Sermon 07/12/20: LAW #1: God Loves You And Has A Wonderful Plan for Your Life. (Pentecost VI)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 07/12/20. If illness or travel prevented you from joining us for worship Sunday, or if you would like to experience the worship again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN The Collingsworth Family (Holy, Holy, Holy) 05-03-13
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbezPGo9gB0

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

HYMN This Is My Father’s World Official Performance Video The Collingsworth Family
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6wmWrDWLiQ

MESSAGE: LAW #1: God Loves You And Has A Wonderful Plan for Your Life.
Text: Psalm 23, John 10:10b-11
Series: Four Spiritual Laws (after Sheltering in Place)
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Audio from Wesley UMC
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SERMON NOTES
Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; 2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

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HYMN The Collingsworth Family – Since Jesus Came Into My Heart
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp4aPI4FJGc

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

TRANSCRIPT

We are trying to figure out how to do church after the entire world has changed. Now, there are some people who don’t believe that anything’s changed, but I think the entire world has changed. How do you do something new when the world changes? Here’s what I would suggest, you go back to the basics.

If you’re going to build a building, you’re going to start with a firm foundation. There’s a lot of ways to describe the foundation of the church, but I wanted to go back to something that was popular when I was in high school. I still remember the day my father said to me, “Dave, can we go in the living room? I want to talk to you.” And he opened this little booklet, and he said, “This booklet explains the four spiritual laws that are the basics of our faith. Here’s the first law. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

And here’s where the plan starts. This is what we talked about last week. The plan starts with God’s promise that if my people— this is us. If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways. The promise is that God will hear from heaven and will heal our land. So this is where God’s wonderful plan starts … with us humbling ourselves and seeking God’s face.

Isn’t it wonderful that God has a plan? Here’s the problem that most of us have with God’s plan. The difficulty is not with the fact that God has a plan, not with the fact that God does love us. Our difficulty comes because from time to time the plan is beyond our understanding. You and I, we also have a wonderful plan for our life. Guess what, we are often very wrong about what would actually be wonderful!

When there’s a mismatch between what we think should be God’s plan and what we see happening around us, sometimes it causes us to question our faith that God does love us. We question our faith that God does have a wonderful plan. I have a mental list, you probably do too, of things that I want to ask God when I get to heaven. And right now, at the top of my list is why did we have to go through this pandemic of coronavirus? Now, the trouble is that there will be a very, very long line of people wanting to ask God questions. All those people want to know why there are mosquitoes. I don’t know if you’ve heard the joke, but it’s like “Why didn’t Noah smack those two mosquitoes on the ark?” And the rest of the people in line want to know why there’s poison ivy. Every mother of a small child who’s out of school in the summer wants to know why. But for some answers, we have to wait till heaven.

But we can believe that God does have a wonderful plan for us and that God does love us. But sometimes we need to be reminded that this is my Father’s world, that God made the world for people and all of God’s creation. And that we can trust God to watch over us.

There are many, many things that we do not understand. But that in itself is easy to understand. Sometimes we need to be reminded that when we feel far, far, far away from God, the problem’s not really with the telescope. Sometimes it’s even that God is so close we can’t even discern what God is doing in our midst. But we can believe God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life.

Now, sometimes God sees problems coming. This is not the first pandemic that has spread across the world. From the flu in the 1918 era all the way back to the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, the world from time to time has come up with dangerous diseases.

Sometimes God sees problems coming that you and I do not. Who among us, if we had made a list of what it meant to have a wonderful plan for our lives, who among us would’ve put what we’re going through with the coronavirus on that list? Now, please understand, I’m not saying that God has caused this pandemic but that God can help us with it. Because such things happen in the world that we live in.

And when I feel helpless, here’s a scripture that comes to mind for me. A psalm of David. Certainly, there was no one in the Bible who struggled with more difficulties than David. But here’s how David stated his faith. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness.” The right path, the right choice, the right direction for his name’s sake. That sounds pretty wonderful, right? That is a wonderful plan for my life.

Here’s what David says when it gets dark, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, the tools that a shepherd uses thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.

And here’s where David ends up. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me… Keep in mind that David is following God. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Let me give you the shortest, simplest summary of God’s plan for your life. There is it right there what Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 4:19. He said to them, “Follow me.”

I don’t have any scientific answers for the coronavirus. I’m still shocked to this day that neither President Trump or President Obama or President Bush has not called me to check before they make any important decision. I’m shocked. I’m about to give up. I don’t think I’m on the President’s speed dial. But here’s the thing that I know, there’s God’s plan for my life. Here’s God’s plan for my life. Jesus says, “Follow me.” That’s the main thing I need to be concerned about. Follow me.

And if I follow the shepherd, goodness and mercy will follow me, and probably catch up to me. This following business is enhanced by remembering this verse. (This happens to be Kim’s favorite verse and it’s certainly the favorite of many, many people.) Jesus reminded them, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says. “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” and we know that Jesus did. None the less as you and I follow, we are going to find that our wonderful plan does not match up with God’s wonderful plan.

Garth Brooks recorded a song. It was a big hit for him. He and his wife were back at a high school reunion and they went to a football game and ran into his high school girlfriend. As he tells the story this was the girl that he prayed and poured out his heart, “God this is the one for me.” And at the end of the song, he says how thankful he is that God knew better than his young, idealistic, impatient prayer. Where he says and he reminds us, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

Now if we knew then what we knew now, we might pray different prayers … but the flat reality is this, God is looking over our prayers and has something just as good or better for us whenever we don’t get what we think we need and want.

It’s an old saying when we pray to God, there’s basically three answers. There’s actually a multitude of different ways that God gives us the answers, but here’s the big three. Sometimes we pray and the answer is yes. Sometimes when we pray and the answer is no. Sometimes we pray and the answer is just wait, be patient.

Sometimes that’s because it takes God many, many years to answer a prayer, if God’s going to answer it perfectly.

Sometimes it means that God has something far better, but it’s just not quite ready yet.

Sometimes we have to wait to get our head on straight. If we met the perfect girl for us now, she would decide at that time she didn’t want us until we cleaned up our act. So God gives us time to clean up our act.

Sometimes the best answers to prayer require us to wait a bit. And I think, honestly, we’re waiting now.

Think about what it’s like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Do you ever find yourself driving down the road at night? Does it ever bother you that you can’t see more than a hundred feet ahead of you? You’re probably watching for Bambi and other animals.

Well, we go through life a little bit like somebody driving through the dark on the road they’ve never been on before. There is a plan. There is a path. There is a road. You can only see the next few feet, but if you pay attention today, you have all you need because you only need to see the 100 feet or so in front of you. If you didn’t leave your home until you had figured everything out, you would never be able to leave your home. If you never left your home until you could see every possible thing that could go wrong, you would never leave your home.

But when you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, you are not going to see far to the side. You’re not going to be able to see that far ahead. Maybe all you can make out if you’re a sheep that’s afraid of the dark is the shape of the shepherd walking a few feet in front of you. And here’s the truth brothers and sisters.: that’s enough.

These words come from psychology. Don’t overfunction. You can’t do more than what you can do. Don’t be lazy or stupid and underfunction, do less than what you should do to be safe. Just function. If you and I just do what we need to do today, today will be a good day because you can see ahead of yourself enough to know what Jesus wants you to do, not for the rest of your life, not for next week and maybe not even for tomorrow, but for right now. You can see by the light that He provides what you need right now.

Or as Jesus said to them, “Just follow me.”

Please, pray with me. Lord Jesus, I’m still going to pray and ask you for all the answers because that’s the way I’m made. I want to know everything. I want to be able to explain everything, and I want to be able to read about it in a book with footnotes. Good Lord, in the valley of the shadow of death when darkness surrounds me, I can’t see except for just a few feet in front of me. But Lord, if I can see You, help me to realize, in this moment, I have what I need for this moment because I believe, Lord Jesus, that you proved it to us on the cross … you love us, and you have a wonderful plan for our life. Help me to deal with reality. That I only get to find out about it a few feet at a time. 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.
 

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