Sunday, May 21, 2006

May 21, 2006--New Life and Spring Stuff

Note: This is not a transcript of the sermon delivered. This posting is based upon the loose outline notes used by the pastor in delivering the sermon. Actual sermon may have varied. No recording available. Sorry.

Text: John 11:25-26

This is a funny time of year. You see so many weddings, so many new beginnings. We have graduations. We have the beginnings of new life. I attended a wedding yesterday. A friend of mine got married to her lifetime love. It was special. There is something about brides, in their gowns. Something that no matter who or what, just makes them resplendent. The same for graduating students. Just something special, so full of promise, about this time. The weddings and the graduations signify new life, a new beginning. We feel renewed by these things. We may even remember our own younger days, and be buoyed by seeing others go through the same things we did. However, there is a better feeeling with being born again, committing to Christ.

This earthly feeling of renewal can lead us to an indestructible feeling. How many folks feel love for the first time in spring today and decide to get married before their time? How many people feel indestructible after graduation, and they make a stupid decision to go too fast, to drink too much, etc? How many are sacrificed because of that feeling? How many relationships are sacrificed when one is reminded of younger days? This feeling of earthly renewal, is not always a good thing.

However, renewal through Christ is different. It leads only to salvation. It leads only to a new perspective. It leads to peace, not unbridled desire. It leads to understanding, not malevolence. It leads to a new perspective that we cannot take our times and things for granted. We are on limited time, so we must focus, have a purpose, and serve the Lord.

The earthly renewal fades. As summer turns to fall, we lose that feeling of youth and fancy free. We turn to obligations and the winter ahead. Things don't seem to have the luster they did in Spring and summer. With the renewal of the Spirit, we always feel the joy of the Spirit, even in our sorrows. With the renewal of the Spirit, we bear fruit even in the coldest winter. With the renewal of the Spirit, we realize that all things work to the Good, we see more of God's plan, and it builds our faith, leading to more peace and serentiy.

My prayer is that we will be renewed more and more by the Spirit, and that it wil embolden us, that it will give us power and understanding, that it will bring us closer to God, that it will give us better perspective.

May 14, 2006--MOTHER'S DAY--God and Mom's Love/Sacrifice

Note: This post is not a transcript of an actual sermon. It is taken from the loose outline notes used by the pastor in delivering the sermon. Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No recording available. Sorry.

: Exodus 2:1-4, 1 Kings 3:26; John 15:13

Happy Mother's Day, one and all. This is the time when we think about Moms and what they have done for us. For some, it is remembering our mothers who have gone on to be with the Lord, for others, it is taking Mom out to dinner. Today, I would like to look at Moms and their love and compare it to God's love for us. My supposition is that Mom's love is the very embodiment of the nurturing love God has for us. My supposition is that Mom's love is the very essence of the caring God has for us, that prompted Him to lay down His Son for us.

You know, the other day, I was looking at some pictures. It was the picture of a girl fresh out of high school, with a poofy hat on, long dark hair, holding one of those old style phones to her ear. She had a certain twinkle in the eye, a certain something. Then, close by, was another picture...this one of a woman older, in her 60s, with short curly hair, and she was sitting next to some children. However, there was that same twinkle in the eye. It was the same person. It was my maternal grandmother. I also saw another picture, of a girl on a farm in Clinton County, looking out enthusiastically to the world as she sat on the grass. Then, I saw another picture, this time of a woman with glasses, lighter hair, and a little bit of seasoning. The same love in the eyes was there, however. Mothers are like that. There is something special about them.

These women were special. Both of these young women were bright, they could have done lots of things. However, both decided to settle down and raise families. Both of them sacrificed much. They sacrificed careers, they sacrificed their hopes and dreams. They sacrificed their lives, in a sense. They gave of themselves so that their children would see life. This is cliche, but it is true. If it were so readily a characteristic, would we have the amount of unborn murders we have today, if that twinkle were something so easily gotten? The sacrifice of mothers is something special. In many ways, the example of moms' sacrifice is the very image of God.

God sacrificed a portion of Himself, His Son, part of the Godhead, in order to save us. Mothers sacrifice their youth, their vigor, to see us come to full maturity. Likewise God sacrificed a portion of Himself to bring us closer to maturity, and He nurtures us, much as even when we are long gone from being babes, our Moms still nurture us, even if we are too dumb to know we still need that nurturing.

And, unfortunately, like Moms, God is often put in a box and taken for granted. We take out the love and the caring when we want it, then we hang up the phone or tell mom goodbye. We take out God when we need Him, but when we feel sure of ourselves, back He goes into the box. We need to stop that. We need to quit taking our moms for granted. We need to quit taking our God for granted. Unfortunately, Moms will not be here with us always, though their lessons and love long endure. We have the memories but we wish we stil had the times. Likewise, we can't keep putting off God forever. There will come a time when He won't take the box approach anymore. And it will be disastrous for us.

Mothers Day, just as church day, should not be just once a year or once a week, it should be everyday. We need to honor our moms and our God every day, not just one special day. However, often we get bogged down. So, if only for today, Moms, we Love you, we need you, thank you. Now go out and love your moms, and realize that by loving them, you are loving an essence of the Lord as well, and that we need to love God just as much as well.

May 7, 2006--Christianity as Political Campaign?

Note: This post is not a transcript of the sermon. It is based on the loose outline notes used by the pastor in delivering the sermon. Actual sermon may have differed. No recording available. Sorry.

Text: James 1:5-6; Proverbs 3:5; Ecclesiastes 3:17

Well, it is good to be back here at home with you all. This has been an interesting and humbling week in some cases. We had a primary this past Tuesday, and I was working closely with two campaigns. Neither was a winner once the votes were tallied. Both campaigns lost. What a humbling experience! However, it was also a learning experience. As I reflected on what might have been, I also had some other thoughts.

In some ways, we are both candidate and campaign worker in an election, in terms of being Christians, or those who follow Christ. More about being a candidate later, for now, I want to talk about us as workers in the great Campaign of Christ. The good news is, He's already won, really. The bad news is, there is a lot of work when working on a campaign. Let's think about what it takes to be a good campaign worker and apply it to our Christian walk.

First, we must be sure of our candidate. We have to be sure this is the person we want to sweat, bleed, and work for. We have to believe in the candidate. We have to value what is being fought for. Can we think of a better candidate to believe in than Christ? Ok.

Now, we also have to know the candidate's position. Yep, time to hit the books, or in this case, the Good Book. When you work on a campaign, your own positions become nil and you take on the positions of the candidate. You live the candidate's positions, you talk them, you walk them, you live them. Likewise, we need to do the same in this campaign. Here is the great thing though. In real campaigning, you can disagree with the candidate, you can have divergence on what is right. Here, we are guaranteed of being right if we follow this Candidate's position. However, to find what it is, we have to discern it through study in the Bible. We have to read the teachings, ask for discernment, meditate on them, and pray for guidance and insight. Then, having done that and getting what we seek, we will be better workers for God's campaign.

Next, we have to be willing to work...hard...for a candidate, as well as take a stand. You have to be willing to put out yard signs, bang the pavement, knock on doors, open minds. Likewise, as a Christian, we are called upon to spread God's word. We are called upon to spread the Gospel through interactions with others. Sometimes this takes a lot of guts as well as a lot of work. Taking a stand is also key to both campaigning as well as living a Christian life. We have to be firm in our conviction for our candidate.

WE have to not listen to the deceptions and misinformation about our candidate, and there is a lot out there. We have to listen to the candidate, and follow His lead. We have to believe in Him, not in the disinformation. When we have doubts, we need to bring them before the Candidate, to find out the straight scoop. Here is the good news. There is no skeleton in this candidate's closet. However, there are tempting offers to jump ship by the other guys. There are whispers meant to make us doubt and leave this campaign. However, our candidate is the only true winner. He has already won. We need to realize we would be fools to jump ship. We need to realize our rewards will be so much greater than what the opposition can give us. However, that will not stop the opposition from engaging in dirty tricks, intimidation, bribing, cheating. However, if we stay with our candidate, stay above the fray, we will win with our Candidate.

Another important thing for campaign workers is having a great campaign manager. Ours is a great one--the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is that still small voice urging us on, being a cheerleader at times and a boss at others, just as a campaign manager does. And the best news is, this one never gets tired or needs time off. With culling the best of the best from the populace under the Holy Spirit, and with the power of the Candidate, we will not lose. Christ Himself, ala Joe Namath, guarantees it. However, this truly is a sure thing, unlike earthly guarantees.

So, in some ways we could be compared to campaign workers, getting the word out about our candidate, Christ. However, we are not voting to elect Christ. He is, was, and always will be the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. In many ways, we are running for office. We will be voted upon by an electorate of one, Christ. We are striving to be elected to the Heavenly eternity, the body of the Chosen. We have to beleive the texts, so to speak of our Party, the Body of Christ. We have to stand on the promises that Christ says we must follow, we have to pledge our allegiance to God's principles. We have to follow the advice of that campaign manager, the Holy Spirit. We have to resist the temptations outside the campaign, the vices, etc. that would distract us. And, most importantly, like all candidates, we will have a record of what we have done that we cannot hide from. We cannot hide our mistakes from this electorate. We cannot keep things hush hush. However, we can be up front with this Electorate and ask forgiveness, for the remission of the sins. If we do that before Election Day, we might yet win. However, if we do not, or even if we do, the truth is for all, we will be judged according to our record. It is up to us to decide to run on truth or on something else. I, for one, pray, that that we will all meet up again together at the victory rally when Christ comes again to cast the votes!

April 30, 2006--Gideon Sunday

Charles Grimes gave a message and presentation about the ministry of the Gideons. Pastor was delivering a message at Decatur UMC. Brother Grimes spoke at length about the work of the Gideons, and his message was well received.

April 23, 2006--Born Again

Note--Post is taken from loose outline notes of the Pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have differed. No recording available. Sorry!

Text: John 3:1-8

We often times banty about the term born again. We have talked about it here from time to time. However, I think many misunderstand what it means, where it comes from, as well as the true nature of being born again. I think it is a topic that we need to revisit from time to time, and I think that it is a topic we need to cover frequently and correctly.

When Adam disobeyed the Lord, he became dead to God. He died to God. Dead to God is total separation from Him and the Divine Presence. We can see the proof of Adam's separation with God in Genesis. When God called out for Adam and Eve after they sinned, they had completely forgotten the loving nature of God. They had forgotten the love He had showed them and they hid in the trees.

In Adam, all died. Even the unborn. Every human since has been born into this life spiritually deficient, in some cases dead to God. While there may be a recognition of a higher power, it is not coherent and clear. Our human nature is forever corrupted by Adam's sin. We are all born separated in a great deal from God. This forms the basis of being born again. This notion of being born again was not a foreign concept to Israelites and the Jews. When someone converted to Judiasm, they were said to be born again to the faith.

There is no explanation of how it is done, philosophically, physically. There is no anatomy of this process. It is a mystery. It is something that must be taken on faith. There is no explanation for how the spirit works in the Soul. However it does have to do with the melting of the old heart and the birth of a new one. Another thing we do know is that while this is a spiritual not physical birth, it does have some similarities to natural birth and the birthing process.

Like the unborn child, we before our rebirth have eyes but don't see exactly. We have ears, but they are dulled. We have an imperfect use of the senses in the womb. Likewise, in our worldly, pre-Born again phase, we see and hear things which are spiritual, with some understanding of something more there. However, we do not fully see. We do not fully understand. As soon as we are born from the womb, in a physical sense, we see light and objects. We hear sounds clearer. Our eyes and ears are opened. Likewise, when we are born again, our spiritual eyes and ears are opened, and those muffled sounds become the beautiful noises and sounds of God and the Spirit. Our eyes and senses of spirtual understanding are opened. Are ears are opened to hear the Good News fully.

This is the essence of being born again. This is what Christ means when he tells us about being born again. This is what we all need to feel like, the newborn babes, cleaned off from the womb, ready to grow in the Spirit and teaching of Christ, when our new hearts, our new essence, comes bursting from the old heavy heart of the world. I pray if we have not found that new birth, that it would come for us soon. I pray that we will choose to deal with the birthing pains of being born again, of discernment, of study, of being ridiculed, of going through all of this and more, because the rewards are so worth it, just as the reward of going through labor is the new life of a beautiful baby, likewise what we get is a beautiful child of God, waiting to grow into a fully formed Christian. The great part is that that will happen when we are reunited with Christ eternally, and He will lead us and teach us Himself. I pray we accept the gift of a new life, of a new chance. It is the only way to live eternally, or we will once again be as Adam after the Fall, dead to and separated from God. And that is so lonely a place, so dreadful. The alternative is so much better and beautiful, growing up as God's loved ones, as His children, being nurtured and protected by God as children are by parents. Please, I implore you if you haven't, seek to be born again! It is the only way....

April 16, 2006-EASTER SUNDAY- He is Risen!

Text: John 20:1-18
Sermon based on this text. What follows is the New International Version translation of John 20:1-18..God Bless!

1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

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