“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.

 

“Riding with Unforgiveness.”

SERMON​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Rev.​ ​Amos​ ​McCarthy

15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 17, 2017.

Title:​ ​“Riding​ ​with​ ​Unforgiveness”
Text:​ ​Matthew​ ​18:21-35
21.​ ​Then​ ​Peter​ ​came​ ​to​ ​Jesus​ ​and​ ​asked,​ ​“Lord,​ ​how​ ​many​ ​times​ ​shall​ ​I​ ​forgave​ ​my brother​ ​or​ ​sister​ ​who​ ​has​ ​sins​ ​against​ ​me?​ ​Up​ ​to​ ​seven​ ​times?”​ ​22.​ ​Jesus​ ​answered,​ ​“I tell​ ​you,​ ​not​ ​seven​ ​times​ ​but​ ​seventy​ ​times.​ ​23.​ ​Therefore,​ ​the​ ​kingdom​ ​of​ ​heaven​ ​is​ ​like a​ ​king​ ​who​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​settle​ ​accounts​ ​with​ ​his​ ​servants.​ ​​ ​24.​ ​As​ ​he​ ​began​ ​the​ ​settlement, a​ ​man​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​ten​ ​thousand​ ​bags​ ​of​ ​gold​ ​was​ ​brought​ ​to​ ​him.​ ​​ ​25.​ ​Since​ ​he​ ​was not​ ​able​ ​to​ ​pay,​ ​the​ ​master​ ​ordered​ ​that​ ​he​ ​and​ ​his​ ​wife​ ​and​ ​his​ ​children​ ​and​ ​all​ ​that​ ​he had​ ​be​ ​sold​ ​to​ ​repay​ ​the​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​26.​ ​“At​ ​this​ ​the​ ​servant​ ​fell​ ​on​ ​his​ ​knees​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​‘Be patient​ ​with​ ​me,’​ ​he​ ​begged,’and​ ​i​ ​will​ ​pay​ ​back​ ​everything.’​ ​​ ​27.​ ​​ ​The​ ​servant’s​ ​master took​ ​pity​ ​on​ ​him,​ ​cancelled​ ​the​ ​debt​ ​and​ ​let​ ​him​ ​go.​ ​28.​ ​“But​ ​when​ ​that​ ​servant​ ​went​ ​out, he​ ​found​ ​one​ ​of​ ​his​ ​fellow​ ​servant​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​a​ ​hundred​ ​silver​ ​coins.​ ​​ ​He​ ​grabbed him​ ​and​ ​began​ ​to​ ​choke​ ​him.​ ​‘Pay​ ​back​ ​what​ ​you​ ​owe​ ​me!’​ ​he​ ​demanded.​ ​29.​ ​“His fellow​ ​servant​ ​fell​ ​to​ ​his​ ​knees​ ​and​ ​begged​ ​him,​ ​‘Be​ ​patient​ ​with​ ​me,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​will​ ​pay​ ​it back.’​ ​30.​ ​“But​ ​he​ ​refused.​ ​​ ​Instead,​ ​he​ ​went​ ​off​ ​and​ ​had​ ​the​ ​man​ ​thrown​ ​into​ ​prison until​ ​he​ ​could​ ​pay​ ​the​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​31.​ ​​ ​When​ ​the​ ​other​ ​servant​ ​saw​ ​what​ ​had​ ​happened,​ ​they were​ ​outraged​ ​and​ ​went​ ​and​ ​told​ ​their​ ​master​ ​everything​ ​that​ ​had​ ​happened.​ ​32.​ ​​ ​“Then the​ ​master​ ​called​ ​the​ ​servant​ ​in.​ ​‘You​ ​wicked​ ​servant,’​ ​he​ ​said,​ ​‘I​ ​cancelled​ ​all​ ​that​ ​debt of​ ​yours​ ​because​ ​you​ ​begged​ ​me​ ​to.​ ​33.​ ​​ ​Shouldn’t​ ​you​ ​have​ ​had​ ​mercy​ ​on​ ​your​ ​fellow servant​ ​just​ ​as​ ​I​ ​had​ ​on​ ​you?​ ​​ ​34.​ ​In​ ​anger​ ​his​ ​master​ ​handed​ ​him​ ​over​ ​to​ ​the​ ​jailers​ ​to be​ ​tortured,​ ​until​ ​he​ ​should​ ​pay​ ​back​ ​all​ ​he​ ​owed.​ ​​ ​35.​ ​​ ​“This​ ​is​ ​how​ ​my​ ​heavenly​ ​father will​ ​treat​ ​each​ ​of​ ​you​ ​unless​ ​you​ ​forgive​ ​your​ ​brother​ ​or​ ​sister​ ​from​ ​your​ ​heart.”

The​ ​story​ ​is​ ​told​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Christian​ ​lawyer​ ​who​ ​read​ ​his​ ​bible​ ​on​ ​a​ ​regular​ ​basis.​ ​​ ​After reading​ ​some​ ​scriptures​ ​that​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​forgiveness,​ ​he​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​seventeen​ ​of his​ ​clients​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​some​ ​money.​ ​The​ ​lawyer​ ​drafted​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​and​ ​explained​ ​the biblical​ ​basis,​ ​for​ ​sending​ ​out​ ​the​ ​letters,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​cancellation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​debts​ ​of​ ​the​ ​clients. The​ ​lawyer​ ​sent​ ​out​ ​certified​ ​letters​ ​to​ ​his​ ​clients,​ ​forgiving​ ​them​ ​of​ ​all​ ​their​ ​debts. Sixteen​ ​of​ ​the​ ​clients​ ​refused​ ​to​ ​signed​ ​the​ ​letter,​ ​fearing​ ​that​ ​the​ ​lawyer​ ​was​ ​suing​ ​them for​ ​the​ ​money​ ​they​ ​owed.​ ​One​ ​by​ ​one,​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​were​ ​returned​ ​by​ ​the​ ​postal​ ​service, unsigned,​ ​undelivered.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​them​ ​opened​ ​the​ ​letter​ ​and​ ​signed​ ​it​ ​and​ ​received​ ​the debt​ ​cancellation​ ​with​ ​great​ ​relief.​ ​​ ​In​ ​our​ ​world​ ​today,​ ​many​ ​Christians​ ​are​ ​faced​ ​with the​ ​painful​ ​decision​ ​of​ ​forgiving​ ​others​ ​who​ ​have​ ​offended​ ​them.​ ​​ ​Why​ ​is​ ​that​ ​so?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​it that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​difficult​ ​thing​ ​to​ ​accomplish?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​there​ ​fear​ ​of​ ​reprisal​ ​from​ ​others? Do​ ​we​ ​comprise​ ​justice​ ​when​ ​we​ ​forgive?​ ​​ ​What​ ​does​ ​it​ ​mean​ ​for​ ​a​ ​person​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​the man​ ​who​ ​took​ ​the​ ​live​ ​of​ ​a​ ​family​ ​member?​ ​Are​ ​we​ ​compromising​ ​justice​ ​and accountability?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​because​ ​of​ ​fear,​ ​or​ ​hurt,​ ​or​ ​pain?​ ​Or​ ​are​ ​we​ ​too​ ​prideful​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​for forgiveness,​ ​when​ ​we​ ​hurt​ ​others? Forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​difficult​ ​deed​ ​to​ ​accomplish.​ ​​ ​Sometimes​, ​people​ ​who​ ​offend​ ​us​ ​have no​ ​remorse,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​hurt​ ​that​ ​they​ ​caused​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Sometimes​ ​we​ ​are​ ​fearful​ ​of​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that people​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​will​ ​come​ ​again​ ​to​ ​hurt​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Pride​ ​is​ ​also​ ​a​ ​factor​ ​in​ ​people​ ​not asking​ ​for​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​Give​ ​and​ ​take,​ ​God​ ​has​ ​called​ ​us​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us. It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​divine​ ​command.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​to​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​God’s​ ​word,​ ​and​ ​what​ ​He​ ​says about​ ​forgiving​ ​others.​ ​God​ ​is​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​cancel​ ​every​ ​debt​ ​we​ ​owe.​ ​But​ ​we​ ​refused​, ​to open​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​of​ ​scripture​ ​to​ ​us on forgiveness. ​ ​We​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​ride​ ​with​ ​the​ ​sin​ ​of​ ​unforgiveness. Let​ ​us​ ​consider​ ​this​ ​divine​ ​summon​ ​from​ ​God,​ ​to​ ​forgive,​ ​so​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can​ ​receive forgiveness​ ​ourselves.​ ​​ ​We​ ​will​ ​look​ ​at​ ​what​ ​forgiveness​ ​is,​ ​the​ ​origin​ ​of​ ​forgiveness, and​ ​the​ ​consequences​ ​of​ ​not​ ​forgiving​ ​others. In the​ ​first​ ​few​ ​chapters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​book​ ​of​ ​Amos,​ ​one​ ​can​ ​see​ ​that​ ​Jewish​ ​culture​ ​demanded that​ ​a​ ​person​ ​forgive​ ​three​ ​times.​ ​​ ​On​ ​the​ ​fourth​ ​count,​ ​a​ ​person​ ​was​ ​not​ ​forgiven.​ ​​ ​It was​ ​Rabbinic​ ​teachings,​ ​glean​ ​from​ ​the​ ​8th​ ​century​ ​prophet​ Amos, ​that​ ​a​ ​person​ ​be​ ​forgiven three​ ​times.​ ​​ ​So​ ​in​ ​the​ ​passage​ ​of​ ​scripture,​ ​Peter​ ​gets​ ​the​ ​confidence,​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be commended,​ ​if​ ​he​ ​made​ ​that​ ​seven​ ​times.​ ​​ ​But​ ​Jesus​ ​in​ ​his​ ​answer,​ ​demanded​ ​that​ ​a person​ ​be​ ​forgiven​ ​seventy​ ​times​ ​seven.​ ​​ ​This​ ​simply​ ​tells​ ​us​ ​that​ ​there​ ​should​ ​be​ ​no limited​ ​to​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​In​ ​essence,​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​big​ ​deal.​ ​​ ​What​ ​is​ ​forgiveness?
I​ ​want​ ​you​ ​to​ ​forget​ ​about​ ​every​ ​other​ ​word​ ​on​ ​your​ ​mind​ ​this​ ​morning​ ​and​ ​reflect​ ​on​ ​the word​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​When​ ​we​ ​understand​ ​what​ ​forgiveness​ ​is,​ ​then​ ​we​ ​will​ ​understand what​ ​unforgiveness​ ​is. According​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Greater​ ​Good​ ​Magazine,​ ​psychologist​ ​generally​ ​define​ ​forgiveness​ ​as “a​ ​conscious,​ ​deliberate attempt,​ ​to​ ​release​ ​feelings​ ​of​ ​resentment​ ​or​ ​vengeance​ ​toward​ ​a person,​ ​or​ ​group​ ​who​ ​has​ ​harmed​ ​you,​ ​regardless​ ​of​ ​whether​ ​they​ ​actually​ ​deserve​ ​your forgiveness.”​ ​​ ​If​ ​this​ ​is​ ​true,​ ​then​ ​forgiveness​ ​means​ ​to​ ​allow​ ​ourselves​ ​to​ ​let​ ​go​ ​negative thoughts​ ​of​ ​bitterness,​ ​and​ ​resentment​ ​toward​ ​another​ ​person.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​to​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​thought to do​ ​something​ ​to​ ​someone,​ ​for​ ​what​ ​that​ ​person​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​mean​ ​to​ ​forget about​ ​what​ ​someone​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​mean​ ​that​ ​we​ ​condone​ ​it​, ​when​ ​people​ ​hurt us.​ ​​ ​As​ ​humans,​ ​we​ ​will​ ​always​ ​recall​ ​what​ ​a​ ​person​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​we​ ​forgive them,​ ​we​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​bitterness.​ ​We​ ​also​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​mindset​ ​to​ ​harm​ ​the​ ​person​ ​in​ ​words, thoughts​ ​or​ ​deeds.​ ​​ ​The​ ​Greek​ ​word​ ​for​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​aphesis,​ ​in​ ​English​ ​is​ ​release​ ​or let​ ​go. In​ ​1​ ​Samuel​ ​24:1-15,​ ​the​ ​record​ ​tells​ ​us​ ​that​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​revenge, against​ ​all​ ​the​ ​wrong​ ​King​ ​Saul​ ​did​ to ​him.​ ​​ ​Saul​ ​sought​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​David,​ ​by​ ​taking​ ​three thousand​ ​of​ ​his​ ​young​ ​men.​ ​​ ​As​ ​Saul​ ​went​ ​into​ ​a​ ​cave​ ​near​ ​the​ ​sheep​ ​pens​ ​to​ ​ease himself,​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​him.​ ​​ ​David​ ​did​ ​not​ ​kill​ ​Saul,​ ​but​ ​cut​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​of cloth​ ​from​ ​Saul’s​ ​robe.​ ​​ ​In​ ​verse​ ​12​ ​of​ ​1​ ​Samuel​ ​24,​ ​David​ ​told​ ​Saul,​ ​“May​ ​the​ ​Lord judge​ ​between​ ​you​ ​and​ ​me.​ ​​ ​And​ ​may​ ​the​ ​Lord​ ​avenge​ ​the​ ​wrongs​ ​you​ ​have​ ​done​ ​to me,​ ​but​ ​my​ ​hands​ ​will​ ​not​ ​touch​ ​you.”​ ​​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​Saul,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​hurt​ ​he caused​ ​him,​ ​but​ ​David​ ​forgave​ ​Saul.​ ​​ ​David​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​bitterness,​ ​resentment,​ ​and release​ ​Saul.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​Christians​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​just,​ ​when​ ​we leave​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​with​ ​God.​ ​​ ​David​ ​made​ ​an​ ​oath​ ​not​ ​to​ ​touch​ ​the​ ​descendants of​ ​Saul,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​Here​ ​David​ ​realised​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​comes​ ​from​ ​God, that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​divine. In​ ​our​ ​the​ ​passage​ ​under​ ​consideration,​ ​one​ ​can​ ​see​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​divine.​ ​​ ​In​ ​this parable​ ​of​ ​the​ ​unmerciful​ ​servant,​ ​Jesus​ ​clearly​ ​points​ ​out​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​must.​ ​​ ​In this​ ​parable,​ ​Jesus​ ​metaphorically​ ​talks​ ​about​ ​the​ ​kingdom​ ​of​ ​heaven​ ​being​ ​like​ ​a​ ​king who​ ​settles​ ​account​ ​with​ ​his​ ​servant.​ ​​ ​Forgiveness​ ​is​ ​an​ ​issue​ ​between​ ​Christian​ ​and God.​ ​​ ​God​ ​commands​ ​us​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​because​ ​He​ ​forgave​ ​us.​ ​In​ ​verse​ ​22,​ ​Jesus​ ​tells Peter​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​has​ ​no​ ​limit.​ ​​ ​In​ ​Matthew​ ​5:46,​ ​God​ ​urges​ ​us​ ​to​ ​love​ ​our​ ​enemies, and​ ​pray​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who​ ​do​ ​harm​ ​to​ ​us​.​ ​​ ​Doctor​ ​Luke​ ​says​ ​the​ ​same thing​ ​in​ ​Luke​ ​6:27-28,​ ​​ ​He​ ​urges​ ​us​ ​to​ ​love​ ​those​ ​who​ ​curse​ ​us.​ ​​ ​This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​very​ ​hard thing​ ​for​ ​us,​ ​I​ ​must​ ​assume.​ ​​ ​The​ ​core​ ​of​ ​the​ ​matter​ ​is​ ​our​ ​love​ ​for​ ​God.​ ​​ ​If​ ​we​ ​love​ ​God, we​ ​ought​ ​to​ ​do​ ​exactly​ ​what​ ​God​ ​wants​ ​us​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​give​ ​us​ ​an​ ​option,​ ​when it​ ​comes​ ​to​ ​forgiving​ ​people​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us.​ ​​ ​God​ ​is​ ​clear​ ​on​ ​this​ ​subject.​ ​​ ​No​ ​Christian​ ​is allowed​ ​the​ ​luxury​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​grudge​ ​in​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her​ ​heart​ ​for​ ​others.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​want​ ​us to​ ​even​ ​be​ ​angry,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​for​ ​a​ ​day.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​want​ ​us​ ​to​ ​even speak​ ​evil​ ​or​ ​slander the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​hurts​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Seriously?​ ​Yes,​ ​God​ ​wants us​ ​to​ ​even​ ​initiate​ ​the​ ​process​ ​of​ ​restoring​ ​all​ ​relationships​ ​that​ ​has​ ​been​ ​broken.​ ​​ ​If​ ​you will​ ​take​ ​a​ ​ride​ ​with​ ​unforgiveness,​ ​there​ ​would​ ​be​ ​consequences.​ ​​ ​In​ ​Genesis​ ​45:4-8, Joseph​ ​having​ ​endure​ ​prison​ ​and​ ​a​ ​life​ ​of​ ​slavery,​ ​forgave​ ​his​ ​brothers​, ​who​ ​had​ ​come to​ ​beg​ ​for​ ​food.​ ​​ ​How​ ​many​ ​of​ ​us​ ​today​ ​will​ ​pardon​ ​a​ ​human​ ​trafficker,​ ​who​ ​sold​ ​us​ ​into sexual​ ​slavery​ ​or​ ​forced​ ​labor?​ ​How​ ​many​ ​of​ ​us​ ​will​ ​forgive​ ​a​ ​person​ ​who​ ​took​ ​the​ ​life​ ​of our​ ​love​ ​one?​ ​​ ​But​ ​I​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​the​ ​truth,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who​ ​molested​ ​you,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who rape​ ​you,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who​ ​stabbed​ ​you​ ​in​ ​the​ ​back,​ ​gossip​ ​about​ ​you,​ ​robbed​ ​you.​ ​​ ​He God​ ​said​ ​in​ ​his​ ​word,​ ​that​ ​vengeance​ ​is​ ​His​ ​to​ ​repay​ ​and​ ​not​ ​ours.​ ​​ ​All​ ​God​ ​is​ ​telling us here​ ​is,​ ​“In​ ​anger​ ​do​ ​not​ ​sin.​ ​Do​ ​not​ ​let​ ​the​ ​sun​ ​go​ ​down​ ​on​ ​your​ ​wrath.”​ ​Ephesian​ ​4:26 Our​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​has​ ​consequences. In​ ​verse​ ​32-35,​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ​ ​informs​ ​us,​ ​that​ ​the​ ​unmerciful​ ​servant​ ​was​ ​turned​ ​over​ ​to the​ ​jailers,​ ​who​ ​tortured​ ​him​ ​till​ ​he​ ​paid​ ​his​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​Christ​ ​likened​ ​this​ ​to​ ​how​ ​God​ ​is​ ​going to​ ​treat​ ​people​, ​who​ ​refused​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​from​ ​their​ ​heart.​ ​​ ​In​ ​the​ ​Beatitudes,​ ​Jesus​ ​says, “Blessed​ ​are​ ​the​ ​merciful,​ ​for​ ​they​ ​shall​ ​be​ ​shown​ ​mercy.​ ​​ ​Matthew​ ​6:14-15​ ​repeats​ ​the same​ ​command​ ​from​ ​God:​ ​“For​ ​if​ ​you​ ​forgive​ ​other​ ​people​ ​when​ ​they​ ​sin​ ​against​ ​you, your​ ​heavenly​ ​father​ ​will​ ​also​ ​forgive​ ​you.​ ​​ ​But​ ​if​ ​you​ ​do​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​others​ ​their​ ​sins,​ ​your father​ ​will​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​your​ ​sins.”​ ​​ ​The​ ​consequences​ ​for​ ​our​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​is​ ​that God​ ​is​ ​not​ ​going​ ​forgive​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​even​ ​mentioned​ ​in​ ​scripture​ ​that​ ​before​ ​you​ ​bring​ ​your offerings​ ​to​ ​God,​ ​you​ ​must​ ​consider​ ​reconciling​ ​with​ ​people​ ​who​ ​you​ ​have​ ​quarreled​ ​with. It​ ​spells​ ​it​ ​out​ that ​people​ ​must​ ​make​ ​peace,​ ​with​ ​those​ ​with​ ​whom​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​problem,​ ​before you​ ​come​ ​to​ ​the​ ​altar.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​only​ ​involve​ ​bring​ ​your​ ​offering,​ ​but​ ​praying​ ​to​ ​God.​ ​​ ​If we​ ​do​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​and​ ​keep​ ​malice​ ​in​ ​our​ ​heart​ ​for​ ​someone​ ​else,​ ​God​ ​will​ ​not​ ​answer our​ ​prayers.​ ​​ ​In​ ​the​ ​resurrection​ ​narrative,​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ​ ​on​ ​the​ ​day​ ​he​ ​died​ ​on​ ​the​ ​cross, asked​ ​God​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​the​ ​folks​ ​who were​ ​killing​ ​him.​ ​​ ​They​ ​were​ ​casting​ ​lots​ ​for​ ​Jesus’​ ​garment, while​ ​Jesus​ ​was​ ​praying​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​John​ ​23:33-34​ ​​ ​Stephen​ ​prayed​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who stoning​ ​him.​ ​He prayed, even​ ​as​ ​they​ ​were​ ​stoning​ ​him.​ ​​ ​Acts​ ​7:58-60​ ​​ ​All​ ​of​ ​these​ ​actions,​ ​shows the​ ​significance​ ​attached​ ​by​ ​Christ​ ​and​ ​the​ ​apostles,​ ​on​ ​forgiving​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us. This​ ​is​ ​important​ ​because​ our ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​can​ ​cause​ ​health​ ​issues. This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​a​ ​professional​ ​advice.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​an​ ​opinion​ ​of​ ​mine​ ​based​ ​on​ ​reading​ ​reports​ ​from researchers.​ ​​ ​According​ ​the​ ​Forgiveness​ ​Project,​ ​researchers​ ​have​ ​proven,​ ​that​ ​continue anger​ ​and​ ​hatred​ ​can​ ​cause​ ​chronic​ ​anxiety.​ ​It​ ​further​ ​explains​ ​that​ ​chronic​ ​anxiety​ ​can produce​ ​more​ ​adrenaline​ ​and​ ​cortisol​ ​the​ ​body​ ​needs.​ ​​ ​These​ ​things​ ​can​ ​deplete​ ​the natural​ ​killer​ ​cells​ ​the​ ​body​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​cancers.​ ​​ ​We​ ​will​ ​all​ ​agree​ ​that​ ​anger​ ​causes our​ ​blood​ ​pressure​ ​to​ ​rise.​ ​​ ​This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​healthy.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us,​ ​to​ ​do​ ​away​ ​with bitterness,​ ​resentment,​ ​malice,​ ​as​ ​these​ ​things​ ​will​ ​prove​ ​bad​ ​for​ ​our​ ​health.​ ​​ ​Our inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​will​ ​deprive​ ​us​ ​of​ ​blessing​ ​from​ ​God.   Church, let us be a church of forgiveness.

“A Call to Serve.”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
NEWTON FIRST, EAST SIDE, AND WALTON UMC
13TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

Title:  “A Call to Serve”
Text: Deuteronomy 3:1-15.

1. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God Jacob has sent you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me, from generation to generation.”

The story is told of a man in the West African Nation of Liberia. This man was given several hundred dollars by a missionary friend.  The man was from a little village and had never seen the U.S. currency before and did not know the use of the currency. He took the money and made a journey to a nearby village to see some relatives.  On his way, he encountered two children selling mangos.  The children gave a mango to the man free of charge. After eating the mango, the man took one of the currency and wiped his mouth. Realizing that the man did not know the value of the currency, they tricked the man into giving them more currency for more mangos. The children knew that the man had buying power because of the currency, but little did the man know that.  This is the case with many of us Christians.  We are rich with talents and the power to accomplish a lot.  But we do not realize that, and we use those gifts and talents for purposes that do not glorify God.  Sometimes we refused to use our gifts and talents, making excuses to God, that we do we not have gifts and talents.
Let us get a little personal with our lives as we deal with this passage of Scriptures.  All of us are on a journey on this earth.  The journey involves serving God and humankind after God calls us to serve. In the process, God has blessed us with talents to do just that. Some day God will ask us to give an account of how we used our talents. However, many people who have the talents, not realizing they have the talents, make so much excuses.  Many people make excuses because of guilt, hurt, shame, and feeling of incompetence.  We doubt our own abilities.  Moses was no exception.  Moses made numerous excuses.  Moses claimed he was a nobody.  Who am I? He wondered if people will question his past as a murderer and not believe in him.   Moses questioned his self worth and had no confidence in his own abilities.  He claimed he could not speak, he claimed he did not know what to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh, he claimed he did not know God’s name. Moses made excuse of not being eloquent.  Like Moses, God has blessed us with talents and abilities. Often, we make excuses about our qualifications, doubt our abilities, and run from God when He wants us to serve the most.  This morning for a few minutes, let us consider the call of God on our lives to serve.  In God’s call for us to serve Him in the various capacities, God is going to use brokenness, our refusal has tangible consequences on our Christian communities, and God is going to equip us when calls us.
God Calls a Person to Serve Irrespective of His Abilities.
To begin with, Let us remember that God is a covenant God. God sets standards with humankind and always follows through.  God is a covenant God.  He always told the children of Israel, that He God will bless them if they follow His commands. God tells us Christian if we believe Him, we will live in eternity. In this covenant with humankind, God calls us to service in different capacities.  In this light, when Israel was in captivity in Egypt,  God desired a point man to liberate them.  God wanted someone who would go toe-to-toe with the Egyptian King, Pharaoh. Whoever God mandated would be the one to initiate the salvation to the children of Israel. The man in the center of the account in this passage is Moses.  Moses must have had a rough beginning, but he was found by royalty.  He grew up in the royalty splendor of the Egyptians and was educated in the wisdom and philosophies of the Egyptians.  In Deuteronomy 34:10-12, Moses is characterized at the time of his death, as having no equal in terms of signs and wonders God had shown him.  There was no prophets in Israel that rose up after Moses’ death, who had known God face to face.  But Moses parts ways with God, when he commits murder.  He becomes a fugitive.  Moses, a murderer and a fugitive from the law ends up tending sheep. At this time, many will be questioning why would God want to use a broken person like to Moses to accomplish a very important mission like this?  But there is one thing I want us to lift this morning, before we answer the question.  God loves us very much to give up on us.  God loves us enough and wants to use the brokenness of our lives to accomplish his work. Paul in 2Corinthians 12:9 gives a reason why; for the grace of God is enough for every Christian.  God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  In this verse, Paul happily brags about his weakness, so that the power of Jesus can rest on him.  You see church, if you are broken this morning, the good news here is that God uses broken people.  God wants us to come broken and he will mend us.  The truth is, if we refuse God’s call, God breaks us and then mends us. In Jonah 1:3, We see this with the prophet Jonah. God calls Jonah and he rejects the call. Jonah runs and God reprimands him. God has a way of dealing with us, when we refuse to answer His call on our lives.  This is because there should be no excuse in answering the call of God upon our lives.  No matter what our situation is, no matter how unqualified we may be, no matter how illiterate we may be, God can use us.  God does not look at your mug shot, God does not look at past criminal convictions, or your state championship.  He can use anyone, anytime and anywhere.  Moses, a fugitive and a murderer, an accused felon, was singled out by God to champion the task of Israel’s salvation.  All God wants is your availability.  Your refusal to answer God’s call can put your church or community into danger.
When we considered the call of Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, we will see that their failure to answer God’s call would have brought great disaster and suffering on their communities, and the nations in which they lived. When God called Moses, he wanted Moses to go to Egypt and challenge Pharaoh for Israel’s liberation. It was a defining moment for Israel.  It was through Moses’ willingness, the Jewish nation was to know who they were as a people in God’s redemptive plan.  The purpose of our calling is to serve others.  It is not something that we exhibit pride and take self glory. It is through our answer to serve God, the gospel would be preached and souls would be saved. When God called Jonah, it was to the service of Nineveh.  Not only was Nineveh going to languish, but the people around him was in peril.  When God called Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, he called him to speak the truth to disobedient Israel. Jeremiah knew it was telling the truth that would set Israel free. Israel was disobedient to God and His word. The consequences would be grave. (Jeremiah 11:9-12)  Jeremiah had compassion for those who were being deceived. But he refused initially with excuses.  Church, when we refuse to answer God’s call, we break covenant with God. When we break agreement with God, it has real consequences.  Our actions not to answer God’s call always affects our communities.  In the case of Jonah, his refusal imperiled those on board the vessel Jonah hid in.  When the mariners plan to jetty all the cargos and throw Jonah overboard, than the storm subsides. Jonah’s refusal could have had great impact on Nineveh.  Jeremiah’s refusal would have brought Israel to complete destruction due to the terrible apostasy of Israel.  Moses’ refusal would have caused Israel not to be liberated.  Failing to answer God’s call on our lives diminishes our communities.  If we have great talents and refuse to answer God’s call to serve, the harm we do is immense.  If we have talents and gifts and we use those gifts to the service of God, we will do more good.  Our call may not be the same as Moses, Jonah, or Jeremiah’s calling, but our calling is as important in the work of God as these prophets.  In the 1940’s, Germany was one of the most literate countries on the face of the earth, with some of the best scientists and technocrats. With Germany’s inability to use its vast wealth of talents to serve God, it extinguished more than six million Jews, started one of the most expensive world wars in human history. As a consequence of Germany’s actions, millions also lost their lives over a period of over five years.  The carnage that was perpetrated is a reminded to humankind of the refusal of nations to honor God’s word.  The answer to the call to serve God is the very reason why the American society is organized the way it is organized.  It’s laws, economics, its politics, calendar, it’s holidays, and even it’s moral and cultural norms are all made of Christian values.  It is because Christian men who founded this nation, answered the call of God to serve.  God called them and equipped them. When God calls us, He equips us for His service or for that which He has called us to do.
One thing I am 100% positive of this morning, you are not God. You may think you are unqualified to do the work of God in your own strength and eyes.  You may have great talents and gifts that you can use to do God’s work. You may still be inattentive to God’s call like Moses, whose attention had to be drawn by a burning bush. If you have to do anything in your own strength, then it is not of God.  You need God to give you the strength, the eloquence, the ability, and the power.  Like Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah and the many men of God who He called and equipped, God will equip you for His service.  Sometimes God just wants us to stop and know we are standing on Holy ground.  We need to stop, keep quiet, and turn towards that burning bush and hear God calling us and avail ourselves.

 

 

“Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

11th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, AUGUST 13, 2017

Title:  “Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm.”

Text: Matthew 14:22-31

  1. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  23.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountain by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, 24. And the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  25.  Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  26. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  27.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  28.  Lord , if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  29.  “Come,” he said.  Then peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  30.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31.  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “ why did you doubt?”

This passage of scriptures deals with a critical situation involving Jesus’ disciples.  The disciples are trapped in a fierce storm.  Matthew’s account of this incident informs us that Jesus compelled the disciples to go on the boat.  The account of this same incident in John 6 informs us that the people had wanted to make him king by force.  Not wanting his disciples involved, Jesus let them go ahead.  It was during the Passover, which was around April, obviously spring time.  It happened during the fourth watch of the night, which was around 3a.m.  The disciples were urged to go ahead in the boat, on a lake that was known for storms.  So anyone would agree that the disciples were in the will of God, but yet they are struggling in the midst of the storm.  They were commanded by Jesus to go across the Sea of Galilee.

Has there ever been a time, when you find yourself in a particular situation, where you have done everything right in the eyes of God, and yet you struggle?  I mean, have you ever been placed in situations, or the storms of life, and no matter how hard you try, no matter what methods you try, it appears or seem obvious that you cannot get out?  I believe someone here is going through such situation.  I believed we all go through times like that.  A time in life, when the storms of life will never come to an end.  Praise God this morning, for there is good news from the Word of God.  While the storms in our life are never good to us, they bring about results in our lives that will change our situation for the better.  Hebrew 12:11 reminds us that no situation in our lives, or no storms in life, however bitter is going to give us joy. Nevertheless, after awhile, it will yield us fruits of righteousness that we will experience.

I want us for a moment,  to pedal with the disciples in the storm with Jesus.  I do not know what storms you are facing this morning.  There is one thing that I know, the Lord knows why that storm is raging in your life.  It is my fervent prayer that the purpose of that storm will be clear to you as I minister to you for a while on “Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm.”  I want to demonstrate to you that five minutes with Jesus in the storms of life will give you peace, power and it will leave you with a testimony.

Five Minutes With Jesus will give you PEACE!

The Story is told of a retired couple who have been worried about the threat of nuclear war.  The couple were afraid because on every news channel on Cable TV, the threat of nuclear war from the leaders looms.  The goal of the couple was to find the best place in the world that would not be affected by nuclear war, a place of peace and security.  The couple studied, and studied, and travel to many places.  Finally they found a place.  On Easter of 1981, they called their pastor from the new home they had found.  It was the Falkland Islands.  Surprisingly, their new home was soon turned to a place of war by the British and Argentine Army in April of 1982.

Everyone wants peace. In the midst of the storms of life, everyone of us wants the storm to go away and yearn for tranquility, peace, or calm.  Whether you are the governor of Kansas, or a human resource manager facing the pressures from workload and deadline at your office, or a student trying to prepare for school to get through another semester, or a landscape designer at your computer during springtime, or a pastor who has to pray for the needs of your congregation, peace is what everyone wants.  And many of us here will go to any extent to find peace.  If we are to be honest this morning with ourselves, we will admit that we experience more stress than peace.

We will all agree that people talk more about peace than we actually experience.  Today is like the day of Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah 6:4, the people cry for peace, but got no peace.  Many people live in comfortable homes, but domestic violence is at an all time high.  The cities in the United States are the most modern the world had seen, but the streets are unsafe.  One can find the best technology in terms of communication, but there is more misunderstanding.  In the very house of God, the church, the sanctuary, people come with anxiety that is almost impossible for the sermon to take away immediately.  The question here this morning is, where can we find peace in the midst of the storms of life?  In the midst of the storm, Jesus came walking on the waters.  They were afraid, and mistook Jesus for a ghost.  In the midst of the storm, you are fearful.  In your fear you act on your impulse.  You can make the worst mistake.  But in the midst of their fears and anxiety, confusion, depression, Jesus told them to be of good cheer.  He told them to be of good courage.  Five minutes with Jesus can give you peace. Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Five minutes with Jesus in the storm will also give us power.

In verse 27, Jesus shows up in the midst of the storm.  In verse 28 and 29, Jesus demonstrates His power.  Jesus did not only show up, but Jesus shows up in the fourth watch of the night.  In Jewish culture, the night had four parts: 6pm-9pm,9pm-12midnight, 12 midnight to 3am, 3am-6am.  The passage of scripture narrates that Jesus came in the cover of dark.  The darkest hour of the night.  Sometimes between 3am-6am.  It was the darkest hour of the night that the disciples were stranded in the storm.  In 1 Kings 8:12 Solomon reminds us that “the Lord said, “He would dwell in the thick darkness.”  You may be walking in spiritual darkness this morning.  Or you may be facing the darkest hours of your life, in the form of some difficulties.  Let me remind you that during the darkest hour of life, God is still God.  The disciples were in a struggle for their lives.  Mark 6:48 puts it this way, “toiling in rowing,” which gives me the feeling that they were going against the storm.  The passage clearly tells us that they were afraid.  When the disciples thought all hope was lost, Jesus showed up!  Jesus will not keep us from going into the storms of life, but fives minutes with Him will give us power in the midst of the storm.  Jesus said, “It is I.”  This word is a personal pronoun that is emphatic. It lays emphasis.  It is an expression of power.  It is the same word that Jesus Christ used to show His power.  “I am the door.”

“I am the bread of life.”  “I am the bread of life.”  “I am the good shepherd.”  Church, do you get the broader picture?  Jesus is telling these disciples to cheer up!!!  God is here!!  Five minutes with Jesus will give you the power that the world have never seen before.  Think about the three Hebrew, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Think about Daniel.  Think about Noah.  In the midst of the storms of life, God give them the power to overcome.  If we can just understand the truth that Jesus is the great I AM, that he has the power in heaven and in the earth (Matthew 28:18), we will all enjoy power in the midst of the our storms.  Five minutes with Jesus will be a means of testimony to the greatness of God.

Five Minutes with Jesus will calm the storm and testify of God’s Greatness.

In the passage, verses 28 and 29 tells us who is in control of the storm.  It tells us who the master of the storm is.  When Peter heard that it was Jesus, he did not believe it.  But he knew one thing, if it was Jesus, He would be in control.  Peter urge Jesus to allow him to walk on the wave.  Jesus permitted it, and Peter began to walk.  Not very far in his walking, Peter saw the storm.  The narrative mentions that Peter was afraid, he began to sink.  Peter was not in control of the wave, but Jesus was.  When the storms of life are raging about us, when we can reckon with the truth that the Master of the Storm is Jesus, we will be able to rise above our circumstances, and walk on the water with Jesus.  The storms of life will tell of the excellent greatness of God.  It will focus our faith and help us grow in recognizing the greatness of God.  Church, if we spend five minutes with Jesus, we will succeed in navigating the storms of life.  We will remember who is in charge.  Our success in the storms of life hinges upon our willingness to acknowledge the Master of the Storm!!!!

The story is told of a man named Scott Davies.  Scott was on his way from work, to pick up his beloved wife for an event.  A storm of life came in the form of an accident.  The devil denied Scott the opportunity to enjoy his evening.  But there is one thing he did not denied Scott of, the Knowledge of the greatness of God.  His pastor was worried, and wanted word on how Scott was doing.  When he spoke to his wife, he could hear in her voice that she was worried.  She told the pastor that Scott was involved in an accident, he had said he was alive, but it was bad.  When the pastor spoke to Scott, Scott said, “Pastor, it could have been worse, but God was watching over me.”  I do believe that in the midst of the storm, Scott spend five minutes with Jesus.  Five minutes with Jesus will tell you that Jesus is in control.

It is often difficult to see the blessings in the midst of the storm.  Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend the Lord taking out any good out the circumstances we go through.  I don’t know the nature of the storm you are experiencing this morning, but I know the one that still walks on the water.  I fell in a well about 15 feet deep at the age of eight facing death by drowning, but the one who walks on the waves saved me.  Who knows that same man will show up this morning riding in your storm.  Five minutes with Him will give you the peace you so desire.  Five minutes with Jesus will give you the power you need to overcome your storms.  Five minutes with Jesus will testify of His greatness, goodness, love, provident, healing, and His salvation.

 

Vetting Ourselves for God’s Blessings

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

9TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, AUGUST 6TH, 2017.  

Title: “Vetting Ourselves for God’s Blessings”

 Text:  Genesis 32:22-31   22 ‘That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”  But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob”, he answered.  28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  29 Jacob said, please tell me your name.”  But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  31 Then the sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”

The text read involves God being revealed in human form through a mysterious incarnation. It also brings to our attention Jacob, the brother of Esau, and the son of Isaac.  Here, Jacob is being fearful of his past character of being a supplanter, a deceiver, and his past misdeeds toward his brother.  It is a time when Jacob was troubled. He believed that he and his family will be wiped out by his brother Esau.  This is evident in the subsequent verse where Jacob prayed to God for deliverance.  In his solitude, he struggles with the deity in a wrestling episode that would leave him wounded and bruised.  In this wrestling episode, one can see it as a role play of Jacob’s past life, where Jacob had always wrestled with doing the right thing in his life.  He had wrestle with God on many instances as it regards situations in his life.  In this passage, Jacob request a blessing during the wrestling, but he is being vetted with a question of what his name is, bring into question the meaning of his name as a person of deception. It is interesting to note that despite Jacob’s past, Jacob’s struggle also yields blessings from the God.

Like Jacob, there are many situations in our lives that would present imminent danger. There will be situation that would put us in a position, where we will fear for our lives or leave us bruised and wounded. As a little boy, Thomas Edison got a serious strike to his ear that left him with a hearing impairment.  The little Edison was deaf.  Thomas Edison’s struggle through deafness propel him to success in inventing many things. Like Jacob and Thomas Edison, have you had a difficult life situation where you are at a crossroad? You are at a place where you do not know which way to go?  Let us examine this passage of scripture, as a scenario, where we are at a crossroad not knowing which way to go.  We are at a crossroad facing dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities.  In such situation, we will need to vet ourselves, acknowledge our character, and embrace God’s blessings.

God’s Children Will Be Faced With the Dilemmas of Life

The story is told about a wonderful Christian family who had a young nineteen-year-old daughter.  The girl was bright and first in her class.  She received many academic awards and had many offers to attend some of the most reputable universities around the country.  She chose one of the best universities and went off to school.  On a Sunday morning at the breakfast table, her parents received a phone call from the authorities that there was bad news.  The caller informed them that their daughter had collapsed on her way to class and had died.  The parents were grief stricken, and question where they had gone wrong with God.  No matter where we come from, or where we live, trouble will come our way when we least expect it.  There are times bad things will happen to good people, that will lead us to question whether God is a just or fair.  In contrast, Jacob in this passage is faced with deep trouble for the life he had lived.  Jacob had tricked his brother out of his inheritance.  Therefore, Jacob’s name meant, “supplanter,” a person who takes something that rightfully belongs to someone else.  He deceived his father Isaac.  His character was not of good standing and so trouble was imminent. Whatever, the situation, whether we are good or bad, we will be faced with obstacles that will result in the vetting of ourselves as we seek God’s intervention or deliverance.  The Psalmist says in Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. A lot of the Psalms are Psalms of lamentations, meaning it was written during trouble times.  Paul wrote most of the letters from prisons. One of my favorite books, the Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan while he was in prison.  The Bible is full great men of God who went through troubled times.  When God gets ready to give us the best of our lives, He allows us to go through the storm.  God allows us to vet ourselves to remind us of our character, so that He positions us to receive His blessings.

Vetting Ourselves Leads to God’s Blessings

In verses 26, 27, and 28 of Genesis 32, Jacob request a blessing from the one he wrestled with in the passage.  Instead of blessing him, the stranger inquired of his name.  Before God asks a question, God already knows the answer.  In this case, God already knew the name of Jacob, but God asked Jacob of his name to allow Jacob to acknowledged his past life as a deceiver, of the bad character he had assumed.  It was a time of retrospection for Jacob.  Here, Jacob is bound to articulate that name that bear no good character.  Jacob must say that name to allow a time of critical self-examination, a time of scrutiny, a time of evaluation, and time of appraisal. A common term used these day is the verb vet which means to check ourselves.  In the noun form, it can mean all that is mentioned above.

In Psalms 139:23-34, the Psalmist puts it this way, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

In 2 Samuel 11 and 12, the story is told of David, Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan. David had murdered Uriah the Hittite, coveted his wife Bathsheba and she bore him a son.  David did all this when the Ark of the Covenant of God was in battlefield. Kings were supposed to be on the battle ground.  But David remained in the luxury of his palace and sinned against God.  David resolved to hide his sin from the prophet Nathan, but the prophet exposed him.  When the prophet used the story of a rich man taking the only lamb of a poor man, David was justifiably angry at the injustice of the rich man.  But the prophet Nathan told David, “You are the man!” (1 Chronicles 12:7)  David was guilty of murder and adultery.  But David vetted, examined, evaluated, and appraised his past, and God forgive him and blessed him with a son.  We need to always vet ourselves.  We need to often search ourselves in the midst of our dark days, so that we prepare ourselves for God’s blessings.

God’s Blessings Sometimes Comes in the Cover of Dark.

Isaiah 48:10 says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”  If you reflect upon how great men of God were blessed, you will know that they were not blessed from the palace, but some of the most difficult of places or situations.  Mildred Struven in Bits and Pieces agreed with this assertion, by pointing out that a clay pot that sits in the sun will only become a porcelain when it is put in the white heat of the furnace.  Our greatness blessings from God comes often times in the lowest moment of our lives.  God’s blessings sometimes come during the darkest moment of our lives.  Those who will find the path to God, sometimes find it in the dark.  I will compare this with the development of a film.  A film is developed in the dark.  It is during those dark moments of our lives that God brings out the best in us.

Jacob met God in trouble times.  He was faced with imminent danger.  He was in solitude having sent his wives away along with all his possessions.  He was alone in the dark.  It was at the darkest moment of his life, that God appeared and changed his name to Israel.  God blessed him.  Young Thomas Edison as a boy suffered deafness.  In this dark period of his young life, he summed up courage and invented the phonograph (the world’s first method of recording and playing back sound), the light bulb, the kinetoscope, the kinetograph, the kinetophone, the nickel-iron batteries.  He invented the carbon microphone. (Science.howstuffworks.com) There is no crippling situation, no bad character, no sin, that God cannot remove.  There will always be trouble somewhere, sometimes.  God want us to always examine ourselves in the midst of trouble, and God will meet us in the cover of dark to bless us.

“The Love that will never let you Go”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY

8TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, JULY 30, 2017.

TITLE:​ “The Love that Will Not Let You Go”
Text​: Romans 8:31-39. ​   31.​ “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ​32.​ He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all-How will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? ​33.​ Who will bring any charge against those whom God have chosen? It is God who justifies. ​34​. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. ​35.​ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ​36​. As it is written: “for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37. ​No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. ​38. ​For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, ​39​ neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The story is told of a man, who sacrificed his son to save the lives of hundreds of people in Mississippi in 1957. Mr. John Griffiths worked tending the drawing bridge for a rail road. On this fateful day, he had taken his eight years old son Greg with him to work. Earlier on during the day, young Greg played in his father’s office. Like many young children, Greg asked many questions. Later during the day, a ship had come through and John opened the drawbridge. During this time, John realized that little Greg was not in the office. As he searched for his son, John came to the realization that his little boy had climbed on the gear of the drawbridge. John hurried outside to rescue the boy. The noise of a fast approaching passenger train and the ship drowned his voice and the boy could not hear him. Here, John was faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Saving his son would cost the train to derailed killing maybe everyone aboard; Closing the drawbridge would mean sacrificing his son. John pulled the lever of the drawbridge sacrificing his son. As the train passed by, John look at the faces of the passenger. Some of the passengers were reading, while others waved. All of the passengers were unaware of what had happened, or the sacrifice John had just made. John had to live that moment thousands of time. The sacrifice John made is reminiscent of the sacrifice God made by sacrificing Jesus Christ. God made the decision to sacrifice Jesus Christ to save billions from sins to eternal life. What great love God has for us sinners. And like the passengers on that train, many of us are unaware of the great love of God. Are you one of them this morning? Still so, while it is true that many disregard the great love of God towards us, God still make provisions for us to remain in His love. This morning we shall reflect together on the love which God provides for us. The Love that Will Not Let Us Go!!”

The Nature of God’s love.

The word love is one of the most used words in the Bible. It is used in many different contexts. To fully understand the word love, one must understand the context in which it is used. The first use of the word love in the NKJV of the Bible is in Genesis 22:2, when God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is used to show a father’s love for his only child. What is interesting here is that, one can draw a parallel from this narrative to God’s love for humankind in John 3:16, where God’s love for the world prompted Him to sacrifice His only son, Jesus Christ on the cross for our redemption. In the New International Version, NIV, the first mention of love is in Genesis 20:13, where Abraham mentions the reason for persuading Sarah to lie, “to show her love for him”. So one would easily misinterpret love to mean lying in order to show your love for someone. The word love can be difficult to conceptualize at times. At this point, one would raise the interrogative, what is the nature of God’s love? What does it means, when the Bible mentions, “For God so love the World?” What does it means when Paul points out that nothing would separate us from the love of God? It is in answer to Paul’s rhetorical question that I want to discuss the nature of God’s love. When my daughter was little and could not read, I thought her to recite 1 John 4:8, “God is Love,” as her memory verse for morning devotions, night prayers or any family prayer time. This is one of God’s attribute that transcends all barriers. This attribute of God knows no bound. This nature of God speaks to the fact that God love for humankind is without condition. This love is not depended on what man can do or cannot do, it comes from God directly. This simply means that God will never be in a position where humankind can never be loved by Jehovah God. God is unconditionally committed to the wellbeing of humankind. So Paul continues by emphasizing that there would be terrifying things that will come between us and God. Paul mentions hardships, sickness, and dangers seen and unseen. Paul talks about life and death not being able to separate us. We live in Christ and die in Christ. We are then raised with Christ to be nearer to God. None of these things can separate us from God because God loves us. I Corinthians 13 summarizes that God loves us in that God is patient and kind. God’s love is never haughty or selfish or rude. Because God loves us, all special gifts from him will someday come to an end, But his love for us goes on forever. That is why His love allows Jesus Christ to intercede for us actively. God’s love is a love that will not leave us, it continues till eternal life is made available to humankind. His love allows Christ to intercede for us.

Through the Love of God, Christ Intercedes for Us!

In the previous line of verse 34, Paul makes it clear that Jesus Christ who died on the cross continues His work on the cross through intercession. In 1 Timothy, Paul reminds us that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” By this, Paul is saying that Jesus Christ is serving as an advocate for humankind. Jesus stands before the face of God for us. Hebrews 9: 24. Jesus is serving as an advocate or parakletos as it is referred in the language. He is actively involved in our defense before Almighty God, against the charges of Satan that we can be no good to God. It is a priestly office that Christ is actively involved in. What made it possible for Christ intercession? Jesus Christ intercession before God was made possible only by the love of God. Because of God’s love, Jesus came and died for us. Paul mentions that in the verses before verse 34. God’s love allows great men of God in time past to stand before Him and intercede on behalf of others. Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:3-11 informs us that the children of Israel who survives the exile were greatly troubled and living in disgrace. But Nehemiah stood before God and acknowledge God for His greatness and a God who keeps His covenant of love with those who also love Him. In Exodus 32:31-32, Moses interceded for the sin of the people. Because of His love, God always answer positively for humankind to be redeem after intercession. Through this intercession, we have been made more than conquerors!

God’s Love Made Us Conquerors!

God’s love will never leave us. It has enabled us to be more than conquerors. When Paul talked about the things that will not separate us from God’s love, he mentioned terrible things like tribulations, distress, persecutions, famine, nakedness, the threat of danger, and the threat of murder. Joyce Meyer told a story about herself not experiencing or living a victorious Christian life, though she was a born again believer. She was not feeling any victory over the problems in her life. In this instance, she was not living fully for God or helping people. But as time went by, Sister Meyer study the word of God and developed a personal relationship to Christ. She began to understand what it meant to be more than conquerors. She realized that even before a problem came her way, she could overcome that problem through Christ Jesus. She made a wonderful conclusion, “In Christ, we are made right with God, we are His righteousness, and we have the power of Christ in us to live right.” As long as we as believers can look to the love of God, access that love, we will be victorious in all we do. God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting, it enables Jesus to mediate before Him on our behalf, and as long as we access that love, we will be more than conquerors. GOD’S LOVE IS THE LOVE THAT WILL NEVER LET US GO!!!!!!!

Sermon July 23

SERMON BY THE REV. AMOS MCCARTHY
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, JULY 23, 2017

 

Title: “The Uniqueness of the Christian Fellowship in the Family of God.”

Text:  Romans 8:12-25.  12. “Therefore brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live by it.  13. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  15. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship.  And by Him we cry, “ Abba,  Father.”  16. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  17. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share His glory.  18.  I consider that our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  19.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  20. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  21 that the creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  22.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  23. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies.  24.  For in hope that is seen in not hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  25.  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

John Wesley in his theology of the Holy Spirit brings to the fold, the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.  Wesley points out that the work of the Holy Spirit is very important in the Christian life and experience.  Drawing from II Corinthians 13:14, Wesley teaches that anytime a Christian go through a godly situation, it is by the grace of Jesus Christ, the love God shows us, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy spirit.  And so we will all agree, that the Holy Spirit is needed as we sojourn in this world of constant violence, crimes, abuse, mistreatment, lies, deceit, and all manner of suffering.  If we as Christians will groan with the suffering of this world, be tolerant, and accept each other, the Holy Spirit is salient in achieving that fellowship.  If we as Christians will hope for the glory of God, which God will fulfill in our inheritance of eternal life, a life full of the Spirit is significant in our guidance to enjoy such glory.
In the passage of scripture under consideration this morning, the Apostle Paul reminds us Christian, of our duty, not to live by our sinful nature, but to live according to the Spirit of God. The sinful nature brings about human suffering: disease,poverty, war, and many other things, which are not pleasant at all.  Paul reminds us however, that the sufferings encountered by the family of God can be tolerable.  By groaning with our fellow humans in suffering, we Christians suffer with Christ and thereby receive the glory of God which is to come.  The Spirit of God gives testimony to the fact that, we all are children of God in the family of God: through the Spirit we embrace sufferings, so that we enjoy the glory to come.  Isn’t that wonderfully unique as we fellowship together as a family of God?  Isn’t it even more unique, when we groan in each other sufferings, so that we may suffer with Christ and receive eternal glory?  Let me share with you all this morning, the uniqueness of fellowship in the family of God.

Let us first consider it a fact, that a uniqueness in the fellowship in the family of God is that we live a life full of the Spirit of God.  Verse 12 and 13 of Romans 8 reminds every Christian of a duty.  It is a duty to not live by the flesh, but an obligation to live by the Spirit of God.  This debt of gratitude is to put to death the sin in our bodies, which is known as the mortification, or the putting to death, the sins of our bodies.  Even Jesus Christ was handed over to wicked men, and crucified to take away our sins.  Jesus was put to death so that we may have life.  So we have the duty to put sin to death, so that we may have life. This is only done by the empowering of the Holy Spirit or by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  If we are already Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies.  This idea of being led by the Spirit is to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is all powerful.  In the Genesis account, the scripture tells us that the earth did not have any form and was empty, until the Spirit of God moves over the earth.  God Spirit hovers over the formless, shapeless, and purposeless earth.  The creative power of the Spirit of God, brought the physical earth into being.  God spoke and everything came into being.  If you have not given this any thought, think about it this way: This same Spirit moves over the sinful person and brings life out of that dead nature fill with sin. The first requirement of a good preacher is not the eloquence or the charisma or the ability to charm his way into the hearts of people, but knowledge of the word of God and the ability to teach it.  That knowledge comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has knowledge of the deep things of God. Jesus Christ attests to this in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you in all the truth…”  The Holy Spirit has knowledge about truth which is found in the word of God.  The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to scriptures and how to make scripture applicable in our lives.  If a Christian person who reads the scripture every time is tempted to burglarize a home, the Holy Spirit reminds that person of his obligation not to steal.  The person who is  being guided by the Spirit will resist the urge to commit that crime.  The Holy Spirit is our teacher, who will guide us into the word of God, and teach us how to apply it to our lives.  Like a surveillance video that watches everyone when you arrives in the parking lots of Dillon’s, leaves your car, enter through the doors, shops and check out your goods, the Spirit of God follows us everywhere we go.  It watches over us, the Spirit of God is tone to everything we think about, and everything we do.  The Spirit reminds us about the sins we commit, tells us through our conscience that we are in error, and we become guilty and do the right thing. Despite the rebellion we carry out, God never forgets us.  God Spirit guides us through the dangerous nights, storms and tornadoes and keeps us safe.  Many times, we are blinded by these realities due to sin, worries and anxieties, loneliness and grief, disaster and death, illness and sufferings.  It is important for us to remember that God, through His Spirit, protects us and is our strength and shield, a constant help in trouble times.  The Psalmist says, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? Even when the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.”  The Holy Spirit will guide us.  He bears the attributes of God: He is all powerful, all- present, and all knowledgeable.  His presence even testifies that we are the children of God.

Uniquely, we are God’s Children in the Family of God.  In the Roman world, adoption was an important matter.  It was important and complicated.  In this passage of scripture, Paul is not looking at the steps in Roman adoption, but the consequences of being adopted.  In this token, the person who is adopted lost all his or her rights in the family he or she at one time belonged.  The person assumed all the rights as a child in the new family.  Also, that person became heir to the estate of his new father.  In legal terms or according to law, that person’s old life was completely wiped out.  It followed that all debts were cancelled and the person entered a new life.  The adopted person was completely the son of his new father.  There were seven witnesses that attested to adoption in Roman adoption process.  Using Roman adoption system as a guide, Paul is painting a picture of Christians being adopted into God’s family, as he addressed the church at Rome.
In verse 14 Paul tells us that Christians, “who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”  The Spirit also testifies with our Spirit that we are God’s children.”  This is done when we spend time in prayers with God.  This translate every Christian from the bonds of sin into a wonderful relation with God. At one time, the Christian lived in sin, and controlled the absolute sinful nature.  Fortunately, the Christian belief in God helped the Christian to take on a life full of the Spirit of God.  This work was not achieved by the Christian person, but by the mercy of God.  God made it possible for the old debt to be wiped clean.  In the new life, the Spirit testifies that we are now God’s children.  Not only God’s children but joint heirs to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  The Christian inherits all the riches Christ has by being God’s Son.  Now if Christ suffered, the Christian also suffered with Him.  Christ is raised to enjoy glory with God, the Christian also will enjoy glory with God.  Why then do we groan?
Despite the fact that Christians are adopted in the family of God, the Christian live in a world, where the realities of the human situation exist.  In our inner man, we still battle with the sinful nature.  We wrestled with sin.  We battled with our own evil human nature of hate, jealousy, envy, love for material possessions, lustful desire, covetousness, lies, deceit, and many other things that brings barriers between us and God.  Outwardly, the Christian live in a world of death and decadence.  This is true because the first human family transgressed the law of God.  God had told Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” This ushered in human suffering.  In that state, man live in death and decay.  According to Paul in this passage, man now waits for a state of liberation.  In the passage, Paul further reminds us that through the testimonies of the Holy Spirit, man long for the total fulfillment of enjoying the glory of God.  In this same sphere, the Christian lives in Christ and Christ lives in him.  It is important to know that, while we live in this sinful world, we look beyond the world to God.  The christian does not see only the world, but the Christian see the power of God’s mercy.  The power of God’s love.  If this is true, then the Christian must always look to God for hope.  Paul here envision hope for the human race.

Uniquely we can hope to enjoy eternity with God, looking to God for to bring this to past.
In Hampton Sides’ “Ghost Soldiers,” the story of the infamous Bataan Death March is told.  According to this ‘Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission,’ the United States Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines.  Some of the men were held as POWs and were forced to walk more than 70 miles.  The POWs called themselves Ghost Soldiers because they thought they had been forgotten by their nation.  Like Senator John McCain of Arizona, they were kept prisoner of war for more than three years.  Over 500 of these soldiers were kept in the horrible Cabanatuan camp.  They were giving up hope, because they heard terrible stories of POWs being executed as Japanese soldiers were retreating.  About 120 US soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas overwhelmed the 8000 Japanese soldiers in this outstanding rescue narrative in the history of war.  One of the POWs, who was crying in a dark corner of the barracks, told one rescuer Alvie Robbins, “I thought we’d be forgotten.” Alvie Robbins told the POW that “they were not forgotten.”  Today, some of us feel that we have been forgotten by God in our hurts and frustrations.  We are apt to ask, where was God when my husband died, where was God when my child died?  When will God restore earth to its original form, where there will be no sufferings?
Verses 24 and 25 underscore the hope, and the glory Christian would enjoy as children of God.  This passage has in it, the fact that God will restore humankind to its original goodness.  It is clear that that promise is pending.  All humankind can do is to hope in it.  In verse 23, we see that the Holy Spirit makes us to taste of the fulfilment of this hope.  This opens a state of communication between the Christian and God.  Such communication takes the form of prayer.  We pray because the confidence in the hope lies in God’s hand.  God will come and prove Himself.  We just have to lean unto His everlasting arms.  The songwriter in a famous hymn says, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine.  Leaning on the everlasting arm.  What a blessedness, what peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm.  O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim’s way, leaning on the everlasting arm.  What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm.”  In the last verse of this hymn, it asks the question, “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arm?”  In answer to that question it continues, “I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.”  Church let us lean on Jesus while we work in this pilgrim way, where there would be no suffering, knowing that God will come and get us.
There uniqueness in the fellowship of the family of God is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into living a life of the Spirit; the uniqueness to be sons and daughters of God; And the uniqueness to place our hope in God for eternal glory.