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KinmundyChurch.org: The Blog of the Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Churches, 308 E. 3rd St, Kinmundy, IL, 62854

Worship at Kinmundy: 9 am Sunday. At Wesley: 10:45 Sunday.

Wednesday@Wesley Bible Study for both churches: 7 pm Wednesdays.

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Listen to or download sermons and slides by clicking here.

Vision Statement: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
Mission Statement: “Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional.” (¶126, Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church)

The world has 2 needs and 2 kinds of people:
People who need to become disciples
and disciples who need to become disciple makers. (T4T)

Kinmundy United Methodist Churches
308 3rd Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854
Worship at 9 am.  Please join us!        

Wesley United Methodist Church
3381 Kinoka Rd, Patoka, IL  62875
Worship at 10:45 am.

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY:
PLEASE CHECK THE CHURCH FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION!

Weekday policy: if South Central public schools are closed because of bad weather,
church activities that day are postponed.
Be Safe!

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Sermon 8/25/2019: Two or Three or More

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 8/25/2019. Title: Two or Three or More Text: John 20:19-23, Matthew 18: 18-20. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy Wesley. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides] Series: What Christians Need To Know For The Holy Spirit To Flow

TRANSCRIPT (A transcript will be posted when it is available.)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

What can churches do to help people with grief?

QUESTION: … my sweet awesome congregation is experiencing a whole lot of loss. In the past 2 years I have served here, we have lost upwards of 15 wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and friends. Of course I am caring for the families individually, but I need to address the feeling of loss in the whole church. With an average of 80-100 in worship, 15 is a lot. Suggestions??

MY ANSWER: A little science will help; grief therapy is an established, well-researched methodology of helping people.

First, the genuine and true model of people working through grief, based on observation and experience, is the Four Tasks of Mourning by William Worden.
Give people good information about grief AS A SURVIVOR of the loss of a loved one.
https://whatsyourgrief.com/wordens-four-tasks-of-mourning/ (The graphic is from this location.)

Second, be careful about science that seems to fit but is twisted around. Specifically, be careful about the Kubler-Ross model which is based on emotional stages of terminally ill patients facing their own death. It is NOT applicable (although it seems to fit perfectly) to the grief experience of someone who has lost someone they love. People who have lost a loved one need to heal; they do not need to face or become trapped in a black hole of facing their own mortality, endlessly cycling from the death of their loved one and their own death. Be careful.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/supersurvivors/201707/why-the-five-stages-grief-are-wrong

Third, people need people as they go through grief, but in measured doses. A grief program like GriefShare might be very helpful, but a group of widows going out for lunch after worship might have less intensity and be more comforting. Widows and widowers report that evening hours are hard to fill – consider providing opportunities for people to gather at their own speed.

Fourth, people need time. Allow people all the time they need. Grief is a healthy process, and there is healing if it is allowed to run its course. Emotional difficulties arise when we try to halt or hurry the process. The normal time for a process of grief over the loss of a spouse is two years to reach a “new normal.” Trauma or the loss of a child, etc., need longer times. Often survivors need to talk about their loved one, but the family shuts them down because “when we talk about Dad, mom starts to cry.” Holidays can be times when families avoid thinking or talking about the dead person as if they had never lived. Celebrate the person and go ahead and cry.
Churches can help with services like “Blue Christmas” or have a service of remembrance on All Saints Day or Memorial Day and ask people to bring photos to display in the sanctuary of the person they loved and still love. Pastors can be safe people to talk with about the person they lost through death when other family members are uncomfortable.

Five, be aware of other losses … the loss of mobility and physical health, loss of drivers license, loss of friends when graduating from high school and moving on to college, loss of a job, divorce, sexual abuse, violence, suicide of another, etc. There are all kinds of events that cause pain and are healed by healthy mourning.

Six, some people become frozen in their grief – it can be stuck for decades as they try to avoid the pain. Others try to avoid grief by becoming depressed, acting out or medicating grief with drugs or alcohol. Unprocessed grief can prevent other therapies for presenting problems from being successful. Often, therapists can find dealing with grief to be uncomfortable and difficult. But there are specialists who are certified in grief therapy, and as a pastor it would be useful for you to know someone to whom to refer special cases.
These words come from my experience of being formerly married to a certified grief therapist working in an inpatient treatment center.

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Sermon 8/18/2019: The Paraclete: Gifts and Tools (S.H.A.P.E.)

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 8/18/2019. Title: The Paraclete: Gifts and Tools
(S.H.A.P.E.)
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11-21. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT (A transcript will be posted when it is available.)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon 8/11/2019: Poverty Among Us

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 8/11/2019. Title: Poverty Among Us – with Lindsay Lash at Kinmundy UMC. Text: Matthew 25:31-46. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy Wesley. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: Kinmundy Wesley.

TRANSCRIPT (A transcript will be posted when it is available.)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon 8/04/2019: The Paraclete: He Will Guide You Into All the Truth

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on August 4, 2019: The Paraclete: He Will Guide You Into All the Truth. Text: John 16:12-16 . Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT

What do I do now?

This is the Caledonia Cemetery. It is in the country outside of Sparta, Illinois, where my mother grew up. It’s the cemetery where my uncle’s funeral took place yesterday morning. I put the address of the cemetery into the GPS on the car. No idea where it was. But, you take your cell phone in your hand, and you go to Google Maps, and I swear, Google Maps can find just about anything.

Not only that, there’s a button if you push it just right, it will tell you, “Turn Right. Turn left. Turn right. Turn around. Make a U-turn. You missed the turn.” Google Maps was how I got to the cemetery. Because we understand nowadays the power of a connection. I know if I had tried to write down directions to this cemetery I would never have found it. But we’re connected by our cell phones to powers greater than we understand. Which is why I say to you the guidance of the Holy Spirit is like a network and you’re a part of it.

What do I do now?

Well, I was connected, so I knew which way to turn. And I had been to a funeral before, so I knew what to do next once the car was parked. But you know, we don’t always know what to do.

I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair reading a book on Friday night at 8:30 when the connection of the cell phone showed me that I had a Facebook message from someone you don’t know. Her name is Laura Claro. And her Facebook message said to me that her younger brother, Danny, had died that day.

Danny and his wife, Amy, were members of the Caseyville Church where I was the pastor for nine years. They’re Lutheran now. But apparently, he had died in the morning while he was getting dressed, collapsed back on the bed. And when his wife came home from work, she found him. She’s in her 40s, he’s in his early 50s, they have a nine-year-old child, Mason. And I called Amy on the phone and she said she just had a minute to talk because they were going to the funeral home Friday night. And she said to me in the most heartbreaking voice,

“What do I do now?” Because, you know, sometimes we just don’t know what to do.

“What do I do now?” Psychiatrist David Burns, in talking about how we perceive reality around us – he’s a psychiatrist and an expert on depression – he says when people become absorbed in the past, that can be a foundation for depression because there are so many things in our past that we cannot change. We are powerless.

Not only that, if you focus on the future it can be a foundation for anxiety. Why? Because you begin to imagine every possible thing that can go wrong.

Psychiatrist David Burns talks about 10 cognitive distortions, 10 ways to look at reality and be interpreted in a way that creates depression or anxiety. And I have one of them in great quantity. It actually has two parts. It’s called mind-reading and fortune-telling.

Fortune-telling is when you look at the future and you imagine every possible problem that could happen. Does this ever happen to you? And you try to work out a contingency plan for every possible problem that can happen. I’ll guarantee you, there’s nothing that will ruin a night’s sleep more than that … because, here’s the problem. You can never imagine every possible thing that can go wrong and be ready for it.

I also have the problem of mind-reading, which is that I think that I know what other people are thinking. So what that means is, in the middle of the night, I’m thinking, well, he’ll say this and she’ll say that and then they’ll do this and then he’ll do that and then everything will be hopeless.

Now I’d like you to know that I think I’m smart. But I’ve come to realize over the years that I’m not that smart. This is the problem with our brains trying to know too far into the future. We create an emotional storm that is more than we can handle. We can’t dwell in the past where we’re helpless. If we have too much anxiety about the future, we will feel hopeless. There’s only one safe thing for us to do when we don’t know what to do and that’s to remain in the present.

In fact, there’s a saying by Robert Sapolsky, an American neuroendocrinologist and professor of biology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He says, “There is no stress in the present moment.” And what that confusing statement means is that right here, right now, you probably know what to do. You don’t know what to do about the future. There’s nothing you can do about the past. But right here, right now, you probably know what you need to do now. And if you don’t know what you need to do now, if you just simply stop, let go of the past, let go of the future, open yourself up, you will probably know what to do in the present.

And, of course, when Christians talk about opening themselves up, they’re talking about listening to God and letting Jesus be the Lord over the present moment. And I promise you, if you do what you need to do now, you’ll be ready to do what you need to do next, the next now. And you will slowly find yourself moving out of the valley of the shadow of death.

If you don’t know what to do now, focus on what you need to do next because the Holy Spirit will tell you. Jesus is in Heaven, but He is connected into the souls of every person who believes in Him. And here’s the verse where Jesus talks about how the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, comes alongside of us primarily to communicate what Jesus wants us to hear. Jesus says these words, “I have yet many things to say to you…” Things about the future. But, Jesus says, “you cannot hear them now.” Verse 13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” There are things I can’t tell you now, but when the time comes that you need to hear them, the Spirit of truth will be there to tell you what you need to know.

How will we recognize the Spirit of truth? He will not speak on his own form, but whatever he hears from God, he will speak to us. Jesus says, “He will declare to you the things that are to come.” What you can’t hear now, the Holy Spirit will bring to you in your time of need. Not only that, verse 14, here’s another way that you recognize the Holy Spirit speaking: “He will glorify me,” Jesus says. He won’t be lifting up a human being, He won’t be glorifying the latest celebrity or the latest music group. He won’t be glorifying a particular translation in the Bible or a particular book that you should read. The Holy Spirit’s voice will glorify Jesus. The topic of the Holy Spirit’s message will always be Jesus because “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

This channel of communication exists for the people of God. And Jesus said to them on the night he was betrayed, “A little while you will see me no more.” And again a “little while” on the day of Pentecost when the connection between the souls of believers and the Holy Spirit is made, Jesus says, “In a little while, you’ll see me.” We will still be in touch.

And in fact, we are still in touch as believers. We’re in touch when they walked through the paths of Israel with Jesus because He is with us by means of the connection with the Holy Spirit.

So you see, we have something like this (a Bluetooth cell phone headset) that allows us to communicate with God. We have something like this mechanical device, only it’s a spiritual device, that allows us to pray. And if we learn to listen, hear from God answers to our prayers. Answers to our questions. Guidance for our lives. Someone just like Google Maps: you can turn right, you can turn left, and now go straight ahead. Because Jesus Christ is still in contact with each one of us if we we will listen.

“What can I do?” Well, here’s one thing we know. You are not a source of power that can get you through a time of trouble. You are not a source of power that can help other people keep going in the time of trouble because whatever source of power you might have, it’s not going to last very long if you’re only plugged into yourself.

But you have a source of power beyond yourself. So what you can do– what you can do when you can’t control what’s happening, is you can challenge yourself to control the way that you respond to what’s happened. My recommendation to you would be this. The first thing to do is to plug into the power of God. But if you control how you respond or react, you’ll find that’s where your power is: in the present moment. You have a choice of what you can do.

Because I want to suggest there will always be a next thing. And if you listen to God, you will find that you’re able to do the next thing. Whatever that is, however small a thing that is, you will find that you’re able to do the next thing. And then when you’ve done it, “Okay, Lord, what’s the next thing?” And then, when you’ve done that, “Lord, what’s the next thing?”

Those of you who are familiar with computers when you see that little diamond– well, that little triangle there if you press it, it plays a little tape or video or message. Sometimes, the next thing is you’re given a message to say in that moment to encourage someone else. To help someone who is your neighbor. To lift their spirits and as you lift their spirits, you lift your own spirits. If what the next thing is, is that you’re going to share God’s love and compassion and encouragement with someone else, let that message play out to someone who’s not connected to where you are.

Listen to the Spirit and speak what you hear. That’s one of the reasons why we have this connection. But always remember, the source of your power is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You see the cross down in the bottom right-hand corner of that picture there, all the wire is plugged into it or drawing power from it. But, as the green arrow points out, if people are going to draw from you, you need to be plugged into the source of your power. And the source of our power is always the presence of Jesus Christ in our life, not just on Sunday mornings, not just Sundays, but as he promised he would always be with us.

Please, pray with me. Lord Jesus, in a difficult time, it is tempting for us to believe that we have the power. Lord, remind us that we are only sheep. But sheep who are partners with a shepherd, have the power to do the right thing in the moment, for their lives and also for others that they are connected to. And so, Lord, we pray that you would strengthen the connection between us and you by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. So that we might hear from you for our benefit. That we might hear from you what we need to do right now. That we might hear from you any words which might encourage someone else who is frightened who is walking with us. Lord, we are created to live in partnership, connected with you. May it so be. And we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon 7/28/2019: He Will Convince the World Concerning Sin

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 7/28/2019. Title: He Will Convince the World Concerning Sin. Text: John 16:7-11. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy Wesley. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: Slides.

TRANSCRIPT

Once upon a time– and by the way, that is shorthand for this story is made up. It never actually happened. Once upon a time in the early days of his career, Einstein, the famous physicist, was going on a speaking tour. At that time, people didn’t really know him. They weren’t that familiar with his face. But he was going on a speaking tour for four straight weeks, 28 nights, in a different location giving the same speech. And in order to make sure he got where he was supposed to be, the company sponsoring the tour hired a chauffeur. And the chauffeur would take him to the hotel, take him to a place for dinner, take him to the place where he was speaking, then back to the hotel. Then the next day, on to the next town and the next speaking event. The two men would have supper together every night.

And at one point in time, Einstein said to the chauffeur, “Are you understanding what I’m saying?” Because, of course, it was his goal that the people coming would understand the physics that he was talking about. And the chauffeur said, “I do understand. In fact, I understand it so well, I’ll bet I could give your speech better than you can.” And Einstein said, “You’re on.”

So that night, the two men switched clothes. Einstein put on the chauffeur’s uniform, the chauffeur put on Dr. Einstein’s suit, and the chauffeur walked up to give the speech. And sure enough, having heard it every night for three weeks, 21 times, he was able to give it word for word perfectly. Not only that, he spoke louder and clearer. You can argue he did a better job. And the whole audience stood on their feet and they were applauding, and the chauffeur was smiling as he walked off the stage.

And as he got to the bottom of the steps, a graduate student grabbed him by the hand and said, “Dr. Einstein, I have a question.” And he launched into this question that was so long and so complicated, it was quite obvious there was only one other person in the room who understood the question let alone the answer. Einstein’s looking at the chauffeur, “Okay, buddy. What are you going to do now?”

The chauffeur looks out at the audience and says, “You know, that sounds like a complicated question, but actually, the answer’s really very simple. In fact, it’s so simple– I’m a risk-taking fellow. It’s so simple, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer.” And so, they traded places and Einstein answered the question.

This little story is helpful for us to understand what the Holy Spirit’s trying to do in the church. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gathered in the upper room with his disciples, and he stated that the Holy Spirit wants to do eight things. And we’re looking at each of those eight each week.

First, in John 14:16, Jesus is going to pray to the Father, and he will give the disciples another counselor, an expert who will be with them forever. The Greek word is paraclete. What it literally means is someone who comes alongside to help in whatever way help is needed. That’s the first thing we need to understand. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to do God’s work.

In the 26th verse, He says that what the Holy Spirit will do when He comes alongside of us is to teach us everything we need to know. Just as much as Einstein knows more than any chauffeur will know, the Holy Spirit knows more than any of us can know. But He’s there to teach us in the moment what we need to learn, and how will He do this? As Jesus said, He’ll remind us of everything that Jesus said. Now, the chauffeur was with Einstein for 21 days of giving this speech; he had heard everything Einstein said. The disciples were with Jesus for 3 years, and they heard everything that He said. And now the Holy Spirit, with us for all the years that are left, will remind us of everything that Jesus said because, just as the chauffeur said exactly what Einstein said, if you and I say what Jesus said, we are probably not going to make a mistake. It is almost always the right thing to tell someone what Jesus said.

The next thing – we talked about this last week – is that when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, He is going to bear witness to Jesus. Now, how does that work? You get up in the morning, you get dressed, you leave; the Holy Spirit goes alongside of you. The Holy Spirit goes alongside of you to where you do your banking, to where you buy your gas. The Holy Spirit goes alongside of you to where you are working. The Holy Spirit goes with you to the ballpark, to the family reunion, to the bowling alley. Everywhere you go, you bring the Holy Spirit with you, and the Holy Spirit is present in that place, and the Holy Spirit can bear witness to Jesus.

Now, sometimes, you will have a witness to share, too, but guess who’s in charge? Or somebody else might say, “You never sing lead, but you can sing harmony when the Holy Spirit prompts you to say something.” So, therefore, we need to become sensitive to when the Holy Spirit wants us to speak.

But the main point of this – I said it last week and I want to say it again – it is the Holy Spirit that does the heavy lifting. We’re the chauffeur; we bring Him there and He does the work. We are the helper to the helper.

And now we come to today. In John 16. Jesus comes back to this topic, and He says these words– “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It’s your advantage that I go away, I go up to the Father, for if I did not go away, the counselor will not come to you.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “This is a promise. It is a promise that you can count on. If I go, I will send Him to you.”

And think with me just for a minute about this: Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth. But there was a day that he came into the River Jordan to be baptized. And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. But you could likewise say that the Holy Spirit came alongside of Jesus. And everything that Jesus did, was done through the power of the Holy Spirit who came alongside of him. Jesus actually says that every word that comes out of his mouth is what the Father wants him to say. Every word that Jesus said, as a matter of teaching, came to him through the Holy Spirit who came alongside of the son of God. And now Jesus says, “The same power that came alongside of me to do God’s will, is going to come alongside of you to do God’s will. And that power is going to do the work.” What we need to remember is that we’re the chauffeur. We’re not the power; we’re the chauffeur.

Last Friday night when normal people are thinking about where to go on a date, my wife looked at me and she said, “Tonight is the first worship service at the Beulah Holiness Camp. Do you want to go?” And I said, “Well, let me look at the map and see if we can get there on time.” So, we verify that the service starts at 7:30. It’s an hour and 22-minute drive, so we figured out that we had time to leave, we had time to have a lovely romantic dinner at the McDonald’s drive-thru. And, well, it’s kind of an unusual Friday night for a date night, but I had never been to Beulah Holiness Camp. How many people here have ever been to Beulah Holiness Camp?

Beulah Holiness Camp is the step back into the history of the Methodist Church. Back in the early 1800s, people would gather from everywhere for a week of camp meeting. And in the center of the camp, there would be a tabernacle built with logs, and preachers would preach sermons, and people would come forward and get saved and their lives were changed and all around them, people would be camping. Now, at Beulah Holiness Camp, there is a tabernacle in the center and all around it, there are these little cottages where people stay for this 10-day period of preaching, and prayer and Bible studies. It’s like children’s church camp except for grownups and without canoes.

Beulah Holiness Camp is focused on holiness. This ministry started in 1903. It’s been going continuously for over 118 years. And the tabernacle where the worship services take place is the second largest one in the United States of America, probably the second largest in the world; the other one’s in North Dakota.

We come into the tabernacle there, and we’re hearing this brilliant and beautiful gospel music. And we take our seat, just a few rows in front of what you can see there and there is a sign over the pulpit. And here’s the close-up of that sign, to remind everybody of a very important truth. Human beings preach sermons, human beings study the Bible, human beings pray, human beings sing, but it’s God that does the work. God calls sinners to redemption and repentance. It is God that calls believers unto entire sanctification. That’s a Methodist word, but what it means is this: I start out as a spiritual child and I grow up to full adulthood, to full spiritual maturity. I start out giving my life to Christ, and I grow up giving him more and more until He finally has all of me. But here’s the point of that sign; God does this work. Human beings help, but God does this work.

And so, Jesus goes on to say that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit that is going to convince the world. You and I may love to argue; our arguments are not going to convince the world. It requires the power of God to convince anyone that it’s time for repentance, and it must be the power of God to convince anyone that they are sinners in need of redemption and forgiveness. It is something that the power of God does, not something we can do or are expected to do. It’s the power of God.

It’s the power of God concerning sin. There are all kinds of sins. Sometimes it’s easier to convince someone that something is a sin. Other things, it’s very difficult to convince someone that they are a sin. There are little sins; white lies, perhaps. There are big sins. But the reason why it takes the Holy Spirit to convince the world concerning sin is, when you think about it, the worst sin is to forget to ask Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. The Holy Spirit is here to convince the world of sin and to call sinners to repentance. Whatever sins you might have committed, the sin of not asking Jesus to save you will be the one that makes all that difference.

The Holy Spirit has come to convince the world concerning righteousness. That word righteousness means rightness, made right, because God repairs us where we cannot repair ourselves. The word righteousness means wholeness; it means being healed to wholeness. The Holy Spirit is here to teach people what wholeness actually means, what holiness actually means, because we get it wrong.

The Holy Spirit is here – look at verse 10 – to convince the world concerning righteousness because, Jesus says, “I go to the Father and you will see me no more.” For three years, Jesus has come to straighten out the Jewish people so they would understand what righteousness truly means, because they had gone astray. And Jesus had that ministry for three years of convincing the world of what righteousness meant, and that ministry now will be the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Friends, you and I are smart, but we’re not smart enough to define wholeness for the whole world. We’re not good enough– we’re good, but we’re not good enough to explain holiness to the whole world. We must let the Holy Spirit do this work. We’re the chauffeur; we’re not the Holy Spirit.

“And when He comes, the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said, “will convince the world concerning judgment.” Now, friends, if we’re experts on anything, we may be experts on judgment, because you’ve been judged, haven’t you? And from time to time, don’t you find that you’re judging other people? So perhaps we might be experts on judgment, but the Holy Spirit is here to convince the world concerning judgment because of something that is beyond us, because the ruler of this world is judged.

When Jesus uses this phrase, He’s talking about the influence of the powers of evil. Now, human beings have different positions on this. There’s absolutely no question that there is evil in this world. Evil grows in human lives like weeds grow in your fields at your farm or garden. There is no question that there is evil here. Some of us prefer to personalize the work of evil. People say there is a devil, and the devil is at work. Some people go further and say there is a devil and the devil has a name: Satan. (This is the Hebrew word that means the enemy.) There is an enemy at work. Some people prefer not to personalize it because the more attention you pay to the devil, it almost seems as if the more power you give the devil to mess with your life. Some people prefer not to personalize evil but simply to say there’s evil at work and we need to not go that way.

But no matter which your personal preference is, the Holy Spirit is here to make certain that judgment falls in its entire meaning. Because if you need to understand judgment, you need to understand that it must include a recognition of the way people are tempted, the way people are coerced, the way pressure is put on people to do wrong, and to recognize the role of evil in turning us astray. Because it’s not just that you or I do wrong, but we are tricked and influenced into doing wrong. And that is something that judgment needs to focus on. And this is the Holy Spirit’s work.

We have a problem, however. The problem summarized in Proverbs 14:12. There is a way that seems right to me. There is a way that seems right to a human being. The German theologian Schleiermacher said that because human beings have a conscience, because human beings have a moral sense of right and wrong, that’s a proof that God must exist. On the other hand, it’s a little more complicated than that. The people who were guards at the Nazi German death camps had a moral sense. They truly believed that everything they did was right.

There’s a problem with the human moral sense. The human feeling, “I know what’s right,” there’s a problem with it. In a minute, I’ll tell you where the problem comes from. Consider Proverbs 14:12: 12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. But the point of this phrase is that at the end of that human way of understanding right from wrong, there’s death. It seems right but it leads to death. Why is that true?

At the beginning of the Bible, we go to Genesis, to Genesis 3. Adam and Eve are in the garden. And God says there’s one rule, do not eat of this tree. What’s the name of the tree? The name of the tree is the knowledge of good and of evil. That’s the only rule. I don’t want you to eat of that tree. Now, of course, the minute God said that that tree became quite fascinating.

And as the story goes, the serpent comes to Eve and says, ‘If you eat of that tree, you’ll become like God. If you eat that tree, you will know the difference between good and evil. You will know the difference between right and wrong, it’ll be there inside of you, and you’ll always know what you ought to do to please God.” Quite a sales job, isn’t it?

Eve looked at the fruit– we always artistically characterize it as an apple, but it could’ve been any kind of fruit. We don’t know. And it looked good; it looked delicious. So, she reached out and she took a piece, and she bit into it. And it says, “Her eyes were opened to know good and evil.” Now, the minute she knew good and evil, what did she do? She had Adam take a bite, and he did. And God was walking in the cool of the garden, and Adam and Eve are hiding from God. Because now, you see, they have this knowledge that tells them that what they ought to do is hide from God, but, of course, you can’t hide from God.

And God looks at the two of them and says, “Did you eat from the tree I told you not to eat?” In other words, “Have you acquired this knowledge of good and of evil” — now, think with me — “that I didn’t want you to have?” And Adam used his knowledge of good and of evil.

By the way, you know what we should’ve done, if we were there? We should’ve said, “God, I did. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” If Adam had done that, who knows what might have happened?

But Adam used his inner sense of good and of evil to do what? Blame his wife. That’s been going on ever since, hasn’t it? And Eve used her sense of good and of evil to blame the serpent and to avoid taking responsibility for what they had done. The problem with the knowledge of good and of evil inside of us is it’s separate from God. God wants us to understand right and wrong based on what God has told us, not our understanding. And when we bring that up to the day, God wants us to base our understanding of what is good and evil on what Jesus has told us. You see, now we have the knowledge of good and of evil which is not under God’s control.

Now, every culture in the world has a story like this one. In Greece, it’s Pandora’s Box. Everything is perfect, and Pandora opens the box, and all the evil is let out on the world. Every story in the world is like that except this one. But what’s clear about this one? The source of human evil– or the source of evil in this world is from the human understanding of right and wrong, which is so easy to be twisted and manipulated for selfish reasons.

And here’s the point. The Holy Spirit is supposed to convince the world concerning sin. But our inner sense of right and wrong tells us that we should be the ones who’ll go out there and smack people across the face and convince them. Guess what, it always fails. Jesus says the Holy Spirit should convince the world concerning righteousness, but we think we should make signs and go confront people.

This sign was at the World Convention of Atheists in Adelaide, Australia in 2014. Do you think it did any good whatsoever? But I guarantee you, the people who are waving it in people’s faces, they felt really good about themselves. Jesus says it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince people about judgment. But we have this tendency to think it’s our job.

Look at this next sign, which says: Ask me why you deserve hell. Who in their right mind would give such a message for a small child to hold? We’ve gone to church enough, there are a lot of things that we could think of that would probably be much more effective to quote on that sign. What John Wesley would put on that sign is ask me the way to heaven. And if they asked him, Wesley would tell them.

You might put on the sign ask me why Jesus loves you. And if they asked you, you would tell them. You might put on the side ask me how you can be forgiven. And if they asked you, you would tell them.

The confrontational way of thinking only guarantees that no one will come to Jesus. Because it’s not our job to convince the world of sin, and righteousness, and judgment, no more than it’s our job to explain physics. We’re just the chauffeur; wherever we go the Holy Spirit goes with us. We can influence the people around us because the Holy Spirit wants to convince them of how their life needs to change, and primarily how they need to change is by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit wants to come alongside of other people to convince them what righteousness is, what it means to be whole, instead of broken into parts, what it means to be healed, instead of spiritually and emotionally ill. The Holy Spirit wants to explain that to people. The Holy Spirit wants to show people how evil has influenced them and how evil tricks them into doing what is not right.

But the problem is we get in the way. We’re not even like the chauffeur showing off for one night; we think we ought to lock Einstein in the trunk and replace him. Friends, you and I cannot replace the Holy Spirit. We cannot replace what God does in the lives of people, but we can be the chauffeur. We can bring the Holy Spirit close to people so the Holy Spirit can help them.

We have this temptation to believe that we’re smart enough to be there in the place where soul surgery, surgery on people’s spirits, takes place. And to think that we can do that work which is the Holy Spirit’s work. Friends, you’re smart, but you’re not that smart! You’re good, but you’re not that good! This is work we need to leave to the Holy Spirit.

But what’s the motivation for us? It’s very simple. We just want to help. See that picture there, a young man sound asleep on the couch. There’s a note written on his forehead in magic marker. We need to talk, signed Mom. (Moms, get your magic marker out! There may come a time where you’ll have a son who will need this kind of message left on his forehead!) From time to time all sons need to have a talk with their mother that they’ve been avoiding.

All we want to do is help and sometimes a good clear talking to is all somebody needs. But I’m sure that every single one of you knows someone who is doing something that they shouldn’t do, that is hurting them and hurting everyone else in the family. And everyone has told them to stop. And guess what? They won’t stop. There comes a point in time to where we just simply have to let the Holy Spirit work. Because we can’t make someone change. I wish we could.

But something for you to remember – this comes from the psychology of William Glasser – you have influence over another person’s life, because of the relationship you have with them. If it is a positive relationship, if it is a loving relationship, you have the opportunity to influence that person for good. Because God can work through that other person’s experience of you as someone who loves them.

That’s why it’s a commandment. Love your son, your grandson, ex-wife, next-door neighbor, worst friend, worst enemy, business partner. Love them as you love yourself. Because the more you put love into that relationship, the greater the influence you will have to encourage them to do what’s right.

And there’s a point beyond which your love and influence cannot go. And that’s where you need to let the Holy Spirit work. But don’t switch over now to the evil witch that is full of condemnation. Because all that happens when we get nasty is the other person just closes their ears and begins to ignore you. Keep on loving that person. Because, given that life is hard, they are going to need it.

Understand that you can trust the Holy Spirit, that you can continue to pray for them. You can trust the Holy Spirit to work and bring them into situations where they have to confront the reality that their lives need to change. We’re not smart enough to do that. But God can do what we can’t. If we keep loving, we can let the Holy Spirit convince the people we love concerning sin, concerning holiness, concerning judgment.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I pray that you would give me the serenity to accept the people I can’t change, that you would give me the serenity to accept the situations I can’t change. I pray, Lord, that you would give me the faith to give these over to you, to set you free to do your will in the lives of those situations and those people.

For me, Lord, I pray that you give me the courage to do the things I can. And Lord, I know that one thing I can do to the best of my ability is to love that person who’s driving me crazy. To love that person who stirs up wrath and judgment inside of me. To learn how to love them even if that means that I need to suffer as you suffered on the cross; Lord help me to have the courage to be able to say Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. Because Lord, that person who does so much harm really doesn’t know what they’re doing.

But most of all, O Lord, I pray that you would give me the wisdom to know the difference. That I would hear from the Holy Spirit what I should do and to know when to stop; and to know the difference of what I simply need to leave up to you. Because, Lord, you desire that human lives change, that human people be forgiven, that human people find holiness and healing, that human people become better people. You desire this more than even I could because your love for them is deeper than my love. We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon 07/21/19: The Paraclete: He Will Bear Witness

Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 07/21/19. Title: The Paraclete: He Will Bear Witness John 15:26-27. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy] [Wesley] Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT

As you know, we are in the season of Pentecost. We are in the season where the disciples they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they begin to do what God wanted them to do and what Jesus had prepared them to do for over three years. They were to go and do what Jesus did so that the ministry of Jesus would continue. And they were to go in the power of the Holy Spirit because it wasn’t actually they that would do all of God’s will, it was the Holy Spirit who would come alongside them and come alongside them to help and to empower, and to help them do the miraculous and wonderful things that were needed.

And Jesus promised them in the upper room on his last night, that the Holy Spirit would do six things first. First, he would come alongside of us, which you know what that means. When we come alongside of someone else, the Holy Spirit comes with us. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of our neighbor and we love our neighbor with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us to help them and bless them.

Last week, we talked about how Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things, but how? The way the Holy Spirit would teach us is as if the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything that Jesus said so that when you went out, the words of Jesus Christ would go with you, when you came up close your neighbor, the words of Jesus Christ would help you to understand what was needed. That’s how the Holy Spirit teaches.

Today, we’re going to talk about what Jesus said with regard to the Holy Spirit bearing witness. What does it mean to bear witness? What sort of witness is it that God desires, that will do God’s will, that will get the results that God wants?

Most people think it’s something like this. I have no idea about the human fascination with signs. But it seems like we want to put the words on the sign because we’re too lazy to say them. And all too often, unfortunately, as human beings, the words we choose to put on a sign do not really reflect God’s love, do not really reflect God’s desire to reach out to people. They reflect our understanding and our understanding all too often is more judgmental, less willing to forgive than the understanding of God.

How does it help God for you to stand on the street with a sign in your hands while people are driving by 30 miles an hour? Are you really ever touching anyone’s life? I found about 12 pictures of people with signs. There’s just a couple to show you. The sign says: Hell is horrible. No warning is too strong. And then here’s a long list of the things that God hates. You kind of wonder where’s the list of the things that God loves. This photo of signs is from April 4, 2012, and at the world worldwide convention of atheists in Adelaide, Australia. Those people with signs, they probably did a lot of good that day, you think? You think anybody was converted that day, anybody gave up their atheism that day? Because the Christians were there to wave their signs on the sidewalk?

Let me ask you something realistic. Maybe this use of signs and confrontation has worked for you. But has more criticism ever changed anyone’s life? Have you noticed that? Here’s the problem. As the criticism gets deeper, the person just gets madder at you. This is the reason why God told us to love our neighbor, not judge and criticize our neighbor.

Now, sometimes, loving someone means to them, “Uh-uh-uh.” Parents, you sometimes need to do that with the children, right? “No, no, no, no, no.” Sometimes love requires us to be a little tough … but maybe not this tough and maybe not with complete and total strangers. Why? None of those people involved in that protest ever got to know an atheist person personally to the point to where they could influence that person to find.

I blacked out two words here on the next slide. The words that are blacked out are this person’s denomination because it doesn’t really matter what denomination is on her sign. It says you have to be their denomination to get to heaven. I see that on signs a lot. It’s almost like a competition where the person is looking down and basically says something like, “Don’t you want to be like me?” Because then God would love you.” Do you think that works? Do you think that helps? Do you think when God said to us that we are to love our neighbor as ourself that this is what God wants?

Saint Francis supposedly said that we were to preach the Gospel at all times. And he also said, “If necessary, use words.” Sometimes the words we choose are not the words God would choose. But because the command is for us to love, love is always right.

What sort of witness does God desire? I liken it to the sprinkler that carefully and slowly provides the water to the thirsty ground. Zechariah 4:6 says this, “‘Not by might, human might, not by power, human power, but by My spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. God wants to do God’s work through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through whatever power you and I might have to offer. We are people through whom the Holy Spirit works. And friends, that’s who Jesus was. He was someone who was the Son of God, but He modeled this for us. He was the one through whom the Holy Spirit worked.

Here’s the scripture for today. When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me. We’re in charge of creating situations where the Holy Spirit can bear witness. All we have to do is be there. We’re sort of like the chauffeur that brings the Holy Spirit to the neighborhood. God wants the Holy Spirit to bear witness. And in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we join in that. The very next verse: And you also witness because you did with me from the beginning. We need to make certain that we do not get in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do.

Here’s an example. Luke 19:1. Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And a man was there by the name of Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. What you should know about chief tax collectors is they were a little bit like the Mafia. They would come and tell you how much tax you owed and if you did not pay that tax,  they would take your property. And if you disagreed with them they would have the Roman soldier with them stick you with a spear. They were evil, evil, evil people, and this was one of them.

Verse 3: But he wanted to see who Jesus was but he was very short and he couldn’t see over the crowd, so guess what he did? He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. The Holy Spirit is working through Jesus; notice what happens? People who are evil are drawn to him. People who need to live a different life are drawn to him. People can feel the love of God within him. People can feel the Holy Spirit flowing through him. People are drawn to Jesus, even to the point of climbing up in a tree.

Verse 5. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and he said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. In other words, he invited himself to lunch. I don’t know how your mother raised you. My mother raised me to never invite yourself to somebody’s house for a meal. But Jesus knew this was the right thing to do because he was guided by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 6. So Zacchaeus came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly. All the people around Jesus saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Remember all those signs? They were carrying those sort of signs that day. They did not approve of Jesus spending time with evil people. But the Holy Spirit wanted to spend time with Zacchaeus, so Jesus went alongside of Zacchaeus and the Holy Spirit went alongside with Jesus and the Holy Spirit was working on Zacchaeus the whole time.

But Zacchaeus stood up in the middle of lunch and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord. Here and now I give half my possession to the poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Do you think his life changed because he spent time with Jesus? Here’s how Jesus described him.= in verse 9: Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus was converted. “Salvation has come to this house because this man is too is the son of Abraham.”

And verse 10 – please note this – what is the purpose of Jesus? “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And just as it says in the picture to the right, now that Jesus is in heaven, He is sending us to do exactly the same.

How do we do this? Friends, you need to be looking up in the tree. Maybe your neighbor’s climbed up a tree. Maybe they’re doing something else because they’re drawn to you the way Zacchaeus was drawn to Jesus. The thing that we need to understand when this happens it is because the Holy Spirit has been working in the lives of people all throughout our town.

In the next seven days, you will encounter all kinds of people. You will come alongside of them, so to speak. You will not encounter a single person that the Holy Spirit is not influencing to come to Christ. You will not be in a single situation where the Holy Spirit is not trying to turn the people from sin and turn their hearts toward God. We need to realize that, because the Holy Spirit is at work, that people are ready. And the reason that people are ready is because God has already been working in their lives.

There are some people who are called to the mission field, and they go all around the world. But friends, every single one of us has a mission field. Your mission field is the people you speak to every single week, because when you come alongside of them, the Holy Spirit also comes alongside of them and begins to influence them to turn their hearts toward Christ.

Not only that, your mission field will come to you. Have you ever looked at a porchlight at night? There are all kinds of bugs just flying all around it. Why? They are drawn to the light. There are people around you who are drawn to the light of Christ in your life. You will see them coming toward you. And you could say to yourself, “Lord, how can I help them to find Jesus as their Savior and Lord? Pastor, I don’t have a sign. How can I help them?”

Please leave your signs at home because the thing that God asked you to do was to love your neighbor. And when you love your neighbor, you shine just a little light into their darkness, whatever sort of darkness that might be. Witness is not anything more complicated than asking the simple question, “How are you?” … and meaning it. And whatever they tell you, to pray about that. If it’s been a wonderful week, thank you, Lord. Pray for them every day and thank God that they had a wonderful week. But sooner or later they will have a grumpy week, and they’ll need someone with a little piece of candy to lift their spirits. Or they tell you, “I’ve not had a good week,” ask them how you can pray for them, and then pray for them. You don’t have to have a sign or do anything more complicated than that. You don’t have to have an advanced degree in theology.

You don’t have to be able to answer any question someone might ask. You know why? I’m the one who gets to answer questions for you. All you need to do is love people. All you need to do is let the Holy Spirit work through you. And shine a little light into the lives of people who are coming toward you.

Just in case, if you aren’t certain of who you are, when we leave this place of worship, each one of us is entering into the mission field. You have a little micro-mission field that consists of all the people that are a part of your neighboorhood. But let me remind you of the few things that are true.

These are things that Neil Cole teaches people, and I want to give credit that they come from him. He says to his folks, who evangelize in the inner city, who work with motorcycle gangs, people who just got out of prison, people who are recovering from addictions and alcohol and people who are homeless. His people go into places that are very dark, and He reminds them of who they are with these words.

Jesus is always with you. So that means that wherever you go, the King goes. 

And wherever the King goes, the King rules. That’s why it’s safe for you to be there. The King is there.

Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the light of the world. And wherever Jesus goes, the light goes. 

No matter how dark it might be, the light of Jesus Christ shines into the life of everyone whom you come alongside of. The Lord Jesus Christ rules in every situation where you come alongside of another person. And wherever you go, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, goes alongside of you to help you. But not only that, wherever you go, whatever neighborhood where you find yourself, the Holy Spirit goes with you to help the person directly in front of you. Your neighbor.

And what we need to do is let the Holy Spirit bear witness. If you have a sign, leave it at home. Just go out there and be with Zacchaeus. Be with whomever you encounter. Let Jesus be Lord over your conversation. And love them. And you will see the Holy Spirit do God’s work. It’s not up to you. It’s up to you to bring the Holy Spirit with you.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, when I am weak, You are strong. I pray that as I go through my life, You will be the Lord in every place I go, that You will bring the light into every bit of darkness, and that You would show love and draw all the people to You so that they might find in You all the joy and forgiveness and help and holiness and healing that I have found. Holy Spirit, I pray that You would work through me and through each of our people as You seek to bless the neighbors that You asked us to love. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon July 14, 2019: The Paraclete Comes Alongside

Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on July 7, 2019. Title: The Paraclete Comes Alongside. Text: Acts:16:6-8, John 14:12-17. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy]  Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT:

We find these words in Zechariah in the Old Testament: Zechariah 4:6b Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. They talk about God’s method. We human beings have lots of methods; we have lots of recipes. We’re going to form a committee. We’re going to conduct a study. The Pastor’s going to do this, and the laity are going to do that.

But God’s method is actually much simpler. God accomplishes God’s will by sending the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. Not by human mind, not by human power, not by rulers of political power, but by my Spirit (says the Lord of hosts). That’s God’s method.

And so we hear in Acts 2 that it is God’s desire to pour out the Holy Spirit on the whole Earth, while at the same time, it’s God’s desire to send the disciples of Jesus out to do his will, not by might, not by their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them just as the power of the Holy Spirit worked through Jesus. Last week I told you about this time that I was stranded on the side of the road, and a trucker came by, and I had no headlights. The car would run, but I had no headlights. And this trucker came by, and came alongside of me, and put his brights up and lit the whole road so that I could drive.

Now, the light did not come out of the trucker, but there was a human being that was a part of that light shining. And in the same way, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, most often in another person. And God’s light shines through them.

Here’s the first commandment, which describes God’s goal, which is that love should flow. Where does love flow first? It flows toward God. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” And in Luke, it adds all your physical strength. And Jesus says, verse 38, “This is the great and first commandment.” This is the rule. Our love flows up to God, and by the way, later this fall we can see a referee on the field do this. What’s that called? Touchdown. That’s a good thing. That’s what we’re supposed to see. Both hands up like that.

This is a traditional form of praise. We’ll see it all through the Old Testament. There’s a psalm that says that what God wants is for people to lift holy hands in his sanctuary … to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.

And God’s love flows down into our lives. A few weeks ago, we talked about how Jesus said, “Come to me and drink,” and it will flow in. And then out from you, this is John 7:37-38, will flow rivers of living water. God’s love comes into us, but this is not the only commandment; there’s a second one. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. So some of that love that comes down comes to us, but some of that love that comes down is supposed to be for somebody else. And that’s a goal too. On the football field, when the referee goes like that, what’s that called? It’s called a first down. You get four chances. But every time you get a first down, you get four more chances. That’s like getting four more wishes. And if you keep getting first downs, you’re going to get the touchdown because the love is meant to flow into us and then out to someone else. It’s not supposed to stay within us. It’s supposed to go out to someone else.

Jesus goes on to say, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” In other words, you can take the whole Old Testament, the entire Bible as they understood it, it’s covered in these two. This is what God wants. And what I want to suggest to you is the paraclete, which is the word that’s translated counselor in the Revised Standard Version. It’s translated comforter in the King James. It’s translated a whole lot of different ways, but what it literally means is the one who comes alongside so that you’re not alone. And the one who comes alongside is there to provide exactly what is needed because sometimes it’s comfort, when that’s what we most need. Sometimes it’s a counselor because that’s what we most need.

If God comes alongside of us to provide what we most need– now, here’s the thing that might not have occurred to you, but God, the Holy Spirit, not only comes alongside of you, but sometimes God, the Holy Spirit, comes alongside of someone else through you, just like that trucker made the decision to light my way through the darkness. A human being made the decision to light my way through darkness.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit comes alongside of people through you. Now, we are pretty fallible human beings. We are not people who have a perfect day. I had a perfect day, gosh, a long time ago. I think it was my wedding day. But since then, it’s all been downhill … (laughter). No, my day. I had been less than perfect. I have been less than perfect. Boy, I could get in– I think we just had an example of what less than perfect means (laughter).

But even though we human beings are less than perfect, sometimes we’re pretty good. Less than perfect. Even though we human beings are less than perfect, God has chosen to work through less than perfect human beings. You can read about that in 1 Corinthians 1. You know why? Because when God works through less than perfect human beings, it’s really clear that it’s not us, but it’s God who is at work – the Holy Spirit will come alongside of you to provide you with what you need. But the Holy Spirit will come alongside of someone else in your presence so that light can shine in every darkness through fallible human people like you and I.

Here’s our scripture for today. Who and what does the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, do when he comes alongside? Here’s the first thing out of five: John 14:23. Jesus answered him. If a man loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my word. Jesus told us what to do. And here he goes on to say this– and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. Jesus said in another place that every word he said was the word that the Father gave him to say. He was very scrupulous to share what God told him to say. And all of those things that Jesus said to us– verse 25 — These things I’ve spoken to you while it is still with you. And now, he’s going up to Heaven– verse 26. But the Paraclete, the comforter, the counselor, all those words– the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name– he will teach you all things.

So far, Jesus has been their teacher. Now, the Holy Spirit is going to teach you all things. And bring them to your remembrance– all that Jesus has said. And what will be the result of that teaching? Verse 27. Peace I leave with you. My peace, I give to you— don’t we live in a world that is full of anxiety? Don’t we live in a world that is full of tension and argument and sometimes downright viciousness? Don’t live in a world– where all we’re going to have to do is turn on the radio, turn on the television, open up the newspaper, open up Facebook, and one person after another will try to stir you up and make you afraid. Jesus said these words that I’m giving to you. They come with a blessing, and here it is– peace. Peace I leave with you. Not as the world give do I give to you– let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The words of Jesus Christ, come straight from the Father, and they come to comfort us and counsel us and help us. They come to bring us peace, and God is still speaking into our hearts through the Holy Spirit still today.

There’s an old phrase from computer programming– garbage in, garbage out. You put garbage in, the computer is not going to fix it. It’s just going to put out more garbage. If you ever thought about how much garbage we human beings put into our mind every single day, there’s all kinds of statistics. And the fact that children spend 12 hours a day watching TV, listening to media and commercials and online. But I love this one. The average adult today consumes five times more information every day than your counterparts did 50 years ago. How much of that information is really information that you need? What’s astonishing to me is how I get drawn into one thing after another. It’s almost as if my curiosity drags me into one piece of information after another after another after another. I don’t need it. But the trouble is when garbage comes in, garbage flows out.

If I intentionally put scripture in, then all of a sudden, scripture will be coming out. And you see, that’s what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. How will the Holy Spirit do that? Oh, your brain will remember everything that Jesus has said. That’s how the Holy Spirit will teach.

And so, you heard me say last week when I talked about this experience of hitting a deer and being stranded on the side of the road without headlights, that has that trucker light up the road in front of me, all the way forward I was chuckling because being a pastor, I was remembering a scripture that fit with this! Because, as I said to you last week, everything that happens to pastors, especially all the bad things, so they can go into a sermon.

What makes you think that your life is any different? When something happens to you, why isn’t it normal for the Holy Spirit to remind you, “Oh, remember what Jesus said about this?” Why should that happen all the time? Because the Holy Spirit connects our lives with something Jesus said. The Holy Spirit connects what happens to us with something from the Bible. This tap, tap, tap on the shoulder, “Hey, remember what Jesus said. Remember when this happened in the Bible,” and I told you these things happen to me so that I can put them into a sermon, but don’t you also have sermons that you get. If nothing else (talks?) to yourself, the Holy Spirit does these. With all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, you raise your hands up to God, and you’re going to get something because God is a generous God. Two hands up, you’re going to get something. Two hands up, you’re going to get two pieces of knowledge or happiness or insight or I don’t know what you might call it, because sometimes when God reminds you of a scripture, it’s for you. It’s to remind you.

But there is something that we have to keep in mind because it’s very, very easy for us to forget. Sometimes what God gives you is not for you. It’s for someone you love who needs to hear this. The Holy Spirit will connect you with things that God wants you to hear, but sometimes the Holy Spirit will connect someone you love with what they need to hear …  only guess what? It’s going to come through you as God’s gift to them.

But you know the problem that happens when God gives us something for someone else? See the picture? Goes right into your own pocket. It’s meant for you to give it to another person. And here’s the thing you realize when the Holy Spirit is acting most often. That other person, just like dry ground welcomes water, they will welcome this little word. The Bible calls it a word of wisdom. Sometimes the New Testament calls it a word of knowledge. This little truth that comes from God to bless your neighbor, it will be welcomed by them with appreciation because God has prepared their hearts to receive it. So the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to remind us of what Jesus said sometimes for our benefit, and sometimes for the benefit of someone else.

Jesus will speak to you today. What did he say to you? What did he say that is for your neighbor? Because these truths bring light into darkness just like that trucker’s light let me drive forward when I was unable because my headlights were out.

The Holy Spirit comes alongside to remind us of the words of Jesus again, Please pray. with me:  Lord Jesus, when we read the Scripture, sometimes it feels like the words just go in one ear and out the other, but sometimes, Lord, a phrase will stick. It will just seem, perhaps for a reason that we don’t understand, to be very important to us. Help us, Lord to think on these things. Help us to discern if this is for us. Are we the one that needs to hear this, or is this word from the Lord something that is meant to bless a child, a family member, encourage a neighbor or a co-worker who’s discouraged? Help us, Lord to know, is this word that we’ve been reminded of for us, or for someone who needs your help and your love? We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Resources]

[Discussion questions.]

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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Sermon July 7, 2019: The Paraclete Comes Alongside

Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on July 7, 2019. Title: The Paraclete Comes Alongside. Text: Acts:16:6-8, John 14:12-17. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy] [Wesley]. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT

As you know, we had some plans. And I was going to use this scripture to introduce our guests, three teenagers from Lithuania, and the missionary from our annual conference, Eric Totten, whose calling is to work with youth in that foreign country. And I was going to use this scripture as part of my introduction: And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia. Having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia…

If you’re paying attention to what God wants sometimes God will say, “Don’t go there.” Sometimes God will say, “Go over here.” So Paul and the others, when they had come opposite Mysia they attempted to go into Bithynia.  But the spirit of Jesus did not allow them. You see, sometimes a door opens and you go through it. Sometimes a door shuts and that means that God has something else for us to do. But verse eight, they just keep trying to move forward.

So passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. And what happens is Paul has a dream and he hears a man from Macedonia saying, “Come over here.” And they understood that to be the Holy Spirit’s call. So I said to these people from Lithuania, why don’t you come over here on your way to Kansas City for the international gathering of United Methodist youth? And they said, “Fine.” And Baltic Air or whatever airline it was got them to Chicago just fine. And then whatever American airline was to get them to St. Louis completely failed them. As far as I know at this moment they’re still in Chicago waiting to fly to St. Louis. We don’t always get to do what we planned. It doesn’t always happen the way we want it to. The Holy Spirit sometimes says, “Don’t go that way. Go this way.” Sometimes at four o’clock in the morning.

Thirty years ago this summer I had a practice of taking my sons to a baseball game. Now, their grandmother on their mother’s side played a trick on them. Said to them, “You live in Illinois, right? Well, then you need to be a fan of the team from Illinois.” And she got to them at a very young age when they were young and impressionable and foolish and so they became Cub fans [laughter]. And so living in Quincy, Illinois, at this time – if you’re not sure when Quincy is, it’s the westernmost part of that bulge of Illinois, west of Springfield, Illinois – I took my boy’s on their birthday up to Chicago, one at a time. It was a dad and me thing. And we’d drive up and we’d go to a night game. And then the next day we’d go to an afternoon game. But for some reason, my oldest son– he was 10 years old at this time. 9 or 10. There were two night games. Now, I was only 34 years old, so it was really easy to be foolish. 

At 9:00 o’clock at night, I pointed the car toward home and started driving down the interstate. Now, you come down I-55 center state all the way, you go across on Interstate 72, it’s Interstate all the way and when you close to Quincy, you take 472 or whatever it’s called. It’s a loop that goes up around the town through the countryside, nobody lives there. Just a few farmhouses in the distance. They just finished that road. Beautiful, beautiful interstate highway. And it was about 4:00 in the morning, all of a sudden, in the right-hand headlight, I saw a very quick glimpse of this. (Picture of fur.) Just before the headlights went out, as I was driving 70 miles an hour now in the complete dark. There was a surprise. it was not part of my plan. I have no idea. The deer must have been going as quick as could be. It went all the way across and I just caught a glimpse of the firm in the headline. That by the way, was how I got my first deer [laughter].

Never saw it again after that moment, but I knew the road was straight. I was familiar with the road. I knew the road was straight, so I slowed down and turned my flashers on. And by the light in the flashers, I could see the side of the road. And there I was parked by the side of the Interstate just outside of the town of 40,000 people at 4:00 AM, on a highway that nobody drives on. My 10 year old never actually woke up, just kept sleep. After about five minutes– oh, by the way, this was before cell phones. And I’m at least 12 miles to the nearest house. And I sat there and way back in my mirror, I see a car coming, and I know this car sees my flashers and they do whatever a good person does. They got over in the far left and went past me going 70 miles an hour. Five minutes later, there was another one. This time I got out of the car, and they also went by the other side. And I said to myself, “This is not good.”

I got back in the car and I noticed that every time the flashers went on and off, I could see 10 feet in front of my car. And I thought this is interesting. So I began to drive down the shoulder at 10 miles an hour by the light of the flashes.

In my mirror, I saw a car coming. Went by 70 miles an hour on the far side. Another car and I’m still going down the shoulder 10 miles an hour, another car zooms, and I think to myself, “I can go on little faster than this. Yes. I’m familiar with this highway. There are no obstructions. There’s no dangerous places. It’s got a wide shoulder all the way. So I sped up to about 30 miles an hour. And way back there, I see another set of headlights. They’re big headlights, so I know it’s a semi. This time, the truck behind me gets over in the left-hand lane. But he slows down, which makes perfect sense because how often do you see someone driving at night along the shoulder with their blinkers on? And he matches my speed, and then he slows down and drops back behind me, gets in the lane, and turns his brights on. His brights shone right over the top of my car, and I could see in front of me all the way. So I pulled over into the lane in front of him and accelerated to 65 miles per hour. And we drove that way up to the next exit.

And I got out of my car, and I walk up to the truck to thank the driver, and he said, “Oh, it’s nothing.” And I said, “You mind if we do this all the way into town so I can call a tow truck?”

“Sure.”

So we did it for about another six miles, got off an exit, pulled into a gas station, called the county sheriff, called AAA, and he went on his way. And here’s the problem with being a preacher. Everything that happens to you turns into a sermon. Especially every embarrassing thing that can possibly happen to you turns into a sermon because as I’m going down the road, and his lights are lighting my way, I’m thinking about this word. This word in Greek. Parakletos. Please repeat after me. You can tell your neighbors you learned a foreign language today in church. Parakletos. Your turn..

In English, we transliterate that into a word that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s called Paraclete. Paraclete. And English translations of the Bible have no idea how to translate that word. King James, my favorite, calls it the comforter. But that’s not quite as accurate as what the RSV calls it, which is the counselor. Other translations say the Paraclete means an advocate or an advisor or a helper or a partner. But what the word literally means is this; one who comes alongside. Like that. Just like that. The help you need in that moment. Just exactly what you need, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of you to give you.

First place it’s used in the New Testament, Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me–” Remember, he’s talking to the disciples who followed him for three years. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That will be a priority. You will have a desire to obey the instructions I have given you. See that verse 16, I will pray the Father and he will give you another Paraclete, another counselor, another comforter, to be with you forever.

Now, think about this for just a minute. It was Jesus who came alongside of them during his earthly walk. But now Jesus is ascending to Heaven and the Father’s going to send another person to take over the role of Jesus. To be the one who comes alongside, to be the one who gives them instructions, to be the one who lights their path so that they can see the way forward. Even the spirit of truth. Even the Holy Spirit. This is what the Holy Spirit does.

But you know the interesting thing? We don’t have any problem believing that. The problem we have is believing the verses just before this. Oddly enough, we find them very difficult. Here’s what Jesus says just before, “Truly, truly,” anytime Jesus says truly, truly, he really means it. Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me … will also do the work that I do.

Do you believe that? It’s right there in the Bible. Greater works than these will he do. Do you believe it? It’s right there in the Bible. Why, Jesus says? Because I go the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it. Why? That the Father may be glorified in the son. We have a lot of trouble believing that. And then right after, Jesus says this. He says, “If you obey my commandments, I will send the Holy Spirit to come alongside of you.”

That’s why Jesus can speak of miracles. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit working within our  lives. It’s not our power. It’s not anything inside of me. It’s not anything inside of you no matter how wonderful you are. It’s that the Holy Spirit comes alongside to do God’s will in every situation where you or I find ourselves. So if that’s true, why would the same God, who could raise Jesus from the dead, not answer your prayer as he answered the prayers of Jesus?

Why would the same God not answer our prayers? And, in particular, as you seek to love your neighbors as yourselves, as you make your way around this town, why would the same God, whose power could raise Jesus from the dead, whose power brought about every miracle that Jesus performed. Why would the same God, who wanted to people through Jesus not answer your prayer just as he answered the prayers of Jesus?

Well, I’ll be honest with you. There are actually several reasons why God doesn’t answer prayers. Well, I think the main problem we have, to be honest, is simply whether we have the belief that God is willing, that God is able.

I’d like to ask you to consider this. One of the most basic orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith was that Jesus Christ was God. He was fully God. But you know what the other half of that is? Jesus Christ was fully human. It talks about this in Philippians chapter two. It says that Jesus Christ emptied out of himself everything that made him God so that when he came to earth, he was just a human being just like anyone of us, all of our limitations, everything that it means to be human. This is the orthodox doctrine of the faith.

Well, if that’s true, how is it that Jesus helped people, healed people, set people free, walked on water, preached the gospel, rose from the dead? If the power wasn’t in Jesus, where was the power? And you now know the answer. All the power that worked through Jesus was the Holy Spirit that fell on him at his baptism, that came alongside of him on the day of his baptism. All the prayers of Jesus were answered by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is known as the Paraclete.

Now I enjoy a good joke as well as any other. Guess what that truck was hauling? Bunny Bread. I can’t go by Bunny Bread in the grocery store and not say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for the day that Bunny Bread helped me.” But it wasn’t actually Bunny Bread. A human being stopped to help me, but the light he shone on my path didn’t come out his body, it came out of his truck.

And here’s the same truth, friends. I want to ask you to do me a favor. Please stand up. Now, I’m right-handed. So I’d like to ask you to do me a favor. If you’re left-handed, use your left hand. If you’re right-handed, use your right hand. I would like you to extend your right hand toward a neighbor. Now, if your neighbor’s standing real close, don’t smack them [laughter]. Be careful now. Extend your right hand. And your other hand, extend it up to God.

Now, if you were listening to the children’s sermon, the piece of candy is in this hand. But Lord, who do I give it to? And this is how you go through your town praying for people. Lord, I’m ready to do your will. What do you want me to do? Because you see, what you want is the Paraclete to come alongside of you to bless the person who God wants to bless because God wants to flow through you just like God flowed through Jesus. Do you believe it? I do, too.

Let’s pray. Please stay standing. Lord Jesus, every week we end our worship, that we just not stand there, that we just not sit there, that we just not kneel there, that we just not keep on singing, but that we are ready to do something.

But Lord, we don’t know what to do. We have to turn to you for that, Lord. But help us, Lord, to believe that you are able to do through us anything that you want to do because we have yielded our lives to you.

And we ask that you would begin to flow through us because you are the Paraclete, Lord, to bring your power to us. But we are the Paraclete who brings your power to alongside of each person we pray for because, Lord, we believe that you will answer our prayers. The answer won’t always be what we plan or what we expect or even what we want, but, Lord, we believe in the power of prayer. Amen. 

[Resources]

[Discussion questions.]

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

Posted in aSermons 2019 | Leave a comment

Sermon June 30, 2019: What Christians Need To Know For The Holy Spirit To Flow

Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on June 30, 2019. Title: What Christians Need To Know For The Holy Spirit To Flow. Text: John 2:13-22, John 7:37-39. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy] Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

TRANSCRIPT:

I’d like you to imagine with me an opportunity. See this red cup? I would like you to imagine with me that Jesus has come up to you and said, “Hey, you! If you drink what I give you, it will wash away all your sins. If you take what I give you, it will clean you and heal your broken heart. Come and drink. And if you take what I give you,” Jesus says, “I will lift you up and empower you to live the life you always wanted to live, not just for your own sake, but to help others.” What if you were given that opportunity? What if you had that choice to drink from the red cup and live a new life? What would you do? What would you choose?

Because you see, you do have a choice. Everyone has the choice of drinking from the blue cup, the blue cup where everything is the way it’s always been. You ever heard the phrase what they call the most common words said in any church? “We’ve never done it that way before, and we’re not going to.” That’s the blue cup. “I want to stick with what I know. I want to stick with what’s familiar. Oh, the last thing we would want in the church was a surprise. The last thing we would want in a church would be for people’s lives to change because what if my life changed in a way and I didn’t like it?” You see, we have this temptation to hold on to what is familiar. And so when Jesus came and offered them a different choice, they weren’t interested. “Let’s let everything stay the way it’s always been. We’ve got our temple. We’ve got our way of doing things. We don’t want anything that’s different.” You see, you have a choice. 

Now, some of you who like going to movies, you’ve already caught on to this blue cup and red cup and the way it is portrayed in the movie, The Matrix. The young man Neo was offered a choice between the blue pill and the red pill. It’s possible you’ve never seen that movie or heard of that before. The blue pill lets him go back and live a life that’s not true. But, in that imaginary life, everything is just fine. But if he takes the red pill, he’ll discover the truth. 

But even though the movie doesn’t say it that way it’s almost like when Jesus said, “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” And the man offering the pills to Neo says, “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” But friends, the truth that Jesus Christ offers you can change your mind and it can change the life of everyone you know. Would you have the red cup? Or would you refuse it? 

In John 2:20 Jesus has just cleansed the temple. This is a very first time. This is very early in his ministry. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers. He has driven out the animals for sale in the temple. He has said, “My Father’s house is meant to be a house of prayer.” And the Jewish leaders come and confront him, they say, “Who gave you the authority to do this?” 

And Jesus says these words, “If you destroy this temple, I will raise it up in three days.” Now coming after Easter, we understand what that means but they did not. Verse 20 the Jews then said, “It’s taken 46 years to build this temple. The labor of thousands of people, the cost of thousands of pieces of gold, and you will raise it up in three days?” Verse 21, see that verse? Please read it with me, “But He spoke of the temple of His body.” 

Jesus wanted to create a different kind of church. A church that would be referred to as the Body of Christ. A church that actually was a living thing. Not a building and services that would happen there. But the disciples did not understand what he meant. Verse 22, “But therefore when He was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He had said this. And now they understood and they believed the Scripture and they believed the Word which Jesus had spoken.” 

A year or so later, at the high point of the greatest feast of the nation of Israel, as the high priest was about to do the great thing, through the prayerful silence comes the loud voice of Jesus saying this to all the people, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. And he who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water.” What could that possibly mean? Let’s look at the next verse. “Now, this he said about the spirit.” 

My own interpretation is that he said this about the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Now, this he said about the spirit on the day of Pentecost which those who believed in Him were to receive. Blue cup, not receiving. Red cup, it comes to change your life. Because you see, when you receive this, out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. That’s a promise. The Holy Spirit, you were meant to receive. “But as yet, the spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified,” so this promise refers to an event in their future, the day of Pentecost. And it refers to an event in our past, the day of Pentecost, which is supposed to still be going on today. The Holy Spirit comes down and flows out from the heart of people. 

This desert could be your neighborhood. I hope not, it looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? Those of you who are farmers say, “Yeah. Lots of it right now, that would be just fine”. But take a look at that dry cracked earth where nothing can grow.

It means moisture is lacking, doesn’t it? But if you look at the flat surface of that mud that is cracked, you know what’s quite obvious? There is water that has flowed over it in the past. That cracked surface is shaped by water but the water flowing over it did it no good whatsoever. Came down too hard, flowed over it too quick, none of it got on the inside. What are we going to do about that? If you could bring some water to that earth, new life would grow. Now, you know the first thing the blue cup people say? “Sounds like a job for the pastor. That’s what we pay him to do, or her.” 

Here’s the problem with the pastor providing the water. (GIF plays where a firefighter struggles with a firehose and falls down.) Wait for it, there it is. This is what happens when the Holy Spirit gets ahold of the pastor. It feels like there’s a fire hose coming at you. Sometimes the pastor can’t even maintain his or her balance. When the Holy Spirit falls, when the Holy Spirit flows to all people, here’s the problem. Sometimes it flows so fast and so great a quantity through the pastor, it doesn’t do you much good to try to drink out of a fire hose. 

There’s a picture of my dad the day he joined the Navy, well, Great Lakes Basic Training. I don’t have any pictures of him teaching math. But I learned very, very early as a junior high kid, never to ask my dad, who was a math teacher, to help me with my math homework. Because he was always overjoyed, all the sudden, that I was interested in what he was interested in, that a little tiny question of “Dad, why can’t I get the right answer for this problem?” became an hour-long telling of one story after another after another going all the way back to the Greek and Egyptian mathematicians. That’s the problem with asking the pastor anything, maybe this pastor, too. (Me) And not only that, that quantity of water runs over the top of the ground and it seldom gets in. 

You know what it means for people’s lives to really change? This is what’s really needed – a sprinkler. Just enough to soak in and make a difference. And so what God needs much more than one fire hose is 12 sprinklers. They get a lot more done, are a lot more friendly to the ground they sit on and provide a lot more good results. What’s actually needed is for the Holy Spirit to flow into desert rocks from the fingers of God’s people and into the lives of people around them. 

Consider: if 12 of us chose the red cup, chose to be a channel for the Holy Spirit to flow in little drops of mercy and kindness upon the people in our neighborhoods … If 12 of us chose 12 people each, to pray for and to watch over, we would have a spiritual influence over 144 people. If everyone, who attended worship this Sunday in both of our little churches, would pray for 12 people and be the means by which the Holy Spirit could bless their lives in little drops, we would have a spiritual influence over 700 people. If we worked at it a little harder and God blessed us with more people, our little churches might have a spiritual influence over more people than live in our township, over 1,000 people. 

And you know, the math’s kind of incredible … if 12 people pray for 12 people and then all of those people pray for 12 people, they would have a spiritual influence for the good over 1,728 people. I won’t even ask you to dream with me beyond that because the next level is over 20,000. But the question is, would you be willing to take the red cup and begin to let the Holy Spirit flow through you for perhaps up to 12 people? Why 12? Jesus chose 12. You might be 3-person person. You might be a 30-person person. But I have a feeling you might be getting close to a fire hose if you tried to do that. But Jesus chose 12. 

Well, Pastor Dave, I’m not quite sure what you mean. What exactly are you asking me to do? Well, I’m asking you to get up in the morning, find a place to pray, and give your life to Christ. The words of the centering prayer that our worship began this morning will work just fine. And then read your bible and ask yourself, “What does it say to me that I need to obey?” And then the key question, “Who needs to hear this?” Because it may be that God would say that this particular neighbor this particular week is having this particular problem, and this verse will cheer them up. That’s how the Holy Spirit works. If you will read your bible, God will tell you who needs that idea. And the other thing for your 12 neighbors (or your one neighbor, or whoever) is to have a conversation with them, ask them how they are, and no matter what they say, pray for them. 

You know what’s going to happen? Nine weeks out of ten they’re going to tell you everything is wonderful, and you can say, “Lord, thank you for blessing my neighbor.” But the next week, when something’s not perfect, you can pray every day and, “Lord, help them. Help them.” And again, it may be that God will give you a verse to help them. But this is the way the sprinkler does God’s work … with just a few rather than an entire nation of people.

Brothers and sisters, I don’t need to tell you. You know the huge problem that we have? God has chosen. There is no question. God has chosen to work through each of us. Not just through the pastor. God has chosen to work through each of us because if each one of us does this little thing, which blesses people in the name of Christ, it will total up to a very great lesson. Because this is what God has chosen to do. 

Here’s a picture of Death Valley. This picture is from the spring of 2005. You could look up Death Valley on the internet, in the encyclopedia, or in Wikipedia and it will tell you. It is one of the most hostile places for life in the entire world. In 1913, the world record highest temperature of 134 degrees was measured in Death Valley. That’s why they call it Death Valley. Nothing can live or grow there. 

Except, every now and then, in the fall, and in the winter, there’s some rainfall. And the rain drains off the mountains down into the flat area and then goes down deep. You can’t even see it. What happens five months later in the spring? All of a sudden, this place where nothing can live is filled with flowers. There’s a name for it. It’s called a super bloom. It doesn’t happen very often. 

But if you’re a sprinkler and your neighborhood is a place that needs life, the super bloom won’t happen right away. But if you can get the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to flow through your fingers into the lives of people around you … if you drink deeply from the red cup, Jesus will flow through you to help others. Not perhaps in any sort of showy or dramatic way, but just the way that kindness and love and patience changes people’s hearts. A few months later, you may see life come to the people. This could happen to the people around you, people who are ill, people who are grieving, people who are sad, people who are angry, people who are troubled. You might be the means by which God could turn their lives around, if you’re willing to be the sprinklers of what they need to their thirsty souls. Please pray with me.

Lord, when it gets too dry, we find ourselves praying for rain. Sometimes the rain falls too hard and too fast, and just runs off that surface. What we need, Lord, is for the dry ground to receive the rain that comes in little drops so that it can soak in and really change eache of us. In the same way, Lord, You promised that rivers of loving water would flow out from each of us. Help us to see the potential of what You could do if You could work through us because we were willing to give ourselves to You. If we were willing to make a commitment to You. If we were willing to offer ourselves, to cooperate with God, to redeem our neighborhood, and to make a desert into a green and beautiful place. And so Lord, when You offer us that red cup, when you ask us if we’re willing to do Your will, when You ask us if we are willing to be the channels through whom the Holy Spirit flows to other people, Lord, help us to answer, “Yes.” I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I smile when I think about the firehose because I know sometimes, I’m just like that. But each one of us, in our own way, can be a means of God’s grace to flow into the lives of other people. So every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray. Let’s stand up and sing this hymn…

[Resources]

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
 
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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