greatest wealth is nothing that world calls value
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, — not just the hunger, but desire with passion to know and love Christ.
- the merciful, — those willing to step in and bridge with kindness without praise or glory
- the pure in heart, — those who are not using God for their own power not to please others
- the peacemakers, — those willing to see options, look for the doors in the wall, those with hope.
- those persecuted for doing what is Godly, — know all this is not easy, but willing to trust with it is inconvenient or we are not rewards nor respected by the world for our trusting God.
- those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness. – basically the same as the one before.
Here is where we need to see Christ at work in others. It inspires our faith and journey. Witnesses for us
It reminds us that we are called to inspire others with our faith and journey. Witnesses for others.
Today we remember those who have died this year, members, non-members, who have been spiritual role models for our faith, and for our world..
Today we remember that we are not waiting to be seen and names as witnesses, we are on Christ’s team and need to know that all this is not only possible, but is the fulfillment of what it means to be the church. We are on the same team. We don’t have time nor energy to listen to a world that would divide us. We are called to be at Christ’s table, on Christ’s team, in Christ’s fellowship, we are living body of Christ for the sake of the world.
As we look around all the fruit of 2020, we can see that we have not been faithful to the task. We need to 1) Repent , admit we have not been faith 2) Affirm/Reaffirm Christ in us, 3) come to the table and quench the hunger and thirst of our spirit. 4) hear the words of Jesus and the witness of the saints and get back to being, FOR THE WORLD, the presence of Christ! That will turn the world right side up!
Will you come to the table.
Everyone 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]
- When were you baptized? By whom? At what age were you baptized?
- What is the Spirit saying to the world through you as a baptized person in Christ?
- 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.
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
#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 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]
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. [John 2:13-22 NRSV]
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. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NRSV]
Think of the foolish things that Jesus did in his ministry:
- Cut ties with his family
- Entrusted 12 ordinary men to lead the church
- He does not include a body guard
- He does not find a promoter
- He does not build building
- He does not receive people at their very best, usually in their brokenness
- He does not stay in one place for very long
- He does not get a college education
- He preached to the least, the last and lost.
- He taught using simple stories
I recall one summer at the grandparents farm, my grandfather wanted my eldest cousin to cut his shoulder-length hair to be “clean and neat”. My cousin reminded my grandfather that even Jesus had long hair, (not something we know one way or the other, but tradition would suggest, but my 5th grade educated grandfather replied, “and Jesus walked everywhere he went.”
- Only once in all the travels of Jesus do we find him traveling other than by foot and he rides a donkey.
- Just when the crowds start gathering critical mass he leaves the spot light to be alone in prayer.
- Most every action and example, Jesus lives out what the world and other leaders would identify as foolish.
It was foolishness to think that one person could rebuild the temple in three days when teams of workers had been working straight for forty-six years
For all the world’s foolishness, God is working signs of power
Everyone of the sign of the world’s foolishness for Jesus is a sign of God at work, in the world, through people like you and me and the characters we see in scripture.
Think for a moment how the author of love and architect of the universe is reaching out to us through people, through struggles, through impossibilities, through life and death to connect with us and the whole world.
Awesomely foolish. Wonderfully divine!
The words of Jesus from John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter the church in Corinth call our attention toward God and not our own thoughts, success, triumphs and plans.
God is working through our brokenness, through our sin, through our failures.
When we focus on our labors, what we have earned, what we deserve, how we have figured and achieved we loose sight of God in exchange for our best.
In a very practical and plain fashion
Which is more powerful? Words of wisdom from our thinkers, theologians and politicians? Or words spoken by God, Jesus the Holy Spirit?
God continues to trust fools in the most important task for all humanity.
- You and I are the witnesses.
- We are the messengers.
- We are the ones who hold the keys,
- You and I have the first line of kingdom of God.
Why do we settle for the world’s foolishness, when God is all-in, relying on us?
One of the legs of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour is Mr Bill Engvall. His catch phrase is, “here’s your sign.” When people say things that reveal they are not at their brightest moments.
- Honey our plane hit a deer? Were you still in the air?
- Dad, I’m going to play you the theme song from Harry Potter on the piano. From the movie? No Dad, from the book.
- Covered in camouflage clothes head to toe, painted face and smelling of the woods, the Walmart Greeter asked, have you been hunting? No, I’ve been hugging trees.
Rather than worrying about signs of weather and rumors of wars and portents of end times, let’s be about sharing the signs of God’s power at work in our lives.
Signs of Foolishness
- Taking Cleaning supplies to folks who have none in Jesus Name
- Taking thread and material and covering people in prayer
- Singing songs and breaking bread for kids who are hungry for Good News at home and at camp.
- Taking the Good News we find when we gather in this place and sharing hope with the people we see at work, school, shopping and everywhere we go.
- Hearing the worry, fear, division in the world’s conversation, and reminding each other that God shows up in our greatest failures and fears to teach us grace, love and power.
These are our signs, show the world!
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. [NRSV]
Give light to the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Shining light OUT of darkness
The power of Darkness is real
• There is darkness in the oppression of the people of North Korea.
• There is darkness in the cycles of human trafficking
• There is darkness in the evil of terrorism
• There is darkness in the homes of those abused and batters
• There is darkness in the rollercoaster of addictions
• There is darkness that divides us into opposing camps
• There is darkness in the face of cancer and other diseases
• There is darkness in the loneliness and grief of loss
• There is darkness in broad daylight
• There is darkness in middle of some crowded places
• There is darkness in churches, homes and hearts among us.
And when we stand alone and even if we stand together, we are over whelmed as the ocean waves crash upon the best castle of our design and labors.
It seems like retreat and apathy rule the day and the hour and the years..
But that is when we look at darkness without the light of Christ
God is the Power Company
God so loved this broken work that he sent the only light strong and bright enough to overcome the darkness.
Our task is not to stop evil,
Our task it is cling to Christ upon the stormy sea, and from THAT place of strength and assurance: that Jesus Christ has been unveiled and revealed through us!
We step into the raging seas because
1. That is the reality of where we are
2. This is where we might best see Christ
3. This is when we and the world need hope and salvation more nearly.
We clothe, feed, comfort, and befriend because it is Christ at work in us..
We pray for healing and wholeness in Jesus’s name because God is the source
We stand with Christ because these bodies we carry suffer, and eventuality die.
We ride the rollercoaster of struggle because life fluid and always testing
We trust Christ when to step in to stop others from harm
We trust Christ when to step back and no longer remain oppressed and abused
We trust that we are powerless over evil, fear, terror, and all sin without Christ
Jesus Christ came to save sinners..
We are those who have seen light light
Jake and Elwood Blues go to James Brown’s ole Landmark Church and after hearing the good news Jake proclaims that he has seen the light of how to save the soon to be closed orphanage that was his childhood home… I can’t say that what follows is Gods work but they end up saving the children’s home even though they go back to jail.
This cult classic movie tells two truths
1. God can work through every situation for God purpose
2. When we put our name on God’s home work we are going to fail.
3. Our mission is to tell of God’s work.
Encourage one another in shining the light of Christ
What are you going to say when politics fuel start to burn you up?
Say this: “Instead of debating, fighting or disagreeing with you, I need you to pray for me to love my enemies”
• If someone is hurting, struggling, complaining, as them “how long are you going to keep working on that alone when Jesus is ready to be your strength?” E ready to be strong with that person.
• If someone is grieving or afraid, or alone, “ how long do you want to feel lost?” Offer to be Christ’s presence.
• You make ready your own conversations that lead and encourage one another to lean into, trust, stand-with Jesus.
Be the flash light, candle. lantern, headlights, spotlight, laser,… you don’t have to be the light, be the one who directs and reflects the light of Jesus Christ
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. [NRSV]
The Coach’s Gator-Aid Baptism: Acceptance and Celebration for winning or setting a record, but Christian baptism is not just a public celebration: it is about covenant making and covenant keeping.
Baptized in the Spirit vs Second Birth
Over time some churches and denominations have made more of the verse that is like intended. Some would teach that when you and I repent, acknowledge that we are sinners and believe Jesus to be our “Lord and Savior” that it is somehow a partial baptism that we must have a second baptism in the Spirit, as the sign of some spiritual maturity or marker of spiritual progress. When in fact this passage is about a lack of information, a shortcoming in the teaching and Paul wants all disciples to ha e the full story, the full benefit, and full connection as a disciple, believer and follower of Jesus.
Salvation for Wesley is the process that begins in the Holy Spirit before we are aware of what is happening, We mark our part in the process when we acknowledge Jesus Christ has died for our sins personally (thus justifying us through Grace and the Spirit), what follows in our response of becoming the person Jesus died and rose to save, the Spirit guiding us in the journey of sanctification toward the goal of wholeness in the Spirit, he called perfection.
Bottom line, if someone speaks of not having the Spirit it is actually a matter of perspective, ignorance (being misinformed or uninformed) and/or misinterpretation.
From the beginning of Creation, the Holy Spirit moved through the great chaos and spoke order and purpose. The Spirit moved in creation over the earth and was breathed into humanity giving us that very image, breath and spirit of God in us.
What makes us exceptional is that we each are Spirit-filled people, we all have the Spirit of God to credit for our life, our purpose and our meaning.
When the world denies or runs from God’s Holy Spirit
They do so in fear, misinformation, pride, personal desire to control, or a lack of experience/understanding.
So what? Our personal faith journey is to affirm we are spirit filled people, saved by Christ and living for God’s purpose, in God’s love, uniquely through each one of us.
So what’s the deal with this passage and Paul re-baptizing these folks?
- This passage is about teaching what baptism is about
- This passage s about understanding the work of the Holy Spirit
- It is for us a reminder that to be a Christian is to 1) be aware we are born of the Holy Spirit, 2) we are connected by the Spirit and 3) empowered by the Holy Spirit for Spiritual work and witness.
Part of this verse is about competing traditions:
“We have John the Baptist”… Our baptism is older and more closely connected to the first baptism, John the Baptizer, who baptized Jesus, “If John was Good Enough for Jesus, then John’s baptism is good enough for me. “Ours is the more traditional flavor.”
Paul is teaching that Baptism is the vehicle and not the destination.
It’s not owning/experiencing something, it is becoming something more important.
Paul’s correction is not saying John’s baptism was wrong, only that it conveyed part of the power:
The Two Parts of Baptism
The Jesus Part and the “my” part.
John the Baptist’s baptism was about repenting, acknowledging our sinfulness and our brokenness and that Jesus is the hope and salvation for our sins.
The second part is what difference does the Jesus part make in my life and how will accomplish my response to Jesus’s part.
Too many people settle for the utterance of words instead of the building of a relationship. Are you and I settlers?
Think of the marriage covenant:
Legally a couple is married when they have exchanged vows and pledged themselves to one another and both say the traditional, “I DO.”
But that is not the marriage, that is only the beginning of the covenant. The marriage is the journey of joys and struggles that span the time the couple shares.
Paul reminds us that we are
- Need Christ but also the Spirit
- Therefore help others find a way to grow in the Spirit
Invite someone to a life in Christ
Inquire what Baptism means to someone’s daily life
Back to School Homework
Do you remember your baptism?
Do it make any difference to you on this day?
If so how,
If not, let’s work on it together, is Paul model
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
John 3:16 “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. 17 “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.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Acts 10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Luke 15. Lost sheep, lost coin, lost child (prodigal son/elder brother)
Faith Sharing: some practical How to-s
-It is: Role as announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal
-It is not: Sharing your faith, verse persuading your point, using your faith.
Simple starting point:
1. Starting: The best way to share your faith is to start sharing your faith.
2. What to say: When it is your story
-you don’t have to figure it out,
-it is authentic, real and genuine
3. Pray for people around you.
-Pray for neighbor, even if it’s for 10 seconds.
-Pray for them to be receptive, open, willing
Start thinking of yourself as announcer: practice- “attention ladies and gentlemen..”
-think of a ball game, see the actions. Tell what you see
be an announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal
–Prayer is essential for each session of preparing
1. out pouring of the HS
2. a ew awakening by God’s church
3. the teachers and participants of the class
4. God’s grace to empower you to build relationships and share your faith
5. the world to come to know Jesus Christ
What exactly do I say? How to start?
-Begin with invitational statement
-“a send of a question within it and waits for an answers”
Example: Good weather today… That looks like a warm coat… “
TASK: Start the conversation
1. Start with a statement
2. Speak in the first person: I hope you are doing well today.
3. Know you only need one minute to get to the point
or nothing,.. either, lead to conversation of the next
-Fruit any homework: Most helpful, personal experience determined,
I hope you are doing well today.. 99 I get a smile, most people are not interested in cashiers.
TAKE ONE MINUTE
Practice the transition:
“It’s raining cats and dogs”
“Jesus said it (Matthew 5.45) rains on the good and the bad”
“I find peace knowing Jesus care about me when it rains and when the sunshine’s”
A bible verse, faith observation, that introduces faith topic
A person statement I believe
The door is open
Announce the gospel message and wait on the Holy Spirit, and follow HS lead
Why share our faith?
-Christ commanded, not suggested, maybe you should make disciples, nope, you shall
-Christ loves disciples, we are more willing to do something asked by someone who loves us.
-We know what is at stake for us and for those who do not know,
Some success stats
Why should we refresh / share our faith?
77% people become disciples through someone they trust
a year of trust building make be required to earn/build trust
we have to be plain and clear, we can no longer use Christina language
we can no longer depend solely on programs of the church
many people have difficulty building new relationships with new persons.
lots of people have no christian memory
Reasons we stop Sharing (of Church people)
-unaware of sin 1%
-indifferent to sin 16% they live as they want, self id as Xtn, but don’t care
-worried about sin 39% (have not moved on, still worried)
-Forgiven from sin 9% (unhappy members, unfulfilled
-39% Forgiving/Active in Church 24% of those 89% have stopped being transformed or refreshed
Churches historically have been teaching that when you become a member that’s it, your done
11% (Even to 11% need to step it up)
6% have a holy discountent (Know the core, but
3% broken by God ( God will make life good and easy)
1% surrendered / submitted (Do what you will)
0.5% have a profound love for God.
0.5% love for people. (Isnt this the greatest commandment ) love God and neighbor.
NO WONDER WE ARE NOT WITNESSING
Mentally/Spiritually Want to be BUILDING NEW relationship everywhere we go, example is Jesus not at other example
DAILY INITIATING ONE MINUTE CONVERSATIONS
….more practice next week
Therefore one must be subject [to authorities], not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason, you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [NRSV]
Faith Sharing: Early in our journey toward sharing the gift of our faith, we need to address the WHY question. Why share our faith. Over the next few weeks, we will explore some basic reason WHY we share our faith.
Today’s text from Paul in his letter to the church in Rome we will look at two:
- Because of Love
- Because we have limited Time
Paul reminds us of Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor. God loves us and how to relate and interact with others around us reflects and influences others.
Invest/Trust/Living Sharing LOVE
- Don’t get side tracked with politics, trust God is using every authority for God. If they are not, they must answer to God, err on the side of being a responsible citizen.
- Don’t get weighted down with debt, If you must be in debt, do so in showing love, respect, and honor, to THOSE who it is due.
- Do not split hairs over the law of the land or the church, devote your selves to loving sinners, so they/we will go sin no more.
Look at the times, read the signs, know it is closer to the end than the beginning.
Live as though the test is TODAY, rather than next week.
Our physical bodies, our earthly structures, our laws and rules, needs and wants need to be focused on what is spiritual, Godly, and Christ-like.
- Live worried about your wealth of love instead of things
- Live focused on caring for sinners instead of comforting the found.
- Live devoted to satisfying the hunger of your spiritual relationship/s, for eternity instead of pacifying your physical urges and weaknesses.
Our Question: Why do we need to be sharing our faith with others?
We who know love trumps and triumph over all, need to show a
- self-gratifying society,
that accepting world’s idea of good and the world’s understanding of love is not the love that stands with you in ‘firey’ furnace.
How do we share our faith in these conditions?
- One way is by honoring and respecting those whom honor and respect are due.
- One way is by being the best citizen and neighbor under the laws of the world’s authorities. If any leader, authority or government is not Godly, the leaders and representatives will be accountable,
- One way is loving sinners, as sinners, who a seeking to not be sinners. (We don’t love a gambler by betting our farm when they have lost theirs, we love them but help them make new better choices.)
Why not let someone else share their faith?
- God loves you and me. God instructs that we respond to love by loving. We have skin in the game because we have been loved, we respond in love.
- Jesus is coming soon and you and I have to answer for those we have not reached out to love.
Examples of Loving
Jesus gave the command to feed, clothe, visit and encourage not as an exclusive list of rules/laws to fulfill, but as examples of everyday loving…
Love those who need to be loved so that your loving acknowledges God’s love.
Witness Trusting God by being honorable, respectful, contributing the good of neighbors and citizens. AND let people know that is your drive/motive/purpose.
Model for your neighbors: honor, respect, and responsibility so they see you trust God.
Love, not so that they see YOU are a good person, rather that they KNOW God’s love drives you.
Participate in community responsibility not so they approve of you, but they see God can conquer brokenness.
The Temptation is to leave the light shining on ourselves.
This is the daily, “home work”
love others, participate in community life
1. In response to God’s love, AND
2. with the urgency that the world comes to know Christ through your faithfulness.
Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. [NRSV]
Jesus the parable painter
- Mustard seed
- Treasure hidden
Every story is a out the same thing. The kingdom of Heaven. Billy Graham preached for all his years and always the same sermon: Jesus Christ and him crucified fir our sins.
Parables train us for what is new and old.
Scripture through the eyes of
Not any one or two of the other.
The Old is the scripture the new is the contemporary context. Jesus is giving the new as examples of the old
Jesus is establishing building blocks: look at the pieces.
The kingdom of heaven is larger and with more purpose then we can imagine
The kingdom of heaven spreads and transforms whatever it comes in contact with
The kingdom of heaven is worth security and investing in pursuing
The kingdom of heaven is something to be searched for and pursued and is worth more than what we have
The invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to a home but not everyone will find it is their home for eternity.
The kingdom of heaven:
1. TKoH is more than we expect
2. TKoH is to be shared
3. TKoH is worth the journey
4. TKoH cost everything
5. TKoH is open to all but all will not find it home
- begins here and now
- Is found when we share it
- Is the labor of our life
- Is priceless
- Some will give it up
Is Gods Heavenly Kingdom
- Something you are experiencing
- Are you Sharing it
- Is your life devoted to loving God completely more than thinking God correctly
- Are you at home in God, with the People of God now?
Bottom line: get to
- giving & sharing
- loving & trusting
- Building & doing and
- worshiping & growing
Or else (Parables can kick us in the butt)
- You just have a seed stuck in you shoe
- You just have the ingredients but no cake
- You just have treasure but never use it
- You just stay busy without joy
- You talk and think but are like the grass that withers when it dies.
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. [NRSV]
We know too well many ways to ignore, reject, and avoid sharing our faith and allowing others into our faith journey. This passage warns us of the consequences of pushing others away. Don’t tell folks to talk to the hand, share the hand of Christ who loves, saves and calls us into life together.
Acknowledging Jesus is With Us
- Talking About who Jesus was, is and will be is the easiest and beginning point of our promise to Witness Jesus Christ.
- Learning the stories, details, and information about Jesus is the foundation, but it is only our starting point.
- More people stop at this place and find know many things about Jesus something of which to be proud and comfortable
- Example: you and I might know many stats and details about a person who plays a sport and many seasons of many players, but that never assumes that we are on the field ourselves. But knowing the rules, stats and stories are a place to begin to connect.
Acknowledging Jesus Saves Us
- Developing a Relationship with Jesus begins in a relationship with the people of Jesus’s body, church folks.
- We live in a an era where we have to earn the respect and opportunities to share the church’s message.
- No longer can we assume we have a voice in the community.
- No longer can we take a pass waiting for someone to ask us about Jesus
- No longer can we bemoan or complain about how easy the church once had a central role.
- Now is the time for the church to rekindle and reclaim that faith story of salvation, hope, and love we assume the world knows, trusts and believes.
Acknowledging Jesus is Shaping Us
- The Good News is acknowledging Jesus is not a regurgitating of historical information to a lost and hurting world.
- Acknowledging Jesus is giving the invitation to join in a spiritual journey where the answers unfold along the way.
- Acknowledging Jesus is seeking Jesus’s story is woven through our story.
- Acknowledging Jesus is finding our role is leading others to follow, as we follow Jesus.
- Acknowledging Jesus is placing our purpose in the heart of the one who died and lives for our present and our future.
I challenge you to acknowledge Jesus Today
- Find someone here today and practice: Tell how you become a follower of Jesus,
- Tell someone why you continue to grow as a following of Jesus
- Confess a struggling place you fail without Jesus’s saving help.
- Give someone the opportunity to give their brokenness, emptiness, questions, doubts, and fear to Jesus.
Together we find ourselves in sharing ourselves in Christ. This is the daily work:
- Lord, I am broken without you, Save me again today,
- lead me in your work even though I don’t deserve or even know how to start again,
- I recognize, affirm, acknowledge, proclaim and accept, you complete me. Make me yours
- Make us restore us in the ways you have worked, hoped and created us to become.
- Go Repeat, share and lead others