Thursday, June 7, 2012, 08:33 AMDuring the course of winter and spring, I asked members and guests of Legacy UMC to submit questions they would like answered in a sermon. The sermon series “Ask Anything” will run throughout the summer, and I will be attempting to answer many of the generated questions. I won’t have time to preach on all 50+ questions that were submitted, so I will try to spend some time here on my “Frog Blog” answering some of the remaining questions.
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Last week I started by preaching on “Does God have favorites?” (Check it out on our website: www.legacyumc.org if you wish.) Along with that question was this one I want to try and answer today: “What about Jewish people; since they are God’s chosen people, do they go to heaven as we do even though they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God?”
I have always maintained that Jewish people are still “God’s Chosen” but I’m not sure it means today what it meant in the Old Testament times. Certainly political changes in that part of the world have complicated our understanding and adding Jesus to the mix (and the Jews preponderance of disbelief that he was God’s Messiah) has further made it more interesting.
There are a couple very helpful chapters in the New Testament that speak to this issue which address this far more completely than I can. Check these representative verses: Romans 9:6-8 “Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation & Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children.”
If this is true, then it behooves us to know what it means to be “The children of promise.” Who are they? Are we they? Many people assume that since America has been so blessed by God we must be God’s “New” children – I doubt that!
Let’s look at one more scripture: “The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.” Galatians 3:7
I believe this scripture makes it clear. I want to close by challenging all of us to use this scripture not to determine who’s “excluded” from God’s family but to propel us all to make sure we are “included” by putting, keeping, practicing our faith in Jesus Christ and putting that faith in faithful action!
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Monday, April 30, 2012, 09:19 AMApril 30th, 2012
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
What a glorious morning, after a beautiful, gentle rain over the weekend. In anticipation of a proposed sermon series for late this fall, I’ll be spending some time in the Letters of John.
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:5-7
I wonder what John meant by “spiritual darkness”. I heard a theory not long ago that advocated that there is no such thing as “darkness” – darkness is merely an absence of light. I suppose that might be true in a physical sense – and maybe also in a spiritual sense. Darkness may simple be an absence of God, not really an independent state, just a place, sphere where God is not present. I don’t want to get to philosophical, but I wonder if this is true.
I don’t think John was trying to be overly philosophical either, but wanting us to consider that it is impossible to say we are living in fellowship with God – while continuing to live also in spiritual darkness. I suppose the obvious reality of this is how some folks interpret darkness, and especially how they/we/I equate darkness with sin. It is pretty easy for me to point out how someone living in adultery while still claiming to be a “Christian” is an impossible coexistence. Like they might look at me and point out that my gluttonous eating or occasional alcoholic beverage qualifies as “spiritual darkness” and disqualifies me from claiming “Christian” as my faith.
So does Spiritual Darkness only mean disobedience to the 10 commandments, or the other OT laws, or some modern denominational definition of right vs. wrong behaviors and actions, or just what every individual determines is right or wrong for him/her? It has to be something more clearly defined than our cultural ambiguous definition of truth! Is Spiritual Darkness just a matter of degrees? Or is Spiritual Darkness a state of being completely aside from Spiritual Oneness with God (ultimate light)? I’m afraid I don’t have many answers – just more questions.
But this is what I want today: I want to walk in the light the best I can. I want to avoid spiritual darkness, whether of my own doing, or the devils. I want to live faithful to what I know and understand of Jesus. I want to avoid darkness and evil, untruth and distractions. I want to live in the light as God is in the light, I want to have fellowship with others, and I want the blood of Jesus to cleanse me from all sin. Is that too much to ask?
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 11:13 AMApril 18th, 2012
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Finally we come to the end of 1st Chronicles. I hate to do this, but I’m going to look back and see when I actually started reading/blogging about this book. December 15th was the day. It has been an unusually ‘crazy’ time in my life since then, and only now, after Lent/Easter does it look like it might start resuming “normal”. I have enjoyed this elongated journey through 1st Chronicles, and will end today with my favorite chapter in the book.
David has gathered all of Israel together to make the official hand-off of his kingly powers to his son Solomon, especially as it concerns the construction of the temple. What I love about this chapter are the lessons about leading, especially as they concern giving. David gives us numerous insights about giving in general, but especially about how leaders are to give, and how leaders are to encourage/teach/lead in this vital area of stewardship/generosity. I may not have time to cover all the lessons, but want to highlight a few.
1) Leaders give generously, and are not ashamed to announce their leadership gifts . Using every resource at my command, I have gathered as much as I could for building the Temple of my God…And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. Vs.2-3
Many leaders and many followers subscribe today to this philosophy: Giving is Private. I cannot disagree more. Giving is certainly personal, but according to these scriptures, giving is not private. We learn from Jesus not to make a show of our giving, but we learn from David, that giving generously, and announcing publically, inspires people to give. I wish more leaders would accept this challenge; for the Kingdom of God would be advanced if they would.
2) Leaders are not afraid to challenge people to follow their example. Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today? Vs. 5
I am certain that many leaders give well, but we must not miss the second part – challenge people to give. I know many leaders who are afraid of offending people, so they shy away from challenging people. People who authentically love God are not afraid of a challenge! People today are so out of synch with God when it comes to money, finances, and stewardship; they often try to hijack leaders from issuing challenges like David did. My experience is that the more we challenge people, and the more they respond, the more we together get to see God reward our efforts, and encourage us to do even more.
3) Leaders challenge other leaders to give lead gifts. Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals, and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. Vs. 6
David lined up the folks, and in turn they gave willingly. I know this sounds like a ‘fundraising for dummies’ blog, but I’m so convinced that people need to learn how to give today that I’m taking this risk. I know how my life has been enriched by learning to give generously. I know I have many other areas of my life that are out of synch, but I’m so convinced that giving appropriately is a huge spiritual factor in our human lives, I can’t help writing/teaching/preaching/blogging about it.
4) Leaders are not shy to give God Praise for the privilege of giving. Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly:…Yours O Lord is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom…Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything…Everything we have has come from you, and we give only what you first gave us!...O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! You examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously…make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes . Vs 10-17
It is a good thing to remember the source of all we are and have is God. Giving is such a spiritual matter, such a spiritual indicator. If you really want to know how much you love God, examine your patterns of giving. I’ve often maintained I could tell a lot about people by observing their giving – I think David would agree.
I’m so glad God is patient with us, and allows us to grow into our discipleship, even in the area of giving. I just want to encourage you readers today, to accept David’s challenge, and mine, to grow into faithfulness in this vital area of our lives. End of 1 Chronicles! AMEN
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 10:52 AMApril 11, 2012
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Continuing in 1st Chronicles. Chapters 22-28 are lists of duties related to the building of the temple. In the middle of Chapter 28 we read of David handing over the Kingship to his son Solomon who has been chosen by God to build God’s temple. David is disqualified from this honor because he has been a warrior, and shed much blood (28:3). I find it interesting that David is disqualified from building the temple because of all the people he has slaughtered; even though the slaughtering was done at God’s command. Much could be made of it, but it seems on the surface to indicate that God’s Temple is just so holy, that blood stained hands, even faithful ones, are not worthy to lead the construction.
In the ‘handoff’ from David to Solomon are some weighty instructions that might benefit any who seek to follow God and especially so for those who lead God’s people:
And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong and do the work. 1 Chronicles 28:9-10
I’m certain we understand the context, and how this relates to Solomon, but might it be instructive for us today as well? Can we take from this ‘handoff’ any personal inspiration? I think so.
1) Learn to know God intimately. So much that passes as ‘religion’ or ‘faith’ today is little more than familial obligation, and vain repetition. I want my knowledge of God to be internal, and intimate. I want my relationship with God to always be growing and stretching. I never want to ‘arrive’, I want always to be appropriately uncomfortable, to be motivated to stay close. Intimate is a loaded word!
2) Worship and Serve with my whole heart and a willing mind. Worship and Service are two sides of one coin. They cannot be separated. To worship without serving is not real worship. To serve without worship is equally illegitimate. Help me discover how much these are interconnected, and to pursue each with my whole heart and a willing mind.
3) Seek God Seriously. Finding God is not like panning for the proverbial nugget of Gold – finding God is as easy as opening our eyes, minds and hearts. God is not far from us, but we are hesitant, and reticent, to honestly seek God. We love the public adoration for pretending to practice the presence of God – but few of us really, seriously seek after God. That is what I want. I don’t care so much anymore about success or failure; I don’t care so much about human acclaim and praise; I don’t care so much about compensations and rewards, anymore – I just want God! I want to seek, find, know, worship and serve this God!
4) Be strong and do the work . Ultimately we just need to get it done! There is no magic in being faithful and successful in life – Love God, Love people, and work hard – the rest can be learned along the way! I need this encouragement today, to be strong, and work hard.
So there you have the challenge David left for Solomon. We might all do so well passing on our ‘legacy’ to our sons and daughters. I believe this challenge is not just for Solomon, but all of us. God give me strength to receive and learn and practice this challenge today. AMEN
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Thursday, March 8, 2012, 10:23 AMMarch 8, 2012
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” I Chronicles 21:24
At face value the lesson from this verse is that our offerings to God must cost us something. I’m not just implying that this applies only to our fiscal or monetary offerings – but the very offering of our selves. If we offer to God only what we can afford, only what gives us no discomfort, only from our excess or left-overs, only what costs us nothing – then is it really an offering, is it really a ‘sacrifice’? I don’t think it qualifies.
The context of this verse may help us understand it. At the beginning of this chapter David is tempted by Satan to take an official census of the people. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There were any number of censuses required, ordered by God throughout Jewish history. This one differs in two regards; 1) it was offered to David via Satan, not God, and 2) apparently this census was more a measurement of David’s military might, than some actual count of the people. Note verse 5 which records only the number of soldiers. Apparently David was swayed by Satan’s temptation because he was growing full of himself and his reliance on his military might was superseding his reliance on God!
My how I fall into this trap. I get a little ‘used by God’, and immediately get the big head – and begin to think it’s all up to me to decide and figure out the unknown. I was awakened this morning worrying about a situation unfolding in my work – that in the darkness of the early morning – I was absolutely convinced I alone have sole responsibility and resources to solve and resolve this issue. How stupid; since when have I been empowered by God to be in charge? Since when have I been given God’s job description? Yes, I know there is plenty God asks/expects me to do – by His job is not one of them! I have misplaced my reliance on God, and replaced it with some misguided psychological silliness that I’m in charge, I’m responsible, I alone am capable to fix this, I must help God do God’s job!
Well, the consequences of David’s screw up become swiftly known, and God gives David three choices regarding his punishment for this act of disobedience; three years of famine, three months of destruction by Israel’s enemies, or three days of plagues. Each of these seem strange to me, because they don’t directly punish David, but Israel. Is that the way it really works?
Apparently David chooses the third, and the angel of death begins its work, and soon David realizes this, and cries out to God (17) and begins to make amends by constructing a new altar and offering sacrifices to appease God’s wrath and judgment. In searching out a worthy place and resources David encounters Araunah, a good faithful Jew who sees the desperate situation, and more desperate King; and immediately offers to David his land, his wood, his oxen and even his grain for the offering – at no cost to David – free of charge. Most of us would probably jump at this gracious offer – many of us might even justify receiving this generous gift so as not to cheat Araunah out of his blessing for being so generous. But not David.
He is fully aware now of the severity of his misstep in listening to Satan; relying on his own military resources instead of relying on God, and refuses the free offer of Araunah – so that he can make appropriate, weighty and worthy sacrifices to God that reflect the depth of his disobedience, the measure of his guilt, and the severity of his sin. I think we miss this significance too often – or at least I do – when I consistently offer to God that which costs me nothing. God help me today to offer myself, my offerings, my sacrifices …and may they be costly enough to reflect that which I have received, and that which I have done.
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