Saturday, May 25, 2013

ULC Sunday Sermon Podcast: From Self Examining to Sharing with Others

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Good morning everyone!  Are you having a good morning?  Are you finding some peace with that walk with God?  I certainly hope you are.  It's a beautiful day here in Wisconsin.  Thankfully we haven't had any tornadoes here, like those in Oklahoma recently.  We'll get that topic soon, but first I want to share something with you that's been on my heart recently.

It seems that once we start down this road of faith we can start to inwardly accuse ourselves.

I know, I'm jumping right in, without going into all the technical stuff.  But this is something I want to talk about right away before I start the service, because it's on my heart right at this moment.

Because I get confused.  And I get upset.  I'm struggling with some tough decisions I have to make, and it's hard. Because I want to make the right decisions so desperately.  I really feel I need to make the Godly decision.  When we start this we consciously start to try and do what God would want from us in any given situation.

But I see myself going way too far with it.  I get on my knees, and ask God for a sign or for the ability to make the right decision.  But let's face it, a lot of decisions we're gonna face are not cut and dry.

It's mucky, and theres good points on both sides and bad points on both sides.  So it isn't easy, and it's not like God comes down off the throne and gives us a verbal answer to these situations.  A lot of my frustration on this is that God isn't being as clear as I would desire.

I want an answer, I want a clear answer, and I want that answer now.  Isn't that how it is as human beings?

Meanwhile, in the agonizing of making these tough decisions that inner voice of accusation just runs rampant over my thoughts and choices.  Pretty soon I'm feeling guilty, and ashamed, and upset, lost, depressed and just plain miserable.

That's the point I'm trying to hit here before we start: Don't let yourself be victim to an inner voice of accusation.  That inner voice that fills you with shame when you make a questionable decision.  You aren't quite sure, you think it might be the wrong decision, and suddenly that inner voice is just beating you down.

Well that isn't of God.  And that's what I try to answer that voice with.   I found a really powerful graphic on the internet that I'd like to share with you here, it reads:

So that's really just how it lines up.  Don't you ever believe that the angry voice in your head just playing a mistake over and over and over, and condemning you for it.. is how a Christian is suppose to feel.  Absolutely WRONG.  We can feel convicted when we make a mistake or sin.  But it's not something that will be played over and over again with negative self talk.  That is not of God!

 Alright, rant over.  As you probably know, this is Universal Life Church.  We are a Christ based ministry, but we accept those all of faiths to learn more about our savior.  We're a very accepting church.  We're not gonna condemn you because of your choices or tell you that God doesn't like you.  Because we know he does like you.  He likes you because you're part of his chosen people.

If you'd like to find our group on Facebook do a search for Universal Life Church 62648.  That number is our identifier within the ULC community.  And that goes into where we operate, which is on the internet.  We run things from our facebook group where we post sunday sermons, wednesday bible studies, and sunday teaching lessons in audio format or text.  We also offer encouragement to church members through the group.  So if you'd like to be a part of that, please find us on facebook and join up.

Thank you for being here for our Sunday sermon.  Thanks to Lead Pastor Dustin Milam for all his work at the church and the clinic in Kentucky.  Thanks to the new deacons and our minister for their continued work.

So before we start, let's go to God in prayer this morning and ask him to join us here:

Heavenly Father, please hear our prayer.  Join with us today as we praise your name.  Work on our hearts Father, and make us holy, one brick at a time.  Keep us on this path, and comfort our hearts.  Help us to work on ourselves, and then learn to help others.  And Father please lift up those who have been affected by the destruction in Oklahoma.  We ask that you take them under your wing, and give them special attention in this difficult time.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

I'd like to mention something that was recorded recently, an interview in the rubble with an old woman in Oklahoma.  I don't watch the news very much, just because of all the fear being pandered, but an old friend of mine brought this story to my attention.  I've included a link to the interview on Youtube within the text of the sermon, so please feel free to watch it yourself.

So there was this older woman, and sky news was interviewing her about the tornadoes.  Her house was utterly and completely destroyed.  You could see the broken timber and splintered pieces of the house all around her.  Yet as they interviewed her she seemed strangely serene.  They asked her what it was like, and she said her plan had always been to go in this bathroom for cover from the tornado.  She was sitting on a stool in the bathroom.  She felt the stool come up through the floor and boom, the house comes down around her and shes sitting in the rubble.  And she had a little dog, and tried calling it.  But the dog didn't come.  The interviewer asked this old woman if she could comprehend what had happened.  And she replied, "I know exactly what happened.  This is life in the big city."  And she seemed so calm about it.  But she was sad, because she lost her dog.  And just after she had said this, the interviewer noticed something moving in the rubble.  And it was her dog.  They came over and pulled it from the rubble.  The woman was beset with relief.  The first thing she said, pulling the dog from the rubble was "bless your little bitty heart."  And next she said, "Thank you God."  Then she said, "I thought God just answered one prayer, to let me be ok.  But he answered both of them.  Because this was my second prayer, " She said looking down at her dog. 

That was really powerful to me when I saw it.  And it's still powerful to me.  The interviewer seemed to expect the woman to be frantic and lost, but she wasn't.  Even after her house had been utterly destroyed, she had peace about it, because she was ok.  She knew God had saved her.  And she knew that these kinds of troubled arent things we need to freak out about.  They're things we can have peace about, because God loves us.  She knew her first prayer had been answered.  And she testified to the camera person.  But God wasn't done there.  God's love is bigger than even the huge miracle of protecting her life.  God is abundantly loving.  He not only saved her life, but he saved her dogs life.

And what I'm telling you now, isn't something I would have to tell that old woman.  It's something she already knows in her heart.  And it gives her complete peace in the storm of life.  How many of us have lost it when we got in a fender bender or made a mistake at work?  Do you remember how you felt during it?  Lost, upset, afraid, confused?  Just to name a few?  Well this woman may have been afraid when that tornado brought down her house around her... but in the aftermath she wasn't running around the wreckage yelling and frantic.  She didn't search high and low for her dog for hours in wreckage that could harm her.  She took in the situation peacefully, had some faith in all of it, and God saw that.  He saw that woman, and said I'm not just gonna save your life from this natural disaster, I'm bringing your dog with too.  That's the kind of God we have.  A loving God, named Jehovah, who actively cares for us. And is personal to all of us.

If you thirst for justice.  Which is something I thirst for, you won't find it on Earth.  But you will see it in God.  And his justice is done, sometimes on Earth, and sometimes after death. 

I thought I'd tell you a little bit about me. Just a bit, I don't want to go into too much detail.  But I'm your Pastor, and you ought to know a little right?  So here we go: I'm left handed,

I stutter sometimes (like Moses) and

I've had about 7 concussions in my life.

So if my sermons don't make any sense, now you know why.  If I ramble endlessly, that can be my excuse.

The title of the sermon today is "From Self Examining to Sharing with Others."   The last two weeks we've been working on getting right within our own minds. 

proverbs 16:32 says New Living Translation (©2007)
Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

And we've gone over several Bible verses in the past few weeks that emphasize self examination.  He who conquers himself is greater than one who concurs a city" is a way I've heard that proverb paraphrased.  

Let's go over something again.  The story in the news about the old woman in the Oklahoma tornado.  She trusted God and received peace of mind from that.  Most of the time I can spot someone who doesn't have that from a mile away!  I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and he told me that once when during high school, he was getting off the bus, and boom a car flies through and he goes flying off the windshield.  And instead of the person running over to help him, this guy starts freaking out at him, saying it was his fault, and just frantic!  Rambling on about how he needed to call his insurance agent!  Absolutely no concern for a human being he just injured, by flying past a bus with it's lights on, indicating kids are getting out.

Looking at it now, a lot of us would never want to be that person.  Because from our perspective thats just a rotten way to react!  But how often in the past have we had an emergency, and the first thing we thought about was ourselves.  How often, when someone dear to us has died have we cried and worried over the fact of what we're going to do without them around.. and having to deal with the funeral and family, instead of worrying about their family, and their salvation, and how others will cope?

We tried living a life run on our selfish will.  We were in charge and we didn't need any God!  Remember that?  Was that ever you?  I'm so self sufficient.  I've got a good job, I'm gonna prosper, gain wealth and prestige and power.  I'm taking the world by storm!

But now we look back, and see where that took us.  It took us into selfishness.  Which lead to fear.  Which lead to temptation.  Which lead to sin.  We were rudderless.  And eventually we recognized that.  And started searching.  Maybe we'd heard of Christianity or been raised in a condemning church.  So Christianity was the last thing we wanted to explore.  Buddhism, taoism, naturalism, new age, auras and chockras, zodiac stuff.  We explored it all, step by step, but it was all empty.  And finally, as it got worse and worse, we realized that the truth had been right in front of us all along.  That instead of wandering lost through the wilderness, like the tribe of Israel after the exodus, we could've just stepped right into the promise land, if we'd just pushed past our fears, doubts, and misconceptions about Christianity and the Bible.

And now we don't have to be those people we see everyday.  Stressing in the car.  Dead in the eyes.  A constant frown on the face.  Miserable, while trying to maintain a reputation of self reliance.  We know those people, and we see them everyday.  And aren't we glad we don't have to be that way anymore?

Now, when the storm hits, the tornadoes rolling in, we can sit down on a stool, and just wait it out, knowing that our God will protect us.  We can have a little peace about life.

We receive that peace through faith in God.  We're seen a righteous through our unwavering faith in God.  And the only way to that close connection with God is Jesus the Christ.  The Christ that bore the weight of your sins personally on the cross.

And now that we're working on ourselves day by day, that peace and connection with God grows and flourishes.  We grow up tall like a tree and bear fruit. 

Matthew 12:35  says: "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."

So we've got ministers of good in the world and ministers of bad in the world.  And we want to be the ministers of good, don't we?  We want to bear good fruit.

1 Peter 2:1-5

New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

So we go from the topic of self examining to sharing with others.  Self examination doesn't stop.  But at some point sharing does start.  Let me encourage you to pray for the opportunity to minister to others.  If God wants you to do that, the opportunity will present itself.  This is the great commission, the great responsibility of every Christian on the planet.  Matthew 28:18-20 says "

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus Christ is with us and it is our duty to him to minister to others.  This starts with our family.  Then continues with our friends.  It also means encouraging and talking with the congregation about Biblical truth.  And beyond our family, friends, and congregations, it does mean ministering to strangers as well.

This doesn't necessarily mean going door to door, or walking around a college campus asking students if they think they're going to heaven.  Which is misleading, because we're going to the New Earth, not heaven, though some will rein with Christ in heaven.  We can go door to door, and we can walk around college campuses, I'm not discouraging that.  But a lot of times we can just be in casual conversation and the opportunity to bring it up comes.  We have to push past the fear, and doubt, and just start talking about it.

It's a duty we have as Christians.  We must make disciples of the world.  How great is it to bring people to the next life with you?  It's a wonderful thing.  It's a gift from our creator.

And don't be discouraged if someone doesn't take the message.  You've planted a seed that can't be unsown.  They can't unhear what you've told them.  And if you've ministered to them humbly, they might just look back on that conversation in a tough moment and think, hey, yeah, that person who talked to me really seemed to have a lot of peace about that Christ thing.  They really seemed non-judgemental and happy.  I want that.

So that's something that people will really take more notice of than your words.  They'll take notice of your example.  And theres no faking that example.  People have good intuition about true peace and serenity.  If you have that, that Christ within, it will shine through.  

But for a lot of us we have trouble ministering to others.  And maybe that's because we don't care enough.  Experience has made us jaded toward our fellow man.  Isn't that the case with some of us? Maybe we have trouble loving others, not because we're bad people.   But because our society has hurt us in the first part.  Remember what Jesus great command was?

Matthew 22:37-39

New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
Maybe we can't fulfill loving our neighbors because of what we measure it by: Loving ourselves.  Maybe we've forgotten even how to love ourselves, and thus we give our neighbors the same love we give ourselves: none.

And once again, that's an issue of self examination.  If we can learn to love ourselves, and see ourselves the way God sees us, as his children, made perfect through Christ, maybe we could learn to love ourselves.  And then love others in turn.

So let me encourage you to start that process.  We've worked on ourselves.  Now we can help others effectively.

I want to thank you for listening in on our Sunday service here at ULC Online Church. Next week we're going to talk about having passion for the Christian journey.  Passion like David had when he danced before his God. And we'll talk about love being the greatest motivator for this walk with Christ.  Have a great day, and go in peace.