Sunday, January 25, 2015

DTR on Revival Ch.3 "A Crisis of Faith"

DTR on Revival Ch.3 "A Crisis of Faith"
PK here: I offer the following sermon by my friend, the Reverend David Ryan, pastor at Pastor David and I are simultaneously preaching a series based on Adam Hamilton's book "Revival". Here is what Pastor David has to say:

Last week, we left Rev. Wesley helping us
The difference between being an “almost Christian”
And “an altogether Christian” –
Our aim of course, is to be an altogether Christian –
One who is fully surrendered, yielded to God
And living their live in a way that pleases and serves God.

But….how do we get there?
That was a question that Wesley struggled with for a long time – maybe it’s one that you have struggled with too.
If that’s the case…you will especially want to give a listen this morning!

Wesley was doing his best.
He was reading his bible. He was teaching Bible and Theology to others. He was leading and participating in a small group of believers. He’d been ordained a Priest in the Anglican Church…
I’d say he was doing everything a person could do to be right with God….except one thing

And it was that one thing that he took a long time to figure out.
Wesley had everything in his head.
He had lots of knowledge.
He knew lots of stuff about God.
He practiced the disciplines of faith…
But…by Wesley’s own admission…
It was all here…up in his head.

It wasn’t making it down to his heart.

To help close that 12 inch gap…
The distance between the head and the heart…
God would use a storm.

Our friend John Wesley did not like
Being on a boat….much less a ship
Out in the middle of the Atlantic.

But in his day…that was the only way to
get to America – to the colonies.
And Wesley had a calling to go –
A mission to fulfill.
Georgia had just been established as a British Colony…
And they needed some clergy.
The folks at Oxford sent Wesley.

John convinced his brother Charles
And a few others to go along with him.
He’d been afraid of the sea…but…
If that was where God was leading…
He was willing to follow.

On Oct. 14 1735 he boarded the Simmons
And set off for Georgia.
It took three months to make the journey!

I know some of you don’t like to fly.
At least a flight is usually not three months!
Can you imagine…having to do something that
You really were not comfortable with –
For that long?
But Wesley did it.
He really did love the Lord
He really did want to serve him
He really did want to minister to others.
And so he did it.

But oh the storms.
They shook Wesley to his core.
He was certain he was going to die.
And it caused him to doubt his faith.
He wondered…how genuine was it
If he was not ready to die?

You see, I think God was there in the storm
Waiting for John to see Him.
Waiting for John to be drawn to him.

But John didn’t quite get it then.
But what He noticed was that while he and the other English on the ship were terrified….
There were a group of Germans – Moravians…
who were calm – reportedly singing a hymn….
Now these were folk John admired.
He couldn’t see God…but he saw them.

He thought a lot about them during his time in Georgia –
Which really didn’t turn out so well.
Lots of things happened.
He didn’t make as much headway as he thought he would.
Fact is, he was a little rough on people.
He offered a 5 am prayer meeting…
Which…is not a bad thing in and of itself,
But he said that you could only share in communion
If you attended these early morning services.

He once had a parishioner tell him
“I like nothing you do..indeed there is no one in this town who is going to listen to you. You can preach all you want, but no one is going to come”….
Those are words that warm a pastors heart! Not!

He also fell in and out of love –
And the woman he had fallen for married another –
Not long after that, John headed back to England…

But he never forgot that storm –
And those singing Moravians.
Wesley knew they had a faith that he did not possess.
They knew God was in the storm…he did not.

He was on the brink of quitting preaching all together –
But the Leader of the Moravians – Peter Bohler encouraged him not to quit.
He said…Preach faith till you have it, then because you have it, you will preach it!

But Wesley could not forget that storm –
And that was a good thing –
Because there are things every one of us can learn
From the storms that come into our lives.

We look at scripture –
And we see all kinds of folk who had to deal with storms.
Think about Noah – 40 days and 40 nights of flooding.
Jonah – all those days in the belly of a whale.
The disciples – who terrified by the storm
Even while Jesus lay asleep in the front of the boat.
Or Peter – being swamped over by the stormy waves
As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus.

Most of us don’t like storms –
Especially not the emotional kind.
Yeah..the literal lightening and thundering
Can make us jump, but those storms soon pass

But our emotional storms seem to hang on longer
Don’t they…
those times in life
When everything just seems to be going wrong.
When it seems like you are getting hit on all sides
When it seems like everything is coming down on you at once.
When it seems like things you have been working so hard on
Are all falling apart.
When it seems like we don’t have a friend in the world.

Those times when your spirit just wants to call out
Where are you God?
Have you abandoned me?
Have I done something so wrong that your are punishing me?
Giving up on me?

If you get to that point when you want to call those things out….
Do it!
Call out and ask God where he is…
        Because I think you will hear him say…
                “I’m right here”.
                “I got you”
                “I’ll help you get through this”.

Can you imagine John Wesley not wanting to preach?
Feeling like he didn’t have it in him?

His storm lead him to Aldersgate Street –
Where the Moravian folk were studying
An Intro to the book of Romans that Martin Luther wrote.

Luther too had been through a storm –
His was a literal one –
He had clung to a tree and prayed with all his might
That if the Lord would deliver him
He would serve him…and the Lord did deliver him
And Luther did serve the Lord.

In that intro to Romans,
Luther was saying…that its by faith that we are saved.
Not by our works
But by our Faith.

You know who wrote the book of Romans?
A guy named Paul.
Paul too had his share of storms to get through –
Both spiritual and physical.
He was shipwrecked once…
        But God saw him through.
He had  lots of spiritual storms
He was imprisoned for his faith.
He was beaten…he was put on trial
Eventually he was killed for his faith.

But I don’t think Paul would have traded any of that
Away – because of what it taught him.
Paul tried all kinds of ways to be right with God
Before he met Jesus.
He called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees.
He knew the law
He did his best to live the law.
But he wasn’t happy.
He didn’t have joy or peace or really love.
There was no grace in his life.

What turned things around for Paul was when
He really met Jesus.
That too was in a time of crisis.
God had struck him blind!
But he had the ears to hear God….
And God got a hold of his life
And poured his grace in…
And Paul was a changed man.
So changed, his name was changed –
It used to be Saul – it got changed to Paul.

Now sometimes Paul gets a bit convoluted in his writing
In Romans – at least it feels that way to me –but he was trying to communicate some really big ideas..
So I guess we can excuse him.

In our scripture for this morning,
Paul is writing about Abraham…
And how Abraham was said to be a righteous man
Even though he didn’t work towards that.

Again…remember that Paul, and John Wesley who was a lot like him…had done all kinds of work trying to earn that state
Of righteousness.
Paul says if you work for something, you should be able to expect
That a fair wage be paid.

It’s like…you get hired for a job, you do the job, so at the end of it, or when payday rolls around…you have your hand out saying –
Hey – I did my part – now pay up.

Some folks think of their spiritual life like that.
They do all this work and then they expect God to pay up.
Only…there is this big problem.
God does not pay up for inferior work.
And guess what…all our work is inferior.
We can never be good enough to earn
All that God wants to give to us.

So what are we to do?
Go without?
Nope. There’s good news.
We can’t earn God’s blessing.

We can’t see our way out of the storms
That life hits us with on our own.
We can’t earn the righteousness….

But we don’t have to.

Because God loves us.
He treasures us above all else.
He’s got grace for us.
And he gives it away
For free.

You heard me right
For free.

I know.
I know…its hard to believe.
But it’s true.
That’s how much you are loved.

All you have to do is trust in that love

At first…trust in that love to bring you into
Right relationship with God.
Cease your striving
Cease your doing
Stop trying to earn it.
You can’t.

But it’s yours anyway.
Trust it.
Trust Him.

And when the storms of life start raging all about you….
Trust him.
Cease your striving
Cease your doing.
His love is with you.
Nothing changes that.

I know.
I know that’s hard to believe…
But it’s true.
Stay faithful in the storm.
Let the storm bring your closer to God.

I know that every other love can let you down.
At some point, every other love has its breaking point
We do our best, but sometimes we let each other down.
We are not God.
But God is God.
How’s that for profound?
God is God.

Amen and Halleluiah!
God is God
And God is Good.
Nothing is as bad as God is good.

No storm out storms God’s abundant Grace.
If you find yourself in the midst of a storm
And you feel like you are drowning
And you almost feel like you can’t make it.
Cling to this truth.
God is God.
And because he is God and because he loves you
He will see you through.
You will get wet.
You will swallow your share of sea water
And that can be nasty.
But God is God
And He’s got you.

Let that trust, that knowledge
Flow from your head to your heart.
John Wesley said it was like his heart was strangely warmed.
When he stopped trying for righteousness…he found himself
One that came not from his own striving
But from that marvelous grace of our loving Lord.
To know that
To experience that grace
That love…
Well…its just the best thing there is.

My heart cries
My eyes cry literally.
When I think of that amazing love.

Charles Wesley
John’s brother came to this same experience
About the same time.
He tries, in many of his hymns to find words
To express what happened to him
To my heart, one of the best is the hymn
We know as
“And Can it Be”.

Listen to the Amazement that such a marvelous
Reality can be ours…
Charles Wesley asks…
1.   And can it be that I should gain
          an interest in the Savior's blood!
          Died he for me? who caused his pain!
          For me? who him to death pursued?
          Amazing love! How can it be
          that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2.       'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
          Who can explore his strange design?
          In vain the firstborn seraph tries
          to sound the depths of love divine.
          'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
          let angel minds inquire no more.

3.       He left his Father's throne above
          (so free, so infinite his grace!),
          emptied himself of all but love,
          and bled for Adam's helpless race.
          'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
          for O my God, it found out me!
4.       Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
          fast bound in sin and nature's night;
          thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
          I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
          my chains fell off, my heart was free,
          I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
5.       No condemnation now I dread;
          Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
          alive in him, my living Head,
          and clothed in righteousness divine,
          bold I approach th' eternal throne,
          and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Oh my friends.
God is so good.
His love so full
And its directed to you – your heart is where he wants to dwell.

Are there storms in your life right now?
If so it’s ok. Meet God in the storm.
He’s waiting.

You will find Him True and Faithful
And the only one able to bring you through.
There is grace enough for you.
Come to Christ, my friend.
Do not hold back.
You’ve been trying on your own for far too long.
Now is the time
Now is the day.
Let Christ into your heart.


Revival 3 of 6 "There But for the Grace of God Go I"

• Third Sunday after Epiphany
With Romans 4:1-5 and 5:1-2
3 of 6 on a series with Adam Hamilton’s 2014 book Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It  @kerrfunk                                                                

• Ever experience a storm in life? Death of loved one, loss of job, health crisis, something you’ve prayed about that never seems to change…
It may lead you to question God, question Where IS God, question Why me, God? Am I being punished? Is this “Part of God’s plan… everything happens for a reason…”?
That’s not how God works. I don’t believe God says “You’re bad” and strikes you or makes storm happen… I don’t believe God says “I want you to learn to appreciate life so I’m going to give your loved one cancer”…
• But. What if, in midst of storm, in midst of circumstances, one is drawn near to God
in such a way that wouldn’tve happened in calm sea?
God can use storms.
Great good and great strength can result from storms.

• Last week John Wesley was teaching at Oxford and developing what I called “habits of holiness.”
A problem with HOH, though, is they can become ends in themselves, instead of means… A problem with HOH is that a person may begin to feel proud of their HOH, that they deserve God’s grace, and that simply isn’t so. God’s grace is pure gift.
And JW began to fret. Year was 1735 and JW convinced his brother and some friends to journey to America to minister to colonists and convert the natives (would those be some feathers in his cap!) (remember, friends, God’s free grace… as Romans 4&5, not by our works but by faith of Christ)
• 3 month journey at sea, fraught with actual storms. During which the young Englishmen, terrified, observed some fellow travelers, German Moravian missionaries, singing hymns. Same storm, different response.
Spent a year in Georgia, not like expected. You might say he tried too hard. Daily 5am prayer services (which is fine) as prerequisite for communion (which is not fine). Wooed a girl, but valued celibacy more. His heart was broken when she married. He refused to serve her communion. He made some ungracious choices.
Within a year he returned to England (3mo at sea again) felt like a failure.

• What do you do when you feel like a failure?
Give up? Quit? Press on?
JW sought pastoral counseling. He was dejected.
He confessed he wanted to quit ministry b/c no faith.
Sought advice from German Moravian missionary
(remember the folks who sang hymns in the storm?)
Peter Bohler famously told him
“Preach faith until you have it,
and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
• HOH: continued to preach, continued to study & act. (I often give this marriage advice, that there are times in your marriage when you may not be feeling it, so you have to choose to act in loving ways)
& God met him in his acts of faith. (read Aldersgate experience, below)
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death…
              From John Wesley’s journal, May 24, 1738

• Contemporary wisdom/cliché: If you’re going through hell, keep going!
• God can use storms.
Seek God, & don’t go it alone.
Practice HOH.
Represent God to others.
ILYATNYCDAI comes from God, too.
• Response to accepting God’s free grace: praise and life.
Hymn 57 is such.

• Hymn 57 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Romans 4:1-5, 5:1-2  (Common English Bible)  1/25/15
4 So what are we going to say? Are we going to find that Abraham is our ancestor on the basis of genealogy? Because if Abraham was made righteous because of his actions, he would have had a reason to brag, but not in front of God. What does the scripture say? Abraham had faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. [Genesis 15:6] 
Workers’ salaries aren’t credited to them on the basis of an employer’s grace but rather on the basis of what they deserve. But faith is credited as righteousness to those who don’t work, because they have faith in God who makes the ungodly righteous.
5 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 

Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It, by Adam Hamilton

Chapter Three: A Crisis of Faith
In the 1720s John Wesley, himself in his 20s, struggled to figure out the balance between being loved by God and striving for holiness. In his head he knew that salvation was a gift, but in his heart he seemed to want to earn God’s acceptance. Wesley traveled to America in the 1730s, hoping to convert the natives, but he felt the entire journey was a failure and that it was his fault. But something happened in 1738 that changed his tune…

Sunday, January 18, 2015

DTR on Revival Ch.2 "A Longing for Holiness"

PK here: I offer the following sermon by my friend, the Reverend David Ryan, pastor at Pastor David and I are simultaneously preaching a series based on Adam Hamilton's book "Revival". Here is what Pastor David has to say:

Have you ever that….underlying question of….
Isn’t there more?
Have you ever had the feeling that you are missing something.
Maybe it’s something you feel another has and you don’t
Or maybe it’s something you just sense is …out there.
For the moment beyond your reach
Beyond your grasping.

There’s a dissatisfaction in your soul
A yearning that you can’t quite put a name to
But it’s very real.

I feel that way.
And I’ve come to learn that
That is usually a prompting from the Holy Spirit.
That there is, to use a phrase
From C.S. Lewis, out of his Chronicles of Narnia
A place that is “higher up and further in”
A calling from God –
From His Spirit to our Spirit.

Not to be satisfied with where we are
Especially in our spiritual lives.
We are called to keep growing
To keep becoming more and more like our Father.

I know a  part of us, at least a part of me
Shrinks back from that.
 I read the words from scripture that we read this morning –
“Just as he who called you is holy,
So be holy in all you do….”
And I try to let that sink in….

And I wonder…how can that ever be?
My first response is to be like Peter
After they take in that big haul of fish….
Peter says to Jesus – Go away from me, Lord;
I am a sinful man!”

But Jesus loves me too much to listen to that plea.
He doesn’t go anywhere – but instead offers me grace.
And through his holy spirit, guides higher up and further in.

John Wesley , one of the founders of Methodism
knew this kind of longing for something more.
I shared with you last week how he was the son
Of an Anglican Priest – Samuel , and his wife, a godly mother, Susanna.
Susanna spent time in prayer for John and his brothers and sisters
And spent time each week meeting with each one –
And talking with them about faith, and teaching them in the scriptures.

John knew a lot of stuff in his head.
But he knew, somehow, that there had to be more to it than that.
He went, at the age of ten, to begin his formal education
At a school in London.

He writes that during that time
He still read the scriptures and said his prayers
Morning and evening.
He tried “not to be as bad as other people”
“to have a kindness for religion”
And “ to read the bible, go to church and say his prayers”.

He continued this when he went on to college
At Oxford University –
 Yet there continued this longing within him for something more.

He read some great authors –
Jeremy Taylor’s  “The Rule and Exercises for Holy Living”
Thomas a Kempis “The Imitation of Christ”
And  William Law’s “A serious Call to the Devout and Holy life”

And he learned from them.

Jeremy Taylor wrote on 1 Corinthians 10:31 –
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything
For the glory of God”.

Wesley was challenged by this, and so am I.
I hope you are too.
Whatever we do, do for the glory of God.

Think about your day yesterday,
You week just spent.
Was it done to the glory of God….or to the glory of you…
Or even to the glory of someone else, other than God.

You know how we pray the Lord’s prayer?
At the end, we say…
“For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever?”

Wesley said that while we might pray that prayer
Sometimes we live another way.
Sometimes it is not “thine” but “Mine”
Sometimes by the way we live,
It’s as if we are praying…
”Mine be the kingdom, and the power and the glory”.

And friends, really, while I sometimes live that way
It’s not the way I want to live.
I know where that kind of living leads to.
There has to be a better way.

When Wesley read  Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”…
Which was now written some 700 years ago he understood
Something which we also need to know – but somehow after
700 years still don’t get. –
That God wants all of us.
Not just our physical life, but hearts – God wants hearts
Fully yielded to him.

The other book I told you influenced him greatly was
That book by William Law – a serious call to a devout life –
This book convinced Wesley of the
“Absolute impossibility of being a half a Christian”

I know that term sounds maybe a little funny to us.

But today we might say
“I’m a sorta kinda mostly a Christian – at least some of time”
Or…Yeah…I mean – I believe in Jesus….I try to keep the ten commandments…at least on Sundays!
I try to do  my part…I show up on Sundays…
I try to be a good example to my children….I give what I can…

But is that enough?

Now…don’t get me wrong.
In order to be saved, in order to be a Christian –
Really , all we need to do is place our faith in Christ.
But…we are missing out on so much if that is as far as we go.
There is more!
There is a holy life!
A life that brings joy to both God and us.

We can move into being what Wesley called
“An Altogether Christian”

Allow me to contemporize a part of the Sermon from Wesley
For our hearts and ears. He asks a series of questions that
Are good for us to ask ourselves -:

Can you answer a hearty “yes” to all of these?

Is the love of God evident in all your heart?
Can you cry out to God, with all sincerity, “My God and my All”?
Do you desire nothing but God?
Are You happy in God?
Is God your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?
Is this commandment written in your heart –
“that one who loves God loves also his brother and sister also?
Do you love your neighbor as yourself?
Do you love everyone – even your enemies,
Even the enemies of God
As you love your own soul?
Even as Christ has loved you?
Do you believe that Christ loved you
And gave himself for you?
Have you faith in his blood?
Do you believe that Christ, the lamb of God, has taken away Your sins and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea?

That he has blotted out the charges against you –
Taking them away – nailing them to his cross?
Do you have redemption through his blood –
The forgiveness of your sins?
Does His spirit bear witness with your spirit
That you are a child of God?
[questions from Wesley's sermon "The Almost Christian" quoted in Hamilton's Revival, p. 42-43]

Can you indeed say yes to all of those Questions?
Oh I pray that you can.
I pray that you do daily!
And I pray that in fact, you are not satisfied with where you are
With Christ.

I know we walk a fine line  here.
Between faith and works.
I know that there is grace and that we are dependent upon grace.

But I also believe that there are things
We can do to be as open to God’s grace and His works
In our lives as we can be.

This past week, as I was doing my bible reading,
I came across 1 Timothy 4
There Paul is advising young Timothy in the faith
He says….
“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value,
But godliness has value for all things,
Holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”.

I have a friend who is always thinking up new ways
To train himself physically, new ways to keep things interesting
As he works out…and that’s a good thing.
I need to do more of that.

But I also need to listen to Paul,
To think of ways to train myself to be godly.

Here are some suggestions:

1)  Never stop learning. One of our values here at Hopeland,
Is lifelong learning. I’ve shared with you how Wesley was influenced by books that he read.  Be a reader. …and not just of fiction! But Theological works – both classics and modern day writers. We are called to be thinkers!  The first words of our passage from scripture today is “prepare your minds for action”….I am trying to read one theologically oriented book a month to keep me thinking, to keep me wrestling with what I believe. I’m also regularly watching a teaching in our “Rightnowmedia” resource, and would encourage you to do the same. If a book a month seems to much, then at least be reading or listening to something regularly to challenge you.

2)  Live with the scriptures. I’ve shared with you a read though the scriptures record keeping system – a lot of you have taken them – we still have some left and can make more copies. My life is richer when I am regularly reading through the scriptures, in addition to my more specific studies. I’ve also renewed my commitment to memorizing the scriptures.
I want to try to memorize 52 verses this year – one a week –
And keep the all alive in my brain. Right now I am working on Psalm 103 which has 22 verses in it. Our children are encouraged to memorize a verse a week. Tori Wilkerson is my hero in this – you should hear her sometime, recite the verses that she knows!

3)  Pray. Learn to pray without ceasing. Being regularly in communication with the spirit of God. Set aside special times to pray. In the morning, at mid day, in the evening. Use hymns to pray, sing them to the Lord as you drive from place to place, or as you go about your work.

4)  Be in good fellowship with others – not just for a good time –
Although good times are a part of it..but be with folks with whom you can share what you are learning, what you are doing in your faith – to ask one another – how is it with your soul?
Read together. Pray together. Worship together.

5)  Pursue acts of compassion and mercy. Wesley and his friends were careful to minister with the poor, with prisoners. With elderly folks, with any who were in need. As you look at your life…how are you showing compassion? To whom are you being the hands and feet of Jesus? Remember that Jesus said, in offering even a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty, you are serving me. We cannot follow Christ, and serve only ourselves and our own families. Yes, it takes time, yes it takes sacrifice of energy, yes it is sometimes inconvenient. A few weeks ago we shared in the Covenant renewal service. And in that service we confessed that sometimes we can please God and please ourselves – but there are times when we cannot please ourselves and please God. Each time, let us choose, no matter what, to please and serve God in faithfulness.

God is not through with us yet.
Adam Hamilton tells a story of talking with
A junkyard man he met in Kansas city.

This particular junkyard held all kinds of rusted out,
Broken down cars – particularly mustangs.

Adam asked the junkyard guy what he saw when
He looked at all those dilapidated Mustangs in the salvage yard…
and the man replied…
“I don’t see them as they are…I see what they could be”.

What a great illustration that is for how God sees us.
He does not just see us as we are – but he sees us as we could be….”

He does not see us as “almost Christians”….
he sees us a
s “altogether Christians”….

When he says…be holy, even as I am holy….he means it.
He sees it in us. It is possible.
How I want to get there.

Oh..I mess up…way too often.
But I belong to a God who forgives me, and restores me.
And leads me, each day, as far as I am willing to follow
To be more like him.
Yes, to even be more holy.

You can belong to this same God, if you don’t already.
He loves you and is calling to you.
Don’t be satisfied with where you are.
There is more.
Long for holiness…and each day move closer.
Do what you can do to be present to that miracle,
And God will do the rest.

Surrender all to Him.