Sermon 08/16/20: The Incarnation Habit: Jesus Is Lord. Here. Now. (Pentecost XI)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 08/16/20. 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 Gaither – Since Jesus Came Into My Heart (Live) [Official Video]

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   David Phelps – Joy to the World [Live]

MESSAGE: The Incarnation Habit: Jesus Is Lord. Here. Now.
Text: Luke 2:9-12, Matthew 4:19-20, 28:18-20
Series: Tiny Habits for Growing Christians
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Audio at Wesley UMC
(Apologies for the scratchy audio!)


Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”


HYMN Gaither Vocal Band – You Are My All in All With Canon in D [Live]

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

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

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


One of the things that was amazing this week is I looked for a version of Joy to the World where they included this verse. I could not find one. When the Gaither Vocal Band sings this in concert, they leave this verse out. Why would they do that? “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” and he’s going to change this world.

But this is the verse that has to do with us:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow” … in your heart, in my heart because
“He’s come to let his blessings flow.
Far as the curse is found.
Far as the curse is found …
Far as, far as the curse is found.”

This is about Christ coming into the world and changing our lives. And the sad thing for me is I get up in the morning, and I look in the mirror and, unfortunately, there are still many parts of my life that I would like to change. On the other hand, it seems like I’m the one that has to do something to make that change happen.

How do we make changes in our lives? And the whole world is turned upside down. We are being forced in churches to move from our favorite big events where we draw everybody together in a crowd for a concert, for a revival, for a parade, or a picnic. We’re now only able to do tiny things. But tiny things done well, just like seeds, can sprout and grow and become something mighty. God loves tiny things. Here’s this verse: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. And he who is unfaithful or dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” Little tiny things predict the future. And God is just fine with working through all the little tiny things that we can do, although, for us, they’re a little bit easy for us to miss.

There is this book called Tiny Habits. It’s written by B.J. Fogg, who is a Stanford research behavior psychologist, and he advocates that, instead of trying to do big things, that we focus on starting with little tiny things. In fact, he says, “The smaller the better.” And I got to thinking the past few weeks. I wonder if we couldn’t take what the New Testament asks us to do and apply this scientific pattern of being able to do it, so that we can figure out the tiny things that we Christians can do that would add up to a big difference in our world in spite of all the restrictions on our world at the present time. And so I want to give some thought with you in a new sermon series about how we can take the habits that Jesus asked us to practice and make them tiny and do them better.

Now, there are three parts to this theory. The first one is you begin with what he calls an anchor. That’s something you already do. And then immediately after that anchor you insert the new behavior that you want to be able to practice. And then after you practice it, then there’s a time of emotional celebration. ABC!

B.J. Fogg’s famous for the idea that what you should do is floss one tooth. Now, I don’t know about you, but no dentist has ever been able to threaten me to the point to where I am willing to floss. Here’s what BJ Fogg says, “Don’t floss. Floss one tooth.” One tooth. And before you know it, when you’re in the habit of flossing one tooth it won’t be any problem at all to floss the one next to it. And then the one next to that. And before you know it, you’ll be flossing every single day because you want to start with something really tiny.
Another tiny habit he uses is whenever he uses the bathroom in his home, he does one push up. Now, I have not done a push up for probably several years now. But I think every single one of us could probably do one push up. Well, he’s now up to 26. It’s a tiny habit.

I take my watch, my Fitbit, off when I’m headed to the shower, and I set it on top of the container that holds my medicine for the day. Because I’ve noticed that I have a problem remembering to take my medicine. But I have no problem whatsoever remembering that I need to put my watch back on. So I have put the two of them together. The anchor is my watch. The behavior is the watch reminds me to take my medicine. And now I have no problem being certain that I take my medicine every day. (Except on those days when I don’t take my watch off because I don’t take a shower. I’m still working on that!)

But these are tiny habits. And they work. The reason they work is the hardest part of something becoming a habit is for us to get started. Once we’re started, we don’t have much problem continuing.
The third thing that B.J. Fogg points out is that is very, very important and very, very valuable is for you to celebrate. For you to be emotionally happy when you floss that one tooth. For you to be emotionally happy when you take your medicine and put your watch back on. For you to do a little dance there in the kitchen, and make a big deal out of this tiny thing. Because B.J. Fogg says when the emotion of joy is connected to something that you feel you ought to do, that’s the thing that will cause you to do it. When you walk past the pill container later that day, you’ll remember the happy dance. The happy feeling when you did what you made a commitment to do.

I took his online course this past week, and B.J. Fogg recommended what they call the Maui habit. Now Maui is an island in the Hawaiian Islands. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, and there is a long story behind this. But basically 30% of people who attempt to use the tiny habits as a way to change their lives, wind up starting with the Maui habit.

Here’s the Maui habit. When you sit up and your feet land on the floor, you count off to yourself, “One, two, three.” And you say, “It’s going to be a great day.” And then he recommends you point your fingers up in the air and shake them like this and have your little happy moment. You really feel silly when you do that. But when you stand up after doing that, the good feeling continues. The good feeling continues. The happy dance, the happy moment, the moment of celebration, is what gives energy to the new habit becoming established. This is used to change your emotions about the day because every morning those feet land on the floor, you know that’s going to happen. When you stand up, you can tell yourself it’s going to be a great day.

So all last week, my feet landed on the floor and I found myself doing my version of this which is “It’s going to be a great day because Jesus is Lord and he is in control.” And so I give the day to Him. And then I would do not just pointing my hands in the air but I’d lift my hands in prayer. And you know something? It worked. It affected my emotions all day long. But you know what I found out? When I walked across the street over to the church I wanted to say it over here. And when I went from one place to another, I wanted to say it there. And when I went home for lunch I wanted to say it as I entered my home. And as I left my home to come back to work and came into the church, I wanted to say it in the church. I wanted to say this every time I left one part of my life for another. And so I said to myself, “Let’s not have it just be a morning thing. Let’s have it be when I step into a new place …”

And so, I decided to call it the Incarnation habit. Which is that whenever I entered a new place, a new room, maybe not from the bedroom to the kitchen but significant changes in where I was, I would pronounce over that room that Jesus is Lord here and now, and that He is the Lord of what happens here. And then, I would celebrate.

Maybe not quite like this. I had a thought this morning that maybe I should run down the aisle celebrating but I thought to myself, maybe that’s a little bit too much. And I didn’t want to strain anything. So you may not wish to celebrate this strongly!

But for you to tell a new place you enter into Jesus is the Lord here is a profound way to change your perspective. Particularly if the place you’re entering is one that is challenging. The home perhaps of somebody you don’t get along with. If you’re going into a hospital building, you may want to pronounce that Jesus is Lord here. If you go to a funeral home, you may want to pronounce that Jesus is Lord, Here.

Because we are not alone. At the beginning of the service, we sang about the changes that happened when Jesus comes into our heart. You know what the biggest change is? Wherever you go, your heart goes. And friends, wherever your heart goes, Jesus goes with you. You are not alone. But to say this thing that’s true out loud, changes how we feel, changes our perspective. And hopefully changes what we say. Changes what we do.

No more let sins and sorrows grow! Nor thorns infest the ground! Because when you walk into a place and announce that Jesus is Lord, when you think about the idea, you are bringing Christmas into that new place. Because anybody who’s there, to them is born a savior. And He is Lord in this place. That’s a great joy for us to announce. Jesus is here. And not only that because Jesus is in your heart, when you come into a place where He is the Lord, He will beckon to you to follow him, to do things in this new place that are a match for what he wants us to do.

When you announce to the room, Jesus is Lord, whether you’re shouting it or just whispering it in your heart, you’re making a declaration that He is the boss and you’re here to live His way. And that will make a difference.

As I spoke with you last week, we are the people who are expected to go to go and make disciples, to baptize them, to teach them how to obey everything that Jesus taught us to obey, for us not only to practice it but to teach it to others. We have this very human tendency to not go but to want to hang around in our comfort zone, to hang around in Jerusalem. And I said to you last week, “We’re not sure how we can go.”

But the one thing I know I told you last week is that when you go, Jesus goes with you, and he will show you, in every situation and every moment, what you are to do because He goes with you. You bring the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere you go. And you bring his light into the darkness everywhere you go. And whenever you come up to a person who is struggling in darkness, the light of Christ is shining on them because you bring the Lord Jesus Christ with you.

Now, when you think about that, that’s a very tiny thing. But a very tiny thing like that could change the lives of every single person around you. For you to make Jesus the Lord in every place. So maybe it’s my Maui habit. I’m going to begin my day by declaring that I believe it’s going to be a good day. Why? Because Jesus is Lord.

Maybe it’s what I’m calling the incarnation habit, which is that when you go from here to there, but you understand that not only is Jesus going with you, but he is going to be the Lord wherever you are. And that will make a gigantic difference.

Now the key thing here, according to B.J. Fogg, is that we need to emotionally take joy in that new perception, that we need to rejoice and celebrate, whether that’s just simply a smile on your face or whether you decide to do a little happy dance. Some of us are happy dancers. Some of us are not. But however, you would wish to go, add your own heart to it. You strengthen everything that you surround with happiness and joy.

So think about this. Think about this with me. What could we make a tiny habit? And when I thought about this, I decided that it would be true that any place I’m reading through the Bible, wherever Jesus says, “Do this,” that could be something that we could begin to do. Well, maybe what we need to do is do it as a tiny habit.

Because all too often, I start off with these big plans. And by the time I’m done making all my plans, I’m just so worn out. Maybe the small thing is the hardest thing for me to do. And this is the tiny habits approach. Is to make the behavior that I want to become a regular part of our life … Make it easier. Make it tinier. Make it something that is so easy to do that I can’t say no. [Floss 1 tooth?] Put my watch where my medicine is. Make it a little thing that then I can add onto. And in a sense, I think we could do this for every single command in the New Testament.

When you read through your Bible this week, perhaps one thing will speak to you. And it will be something entirely different that speaks to you, and another thing that’s entirely different that speaks to another person because we’re all different people in different situations.

But this “tiny habits” tool of psychology might help us to become better Christians. When Christianity is expressed in the tiny little things that you and I do because – and this is the point – the problem with a habit seems to be getting started. When we make it too hard, it becomes impossible to start. But if you’re up on the top of a high hill and could sit down on your skateboard and get it going, I want you to know that that little tiny thing will work all the way downhill!
But getting started has always been the most difficult thing for me. Could very well be the most difficult thing for every one of us. Please pray with me. Lord. Jesus, every time we complain – and some of us complain a lot – we’re actually wishing that something would be different. We’re actually hoping that something would change. And Lord, we’re always praying for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. But we are forgetting that there are things that we can do and that we need to pray for the courage to do the things we can. And Lord, if it helps us to obey you more effectively, more efficiently, to obey you starting with little tiny things, then Lord, I pray that you would bless our little tiny efforts so that we can build on them and let them grow. And may their influence upon our lives and the lives of people around us also grow. Lord, help us not to avoid what we need to be doing by trying to do it in too big a way, but to understand that even the smallest thing done to honor Jesus Christ and obey his word will lead to good in our lives. We ask you to change our perspective to little things that we can do and help us, Lord, to get started. And we ask this in the name of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ.

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 Road, 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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One Response to Sermon 08/16/20: The Incarnation Habit: Jesus Is Lord. Here. Now. (Pentecost XI)

  1. Gerri says:

    I love this idea of celebration that Jesus is Lord, and to pick something small to start!Excellent service this morning and I enjoyed the music! Jill and Israel enjoyed from the parking lot.

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