Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 30, 2006--Take it Or Leave It

Note: Sermon taken from Loose Outline Notes of Pastor, actual sermon delivered may have varied. No video available...sorry.

Scripture: Revelation 22:7, 12-16
You know, we have been talking about the New Life of Christianity, and we hit upon some of it last week. Some people may have some issues with this new life. One objection may be that it is unfair that this new life we speak of should be confined to people hwo have heard of Chrsit and been able to believe in Him? What about those who havent? The truth is that God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. WE do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yoruself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own lttle cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man's fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.

Anotehr possible objection is this: why is God landing in this enemy occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? First of all, we are not so secretive with our values as the world is. Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, we Christians think and KNOW that iHe is going to land in force, we don't know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you or I would have thought much of some French guy who waited til the Americans showed up and were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God WILL invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directl in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the World. When the author walks out on the stage the play is over. it will be the end. There will be no more time to choose.

However, God is holding off the massive, D day style invasion because he loves us, His creation, so much that He wants as many of us saved as possible. You cannot tell me some of the more militant angels up there, given what is going on in our world and in some cases in the church as a whole, are not ready to come down and kick some tail? However, Christ is holding them back, not because of fear, but because of love.

God is going to invade, all right: butwhat is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--entered in something so beautiful to some of us and so scary and horrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; soemthing so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or terror inot every creature. It will be too late then to choose our side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. We will be revealed for who and what we are at that time. It will not be the time for choosing, it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now today, this is the moment. It is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. Look at today's headlines. It could be getting closer. It is up to us to use the time wisely. it is up to us to choose God's side and His divine deal...take it or leave it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

July 23, 2006--When I Woke Up This Morning....

Note: Posts are taken from loose outline notes of sermon. Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No recording available sorry.

Scripture: Matthew 5:48; 13:31-2

Let's talk about a real problem with the Christian life. It comes where people do not usually look for it. it comes at the very moment we wake up in the morning. At that first moment, when the cameras come on and the day starts, the hopes and wishes and dreams and fears and desires come rushing at us.

Our first job, then is to push them all back, instead of listening to them, and lsiten instead to that other voice, taking the other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, but quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. It becomes then, standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings, coming in out of the wind.

At first, we can only do it for moments at a time. But from these moments the new life will be spreading out into our system. In some ways it is an exercise of endurance, of building up the muscle of our faith. It is the difference between paint, which just covers the surface, and dye, which soaks rightg through. He never talked in vague idealism. Christ said, Go and be perfect. he meant it. He meantt that we must go in for the full treatment.

WE don't want that though. WE want a compromise where we can just have the veneer of the full treatment. However, this is impossible. it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it is a sight harder for it to fly while remaining an egg.

We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinatealy being just an ordinary, decent, egg. You must be hatched or go bad.

This is actually the whole of Christianity. It is not our works, not our missions, not our buildings. Just as it is easy to think about the government having a lot of different objects like military, political and economic service. However, it is simpler than that. The government exists simply to promote and to protect the happiness of its citizens. In the same way, the church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, buildings, services, etc. and even the Bible are a waste of time. jGod became man for no other purpose but to draw us to Him. In fact, it may be said that the whole universe was created for no other purpose.

July 16, 2006--Does the World Need Superman?

Note: This post is based on the loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivery of sermon may have varied. No video available. Sorry.

Scripture: Isiah 53:1-6; John 8:12; 14:6-7; Romans 8:1-2

Look! Up in the sky! It is a bird! It's a plane! It's know how it goes. Superman is back in the theatres, and of course, I had to go see it. I love superheroes. Something about them, represents our dreams as well as our highest aspirations, our capacity for good. Well, as I watched Superman and saw some scenes, I began to think about if the world really does need a superman, something that was addressed in the film.

I see some similarities between Christ and this alien fella, Kal-El. Both are strange visitors from elsewhere, Supes being from Krypton and Christ being from Heaven. Both were given powers and abilities far beyond mortal men, and both could do amazing things. Both fought for good and truth justice, and the American way. Well, when Christ was around, there wasn't an America, but you get my drift. Both were ridiculed and rejected. Clark Kent, a good and noble boy, kept his powers secret in plain view, and was ridiculed for being a good person. Christ in like manner was rejected by those whom He came to save. Both were men who at times seemed full of sorrows. Both were sent by their fathers for the good of humanity, in fact, the Superman films borrow a great deal from Christian theology in this respect. In the first movie, and in this new one, Jor-el says that part of the reason he sent little Kal to earth was our capacity or good, and our need to be shown the light. In like manner, Christ was sen tot us in the same way. God created us, He knew we could do good, just we lacked the Light. He brought us that light.

Both Christ and Superman have the ability to change the course of history, and both did. Superman through his acts of heroism, Christ through His sacrifice. So, I see a lot of Christ in Superman. However, Superman could be defeated by Kryptonite. Superman could not see through lead. Most of all Superman is a fictional character, while Christ is real, alive and able to overcome all, even death, to save us.

Back to the movie. You see, it has been five years since Superman up and disappeared. Life has gone on, Lois Lane is now a single mother, engaged, when all of a sudden, he shows back up. And, who was the person who in the interim wrote a prize winning story on "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman?" One Lois Lane.

Her logic is that people don't need to be rescued, they don't want a savior. Well,Lois says that people don't need a savior, don't need a superman. Superman takes her up for a flight so she can see the world below, and he says, you know, you say that, and I hear others saying it, but I hear and see about everything. And I hear and see people every day, every hour, crying out to be saved, crying out for a savior.

See, Lois, and the humanists and those who don't believe in God are wrong. WE do need a superman. There are things beyond our control that only someone beyond us can help with. However, here is the good news, we have a superman. His name is Jesus. Both Christ and Superman gave up their own lives for the betterment of us all. However, Christ gave us something superman cannot--eternal life, and the power of the holy spirit. The world doesn't need the comic superman, because we already have the real one, Jesus! And, Jesus can act through us. So, don't go looking for that Red S underneath the suit, look for the J.

If we cry out, Jesus will save us. If we tell Him our needs, He will provide and protect. And, if we keep the faith, if we stay true to our Superman, then one day, we truly can Look, Up in the Sky....

July 9, 2006--Missing Sermon

Notes from the July 9th Sermon have unfortunately been lost. My apologies...editor

July 2, 2006--The Urge to be Free--a Declaration

Note: This sermon borrows heavily from one given by my friend, my brother in Christ, Jack Morehart, at Mt. Nebo UMC, 5 July 1992. No video of either sermon available. Sorry!

Scripture: Galations 5 (emphasis verse, 5:1)

On July 4th 1776, 56 men with great courage signed a parchment to be sent to the king of England saying in part, "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with Certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We...appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world...solemnly publish and declare that these Unitd Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown and all political connection between them...And for the support of thsi declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence (that's God, by the way), we mutually pledge to each otehr our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

The Declaration of Independence declares a political freedom to live life, to feel liberty, and to pursue happiness--all unalienable rights endowed by God. But, this political freedom does not guarantee that any of us shall actually experience life, liberty, and happiness. For, evil can limit life, bind liberty, and whisk away happiness. Each of us, though can courageously sign our own Declaration of Independence to absolve oursleves from the crown of the prince of evil.

Upon what basis may we declare freedom? The World of God says, "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Gal. 5:1a). How has Christ set us free? Theologians wrestle with what really took place upon the cross, how freedom occurred. CS Lewis in the theological fairy tale, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, depicts the mechanism for freedom as a prisoner exchange (See Hebrews 9J:15; Colossians 1:22-3, 1 Peter 3:18). The great good lion, Aslan, voluntarily becomes a prisoner of the wicked witch in exchange for the freedom of the bad little boy, Edmund. The witch in spiteful ahtred then kills the lion, her arch enemy. But the boy, he is free. We are that boy, some would say, and I would tend to agree.

The mechanism for freedom is not so important as the fact. Christ has set us free. When we believe this, we in essence declare our freedom. "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)

But the Word of God continues with this command, "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1b) The loud and clear implication is that we can fall back into slavery.

well what kind of slavery does this mean? Two kinds: one is a slavery to rules, to a list of does and donts. It was a big deal whether the Gentile Christians had to do everything written in the Jewish Old Testament. The answer is no. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself." (Galations 5:14; James 2:8)And, that royal law is written upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17). Further, almost at the birth of the church, the council of Jerusalem said, "you are to abstainf rom food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. Youi will do well to avoid these things." (Acts 15:29)

That slavery doesnt seem so hard to avoid. But, Paul describes a second kind of slavery. It is a slavery to what Paul calls the "sinful nature." He elaborates on the "sinful nature" as: idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish amibtion, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like." (Gal. 5:20-21a) Wow, what a list.

Now, I observe that each of these enslavers starts as a feeling or a thought and that sooner or later these thoughts or feelings will prompt a worng actino. I call these nasties "pattern sins." By this, I mean our minds travel down the same pahtways when a stimulus occurs with predictable actions, following as the night the day.

Let me give an example of a friend of mine. In England a number of years ago, the fashion craze was for women to go braless. While walking down the most fashionable streets of London, it was not always easy for my friend to remember that he was looking for Arab men to give Christian literature to.

Pattern sin is like driving a car in the early nineteen hundreds. On a dirt road a sign read, "Choose your rut carefully." The meaning? If you didn't know which rut to get into, at the fork in the road you might be forced to go the wrong way.

What ruts do we get into? Those big ruts of rage, envy, jealousy, drinkin etc. are obvious, but waht about smaller ruts of grouchiness, gloominess, sexual fantasy, little cutting remarks, manipulation, worrying about money or anything, junk food eating, vegging out? I suspect hat each of us could name at least one thing we do repeatedly, a little rut, a pattern that we wish we wouldn't do.

"A person is a slave to whatever has mastered him or her." (2 Peer 2:19) So even a little rut takes away some freedom of life, liberty and happiness, doesn't it?

Fortunately, God builds superhighways that we can ride on with great freedom, with no ruts or potholes. Back to my friend in London. He prayed that God would give him the ability to look only at people's faces. It worked! In fact, it became much easier to stop and talk with arab men and be a genuine witness for Christ.

so how does God help us maintain or even increase the freedom of our minds and feelings? Very simply, if we ask and let Him, God will take captive our evil feelings and thoughts. Paul tells us, "the weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguements and every pretension that sets itself up against the knwoeldge of God, and we take captive every thoguht to make it obedient to Christ." (2Cor. 10:4-5)

"The weapon" is the indwelling Holy Spirit, God's Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2Cor 3:17) Amen!

We travel the rut free superhighway of truth. "When he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (john 16:13) "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8: 32) Amen!

This truth we seek by prayer, by reading the Living Word of Truth, by hearing truth proclaimed. We travel the highway of truth in the encouraging fellowship of truth.

Some suggest that there are seven basic urges, one of which is the urge to be free--free spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually, religiously.

A keyh ingredient to satisfy the urge to be free, or any of the others, is to be in touch with the Holy Spirit. There are five ways the human spirit can be said to be out of touch with the Holy Spirit: 1. We have never known Holy Spirit power, 2. We gave up the search, 3. We do not believe spiritual power is available to us, 4. WE have taken a wrong path, 5. We3 lose touch because of dehumanizing conditions--poverty, drudgery,a buse. I think this is a great summary of some of what we have already talked about.

The urge to be fee is having a goal of self-determination, that is the opportunity to choose our rut, or no rut. And it takes courage to do this. They also note that experiencing inner freedom frees us to live with limited physical freedom, great uncertainty, and change. Further, one certainty we know is that we need each other. "United we stand, divided we fall." (George Morris) "We all hang together or we hang separately" (Ben Franklin)

So, I would like for us to unite now and with great courage pray our own Declaration of Independence:
We Hold these truths to be self evident,
that all people are created equal
before almighty God,
that theya re endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights,
that among these are
life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world,
Jesus Christ,
do solemnly declare
that we the people of God
of right ought to be free
for Jesus has freed us
emotionally, intellectually, religiously, and spiritually;

that we are absolved from all subjugation
to the crown of the prince of the world
and to our own sinful anture;
that all connection with even small evil is severable;
that we will call upon the Holy Spirit
for maintaining our freedom
to live the Royal Law of Love,
to never let dehumanizing evil
rob us of inner freedom.

And for the support of this Declaration,
with afirm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,
the Holy Spirit of truth,
wemutually pledge to each other
our love, our prayers, our kindness, our encouragement,
and our sacred Honor


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