What are we to do with the children? Teach Them Intentionally

Deuteronomy 11:16-21

I grew up a half mile from Harsh Memorial United Methodist Church. My siblings and I would walk to the church for activities. Sometimes we would walk home after worship services. When we would be at church, our neighbors in the community would be teaching us songs about God and Jesus. Our neighbors would teach us stories from the Bible. We would be in the sanctuary with our neighbors to hear the pastor do some preaching.

As I have visited my home church over the years, some of the same people are teaching the children’s Sunday School classes. There are still children in the community who are going to Harsh Memorial to sing to, read about, and to get to know God. Generations of children have come and gone through that church. There have even been times when I was visiting my parents that I have been able to catch up with some of the old neighborhood kids.

As we look around and realize the number of children who have been through this building, we praise God we were able to teach them about Jesus. There have been good Sunday School classes. We shared our love for Jesus with the children during Vacation Bible School. We have been intentional about teaching the children about Jesus. Now, we can continue to be intentional in teaching the children about Jesus.

For us to be intentional about teaching the children, we continue to learn about faith in God. Then as we continue to learn as Christians, we can continue to teach the children about faith in God. It is when we stop learning as Christians, or as parents, that we fail to grow in our own faith, let alone be able to teach the children intentionally.

How do we continue to learn as Christians? We figure out where we are. We figure out the stuff from God we need to know. We discover the reason we are doing this work of intentionally teaching the children.

A. Where are we? (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
+++1. Moses has come down from the mountain with the 2nd set of tablets (10:1-11)
+++2.The Israelites are discovering freedom in following God
+++3. We too know freedom in following God
+++4. We are here today because of the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit
+++5. God has brought us to this place, this time in our lives
+++6. We need to be aware that we could be seduced into following other gods!
+++7. We got to this place, this time because God reached into this world and pulled us out the mud. Maybe someone was praying for you. Ila Robinson prayed for me as a child. She even told me that I would someday be in the white house – Harsh Memorial’s parsonage at that time was a white house! Maybe someone invited you to meet Jesus. Maybe someone told you about the cute girl/handsome boy at the church. However you got here, God has been working in your life. We have been growing in grace ever since we got here, to this place in time. What a blessing we have received!

B. What, then, are we to teach? (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
+++1. We have learned the words of the Lord
+++2. We have learned about God’s love for us – choosing to get us away from sin
+++3. We spend time pondering, studying, and living the words of the Lord
+++4. Teach the words of the Lord to the children – when we are home & away
+++5. We get to teach the children. Yes, I know some of us have no children. Yes, I know some of us have children and grandchildren who are not living in the community. But, there are still children in our community. Is there a desire in our hearts and souls to learn the words of the Lord? Is there a desire in our hearts and souls to keep on following Jesus to the end of our days? Then there will be a desire in our hearts and souls to make sure the children are taught about Jesus Christ. We realize that all of the children in our community need Jesus as much as we need Jesus. It is a matter of our faith being lived as teach what we know about Jesus Christ.

C. For what reason are we doing this work? (Deuteronomy 11:20-21)
+++1. The signs on our doorposts and gates remind us of how good God has been
+++2. When we live the words of God, then the children get to know why we have signs on our doorposts and gates
+++3. The children also get to have a hope that this world cannot give them
+++4. God has promised his kingdom to those who follow Jesus Christ
+++5. We want to live as Jesus’ followers today
+++6. We want the children to live as Jesus’ followers, today
+++7. We are doing this work of intentionally teaching the children so they may live in the land the Lord has sworn to give Jesus’ followers. We want our children in the community to know God. We want them to know the same thing we have been taught. We want them to know the hope we have for this life and the life to come.

We are here because God has brought us here. Someone taught us about Jesus Christ. Somehow we came to believe in Jesus Christ.

We are here learning about the good God has for us in Jesus Christ. We get to teach the children what we have learned about God. We get to help the children to live as we teach them about Jesus Christ.

We want the children to live long in the land the Lord is giving us. Somebody had that desire for us. Now, it is our turn to have that desire for the children of our community. Let us spend this week praying for God to show us a child to teach. Write down in your bulletin a child’s name that God is placing on your heart to teach. Write down a child’s name that God is saying you are to teach them about the word of the Lord. My neighbors taught me. Which children are we to be teaching?

What do United Methodist Christians believe? Public Worship and Sabbath

Genesis 2:1-3   Malachi 3:1-7

God is good. There is nothing better for us to acknowledge than that as our community begins a new school year. When we believe God is good, we can face anything that happens. If we haven’t learned that God is good, then I hope we turn to God so we can find how good God is.

We United Methodist Christians believe public worship of God is a necessity of our lives. For all people to come before God in order to honor God has no equal. We get to hear sermons that lift up the name of Jesus. We get to see people baptized as God is changing people. We get to take Communion so we may be strengthened in our faith. We believe public worship is our duty and privilege.

We United Methodist Christians believe the Sabbath is time for us to devote to God. When we stop our work, we can hear from God and actually speak with our neighbors! We find encouragement to face difficulties in life when we spend time with other Christians. It is a natural fit for public worship and the Sabbath to be on the same day of the week. We can’t do school work all the time. We can’t do our work all the time. We can take a day to connect with God and with each other.

The ideas of Public Worship and Sabbath didn’t originate with us. Public Worship and Sabbath came from God. He knows we need time to refocus our lives. God knows we need him. God knows we need a time together so we can accomplish much in our community.

A. God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3)
+++1. God had spent 6 days creating the universe, Earth, plants, animals & humans
+++2. Whatever needed to be tidied up, God did on the 7th day
+++3. Then God rested
+++4. God made the seventh day holy – we pay attention to this idea!
+++5. We have heard much about how this world was made. We have heard about the theory of evolution. We have heard about the big bang. All I know is I did not create the universe! I am awe of the One who did create the universe! Yet, as we live our lives, we do get to the point of being busy. We start focusing on ourselves. All of us humans have done this in our lives. What can we do to remember to keep the Sabbath holy?

B. Return to the Lord and His ways (Malachi 3:1-7)
+++1. Years after the Creation, a messenger of God (Malachi) told Israel to turn to the Lord
+++2. The messenger will say the Lord is coming
++===+a. Refiner’s fire – get rid of all the dross in our lives
++===+b. Fuller’s soap – make us pure
+++3. The Lord is bringing judgment to the world
+++4. Before God comes to bring judgment, we can turn to him
+++5. That is why the church is here – to improve the character of our community
+++6. We are not judging our community, we want our community to be ready for when the Lord will come. To those within the church and community we say:
+===++a. Sorcerers – turn to the Lord
++===+b. Adulterers – turn to the Lord
++===+c. Those who swear falsely – turn to the Lord
+===++d. Those who oppress the their workers – turn to the Lord
+===++e. Those who oppress widows and orphans – turn to the Lord
++===+f. Those who thrust aside the aliens – turn to the Lord
++===+g. Those who do not fear the Lord – turn to him!
+++7. Through Public Worship and the Sabbath, we have time to turn to the Lord. God has a witness against those within the church and the community. His ways have not changed. But we have turned away from the ways of God. We can still turn to the Lord, even today. We can stop doing things our ways and we can start living holy lives.

We had the children come up front with their backpacks. We prayed for them to have a good year at school. They were willing to be prayed over. Now, I am asking all who desire to turn to the Lord to come forward. Whatever you are turning from, God is willing to turn to you. We will pray that as God cleans and purifies you, our community’s welfare will improve.

The Lord wants us to turn to him. The Lord enjoys when we live the way that the Lord is living. We know Jesus, the Son of God, came to bring forgiveness to us. Since Jesus has come to earth to show us the love of God, isn’t it about time we turn to God?

We United Methodist Christians believe all people can turn to the Lord. Through the Public Worship of God we know God can get people’s attention through the singing of hymns and the reading of the Bible. Through keeping a day of rest, the Sabbath, we believe we can connect with God. However you got to be here this morning, won’t you turn to the Lord?

What are we to do with the children?

I picked up book at our at our most recent Annual Conference.  As books do sometimes, they get us to think.  That is what happened to me!  My prayer is that as we teach the children about Jesus Christ, they get to see us live our faith in Jesus Christ!  I want to thank Christopher Miles Ritter who wrote Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids.  There is no better time than the present to teach the children, as many children as possible, all children, about Jesus Christ.

We all know some children.  There are children in our own homes.  There are children in our adult children’s homes.  There are children next door.  There are children down the road from us and from our churches.  These creations of God need to hear and see about Jesus Christ.  We are the people for the job.

Over the next two months, we will have a sermon series called, “What are we to do with the children?”  There is going to be much praying happening as we discover all the good God has for us to pass onto the children!

The sermon titles come directly from the chapter titles of Rev. Dr. Ritter’s book.

August 13th “Teach Them Intentionally” Deuteronomy 11:16-21

August 20th “Know Them Personally” Matthew 19:13-15

August 27th “Pray For Them Intensely” Zechariah 3:1-10

September 3rd “Mentor Families Meaningfully” Philippians 4:9-13

September 17th “Challenge Lives Continually” Matthew 4:18-22

September 24th “Shape Our Ministries Appropriately” Acts 2:37-42

October 1st “Care For Them Practically” Luke 19:39-44

What do United Methodist Christians believe? Sacraments

Matthew 26:26-30 Acts 2:37-42

You have decided to follow Jesus. What activities do you do to express your faith in Jesus and to grow in your faith in Jesus? There are two activities in which to participate. The first activity is to get baptized. This activity is done only once in a lifetime. The second activity is to take Holy Communion. This activity is done often throughout your life.

In the United Methodist Church, we call these activities “sacraments.” We understand “sacraments” to be an outward and visible sign of the grace of God working in us. These activities are given to us by God so that we may live our faith in Jesus Christ. We call the baptism, “Holy Baptism.” For by being baptized we are being claimed by God, we receive forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes upon us as a sign of our new life. We call it Holy Communion because it is a reminder that we become holy by the body and blood of Jesus Christ offered upon the cross.

These sacraments are commands of Jesus which help us live the rest of his commands. At the last Supper, Jesus told his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood. This command is the reason we have the sacrament of Holy Communion. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told the disciples to make disciples and to baptize them. This command is the reason we have the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

A. Why do we get baptized? (Acts 2:37-42)
+++1. Peter preached about Jesus Christ
+++2. The crowd wanted to know what to do
+++3. Peter’s response
++===+a. Repent
++===+b. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (the Father, & Holy Spirit)
+======++– Even infants can be baptized!
++======+– It is right for infants to be baptized – they need Jesus
++======+– We have the responsibility to teach the infants and adults about living a baptized life
++===+c. Promise – for you, your children, & all who God calls to him
++======+– We cannot keep God’s promises from anyone
++======+– We can live as forgiven, Holy Spirit-filled people
+++4. Baptism is needed so we can publicly acknowledge God’s work in our lives. Our being changed from living as sinners to living as believers takes place because of God’s grace working in us. The transformation which takes place when we realize God has forgiven us in Christ is powerful. Being washed by God in a public setting is the way to express this transformation. Since baptism is a sign of God working in us, we only get baptized once in our lifetime. We spend the rest of our lives understanding what it means to belong to God. This is where our second sacrament helps us.

B. Why do we receive Holy Communion often? (Matthew 26:26-30)
+++1. Jesus was doing the final steps of preparing his disciples for his death
+++2. Jesus was focused on obeying His Father
++===+– His command to us is to be obeyed
++===+– We actually repent of our sins since the last time we received Jesus’ body and blood
++===+– We forgive those who have sinned against us so we may know forgiveness
++===+3. Two parts
+===++– Bread – broken as Jesus’ body was in his death
+===++– Cup/wine – poured out as Jesus’ blood was poured at his death
+++4. Jesus will share this meal with us when his Father’s kingdom arrives fully
+++5. Paul encourages us to receive Holy Communion often so each of us may proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
+++6. We receive Holy Communion often so we can continually remember Jesus’ death for us. We receive Holy Communion often so we can recognize Christ’s body among us. We receive Holy Communion often so we can be prepared for the next thing in life. We receive the bread and the cup so we can remain humble before God. We receive the bread and the cup so we can be aware of how much grace God has for us. We receive the bread and the cup so we can be obedient to Jesus.

God is working in this world. God is bringing people to repentance. God is calling people to himself. As we live our baptism, we are showing God to the world. As we obey Jesus, we are telling the world about Jesus.

When we see God working in our lives, we get baptized. We place our faith in God in a public washing. To continue to live as baptized people of God we receive Holy Communion. We take Jesus’ body and blood into ourselves so we live holy lives.

God’s grace is working in us invisibly. It is through the sacraments of Holy baptism and Holy communion that God’s work comes to the surface of our lives. Then people can see what God is doing in us.

Children and the Church

Dear Friends,

In a few days, Ben will start school. It will be his junior year. Wow! It will be the second to last time that he will have a first day of high school. This transition gets me to thinking about what I have left to teach him before he goes out into the world. With just under two calendar years till he graduates, there is not much time left.

By now he has heard about my faith in Jesus. By now he has seen my faith in Jesus. By now he has learned to be polite to people. By now he has been in a worship service enough times to know how to handle himself. By now Ben has grown to see the joy and wonder of being part of a church.

Are there still areas of my faith that will help Ben grow in following Jesus? Are there still words to say to strengthen his faith? Are there still ways to show Ben how faith is lived each day? Are there opportunities still were Ben can see faith at work in the community?

Yet, I realize I am not the only father to ask these questions. Other fathers and mothers may even be asking these questions. Even some grandfathers and grandmothers may be asking these questions. It may be that our congregation can be asking questions as we raise children and youth to know Jesus Christ. Though the questions our congregation asks itself may be a bit different.

How long do we have the children and youth among us? Will they return to this church or any church after they get out on their own? How have we been showing them our faith in Jesus? Have we shown them how to forgive and love each other? Have we shown them how to encourage each other? How we shown them how to surrender to the Holy Spirit? Have we shown them how to care for the widows and orphans? Have we shown them how to be present in worship? Have we shown them how to give to God and His work?

Too many times I have heard the statement, “Children are the future of the church.” I disagree with this statement. I think it needs to be stated this way: “Children help us to be the church today.” We cannot wait to show the children and youth our faith. They need to see our faith working in love even today!

I have a few more lessons for Ben when it comes to faith in Jesus. We have a few more lessons to teach our children and youth when it comes to faith in Jesus. As we teach them, may they find us as I hope to be seen by Ben.

In Christ’s Service,
John

 

What do United Methodist Christians believe? Judgment and the Future State

Daniel 12:1-4

“Flee from the wrath to come.”

That was the primary message of John Wesley as he started his field preaching. It was a good message for the people of 18th Century England. It is also a good message for the people of 21st Century America. It goes right along with Jesus’ message when he started his ministry: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

We think we are good people. This idea does not go far enough. We are not saved from our sin just so we can be good. For we have people in this world who say they are just as good as anyone else. So, we are just as good as anyone else. For we do not admit how evil we are. When we compare ourselves to others, we are just as good. But when we compare ourselves to Jesus, then we are not just as good.

Because of our disobedience toward God, we will have to suffer his wrath. God knows we were designed to be with him for all time. It has taken Jesus dying on the cross for us to realize how much it cost God to deliver us from sin. For us to get pass the wrath that is to come, we live the righteousness of God. In other words, we are free from sin and we learn to live the way God lives. This prepares us for the judgment and the future state.

A. Great anguish is coming, but God provides for his people (12:1-2)
+++1. Michael – the protector of the people of Israel
+++2. Time of anguish – the hardest time
+++3. Daniel’s people will be delivered – because their names are written in the book
+++4. Two possibilities at the end
+++===a. Awake to everlasting life (Eternal life)
+===++b. Awake to everlasting contempt (Endless condemnation)
+++5. This ancient prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. So we have time. We can repent of our sins. We can know how to get through times of anguish. We can persevere in Christ so as to receive eternal life
+===++a. Yet, some don’t go beyond repenting
+===++b. Yet, some fall back into sin
++===+c. Yet, some won’t even repent, ever
+++6. As God’s grace is making us holy, we continue to believe in Jesus
+++7. As God’s grace is making us holy, we start to look and act like Jesus
+++8. This is the time and place to become holy. There is no place after death were we wait for the day of Judgment and are made holy. This is how some describe Purgatory. Our decisions now, here on earth, affect our eternity. We can live the righteousness of God, even now. But it doesn’t stop there for us. How many others will be living the righteousness of God because of us?

B. Our living like Jesus is seen by others! (12:3)
+++1. Let’s be wise about this idea – people see how we follow Jesus
+++2. When we follow Jesus, other people will want to follow Jesus
+++3. We will want to lead others to follow Jesus!
+++4. In our living, our talking, we lead others to follow Jesus
+++5. It is not judgmental for us to point out Jesus to other people
+++6. We know the joy, the love, and the grace of God
+++7. We talk about the joy, the love, and the grace of God
+++8. Since we know we have the hope of being raised to eternal life, we encourage other people to have this same hope. We know the righteousness of God, so we let other people know they too can know the righteousness of God. Much like we help our children to get ready for a trip, we help other people to get ready for a trip. As our children grow up, they learn to get ready for a trip. Soon they learn to help their children to get ready for a trip. We help our family, our neighbors, our co-workers get ready for everlasting life. Yet, there will be opposition.

C. Evil is going to increase, but we will be ready for the end (12:4)
+++1. Until the End comes, evil is going to increase
+++2. Daniel was to hold onto the book until the time of the End
+++3. We hold onto the practices of the Church until the time of the End
+++4. We celebrate Holy Communion until Jesus Christ returns
+++5. With evil increasing, we do the righteous thing and hold onto Jesus
+++6. It is by holding to the ways of Jesus during times of evil that we help each other get ready for the End. Evil will increase, but that doesn’t mean we stop trusting, hoping, and believing in Jesus. We keep ourselves open to God’s grace by going to worship, reading our Bibles, praying, and receiving Holy Communion.

Yes, there is a day of judgment coming. Some of us will receive eternal life. Some of us will receive eternal condemnation. God doesn’t want us to be condemned endlessly. We don’t want people to be condemned endlessly.

The grace of God has gotten hold of us. We know the good God has for us. We know the comfort, the protection, and the future God has for us as we follow Jesus. We know our lives can be more holy, more righteous than they are right now. So we decide to keep on following Jesus.

We want to be ready for the End. We want our family and friends to be ready for the End. As we live our lives in Christ, let us speak about the good God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Surely a few of us can shine like the stars at the End. Surely a few of us can lead many to righteousness.

What do United Methodist Christians believe? Sanctification & Christian Perfection

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Kudzu is nasty stuff. It will grow and cover everything in its path. I’ve seen trees, fence lines, and power poles just swamped with kudzu. Abandoned houses, wrecked cars, and warehouses can be covered up by kudzu. It takes much work to get kudzu plants eradicated from an area. Sprays will not work. Mowing just keeps the plant trimmed back from an area.

The only way to get rid of kudzu is to dig down to a root crown. Then, using a pick axe or shovel, you have to cut below the root crown and take it out of the ground. Knowing that there will be several root crowns among the kudzu, totally removing the kudzu is difficult work.

But it is not impossible. When kudzu is removed, the land looks better with trees and grass growing. The land becomes useful once again. The homeowner will be happy to see a nearly pristine landscape when all of the kudzu is gone. The neighbors will actually like it as well!

Sin is like kudzu. Sin gets so overwhelming that it covers everything in our lives. Our relationships with each other are hurt because of sin. Our sense of self-worth is strangled by the dominance of sin. Our hope for a good future is darkened by sin.

Then we meet Jesus.

As God has invited to life with him in his household, we respond by repenting of our sins. The faith of Jesus Christ justifies us before God and we are welcome into God’s house, his kingdom. Sins are forgiven. Now starts the process of being cleansed thoroughly from sin. The church helps us stay focused on the work God is doing in our lives. God is the one who makes us holy as He is holy. How does this work itself out?

A. We help discover the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (5:12-22)
+++1. We thank God for those who train our morals in the church
+++2. We seek to do good to one another and to all
+++3. What can we do to discover the will of God?
++===+a. Rejoice always
+===++b. Pray without ceasing
+===++c. Give thanks in all circumstances
+++4. What do we avoid doing in discovering the will of God?
++===+a. Do not quench the Spirit
+++===b. Do not despise prophecies (or prophets)
++===+c. Abstain from every evil
+++5. God has brought us together. It is as we are church together that we are able to be ready for God to work in us. It seems these are the means that God can use to make us holy. God doesn’t want us to suffer wrath for our sins, our rebellion against him. God wants us to have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. God wants us to have freedom from sin. God wants us to be free in Christ so as to be holy, perfect. How does God do this work?

B. God makes us holy (5:23-24)
+++1. The God of peace makes it so we have peace
+++2. God helps our spirit, soul, and body are sound and blameless
++===+a. Sound – Love for one another and for all
+===++b. Blameless – strengthens our hearts so we can be ready for Jesus’ coming
+++3. This perfecting grace does not grant us these items:
++===+a. Freedom from ignorance – we cannot know everything
+===++b. Freedom from mistakes – we will mess up
++===+c. Freedom from infirmities – our bodies will suffer from disease & such
++===+d. Freedom from temptation – But we won’t be controlled by sin anymore
+++4. God has brought us together, this thing we call church. As part of the church we find encouragement and nurturing to grow as followers of Jesus. God uses this encouragement and nurturing to prepare us to be holy, to be perfect. God wants us to be with him for all time. So God is going to do what he needs to do so that we will be with him. This is called grace, for we are unable to be with God through our own ability.

I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard Christians say,” Well, I can’t be perfect.”

That is correct. Apart from God, no one can be perfect. Apart from Jesus and the church, no one can be perfect. We can be holy as we live the faith we have in Jesus Christ. For it is by this faith that God is able to transform us completely to be like him.

We have the household of God to correct us, to encourage us in our faith. God uses our love for one another to show us how good his love is for us. God shows us his love even as we love those outside the church. For if God can love us, who were once outside the church, then surely God is still loving people outside the church so they too can know Jesus Christ.

Life is so much better without kudzu messing up the landscape. Life is so much better without kudzu choking life out of the area. Life is so much better without sin messing up our lives. Life is so much better without sin choking our life out of us. With God all things are possible. God can even work to make us holy.

Kudzu isn’t rooted out quickly. It may take us a while to be made holy. God will do this, he will make us sanctified.