February 26, 2016

“Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’" 1 Peter 1:16

 

Holy! What does it mean to be Holy? Simply put, to be holy means to be set apart. Scripture is full of a variety of people and objects that were made holy. They were set apart for a specific and special purpose. Ultimately, the term holy points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from all of creation. The Creator is holy and set apart from all that has been created. Theologians and philosophers refer to God as the “holy other” and also the “wholly other” that is set apart from creation. This is who God is.

 

Then how are we to apply this verse in 1 Peter that we are to be “holy, as (God) is holy?” A secondary understanding of what it means to be holy is that God, as the holy other/Creator, will set apart someone or something for a special purpose. God, who is holy, sets apart believers for the purpose of spreading God’s love for humanity. We are set apart for the purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor. We are purposed, set apart, to be wholly devoted to sharing God’s love with the world in which we live and in which God created. We are able to do this because of God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ died to give us purity and freedom from sin. We strive to live in that freedom and share the hope that it brings to a broken world. We are a major part of God’s redemptive work in humanity. We are to be people who are set apart for the purposes of God.

 

So what does this set apartness look like? What does it look like to be holy? We need to look at Christ as the example of how to live a holy life. It means entering into the everyday places of life and bringing the light of God’s love. It means being set apart to go to people who are far from God, broken, battered, and bruised for the purpose of helping them experience God’s grace. It means loving your neighbor in any way you can and as often as you can. The call to be set apart is the call to love like Jesus loves. This is what it means to be holy.

 

The key to be holy is a longing to be holy. This Sunday we will be talking about the longing of John Wesley, and others in his day, to be holy. To be set apart that God might use them for God’s purposes. In the lines of the Wesley Covenant Prayer (written much later in his life), John Wesley expressed holiness this way, “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.” This should be the longing of our heart, to be holy as God is holy. See you in church this Sunday for more discussion on this topic.

 

February 19, 2016

 

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!" Revelation 2:4

 

When I was in fifth grade I experienced my first love. She was a very cute blond with a great smile, good sense of humor, and a kind heart. I thought the world of her and was in love. This first love carried over to the sixth grade, when people were starting to be boyfriend and girlfriend. I could never muster the nerve to ask her out. What if she said no! So my first love was never fully realized since we moved after my sixth grade year. I remember the feeling of my first love. It changed the way I understood my relationship to girls.

 

I remember my first love for Christ. The feeling I felt when I knew for certain that Jesus died and rose from the dead for me. I remember the overwhelming sense of Christ's great love for me, a sinner. I also remember vividly feeling that Christ loved me as I am. The type of love that showed me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made; a treasure. I was in love with Christ and everything was changed.

 

In the Scripture passage above, Christ is wanting his followers, at a certain church, to know they have forgotten their first love. At the beginning Christ was everything to them. Now they were an established church. There were people bringing different ideas into their community. They were drifting and falling away. They drifted so far away that the word Jesus says to send to them is that they don't love him, or others, like they first did. Their relationship with the One who changed everything is changing.

 

Jesus' reminder to the church is a reminder to us today as well. One of the precursors to revival in our life, and our community of faith, is to ask ourselves if we love Jesus the way we first did. Does our heart beat a little faster when we think of Jesus? Does our life reflect our love for Jesus? Are we following Jesus? Is our life radically different and does it reflect our passion for Christ? Have we lost our first love?

 

I hope you will join me this Sunday as we discuss the precursors to revival in our life and in our church. Come and worship your first love. See you in church.

February 12, 2016

 

This week we are starting a new sermon series entitled “Revival.” We’ll be using Adam Hamilton’s book "Revival" as a resource, and several of our groups will be offering the ability to follow and journey along with us as we examine the path John Wesley took on his way to reviving a nation.

 

I have my own hang-ups about the word “revival.” I experienced the wonder and the excitement and also the silver-tongued deception that can come along with “revivals.” I’ve been to the places where the Holy Spirit was being “poured out.” I went to a seminary known for the revival that happened on its campus. And now, now that I don’t have to deal with the idea, it is one that is easier to put up on the shelf. Deep down, if I’m honest, I can admit that I don’t like that word. To me, it smacks of judgment and saying that what I am doing is not enough – that what I am doing is dead or dying and needs to be revived. Revival literally means to bring back to life, after all. At the very least it implies to me that what I am and how I am is not good enough.

 

Then, Pastor Tim started preaching on 2 Chronicles 2:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, would humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” He asked us to start praying for revival. To pray twice a day for that at 7:14 a.m. and 7:14 p.m. I had to take that word, that idea, those experiences off the proverbial shelf and actually deal with them.

 

Do you know what I found? That when I humble myself, and pray, and seek God’s face, that I can see I really do need to be revived. I want more. More than what I’ve settled for. Don’t you? The best way I could think to sum this up and entice you to join us on Sunday was to share a Poem/Prayer with you from the book "Guerrillas of Grace" entitled Let Something Essential Happen to Me. I hope you enjoy it – but more than that, I hope you join in asking God to revive us once more that something essential could happen in us.

 

“O God,

let something essential happen to me,

something more than interesting

or entertaining,

or thoughtful.

 

O God,

let something essential happen to me,

something awesome,

something real.

Speak to my condition, Lord,

and change me somewhere inside where it matters,

a change that will burn and tremble and heal

and explode me into tears

or laughter

or love that throbs or screams

or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence

and dares the dangerous deeds.

Let something happen in me

which is my real self, God.

 

O God,

let something essential and passionate happen in me now.

Strip me of my illusions of self-sufficiency,

of my proud sophistications,

of my inflated assumptions of knowledge

O God,

let something essential and joyful happen in me now,

something like the blooming of hope and faith,

like a grateful heart,

like a surge of awareness of how precious each moment is,

that now, not next time,

now is the occasion

to take off my shoes,

to see every bush afire,

to leap and whirl with neighbor,

to gulp the air as sweet wine

until I’ve drunk enough

to dare to speak the tender word:

“Thank you”;

“I love you”;

“You’re beautiful”;

“Let’s live forever beginning now”;

and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”

 

Now, not next time, NOW is the occasion, the chance we have to ask, to beg God to do something essential in us. To ask God to revive us once more. To pray. To be humble. To seek his face so that we can find peace and salvation and restoration. I want to live, to truly live again in Christ. Don’t you? Do you want to be revived?

February 5, 2016

“23 For this is what the Lord himself said, and I pass it on to you just as I received it. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

 

Growing up I remember the tags on Christmas presents very well. In my house they were always the ones that had “To:” and “From:” printed on them. The person wrapping the gift would choose an appropriate sticker/tag and write who it was to and then who it was from. I absolutely loved those stickers when I was a kid. My love for them was not because it allowed for me to clearly identify to whom I was giving a gift. No! I loved those stickers because they clearly identified for me what gifts I would be receiving. I would go through each year and look at all the tags and count up how many were for me. I wanted to know exactly how many of those gifts would be given to me on Christmas morning.

 

It is a little ironic for me that the three words in the title of this article are words Jesus used when instituting this remembrance of himself in Holy Eucharist (Communion). Jesus said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Those three words have been prominent in my understanding of Holy Communion, since becoming a Christian. I love these three words. I understood from the beginning the incredible act of God’s grace revealed and evident in communion. This act of remembrance is given for me so that I can participate in Christ as a part of Christ’s body, the church. It is nothing that I have done, nothing I could earn, nothing of which I am even deserving. It is given for me. What beautiful words.

 

These are important and beautiful words because they indicate the manner in which communion is administered. We don’t take communion, we receive it. Communion is a gift of remembrance given for us by the one who gives us the gift. We receive the gift that has been given for us in order to remember. Jesus offered and gave his life for us. An atonement for our sins when we could not atone for them ourselves. This gift was given to us when we least deserved to receive it. Yet that is what we are called to do, receive. Every time we serve communion it is a gift that is given for you. It is an opportunity to share in Christ’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection. An opportunity to remember and to receive. After all … it is given for you.

 

I hope you will join us in church this Sunday as we receive the gift given to us. See you in church.

 

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Pastor Tim Machtel