“God’s Time Is Always the Best!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

1ST SUNDAY IN LENT

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

 

Title: God’s Time is Always the Best”

Text: John 2:1-12

1.On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there. 2. And Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “they have no more wine.” 4. Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied.  “My hour has not yet come.” 5. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6. Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.8. Then he told them, “now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9. And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside, 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11. What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

 

Reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke gospels, one would find out that the scenes of Jesus’ ministry is different from the scene of His ministry in John.  In the three other gospels, the scene of Jesus’ ministry is in Galilee.  Jesus does not enter Jerusalem until the week He died.  In the gospel of John, the main scenes of Jesus’ ministry is Jerusalem and Judea. John tells us that Jesus occasionally withdrew to Galilee (2:1-13; 4:35-5:1). It is during one of those scenes in Galilee that our text today is concern with.  Jesus had gone with his disciples to Cana of Galilee, a small village closer to Nazareth for a wedding feast, where His mother was also present.  During such notable Jewish feast, wine was important. According to William Barclay, the absence of wine during Jewish festivities meant the absence of joy.  So the absence of wine at such feast was a crisis.  This does not imply that the people were drunk, because drunkenness was a big disgrace in that culture.  The people even drank their wine mixing it with water. Moreover, hospitality in middle eastern culture is a sacred duty. So for a provision like wine to run out at a wedding was even more humiliating for the bride and bridegroom. There was clearly a problem.

Mary sensing the problem comes to Jesus informing Him of the crisis.  Looking at our text from the Authorised translation of Jesus’ reply, one would think that Jesus’ words, “Woman, what do I have to do with thee. My hour has not come yet,” was spoken in reproach.  But this is not the case. That is the translation of the words, but it does not set the tone.  Jesus was telling His mother Mary that she didn’t quite understand what was going on; that things should be left with Him. He would settle it in his own way and time.  His time is always the best. Sometimes we do not wait for God’s time and run ahead of Him.

In Genesis 16:1-3 the story is told of how Sarah got tired of waiting for God’s promise to her for a child and ran ahead of God.  Sarah was barren and could not bring forth the child that God had promised Sarah and Abraham.  The years after the promise, Sarah urged Abraham to sleep with the maid Hagar to bring forth a child. Hagar felt a sense of superiority over Sarah because she could not give birth to a child.  Hagar looked down on Sarah and ridiculed her.  Sarah with the permission from Abraham started to maltreat Hagar who ran away.  God instructed Hagar to return to her mistress, and blessed her with a son Ismael.  But God also kept His promise to Sarah and give her a son Isaac. Sarah did not wait for God’s time and ran ahead of God, yet God bless her.

Like Sarah, many of us grow impatient and can not wait on the Lord. When we get impatient with God, we sometimes stop walking by faith.  We try to find fleshly solutions to what God has promised us and run ahead of Him. Instead of waiting on God to fulfil His promise to us in His own time, we take matters into our own hands. By running ahead of God, Sarah brought negative results on her family.  The descendants of Ishmael became enemies to the descendants of her son Isaac. How much better things would she have had if she had waited on God?

Like Sarah, our quest to help God accomplish His will in our lives can cost us dearly. For an example, sometimes young people get discouraged that they are not in a relationships like their peers.  The excitement of being in a new relationship is mistaken for love, and despite warning from friends and family and from the word of God, they make the wrong decision ending up in a bad marriage.  Our intentions to turn on the tv set to listen to a preacher cannot replace our fellowship with other believers in the church, or our fellowship at Bible studies, prayer meetings or other functions at church. Our intentions may be good, but the ultimate question here is, Is that how God wants this done.

In 1 Chronicles 13-15, we learned that David wanted to move the Ark to Jerusalem. He put the ark on a cart and had it pulled by oxen. At one place the oxen stumbled and the Ark tilted.  In an effort the grab the Ark, a person was killed. David and others sang and worship as the Ark was moved.  They had good intentions, but they did not consult God, but ran ahead of Him.  There was nothing wrong with David wanting the Ark to be moved, but he did not consult God on how the Ark was to be moved and this endangered the safety of people. The Ark was to be moved on Poles and were to be carried by the Levites. When this was done, Israel was safe. We all have good intentions in life, to glorify God and further the gospel, but how too often do we run ahead of God without waiting for His time. The Psalmists says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14).  Apart from running ahead of God, we sometimes drag behind God.

An anonymous writer told a story of a bank named Time Bank. This bank credits a person account with certain amount of dollars every morning.  A person with this bank has to use all the credited money for that day. No money is carried over to the next day. Every balance is deleted every evening. It is obvious that a person will withdraw all his money before the day ends. We all have this bank.  It’s called time.  We are credited with 86,400 seconds everyday. At the close of the banking day, what we did not used is debited from our account.  Time bank does not allow for overdrafts. There is no borrowing from tomorrow. There is no left over and no second chance.

Life is like time.  It affords us certain opportunities we must take advantage of or we lose. God has certain plan for us.  When God is ready, He wants us to act. When we miss out on such opportunity, we may not have that opportunity again. Certainly, we shall never have that opportunity full and open.  It is important to understand that when we miss one year of preparation, through carelessness or because of sin, it might take another four or five years to catch up with what we lose.

Hebrews 11:24-25 informs us that Moses knowing what great plan God had for him in delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses made a decision to endured the pain of bondage, rather than enjoying luxury of Egyptian royalty. Moses was educated in the wisdom and philosophies of the Egyptians. Moses understood the calling of God on his life. What went wrong with Moses? The problem was with his timing. Moses got ahead of the will of God by killing an Egyptian. An act that took him to a place for which he shouldn’t have been for forty years. This is typical when someone is out of the will of God; whether the person is running ahead of God or dragging behind God.  Waiting for God’s time means staying in touch with God.

One thing that permeated the life of Jesus was His consistent and unbroken relationship with God. If Jesus Christ had allow anything to come between Him and His father, He would have yielded to temptation and ruined any chance of being the world’s Redeemer.  Jesus Christ told his mother ‘the time for Him had not yet come.’ Throughout the gospel story, Jesus talks about His hour.  In John 7:6,8, it is the hour of His emergence as the Messiah.  There was the hour of His crucifixion and death.  All through His life, Jesus knew He came into the world for a definite purpose and a definite task. Jesus viewed His life not in terms of His desires and wishes, but in terms of God’s will and purpose for Himself.  Jesus Christ saw His life not in the shifting of time, but in the firm background of eternity.  

This is the point this morning.  Like Jesus, we have a purpose of coming into the world.  It is important for us to remember that the purpose for which we are here is intertwined with when and how God wants to fulfill it in our lives. In order to fulfill the purpose of God, we have to stay in touch with God.

During World War II, a US Marine got separated from his comrades.  He lost touch with his unit in the intensity of the fighting. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction.  Looking for cover, the marine soldier found his way up a high ridge of very small caves. He crawled in one of the caves knowing he would be found soon by his enemies. He prayed, “Lord if it be your will protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.” As he lay quietly, the enemy began to draw closer. At the entrance of his cave, a spider began to build a web in the front of his cave.  Strand after strand, the spider layered the web to completion.  The marine thought to himself that he needed a stone wall and God built a spider web.  But when the enemy approach his cave, they saw the spider’s web.  They reasoned that no one was in the cave because of the spider’s web at the entrance. In God a spider web is stronger than a brick stone.  God has His own time of building a spider’s web in our lives.

We all have a purpose in this life. We will go through troubles.  When we do, we forget about all the victories God won for us. Let us remember that God’s time is always the best. Don’t run ahead of God, don’t drag behind God, stay focus and in touch with God. Nehemiah told Israel when faced with the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, “In God we will always have success!” Nehemiah 2:20.  God bless you!  

  

“It is good to be here!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

LAST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

FEBRUARY 11, 2018

Title:  “It is Good to be Here.”

Text: Mark 9:2-9

2. And after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them. 3. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  4. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6. (He did know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7.Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! 8. Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

 

The story is told about Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor.  During the invasion of Russia, he got somewhat separated from his troupes and was chased by his enemies, the Russian Cossacks. Running for his life, Napoleon ducked into a furrier’s shop. Gasping for air, he beg the furrier to help save his life. The furrier hid him under a big pile of fur and added more furs.  When the Russian Cossacks stormed the store later, they tore it apart looking for Napoleon.  They poke their swords into the pile of furs but did not find him. They later gave up and left the store. After a short while, Napoleon crept out of the pile of fur unharmed. His personal guards caught up with him.  Before Napoleon could leave, the furrier asked, “excuse me for asking this question of such a great man, but what was it like to be under the furs, knowing that the next moment could be your last?”

Napoleon became indignant. He ordered his guards to tied up the furrier and execute him.  The furrier was blindfolded and could see nothing. He heard the guards line up and the clicking of riffles.  He heard Napoleon asked the guards, Ready?.  In that moment a feeling the furrier could not describe welled up with him.  Tears pour out of his eyes. Aim! Moment later, the blindfold was removed from the furrier’s face. Napoleon stood before him.  They were face to face and Napoleon said, “Now you know the answer to your question. The lesson here is clear: How can a person describe a near death experience? You can’t if you have not experience it. The transfiguration of Jesus as narrated in our text cannot not be described. This is why Doctor Luke said they kept it to themselves and told no one till after the resurrection. There are some things about being in the presence of God we cannot explain. But Peter said it was a good experience.  He said, “It is good to be here!” It is good to be here this morning in the presence of the Lord. It is good to be in the presence of God because we experienced spiritual intimacy.  In the presence of God, we learned about the uniqueness of Jesus.

Reading the text brings us face to face with an event in the life of Jesus that is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand it. Mark and Matthew gospels point out that it happened six days after the incident near Caesarea Philippi.  Luke says it happened eight days after. There is no discrepancies here. It happened about a week afterwards. There is also debate about the date and place. The Western Churches remember it on the 6th of August.  What happened on the mount we cannot tell.  All we can do is bow in reverence of this great event that took place as we try to understand.  

There are two notable things about the transfiguration.  Mark tells us in this text that the garment of Jesus became radiant. Matthew says his face shone like the sun and his garment became as white as light.  The greek word Mark uses is stilbein which is the word used for the glistering gleam of gold or the golden glare of the sunlight. When the incident came to an end, there was a cloud that overshadowed them. A voice was heard from the cloud telling them, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” These two things can be looked at in different ways.  The first thing I want us to glean from the text is being in the presence of the Lord brings about spiritual intimacy. Why is this important for our Christian faith? It is because there is a difficulty of being spiritually intimate when we live in a dark world.  It is difficult to be spiritually intimate in difficult times, when we come down from the mountaintop and descent into the valley to face real life situations.

 

There is a sense of spiritual intimacy we see in the text. In Luke gospel it tells us that Jesus Christ took Peter, James, and John up the mount to pray; to have a conversation with God. Jesus Christ did not go far and these disciples started to sleep.  This is not the only time this will happen. In Matthew 26:36-45, Jesus Christ after the Last Supper takes Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to a place called Gethsemane to pray because he was sorrowful to the point of death. He said, “Watch and pray with me because I am downcast of soul.” It was a dark moment in Jesus’ life and ministry. It was a difficult period. At such a time when there should be a closeness with God. they fell asleep. “Couldn’t you keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This is a critical moment for Jesus. The men he gathered to do spiritual warfare are asleep.  Coming to church every time to be in the presence of God can be hard. Paying our tithes with the very resources God provides can be hard.  Spiritual intimacy is difficult. But we enjoy the benefit of it. Peter said, “It is good to be here.” What we don’t want to do is to give the effort, the transparency it requires. We ought to admit our own fears and sorrows. Jesus told his disciples how sorrowful he felt about his situation.  In a world of so much trouble,anxiety and stress, we need spiritual closeness to God.  Spiritual intimacy is hard and there is something in us that works against it.  There is something in our being that works against the spiritual intimacy that Jesus is calling for from these disciples. It is good to be in the presence of God because it refreshes us and provides the catalyst that fuel our relationship to God.

The second thing notable in the text was the appearance of a cloud with a voice coming out of it. Among the Jews, the presence of God is associated with the cloud. When Moses met God, it was in the cloud.  God made himself known why He led the Israelites through the wilderness in the cloud by day. It was in the cloud that God came to the Tabernacle. It was also the cloud that filled the Temple when it was dedicated after King Solomon built it.  It was also the dream of the Jewish people that when the Messiah came, the cloud of God’s presence would return to the Temple (Exodus 6:10). God was present in the cloud.  The voice of God through the cloud was to confirmed to the disciples about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  When we come into the presence of God, we will understand the uniqueness of our Savior.  

We see in the narrative that Peter is dashing about making efforts to build three tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  In the process the voice makes it clear that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son of God. As I endeavor to understand this passage, one thing stands out: Among the three men mentioned, Jesus is the greatest among them.  It shows that Jesus came into the world with so much testimonies.  The Law and the Prophets attest to this greatness. The Law and the Prophet points to Jesus’ coming and His work before He even came to earth.  So the human mediator of the Law Moses, and most prominent of the prophets Elijah served Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is unique because all who preceded Him talked about Him.  All who preceded Him served Him.  All who preceded Him spoke His word.

The most important question this morning as we engage this passage should be- Is Jesus unique to us, to you? Is there anyone else on which your hope for salvation is pinned? Is your hope of being right with God in anyone else? If our answer is yes, then that hope is in vain. The uniqueness of Christ is that He is the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. The uniqueness of Christ is that he is the only one who does the work that God requires.  He calls us to trust Him and to identify with Him.  God calls us to listen to Him.  The message of the Transfiguration is a message of your hope and your future. Jesus says, “Those who trust in me, I am going away, and for those who trust in me I am going to prepare a place for them that they might come to me and be with me where I am.”  

I do not know what you know, but I know that Christianity is a unique faith predicated upon the fact that Christianity stems from the uniqueness and superiority of its founder Jesus Christ.  Of all the founders of other world religions, Jesus Christ is the greatest man who ever lived.  The uniqueness of His birth, His teachings, His life, and His resurrection stand out. The Quran, the Muslim Holy book acknowledged the virgin birth of Jesus in Surah 19:16-22.

In His teachings he is unique.  In regards to human relationship, Buddha the founder of Hinduism taught that if anyone is suffering, that is their karma and no one should help. Everyone should be an island of himself.  Mohammed in Surah 9:5 in the Islamic Book teaches, “Slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.” Jesus Christ teaches us in Matthew 22:37-40 to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is taught when we come in his presence, in our divine worship services. We feel the joy in the presence of God.

I do not know about you, but every time I come to the house of God, in His presence, I always leave lifted up. It gives me a sense of spiritual closeness to God.  It makes me want to jump, to hoop, and to preach.  It renews in me a profound reverence for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ by renewing my hope that my effort to know Him, serve Him and worship Him is not in vain.  God bless you.

“Can You Handle the Truth?”

 

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

5TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

 

Title: “Can You Handle the Truth

Text: 2 Samuel 12:1-10

1.And Jehovah sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, there were two men in one city; the rich one, and the other poor. 2. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds; 3. But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him, but took the poor man’s lamb, and dress it for the man that was come to him.  5. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As Jehovah liveth, the man that hath done this is worthy to die: 6. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7. And Nathan said to David, thou art the man.  Thus said Jehovah, the God of israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8. And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added unto thee such and such things. 9. Wherefore hast thou despised the word of Jehovah, to do that which is evil in his sight? Thou hast smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

In ten days, Christians will begin the season of lent.  It is a forty day period beginning Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.  It is a season when Christians come before God, praying and fasting.  It is a time of self denial. It is a time Christians give up a particular food (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), or a habit (smoking, watching television). It is a time to repent of our wrong doings and put away wrongful habits. It is a time when we focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It is a time when we consecrate ourselves to God.  In order to make this time a meaningful one, it is important to face the truth of our wrong doings, and take responsibilities.  What if God confronted us this moment about our wrong doing? “Can we handle the truth?”          

“A Few Good Men” is a very popular movie.  The movie is mainly about the investigation of the death of a Marine private William Santiago, at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, and the trial that followed. Two other marines were charged with the murder of their fellow marine and were court-martialed.  During the trial, the Defense Lawyer was Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise.  Another main character in the movie was the base commander, Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson.  

Towards the end of the trial, Lieutenant Kaffee called Colonel Jessup to the stand as a witness.  During questioning, Lieutenant Kaffee discovered a contradiction in the Colonel’s testimony where he said he wanted to help the dead marine but had ordered a “Code Red,” which meant violent punishment for marines who didn’t fit in.  When Lieutenant Kaffee asked Colonel Jessup if he ordered the “Code Red,” his lawyer told him not to answer the question. But Colonel Jessup said, “I’ll answer the question.  You want answers?” Kaffee says, “I think I’m entitled to them.” Jessup asked again, “You want answers? ”Kaffee yells, “I want the truth!” Jessup yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!” Then he goes on to explain why it was necessary to order the death of another marine, because it saved lives.  In the end, Colonel Jessup was found guilty and arrested.

The line, “You can’t handle the truth” is one of most memorable part of this movie.  This line is important because it makes us wonder, if we are confronted with our sinful words and deeds, are we able and ready to recognize them, to claim them, to admit them and to take responsibility for them?  This is what happened in the case of David.  After all the sins he committed against Uriah and against God, was he able to handle the truth?

God decided to confront David by letting him see his sin in the form of a parable. God sent Nathan, the Prophet who came to David with a story. In this story, there were two men living in a certain town.  One was rich and had a very large number of sheep and cattle.  The other was poor.  He was so poor that he had nothing except one little ewe lamb.  This baby lamb was special to him and it was his family.  He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children.  It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms.  It was like a daughter to him.

Nathan continued with his story and told David how one day the rich man received a visitor.  The rich man decided to entertain his visitor.  Instead of getting a sheep or cow from his huge number of animals he owned, he went and took the one lamb the poor man had, killed it and prepared it for his guest.  When David heard this story, he became outraged, and furious.  The Bible says, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’”

David was King of Israel and he was declaring judgment on the man who would abuse his power that way.  He was pronouncing justice on the person who took advantage of the poor because he was rich.  He had issued a decree:  The man who did this must die.  It was such a serious crime that it deserves capital punishment.  Not only must the man die, he must repay the poor man for his lamb four times over.  David was reflecting the Jewish concept of repentance and forgiveness.  According to the Jewish tradition, if a man committed a very serious sin, he can only be forgiven if he perform certain acts of atonement such as: acknowledging and apologizing for the sin, abandoning the sin, acting and speaking with humility, and restoring the loss he caused to the other person. This was the law and David was enforcing the full extent of the law.  The law generally did not call for the death of the perpetrator but David went as far as declaring death for this person.

Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!”  Nathan went on to deliver a message from God about how much God had done for David.  God anointed him, protected him from Saul, made him king over both Judah and Israel in a United Kingdom, and gave him everything Saul had and then some.  God even went as far as saying, “And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”  God exposed David’s sin so he could see it:  “You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.  You killed him with the sword of the Ammonite.”  God brought charges against David.  He was charged with murder and adultery.  The verdict from the Judge of Heaven was guilty.  The punishment was death, destruction, and disgrace for David and his family. David knew he was guilty.  He knew he had done all those things he was accused of.  He was the man in the parable, the rich man who abused his power and killed the poor man’s lamb.  He was the man without regards for anybody else.  His wealth and power made him arrogant.  He looked down on others because he thought he was better than everybody; he didn’t care how people felt about him.  He did what he wanted to.  He was rich and he was powerful.  But God saw everything and exposed the truth.  Now that he knew the truth about himself, what was he going to do about it? Could he handle the truth?

Not everybody in the Bible handled the truth the same way.  When Adam was confronted about eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3, Adam blamed his wife, Eve, and she blamed the snake.  Both of them refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for their sins.  In 1 Samuel 3, when God told Samuel to tell the priest Eli that God wasn’t happy with the way his sons were behaving and treating the Temple worship, rather than saying he was sorry, Eli said, “He is the Lord.  Let him do what is good in his eyes.” In 1 Samuel 15, when Saul disobeyed God, he tried to justify his action by saying what he did was for God, but Samuel told him, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

When David was confronted with the truth of his sinful behavior, David handled the truth well.  He took full responsibility for his actions.  The first thing David said was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  That was an admission, a confession.  Not only did he stop there, he wrote an entire prayer asking for forgiveness.  Psalm 51 is that prayer.  David wrote: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”  He continued, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

After confessing his sins and declaring God was just in the punishment against him, David pleaded with God and said, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  David was asking for purification, for reconciliation and for restoration.  David had handled the truth like a mature person of faith.  He has given us an example we can all follow whenever we fall short of the glory of God and God has shown our sins to us.

In 2001, when George W. Bush was President, he had a White House Public Liaison name Tim.  Tim had almost daily access to President George Bush for seven years and helped with managing information from the White House to the public. Then it all ended abruptly on February 29, 2008. A well-known journalist had revealed the surprising fact that Tim plagiarized 27 of the 39 articles he published. By mid-afternoon the next day, Tim’s career in the White House was over.

Tim admitted his guilt and said the incident began “a personal crisis unequaled in my life, bringing great humiliation on my wife and children, my family, and my closest friends, including the President of the United States.”  Tim was summoned to the White House to face the President. Once inside the Oval Office, Tim shut the door, turned to the President and said, “I owe you an…” President Bush simply said: “Tim, you are forgiven.” Tim was speechless. He tried again: “But sir…” The President interrupted him again, with a firm “Stop.” Then President Bush added, “I have known grace and mercy in my life, and you are forgiven.”

After a long talk, a healing process was launched for Tim, which included repentance, reflection, and spiritual growth. “Political power can lead to pride,” Tim later reflected. “That was my sin. It was one hundred percent pride. But offering and receiving forgiveness is a different kind of strength. That’s the kind of strength I want to develop now.”

For Tim, it was pride and stealing other people’s writings.  For David, it was murder and adultery.  For others, it might be a different sin.  But no matter what sin we have committed that led to the death and destruction of others, God knows and will call our attention to the truth of our actions.  When God confronts us with the truth, will we be able to handle it?  We can act like Adam and Eve who blamed others, or we can be like David who took responsibility for his sins.  As a result of David’s ability to handle the truth, his relationship with God was restored.  Despite the painful outcome of his sins, God was there to comfort him and help him along the way.

This week and every week, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, may we be ready to say, “Yes, Lord. I admit my shortcomings.  Have mercy on me, save me and restore me.”  When we do, because we are in Jesus Christ, the truth will set us free and we will be renewed.  As we prepare for the upcoming season of lent, may we acknowledge, claim, and take responsibility for all our wrong doings.  When we do this, God will restore our relationship with him.  Amen.

 

“The Power of Praise”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

24TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

NOVEMBER 19, 2017

 

Title: “The Power of Praise”

Text: Psalms 113:3  

“From the rising of the sun, to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord should be praised.”

 

At the age of 21, John Wesley matriculated to the University of Oxford.  John Wesley was raised in a Christian home.  Mentally, he was gifted. He was a good looking man. During those young years, Wesley was a little sarcastic.  One night Wesley had an experience that set in motion a change of heart for the young Wesley.  In a conversation with a porter, Wesley learned that the poor man had only one coat.  The man was so poor that he didn’t even have a bed to sleep on.  What was unique about the poor man was he was an unusually happy and thankful person.  The man was always filled with gratitude to God. Being immature at the time, and without thinking, Wesley joked about the man’s impoverished condition.  Sarcastically, Wesley Joke, “And what else do you thank God for?”  Smiling, the porter responded with a spirit of meekness and joy, “I thanked God for giving me my life and being, a heart to love him, and above all, a constant desire to serve Him.” Wesley was deeply moved.  He realised that this man knew the meaning of true thankfulness.

This was made manifest many years later, as Wesley lie on his deathbed in 1791 at the age of 88. Those who gathered around Wesley knew how well he had learned, the lesson of praising God in every circumstances.  Despite how weak John Wesley was on his deathbed, he started to sing the hymn, “I’ll Praise My Maker Why I have Breath.”

This great man of God, who contributed so much to the methodist faith, wrote his first hymn three days after he was saved: ‘O,for a thousand tongues to sing my redeemer’s praise.’  We are told that John Wesley wrote approximately Six Thousand Five Hundred hymns.  Wesley was a man of praise.

In this life, we have so much to praise God for.  There is great power in praising and honoring God.  Many of us live out that truth in our daily lives.  The Bible is full of examples, where the power of God is release after praises are offered to Him.  Through the power of praise, we have seen life changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemies being stopped or defeated.  Through the power of praise, we have seen hearts being changed. Yet the reality is clear that too often, the struggles of this life and daily circumstances can hinder our praise.  When sin, rebellion, discouragement, anger, worry, depression, and the cares of this life come our way, praising God can be difficult, not less impossible.  As we approach a week of thanksgiving, I want us to look at the benefits of giving thanks to God with praises. I want us to explore together, the power of praise.  I want us to learn together what praise is.

Praise is simply an act of expressing esteem for a person.  When we lift the virtue of a person’s accomplishment, we are praising them.  When we praise a person, we are pronouncing that the person is worthy of honor and praise.  However, praising God is much more than that.  Webster defines the word praise ‘as to say good things about.’  It is synonymous to words such as admire, commend, extol, honor, and worship. A footnote from the NIV Bible defines Christian praise as the joyful thanking and adoring of God, the celebration of His goodness and grace. The English word for praise has a french origin, preisier.  Preisier means to prize.  This gives us a basic understanding of what the word means.  To prize means to value, to cherish, to esteem.  So when we praise God, we cherish God.  We esteem and honor God.  We value God.  Now, if we want to praise God, we must get to know more about God and God’s goodness to us.  The less we know God, the less we can praise Him.

In 2 Samuel 2:19-20, David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead.  “Is the child dead?” he asked.  “Yes,”they replied, “he is dead.”  David, a man after God’s heart, suffered the loss of his son.  David knew that he had transgress against God.  David knew a lot about God’s grace, His lovingkindness, His tender mercies.  Death of a love one can be painful, and overwhelming.  But David’s response to the death was unexpected.  David changed his clothes and went to the house of the Lord.  David went to the house of the Lord, to give God joyful thanks and adore him. He went to the house of the Lord, to celebrate the goodness and grace of God.  David worshipped God.  There is no better place to be than in the presence of God, bringing our broken spirit to praise Him.  Praise is to thank and adore God at every given opportunity.  This is what praise is.

In this self-centered world of ours, when almost everything is about ourselves, we need a time to come back to God.  It is a time when we take the focus off ourselves and come back to God to acknowledge Him.  It is a time, when we come back to God, to a place of humility.  The power of praise is what brings us to that hallowed place of humility.  In Psalms 103:2-4, the Psalmist says, “Blessed the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgive all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.”  God has blessed us greatly.  We forget sometimes, about these blessings and we focus on ourselves, doing what pleases us.  We forget to come back to God in humility.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah whose name means bitter, suffered greatly because she was barren.  Hannah was despised, because cultural norms esteemed a woman by the number of children she gave birth to.  Hannah was taunted and teased because of this situation.  But God had a place for her, if only she would focus on Him, come back to Him in humility.  We find in 1 Samuel 1:10, that it wasn’t until she was pushed to her limit, that she went back to God. It was not until she arose and worship, and praise God, that God opened her womb.  The power of praise can bring us back to a place of humility, where God can meet us at the point of our need.  The power of praise clears all negativity and complaining from our lives, and clears the way for God’s blessings.

 

In the Book of Job, we see a level of faith and integrity that proves the power of praise like nowhere else.  Job’s unyielding dedication to God shows us what praise can do.  The power of praise in job’s life removes all forms of negativity in the face of all the difficulties Job faced.  As mentioned above, a person’s knowledge of God will propel them, to praise no matter the circumstances.  Do not forget, the less we know God, the less we will praise Him.  The more we know God, the more we will praise Him.  

We see the beauty of the story in Job 1:20-21: No matter how bad the trial got, Job still had God’s protection.  It is so beautiful that Job, after all he had gone through, “…arose, rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.  And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither:  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Word are inadequate, to explain Job’s reaction to all the losses he suffered.  Job not only worshipped God, but he praised God.  With all he had went through, Job may have questioned God, but never once curse God.  The record tells us that Job worshipped God.  He praised God.  When you feel that you have had the worst year, rise up and give God the praise, because someone out there had it much worse.  Praise God because it is an indication that our relationship with Him is shown through our praise.  It allows the power of our praise to bring about blessings in our lives.  Church, there is a purpose in our hurt, pain, joy, or happiness.  Emotions are our natural response, but praise should be our spiritual response.  When we worship God in the face of our circumstances, whether good or bad, we invite God’s presence.  The power of praise refreshes our spirit and the presence of God is renewed.  

The Psalmists puts it like this, “He inhabits the praises of His people.” Psalms 22:3  God dwells close to us when we praise Him.  It brings His presence to us.  There is always fullness of joy in the presence of God. Psalms 16:11  When Peter, James, and John were with Christ on the mount, they felt good and proclaimed, “Lord, it is good to be here.”  Matthew 17:4   When God is closer to us and His presence is with us, it clears the way for God’s blessings in our lives.

God shakes the foundation of the earth through praise, allowing His power to be manifested.  Paul and Silas sat in prison.  They were chained and shackled.  But the pair kept praising God. God’s power was manifested.  Paul and Silas did not break jail.  The jailer who life could have been taken if the pair had escaped, came to know Christ. Acts 16:25-26.  In everyday life, we are faced with a choice. We can either absorbed ourselves in worry or stress.  In this busy world of turmoil and confusion, we can choose to be self-centered, and be about our own business. Or we can focus our praise on God, who holds it all together. God desires our whole heart. In Psalms 63:3-4, the Psalmist made this choice, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”  Choose the power of praise today.  It is said in His word, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.”  

“Hungering for God”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

23RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

NOVEMBER 12, 2017

 

Title: “Hungering for God.”

Text: 2 Chronicles 20:1-3

  1. It came to past after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. 2. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, there cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon-tamar, which is En-gedi.  3. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard  6. and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8. They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9. If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

 

Our text this morning is about one of the successful Kings in the nation of Israel, King Jehoshaphat.  King Jehoshaphat faces one of the most difficult situations of his life.  In verse two of the passage, King Jehoshaphat is facing one of the most difficult situations of his life.  Intels from his intelligence community informed him that a vast army is coming against him from the nations of Edom. A vast army which includes the Moabites and Ammonites and some Meunites.  These armies are not coming to fellowship with him but to rage war against him and kill him and all his people.  They were coming to ransack the nation and take away everything.  We may not understand the intensity of the situation as the text puts it simply.  But the people of Syria, Afghanistan, Irag, Liberia, or Veterans of Wars would understand it. It was a dangerous situation.  A situation that would require a Bible believing Christian to run to God, to hunger or thirst for God, more than ever before.  It happened under the watchful eyes of on of Jehovah’s devout follower.     

Jehoshaphat became the fourth King of the divided Kingdom of Israel, who reigned from around 875 to 850 B.C. Jehoshaphat was one of the few kings, who loved Jehovah.  He was a devout follower of the commandments of God.  He loved the word of God, that in his third year, he sent out certain priest, and levites, to go through all the cities of Judah, teaching the people out of the Book of the Law.  Due to his love for the Lord, riches and honors increased around him.  2 Chronicles 22:9 informs us that “Jehoshaphat sought the Lord with all his heart.”

The record tells us that Judah did nothing to provoke such an attack on its sovereignty.  It came to them like a clap of thunder in a clear sky.  These kind of calamities occur from time to time.  It happen to nations.  It happen to churches, to families, and to individuals. Recently, our brothers and sisters at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Plains, Texas experienced such unexpected attack in one of the safest place in the world, the house of God. In such difficult or perplex situation what do we do?

In times of great difficulties, a Christian who has a relationship with God will hunger, thirst, or run to God.  A Christian will put total trust in God, and wait for God’s response.  Verse three informs us that “alarmed Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.”  This act by Jehoshaphat was a purposeful act that sprang out of his relationship with God.  It was an act of spiritual discipline that sprang out of what Jehoshaphat knew best to do: Reflect on who God is and what he has done in the past.

In verses 6-9, Jehoshaphat stands before his people and addresses God.  In his speech, he first recalls all that the Lord has done for the nation in the past.  Jehoshaphat is able to say, “Are you not God?” (verses 6,7)  In these verses, Jehoshaphat is not reminding God who He is, but reminding himself and his people, and showing them the bigger picture of God’s omnipotence.  He is reminding them of God’s power.  Here Jehoshaphat is not asking for guns and ammunitions. He is not asking for tanks and nuclear warheads.  He is not seeking God’s attention.  He is only focusing on God’s greatness.  Jehoshaphat focuses on God’s greatness from His written word because it provides guidance.  

In their book, “Hearing God’s Voice,” Henry and Richard Blackaby, points out that talking to God is not about getting God’s attention.  God’s attention is already focused on us.  It is important to first begin by focusing on God’s greatness.  Talking to God is a two way conversation, where God is the bigger picture.  We must focus on His greatness and the promises He has made.  We must reflect on all the help God has given us. We must remember the dangerous places, He had saved us from. We must remember the mountains in our lives, God has helped us to climbed.  When we find ourselves in difficult situations, we tend to focus on the severity of the situation, and forget about all that God has done for us.  Church, majority of the Psalms of David focused on what God has done for David in his past.  David recalls the great acts of God from his past, which strengthens him in the present and fills him with hope for the future.  David says in Psalms 23: 4-6, “Yea though I walked through the valley of shadows of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercies shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Jehoshaphat reminds the people of the past in order to galvanize their hope for the future. When we remind ourselves of God greatness, it must be done with an attitude of dependence on God, trusting God completely.

In verse 12, Jehoshaphat demonstrates complete dependence on God.  Jehoshaphat addresses God, “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  

In his book on “Spiritual Leadership,” Steve Miller recounts a story told by D.L. Moody.  D.L. Moody narrated that a minister decided to move his library upstairs.  As he moved a load of books, his little son came in, anxious to help him.  The minister instructed his son to get an armful of books to help in the process. As the minister returns to get more books, he met his little son about half-way up the stairs.  The little fellow was hugging one of the biggest books in the library.  The little boy couldn’t carry the book because it was too big.  Instead, he sat down and cried.  The minister found his son and picked him up and carried him and the books upstairs.  Steve Miller concludes the story, “So Christ will carry you and all your burdens, if you but let Him.” Like the little boy who has no options, but to trust his little weight on his father to carry him, King Jehoshaphat demonstrated total dependence on God to carry him through this.  

This passage of scripture has been a great encouragement to me in my life.  During the heights of the civil war in my country, I came down with dysentery because of the hunger and unhealthy food. All I needed was a dose of tetracycline, which I knew for a fact could help me and keeping me from dying.  The nearest drug store was just five minutes walk from my father’s house. That location was a war zone, where there was exchange of fire power between government forces and rebels. Faced with the danger of being hit by stray bullets or die from dysentery, I made a decision. I ventured outside the safety of the house, to get the needed medicine from the pharmacist.  All I did was trust God with my life. God protected me, guided the pharmacist to open his door, and give me the drugs free of charge.  I returned home in one piece.  

There will be difficult and dangerous times in our lives.  Such time may be unexpected.  The will be no time to plan.  Jehoshaphat had no time to plan to face the enemies.  No program, no committee action to tackle the problem.  There was no sophisticated B-52’s, or naval ships with missiles.  Just a simple confession, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us, but our eyes are on you.”  Jehoshaphat and the nation of Israel decided to put all their trust in the Lord.  They decided to put total dependence on God.  They would seek no other option, but to trust the Lord.  There are many places in Scriptures, where God’s people put their total dependence on God.  

In Genesis 22:13, God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac “his only son, the son that he loved.”  God had promised Abraham, that He would bless him with offsprings uncountable.  The promise was to be made through Isaac.  Here, God was asking Abraham to kill the boy.  Abraham trusted God completely without question.  In total dependence on God, Abraham was provided with a ram, and Isaac was spared.  The scripture tells us, “Abraham lifted up his eyes…,” Jehoshaphat and Abraham are in similar situation.  Both of them needed help from God.  They both looked up to God for help.  Church, God should not be our last resort.  When we are faced with situations in our lives, let our hunger for God be the first resort and not the last.  These two great men of God hungered for God, confessed their weakness, and cast total dependence on God for His response.

What was God’s response, when they hungered for God? Verse 17 says, You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.”  You see, when we are faced with situations, be it seizures, or cancers, or disease, which the doctors have no explanation for, God will make us to witness His greatness.  Sometimes, when we go through battle, we will not have to fight, but we will have to be on the battle ground to witness the greatness of God.  I do not know what your battle is this morning.  I do not know what battle ground you are standing on this morning.  There is one thing that I know, that God will respond to your situation.  God will make you a witness to His mighty deeds in the battle you find yourself in.  He will say to you, “see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”

You see, in verse 11, Jehoshaphat and the nation of Israel is at risk of losing all that they owned. In verse 25, the nation is blessed with everything that belongs to the enemies.  

There is no one I have come across, who has suffered so much as Job suffered.  The records tells us that God allowed Satan to torment Job, that he became discouraged about life.  Job cursed the day he was born.  His friends accused him of sinning, and his wife asked him to curse God and die.  Job even felt that he was the enemy of God because of his suffering Job 13:23-24.  Make no mistake, Job really suffered. He could

not make sense of his suffering.  But Job was never bitter.  He never cursed God.  He only inquired of God, “…Do not declare me guilty, but tell me what charges you have against me.  Does it pleased you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the plans of the wicked?” Job 10:1-4  Have you ever felt the way job felt? Have you ever been in an unexpectedly difficult situation, and hungered for God’s answer?  Have you been in a situation where you have to bury a child, a husband, a wife, or a close relative or friend? Have you been in a situation, where the pain is unbearable, or the danger overwhelms you with fear?  If so, you are not alone.  God understands.  God knows what we are made off.  God knows we are frail and feeble, weak, and we are made of dust. Psalms 103:1  It is okay to question God and doubt Him, but We need need to trust Him total.  God answered Job. (Job 38,39)  Job repented and humbled himself before God.  Jehoshaphat and the nation of Israel, after their deliverance, went back to the temple and praised God.

My beloved parishioners, difficult situations are part and parcel of life.  We will face them every now and then.  Let us take a retrospective look at all God has done for us in difficult times.  Let us not complain and question God, but hunger for God, standing in complete dependence on God, that God may respond to our trust in Him.

 

“Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

22nd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

5TH NOVEMBER 2017

 

Title: “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work”

Text: Psalms 133:1-3

 

  • Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
  • It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirt of his garments;
  • As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

 

 

The title “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work,” is a common title used by many to promote leadership ideas.  It is a common title used by many to promote the idea of achieving success through unity.  I know for a fact that many great things happens, when folks work together in an organization; it is not the money or the skills, it is the unity or teamwork that matters.  Teamwork is when a group of people come together and work effectively towards a common goal.  I know many of us here this morning envisage this church being full every Sunday.  Some of us envisage seeing our church having a local and global impact for the glory of God everyday.  We all look forward to being part of a workforce that will be successful.  Most championship teams have many good players, but these players’ effort in playing as a team won them championships.     

A communications director from a Ohio business told a story of two mountain climbers.  The two men, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made history by climbing the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. Their climb brought them instant international fame. But on their way down the 29,000-foot peak, Hillary slipped and almost fell to his death. But Tenzing Norgay immediately dug in his ice-axe and braced the rope that linked them together, saving Hillary’s life.  At the bottom of the mountain, the international press made a big issue of Norgay’s heroic actions.  Through all of the noise, Norgay remained calm, very professional, and not carried away.  When the duo reached the bottom of the Mount Everest, Norgay had a simple answer to all the shouted questions: “Mountain climbers always help each other.” That is what teamwork does when people work together.

Teams come in all shapes and sizes.  In his book, “Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork,” John Maxwell explains that, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Teamwork brings about success.  Maxwell points out that in a marriage, a man and his wife is a team.  In an organization, colleagues that work together form a team. In our daily walk, we are part of a team in some way. The question here this morning is not ‘Will you participate in something that involves others? The question is, ‘Will your involvement with others be successful?’ Another way one could ask this question is, ‘Will your involvement promote or hinder the team? If we are part of a team, will we be part of the problem the team is dealing with or will we be part of the solution?  King David in Psalms 133 agrees with Maxwell.

In the passage under consideration, David understood the importance of working together as a team with a common goal.  When David became King of Israel, it was a divided nation. Israel was not a unified kingdom.  The twelve tribes were not united because belong to the tribe was more important than being an Israelite.  They were proud to belong to the tribe of Judah or Benjamin, or Rueben.  When David became king, his first order of business was to unify all the twelve tribes into one glorious and powerful kingdom.  Under David, Israel became a military and economic power.  Israel was to that period, what the great United States of America is today.  Israel became a superpower during the reign of David.  Israel became a golden age of great wealth, great prosperity, and great learning. Many scholars believed it was during David’s reign that scribes began to compile the Torah and the Books of Moses.  This is why the disciples asked Jesus in Acts 1, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” They were asking Jesus about David’s kingdom.  The Kingdom of Israel during the rule of David was very successful because the people were united.

David realized teamwork made the dream work.  It will take teamwork to make our dreams, visions and goals to work.  The dream we find ourselves working on is not my dream or your dream; it is God’s dream, God’s mission for the church.  In our church life, everything that we undertake is about God and what God wants us to do.  When our praise team sings, they sing to glorify God.  They do not sing to you or to me.  So if we are part of the team, we must encourage them on.  In the church, when we seek name for ourselves, we accomplish nothing.  But the results of people coming together is a great success.  One of the things I was told was about was the Bazaar at Newton First UMC, Newton, KS.  Someone said, “It is very important for you to attend.”  So I looked forward to yesterday with great anticipation.  I waited and yesterday, I came to see what it means for people to work together.  I was so happy yesterday because of the team effort put into organizing this Bazaar.

David took a retrospective look at how far the people of Israel had come.  David reflected on how great everything was.  That is why David wrote the words we read as our Scripture.  There are three things we can glean from these Scriptures.  The first is that Unity is not the same as uniformity.  David wrote, “How good and pleasant it is, when God’s people live together in unity.”  When something is good, it has a purpose; it benefits people.  When something is pleasant it makes people feel good.  Unity is different from uniformity.  Uniformity is when we all act alike, when we all think alike.  When things are uniform, everything looks alike.  There are no differences.  Uniformity does not allow room for differences.  Uniformity requires people to like the same food, read the same novels, watch the same kind of movies, and listen to the same kind of music.  When I was in the senior class, we wore long sleeves white shirt, long khaki pants, black shoes and black woolen ties.  That was our senior uniform. If you wore black leather tie to school, you were kicked out of school.  There are some level of uniformity among us.  We are United Methodists: we all worship one Lord, celebrate the same faith and have one baptism. We are uniform in our beliefs and behaviors, but we are different in how we worship.  Some people love the good old hymns of the old days, while others prefer the contemporary Christian songs.Some people will only read the King James Version of the Bible, while others have all kinds of versions and Bible translations.  Some people take the hard copy of the Bible with them, while others download it on their smartphones. We are different, yet we are united in our faith.  

Unity is when we recognize we are different in our outlook and accept our differences.  When it comes to baptism in the United Methodist Church, some people do immersion, others recognize sprinkling, and others prefer pouring.  But we accept three forms of baptism.  When we live in unity, each person brings their individual differences and together we form a great team for God, a team where Jesus Christ is Lord.  We see that differences in as John describes it in Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding white branches in their hands.” That is unity right there.  We have God’s dream to fulfill in this church, in this district, in this conference and around the world.  It takes teamwork to make this dream work.

Secondly, unity is consecrated not desecrated.  We read in Psalms 133 that unity “Is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” Aaron was a high priest and oil was used to consecrate the priests, kings, and prophets.  Oil was God’s way of consecrating people and things to set them aside for His use only.  The oil that was poured on Aaron was not just a touch; it was a generous flow that was enough to roll from his head to his beard and to the collar of his robe.  He was covered in sared oil.  

When Christian live in unity, we celebrate and honor God.  Just as God consecrated people, places, and things, so God has consecrated unity as a gift to the church. There is God’s anointing and consecration on us as a unified body.  This inspires us to consecrate ourselves for God.  We all are on the same team.  We have the same owners!  We have the same coach and the same spirit within.  We all work for God.  We have the same purpose which is to save souls for God.  We are consecrated or set apart to do God’s work as a team to make God’s dream work.  God’s dream is for Christians to live in unity.

Unity is refreshing.  It brings about happiness in the body of Christ.  It is not depressing.  The text says, “Unity is like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion.” In Ephesians 4,  Paul encourages the Church at Ephesus to remain united.  He wrote, “ Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Paul encourages us to listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit.  When we listen to the Spirit, we will watch our words.  We will not say anything that will divide us.  Think about all the children who parents told them they will amount to no good.  Think about all the times you were told negative words and how those words hurts.  That is why Paul wrote, “Do not use harmful words, only helpful ones, the kind that build up and provide what is needed.” Helpful words are refreshing and brings about unity.  We need to be united always in the house of God to make the dream happens. It is teamwork that propels a humble man with a mennonite background to come and work the kitchen and throw out the trash, a retired railroad worker and his wife to drive the bus, widows to brave the weather to come for hours to decorate our church, a young couple to take up the troubles of mentoring teen agers, brothers to tireless work to control our sound systems, folks to volunteer their time to help our youths on Wednesdays, folks to give for us to have an elevator.  It is teamwork and unity that makes all of us do the little things we do to have a happy church family.  God sees you and he will bless the work of your hands.   

It is when we admit we are weak that we know God’s power.  The church is the team that belongs to God.  Saving the entire word is God’s dream.  God has called us as stewards of His dream to His game plan of salvation.  This calls for unity to have it accomplish.  We learned from David that unity is good and pleasant.  Jesus wants us to function as a team.  This is the only way to make the dream work.  

“GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH”

Sermon by the Reverend Amos McCarthy

21st Sunday after Pentecost

October 29, 2017

TITLE: GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH

TEXT: ISAIAH 61:1-7

1.“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3. And bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4.They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5. Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.  You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.  7.Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

The book of Isaiah is filled with messianic contents, things about Jesus Christ the Messiah.  The book of Isaiah contains many evidences, about the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we read Isaiah, we will find the prophecy of the virgin birth (7:14).  It tells about the Messiah in His humility as a “root out of parched ground” (53:2), but also of His royal heritage, as the “shoot… from the stem of Jesse” (11:1), as the “king who will reign righteously” (32:1), as God’s “chosen One in whom He delights” (42:2).  Jesus Christ is mentioned in Isaiah as the suffering Servant on whom the Lord laid “the iniquity of us all” (53:6), but Jesus Christ is also the resurrected One who “will prolong His days” (53:6) This passage in Isaiah 61 forms the heart of the concluding prophecy of Isaiah.  It tells about Jesus as the Proclaimer of “the favorable year of the Lord” (61:2) and “the day of vengeance of our God, as He comes in judgment and treads “the wine through alone” (63:3) One could almost write about the life of Christ from the allusions in Isaiah.  

The passage read is the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry on earth.  Jesus Christ’s use of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth is found in Luke 4, which is instructive of the fact that the Scripture was fulfilled, in the hearing of those gathered.  Not only in Luke is Isaiah alluded to, but in numerous places in the New Testament.  It is a fact that with the exception of the Psalms, Isaiah is referred to more often than any other book from the Old Testament.  Matthew uses Isaiah to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised King and Messiah (Matthew 4:14;8:17;12:17).  The apostle John reported that Isaiah, in his vision of God, spoke of the glory of the Lord Jesus (John 12:14).  Paul, in both his sermons and discourses, and in his writings quotes Isaiah (Acts 28:25-27; Romans 9:27-29; 15:12).  All these quotations of Isaiah is in support of a unified theme of God’s plan for Jesus’ ministry on earth.  It is in fulfilment of God’s plan to sent Jesus Christ, as “the anointed One” (Isaiah 61:1-11) and “will clothe the redeemed with a robe of righteousness” (v 10-11).  This is the fulfilment of the God’s plan for the ministry of the church.  This morning we will explore together this game plan of God for the church.

In the United States and many countries of the world, sports is big business.  Some popular sports teams are football, soccer, basketball, hockey and many others. People organized these teams for the purpose of gaining victories. The more victories a team accumulate, the more money.  It is a lucrative business.  In a quest to win, a teams must have a game plan.  A game plan is a strategy a coach designs to win or achieve a set goal.  In this game plan by the coach, everyone, including staff and players must comprehend what it is and be ready to execute it.  If there are oppositions to the game plan, it could hamper the team’s effort to win or hinder the chances to win.

This is the same with the church.  The church is not a group, it is a team.  A group is a number of people or things gathered in the same area. A group could be at the park, walking along the trail, just being together without a goal.  A team varies from a group.  A team works together with a common purpose and a common goal. A team has a connection and joins together.  The church is not a group of people, it is a community of people.  It is God’s called out ones or ekklesia.  It is God’s team to win the world to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  GOD HAS A GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH.

Considering the church as a sports team, Paul the apostle compared the team members or Christians to runners. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, Paul told them that the Christian was like an athlete,”who competes in games and exercise of self-control.”  Paul further compares himself to a runner or a boxer in training for the title fight when he said, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”   In Hebrew 12, the anonymous writer urges the runner to “run with patience the race that is set before us.” The church is like a team.  We are like athletes playing on a team.  We are Jesus’ team, and the Holy Spirit is our coach.

In the passage under consideration, God gave our team a new game plan. In Isaiah’s time, the nation of Israel was in a bad shape. It was messed up. In Isaiah 6, God wanted someone to sent to execute His game plan. Isaiah took the prophecy.  In Isaiah 61, the burden fell on Jesus who was anointed by God. In Isaiah’s world, there were acts of discrimination, intimidation, corruption, mis-education, pollution, and all kinds of problems.  It was time for God to save the world from itself.  There is a common saying in America, “If you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.” God decided to come and save the world himself.  God came and dwell among men in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our world today is in bad shape.  We live in a world where many Christians do not know the differences between right and wrong. Good and bad is relative and depends on the situation.  God came in human form to set things right.  Theologians referred to it as the Incarnation.  Jesus Christ came with a strategy.

Doctor Luke tells us that during the genesis of Jesus’ ministry, He first visited the synagogue in Nazareth.  When Christ was asked to read the Hebrew Scriptures, He opened the scrolls and read from Isaiah 61.  In Luke 4, Christ made it clear that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him.  He had a game plan from God, and that game plan was going to be given to the church.  He pointed out that the same game plan God used for the children of Israel would be used for His ministry and the church.

The first part of the game plan is that the church is blessed to be filled with the Spirit of God.  Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.”  Anointing is to be consecrated by the use of oil.  In Old Testament time, priest, prophet, and kings were anointed.  Anointing means to set aside for the service of God and God alone.  In the same manner, the church has been anointed and consecrated, and set aside for the service of God and God alone.  

As an anointed institution, the church is both human and divine. Jesus is the head of this anointed institution. The church is the only institution where the membership does not end at death.  When a person dies, his membership in the church continues in heaven. As mentioned earlier, we are a community.  A community of faith under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  Without the Spirit, we would be powerless, ineffective and dead.  As a team, our strength and our resolves to win the world comes from God. Without God’s Spirit we will have no focus, and there would be no purpose in our lives. Paul points out in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  The church must always keep this in mind.  The first part of God’s game plan is that church is a community of faith filled with the Holy Spirit.

The second part of God’s game plan for the church is the Great Commission.  The church must take the good news of Jesus Christ to the poor and needy. Usually, poor people are looked down upon. But God has commissioned us to inform the poor that they are special in His sight. In today’s world, the poor is referred to as the disadvantaged, marginalised, unfortunate, but they are still the poor. Many of the poor are homeless.  In many societies, poor people have no value and are worthless.  But in the sight of God, they are made in his image and are precious like everyone else.

In Old Testament times, widows and children were among the least.  They were without protection because there was no husband or father.  But in this message to the people of Israel and to the church, God is declaring that poor people should take courage because He would be their protector.  The church has a binding duty in mission to protect the poor and care for the vulnerable in society.  The church stand against child abuse.  The church defend women against domestic violence.  The church must execute God’s game plan by being the voice for the voiceless.  The church must do this because it is the mission God give the church.  This is good news to the poor because they do not have to feel that they are voiceless anymore.  Membership in the church is not based on if you are poor or rich. It is based on if you believe in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as your Lord and Savior.  All people matter to God and so they MUST matter to the church.

God’s game plan for the church is for the church to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free. We all have experienced some kind of broken-heartedness.  We have either lose our relationships, jobs, health, homes, money, or things of value.  At those moments in our lives, our hearts are broken.  We all have had times of silent tears during the midst of the night. During times of broken heartedness, life can become dark and depression can set in.  Depression can lead to other emotional problems and even death.  It causes the mind and the soul to be dark.  It makes you feel you have no purpose.  But Psalms 30:5 encourages us, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for a night but joy comes in the morning.” God’s game plan for the church must be to heal those who are broken hearted. The church is not in the business of discussing those who are broken hearted, but through prayers and support helped to heal.  We must call them and let them know we care. The church must show love for the broken-hearted by being a comforting presence and assuring them they are not alone.  

Life mishaps lead us into prisons. The worst kind of prison is the prisons where a person is locked up in situations. One kind of prison is addiction. So many people in the world today are addicted to something: drugs, gambling, alcohol, sexual immorality, and many other vices. These things leads to social and personal problems.  People commit crimes because of these addictions and end up in jail or become prisoners of their own addictions.  These things have destroyed families and sometimes entire communities.  God’s game plan for the church is to help people break free from these addictions.  The church must support Alcohol Anonymous or AA and any organizations that help people free themselves from the prison of addictions.  The mission of the church is to set the captive free.

The birth of Christ came with it a game plan from God. The game plan is to make the church a place of grace, a place of acceptance, and a community of love.  God’s game plan is for the church is to reach the unreached, love the unloved, and save the unsaved. The story is told of some American soldiers, who during War World II, requested to bury a fellow soldiers in a church cemetery.  The pastor refused because the dead soldier was not a member of the church. The friends took the body just outside the cemetery fence and buried the soldier.  After the war, they returned to pay their respect to their dead friend but could not see the body.  When they questioned the pastor, the pastor informed them, that after careful thought, he had moved the fence so that the dead soldier’s grave should fall within the cemetery boundaries.

As we sojourn in this world, we must live out God’s game plan.  The church must show love to everyone.  We are not just a group of people, but we are a community of faith filled with the Holy Spirit.  We are filled with the Spirit to heal the broken-heart.  We are a community of faith filled with Spirit to set the captive free. We must proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  That is God’s game plan for the church as spelt out by the prophet Isaiah and made manifest in the life and ministry of Christ.

“THE POWER OF WORDS”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

20TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

OCTOBER 22nd, 2017

Title: “The Power of Words”

Text: James 3:1-12

1.Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. 2. For in many things we all stumble.  If any stumbleth not in words, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3. Now if we put the horses’ bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also.  4. Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth.  5. So the tongue also is a little member, and boasted great things.  Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire.  6. And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell.  7. For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the seas, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind: 8. But the tongue can no man tamed; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison.  9. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: 10. Out of the same mouth cometh forth blessings and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  11. Doth the fountain send forth from the same opposing sweet water and bitter?  12. Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet.

 

The story is told of a boy named Robert, who grew up in a rural town.    Robert’s father had a bad reputation in that town.  Robert was a successful football star.  He made the all American team in high school and graduated to play for a reputable university.  After college, Robert became a businessman.  He struggled a little bid because of his lacked of self-assurance and people skills. Throughout his school days, football was Robert’s life.  Sadly, Robert thought his father has never been to any of Robert’s game.  Robert felt empty inside. He wasn’t aware of it back then, but what he wanted and needed most was the approval of his father.  Robert waited to see his father come to one of his game and cheer him, but that never happened.

One day, Robert received a call that his father had a heart attack and might not make it. Robert went to the hospital’s emergency room immediately to see his father.  The emergency room was dark when Robert walked in.  His father mistook him for the doctor.  What Robert heard next would forever change Robert’s life.

Because of the darkness in the room, the father could not see clearly.  He thought Robert was the doctor.  He said, “hey Doc, have I ever told you about my son Robert? Robert is a good athlete. He was one of the greatest footballer in this town. He was amazing to watch.  He ran like a lightening! Today, he is a successful businessman.  He is intelligent and articulate.  I wish you could meet him someday.

At that moment, Robert heard the words he had long to hear for over thirty five years.  His father knew about his games because he had quietly attended his games unknown to him.  He had stayed out of the spotlight, so that his bad reputation does not embarrassed his son. His father had kept newspaper stories of his business and stories about his success.  His father’s assurance and pride in that emergency room was like a healing balm running throughout his bones. Robert’s father survived the heart attack, and they both approach life in marvelous ways.  The words Robert’s father spoke had power that transformed Robert’s life.

Words have no power until those words are uttered. It is our tongues that speak words. In the passage read, James tells us that the tongue is small, but it is very mighty.  Recently, wide fire has been raging in California. The wild fire is started by a small spark. James draws our attention to the analogy that “just as a forest is set on fire by a small spark, the tongue is also a fire, a world of evil, that can set the body on fire. The tongue corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire.”  James went on to say, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil full of poison.”  From the words of James, we can conclude that indeed words utter by the tongue are powerful.  How better way can we make use of the tongue?  Words utter by the tongue are hypocritical. What better ways can we stop such hypocrisy? The tongue can be control with help from the Holy Spirit.  Join with me as we explore the power of words.

As mentioned earlier, words have power.  But it only has power when it is spoken. Hence, James urges us to consider the power of the tongue.  We must not be fast in pushing ourselves to position where the tongue is constantly used.  With the tongue, we praise the Lord our father.  With the same tongue we curse human beings, who are created in the likeness of God. Yet out of the same mouth comes cursing.  We all know words are powerful because they are the major ways we express our thoughts and feelings.

In the Genesis account, there was nothing on the earth. There was emptiness, chaos, and darkness on the face of the earth. Genesis 1:1-3.  It was at that time, God spoke the words of life and said, “Let there be light.”  When God wanted humankind to understand and experience how he felt about us, Jesus became the word of God and took up human form and dwelled among us. To make sense of it, one can say God moved in our neighborhood to be among us in the person of Christ.  Jesus Christ became the voice of God on earth.

Words are powerful because they can build and destroy. (Proverbs 18:21) Words will be destructive when they are intended to slander us.  Everyone of us has in some way experienced the pain one go through, when someone twists one’s words. They turned our life into an object of gossip.  They openly defamed our name. Slander is evidence of a malicious spirit. Slander does not represent the truth. A person who slanders another person’s name has one motive.  That motive is to make himself look better than you.  Slander defies the teaching of Jesus Christ to do unto others as we would like others do unto us.  This is why it is not surprising when the Bible says, “The Lord detest lying lips, but delights in people who are trustworthy.” Proverbs 12:22 The tongue utter words that sometimes serve these purposes.

The story is told of a group of frogs who were hopping in the woods happily until two of them fell into a pit.  All the frogs gathered around the pit to see how they could help the frogs that had fallen in the pit.  When they saw how deep the pit was, they gave up.  They shouted out to the two frogs in the pit to give up and prepare for their fate, because there was no way they could come out of the pit. Unwilling to accept their fate, the frogs tried to jump out of the pit. One of the frogs gave up.  One continue trying and finally jumped out of the pit.  All the frogs were amazed and celebrated the miraculous freedom.  They asked the their colleague, “Why did you continue jumping when we told you it was impossible? Reading their lips, the surprised frog explained to them that he was deaf, and thought their gesture and shouting was to encourage him.  So what the frogs saw as encouragement inspired him to try harder and to succeed.  This story tells us, “there is life and death in the power of the tongue.”  The words from the tongue can help one succeed or be destructive.

As children of God, we must commit to speak publicly and privately words of encouragement.  We must speak words containing the power of life. The encouraging words we utter can lift someone up, and help them make it through trying times. The destructive words we use can cause deep wounds; they may be the weapon that destroy someone’s desire to excel in life.  It is important for us to always utter words that will be an encouragement to everyone who crosses our paths.  There is enormous power in words.  Our kinds words, words of praise, or words of encouragement can save a person from committing suicide, encourage a person to quit drug or alcohol addiction, restore a person’s marriage, or help Pastor Amos in his ministry.  Someone somewhere is waiting for that positive power of your words.  You may not be able to control a person’s slanderous speech, but you can choose to protect the integrity of all by uttering good words.  If it is God’s will, we must always endeavor to never give false testimony about someone.  We must always guard our neighbor’s good name. The Bible in 1 Peter 2:1 says, “Rid yourself of slander of every kind.  This can be accomplished by asking for guidance from God.  It is possible by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

The emphasis placed on the danger of the tongue is enormous.  The danger of words and the consequences are numerous in the Bible. Jesus warned people that they would give account of every word they speak.  In Matthew 12:37 Jesus says, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  In Proverbs 15:1-4, the Psalmist informs us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger… A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.   It is evident from the Bible, that Christians ought to take every precaution on how they speak.  Our speech is a very valuable asset in our walk with God and our relationship with our neighbors.  We must always seek wisdom from God in our speech and thought process.  Our words and the wisdom that rules our lives shows the state of our heart.  In this life, our heart matters, because in Matthew 12:34 Christ makes it clear, “from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  The wisdom and speech we utter shows the work of God in our lives.  Where our speech and wisdom is worldly, it is evident that earthly and unspiritual things are the governing authority.  Where our speech and wisdom is fill with purity and peace, it is evident that a force from God has taken over.  James makes a case here: the tongue cannot be tamed by our own strength and wisdom apart from help from God.

We would back off from many other sins like murder, adultery, fornication, and would consider it as coming from Satan.  Yet we would entertain gossip, slander, deceit, sarcastic remarks, speaking half truths and other sins committed by the tongue and think they are nothing. James has news for us, and it is not fake news.  James tells us that these sins originate from the pit of hell.  Sins of the tongue defile the person committing it. These sins destroy the lives of others.  As Christians, we must confront these sins in us.  We must also be bold to confront those sins in others.

Though the tongue is humanly untamable, the Holy Spirit can help us in our effort to tame the tongue.  James asks a rhetorical question, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.”  Jesus makes the same point, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?” Matthew 12:34  Jesus Christ further points out in Matthew 15:18, “But the things that comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and those defile the man.” So both James and Jesus talks about where gossip, sarcastic remarks and other sins of the tongue come from, the heart.  Proverbs 4:23 confirms that, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

The first step to take in taming the tongue is to walk daily with Jesus Christ.  We must walk daily taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  Galatian 5:8 tells us that we must walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit.  We must renew our mind by memorizing scripture to guide our thought.  It is important to pray for the Holy Spirit guidance in our life.  Paul in Ephesians 4:29 Paul cautions us, “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.”  If you do not have good and encouraging words to say for others to be bless, then it would be good to stay silent.  If you do not have good words to say to others, do not destroy the life of others by saying the wrong words. God through the Holy Spirit will help us tame the tongue.

“HOW DO YOU TREAT GOD?”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

19TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

OCTOBER 15, 2017

Title: “How Do You Treat God.”

Text: Malachi 3:6-12

  1. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 7. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.  Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.  But ye said, wherein shall we return? 8.  Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.  But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?  In tithes and offerings.  9.  Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10.  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

The story is told about a little girl who loved the Lord, that she yearned to talk about the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ with missionaries.  In her quest to achieve this desire, she gave a penny to a missionary, for the purpose of teaching Jesus to the people of Burma. The missionary was moved so much by the effort of this little girl, that he vow to used the penny the best way he knew how, to further the kingdom’s work. The missionary bought a gospel tract and gave it to a young chief of the Burma people.  The chief couldn’t read but took the tract some 25 miles away to be taught.  After being read the tract, the young chief accepted Jesus Christ.  He returned home and told the village about what the Lord had done for him. The young chief invited many other missionaries to come and teach about Jesus Christ in the village. Many of the chief’s clansmen accepted Christ. The good news about the many who accepted Christ from the village is a result of one little girl’s stewardship, who gave all she had from her heart.  This story tells us the truth about how God wants us to give.  It tells us that God blesses us with talents and resources.  God wants us to give those talents and resources back to His work.

The passage just read talks about how people did not treat God in a good  way.  The people in Malachi’s day treated God very badly.  The people had no good relationship to God in anyway.  They were in a sense tired with God. Looking back at chapter 1:6-14, they offered sacrifice that were not pleasant in the eyes of God.  Verse 2:1-9 informs us that the priests were very unfaithful. The institution of marriage was no more respected.  Chapter 2:10-17 tells us that divorce was common and very rampant.  All forms of corruptions existed in Malachi’s days.  Employers cheated their employees of their wages.  The widows, orphans, and strangers within their gates were maltreated.  Of all of the unpleasant things that was done in the eyes of God, their inability to pay their full tithes and offerings was the breaking point.  The prophet questioned their dishonesty in withholding their substances, the very blessings God had given them.  The people kept their best and gave God their worst.  God was not pleased with such behaviors of the people.  Some Christians treat God the same way as the people in Malachi’s days.  How do you treat God?  Do you gave God the left over?  Do you keep what rightfully belongs to God for your own purpose?

Before we provide answers to such questions, let us all be aware of the fact that everything we have belong to God.  David makes it clear that everything on the earth belongs to God.  God made everything for His purpose. Psalms 24:1  He also lay emphasis on God being the owner of everything in Psalms 89:11.  In the New Testament, Paul informs us in 1 Corinthians 6:19, that even our own body belongs to God. In order to start treating God right, when it comes to our finances and our talents, we must first acknowledged that our money and our talents belongs to God.  If you drive to a Valet Parking, you might give your keys to the employee, who drives your vehicle for safe parking.  You entrust yours keys to the employee.  It is not his car. You only entrust yours keys to the employee to park your car.  It is the same with our money and our talents.  It all belongs to God, who has entrusted everything to us for a short time.  God warns us, “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto thy fathers; as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:17-18  There are so much scriptures from the word of God, which informs us that everything we own belongs to God.  God entrusted the money and talents we have, so as to manage them properly and give it back to his work.  God give us everything we have so that we give back to the needy and to our community.

We all have a divine responsibility to give back to God, what he has given to us.  When God entrusts us with all that we own, we should not be thinking of these things as our own possessions.  We must be thinking of what God wants us to do with what He has given us.  God wants us to give back.  How does God wants us to give back? How much does God wants us to give back?

Paul  says in 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, “But this I say, He who sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.  Every man according as he has purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”  From Paul’s writing, God wants us to always give abundantly, sacrificially and joyfully.  These words of Paul lays out the principles of being generous.  It urges us to give back to God enough for God’s work.  It urges us to give back to God with joy and happiness, what God has given to us.  Paul urges us to give back to God without constraints, complaints or coercion.  It does not say we should give God what we decide to give God. In 2 Corinthians 8: 1-5, Paul talks about the Macedonian Christians, who give so much to God’s work, even in their extreme poverty. These people were poor, but they beg to give to the work of God.  Paul testify for these Christians that they give on their own.  They give beyond their ability to give.  They also beg to give. It is amazing that these people share in the work of God in their hardship.  They were eager to be a part of God’s work.  Their attitude tells us that they were willing to give their all.  Their all was everything God give them. They were cheerful in their giving.  They were joyous in their giving.  A cheerful giver is a giver whose heart is set on the things of God.  A cheerful giver is someone who acknowledges God in heart, knowing that their time and resources belongs to God.  In Exodus 36:4-7, Moses had to stop the people from bringing their gifts and talents to God.  The people brought so much to the work of God.  Moses issue a proclamation, “Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.”  My father’s children, we give because everything we have belong to God.  We give because God wants us to give.  We give because it is our spiritual duty to give.  God will require us to give an account of all he has entrusted to us.

God has given us abundant. Because he has given us abundant, he will want us to give account of ourselves, our possessions, our abilities, and our times. I do not need to talk much, but we can see how much our church needs us.  We can see how much our church needs our finances.  We can all see how much our church needs our talents.  In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul urges us to make maximum use of our times by understanding what the will of God is for our lives.  If we cannot use our time for God, what can we use it for?  Our church needs us to come out and clean, paint, sweep, dust, sing, and the list goes on.  When you support the church, you are not supporting Pastor Amos’ ministry, you are supporting the work of God. 1 Peter 4:10 caution us, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” God will ask us to give account of the gifts and abilities he has given to us.

If God was to call you tonight to give an account of all the money, resources, talents, abilities he has given you, what will the account say as regards your giving? Will it be an account that shows you were managing everything as if God owns it?  Will the account shows that you have been giving with joy?  Will the account shows that you have been giving the resources that you have as if it belongs to God?  Is it an account that shows that you have tithe faithfully?  Is it an account that shows that you have given your offerings to help the poor and needy? It is time for us to take a critical look at how we give to God’s work, the poor and the community.  God has called you to tithe.  God has called you to bring your offerings to help the needy and the community. It is my prayers that we will give adequately back to God, what he has given to us.

“Let the Redeemed Praise the Lord!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
16TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, 24TH SEPT. 2017

 

Title: “Let the Redeemed Praise the Lord!”
Text:  Exodus 16:2-15
2. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3.The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4. Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain own bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this day I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  5. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” 6.  So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”  8. Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” 9. Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” 10.  While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.  11.The Lord said to Moses, 12. “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13. That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp.  14. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  15.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?”  For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.  16.  This is what the Lord has commended: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need.  Take an Omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

The story is told of a young man who has been sick most of his life. He could not play with other kids his age due to the illness.  In his young adult life, he joined the ministry.  It became difficult for him due to the growing size of his congregation.  But he did not give up.  At the end of his life, he had written many wonderful Christian hymns.  Isaac Watts is known for the many hymns of praises he wrote.  In life, we will encounter conditions that we have no control over.  We will encounter conditions in life, that will make us question the power of God in our lives. One thing we should know is the fact, that God has always been there for us, and we need to give him the praise at all times.
The passage under consideration talks about a time when God’s chosen people, Israel was being led by Moses into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey, that God has promised them. It was during the early phase of a 38-40 years period, when Israel wandered in the land called Kadesh Barnea.  During this early time in the history of the Israelites, they are learning to build a relationship with and to trust God.  We will see in the narrative, a pattern of complaining.  When we go back to Exodus 14:11 and 15:24, one will see that the complaints are being systemic.  The complaint in this narrative is the third.  In the young relationship with God, the Israelites is being pursued by the Egyptian army.  They faced imminent danger: dehydration and starvation.  The Israelites complained against their leadership.  The leadership brings their complaints to God.  As a God of providence and protection, God saved them from the Egyptian soldiers.  It was a situation of Israel being ‘between the devil and deep blue sea,’ but God saved them.  God does not only save them, but God brings them to a place, where He provides clean drinking water and food.  In considering this text, the picture of the many ups and downs that Christians have to go through are obvious. The tough financial times are obvious.  The complaints about many things are apparent. What do I offer to my congregants that are going through some rough times.  What do I tell them about complaining, and bring a word of assurance?  There is one thing, let us who have been redeemed by God praise and worship Him.  Please reflect with me this morning on the theme, “Let the Redeemed Praise the Lord!”

Complaining Can be Ingratitude, when the children of God forget all God has done for them, and questions His providence and protection.
To begin with, it is important for people to praise God, rather than complain.  Too often, Christians are never satisfy nor content.  We always desire more, than there already is. We complained if there is too much rain. If there is less rain we complained.  If we do not get what we want, we say God does not care about us.  If there is a problem, we are quick to think, that it is only us who have the problems.  We forget about the good days, and conclude that life isn’t fair.  Sometimes, we questioned the where about of God, when we needed Him the most.  This so clear with the children of Israel in this narrative.  The language used by the children of Israel is very strong.  It does not do justice, to all the good things,  God has done for them.  In verse 3 of chapter 16, “The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  Their complaining is surprising, comparing the hardship the children of Israel went through in the early chapters of Exodus, to the one they faced in this narrative.  They had come fresh from the brutality of stubborn Pharaoh.  Nothing like the stubbornness of the ‘rocket man.’  They forgot so soon, the wonderful leadership Moses and Aaron had provided.  They questioned the very leaders, God had designated to liberate them. But here is what they failed to understand, they were questioning God.  In verse 8, Moses reminded them that their grumbling was directed at God. Here they were, questioning the providence and protection God had given them.
A pastor visited a person who was sick and shut in for ten years.  The lady spirit was good and she had many good conversations with the pastor.  On one of those visits, the pastor noticed that the lady no longer lived there.  Her family did not inform the church about her moved to a nursing facility.  The pastor found where she had moved, and continued the visit.  She died and again the church was not notified.  The pastor found out about the funeral in the newspaper.  Another pastor officiated the funeral.  He knew nothing about the lady and her commitment to the church.  The pastor introduced himself to the family.  They apologized. Like the folks in this story, we forget very soon.  God provides for us in difficult times and we forget God.  This is a serious ingratitude on our part.  Israel was delivered by God.  They forgot so soon all God did for them.  They became ungrateful. The reason why we forget and complained is due to discontentment.  We are not satisfy with what God gives us, because our expectation are very different. What we expect from God, is not what God will always give us.  God will give us our needs, and sometimes not our wants

Complaint is a result of discontentment.
When this passage is read, one starts to wonder, what in the life of the Israelites that made them miss their former life in Egyptian?  It is clear the former life in Egypt was filled with misery.  It was a life of chaos and hardship.  Though they long for the life in Egypt and its bounty, it was a life without rest. It was a life without freedom.  Their life in Egypt was controlled by a king who did not care for them.  Their life in the wilderness was one under a trustworthy God, who provided everything and protected them. But yet, they complained.  Verse 2 of chapter 16 reads, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”  They complained because, they were not satisfied with what they had.  They complained because of discontentment.  When we are not contented with what we have, we are blinded from the blessings that surrounds us.  Manna was a gift from God.  In Psalms 105:40, the Psalmist call it, “bread of heaven.” This was a strange substance to the children of Israel. It was edible. In Hebrew, manna means what is it? No wonder verse 15 reads, “When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, What is it? For they did not know what it was.”  It is the big mistake we often make, that God will always give us what we ask for.  It is a mistake to think that life will always be the same for us.  God is not going to provide for us the same way, he provided for us in the past.  Things are going to change. No condition is going to be permanent.  We have to accept and make adjustments, to whatever comes our way.  You may not like green beans, corn, or peas, but if that is what is available to eat, consider it  a delicious meal and eat.  You may not be satisfied with the job you have, but if that is what pays the bill, do it with commitment, than God provide a better one. You may not like your pastor, but perhaps his/her gifts are what the congregation needs at this particular time. You may not like the president, but maybe that is who God wants you have. The apostle Paul in warning us about the devices of the devil in 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  This tells us that every child of God ought to be contented.  Be satisfy with what you have!!  James 1:13-15 gives us the source of our discontentment.  It is because of our own lust that makes us sin, and sin causes our downfall.  Let us appreciate what God has given us.  Let us be grateful to God, for He cares for our needs. Let us accept our needs and not demand what we want.  Let us praise God for He redeemed us.

Let us praise God for He redeemed us from sin and provides eternal life.
This narrative will put us in a negative frame of mind, when we think about the complaints, and the harsh words of Israel against their leaders. While one will noticed the frustration of Moses and Aaron, the narrative shows that God is a providential God.  God looked at the needs of the people, rather than what their complaints were.  God is seen here as dwelling on how he can know these people more fully.  He is focused, on how he will redeemed these people from their ingratitude, to having them trust him.  In verse 12, God said, I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Here you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” The Lord did indeed provide the manna for them.  This is very important: There was not a single day, that the manna did not appear.  In fact, the manna appeared throughout the 38 to 40 years they wandered in the desert.  While they circle in the desert because of their own disobedience, God still fed them.  Each time of their discontent, God fed them.  Each time they complained, God fed them.  He did not only feed them, he protected them.  I do not know about you this morning, but each time God provides for me, I just want to shout praises to Him. There is one thing in this passage, that God’s providence and protection is reassured. Each time these people yearn for their former life of slavery, God’s grace took them through. Each time they dwell on their fleshy nature, God’s grace took them through.  How could they forget so soon.  Church, let us who have been redeemed by God’s grace, praise the Lord.