Sermon July 16, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amos McCarthy

Title: “A Call to Pray”

Text: Matthew 6:5-7.  5.And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  7. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

President Ronald Reagan on May 7, 1982, proposed to the Congress of the United States of America, a constitutional amendment to allow organized prayer in public schools.  According to a New York Times article published May 18, 1982, President Reagan believed the amendment would “restored the simple freedom of our citizens to offer prayers in public schools and institutions.”  The president asserted “that public expression through prayer is an integral part of the American heritage. “  What is most beautiful about President Reagan’s statement was that it would be of immense benefit for children of the United States to begin each day of school with prayer.  Prayer is the most fascinating thing a person can ever carry out.  Prayer is a sacred ordinance.  It is sacred because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spend a life full of prayer, setting Himself apart to pray.  Jesus Christ undertook a customary life of prayer.  Throughout the Gospel, especially the book of Luke, the prayer life of Jesus Christ is made evident.  In choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus Prayed.  During the transfiguration, Jesus Prayed.  When the disciples slept, Jesus went to pray.  Even on His dying cross, Jesus Prayed. Jesus Christ thread the sands of time as both man and God.  He had all attributes of God.  In his humanity he experienced the harsh realities of this world.  But he prayed in time of crisis(Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, John 18:2). Jesus went to pray every time He needed to pray.  If Jesus Christ, the anointed One of God engaged in many prayer rituals, don’t you think it is a divine command to pray?

The passage under consideration highlights the importance of prayer in Jewish culture.  Investigation of Jewish liturgy will lead to findings of prayer formula for meal time, on seeing the new moon, the use of new furniture, and the intent of prayer on any happenings in life.  But the down side of such prayer ritual can lead one to lose focus as regards the one who calls us to pray, God.  So Christ admonishes His followers to be cognizant of who our prayer should be about and directed to.  Prayer should be directed to God.  The more one directs one’s prayer to God, the more confidence one has in God. The early church was a praying church. Acts 4:24 tells us that after the church prayed, the place was shaken where they had come together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they utter the word of God with boldness. If believers are to trust God and lean not on their own understanding, then believers have to increase their prayer lives.  Since prayer is the key to changing our circumstances and a divine command from God, lets us briefly reflect on the theme: “A Call to Pray.”

Prayer Is A Call

In verse 5 of Matthew 6, it says, “And when you pray,…  One would see in this first part of the verse that Jesus Christ is mandating the disciples to pray.  He is not suggesting that they pray.  He did not say if you pray.  From this passage, it can be agree that prayer is a call that each person should answer because Jesus Christ mandates us to pray.  A call a divine summons by God for a person to perform a particular job.  The task here is prayer.  What is Prayer?  The Merriam Collegiate dictionary defines prayer as an address or petition to God in words or thought; an earnest request or wish.  Prayer can take the form of a supplication(the Greek word indicate reverence before the sovereignty), an intercession(usually used when trying to obtain something for someone) or thanksgiving.  Prayer is a communication between two entities.  You speak to God and God speaks to you.  David the king of Israel exemplified this kind of communication in Psalms 86:1, “Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy.”  David here is communicating with God.  Some of us will raise the interrogative, should one always ask God for everything?

God is all powerful!  He can solve all of our problems without us asking.  God empowers every believer to ask for anything a believer wants from God, and He God will give it to the believer.  Matthew 7 tells us that anything a person asked, the person will receive.  But God tells us that we should pray at all times.  God wants us to pray because it is a calling to serve and obey Him. (Luke 2:36-38) We pray because God command us to pray. (Philippians 4:6-7) God has summon every believer to pray.  It is a divine summon by God that believers pray in season and out of season, that we put on the whole armor of God, which is our prayer armor.  General Douglas MacArthur lifts the importance of prayer.  He acknowledged the fact that he was a soldier.  He pointed out that sometimes a soldier kills to build or rebuild.  But also acknowledged that he was more proud to be a father because a father always builds.  And if his sons will remember him as a father, they should remember him by repeating the Lord’s Prayer.  General MacArthur knew the importance of prayer. The command to pray comes from our heavenly father, God.  But the devil always tries to hinder this divine summon by getting believers to sin.   

 

Sin is a Hindrance to Prayer

God is a Holy God.  He is Elohim Kedoshim, meaning the Holy God. (Joshua 24:19)  Every time a believer deals with God, it is important to approach God remembering that God is Holy and does not take pleasure in anything sinful.  God commands us to pray and therefore wants us to set aside the sins that easily hinders us.  In Hebrew 12: 1 and 2, the writer urges everyone “to set aside the sin that easily beset us, running with endurance the race, looking unto Jesus the Author and finisher of our faith.”  In Psalms 66:18, the Psalmist points out, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Many known sins in a believer’s life can be hindrances to prayer.  A bitter spirit or unforgiven spirit (Ephesians 4:32), estranged relationship between a man and his wife (1 Peter 3:7), unbelief and doubts (James 1:6-7), and refusal to hear the Word of God (Proverb 28:9), are few among many things that hinder a man’s prayer life.  It would be tragic if any of these sins hinders our prayer.  We should do everything to stay away from the things that will destroyed our prayer life.

In 2 Chronicle 7:13-22, God appeared to Solomon and reminded him that He God would answer their prayers if they repent of their sins and pray.  In His appearance to Solomon, He reminds him that He is God. He shuts the heaven and stop the rain.  He God can restore it.  God says, “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)    We live in a time when less people pray, less people go to church, and less people practice their faith.  Barna, a research group conducted a survey in September of 2016, taking into consideration the affiliation, attendance and practice  of Christians, to check on the state of the church.  In this data collection, out of 73% of Americans who profess to be Christians, only 41% were practicing their faith.  My father’s children, we live in a time of great skepticism and cynicism towards the church.  If the time has never been, this is a time for us to pray, and to pray harder than never before.  All these prayer hindrances can be taken care of, if a believer comes to God and pray hard.  Church, God is immutable.  He is the same God yesterday, He is the same God today.  And He will be the same God forever.  If we trust Him, our prayer life can be effective.

 

The Power of Prayers

In James 5:16, the Scripture reminds us that if believers confess their sins to each other, and pray for one another, they will be healed.  This is because “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This verse reminds us that there is power in prayer.  God’s answer to our prayer may not always be immediately or God’s answer might not be what we asked for, but it is always going to be in the best interest of any one who offers prayers.  The power of prayer enables the believer to conquer enemies (Psalms 6:9-10).  It enables believers defeat demons (Mark 9:29).  Prayer has heal wounds and given men wisdom(James 1:5).  In the Guide Post, the story is told of a courageous farmer named Zach from Saline County, Kansas.  I read that the time for farmers to reap their crops is a busy time for farmers.  All that matters for the farmers is getting the crops in.  Zach says, ”Farming is not a just a  job, it’s a life, it’s  your blood and soul.  Farmers raise milo, corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.  Farmers also rebuild combines and harvest crops for other farmers.” Zach was injured in a farming incident in 2014.  At the hospital in Wichita, Kansas, Zach kidneys were failing.  His lungs were full of fluid.  Based on test results and the state of Zach’s health, the doctors had told his wife that as Zach lose his vital signs and his condition deteriorate, Zach would eventually died.  The small community of people prayed.  Everyone prayed for Zach.  Zach came out of comatose. Through prayers Zach is back with his community and involved in farming again and even operating a combine.  He is a father.  A wonderful person who testifies about the love others showed him through prayers.  

Church, there is power in prayers.  The word of God says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide yours hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Let us engage ourselves in a stead prayer life.  God bless you.

 

  

 

Sermon July 9, 2017

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY
Pastor, Newton First, Newton East Side, & Walton U.M.C
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, 9th July 2017

Title: “Marvels in the House of God!”
Text: Genesis 28: 16-17
“16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place: and I knew it not. 17. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

I am grateful to God first for another chance to minister His word. I am privileged to be His child. God bless you all.
Every Sunday, Christians gathered in their various places of worship to be in the presence of God. On this Second Sunday of July, we gathered here in this unique place of worship to render praise, to give thanks, make supplications or request, in the presence of God. As we gather here, I want us to reflect on the essence of congregating in the presence of God and the many wonders that can be experience in the house of the Lord. Are we here for God’s favor? To receive healing for a specific illness? To make a vows? To praise His holy Name? To give thanks? If there is any obvious reason at all for coming into the house of God, What is it one wish to glean from this experience? Let us reflect for a moment on what could possibly take place, when one comes to the house of God, the sanctuary of God, the chapel of God. Whatever the urge that drives us to the house of God, God is always here to meet us at the point of our need and show us His wonders. I want to accentuate the fact that no one ever leaves the house of God the same. If there is any time a person enters God’s presence, or in His sanctuary, broken, hurt, lonely, feels neglected, and leaves the same, there is something wrong not with God, but the person. Or if there is anytime a person comes to the house of God happy, joyous, grateful, and leaves broken, then there is something wrong with person. No wonder the Psalmist asserted in Psalms 84:10, that he would prefer to be a door keeper in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. I want to share with you this morning on the theme: “Marvels in the House of God.”

The passage of Scriptures read points to a time when Jacob a descendant of Abraham experienced God’s presence while at sleep. God met him at the place he tarried that night. When Jacob grasped the reality of the events in his dream, he concluded that God was present in the place. He reason that that place was the house of God: A place where God meets His people; and a place where God’s people have access to Him. Like Jacob, God met his forefathers before him and after him in peculiar places. Even the Psalter in verse 16 of Psalm 73 cried that everything outside is oppressive, ”…till he enters the sanctuary of God.” What really occurs in the sanctuary of God? At the end of that chapter, the Psalmist informs us that he would always want to be near God and tell of all His deeds. WOW!!
Jesus makes mention of Jacob’s meeting God in the latter part of John Gospel. What are the wonders of meeting God in His House?

The House of God Is Where Heaven Meets Earth
In verse 12 of the passage read, Jacob dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Verse 13 informs us that the Lord stood above the ladder and makes His presence known, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac:” Talking about wonders in God’s House, it is important to first state that in the house of God, God makes His presence felt. There are many similar instances in scriptures(Old and New Testament) that God has made His presence felt in His House. In 2 Chronicles chapter seven verses 1-3, Solomon completed prayers. The record tells us that immediately he finished, fire consumed the burnt offerings and God’s Splendor filled the the House of God. The glory of the Lord filled the place. In the second chapter of the book of Acts, when the believers gathered to pray, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The presence of God was felt and many wonders were wrought: the believers spoke in tongues. What I want you to know is that in the house of God, God reveals himself to everyone regardless of our economic or social status, our race, gender, or creed, righteous or sinful. In the House of God there gossipers, back bitings, fornicators, adulterers, and all kinds of flaws. Like us, Jacob was with flaws when it came to his family: He store his brother’s birthright. He was flawed. But in the house of God, God made His presence felt to Jacob. He said, I am God. Isn’t that a marvel? When Isaiah met God in the temple in chapter 6 of Isaiah, Isaiah acknowledged his sinfulness, “Woe is me for I am a man of sinful lips.” But God still assured Isaiah that he was useful. God ask for someone to send. Isaiah said, “Here I am Lord, sent Me!” The weeping prophet Jeremiah made excuses to God that he was too young. But God told Jeremiah that even before He was born he God already knew him and set him apart to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-9) God will always make His presence felt. God will display His glory through His presence when He used weak men to carry out His purpose. In the process, God will rekindle our hope.

The House of God Rekindles our Hope.
Each time one comes into the house of God, into God’s presence, one comes with an intention or an expectation, or an obligation. That intention could be to offer to God praise, to ask for favor from God. One comes into the house of God to expect a miracle, a healing, a revelation. Also, a person could come to the house of God with an obligation or a duty to pray, to worship, to give, or to sing a joyous song. In the passage, Jacob had come to this place with anticipation of a rest to continue the journey to find himself a wife. Jacob was filled with uncertainty. But Jacob met God at an uncertain time and experienced God’s wonder. In 1 Samuel 1-2, the story is told of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. She was barren. In Jewish culture, children were a blessing. Hannah had no children and was a subject of ridicule of Elkanah’s wife Peninnah, who despised Hannah out of jealousy. Hannah in her grief, hurt, bareness, and hopelessness, Hannah decided to meet God in His House to put forth her petition. This is often the case with most of us, we come to God with hopes. Perhaps it is hope to repair a broken marriage, pray for a troubled teenage son or daughter, hope to alleviate our financial crisis(credit card debts, student loan, or mounting bills), hope for God to heal us or a relative or friend from an illness. I want you to understand that God always has a wonder, when you come to the house of God with these hopes: God gives the ASSURANCE THAT REKINDLES YOUR HOPE. God assured Jacob and rekindles his hope. In Genesis 28 verse 12 through 14, God rekindles Jacob’s hope in a time of uncertainty that He would bless him.

In the House of God, there Is Assurance of God’s Providence.

God assures Jacob of His providence and tells Jacob, “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all the places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” God is Jehovah Jireh, a God who provides for us in due time. Often time we come to the house of God bitter, despondent, hurt, broken in spirit, suicidal, unforgiven. We come to the house of God like that because the world can be an unkind place where our very own abuse us or rejects us. In other instances we come to the house of God needy of many things. We come with the need for a child, the ability to speak, needy of love and a sense of belonging, or needy of financial breakthroughs. We come running into God’s House and God’s presence because that’s the right thing to do. Jacob needed hope and comfort in a time of uncertainty. Hannah came because of the unkindness of a marital mate, public ridicule, the hurt and shame of not having a child. There are times when our coming will be met
with scorn or rejection from the very people or leaders in the house of God. Hannah faced false accusation of “praying under the influence” in the house of God. A place where she had ran for refuge. Isn’t it sad to see Hannah in all her anguish and hurt being ridicule in the house of God. Church, the world would be unkind to us even the very place of worship. I urge you all that when you feel down and out, overwhelmed by the harsh realities of life, open your hearts to Jehovah and speak freely to the Hearer of Prayers(Psalm 65:2), Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah Jireh will make provision for you right here in His house. Jacob was present in God’s House and God assured him of His providence: That He will be with Jacob and never leaves Him.
I do not know about you, but there is never a time in my life that I have gone in the presence of God in His House and made a request, and God did not answer me. During the heights of my country civil war, I had a gun pointed at me and asked to step six feet back by a rebel soldiers so that he end my life and sent me back to my creator, God made provision and my life was saved. When I didn’t have a dime to my name to pursue graduate degree, God made His provision in full scholarship and I got a masters of divinity degree. When my mother died, I didn’t have a dime to bury her, but God made provision.
God’s provisions are countless. Let not come to the house of worship and linger in His house, in God’s presence, going through the act of worshipping God, and yet holding doubts and bitterness in our hearts. Lets us enter into God’s house with thanksgiving, ready to be blessed. Like Jacob, God will meet us here on earth in His House. God will rekindle our hopes, and Jehovah Jireh our Great Provider will make provisions for Us.
God bless you all.