Acts 3:1-10 The Church Helps.

August 18th, 2014 by RevBT
[video src="http://www.divinecrash.com/churchhelp.m4a" width="400" height="300" ]

I remembered to hit record! Here is our continuation of our sermon series on Acts. Enjoy! Feel free to take a listen via iTunes and leave a comment with your thoughts.
Open in Prayer: Dear Jesus, as you opened the eyes of a man born blind, may you open our eyes to your word that we may once again see your face.

We are continuing in Acts and moving through, if last week was about the church’s calling and necessary actions, then this week and the next few weeks looks at some of the nuts and bolts and specifics of what exactly it is we do. What does it look like for us to live out this calling as a church. What do we do? So for the next couple weeks as we move through Acts we see what it is that we do.

But let’s not misunderstand, we can say “the church does this.” but I don’t have to. That isn’t the point. The church is not an institution or a building. We are the church. We are the body of Christ in this world today. And therefore these are things that each of us are called to do and if we do not do them then we are not the church.

So the question we are looking at today is “What do we do?”

We’ve spent the last few weeks about the need to do something, but what do we do? Like what are the specifics? What one thing can I do today that would be what Jesus would do and would bring the Kingdom of God closer.

Here, check out our scripture.

Acts 3:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB) pew bible page 146
Healing of a crippled man
Peter and John were going up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the established prayer time. Meanwhile, a man crippled since birth was being carried in. Every day, people would place him at the temple gate known as the Beautiful Gate so he could ask for money from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he began to ask them for a gift.Peter and John stared at him. Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gazed at them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!” Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up. At once his feet and ankles became strong. Jumping up, he began to walk around. He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him as the same one who used to sit at the temple’s Beautiful Gate asking for money. They were filled with amazement and surprise at what had happened to him.
The word of God for the people of God.

There is an interplay at work here. There is so much going on that it can be hard, but let’s dive in and see what we can do.

Notice what Peter and John are doing.

They are going to church. They are going in to the ritual prayer time.

They would have walked in the main entrance where the Gentiles were, they were not allowed to go any further, then through the beautiful gate to the women’s area. Then into the men’s area which is the closest they could get without being a priest. It would have

Peter and John are walking in through those doors. They were going to worship God but right outside of those doors is a man who can’t walk. He sat there begging for money.

For the ancient Israelites it was believed that God literally dwelt in that temple. That by going in they were standing in the presence of God.

So right here we have this interplay between beautiful and ugly.

This beautiful gate that houses the temple and is where they go to worship God.
The gate reminds them of where they are and whose house this is and why they are going.
Behind this gate is a God who desires them to worship and make sacrifices.

However, just in front of this gate is a guy who can’t walk. He is completely dependent on his friends who would drop him off at the door to beg, he probably gave them a cut of his money. He probably isn’t the cleanest, nicest looking, or smartest guy around. This guy has needs. He might even smell bad and use foul language.

Everyone who walks by is left with a choice. To go in and go along with the plan they had, to worship God like they were supposed to or to stop and acknowledge this beggar. Everyone walked by, it says he was out there every day begging so Peter and John probably walked by on multiple occasions. But this time they stopped.

They stopped what they were doing, they gave up their mission of getting closer to God to make sure this beggar had what he needed.

Imagine with me the logic here, God is right there through the temple gate, we are going to see him, that is our plan. Everything is in place. But instead we see this beggar that we have probably ignored every day for years. But this time we stop. Change our plans and move on.

Peter and John are literally forsaking God so that they can help this guy.

Peter and John gave up on God’s rules so that they could embrace God’s beloved.

See, going to the temple at 3pm was a rule that they must follow in order for them to properly live out their religion. By not praying at 3pm they were disobeying God’s rules. They were sinning.

Peter and John were willing to sin to help this guy.

These guys were literally giving up the ability to be in the presence of God so that they could share Jesus with this beggar.

This has all sorts of ramifications for us today.

I think the biggest ramification for us that we must be willing for forsake the presence of God if that is what it takes to share Jesus with another person.

That is what we do as a church. We help other people meet Jesus. We do whatever it takes to help others meet Jesus.

Every single person matters to God. Every single person is God’s beloved and every single person had their days numbered by God before even one of them came to be.

Jesus died for every single person that has ever existed. As United Methodists we phrase this as “Every person has sacred worth and sacred value”

So, it means we do whatever needs to be done in order to make sure new people meet Jesus.

For some it is healing.
For others it is finances,
For some it is a bed net in Africa or a new suit from Care and Share.
For others still it means we give up on religion so that we can care for others.
Whatever it is, we make a conscious decision to make sure that the other person has what they need to meet jesus, even at the expense of our own encounters with Jesus.

How much is it worth for you so that others will know who Jesus is? For Peter and John it was worth eternity.

It must be worth the same to us. If we can’t give up eternity so that others know Jesus then we will miss eternity.

So then,

What are you willing to give up to make sure others know about Jesus?
would you give of your time? that’s a start.
Would you give of your stuff? That’s a nice gesture.
would you give of your money? maybe, maybe not
Would you give up your own eternity so that others know who Jesus is? Now we are getting somewhere.

Being a church is a conscious decision to make sure others have everything else they need to meet Jesus even if that means we go without.  And sometimes that means we go next-door or oversees, it might mean we build a house or  run a VBS, and  give out a bed net. It can look like anything but it still requires that we make a conscious decision to make sure others get everything else to succeed even if that means we go without.
I think Philip Harrison says it best when he wrote this story called: “In or out”
‘The other day I had a dream. I dreamed I arrived at the gates of heaven, heavy-shut, pure oak, beveled and crafted, glinting sharp in the sunlight.  St. Peter stood to greet me; the big man wore brown, smile set deep against his ruddy cheeks.
‘You’re here,’ he said.
‘I am,’ I said.
‘Great to see you – been expecting you,’ he smiled.
‘Come on in.’
He pushed gently against the huge door; it swung silently, creaks.  I took a couple of steps forward until, at the threshold, one more step up and in, I realized I wasn’t alone.  My friends had joined me, but they hovered behind, silently, looking on.  None spoke.  I realized only I could speak.  I looked at them; some were Christians, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some Muslims, some Jews, some atheists.  Some God knows what.  I stopped, paused.  A hesitant St. Peter looked at me, patiently, expectantly.
‘What about these guys?’ I asked him.  ‘My friends.  Can they come?’
‘Well, Phil,’ he replied, soft still in the air, ‘you know the rules.  I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are.  Only the right ones.’
I looked at him.  He seemed genuinely pained by his answer.  I stood, considering.  What should I do?  I thought about my reference points, and thought about Jesus, the outsider, the unacceptable, the fool, the heretic, the criminal, and I knew exactly where I belonged.
‘I’ll just stay here then too,’  I said, taking my one foot out of heaven.  And I’ll tell you, I’d swear I saw something like a grin break across St. Peter’s face, and a voice from inside whispered, ‘At last.’”

What it means to help others can look like any number of things but no matter what they look like they still require a conscious decision to stay outside the gates of heaven until everyone gets in.

We are called to that kind of church. To be the church that stands outside the gates and ushers people in. That does whatever is necessary so that others can come in.

In our scripture today, verse 8 says that this guy was jumping up, standing, walking, and leaping and praising God.

We have to be the kind of church that makes people leap and praise God!

Let us pray:

 

Sermon Audio 

| Open Player in New Window

Share

Acts 2:43-47

August 11th, 2014 by RevBT

Enjoy my sermon. There isn’t a recording because I forgot to start my recorder. Which is a shame because I really liked the sermon and the places where I went away from my notes seemed to be good things. Oh well…..Next time.

Me:
I grew up not going to church. I didn’t have faith. I wasn’t against it, but it wasn’t important to me. I just wanted to live my life by my rules without some old book telling me what to do. Then one day in May I asked this cute girl named Susan if she would go on a date with me. Her response was “I only date boys who go to church.” So guess where I was that next Sunday! That Sunday the pastor welcomed me and said he was glad I was there. My response was “I’m only here to be with that cute blonde girl right over there.” He told me that was fine and I should go have a seat. It was a tiny little church with about 20 people on a Sunday and that day the pastor preached on Matthew 16:26 “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul in the end?” This got me thinking about life and the big questions about eternity and priorities and how Jesus fit into my life.  I spent the rest of the spring and summer meeting with the pastor just asking questions. We would get in his car and just drive and talk. Finally on August 26, 1999 sitting in my pastors car in the church parking lot I gave in and gave my life to christ. I started reading my bible and learning and growing in faith.

However, my pastor and I realized that I was quickly outgrowing that church. There was no youth program, no disciples program, nothing but Sunday mornings and I needed more. So he encouraged me to go to another church in town that had a youth pastor and contemporary worship. It was a hard decision to leave that church but I did and it made all the difference.

That church continued to decline and about 1 year later the church sold the parsonage. Another year later my pastor was laid off because they couldn’t afford to pay him. About 5 years after I gave my life to christ the church was closed.

I was speaking to that pastor shortly after it closed and he said “If only I had put ministries in place we wouldn’t have closed.” and the people say “We knew we loved Jesus but we didn’t know what to do next.” And the family of that girl I had a crush on attended the church until it closed and said “We knew we were in trouble but we didn’t know what to do.”

You:

Ever been there?
Ever asked those questions? Thought to yourself “We have to do something before it is to late?”
Maybe you see those warning signs in this church, we look around and we see lots of gray hair and even more empty spaces?
Maybe you sit back and you wonder what does the future hold for this church?
Maybe you think to yourself “I have kids and grandkids who need the church, but if nothing changes will the church that I love be there for them in 10 years? 20 years? 40 years?
Ever been at a place where you looked at the church family you love and realize that something must be done? That simply staying the same will leave us a dead church with closed doors and that is a thought more painful than the changes we must make to stay alive.
What do we do?
Maybe you know you love Jesus and you follow Jesus but you don’t know what that means.

At one point the disciples found themselves in a situation where if they did not make the necessary changes the church would die.

Here: Check out our scripture and see what the disciples did.

God:

Acts 2:43-47 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

The word of God for the people of God.

It has been said that Christianity is always one generation from extinction. The first followers of Jesus understood this. They knew that the entire mission of Jesus rested on them and if they didn’t do something it would fail, and every future generation would spend eternity separated from God.

So what did the first church do? How did they keep alive the mission of God?

The first church gathered together.
They met in church every week.
They didn’t skip because the football game was on
They didn’t skip because there was snow
They didn’t skip because they wanted to sleep in
They didn’t skip because they had other stuff to do.
They gathered together as often as they possibly could.
At times they risked their own life to gather together. and yet they did. No matter what.
The first church gave.
They would give as much as they could to make sure everyone else in the church had their needs met.
They would even sell stuff they didn’t need so they could give more.
They didn’t just give to make themselves feel good or meet a budget. Verse 45 says they gave so that those who were in need would have their needs met.
They didn’t give out of obligation, verse 46 says they had generous hearts. They gave because they were generous.
The first church ate
I think Methodists get this one right more than any other. We are good at eating.
The meal together was an intricate part of life together as a church.
But they ate together. They would mingle and interact and sit with different people.
The first church praised God
Every time they gathered a few things would happen
1 Corinthians 14:26 says “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together each one has a hymn, a lesson, revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 11:20-26 says to offer the meal that Jesus offered on the night before he was betrayed. We call this Communion.
They praised God not out of some irrational fear that they had to earn God’s approval but verse 46 says they were “glad” they had joy! They were happy to praise God.
Their week may have been a wreck, their friends may have been killed for their faith, they may have lost their job, or been on the run because of their faith, but that didn’t matter, they still praised God.
What happened when the early church did this? God added to their number.

They were gathering each week no matter what. They were giving and eating and praising God. And God was adding to their number.

We are the Church video

I would give anything for that kind of church.

You:

For us, that means:
We must gather each week. No matter what. twice a month is not gathering together. Gathering when the Steelers aren’t playing isn’t gathering together. If you want to see a church in which God adds to their numbers daily. Then we need to be here as often as possible. So unless you are sick, on vacation, or snowed in you should be here.
We must be giving. Not to meet a budget or feel good or get a tax write off. We must be giving so that those in need can have their needs met. This is 10% of our income as an offering to the local church’s operating budget. This is called a tithe. If you want your church to be healthy then this is the minimum what each of us must be doing. But we don’t do it so that we can meet a budget. We don’t tithe so that we feel good. We tithe so that we may help those in need. Your tithe doesn’t just keep our lights on. Your tithe helps us to do missions like VBS, Care and Share, and through our mission share reaches to Zimbabwe, Russia, and Nicaragua and to the whole world! When you give your dollar reaches the whole world.
We must eat together. Like I said, we do this one really well. We must get together and share a meal. As a church. This is our Wonderful Wednesday dinners, this is our church picnic, this is our coffee/fellowship time downstairs after every service. We do this really well and I think we should keep doing it.
We must praise God. Too often we come to church and we sit down with our arms folded and say “ I don’t like this” or “this isn’t how my grandparents did it.” but here is the thing, Church is not about you. Church isn’t about what you like or making you feel good. Church isn’t even about your preferences. Church is about praising God. We hear a sermon, we sing songs, and we build up the people so that they may hear about God’s grace and go into the world to share God’s grace with the world. That is what we do, every time we gather. If we aren’t here to praise God then we should all just pack up and go home.
You don’t have to do this. You can sit here right now and cross your arms and say “I have too much to do to come to church every Sunday” or “I ain’t tithing.” And that’s fine. You don’t have to, no one will force you.

But let’s be honest, if you won’t do these things;
1. You are not living into your membership vows.
2. Then you are not contributing to the health of this church.
3. You are not supporting this church
4. You are not doing what this church needs to be a healthy and vibrant church again.

If we want a healthy, vibrant, alive, and a world-changing church that people actually want to come to then  we must do what the first apostles did. They did it with Joy and gladness in their hearts and so must we.

I know you are tired. I know you have tried a lot and it didn’t always work. I know some of you are so exhausted from trying so much. but I also know

And if we do this, then scripture tells us that God will be faithful and will add to our numbers, not just on Christmas, Easter, or VBS Sunday , but daily! Every single day we will see new people who will love Jesus and follow Jesus and join us in that journey. Our numbers in church may not go up. But the amount of people who know Jesus will increase because we are faithful. It isn’t about our numbers, it is about those who know who God is and have a faith in Jesus.

We:

Can you imagine that kind of church? A church that is vibrant and alive and is changing the world? Can you imagine California UMC being that kind of church?

So then, that kind of a church is going to take work. It is going to take money, and above all it is going to take people who are committed to realizing the vision of a fully alive and vibrant church. I can’t do it on my own and I shouldn’t do it on my own. I need your help. We need to do this together. If you are new today, this is a great day to be here and jump in on the ground floor of something huge!

We stand at the cusp of something brand new. We stand at the beginning of a journey that will take us closer to God, closer to each other, and will take us to places we have never been before and it is going to be amazing! I don’t know what exactly it will look like but it is going to be a beautiful and amazing sight that will result in God looking at us one day and saying “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

So how do we properly start this journey. Just like Jesus we start it by inviting others to come along side us. We look to our friends and family who may or may not know who Jesus is and say to them “we are doing a brand new thing. Why don’t you come check it out with me.”

Share

Acts 1:6-11

August 8th, 2014 by RevBT

This sermon is the second sermon in our Acts series, however due to an emergency in church I didn’t get to finish it and there is no recording. So I will save it and preach it another day.

 

We are continuing in Acts and learning about the history of the church but also what that history means for us today.

Acts was probably written around 60-62 AD by a guy named Luke, who also wrote the Gospel of Luke and was a doctor who loved history. He is writing it to a man named Theophilus.

Acts is a book full of events and teachings of the early disciples it tells of their triumphs and their struggles and disappointments and how God used these 12 ordinary messed up people to change the world.

That’s the thing to remember, these people weren’t some super Christians who had it all together and knew exactly what to do.

In Matthew 28:17 the Disciples have gathered to see the risen Jesus and it says they worshipped him, but some doubted. These disciples had doubts and concerns and questions.

Later, in Acts 1:26 the Disciples had no idea who to pick to take Judas’ place so they played a game of chance.

Throughout the Gospel and Acts we see Jesus calling and using people who partied too much, broke the rules, didn’t fit in, abandoned their families, and were outcasts from society.

These people were a mess, ever been there?

Ever wondered if God can still use you?

By show of hands, anyone ever been there? I know there are times that I wonder that.

Ever been in a place in your life where you wondered? Can God still use me?

Maybe you have done things you aren’t proud of and you wonder if you can be used by God?

Maybe people have done things to you and you feel dirty and gross and unloved by the whole world, and that God can’t even look at you?

Maybe you are a little older, and your hair a little whiter, and you see this younger generation going out and changing the world and you wonder “Can I still serve God?”

Maybe you have a past full of mistakes and broken laws and poor choices and you wonder “How could God possibly use me.”

Maybe you feel like you don’t know enough or give enough or devote enough time to be used by God?

Maybe you were once on fire for God, you and your spouse were in this together and now your spouse is gone and you can’t figure out if you could ever be used by God by yourself.

Maybe you thought God was using you, but then your kids grew up and abandoned their faith and you feel like a failure and think that if you can’t even reach your kids how could you be used by God to reach anyone else.

Maybe sometimes you are okay and you know you are loved and forgiven, but maybe other times you have doubts.

Maybe you are sitting here today listing all of your imperfections and wondering how God could possibly use you.

I think that is where the disciples were. I think this is what the disciples were thinking when they were standing there watching Jesus ascend to heaven.

In verse 11 is says they were “gazing” at Jesus when he went up to heaven in Greek the word for gazing is emblepo and it means to stare transfixed on an object.

In other words they were just standing there staring at Jesus.

First, the disciples ask Jesus a question to which Jesus ignores. And instead tells them “don’t worry about what I will do, do what you are supposed to be doing.”

Jesus tells them they will have the Holy Spirit and then they will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the whole world.

Then Jesus floats away into a cloud.

and the disciples are stuck standing there staring upward.

Then two guys in robes come down and tell them that they don’t need to stand around, Jesus will be back.

These were the same disciples who doubted when Jesus was with them. I imagine their doubt was even greater.

These are the same disciples who ran away and even denied Jesus when Jesus was being crucified.

Now they must be wondering if they can be of any use to God even now.

Now that Jesus is gone, how could they be of any use. They were mostly poor fishermen and tax collectors. No one paid attention to them. How could they possibly be of any use to God?

And in the midst of all their doubt and questions Jesus is telling them “You go be my witnesses.” Really? In other words, the entire fate of Christianity is resting on their shoulders. If they fail then people die and go to hell.  So, no pressure!

Jesus specifically picked these people to change the world.

think about it like this: Who would you pick to change the world?
- Bill Gates
- Steve Jobs
- Other famous people.
- Smart people who have it all together.

That is not who Jesus picked to change the world.

Jesus picked you to change the world.

Yes, you! Each and every one of you.

Your age doesn’t matter, you abilities do not matter, your past sins do not matter. What matters is that the God of the universe picked you to change the world.

You may be flat broke, unemployed, hated by your peers, and just a grumpy old guy or you might be 8 years old and full of hope and wonder for the world. Either way Jesus picked you as his instrument of change in the world.

You might be a sinner who believes you have messed up to badly to ever be of use to God, but you would be wrong. Jesus picked you.

You might be a pharisee who believes the law is important and as long as the law is followed then God is happy. Jesus picked you too.

If you have breath in your lungs God has a plan for you and wants to use you to change the world.

You are never to old or to young or anything to be used by God.

If you have breath in your lungs, then God picked you and has called you to change the world.

One pastor friend of mine in New Jersey says “If you aren’t dead, you aren’t done.”

God uses the blind, the deaf, the ugly, the skinny, the fat, the poor, the young, the old, the uneducated, and the most unexpected people to change the world.

The question will be whether or not you want to change the world.

You can hear all of this today and walk away and ignore it. Not even God will try to stop you.

Or you can embrace it and start changing the world today.

We see all over the world people who have heard this message and ignored it. They have decided that this it is too good to be true and so it must not be. They have decided that God can’t really use them no matter other people say.

Yet, we have also seen people who have heard this and it changed them. They have embraced this and begun to change the world.

We who sit here right now are impacted by people who took this call seriously. In March 1859 a few people took this call seriously and organized the First Methodist Episcopal Church of California. They understood the call to change the world and as a result your lives are different.

So then, you have a choice to make. To ignore this and keep going or to embrace it and change the whole world. This week, may you make that decision.

We as a church are going to change the world. You are a vital part of that plan. God put you all here, today, right now, for that reason. I hope you will join all of us as we embark on changing the world.

Prayer.

Share

Acts 1

August 6th, 2014 by RevBT

This sermon is the initial sermon for our new sermon series on Acts. We are spending about 8 weeks looking at Acts 1-6. There is no audio but you can still enjoy the text as I have it below.

 
Today we are starting a sermon series on the book of Acts, we are going to spend a few weeks going through the first portion of Acts and discovering some truths from the early church that apply to us today.

The book of acts is really the story if how the disciples answer the question “what now?

Jesus has resurrected and shown himself to the disciples and told them to go and make disciples and then Jesus ascended leaving the disciples to figure out the how to make disciples. I am sure they looked at each other and said “What now?”
Ever wondered what to do next? I have. I got the house mostly unpacked and my office is set up. Now what do I do? I mean I have these thoughts of what I feel God calling this church to do but how do I accomplish them?

I remember when Samuel was born we get to take him home and we get him home and then it hits me. Amanda and I are in charge of raising this child so that he makes the world better and what do we do?

I remember this one time, April 15, 2007 to be exact. It was my very first Sunday in a church EVER! I had been practicing that sermon for months. I remember leaving church that day, sitting in my car, and thinking “Now what?” What do I do next. Another Sunday is coming very soon and I need to do something. So now what?

I have had many moments in my life where I sit back and say “Okay, now what?”

Have you ever been there?

You get that perfect job and you get to your office and you sit down and think “Now what?” Or you graduate college and you have that shiny degree in your head with tons of debt and you think “Now what do I do with my life?”

Or your child was just born and you are at home wondering what to do next.

Or maybe you are on the other end of that. Your kids have grown up, moved out, and are on their own. And now you are too. Now what?

Or maybe it is even today. This new guy standing up front who has already changed things and maybe you are thinking to yourself, “What now?”

I think if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we have no idea what to do next so we do nothing. We sit there almost paralyzed with indecision and we don’t know what to do next. As a result of that life just passes us by and we miss the exciting parts of life while we wait for some sort of answer to the question of “what now?”

The disciples found themselves in the same place. In Matthew 28 Jesus brings them to a mountain and says to them “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then Jesus ascends to heaven and the disciples are left thinking “Now What?”

Acts 1:1-5New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus is alive, Jesus has risen from the dead and now revealed himself to his disciples and he tells them:
- Don’t leave Jerusalem
- Wait for the promise of the Father
- Once you have received the promise of the father, then get going!

It is here that we find the answer to the question “Now what?”

We don’t go anywhere until we receive the Holy Spirit.

Once we get the Holy Spirit we get going as fast and as hard as possible.

How do we get the Holy Spirit? How do I stuff that thing in side me and get going?

John 14:16-17
- Jesus says “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you.”

- Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit when we become a Christian.
- On August 26, 1999 I gave my life to Christ and Jesus put the Holy Spirit in me.
- Some of you know an exact date and time, others of you have been a Christian your whole life and can’t remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Either way, if you sit here today and say “I believe in Jesus,” then the Holy Spirit is within you.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of “What” do we do. Yes, we go, and we do something. but what is that something?

- Isaiah 61:1
- When the spirit is on us we do this:
- Bring good news to the poor
- Bind up the brokenhearted
- Proclaim release for captives
- Proclaim liberation for prisoners.

In other words we get busy turning the world up side down.

The world says to the poor; “to bad so sad.”
The world says to the brokenhearted; “there are other fish in the sea.”
The world says to the captives; “get yourself free.”
The world says to the prisoners; “You did this to yourself.”

But we, who are filled with the Holy Spirit turn the world upside down.

We say to the oppressed; “Jesus has set you free.”
We say to the brokenhearted; “Jesus loves you more than anything else.”
We say to the captives; “There is freedom in Jesus.”
We say to the prisoners; “Jesus has already set you free.”

Christians who are living this out are living out exactly what God has called them to do with their lives.

This is what we do, the how we do it might be different for everyone.

You can bring good news to the poor by walking with them and reminding them that Jesus is the one who gives them eternal riches.

You can bind up the brokenhearted by looking at your teenage daughter and reassure her that the boy really is stupid and the right guy is out there somewhere and to keep her purity and dignity intact.

You can set captives free by volunteering in the care and share and helping to provide low-cost clothes to people who couldn’t afford them otherwise. I stopped by the care and share this past Friday and those unpaid servants who are giving up their day are helping to set free those held in captivity by poverty.

You can bring liberation to the prisoners by working in our United Methodist social action systems that lobby governments for equality of all people.

Too often though, we say things like “I can’t” or “I won’t” or “It’s hard” or “I just don’t feel like it” or “I don’t know what to do.”

It isn’t difficult. It’s as easy as coming to our Wonderful Wednesday dinners, getting your food, and finding that one new person who is sitting by themselves and sitting with them and asking “How are you doing?” Or coming to church on Sundays and seeing that new family and inviting them to sit with you.

If you are not bringing good news to the poor you are not doing what God has called you to do.
If you are not binding up the broken-hearted you are not doing what God has designed you to do.
If you are not proclaiming release for the captives and liberation for the prisoners you are not living in accordance with the scriptures.

If we claim to be a Christian and we aren’t doing these things either we are not really a Christian and we are just playing a part on Sunday mornings or we are purposefully living in disobedience to the God of the universe.

I don’t know about you, but I have read the end of the Bible and those who do the opposite of what God wants are not the winners in the end. The end of the Bible says that those who do not follow what God wants end up gnashing their teeth and living in sulfur, and even worse than that end up completely and eternally separated from God.

If we are a Christian, then we have this Holy Spirit in us, and we are called to live that way.

We are people of the resurrection.
We are people filled with the Holy Spirit
We are people who are called proclaim good news to the poor
We are people who are called to bind up the brokenhearted
We are people who are called to proclaim release to the captives and liberation to the prisoners.

We as a church, must be a people who live out this calling and are doing these things every day and in everything we do.

We already do this with our care and share store.

We already do this on Sunday mornings.

We then continue doing those things and we move them forward and we find news ways to live out our calling in California and the whole world.

What else do we do? I have a few ideas, but I would love to hear your ideas. What is it that you feel the Holy Spirit calling us to do? Find me, email me, text me, let me know. I want to hear what you think God is calling us to do.

Close in prayer

Share

Run the Race

August 4th, 2014 by RevBT
[video src="http://www.divinecrash.com/run.m4a" width="400" height="300" ]

this is my first sermon at my new appointment, California United Methodist Church. I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to leave a comment or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

So, a couple of things you should know as we begin this journey together.
1. I am not a normal preacher. I will not preach easy sermons about being a good person. I will say, do, and use anything to make Jesus clearer.  My goal is to make Jesus known to you by any means necessary and that may strike a chord inside of your heart and may create emotions.  this is good.
2. I expect my sermons to change you, make you think, and bring you closer to the creator of the universe, these words are my offering of worship to god and I hope that god finds them pleasing and uses them to build his kingdom in you.
3. You might get offended. This is okay. I don’t mind. It means you are thinking about what I said. But that brings up the next point.
4. Test everything I say to scripture.  Get out your Bible and test what I say, if I am wrong I will stand up here and admit it.  If I’m right then great!!!
5. If you expect a “normal” preacher who has it all together and is a super-christian with everything just perfect then you will be sadly disappointed.  I am a sinner, saved by grace whom God has called to CUMC to tell the world about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
6. I retire in 41 years and I want to retire from here. We don’t have time to mess around and “play” church. We are the church and I expect we will act like it both inside these walls and outside these walls

Now that you know a little about me…..

I know something about you. Can I tell you what I know?

I know that you have never heard me preach a bad sermon :)

I know that some of you are experiencing some grief over Pastor Thomas’s departure.

I know that some of you are experiencing some joy over my arrival

I know that some of you are very unsure of this young guy who doesn’t know anything.

I know that some of you are very nervous about what I will change or do or what will happen to this place.

I know that some of you are terrified right now. and that is okay.

Let me assure you that I have the same issues, fears, concerns, joys. There is a part of me that is grieving my departure from Harrisville and a big part that is so excited to be here.  There are parts of me that are terrified that I don’t know anything. I mean I look around and see very few people my age. How am I supposed to lead my grandparents?

So what do we do now? How do we go forward from here?

- Hebrews 12:1-4

1. We run the race.
- This assumes there is a race. A race set out for us since the beginning of time.
- Psalm 139:16 says that God put all our days in order before even one of them came to be. We don’t have to know where we are going, we only need to know that God knows.

2. We get rid of the dead weight.
- This is the stuff that keeps us from running the way God calls us to run.
- Habits and hang-ups
- Desires and lust.
-This is the stuff that we try to carry around and follow God but really all that happens is we run slower, trip fall, and skin our knee. We must ditch it. God will still love us if we don’t ditch it. But we will never be able to live to our full potential with it.

3. We fix our eyes on Jesus, the one who runs perfectly.
- Jesus. Jesus is the one who ran this race first and he ran it perfectly. We watch him.
- Don’t watch me. Don’t follow me. Follow Jesus.
- Jesus ran this race in such a way that when he finished he gets to sit at the right hand of God.
- Jesus also ran this race in such a way that it caused him to shed his own blood. This race cost Jesus his life. We should expect nothing less.
- Jesus came to earth through the birth canal of a virgin and set out a race of making disciples and sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God. That is our race. To do the same. We fix our eyes on Jesus and follow the path He laid out for us.

 

- We are going at this together, with our eyes on the prize.
- When we don’t know what to do, run the race.
- When we don’t know what to say, run the race.
- When we are full of doubts, run the race.
- When we don’t know where we are going, run the race.
- We don’t need to know where we are going, we just put one foot in front of the other and we run.
- We can’t stop running. If we stop running we have stopped following Jesus.
- There is no age limit on running. If you are 3 years old, you can run the race set out for you. If you are 93 you can still run this race that was set out for you. If there is breath in your lungs you are called to run this race.
- There is no speed requirement to running. You might run like a beautiful gazelle on the African Savannah or you might run like a walrus on roller-skates . Either way we run.

- Close your eyes for a minute, imagine in your head what it will look like for you to run this race? What would it look like if you were fully running the race that Jesus called us to? What would you be doing with your life if you were fully following Jesus? What do you need to do to make that a reality? What do you need to get rid of? What do you need to change so you don’t trip and fall?
- Now, imagine what it would look like if CUMC was running this race? What would it take? What would we need to do? What would we need to deal with? Change? Start or end?
- Okay, open your eyes. over the next few days and weeks I want to hear what you just imagined. Both for you and for the church. You can call me, text me, email me, use smoke signals in the sky but I want to hear about the race you are called to run. I want to hear about the race you are called to run.
- Jesus has called us to run, Jesus needs us to run, and Jesus knows that it can be hard to run and sometimes we can forget why we are running. So for that, Jesus gave us communion as a reminder of why we run and to give us the grace we need to keep running. And so that is what we will do. We will gather around this table and remember our calling to run and be energized by the grace of God to keep running.

Let’s Pray

I am looking for runners. I don’t care if you run with the grace of a gazelle or the awkwardness of a walrus on roller skates. If you will run, I will run with you. I will encourage you and help you and do whatever it takes to keep you running. But if you stop running, I will keep running with the people who want to keep running. Sermon Audio 

| Open Player in New Window

Share

What Matters most.

August 1st, 2014 by RevBT
[video src="http://www.divinecrash.com/matters.m4a" width="400" height="300" ]

This is my last sermon from Harrisville UMC. I thought it was a good one but you are welcome to check out the text and listen to the audio on iTunes.

- Last sermon, I can say anything I want. Indeed there are pastors who stand up their last Sunday and say all kinds of stuff.
     - Some cry over missed opportunities
     - Others curse out people and burn all the bridges
     - Still others, remind the people of what really matters.
           - That is what I want. To take this one last chance to remind you of what is really important. 

- We have been through a lot in the last 3 years. When I first arrived our average attendance was 70. So far in 2014 our average attendance is 120. 
     - We have started new services. We have ended good ministries. We have tried new things that didn’t work. We have given away bikes and started going on mission trips. We have seen our friends and loved ones pass on to life eternal. We have baptized close to 3 dozen kids. I lost count of how many members we brought in. You all shaved my head and painted it green. We saw the beginning of new ministries like bike repair and trick or treating and we saw the end of live nativity. We have seen new leaders rise up and some of our most faithful members pass away. 
- We did all of that, not because it was fun or easy or because it was the right thing. We did it all because of what is really important
- Sometimes we think the things we did are important, but they aren’t. Nothing we did is all that important. Nothing we gave up, participated in, sacrificed for, or talked about was all that important. 
- We did all those things because of what is really important. 

- The single most important reason for anything we do as a church. The single most important piece of good news. The absolute most important reason we exist is:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

1. Jesus died for our sins. We have all done things we don’t like and we should have been killed for them, but instead of our own death Jesus took that death on our behalf. We have a new life in Christ because we didn’t get what we deserve.

2. Jesus was dead. Dead as a doornail and buried in an empty tomb. 

3. Jesus is alive. Jesus is really and bodily alive. We get a new lease on life and it is an eternal life.

- This is what matters more than any other sermon I could ever give you. You have heard me preach on tithing, justice, love, kindness, generosity, and all sorts of wonderful and amazing things, but nothing matters except for the life death and resurrection of Jesus. 
- This is our litmus test for anything. When we make a decision and we are trying to decide if it is important then it comes down to this question “Is it about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?” If the answer is no then it is only a preference and won’t matter in eternity. 
- Jesus is the main thing, and we must keep the main thing the main thing. 
     - All church arguments happen because we have forgotten that our preferences are not the main thing.
     - All church division is because we have forgotten the main thing.
This is where the church comes in. The church’s job is not to make people happy, meet a budget, or be comfortable. The church’s job is to keep the main thing the main thing. 
          – When a child is unloved we have forgotten the main thing
          – When people are kept out because they sin differently than we do, we have forgotten the main thing
          – When we gossip about each other we have forgotten the main thing
          – When we cause division, heartache, and headaches in committee meetings we have forgotten the main thing. 

In the next few weeks everything is going to change. Pastor Jeff will be here with new ideas and new ways of doing things. Some of them you will like, others you will hate. But if you keep Jesus as the main thing then those preferences won’t divide the church. 

Church will only survive if we can keep the main thing the main thing.

When we forget the main thing is Jesus we destroy the church. 

When we begin to gossip and lie about what we like and don’t like we have forgotten the main thing and so we destroy the church. 

However, when we remember that the main thing is Jesus and keep Jesus front and center in all we do then the church will thrive regardless of what changes are made. 

Can you imagine that kind of church? A church wholly devoted to Jesus? 
What would that do to our conversations with each other? What would committee meetings be like? 
What would our town be like? Or our families? Or our country be like, if we can keep the main thing the main thing. 

So then, if all my sermons came down to one final statement it would be this: 
Keep Jesus front and center. Without Jesus there is no hope. 

We keep Jesus front and center every time we gather at this table. Regardless of our arguments, squabbles, and division, at this table Jesus is here. We keep Jesus as the main thing every time we invite others to gather at this table with us. 

You have the power to keep the main thing as Jesus. It is not dependent on the pastor, conference, keeping the main thing isn’t even dependent on whether or not the bishop buys a new house. It is dependent on you deciding Jesus is more important than your preferences. 

We have this meal as a reminder of what really matters. 
Sermon Audio 

| Open Player in New Window

Share

What’s on your stole?

July 30th, 2014 by RevBT
[video src="http://www.divinecrash.com/stole.m4a" width="400" height="300" ]

So this sermon was a sermon I had been working on for years! It is a sermon based on what it feels like to finally be ordained and what it feels like to finally be done with the process of ordination. Since this sermon had been burning in me for so long there are no notes. So enjoy the audio. You will need to click this link to listen to it via iTunes.

 

Sermon Audio 

| Open Player in New Window

Share

I’m back!

July 29th, 2014 by RevBT

I know, it has been awhile. I feel horrible. I really do. But we moved and things got hectic. I’m sorry. I will try to get back to regular updates soon. I have some great ideas. but for now, know that I’ll be posting more again. In fact I have another post scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8:15am.

Have a great day! See you on the blog!

Share