Sunday, April 25, 2004

There's Going To Be A Wedding

Intro: This coming week is a significant one for the United Methodist Church.

1. On Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, PA, the United Methodist Church will begin its Quadrennial General Conference. 2. This two week adventure in church government is responsible for setting the tone and path of the church for the next four years. 3. I would ask you as a church to pray for our denomination. Like so many large churches, there are important issues coming to the surface that will need to be addressed by this body that will help determine who we are as United Methodists. 4. It also seems appropriate that we spend some time thinking what it means to be a church. 5. Not just a a local church - but the larger church, the church both here in Garland, in Rochester, New York, and around the world. 6. During the next few weeks we will look at several of the images used in scripture to describe the church - for example, we will eventually look at such phrases as "the family of God" and "the temple of God" - today we will begin by looking at the church as the Bride of Christ.

Read: Ephesians 5:21-27

I. If the church is the Bride of Christ, then Christ is the head. Ephesians 5:23

(Ill.) This week we learned of the death of the CEO of McDonalds Corporation. Jim Cantalupo had dies while attending a meeting of McDonald franchise owners in Florida. At that point McDonalds had no leadership - nobody was in charge. But the Board of McDonalds knew the importance of having leadership in place - The next day they elected Australian Charlie Bell to be the new chair of McDonalds.

(Ill.) Somebody must be in charge. I suppose if you or I were to read the discipline of the Wesleyan Church we would come to the conclusion that it is the pastor. The Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we would find that the leader of a Methodist church is the Lay Leader. But I really think they both have it wrong.

A. Paul makes it clear that Christ is the head of the church. B. Need to be careful here - it would be tempting to let our broken relationships. It would be easy to say, "Look, I am the boss of my family; therefore, Christ will be boss here." C. Listen again to Ephesians 5:23 - "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." D. There are two errors that can be made here:

1. Christ is not a dictatorial or abusive head of household.

(Appl.) The Recovery Devotional Bible makes the following comment: Many have taken verses 22 to 24 our of context, ignoring verse 21 ... Such people have used these verses to justify either the husband's right to dictate the wife's behavior, or the wife's obligation to accept abuse from her husband. Neither behavior is acceptable, either by those in recovery or by Biblical standards. Paul assumes throughout the passage that both husband and wife were loving, sensitive, and submissive to each other. Without mutual love and respect, the equation breaks down.

2. The other error is to make Christ merely a figurehead - he is the head of the church. We are Christ's church - we must never assume that it our church, we belong to Jesus Christ.

II. If the church is the Bride of Christ, then the church must be submissive to Christ Ephesians 5:21-23

(Ill.) A lot of you play Euchre when you get together. Now, everytime I sit down with you I have to be retaught the rules. But that is no fun - so I have decided to do something different. I don't want to tell you how to play, so you can continue playing by whatever rules you want. But to make my life easier, I thought that I would just use my rules. It would save so much time, you would never have to teach me the game again. We could get started and begin playing as soon as we sat down. I wouldn't have to learn new rules. I mean by playing by my rules, I wouldn't need to learn and forget and learn and forget. I would just have to know one set of rules - mine. Life would be so much easier than for all of us. I don't think so. Somebody has to be in charge. Somebody has to set the rules.

A. And in the church, that person is Christ. Now, if Christ is in charge, there are two things we need to do. B. First we need to listen to our leader - not much different than listening to each other.

1. Begin by deciding to listen 2. Find a quiet spot to listen - evening, morning, after everyone is gone for the day 3. Read you scripture - choose a portion, or use The Upper Room or other helpful maerial 4. Restate what you read - in your own words, either on paper or on the computer, if you are into journaling, or out loud.

(Ill.) In a counseling session you would be asked to set opposite each other and restate the other's thoughts. "I heard you say ..." Do the same with God. Put it in writing if you have to, say it out loud if you have to. 5.Pray - ask God whether you understood. And ask what he wants you to do about it.

C. We have to listen -

D. But there is another step - we also have to obey.

1. Knowing what God wants is not enough 2. We must also be willing to do what he wants 3. You know that I have a firm conviction that as individuals we need to obey - but the same is true of the church. 4.The church has the same responsibility to listen to Christ as we do individuals

E. Let me remind you of one thing. This all assumes that Christ loves us and we have learned to love him.

(Ill.) It was a hard lesson for me to learn. I had become a Christian in college-but for many of those years it was only in my head. I understood what it meant to be a Christian. It made perfect sense. But it would be nearly 20 years before I understood it in my heart. I heard others talking about loving Christ, but I would just nod my head and smile. It was good that they had a real affection for their savior, but I never quite understood what it was all about. Fifteen years ago at a Memorial Day camp I began the process that allowed me to understand what it meant to love God and for him to love me.

F. Joyful obedience. whether its the church or the individual, will be rooted in God's love of us and our love for Him.

Conclusion: There is going to be a wedding.

1. When we place our lives at the foot of the cross, when we decide to place our faith in Christ, we know that we are going to part of that wedding 2. The church is the Bride of Christ - as such we will recognize Christ as our head, we will desire to be submissive to him. 3. If you are not yet sure what your relationship is to Christ, if you are not yet sure that you will be present for the wedding, then find one of the leaders of the church or find me and we would be more than willing to help you find that relationship.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

How Big Is Your World

Intro: Two hundred years ago in a ministers' meeting in Nottingham, England, a bi-vocational pastor named William Carey was invited to suggest a discussion subject for the group of ministers. Rev. Carey had been reading James Cook's Voyages Around the World. These travelogue books recounted the global travels of Captain Cook. As Carey read them, he became burdened by the spiritual condition of those peoples Cook had visited. So, that day in the late 1700's, Rev. Carey suggested that the ministers talk about "the duty of Christians to attempt the spread of the gospel among heathen nations." Carey was stunned when the leader of the meeting stopped him. In an agitated voice the moderator said: "Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine." Fortunately, William Carey did not listen to that church leader. Some friends helped him start the English Baptist Missionary Society and under its auspices in 1793 he sailed for India. Up until that time, the 200-year-old Protestant movement had done very little cross-cultural missionary outreach. Now, Carey's efforts so awakened Protestantism to its missionary responsibilities that he is now called the "Father of Modern Missions." Jonah would not have gotten along too well with William Carey. Pray Tran.: Missions is rooted in the history of methodism. John Wesley was a missionary to Georgia - even before he was converted. Thomas Coke is known as the "Father of Methodist Missions" Under the direction of John Wesley and Francis Asbury, he did missionary work in America, the West Indies, England and Ireland. Let me suggest three key truths that drove the early Methodists and us to be involved in the missionary movement. I. God loves the world. John 3:16 A. I could really skip this point except for two key points - there are two times when it becomes real easy to forget this key truth. 1. First - when things are really going bad. When it seems like everything is going wrong, when life is the pits. There are times in all of our lives when it seems like everything is going astray - we can't do anything right. It is at those times that we need a reminder that God does love us - as well as the rest of the world. 2. But there is another time when we need to be reminded of God's love - that is when things are going well. I mean, when things are going well, I know that I have done all right. I can be pretty proud of myself and pat myself on the back. And I may need to take a step back from all that is happening and be reminded - God loves me. B. But this is really not the point. God's love does not stop with me or with you - it extends to everyone. God does love the homeless, God does love those from other countries. (Appl.) God does love _________ - you fill in the blank with whoever you think is less deserving of your love. Take a minute - who that you know of, who in you life, is least likely to know God's love. The person who is difficult to get along with at work? The neighbor kid down the street that gets into your garden every year, the crankiest guy at the gas station who you always hope is not there when you drive in? I don't know who it is in your life - but you do. The next time you see them. Remember this - God does love them. C. And it is in this fact that the idea of Christian missions is rooted - God loves the whole world. II. The Church is God's Ambassador II Corinthians 5:20 (Ill.) I grew up with Shirley Temple movies. Do you remember Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Heidi. Or perhaps you remember her signature song, The Good Ship Lollipop. As a child, her acting and singing skills allowed her to visit with royality and presidents from around the world. But even more impressive to me is the fact that she was appointed as an ambassador to the UN in 1969 by President Nixon; in 1974, President Ford appointed her as ambassador to Ghana; and in 1989, President Bush (the first one) appointed her as ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Whether as a child or as an adult, she never stopped being an ambassador. A. The church is called to be Christ's ambassadors to the world. Paul writes, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." [2 Corinthians 5:17-20 WEB] B. I am no politician, but it seems to me that an ambassador has two primary responsibilities - the first is to listen to the one who is doing the sending. He or she had better have a good idea of what the government needs and requires. We are Christ's ambassadors. C. The other task is take that message and deliver it accurately to those who are to receive it. And the gospel is supposed to go everywhere - and to a certain extent we can do that. There are our neighbors and co-workers, our families and our communities. But our world is much larger than just our work, neighborhood, and families. And the church is called to be Christ's ambassadors to the whole world. D. So now you will all have to pack your bags and go -- E. No, that will not really work; so the church began to send missionaries to spread the good news of God's saving grace. III. As "citizens of heaven" we are responsible for God's ambassadors Philippians 3:20 A. An ambassador represents a countries leaders - but it also represents its citizens. (Appl.) We are given the responsibility and the privilege of caring for those ambassadors that God has placed around the world. We can do that by becoming missionary supporter. This involves Prayer, Learning, and Giving 1. Prayer must be the starting point 2.We will also want to learn about the world in which the gospel is being spread. 3.The third part of supporting world missions is giving As we make our offering each morning - it is used in support of our church - but a part of it is also used to support God's work around the world. B. There are those who are called to go - maybe one of you might be challenged to use your gifts on the mission field - whether for a week or for the remainder of your life. Or maybe one of the kids that we saw in front of us this morning. Begin praying now for the next generation that will spread the gospel around the world. C. We may not be called to go - but we can actively support God's work around the world - whether it be here in Brockport or on the other side of the world. Conclusion: God does love the world The church is God's ambassadors And we, even as members of the Garland church can be participants in the missionary work of the church

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The End Of The Beginning

Intro: This week I heard a song on Family Life Radio. 1. It began with an encounter between a believer and a bystander on a plane 2. The believer was reading his Bible and the bystander asked what he was reading. When told that it was a Bible, the bystander becomes cynical and reminds him that is an old story that he no longer believes. 3. As the song progresses, the gospel story is shared - with a final reminder that it was the "End of the beginning." 4. On Good Friday it appears to be the end of this new religion that came to be called Christianity. 5. But the following Sunday we see that the initial conclusions were wrong. The one they thought was dead, was alive. He was seen not by one or two lone individuals that might spread rumors - but large groups of people, perhaps as many as 120 at one time. 6. Over the next few years we see the changed lives of men who ran when Jesus' life was on the line. 7. A scenario that has repeated itself over and over again these past 2000 years. Lives changed and transformed as men and women place their faith in Jesus Christ

Read Luke 23:44-49


Tran. We are at the end of our journey. 1.Jesus started with a prayer, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." 2.We end with a prayer, "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit." 3.He begins by praying for those around him, he ends by praying for himself.

T.S.: Jesus' prayer is a model for each of us - regardless of where we are in our spiritual lives.

I. Jesus committed his life into the God's hands A. This past month, when I first read this passage, I had to take a mental step back. After all, this is the Son of god, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, that we are talking about. B. Do you notice the wording there - Jesus is making a decision, in the midst of the most painful time of his life, in the midst of terrible suffering, he decides that it is time to give it all to God.

(Appl.) There are two responses to hard times. * One is to run from God. When things get tough we bubble over with anger for God. This does not really solve any problems * But there is another response with which we are all familiar. We call them fox hole Christians - they run to God only when things get touch. This may not be so bad - if it is the beginning of ones spiritual life; yet for too many, it is a momentary realization that life is not in their control.

C. BUT Jesus did not run. And He was not a fox hole Christian. Jesus, you will remember from last week, was being obedient to all that God asked - both in that he accomplished the task and the way in which he accomplished it. D. Here was Jesus, being obedient to the max, and he takes time to pray, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." It does not represent a change in Jesus' character. It does represent a strengthening of his faith. Rather is doing exactly what we might expect. He is showing each of us what we are to do in the most difficult of times. E. And that leads to my second point -

II. We are expected to commit our lives into God's hands

(Ill.) Have you ever realized how helpless a baby is. Whether it was food, changing diapers, taking care of colic - a baby needs to be cared for. A baby even seems to know that it is true.

A. But too often we forget that it is also true in our spiritual lives. B. We forget to listen to God, we forget to get into his word. C. Interestingly, even a baby knows to ask for help - but we forget to ask God for help. D. This is true whether you a Christian or not. I expect that most of you would understand that if someone has not yet said "Yes" to Jesus, then they certainly must take a step of faith that follow Jesus' example - "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." E. But it might be a bit more of a stretch for those of us who are believers to claim the same prayer. But that is exact ly what Jesus did.

(Ill.) Let this chair represent the thrown of your heart. It represents who is in control. Now I can sit in it and make all my own decision; but if I do, then I go nowhere. On the otherhand, if I let God sit here and take control of my life, then my life is in God's hands. And even those times when things seem our of control, I can still sit back and know that He is there. It may not feel like it - but that is where faith comes in.

F. Each one of us has a control center. There is a natural tendency to want to run our lives. Yet the example we have in Christ suggests that we must place Christ in control. G. It is not something that happens immediately. The AA groups have a slogan that describes it exactly - one day at a time. H. Are you willing to start each day giving it to God. But it will not end there. It is a recognition that He is control throughout the day. It is a recognition that you are willing to serve him whatever may come your way during the day. I. But it won't be easy. Let me suggest three difficulties that could make living with God in control difficult: 1. You will want to be in control - by placing God in control you are going against much that you have learned (Flesh) 2. There is a spiritual battle going on - there will be those who will fight to get you back to where you were, regardless of you are going (Devil) 3. At the same time that those around you are trying to get you off the thrown, Jesus wants to be in control - You may find yourself in a tug-of-war over who will be in control. (World) J. Easy - no. Will you always be successful, no. But Christians through the centuries have live the Christian life.

Conclusion: In my pocket I keep two reminders of spiritual journey.

1.The first is a small coin that was given to me after spending six weeks in a class on codependency as part of a chaplaincy program at a hospital in Sioux City Iowa. 2.The second is a small metal cross that was given to me by a United Methodist pastor as reminder of Christ's presence in my life. 3.This morning I want to do the same for you. 4.As we sing the final hymn this morning, I will be handing each of your a small pocket cross - 5.Men - keep it in your pocket. Women - in your purse. As a reminder of Christ's death and resurrection.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

It Is Finished - No Way

Intro: Endings are always special. 1.Putting the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle in 2.The final scene of that special movie - that makes it all fit together 3.The last chapter of a book 4.Who doesn't like a story with a happy ending 5.Friendly's has their "Tasty Endings Sundae" For the last six weeks we have been looking at the seven last words of Christ. We still have one more, but today we do hear the words of Christ, "It is finished." Read John 19:28-30 Pray Tran. I do not claim to be a Greek scholar. But occasionally a Greek word catches me by surprise. Most of us know or have heard that there are three Greek words for our word LOVE agaph is God's unconditional love, phileo is "brotherly love", and eros is the physical attraction of a man for a woman. But there are also times that a Greek word is rich in meaning. The word that Christ used on the cross, "It is finished", is such a word. In the next few minutes I want to look at three of the meanings associated with Jesus' words from the cross. I. "It is finished" - I have drank it all. A. The natural meaning of Jesus words are that the sour wine or vinegar is gone. (Ill.) Whether this vinegar was intended to bring further suffering on Christ or an attempt to ease his suffering. There are those who claim that this "sour wine" was just that - rotten wine that was being given to Jesus in order to add to his torment on the cross. Others suggest that the beverage that was being offered to Jesus that day was the same beverage that was issued to the Roman soldiers who stood on guard that day. It was being offered as way to ease his pain. B. Regardless - Jesus let it be known that "It is finished" C. And it was finished - Jesus had taken all that could be dished out - He was not yet dead, but the time is close. And there is no more that could be done to him. (Appl.) We talk about life being unfair. We have so much wrong done to us, we all interact with people that treat us in ways that we do not deserve. But it is not only true for us - it is also true for Jesus. Here is the perfect man. He has not sinned. He as not fallen short. He has not missed the mark - either intentionally or unintentionally. And, yet, those who disagree with him have managed to have him killed. The killing of Jesus that day was the ultimate in unfairness. And people knew it - certainly his friends did, the criminal on the cross knew it, a Roman guard knew it. And we know it. If Jesus was treated so unfairly, why should we who are Christians, literally "little Christs", think it should be any less true for us. D. It is finished - there was no more that could be done. II. "It is finished" - I have done it all. A. tetelestai "it is finished" comes from the Greek word telew. Telew has a unique meaning - it represents the end of a culmination of steps. B. As Jesus hangs on the cross, we know that he has done all that God has expected of Him. C. There are two components to telew - The first has to do with the completionof the task. This Jesus had done. The other has to do with completing the task in precisely the right way. D. Jesus has met God's requirements for a perfect sacrifice - the sinless, firstborn Son of God. (Appl.) Obedience always has these two components - doing the right thing and doing it the right way. (Ill.) I have explored my cooking exploits before. On one occasion I was making the easy of easiest Rice-A-Roni. I browned the rice just right, I added the correct amount of water, and cooked it to perfection. I was about to throw out the box when I noticed the "flavor packet" inside the box. I tried to mix the flavor packet into the finished rice dish. My family didn't complain - but it wasn't right either. I had done the right thing, but had not done it in the right way. Much of life is like that - we can do those things we need to do, but we must do them in God's way and in God's time. E. For Jesus, "It is finished" - he has done what God wanted in the way God wanted. III. "It is finished" - I have paid it all. (Ill.) In Matthew 17 there is a brief incident when Jesus and disciples arrive in Capernaum. There was a practice that whenever someone arrived in town they would be expected to pay a tax to help cover the cost of maintaining the local temple - a temple tax. As Jesus arrives in town his disciples are questioned - "Does your teacher pay the temple tax?" The tax was considered a debt to be paid and the answer was "yes" he did pay the tax. And this is the other meaning of telew - "to pay a debt" A. When Jesus says, "It is finished" he is also saying "It is paid". (Ill.) What if all your debts had been paid? No mortgage, no second mortgage, no credit card balances, no car loans, every debt has been paid. The load would be gone. Life would be so much easier. B. We owe a dept. Our sin has a cost. Our disobedience, be it once or over a lifetime, requires that a sacrifice be made. And Jesus paid that price. He paid it all. (Appl.) We have all felt the load of sin. We have had to carry the guilt and the shame that goes with knowing that we have crossed the line. And Christ has paid the price. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Which load do you want to carry? The heavy one - for which the price has been paid; or the light one, free to all who will come to Jesus. Conclusion: As I listened to Jesus speak those words, "It is finished," I am reminded of a high school commencement. 1.Commencement comes at the end of high school. 2.Yet the very word is a reminder that those who are graduating are at the beginning 3.Even as Christ speaks those words, "It is finished.", we stand at the beginning of something. 4.Even as Christ finishes the work that God gave him to do, He offers to us abundant life. 5.It is finished - and we are offered a new beginning. Are you willing to follow?

Friday, April 02, 2004

What Is This Thing?

In these on-line writing one will find two kinds of writing - Some of these entries are sermon outlines. They are not the sermon that was actually preached - rather they are the outline that guided my time in the pulpit. Often the actual sermon may contain a last minute illustration or an extended explanation of a brief statement included here. I must recognize the Holy Spirit's role, not only in the preparation of the sermon as realized in these notes, but also in the delivery.

Some of these entries are ideas in progress - jotted down in the midst of a busy day or night and published without further editing. They must not be understood as being in final form. In fact, in some ways, the "final form" will need to wait until I sit before my savior and receive his answers. In the meantime, I do the best I can. Which is all a broken person can do. Blessings, Floyd Johnson

We Are Broken People

This week has been a reminder that we, even as Christians, are broken people. This is one of the themes of my ministry - that we are broken. Broken when we are limited by the fact that we are created people - we are not God. Broken by the result of the fall. This week I interacted with people that are hurting physically. I have interacted with people who are struggling with their marriages. I have seen the unexpected negative consequences of normal actions. May I never forget that I am a broken person living among broken people - all of whom need to experience God's grace in some way today and tomorrow. Blessings to all, Floyd H. Johnson