John Wesley

Why Do We Do What We Do???

During my years as a pastor, I have noticed there are a great many programs that are not effective in making disciples.  There are church’s that have large budgets, multiple programs and have NO professions of faith or baptisms.  Why are we doing what we do in church if it’s not making disciples?  After all, that’s the only commission we have, “Go into the world and make disciples.”  Here are 4 reasons we do what we do even if it’s not making disciples:

1.  We’ve Always Done It This Way.  This is a widespread problem throughout the church.  We do it this way and we’re comfortable with it.  Most of the time, the program we’re talking about started out being effective but over the years, it’s become outdated.  However, there is a history of doing it.  It also takes little planning and little enthusiasm to crank it out.

2.  I’m In Charge.  This is not a reason that most people will come out and say but it is an underlying issue.  They see the program as being theirs and believe that if new pe0ple come, so will change.  Change in leadership, decision making and organization.

3.  We just like getting together.  There are so many groups within the church who have lost their focus in that we exist to make disciples and have found ourselves gathering to enjoy each other.  Don’t get me wrong, fellowship is vital in the life of a disciple.  However, so many groups are just getting together for the fun of it and not bringing up Jesus except for the blessing.  The church is not a social club, a sorority nor a country club.  It’s the Body of Christ and we have a mission.  To Make Disciples.

4.  Tradition.  Wow, this is a sticky word in the church.  It can be viewed as a “bad” word but it too is vital in Christianity.  Tradition links us to our past and to all the saints who have gone before.  What happens all too often is the tradition is not making disciples and has become a weight around the neck.

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Stewardship According to John Wesley

An outline of John Wesley‘s Sermon on Stewardship:

The Good Steward”

Summary:  Wesley uses this sermon to explain that we as God’s Stewards are not the owners of what God entrust to us, but temporary custodians.  This applies to our souls, bodies, possessions, time, abilities and opportunities.  Wesley states in this sermon that there will be a day of great judgment when a final accountability will be given for our stewardship.

Introduction:

  1. The Bible describes the created as debtors and servants to the creator.
  2. The best description is that of a steward or manager.
  1. The Nature of Stewardship
  2. The Duration of Our Stewardship
  3. The Final Accounting of Our Stewardship
    1. The Value of Time
    2. How precious is every moment in time.
    3. In using time, no word or deed is truly unimportant.
    4. There are no works that produce excess merit.  We cannot do too much.
    5. It is not easy to give back to God all that he has given us, it will require all our wisdom, perseverance, patience, and faithfulness.
  1. Debtors are obligated to return what they have received, but can use it however they wish until the return.  This is not the case with stewards.
    1. We are obligated to use our blessings as God wishes not ourselves.
    2. Nothing is our own in this world.
  2. God has entrusted us with all that we have received including our minds and souls
  3. In doing God’s will we obtain our own happiness; therefore we should use our blessings for his glory.
  4. God entrust us with our bodies
  5. God has given us the superior capacity for speech and it is to be used to glorify
  6. God has given us our hands and feet and bodies.
  7. God has given us worldly goods of food, clothing, shelter and money.
  8. God has given us the gift of energy, health, favorable appearance, education, knowledge and influence.
    1. The gift of time and the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit
  1. We are only stewards for a short time while on earth.
  2. After we die, we won’t need the things God has entrusted to us.
  3. The same applies to the body.
  4. Death ends the need for speech, strength, health and beauty.
  5. What about the other talents such as the “still, small voice”?
  6. Our physical faculties will not probably exist after death, but continue in a greater degree.
  7. We don’t know how much wisdom will remain after death.
  8. Our souls will remain and retain all their faculties.
  9. Our comprehension will be freed from its present defects.
  10.  Some might say that disembodied spirits have no senses but they are dreaming.
  11. The soul will retain its comprehension and the full vigor of its will and affections. 
  12. However we are no longer stewards of these faculties.
  1. After death, we are no longer stewards and must give an accounting.
    1. We don’t know if it is immediate at the time of death.
  2. We are to give the account of our stewardship when “the great white throne and the one who sat on it come down from heave, and the earth and the heaven flee from God’s presence, and no place is found for them.”
  3. God will ask, “How did you use your life?
  4. God will ask, “How did you use your body?”
  5. God will ask, “How did you use your worldly goods?”
  6. God will ask, “Have you been a wise and faithful stewards of all the gifts?”
    1. If so, God will declare, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; enter into my Kingdom.”
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“All In”

When we read a sermon title on “Stewardship”, we know we are going to hear about giving our money to the church.  The “money part” is often couched within the other aspects of living a life of faith.  As members in the United Methodist Church, we vow to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  A sermon on stewardship in the Methodist tradition correctly admonishes us to be good stewards in all of these ways.

Often we limit stewardship to the amount of money we give.  Traditionally and from Old Testament mandates, one tenth is the standard given for a tithe.  As New Testament Christians, we are under a new order, a new way of being faithful.  No longer is the Old Testament our only standard for living.  Now we live by the standards that Jesus Christ has set.

One example of Jesus teaching his disciples and us about giving is found in Mark 12: 38-44. He warned the disciples to “Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.”  Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.  Many of the rich were making large contributions.  One poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.  All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”  The Message. Eugene H. Peterson

You will not find any standard percent of giving discussed by Jesus in the New Testament, rather he does talk a lot about how we give and why.  The story of the widow’s mite shows us two things:  how not to give as demonstrated by the religion scholars, and how to give as demonstrated by the widow.  No doubt the religion scholars gave their tenth and did it out of an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical heart.  The widow, on the other hand, gave a measly two cents.  Jesus compares her giving to theirs and calls her giving extravagant, sacrificial, and all of what she had.  She gave 100%!!

The widow reflects another standard of giving that is at the core of our being as people of faith and that is the standard set by Jesus himself.  Jesus gave his all—100% even unto death.  He gave his life willingly, out of love, and of course he gave sacrificially.

Nowhere do I find in the New Testament that Jesus will be satisfied with a tenth of who we are or what we have.  He wants all of us—100%.  When we are really understanding stewardship as Jesus taught us, we are “all in”.

Our percentages of giving in dollars may vary, but our commitment to discipleship should not.  We are all uniquely gifted by God to serve and follow him.  In order to be good stewards of what we have been given, we must seek ways to be faithful in all aspects of living a life that produces fruit for the Kingdom.  We ask ourselves,  “Am I 100% committed to the “body of Christ” with my prayer life; my faithfulness in attending church; my gifts, both monetary and spiritual; my service and ministry to others; and, my witness, sharing with others what Christ has done for me”?

Chances are we will not be perfect in our 100% commitment, but we can certainly strive to live a life of faith dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Ask yourself, “Am I ‘all in’ “?

Rev. Nancy Cole is an ordained Elder serving in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Coordinator of Natural Church Development and Coordinator of Disaster Recovery.  Nancy entered seminary after a thirty-year career in education where she was a teacher for 18 years, and a psychometrist and guidance counselor for the last 12 years.  She is married to Steve Cole and has one daughter, Tammy,  two sons, Jason and Bo, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Before being appointed to Connectional Ministries in the Conference, Nancy served churches in Harpersville, Mignon, Tuscaloosa, and Gordo. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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Growing Generosity by Julie Holly

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19

When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves.  This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us.  And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus

When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation.  It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up.  The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same.  When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.

There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.

One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s.  She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years.  She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”.  That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.

In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first.  We need some beginner steps, like…

  • reading what the Bible says about giving
  • praying and seeking God’s guidance
  • giving a little something to see what it is like
  • talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing

And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it.  We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe.  Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith.  We will become generous followers of Jesus.

Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address: http://pastorchickword.blogspot.com

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The Danger of Riches

“The Danger of Riches”

1 Timothy 6:9

SummaryAs the population of the Methodist grew, the found themselves with more members who were wealthy.  Wesley used this sermon to speak on the dangers of wealth and how it could be inlet to sin.  He describes how people should gain as much as they can, save as much as they can and give as much as they can.  Wesley’s belief was to only accumulate what you need and give the rest away.

Introduction:

  1. Many don’t know about the warning in 1 Timothy 6:9
  2. It is not speaking of gaining riches unjustly, but just of being rich.
  3. There are not a whole lot of people preaching this.
  4. May God give me right and forcible words?
    1. To explain the Apostles words
    2. To apply them
  1. To explain the Apostles words.
    1. Provide what is necessary for our family.
    2.  Save up enough to carry on business.
    3.  Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary
    4.  Pay off our debts.
    5. Applying what has been said
  1. What is it to be rich
    1. Having food and coverings plus more
    2. Riches are above the plain necessaries or conveniences of life.
  2. This also implies those that desire to be rich.
  3. Includes all those that set a purpose of endeavor to get more.
  4. It includes those who lay up treasures on earth.
    1. We are allowed to:
    2. Provide what is necessary for our family
    3. Save up enough to carry on business
    4. Enough to leave our children to supply them with necessary.
    5. Pay off our debts.
  1. This includes all who posses more than they use.  God only lends this to us.  God entrust us to be stewards.
  2. It is for those who find delight in money and seek their happiness in money.
  3. There is a covetousness of money in which people have a desire to have more.
  4. We have a hard time with this and only through God can we understand this and do it.
  5. Those who are rich fall into temptation.
  6. They fall into a snare of the devil that he set.
  7. The fall into hurtful desires
  8. They desire happiness out of God.  They love the creature more than God.
  9. The desire of the flesh has developed a “taste” for the world that is not harmful to the body but to the soul.
  10. The desire of the eyes is the desiring and seeking happiness in gratifying the imagination.
  11. Seeking happiness in learning and not in God.
  12. Seeking to be honored, yearning for the applause.
  13. The desire of having it easy and avoiding trouble, danger, difficulty and a desire of sleeping through life.
  14. Riches lead to foolish and hurtful desires and when one has the means to satisfy, these desires will increase.
  15. As they grow, the desires will cause many sorrows of remorse and end up drowning the body in pain, disease, ‘destruction’, and the soul in everlasting perdition.
  1. How do we put this into practice?
  2. Stop!  Evil is before you and you are running toward the sharp edge of a sword.
  3. Are you endeavoring to be rich?
  4. Are you laying up for yourselves treasures on this earth?
  5. You can gain all you can and save all you can without storing up on earth.
  6. Gain all you can, save all you can without wasting; yet by giving all I can I am protected against laying up treasures on earth.
  7. It’s not the quantity of what we possess, it is how we employ according to the will of our Lord.
  8. Don’t throw the excess away; give it to all men and to the poor.
  9. Your wealth will be a witness against you and destroy you as if it were fire.  Start today!
  10. Money is not going to make you happy, look at those who are already rich.
  11. If you are desiring to be rich, WHY?  It leads to a pit and temptation.
  12. Have these desires not hurt you enough?
  13. Have they not cooled your love of God?
  14. If you get richer, it will destroy your humility. People will think you are better than you are and you will believe them.
  15. The richer you are the means are available to seek revenge and thus goes the meekness.
  16. Your patience is also lost.
  17. You will no longer rejoice to ‘endure hardship’ nor rush to into the Kingdom of Heaven.
  18. You will lose the zeal for works of mercy and piety.
  19. You lose your compassion for the ignorant.
  20. You have heard the warning.
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John Wesley’s View on Money

As we begin our sermon series on the use of money, I thought it would be appropriate to give you an outline on John Wesley‘s view of money.  This sermon can be broken down to 3 points: Gain All You Can, Save All You Can, and Give All You Can.

“The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.

Introduction:

  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.
  1. Gain all You Can.
  2. Save All You Can
  3. Give All You Can.
  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.
  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.
  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.
    1. Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.
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Wesley’s Sermon: “The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.

Introduction:

  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.

1.  GAIN ALL YOU CAN

  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.

2.  SAVE ALL YOU CAN

  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.

3.  GIVE ALL YOU CAN

  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.

Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.

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What Is It? The Wesley Quadrilateral…

English:

Image via Wikipedia

The Wesley quadrilateral is a method of exploring and understanding God. John Wesley adopted and adapted three of these position from the Church of England (Scripture, Reason, and Tradition), and he added Experience to form the quadrilateral.

Scripture

John Wesley believed as I do, that Scripture must be primary among the other sources.  Wesley believed that the Scriptures were the infallible word of God, and to him this meant that the Bible will not fail in life, faith, and practice.  I believe that Scripture provides all things necessary that one is to know for salvation, and that it is the primary source and authority for our faith.  Nothing can override the primacy of God that is revealed in Scriptures, thus the Bible is used to judge all other positions.

While Wesley believed in the infalliblilty of Scriptures, that does not mean that we as United Methodist believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.  As one is reading Scriptures, he/she must keep in mind that the writers were influenced by their culture and traditions.  As we read Scripture, we must look beyond the cultural differences and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in the discernment of what God is communicating to us. We must also be careful not to isolate passages but to base our doctrine and beliefs on Scripture as a whole.  Taking individual passages out of context has led to doctrines such as predestination and women being subservient to men.  Throughout Scripture it is found that God’s grace is available to all and not just a select few.

Tradition

Tradition is those beliefs, practices, and customs that the Church has passed down over the centuries.  We don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” of Christianity.  Tradition affirms and places value in past works through which God’s work and action is seen.   It is through the traditions that we have the hymns, creeds, and liturgy that add to the value of our faith.

I found through my experiences with contemporary worship that people who have not been to church in years oftentimes will feel a strong attachment to an old hymn.  It might connect them to their childhood, a memory, or some sort of familiarity they have with God.  We may sing it in a different way or use different instruments, but the words and meaning transcend the ages and continue to minister.

Tradition is and should be held in high regard by the Church, but it should never contradict or supercede Scripture.  It also should never hold us back from growing closer to God.  I once heard the seven deadliest words to a church are, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Yet, these words are implied/said when using a different type of musical instrument is rejected.  Those words are said when new ways of reaching people are discarded because “it’s never been done that way.” God uses people each and every day, and God will use people in the future to create new traditions that will continue sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ with the world.

Reason

Reason is the means by which Scripture and Tradition can be examined and understood by a thoughtful person.   It is through reason that we ask good questions and seek to gain the understanding of God’s will for our lives.  My United Methodist Theology and Doctrine professor in seminary described reason in this way: “God gave you a brain and wants you to use it.  It is through reason that we can study and interpret the Scriptures, we can ask and search for answers to questions of faith, and we can discern where God is calling us.”

Experience

John Wesley added Experience to the Anglican trilogy of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.  The experiences we have in our everyday lives interact with our reading of Scripture.  We read Scripture through the lens of our own personal life experiences.  If one is in the midst of a struggle or oppression, he/she will read the Scripture through the lens of someone in need of freedom and release.  I have seen this through a woman who was living in an abusive marital situation.  She would cling to the hope of freedom found in her Bible about how God delivers His people from oppression.  Her life experiences played a large role in her reading of Scripture and understanding of God.  Our personal experiences allow us to find and apply Scriptural truths in our real-life situations.

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Almost Christian…

Stripped image of John Wesley

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I preached from John Wesley‘s sermon he preached in 1741 entitled Almost Christian.  Here is an outline of Mr. Wesley’s sermon that gives the main points of the sermon.

Summary:  The theme for this sermon is the difference between nominal and absolute Christianity.  He draws a distinction between those who exhibit outward godliness yet do not have an inward godliness.  Thus are hypocrites.  Even though Wesley would later waver on his evaluation of “Almost Christian”, his theology on salvation by faith grounded in love is very evident.

Introduction:  There have been many throughout history that have been almost persuaded to become a Christian.  However, it is not enough to be almost, one must go all the way.

  1. The Almost Christian
    1. Even the heathens have a social order of acceptability of what is right.
    2. People without spiritual enlightenment realize there is an obligation to truth and justice
    3. Even those who have no knowledge of the Bible are willing to love and help others.
    4. The “Almost Christian” looks godly on the outside and…
      1. Does nothing forbidden in the Gospels.
      2. Does not swear
      3. Does not “profane” the day of the Lord
      4. Does not commit adultery
      5. Abstains from wine and strife
      6. Works for the profit of many to help some.
      7. Uses the means of grace.
        1. Goes to church humbly
        2. Behave in serious manner and praises God during worship.
        3. Reverent at the Lords Table
    5. Prays to God
    6. Has the outward godliness to escape retribution.  A hypocrite
    7. One must have a true commitment to serve God and do his will.
    8. It is possible to have a true commitment to serve God and zealously do his will and still be an “Almost Christian.”
    9. St. Paul and being “Almost Christian.”
    10. “All this time, I was only an “Almost Christian.”
      1. The Altogether Christian
        1. Has a love for God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.
        2. Has a love for others as Christ loved.
        3. Has faith, which is the ground of all.
        4. Don’t be deceived.
          1.  Faith that does not produce repentance, love, and good works is not living faith.
    11. The altogether Christian places their faith in the merits and salvation of Jesus Christ.
    12. Those who believe that Christ is sufficient is an altogether Christian
    13. Ask yourself if you are an altogether Christian
  2. Do I have an outward appearance of godliness
  3. Do I do those things only to please God.
  4. Are you an Almost Christian or have you come that far?
  5. Even if you have plans to become an Altogether Christian, unless there is action it is no good.
  6. God is in our presence and unless we have faith in and a love for him, it would be better if we had not been born.
  7. Let’s move forward from being just Almost Christians to Altogether Christians.  It’s possible through Jesus Christ.
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The Sacrament of Holy Communion

The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are crucial means of grace, or vehicles, that God uses to reach humanity.  They are channels by which the grace and love of God flows, and it is through them that we can receive prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.  They are outward and visible signs of an inward, invisible grace.

The sacrament of Holy Communion confirms the justification of our sins through the action of Christ.  It also refreshes and strengthens our souls as Wesley described in “The Duty of Constant Communion.”  The Christian life is not an easy journey, and there are temptations and stumbling blocks along the way.  As with our physical life, which requires proper nutritional sustenance in order to grow, our spiritual life also requires sustenance, which is found in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We obtain our strength from this sacrament, and it is the “food of our soul.”  Holy Communion is a remembrance, a commemoration, and a memorial, but it is more than just a simple intellectual recalling.  It is a representation of past gracious acts of God in an action that makes them present today.  Jesus Christ is risen from the grave and alive in the here and now.

Last summer my wife and I directed a Senior High Camp at Sumatanga.  One night during the week, Holy Communion was included in the worship service, and I witnessed the power and significance of the sacrament in a wonderful way. A young man, who was a junior in high school,  had become a very popular youth in the camp and was a guy whom everyone just seemed to like and looked up to.  During the Communion portion of the service, everyone was invited to stay at the altar and pray as long as needed.  I noticed that young man was staying for an extended time, and then I noticed his shoulders quivering from crying.  I went over and asked him if I could pray with him, and he just grabbed hold of my hands.  Without my saying a word, he started telling me that he was not worthy of what Christ had done for him and that he was not living the life that God was calling him to live.  Through tears we prayed together.  He asked God for forgiveness and the strength to live the life that God had called him to live.  Through the sacrament of Communion, God reached out to Frank (Not his real name) and confirmed the justification of sin through Christ and conveyed a grace that went straight to the heart of this young man.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Holy Communion, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hold Yourself Accountable (Wesley Style)

Signature of John Wesley, founder of Methodism

Image via Wikipedia

I was doing some research today and I ran across these questions that are similar to the ones that John Wesley gave to the members of his discipleship groups. This was over 200 years ago and they are still good questions for Christians to ask themselves today.

I challenge you to make these questions a daily part of your spiritual journey.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  3. Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?
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Benefits of Holy Communion

Holy Communion is a holy mystery that we don’t understand fully and probably will not fully comprehend until we feast at the heavenly table.  Here is a writing from John Wesley that does help to give us a better understanding:

“Christians should take the Lord’s supper as often as possible because of the great benefits.  For example, forgiveness of our past sins and the present strengthening and refreshing of our souls.  In this world we never free ourselves from temptation.  Whatever way of life we walk, whatever our condition, whether sick or well, in trouble or at ease, the enemies of our souls watch for an opportunity to lead us into sin. Too often those enemies win.

Now, when we know we have sinned against God, what surer way do we have of pardon than showing we believe in the power of our Lord’s death, beseeching him because of his sufferings to blot out all our sins.” (Wesley’s sermon, “The Duty of Constant Communion. 1787)

Categories: John Wesley | 2 Comments

Devout and Holy Life

 

Rev John Hill and John Wesley at St. Pauls in London

 

The following is an article written by and used with permission from Ted Leach.  Enjoy, I did.

Somewhere along the way a simple idea became a doctrinal bone of contention.  There was a man named William Law (1686-1761) who wrote a book entitled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.  That book was formative for a slightly younger British cleric named John Wesley (1703-1791).  These two men were part of a movement that changed Great Britain for the better.  Their focus was simple:  as followers of Jesus Christ, seek to live a holy life.

John Wesley preached a fairly simple message, but it was a deep message that impacted the whole range of human existence.  Wesley believed every aspect of life was subject to the powerful scrutiny and the transforming grace of the Gospel.   His primary interest was in developing a sense of unity around the essence of Christianity and the core values of the church:  “If your heart is as my heart, then give me your hand.”   Wesley was thoroughly Protestant but he appreciated the faith of devout Roman Catholics.   He respected those who differed with him theologically, such as George Whitefield.  His deep commitment to the basics of Christianity and a strong (post-Aldersgate) sense of assurance gave him a self-confidence that enabled him to embrace people across a wide range of Christian experience and expression.   The Methodist movement became a rather large, inclusive tent.  Wesley encouraged people to “think and let think” regarding non-essential applications of the faith.

After John Wesley’s death, his spiritual descendants echoed his message while adding their own flavor.  Different and sometimes conflicting themes emerged in the Wesleyan community in the century after Wesley.  Doctrinal differences emerged around the definition of a holy life.  Some held to strict “dos” and “don’ts,” seeing outward behavior as the true measure of a holy life, while others were more accommodating to the changing values of the broader culture.   Some were more literal in their interpretation of scripture while others interpreted scripture in light of an emerging “historical criticism.”  Some preached a definitive “second work of grace,” a transformative event of the Holy Spirit that brings entire sanctification, while others focused on the gradual work of the Holy Spirit over one’s lifetime.  Wesley’s spiritual descendants began to populate various denominations in the holiness tradition such as the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan Church.  Some joined the ranks of Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God and the Assemblies of God.

These denominations, along with those that continued to use some form of the name “Methodist,” all share a common heritage:  to strive for holiness of heart and life.  Wesleyan people are future-focused and goal-oriented.   We believe God isn’t through with us yet.  Wesleyan people are “going on to perfection.”  We expect to “be made perfect in love in this life.”  United Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics may express holiness of heart and life in different ways.  In the late 19th century and the 20th century, these groups often defined themselves apart from, or in contrast to, one another.   Perhaps in the 21st century, we will have more dialogue about the faith roots we share.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bible

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven…God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven.  He hath written it down in a book.  O give me that book!  At any price, give me the book of God!”  John Wesley

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Entrance

“Give admittance to Christ and Deny entrance to all others.”  John Wesley

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Almost Christian

I’m using a sermon by John Wesley in my sermon on August 29 entitled “The Almost Christian.”  It can be read in its entirety by clicking HERE.

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Money

MAKE all you can, SAVE all you can, GIVE all you can.”  John Wesley

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Don’t Talk Too Much

The other day, Jackson and I were riding around and he said something.  I don’t even remember what he said, but he quickly followed it up by saying, “That didn’t make any sense.”  Jack is a lot like me in that he thinks about what he is saying as it’s coming out of his mouth and then it’s too late to take it back.  I told him one of my rules is, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.  We had a pretty good laugh at that one.

I’ve been reading a good bit of John Wesley lately and this is what he says, “Leave the tumult of the world as much as you can because we can quickly get defiled and taken in by vanity.  I wish I had often held my tongue and not sat about talking.

Why do we like conversations so much when, after it’s all over, we go off by ourselves and suffer a hurt conscience?

We love talking about what we like most and what we desire; we enjoy talking about what troubles us, too.  But often such talk proves superficial and serves no good purpose, and we discover that the comfort we get goes only skin-deep.

Therefore, measure your words by prayer or you spend your time idly.  When you really ought to speak, talk about what builds up.  Devout conversation on spiritual subjects furthers our spiritual growth a great deal, especially if you talk with like-minded people bonded to God.”

Categories: Faith Journey, John Personal, John Wesley | 1 Comment

Imitate Christ

“Christ said that if we follow him we won’t walk in darkness.  Here he tells us to imitate him if we want to live as he did and behave as he did.  If we do that we will know true enlightenment and be delivered from all blindness of heart.”  John Wesley’s edition of Thomas a Kempis’ The Christian Pattern, 1746

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Leadership Rule 4

The Person You Will Be in 5 Years is Greatly Determined by the People You Hang With, The Books You Read, and What You Watch on TV.

There are 3 main aspects to Wesleyan Theology:  1.  Prevenient Grace 2. Justifying Grace and 3 Sanctifying Grace. In very simple terms, Prevenient Grace is the grace that comes before.  God loves us even before we know/acknowledge there is a God.  This is the basis behind why Methodist baptize infants. We believe that God’s grace extends even to infants who have no idea about God.  Justifying Grace is when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior through His death and resurrection.  And Sanctifying Grace is the grace that God gives so that we can become more like Christ.  Through God’s Sanctifying Grace, we are able to move closer to Christian perfection.

All of that to say that in our life, we are always changing and in 5 years, we will be different than we are today.  No one stays the same.  Through the trials of life, the celebrations, the tragedy’s, we change.  Our goal as Christians is to become more like Christ and one of the tools that God has given us is other Christians.  In fact, the people who we hang out with are going to have an impact on our lives (either positive or negative).

My mom always told me about “Trouble Street” and people who are going to get in trouble hang out with each other on “Trouble Street.”  If I hung out on “Trouble Street”, then I too would get in trouble.  Even if I tried not to because the people I hang out with have an influence on me.  So, who you hang out with has an incredible impact on who you will be in 5 years.  I am part of and encourage others to be a part of an accountability group.  Being a part of a group like this will help you grow in the direction you choose to grow into.  If you choose to grow as a Christian, part of that growth is going to involve other Christians.  It’s really simple, if you want to become a better business man, you hang out with other successful businessmen; want to be the best crab fisherman, sign up to work on the Cornelia Marie (I’m watching Deadliest Catch right now); but if you want to grow as a Christian, you need to find a Christian mentor and learn from that person.

Almost as important as who you hang with is what you put into your mind.  I used to just use books you read, but a youth at Latham UMC (Melissa N.) suggested that I add what we watch on TV.  She was right, what we watch on TV has a huge impact and some of the garbage on TV is sad.  (I apologize if I mention you’re favorite show) Desperate Housewives, Rock of Love, The Real World, Dr. Drew, Jerry Springer, Intervention and countless others.  This stuff can’t be good to put in our minds.  Watch enough of it and it blurs our morality.  Things that are not OK become OK, things that are not ethical become something that we can turn our heads to.  It’s dangerous and scary.

I’ve always love to read and I believe with all my heart that it is so important to read.  Wesley was an avid reader.  Some of my favorite are books that improve yourself.  I love to read John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Wayne Corderio, Zig Zigler, Bishop Willimon and others.  I have just been re-introduced to reading some fiction and I love to read Ernest Hemingway.

This rule is based on one thing:  We are growing (we can’t get away from it except through death) and we have a choice in the direction we grow.  That direction is dictated by those who we are friends with and the stuff we put into our mind.

Just think about it.

Categories: Faith Journey, John Wesley, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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