Friday, August 31, 2007

Sermon 8.26.7: Thermostats Not Thermometers

Thermostats Not Thermometers

Everything you have is a gift from God! Your life, health, family, salvation, the air you breathe is a gift from God. Now, some of you are sitting there and saying to yourselves, “Hey, I worked hard for the things I have.” But God gave you life and he gave you the energy to work for them. He gave you good sense to save your money to be able to buy them. He gave you the ability to count. These are your blessings!
The question for us is, “what will we do with what we have?” We are called to be good managers of our resources. The biblical word for that is “stewardship”. We are to manage the things God gives us well. That includes our opportunities, intelligence, relationships, and resources.
Christians are to use these to influence our world. The Cambridge Dictionary defines influence as:
“The power to have an effect on people or things, or a person that is able to do this”
Everyone is an influence. What we have to decide is, “What, and how, I will influence my world?” God commands that we be an influence on our world. In Matthew 5:16 we find:
“Let your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do, and will praise your Father in heaven.”
Jesus says, “Let your light shine”. Don’t waste your influence. Be a thermostat. Don’t hide it.
One of the first songs we teach the little children in Sunday School is “This Little Light of Mine”. We teach them and they sing it. They love it so they sing it with gusto. They sing it loudly and proudly. We smile with pride when we hear them sing it. But we do not sing it as adults. We forgot about our light!
He then says, “You are the salt for the whole human race.” He calls us to be salt because of what salt does. Salt seasons, preserves, and improves. God wants you to season the world. He wants you to preserve the world. He wants you to improve the world. God expects you to use your influence for good in the world.
Jeremiah 15:19 says:
“You are to influence them; do not let them influence you.”
Christians often get this reversed. We are too often influenced by the world, rather than influencing the world. We let the world take the salt out of us. We are thermometers, not thermostats. A thermometer measures temperature. A thermostat sets the temperature.
Every contact we have with anyone can set a temperature. When you smile at someone; you set a temperature. When you speak to someone, you set a temperature. When you cut someone off in traffic, and they give you that strange gesture; you set a temperature. Every contact you have; sets a temperature. You are the thermostat.
Everyone email you send; sets a temperature. Every note you write; sets a temperature. Everything you do; sets a temperature. You are the thermostat.
We need to recognize our influence. There is no doubt as to the fact we have influence. The question we must ask is: “How will I influence my world? Will I be for Christ, or against Christ? What is the setting on my thermostat? Will my influence be positive or negative?”
The bible says that God wants you to consider how you use your life and how you use your work for him? We are to make the most of our opportunities to set the thermostat in our world. People watch you and associate your behavior with your church and with your God. The rock group got it right back in 1995 when they sang:
Every breath you takeEvery move you makeEvery bond you breakEvery step you takeIll be watching youEvery single dayEvery word you sayEvery game you playEvery night you stayIll be watching you
Every move you makeEvery vow you breakEvery smile you fakeEvery claim you stakeI’ll be watching you
Our church was founded by a man of great influence. John Wesley was a man with a heart for God. For years he focused on growing in grace in Christ. He gathered a small band around him at Oxford. They called themselves “The Holy Club”. They focused on growing in grace in Christ. In his journals, he called this: “The First Rise of Methodism”. We got the name “Methodist”, not as an honor. It was one of the many derisive terms used about the Holy Club. It was the one that stuck.
After a few years Wesley asked himself what good it did for one to grow in grace if that did not affect his world. After much soul searching he set off on a trip to America. He determined to “save the heathen Indians”. This trip was known as the “Second Rise of Methodism”. It was a failed adventure that ended with Wesley sneaking out of Georgia to avoid arrest.
He returned to England a broken man. That brokenness made possible the experience at Aldersgate. It was there that he felt his heart “strangely warmed”. It was there that he truly found God. Wesley’s truly became a thermostat that day.
He now determined to do everything in his power to make others into thermostats. The Anglican priests of his day would not let this “fanatic” into their pulpits and he had no venue to spread the word. It was then that George Whitefield invited Wesley to come up north and help him in a revival by preaching in the fields. This was an unheard of thing to Wesley. The Word of God was so sacred that it should only be proclaimed in his hallowed house. Still, his thermostat was changed and he took a chance. Through his preaching, God changed hundreds from thermometers into thermostats that day. They met Jesus through the preaching of John Wesley. The Holy Spirit changed thousands from thermometers into thermostats through the influence of John Wesley.
When you die they will probably read a thing called an “obituary” at your funeral. That brief description is a summary of who you are and what you have done. It will tell others what kind of person you were. It will tell them whether you were a thermostat that set values for others and kept those values firm. Or it will tell them you simply reflected the values of everyone else. Will your obituary say you were a thermostat?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Message August 5, 2007

Almost Persuaded
Numbers 13:16-14:44
1. Introduction—the setting
It was the end of a forty year journey. Now in the Bible anytime you see the number forty that is “Bible speak” for “a long time”. You all remember the story from Sunday School. YHWH (God) forced Pharaoh to change his mind about keeping the people of Israel in slavery. Then when they got started on their journey, Pharaoh changed his mind again and went after them. Then YHWH managed to mire down the Egyptian army and drown them.
Next YHWH fed, watered, and clothed a people while they wandered the Sinai Peninsula for “forty years”. Oh and they were cantankerous! If you left them alone for a few days they would create their own god. He lost his patience with them a time or two and some of them did not live to regret it.
Now here they are on the verge of having everything they had been looking for. Here they were at Kadesh Barnea, just across the river from the Promised Land. They were on the verge of greatness. They were just across the river from the “land that flowed with milk and honey.” Now, again, that’s “Bible speak” for “fine.” It was to be the culmination of all their hopes and dreams.
2. The scouting party
No military expedition can commence until one does proper reconnaissance. Moses picked a man from each of the twelve tribes, one of which was his personal assistant, Joshua, to do the recon. They set off to be gone for a long time (remember 40) to do a thorough reconnaissance.
The instructions from Moses were very specific. Go up through the Negev into the hill country (what today is known as the Golan Heights) and see what the land looks like. Are there a lot of people in it or just a few people? Are they strong or weak? What is the soil like? Is it fertile or poor? Are the cities fortified? Are there trees on it or not? Bring us back some fresh grapes.
3. The report
The contrasting reconnaissance reports were interesting. The spies returned with a cluster of grapes big enough that it required two men to sling a pole between them to carry it. There was some other fruit. They stood before all the people and said “Mo, that land is finer than frog hair split four directions. But there are guys living there that would be first round draft picks in the NBA. Their legs are bigger than most NFL linemen and we personally do not have the gumption to face them. Those guys will rip our heads off.”
4. The argument
Caleb and Joshua silenced the panicky people and said, “You boys need to grow a little hair on your chest. We can do this thing.
“‘We thought surely God promised us the land,” the ten replied. “But we did not expect to have to fight for it. We supposed God would just give it to us without any fighting or trouble on our part.”
“Oh, no, God never promised Canaan without a battle,’ Caleb replied. ‘But He will help us fight, then we shall properly appreciate both God and Canaan and the fighting will make us stronger.”

Then the people lost what little vestiges of faith they had and the situation degenerated into a general panic. These people whom YHWH had brought out of Egypt with a series of miracles. These people for whom YHWH had fought. These people whom YHWH had fed and clothed. These people wanted the land of their Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob returned to them without their having to do anything for it.
The people had no faith. Faith believes, and doubt does not believe. One is the opposite of the other, just as heaven and hell are opposites. Considering doubters more closely, we find that doubters believe; but they believe the opposite of what they should believe. Doubters believe the wrong thing. A doubter is one who could and ought to believe facts, but for some reason or other cannot bring himself to do it. Instead, he believes another set of things, which appear to be facts but are not.
Faith and doubting is a little like a set of twins. One was born an optimist, the other a pessimist. They were so extreme in their views that the parents consulted a psychiatrist. After much counseling and many thousands of dollars, the psychiatrist was in a quandary. No progress was made. He finally settled on a course of action and informed the parents that for their upcoming birthday they should give the optimist the worst gift they could think of. The pessimist was to receive the most wonderful gift he could imagine.
Not being able to stand his curiosity the good doctor went to their house on the given day. Out front, he found the little pessimist with a wonderful bicycle. It was state of the art and had all the bells and whistles. When asked about his beautiful gift, the little boy replied, “It’s not the right color and I will probably break a leg or crush my skull on it if I ride it.”
Disheartened, the doctor found the little optimist out back. The boy was sitting in the middle of the yard with a shoebox full of horse apples. The doctor asked him about his present and the little optimist replied, “It’s wonderful! I got a pony; I just haven’t found him yet.” That’s the way this scouting party was. Two had faith. Ten did not have faith.
5. On the verge of greatness—rebellion
The people, on the verge of greatness, rebelled against their leaders and their God. A mob mentality ensued and the people spoke of stoning Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua. To Moses they said, “Why didn’t you and YHWH just leave us alone back in Egypt? We were slaves but at least we were alive!” They continued to rant like petulant children.
God became upset and was content to blast all but these men and their wives and children. He would then raise a whole new nation to have the benefit of his promises. A new nation from these men would be the ones to inherit the Land of Promise; the land of their Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of YHWH fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times, not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”
6. Loss and wandering
So they turned and retraced their route. They wandered in the desert for another long time. They had been on the pinnacle of greatness. They were there where they could have received their promise. They were SOOOOOOOOOOO close, and they missed out. Not just for now but forever.
God wants a people who will believe in him. He wants a people who will trust in him. If you think about it, these people were very much like babies. They were little tyrants whose hand was always out. They always expected YHWH to meet their every need. They were content as long as he would meet their every need. It was when he required some effort on their part that the trouble started. We parents will do that for our children until they are able to do for themselves. At that point most of us can let go.
Today, we can go to Fayetteville and watch the Hogs play. It’s entertaining to sit in the stands and watch Darren McFadden run the ball. I never understood the entertainment of NASCAR but some find it entertaining. Sometimes it’s entertaining to go to church.
The difference is that this business of Christianity is not a spectator sport. We have no business “going to church” to be “entertained”. God send his son. They called him Jesus. He came to love, heal, and forgive. He lived and died to buy our pardon. This is a time for us all to search our hearts. The business of having God do all the work is a dangerous one.
We stand on the ground of Kadesh Barnea. God calls us to go over and be about the business of “being” Christians. He calls us to go forth and conquer. He asks for great risks to be taken in faith. He offers great reward. It requires us to get off the couch. You men will have to put down that remote. We must be about the business to which he calls us. Will you cross over the Jordan, or will you go back to the desert? There was so much that could have been. There is so much that could be. It is a choice each of us must make.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Have A Whale of a Good Time!

Swim Party
August 7. from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Sodie Davidson Park Pool
Free Snacks/Drinks provided at "Jonah's Snack Stand"
Lifeguards will be on duty

This "cool splash" is for children, youth, (and any brave parents who want to join in the fun). Kids, invite a friend!

Adults who prefer to be "landlubbers," we suggest that you bring a lawn chair to relax by the pool.

Thanks go to JoAnn Black and Darla Dozier for organizing this event!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Message July 29, 2007

Waldron Methodist Church July, 29, 2007
On the Road to Emmaus
Luke 24: 13-33
Humans are fascinated by journeys. From the shenanigans of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the roads to Rio and Morocco, something about traveling grips us. Willie Nelson can't wait to be on the road again, Nat King Cole gets his kicks on Route 66.
Have you ever noticed that the saddest words in the English language begin with the letter “d”? There’s: death, disappointment, doubt, despair, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression. I have no doubt that if you were to ask Cleopas and his companion how they felt that day, their reply would have included all of these words.
1. Everyone will go to Emmaus:
If you live long enough you will make it to Emmaus. It is that place we have all visited or will visit. It is the place we come to when the hurt is enormous, the pain is too great. We get there when all hope is lost and life doesn’t turn out like we planned. It is that place we journey when we have known great loss and only the greatest of disappointments.
A. We go to Emmaus when we are angry, bitter or irritated:
Emmaus is not far away. It’s about the distance between Waldron and Needmore. In our heads Emmaus may be even closer than that. Some who come to Emmaus are irritated, angry, and bitter. The news was not good on that Sunday morning. The previous week leading to the time of the Feast of the Passover, was one in which hope abounded. This is just a scant few days from Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Remember the story? In Luke 19 we read:
“As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples joyfully began to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
Jesus himself said, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’”
Boy those were the days. It was to be the culmination of all their hopes and dreams. His followers just knew that the glory of God was about to break loose and all these Romans were leaving. Man things were exciting.
Now it was all gone. He was dead. His closest followers were hiding out. Everyone else had scattered. Where there was once great joy, now there was sorrow. Happiness and joy was replaced by pain. One of their own betrayed him. Now he was dead. It was over.
B. We go to Emmaus when it is hopeless:
“Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” “We had hoped he was going to be the one to redeem Israel.” Cleopas said, “We had hoped.” Emmaus is that place you go when your hopes are dashed. Cleopas thought that Jesus was to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. I personally have no doubt that Judas felt the same way. He hoped to force Jesus’ hand by bringing in the Romans. Surely Jesus would break forth in combat when they showed. The conflict could then begin.
Eugene Land was a self made millionaire. According to a Parade magazine article he was invited to speak to 59 sixth-grade students in East Harlem. What could he say to inspire these children who were the poorest of the poor? He wasn’t sure he could even get the predominantly black and Puerto Rican students to look at him. He scrapped his notes and spoke to the students from the heart. “Stay in school,” he admonished, “and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” At that moment their lives changed. One boy said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.” Nearly 90% of those students graduated from high school and most went on to college. Eugene Land took them out of Emmaus.
Some on the Road to Emmaus are in denial. Jesus tells them they are “slow of heart.” Jesus never intended to be a militaristic messiah. He made that plain in his teachings. His disciples, “just didn’t get it.” They wanted to be free of Rome and here was a man with the power, charisma, and wisdom to make that happen. Our emotional programming is such that we seldom hear what we do not want to hear. Cleopas and his companion had visions of grandeur, and that is what they heard in Jesus’ teaching. Now they were sad.
Still others on the road to Emmaus are worried. “Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said (empty), but him they did not see.” Those were the ones who were worried about the body. What had happened to it? These particular disciples were probably the only ones to even venture outside. The others were in hiding. They were afraid for their lives. What a difference a week makes. This is Emmaus.
Emmaus is that place where:
You wake up face down on the pavement.
You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold.
Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
You turn on the news and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
Your twin forgets your birthday.
Your boss tells you not to take off your coat.
The bird outside your window is a buzzard.
Your income tax check bounces.
Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill”, and your name is George.
2. Even if you don’t see him, Jesus is on the road with you:
Keep in mind that the whole time they were discussing all that had happened with the stranger, they didn’t recognize him. It did not seem to occur to them that if the report of the empty tomb was true, then the report of his resurrection might also be true. He was right there with them and they had no clue.
3. When you get to Emmaus leave! Do not get a room there:
Whatever brings you to Emmaus, there is something important you should know. Do not get a room there. Do not give in to the depression, despair, doubt, disappointment, defeat, despondency, or discouragement. Fight it with every fiber of your being. Do not give in to it one iota. As the poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Our text says, “But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’”
I know a woman who suddenly lost her husband to a heart attack. He was only forty-seven. For the last five years she has stayed in Emmaus. She is still angry at him for being gone. She is still bitter at her world. She still cries herself to sleep at night over him. She is still in Emmaus.
They clung on to the one person who gave them hope. They were insistent that he stay with them. In their heart of hearts, they sensed the hope that could burn again inside. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
4. Seven miles from Emmaus is the place to be (but only for a short time):
Jerusalem was the place where life was going to happen. Jerusalem, not Emmaus, is the place to be.
“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem there they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace is with you.”
Jesus appears and they are startled and frightened. They think he is a ghost. Unbelief continued to reign in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
He calmed them by allowing them to touch him. Jerusalem, not Emmaus is the place to touch Jesus. Seven miles from Emmaus they not only saw Jesus but could touch him. Yet there is one more thing we need to remember. Even Jerusalem is not a place of permanent abode. It is simply that place we go to prepare to get back out into the world. We get there and sort things out and the healing can begin. More importantly, we can begin to get the power to go on and do our work.
5. Stay seven miles from Emmaus only until you get your marching orders:
Jesus opens their minds in order that they may learn the true meaning of his teaching, life, death, and resurrection. He then tells them to stay in the city only long enough to receive his power and leave.
We would all like to stay close to Jerusalem. That’s a comfortable place. We can sing songs; read the Bible; pray; and generally have a “feel good, touchy, feely” thing going. The trouble with that is we are not doing what we are to do.
Airplanes are made to fly. They last longer when they fly. An airplane that is always on the ground will deteriorate more quickly than one which is in use. I think Christians are a little like that. If we are not about the business of doing what God has called us to do, we are deteriorating. We are not living up to our purpose.
This story of the road to Emmaus is a symbol of the Christian life. It’s about ordinary Monday morning drudgery and ordinary despair. It is a story to tell us that the risen Lord gives hope and joy. Without seeing him all we will know is disappointment, discouragement, and despair. When we see him as a part of our life this world is not just a place of death, decay and defeat but is a place that groans towards God’s final victory. It’s a story about everyday life.
The changes to the disciples were described like this:
“Their lives prior to this moment were like a smoldering fire that gives no light, just smoke to cloud things up. But once they came into the presence of the Risen Lord their hearts were ablaze! A burning fire gives light for all to see, and they saw, understood and believed! All because of the Risen Lord! Jesus’ victory became their restoring hope. It became the anchor of their lives.” (Author unknown)
That stranger that comes up to us when we are hurting or lonely is Jesus. Come away from Emmaus and back to Jerusalem.