Weekly Sermon Brief: November 15, 2015, “The Church isn’t a church isn’t at Church”, Mark 13:1-8

 

Click here to read This week’s text for this sermon bite.

This past Saturday I was rewarded with an honor that shows that my vast array of gifts and graces are finally being recognized  Members of our Historical Society, who care for our magnificent Edgewood Heritage Park ( it is a living museum!), sought carefully and bestowed upon me the august honor, I sniff back a tear just thinking about it, of making me a Judge, yes a juSlide1dge…..of the pinto bean competition.

While I am only a talented amateur at this time, with the proper training, focus and motivation I might go professional in the future.  Sadly, the title would not fit onto my business cards but I will prevail as people recognize this honor and see me in the light of a true pinto bean judging professional.  And when the pronounce, out of jealousy, that I am full of beans, I will proudly proclaim my gracious thanks for recognizing this wonderful filling within me.  Hallelujah and amen.

Silly isn’t it?  Be we  often have trouble see ourselves in our real significance as a redeemed child of God.  The disciples in our story have spent the day being taught by the one who spoke creation into existence and at the end of the day, all they can say is, “wow, we sure have a beautiful church.”

Look at the title;  The Capital “C” Church is the worldwide saving enterprise of which our small “c” church-congregation is a part.  and while it meets at the Church-House or sanctuary, of which we are blessed to have a great facility, the building is NOT the church.  Those smiling people at the top of the post are the real sure enough, Jesus following, Spirit led CHURCH. 

Slide2Admittedly the Jerusalem Temple was a big deal. Originally built in 957 BC, Destroyed around 604 BD, Rebuilt a century later and then remodeled just before the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, it was a huge facility that was more than a church.  This was an icon of the Jew’s national, racial and religious identity.

To the Jew, the Temple was a sign that God’s victory over the world and was a center of the world and not just the center of Israel.  The Temple is where God lives and provided a place to speak to and about God!  This was where people were led to God and learned the stories that edified faith.  However, it had sadly become and idol to some and an amusement park to others rather than a power center of God.  The Roman invaders used it as a tool of manipulation.  By controlling Temple worship and giving local leaders municipal “Bean Judge” type titles, a small force would control big crowds through brutality and civic organization.

Jesus would prophesy in verse 2 of the destruction in 70 AD.  It would beSlide3 the building that was defeated and not God!  This took the newly forming Christians back to the desert tabernacle and dispersed them throughout the world.  Jesus was taking the formal faith of the temple back to its roots.  He speaks of false messiahs, soul stealing rumors, family upheaval, political and natural disasters and redeems them from sources of fear to the validation of this new faith in Jesus the Christ, our God incarnate.  Jesus told them to expect these things, be ready for injustice and to speak in the power of the Holy Spirit.   The Christ would call for patience as “the Gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

This past Friday, this old pattern would come to call in the attacks in France:   At this writing there are 129 dead  with 352 others wounded, 99 of them critically in premeditated and coordinated attacks — This isn’t merely terror, it is war.  This is also not faith but a false and narrow chaos dressed up as religion.

In light of the horrific attacks in Paris, terrorist  tactics haven’t really changed that much since the first Century.  Neither has the Gospel.  We can watch terror groups who wage this war on us as they prey on populations who are  desperate , and will grab onto anyone that gives hope.  Beyond the extortion and brutality, modern terror groups are fixing basic needs, Providing an identification and a purpose “organizing social welfare programs and even recreational activities for children, distributing food and fuel to the needy, and setting up clinics.”*  This helps build community around the groups ideals.  They build on earth for war while we build for the Savior and His Kingdom.

Last Friday, the command to love our enemy became far more difficult and  Romans 12 says “17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[says the Lord.  The voices who spout wrath  can be attractive.  But wait a minute and consider a truly Christian response to this terror.

First, DON’T FORGET GOD, we must respond by a smart faith. Rage isn’t enough.  Warmongering at all cost in the Name of God on our own will is the height of spiritless and human centered Sin.  On the other hand Peace Mongering at all cost in the name of Jesus is lazy and far less Christian.  We cannot lose our souls by replacing our faith in the risen Jesus with faith in government and weapon systems.  Seek Christ by holding fast to Christian Standards and principals and recognize in this text, that this isn’t God’s first experience with this  behavior.  We must pray, search the scriptures and engage our enemy like never before and do it AS THE CHURCH.

Second, find ways to cope NOW: take care of our kids and other sensitive people by limiting the terrible images.  Stay informed but don’t add to the sensationalism of the Media.  Stay connected with God in prayer, study, service and worship.  Keep it real and not just routine to keep the fear in perspective. Be prepared to grow spiritually and be challenged in this “Desert Spirituality” in its great cloud of unknowing- “Wars and rumors of wars”.  Prepare for the future with and for the living God. We must fight by faith and remember that we do not fight alone.

Again, this is not easy but by God’s grace it is possible.  This isn’t about beans!  With the proper training, focus and motivation we will be able to judge a secure truth through the eyes of Christ.

*http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/12/world/meast/who-is-the-isis/index.html

This post is a follow-up to our sermon from last Sunday and I pray it touches your heart and that you have a church to be “Welcome Home”.  If you don’t, please click on the link below and check out our Family.  We would love to welcome you whenever you find yourself in our corner of East Texas.  Come and see us!

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Monday School: 1-16-15 Our “Spiritual Underwear” Final Week

The goal of this short study is two-fold:  first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others.  We used the foundation of the Articles of Religion and the General Rules as a framework for our study.  Just as Underwear is the foundation of our clothing, usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together, so are our theological doctrines .

You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.

You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.

Let me begin with my thanks to our group.  I rarely get to discuss theology at any depth and have never had as much fun as I have with YOU GUYS! 

Methodists begin by teaching the method to growing into our theological understanding.  we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience.  Add to that the fact that we are wonderfully mad as Biological, Psychological, Social and Spiritual and we look for balance in all things as we discern and discuss the words about God that we use.

THE THEOLOGICAL BALANCING ACT

We discussed our assumptions, or better our deepest beliefs, and how they color our understanding of God.  I shared mine, which are varied and admittedly overanalyzed.  Things like my role as a pastor to a community and not a congregation, the Bible as a touchstone, connection to God and people, the sacraments as a source of amazing comfort , on an on.  We encouraged to know our assumptions, non-negotiables and grow a willingness to be both “Critical and Constructive”.  See page 78-89 of the Book of Discipline.

The articles give us a language of faith but it is up to us to make them personal.   They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance.  Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD.  We spent most of our time speaking of the sacraments.

The sacraments, specifically, Baptism and Holy Communion ( or the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist as you choose), are also a language of faith.  They are a doing of the story of God as Creator, Jesus as prophet, priest, King and redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the real worker in these powerful acts of faith.  It is amazing how common touchable elements such as water, juice and bread can reach to the invisible part of ourselves and awaken our relationship with Christ.

We also discussed the five sacramental acts of worship that other Christians count as sacraments, namely-confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction.  They aren’t bad, just don’t carry the weight that the Baptism and Communion do.

Each of us had stories of a time where the sacraments helped us to make sense out of something or met a spiritual need.  We had an “All Saint’s Sunday” a few weeks ago that was particularly powerful to me.  Each of us had a different take of what name we use for God when we pray.  Ultimately, the goal of any sacramental experience is to form our lives  into a living Holy Communion.

The question was asked, “how do you do that”.  This study must become more than words.  The short answer is to “attend to the ordinances of the church”, whether that is worship, study, prayer or service, in such a way that God is made real to us personally.  If God is that real to us personally then it will leak out into the lives of others.

I will not outline the 125 articles here but will point you to the link above and invite anyone of any denomination to look through them and discover your stance on the individual parts.  Please don’t stop there though.  Look at the whole of who God is and how overwhelming his love and grace is for you.  Studying these different pieces is not meant to just tickle your ears but to open your heart to a deeper working and practical walk with Jesus!

All of this and we never discussed the organizational structure once.  We will get to that on our next installment sometime after New Year’s

Next week we will take a November 23, 2015 off for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Our new study will be announced soon.   All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.

Click here to check out our main website!

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Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject. 

Sermon Brief: James 3:1-12 “But We All Must Learn”

October Theme

This is the final offering in a series of sermons with the goal of clearing the clutter that we tend to pile around the Bible.  Join with us as we explore these stories together.  This week we are invited to match up what God puts in our heart and what we say with our tongues.

FIRST!    Click here to Read the Sermon Text: James 3:1-12

James 3 1-12On a Sunday afternoon in Freestone County Texas drought had plagued the land, humidity was about 15% and the wind was blowing about 30 miles per hour and there was not a chance of rain.    In the mid afternoon in an area called “Cotton Gin” a pasture caught fire and started a wild fire that burned for almost two weeks, destroying homes, outbuildings, woods and pasture.  the question would be asked many times, How did it start.  The story was that it began when  a squirrel got tangled up in a transformer and our corner of the world changed forever.   It is a good story whether true or not.  The conditions were perfect and only by the efforts of scores of firefighters from a dozen fire departments was the fire contained and eventually put out.

Looking around at our church we are experiencing the perfect conditions for a fire of another sort, that of God’s revival fire.  People are looking for answers in a culture that has none.  The church of Jesus Christ is still alive and relevant though not in fashion for the moment.  The fire of the Gospel is poised to catch and brings the fruit of joy and peace and takes away anxiety and death.  Only by the efforts of God’s faithful will THIS FIRE, one so desperately needed be contained and extinguished.   God is going to win.  Will God do so because of us or in spite of us.

The key to stoking this positive fire of revival, one that takes away devastation, is what my mom told me too many times, “Watch your mouth!”  This is central to James’ message to us in our scripture text today.

Remember!  There first person the preacher has to preach to is the Preacher.  I am not on any pedestal here.  We all stumble, we all shouldn’t teach but we must all LEARN! Disciples are students and can learn to control our tongues.  The call of God is spiritual maturity.  Maturity is best understood as growing in the Christ centered single mindedness of “Loving nothing but God and hating nothing but sin”.  Maturity is best seen when what we speak reflects how we are in Christ, maturity in this sense is being and saying exactly what God has called us to be.  This involves  focusing the tongue more than “taming”.

James tells us that no one can tame the tongue but we can grow and focus our words on the things of God. We keep our words from burning a life down and use them to  inspire spiritual greatness. These words are the seed of Revival fire, one that we don’t want to quenche. Only God can start it, and only We can prevent it.

We can tame the tongue but we must.  HOW??  Hit The Pause Button.  This is not merely biting your tongue or biding your time, or just cooling off.  But, Inviting the Grace of Jesus Christ to be more important than your words.  Your saying should be a reflection of your saving.

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Prayer is your pause button “pray always using spiritual Efforts”

Prayer prevents foot in mouth disease!  Our witness is more fragile, more today than ever before.  We simply must find our relationship with Christ and be a blessing and not a cursing. Our words show others what Christ looks like. Thus, you and I need to know our mission and know what that mission looks like in both our personal lives and in the lives of our congregations.

ISlide2f I know my mission, I can speak clearly of what I do.  This is the mission of the United Methodist Church.  While written to congregations, it is a solid and scriptural description of who I personally am in Christ too. Even in my congregation, my walk with Christ is person and I cannot be a transforming presence if I have not experienced it myself.  All of this is to God’s glory and not mine!

Slide3 This is our vision of what that looks like in our congregation. Welcoming, Loving with Action shown through following Jesus, Serving our community and unifying the body of Christ is what being a disciple looks like.  Saying what we mean and doing what we say is controlling our tongues.

We cannot tame the tongue but we can focus it.  We cannot remove all of our deadly poison but we can grow in grace.   Remember when we try our hardest- One squirrel can get tangled in our lives and turn our best efforts into a deadly wildfire!  Talk is cheap as “faith without works is dead”.  Be alive in Christ.

How will you and I we inspire the fires of revival.  It starts with our personal discipleship-accepting Christ as our savior.  We are formed as true disciples by Following Christ, Serving our mission field and unifying as the body of Christ.  These are the seeds of spiritual grown, thes are the seeds of revival.

This post is a follow-up to our sermon from Sunday and I pray it touches your heart and that you have a church that makes you feel “Welcome Home”.  If you don’t, please click on the link below and check out our Family.  We would love to welcome you whenever you find yourself in our corner of East Texas.  Come and see us!

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click here for our website!

Thoughts From the Back Porch: October 1, 2015

  This is the view from my back porch, my sacred spot. This is where I feel closest to God and can separate for a few quiet minutes each day. I Hope you have a sacred spot and find your time with God today. It makes a life of difference. Here’s whats on my heart today………

Just past the full of the “Blue Corn Moon”

Establish your sacred space out of doors whenever possible.  I am blessed to have a large yard that backs up to a wooded property to charge me up with calm. This is the view from the space that is engineered to center me on God  Dawn and dusk provide the best time for me to be immersed in  the presence of God.   Amazing things happen as God creates a new day right before your eyes.
This morning is dark, 60 degrees and silent. No air conditioners or wind interrupt the stillness. The only traffic is from farm workers and night shift-ers. I hear my first flock of geese for the year fly overhead. The only light is the full moon hanging high but still they cannot be seen. In that moment the unseen Creator is as real as those unseen geese

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The early risers go about their day

My scripture meditation is Exodus 3-Moses and his angelic messenger found in the burning bush. There is a difference between being still and simply being outside.  Moses, the prince of Egypt and convicted murderer, was now a humble hired son-in-law working at the family sheep business. His wandering was God ordained and went on for many years. However, when the voice of God spoke through this angel, he recognized both the speaker and the holiness of this place.

Moses was on Mr. Horeb, the mountain of God!  A sacred space set aside for the spiritual searcher. How many other hired men might have grumbled about their work all self absorbed and missed this moment with God almighty?   Did it take more than one try to get Moses to notice?   After so long Moses was blinded by self pity and poor self esteem, as suggested in  Verse 11 suggests.   It would be easy to lose sight of God in the midst of it all.
How many of my neighbor’s this morning  rushed out and missed this sacred time and the connection of  the invisible honking geese with the majesty of God?  How many bad days could be avoided by a mere 15 minutes of intentional stillness.   God brought Moses to that moment and changed his world.  Where will God meet you today and change yours?

IMG_5589My sacred spot  is a covered porch but yours could be a hammock, car or a spot near a window. I keep plants to nurture in my sacred spot, you might choose to surround yourself with icons, artwork or a place to write or study instead.  A bench in a public park can be as holy as a pew in a sanctuary.

Actively Seek your space and surround yourself with things that point you to God.  Rise a little early and intentionally give God some time-as little as 15 minutes make a difference.

Search your Bible and other books for those images and activities that lead you to true prayer.  The ultimate life skill in these matters if to craft your sacred spot wherever you are standing.

The point of this is not what you do in your sacred space but what being in that sacred space does to you.

c. Alan Van Hooser 2015

October 2015 Sermon Schedule

October Theme

We will continue to discuss the many tools that God gives us to discern our life’s direction  Concentrating God’s word as our compass and the Holy Spirit as Guide.  We will cut the clutter and discuss as much about what the Bible doesn’t say as what it does say.   We will hone our discernment skills to refine our “Vision Statement” as a congregation and to develop our personal life statement as well.  Come and see us at 10:oo worship!

  • October 4: Exodus 3:1-15 “Tell Them I-Am Sent You”
    The word of the day: God’s Direction for our lives and our congregation. This direction is Knowable and Do-able.  What God requires, God Directs and provides. Moses was endorsed by God, and In Christ, so are we.
  • October 11:  “Laity Sunday!”The message will be brought by Lay Person Jackie Fitzgerald from 1 Peter 4:10-11.  Judi Yarbrough will also present a mission report in word and photos.
  • “October 18: 21st: Mark 10:17-31 ”Oh, Come on….You know this!”We know the basics of Christ, some of us even from childhood,  but we still have to be reminded of them from time to time.
  • October 25: James 3:1-12 “But we must all learn”Not all can or should teach.  It is a gift and a craft.  BUT we must all learn from our many teachers.  Christ is teaching all things everywhere.  Listen, and learn…..

“Monday School”: A precept study of James-Week 1

Tonight we had a small group with a BIG discussion! We have set aside Monday Evenings at 6:00 for Adult Bible Study  This is an Inductive study where we look at the whole to see where God’s direction comes from.

In Monday School, It is as important to know HOW to study as it is to know the information. We are not seeking simple intellectual knowledge but God’s wisdom.  To do this we will hone three skills:  Observation-spiritual reading, Interpretation-spiritual seeking, and Application-putting truth into practice.

Tonight was James, Chapter 1: CLICK HERE  for the full text:  Hey the book in only 5 pages!

What we observed:

  • It was written by a powerhouse guy, but a real person who really knew Jesus.  He had a solid grasp of a mixed Christian culture and Jewish wisdom literature.  This is the New Testament book of proverbs.
  • People of faith have problems. Seeking God uses them to build us up, strengthen us, to stay standing and motivate us to DO faith instead of folding when times get tough. We shared stories about carrying on.  Tough times build a Faith that stands when the heat is on and an untested faith is no faith at all.
  • One likened to simply hearing as reading a novel, when tired, looking away, and looking back to forget what we read.  Faith leads to Wisdom which moves us from a forgetful hearer to an effectual doer.  Talk+love= action.
  • Wisdom that builds faith listens, then speaks and doesn’t get mad.  Mad takes our mind off of God.
  • Finally wisdom is shown by keeping our mouths under control and our moral decision inline with God’s word.  This is hard BUT we have everything we need to observe, interpret and they bravely apply. We don’t have to feel inferior to ANYONE but carry on.

Next week Chapter 2:  How is a growing faith lived out with others.  Excellent Group! Group members and others are welcome to add a comment

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Sermon Briefs: September 13, 2015, “They Won’t Know it ‘Till You Show It”

This second of sermon slides 9-4-15five sermons that explores the discernment of God’s will/vision and then making it our mission to do.  Following God’s plan makes for a less anxious and healthy life as well as connecting us to eternity. 

Passion is essential to knowing God’s Vision for our lives.  We have to want it before we can know it or share it.

The Fisherman’s lesson….

I am a stick and earthworm sort of fisherman but found myself on the Walmart fishing aisle looking at plastic worms.  Real fishing folks know that if they could talk a fish into the boat, there would be no fish out there to catch.  There is always someone on the fishing aisle to talk to.

On this day a gentleman fishing had this passion to teach me the ways of plastic baits and he had to get out or it might cause him physical harm.  He told of big fish and many adventures along with my need for 7 1/2 inch watermelon colored worms with a circle hooks.  This was the answer to life’s questions and the way to slay the most elusive fish. He told of these magic worms with such passion that I was ready to chew on one just to share the experience.

In the back of my mind I thought that if I presented Christ with the passion that this fellow had for rubber worms, we would be short of parking spots and seats on Sunday.  Passion is essential for mission.  Too often Christians become Walmart talkers instead of Kingdom fishers.  As Paul said ( 1 Corinthians 4:20) “For the Kingdom of God does not exist is talk but in power.  Passion is a key ingredient to discernment.  We are Christ’s love in Action and not Christ love in talking.  Faith is learned by DOING!

Check out this worship video that reinforces the sermon:  The Fishless fisherman’s society, courtesy of EZ Zwayne,  Click Here

LESSONS FROM THE GOSPEL, Click here to follow my notes:   John chapter 21:1-19

  • Jesus gave them coaching before they recognized him-“hey use the 7 1/2″ Watermelon Flip Tailed Worms!”THEY FOLLOWED AND PROSPERED-THIS WAS NOT ABOUT THE FISH BUT THE FISHERMEN
  • Peter was led by passion over the gunnels and into the lake.  He wanted Jesus! The rest were left to row the boat-That takes passion too.
  • This fishing advice became advice for life. They were fishing for survival and not recreation. Follow Me.
  • Jesus didn’t send them to a conference or form a committee, he identified himself clearly and in him, defined the role of a disciple.
  • Jesus met them on the beach, where they were living the day-to-day
  • The Mission was that of Love and Nurture. Peter the bold, passionate and clumsy, was asked if he loved Jesus three times, and received his calling, first to love Jesus, then to feed and pastor Jesus’ people
  • Peter accepted this ordination fully knowing the danger and difficulty of his mission.  His calling was simply, “Follow Me.”

SO WHAT?  What do we do with all of this?

  • Jesus is meeting us where we are, to tell us  we can handle life , to do what needs to be done.  Follow Him.  Do the Life in Christ with Passion! Want it!
  • Live a balance of study and action, inreach and outreach, and reflect our passion outside with a clear focus on Jesus’ direction
  • Don’t over think-JUMP IN, live by faith with grace enough to share

sermon slide passion sept 13 2015

PUT YOUR FAITH INTO PRACTICE WITH THIS EXERCISE
Don’t complicate this Process.  Talk to people God Brings your way.
  • Fish-Practice the power of letting someone speak for 2 minutes or more uninterrupted. Inhale each time you are tempted to speak.
  • Concentrate-listen for something spiritual to be said in this conversation
  • Know-You are a beloved child of the living God-God put you in this conversation.
  • Invite-JUMP IN! Tell them about your church family, and your faith. Bring them to church and sit with them
  • Lead by following-Don’t lecture them, tell of how Christ works in your life everyday. You grow when your show your passion.  This may be loud and rowdy, but more likely it will be quiet and conversational.fishing 1

Write a comment of this encounter and I will mail you a 7 1/2″ watermelon colored fishing worm!  Yes, Really.   Follow Jesus with passion. Who knows, You might change the world.

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