Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27, 2006--Half-Heartedness, Love is what its about....

Note: Post based on loose outline notes of the pastor, actual delivered sermon may have video available...sorry...

Text: Matthew 22:35-40

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest virtue was, 19 of them would undoubtedly say unselfishness. However, if you had asked any of the great Christians of old, they would have replied, Love. You see hwat has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than just semantic or even philosophical importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. WE are told told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Chrsit; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern thought the notino that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, then that is due to some false teaching and faulty thinking.

IF we truly consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum becasue he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased by the quick and easy fix.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reard which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that outght to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love, that is why we call a man a mercenary if he marries a mwoman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it....The school student beginning Grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of reading as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He/she has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishmment, or to please his parents, or at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural orproper reward, but he will not know that til he has got it.

Likewise, God calls us to leave the mudpie pit. WE don't want to at first, but we want to get God off our backs, so we start to do what he says. As we clean off and move closer to Him, we begin to get closer and closer to understanding, and our overall desire for eternal happiness begins to come closer to fruition. That makes us want it more. The Christian, in relation to heaven, is much like the student. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly dicisipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. As we move out of the mudpie pit of the quick fix, God gives us hints, glimpses of that eternal life of peace and joy. That makes us want it more.

It reminds me of the film Major Payne. In it, a Marine major has been called in to lead a JROTC group at a boys school. The group is a bunch of slacking misfits who don't want to do what the major says, and want him gone. He finally says that in order to get rid of him, they must get the JROTC olympics trophy from the rival school. So, the boys go to get it. They fail in their attempt to steal it, but they see it right in front of them, and revealed is the goal we should attain to--instead of taking the quick fix of stealing, we should instead strive to earn the trophy. The ringleader of the group goes to the major and says he wants to earn it. Likewise, when God gives us that taste or that glimpse, we get a desire to persevere and continue onward, to move forward with eternal happiness and leave the mudpie pit. What we are after, is much more and much better than a simple trophy, but rather eternal joy, happiness, and love.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

August 20, 2006--Counting the Cost

Note: Post is taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No audio or video available, sorry!

Text: Matthew 5:48; John 14:16-18

Many people are bothered by our Lord's words, "be perfect." Some take this to mean He won't help you unless you are perfect. If He meant that, then we are without hope. I don't think he meant that. I think He meant that the only help I will give you is to help you become perfect. We want far less than that, but Christ will give us nothing less.

Our Lord is like a doctor. We go and ask for help with a little this or a little that, an ache or a pain. However, every time we go in, we get a full exam. We get the thermometer, the stethoscope, the blood pressure cuff, the whole deal. Like the doctor, God doesn't stop at just what we want, but he gives us the full treatment, seeking to make us perfect. Once, He's been called in, it is time for the full treatment.

That is why He warned us about counting the cost. He is telling us, Make no mistake, I will make you perfect if you let me. The moment you put yourself in my hands, that is what you are in for. You have, will and can push me away, but if you don't I am going to see the job through, whatever it takes. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost youi after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest nor let you rest until you are literally perfect--until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased wwith you, as He said He was pleased with Me. This I can do and will do, but I will not do anything less.

Now look at that other verse in John. Christ is going to send us a Helper, something to minister, to advise, and drive us to the goal of perfection. This Helper, of course, is the Holy Spirit, the Counselor. Here is the other and equally important side of it--this Helper if part of the Godhead who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, butg will also be delighted with the first feeble stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. Think about a parent with their child taking their first steps. A father wants his son to have a manly walk, with a good gait when grown up, but every father is pleased with their baby's first attempt to walk. Likewise, as we spiritually learn to walk, God is pleased with every stumbling attempt. God is pleased with even the smallest progress we make. Dad's want their sons to have a great swing, but every time we make contact, they are pleased. Moms want their girls to be good cooks, but they rejoice even in the production of mudpies or that burning mass that was supposed to be a cake. Good parents are pleased with these efforts, but not satisfied. In the same way, God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

August 13, 2006--Until We Meet Again....

Note: Postings here are taken from the extremely rough outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No video or audio available. Sorry!

Text: Proverbs 20:11; Romans 8:38-39

I come to you today unsure of if I can hold it together, but I will try. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that to everything there is a season, a time and a purpose under heaven. It tells us there is a beginning and an ending. In the book Tale of Two Cities, the author writes that it was the Best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, such is the occaision we have today.

This Sunday is the last for a while for our sister, Mary. She is going off to college in Illinois this week, and will not be back for some time. She will be going to Eureka College (close to Peoria) to study to become a doctor of some kind, either a people doctor or a veterinarian.

As a teacher, there were times as I watched those graduates go across the stage where I wondered where they were going, what was to become of them. Some I was sure would be ok, others I just shook my head. Mary is not one of those. I am sure, and we can be sure she will be fine, especially if what we read in that Proverbs verse is accurate, and I believe it is. Mary has filled her life, her community, and our church with good works. It is because of her that we have many of the things we have, like the June Jamboree. She has been integral to the Bible School continuing and to Sunday School. She has ordered and planned projects for us, and she has been a source of joy for us all. She has been a light of joy to us all, and that light will be missed, and we will be sad. Of course, we are sad because she is going away and we won't be seeing her. i will have to tend to the dog and the stupid guest cat. We will miss her.

However, we need to rejoice for her, for this grand opportunity. Also, we need to rejoice because we know that in accordance with that proverbs verse, she is a fine young lady. Also, she does not go alone. According to Romans 8:38-9, nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ. Not geography, nothing. And we all have that same type of love for each other. Therefore, though we may be separated, we are never alone. She goes and takes pieces of us with her, and we carry the light she helped shine on us with us.

Matthew 6 has some verses regarding building up treasures on earth and heaven. Christ says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Well, pieces of our hearts will be in Illinois because Mary is part of our treasure we have built up at our church. So are the rest of our young ones, like Rick Jr., Ryan, Chelsea, Regina and Evelyn and all the younger kids of the Davises and Nancy's grandchildren. They have all been given the gift of being loved by the church and have become our little treasures. When they grow up, they take some of that love and spread it around.

Therefore, despite our own selfish sadness, we rejoice because she will take the love of her church family and give it to others, and I pray that is what happens. See, God uses us, and I think when he takes us to certain places, he uses us to spread that joy and love we get, and we know Mary has been blessed to grow up not only with a family that loves her, but we all love her and the other kids as well. See, that is what I fear when I see megaschools and megachurches. I fear people and children falling through the cracks. Here, there are no cracks to hide in. And that has been a blessing for myself growing up, even when I wished otherwise. I know Mary has been blessed likewise. Through our love and instruction, I have no fears about her falling into the bad crowd or making poor decisions.

God calls us each to make our own way. And this week will be the beginning of that wonderful, confusing, up and down and sideways, angrysadhappy experience we call life. We have done our part, Mary has done hers, now she must take our love and support, and the blessings and talents God has given her, and share them with the rest of the world. Our loss is Illinois's gain. Our loss is the gain of people we will impact that we will never know, because Mary will take the love and lessons here and go and be a reflection of Christ. I hope all of us do that.

So, to Mary--study hard, pray hard, and trust in God. And Remebmer you are never alone. We can never, ever be separated. Though we be far apart, though land and sea separate us, we are still bonded and united in our love for each other and the love we have for Christ and the love He has for us. Let us bask in that love and let it give us strength. And also, know that it is not goodbye, not a final farewell, but a see you soon...Good luck, God bless, we love you, Mary....
Let's pray....

Sunday, August 06, 2006

August 6, 2006--Forgive Mel, as Christ Forgave Us...

Note: Posting here is based upon the loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual sermon delivered live may have varied in some content. No video available, sorry!

Text: Romans 7:18-25; 8:1-4, 22-8

As you all know, I like to keep up on current events and what is going on. Sometimes those things make their way here to our sermons and talks together. Well, I want to talk about something we saw in the papers last weekend. Mel Gibson, the man who directed and produced the Passion of the Christ, was arrested for drunk driving and made some very horrendous remarks. The criticism came fast and hard from all over.

Of course! We knew it! So much for the Christian tolerance! See, we told you! Not so perfect now, are we Mel? So much for that piety!

Friends, these are the cries and accusations of the Enemy! I am not condoning what Mr. Gibson did or said, as both are reprehensible. However, at no time has Mel Gibson ever said he is perfect. In fact, far from it. In an interview I saw with Dian Sawyer, he talked about his imperfections and being rescued from them by Christ, and how easy it could be to fall back. Well, it appears he is human after all, but aren't all of us, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians?

We are a fallen people. Our heroes of the faith are fallen. Look at King Saul, first king of Israel as selected by Samuel the prophet. A humble man, a pious man, he eventually became so twisted with his own self he tried to kill David. Look at David, the great writer of the Psalms, the man who saved Israel from Goliath, the great king. He sent a friend into a hopeless battle so he could bed the man's wife! Have we excommunicated these people? Have we thrown them out? No, because we realize they were fallen, and so did they. The admitted it to themselves and to the Lord.

See, we are all like Mel Gibson, we are all addicted to something. In the past (see 4th of July sermon, A Declaration), we have discussed these pattern sins, about getting stuck in the rut, and then that rut guiding us where we don't want to go. I think that is what happened to Mr. Gibson. He did horrible things, but you know why I think things will be OK? Mr. Gibson immediately asked God and us for forgiveness. Just as Paul tells us.

We all have demons. Even Paul, the writer of the Epistles, had them. He talks about the sinful nature. We want to do what is right in God's eyes, we love the law, but our body is a slave to sin as it is in this world. Only by the Grace of God we are saved! Praise be to God!

See, the world will continue to come after us, to say we are hypocrites, we don't keep the promise, and they are right in a sense. We are fallen. What they don't get, and what some in the church forget, is that we are FORGIVEN. We should not judge Mr. Gibson. He is forgiven, if He asked the Lord and is earnest in changing his life and not getting into the sad state he was in. This same man, the man who brought us the powerful Passion film, has faults. Shock! Not really. All of us have these demons, these slings and arrows Satan throws at us. We must come to grips with the fact our bodies are slave to sin, and we must come to grips that we can't do it on our own. We fail often times when we are blessed because maybe we start to believe the lie that we are responsible for the blessings, or maybe we feel guilty and engage in self destruction. Either way, we are sinning. it is only by the Grace of God we are blessed.

Therefore, don't judge Mr. Gibson. Minister to him, pray for him. That is what Jesus would have done. It is what Jesus does for us, even now, what, according to our Scriture reading, that the Spirit does for us nonstop, with groanings beyond words. Friends, we need to reach out to the fallen who seek redemption, not throw them to the hounds of this world who happily seek their destruction. Of course this man was a target of the evil one, look at how many lives were transformed for Christ by the film! Of course Satan puts a big target on the faithful because we are the Body of Christ! WE are the arms and legs, the ones who gather. WE are the oppostion.

So, friends, pray for Mel. I think this could be a good thing for him and his family. Why? Because I believe in that last verse, Romans 8:28. If Mel is true in his faith and his desire for repentance and redemption, then this will be used for Good in his life and in the lives of others. For, if we believe, if we love the Lord, then all things work to the good for His purposes.

WE should not be pointing at him, because we all have fallen, especially those of us who are looked to as leaders. I have sinned and done some horrible things, said horrible things. However, you all have forgiven me, and more importantly, so has God. Remember, when you point that finger, you have three more pointing back at you. We are just as guilty, what separates us, is that we are forgiven. Remember that, and instead put out the open hand of forgiveness to the penitent. After all, Christ did it for us.

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