June 28, 2010

"...Or Nothing At All?"

Here is the outline from my sermon on Saturday 6/19 at our new Contemporary Service, this is the second part of a two part series. As always, questions or comments are welcome. You can go here for the podcast.

"...Or Nothing At All?"
Galatians 2:15-21

Doesn't it seem as though exclusion and keeping others out was the story of the Jews and how they treated the Gentiles? Doesn't it also seem that we as the Church have been doing the same thing to those outside the Church? When we realize there is nothing at all we can do to earn God's grace, we quickly come to the conclusion that we all started on the outside looking in...

Vs. 15-16:
-God and God alone is the one who makes things right
-This is about acknowledging what Christ has done for us “who gave himself to deliver us from the present evil age” (1:4); it is the story of “the faithfulness of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20).
-Rom 5:8
-Rom 3:21-24
-Phil 3:8-9

Vs. 17-18:
-Eph 2:14-16

Vs. 19-21:
-This is more than just having sins forgiven, it is about being transformed for service, becoming the instrument of Christ’s reconciling love
-A reminder that through Christ’s faithful death, we have been set free from the things that hold us captive and that he has torn down the old and made a new creation
-Completed past action that continues into the present, impacting it
-Rom 6:1-11

June 16, 2010

"All or Nothing..."

Here is the outline from my sermon this past Saturday (6/12) at our new Contemporary Service. This is the first part of a two part series which concludes this Saturday (6/19). As always, questions or comments are welcome. You can go here for the podcast.

"All or Nothing..."
Luke 18:18-30

The ruler’s question “what must I do” is the same question a lawyer asks in 10:25-28.

Jews were split on the issue of the afterlife. The Pharisees believed in the hope of eternal life/afterlife (Daniel 12:2) while the Sadducees did not.

The ruler called Jesus “good” because he recognized Jesus’ virtue and holiness and that he had the authority and ability to speak to his question.

Jesus redirects the focus to God’s sovereignty and the importance of his covenant with his people. This is not something new but rather an extension and completion of what God has already been doing in human history.

You still lack one thing”…what haunting words. Have you ever gone through some sort of long, involved process, organized all of the paperwork, got to the end and been told you were missing something? It’s like showing up to the BMV and missing that second piece of mail with your address on it.

Is being a Christian an all or nothing sort of thing? Jesus says earlier in Luke 14:25-33

It is important to remember what has taken place right before Jesus has this conversation with the young ruler…the persistent widow, the prayer of the tax collector and the Pharisee, little children brought to Jesus…it’s interesting how we don't see ourselves in these parables…not as the unmerciful judge or the super spiritual Pharisee but more than likely not as the little children either.

Sell…give…come…follow me (vs. 22)

Sell: in the Greek it means to exchange. Exchange anything that gives you security outside of Christ, not simply wealth or stuff (reputation, fame, degrees)

Give: serve others, fight for justice

Come: in the imperative form, which means we must recognize our need now; we come humbly as “little children” confessing our need

Follow: the picture of walking alongside Jesus, which means he is walking alongside us

What emotions well up inside you when you think about giving up everything to follow Christ?

Matthew’s (19:16-30) account tells us that the ruler & Jesus were sad. They both recognize the meaning of his response and that Jesus cannot overcome it. The cost of free will is that God cannot force the free to make the right decisions. The ruler knows the right decision but there is nothing more Jesus can do for him. The response of the ruler reminds us of the seed that is choked by the weeds.

If the powerful ones who have access to resources can’t be saved, who can? The question of “who can be saved” is a question based upon the actions of the individual, not God.

The cost of following Christ can make a difference in your life now, in the present and in the future as the promise of eternal life.

So, is Christianity all or nothing (Rev 3:14-16)? Does it cost us everything? Yes, but we have everything and more to gain.

June 5, 2010

Let's Talk Appointments Part III

I believe the implications of changing shall to may as it relates to "guaranteed appointments" will have a lot to with the way in which "good standing" is defined/measured and the relationship it has with effective ministry. John Meunier mentions on his blog that there has been conversation lately on using numbers as a way to measure clergy effectiveness. Some like it, some don't. I can almost guarantee that ineffective clergy do not like the idea of attendance, new members, confessions of faith, and baptisms as measuring sticks.

Maybe I'm way off on this but aren't those the signs of effective clergy and ministry? Numbers aren't everything but they certainly aren't nothing. I think numbers can be one of the easiest and most obvious signals of ministry impact and to disregard them with the mindset of "quality over quantity" is simply misguided. It seems difficult to me to read through the New Testament and not see how life changing discipleship is not related to the spread of the Gospel which in turn adds to the numbers.

If at least one of the measuring sticks for effective clergy is not tangible and there are not conferences/districts willing to address ineffective clergy then getting rid of "guaranteed appointments" is going to upset a lot of people for no reason.

And so I'm left wondering...Do "good standing" and effective mean the same thing?

June 4, 2010

"Lest We Forget"

This is an outline of my sermon from Memorial Day weekend's launch of our new Saturday Evening Contemporary Service. Thoughts, comments, questions are welcome.

"Lest We Forget"

The city of Indianapolis is 2nd only to Washington DC in acreage & number of monuments dedicated to veterans. It is also the national and state headquarters of the American Legion.

Between my wife & I, we have: 5 uncles, 4 grandpas and her dad who were willing to serve in the military. It is important on this weekend that we remember those who were willing to serve and the sacrifice that they, as well as their families, paid for the price of our freedom. The thought of memorials got me thinking about what they might look like in relationship to God...

Memorials as reminders of God’s presence and faithfulness.
• We see this over and over again throughout Scripture: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, etc.
Luke 9:28-36
• They were open to seeing God move.
• They expected God to show up in some way.
• They were aware of God’s presence.
• They made themselves available.

Memorials can serve as windows into the past.
• Help remind us where we’ve been (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Memorials can serve as mirrors.
• Help remind us who we are (James 1:22-25)

In what ways are you remembering God throughout your week?
• Are you aware of God’s presence?
• Are you open to seeing God move?
• Are you looking for and expecting God to show up throughout your week?

The Launch of a Saturday Evening Contemporary Service Part II

It's been almost a week since the launch of our new Saturday Evening Contemporary Service, with tomorrow night being week two. The feedback I received from the launch has been overwhelmingly positive, especially in regards to the music and band.

I know for some of you, the thought of launching a new service on Memorial Day weekend sounds absurd but let me give you a little context. Castleton UMC is located in Indianapolis, IN which happens to be the home of the Indianapolis 500. The race takes place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which draws tens of thousands of people, including people from our congregation. So every year, on this weekend, we have held a Saturday night worship service as an option for racegoers but this year, we used that time as the launching point for our new Saturday service that will continue throughout the year. For us, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend made sense and the numbers spoke to this. We had 130 in attendance for our first Saturday Evening Contemporary Service, which ended up being more than our 8:30 & 11am services the following Sunday morning. This is the impact of the Indy 500.

Overall, I was really happy with the launch as I had no idea what to expect. I believe weeks 2, 3 and 4 will be telling but regardless of how many attend or what happens, we are excited to see how God will use this service on Saturday nights.

I will be posting my sermons here on my blog, podcasts are available here and the services will be streamed live online here on Saturday evenings at 6pm. All sorts of different ways to check it out and connect.