Sermon Twenty Seven Beware of false prophets

john                                                audio clip

Wesley used this passage to attack the established church’s ministers or clergy. He accused them of saying one thing and living another way but more than that he accused them of false teaching.

I wonder how he would take the tele-evangelists of our generation or the webcasts etc. It is easier to pick holes in teaching when it is on a screen than when it is in church. I am friends with someone who used to preach but who didn’t believe it was their place to teach. They believed, based on gender, that they were prohibited to teach and yet they still preached. So everything they said was false, right? No they were still used as an instrument by God to preach but their life did not follow their teaching.***

I have a friend who says she is totally submitted to her husband and yet a more hen-pecked husband I have yet to meet. She tells him when to stand and how to stand. What she says is not what she does. She has preached to me from a pulpit in a church about this submission and because I knew her, and knew how she lived her life, it tainted the message I may have heard from someone else.***

I have a preacher friend who has brilliant repartee, wonderful rhetoric, a person who you could listen to all day with their lilting Southern US accent, she waxes lyrically on scripture, there is always a hook that attaches itself to your emotions and a whole swathe of us end up in tears. She is a false prophet, I know it and yet I listen to her because she is my friend and I love her. I listen objectively and with discernment. I know she believes that she has laid out a good argument because we talk about it over lunch. She is well read and academically able but she is a false prophet. She ignores the Old Testament, barely touches Jesus and if I were to call her anything I would say she was a follower of Paul.***

We can be amongst false prophets and we can still take something from their preaching, but we must be careful not to buy into everything they say or do. A friend of mine has issues with her church teaching on two subjects. She struggles so much with this because she has been taught that the pastor is without error ( a bit like the Bible being without error but this is a human) that the pastor cannot be questioned. So if you are hearing what you believe to be false teaching in that church what do you do?

I was a participant in a bible study one day and stated something that I believed to be true. Within a day someone had collared me to say I was wrong and showed me in the Bible where my error lay. I like that kind of church. The kind where if you are in error someone comes alongside and corrects you gently and in love.

False prophets are everywhere and we need the full armour of God to help us discern these woves in sheep’s clothing.

***Kerry disclaimer – none of the false prophets above live in Kerry and know my thoughts and are still friends***

Sermon Twenty Six The two gates

john                                                         audio clip

 

What follows a dry one, a rip roaring, face flushing rhetorical rant. Oh Wesley at his best, flailing arms and stamping feet. If people didn’t rush to the narrow gate after listening to this, their ears were surely closed.

Wesley’s main point is there is only one right way to be, to live, to leave this mortal coil but there are thousands of ways we can miss the narrow gate.

The world tries to blend us into it, telling us lies like there are shades of grey when there really is only black and white, right and wrong. When the lines get smudged we are in danger of leaving the boreen leading to the Kingdom of heaven and joining the highway leading to hell.

We know what is wrong? Or do we? We sometimes blend compassion for others in a particular situation with saying it is okay for that situation to exist.

I had a very surreal conversation today. We were talking about Jesus pitching his tent in our hearts when the other person said “Do you really believe there’s a God?” Bear in mind that if we are mid flow talking about tents and tabernacling this was not someone who came to know Jesus yesterday. You see every day, we need to look at ourselves and make sure the insidious nature of the world hasn’t seeped into our life. We need to be in conversation, with the Living God because it is when we stop doing that, the tendrils of the world take hold. When we remain focused on Him and live our lives through him we can keep distractions at bay, whatever they may be.

In another conversation the word manipulate was used and I automatically in my mind changed it to distraction. Because we can only be manipulated by someone if we are not deocentric. If God is the focus of our lives we can dismiss the distractions because we can measure what a person says by scripture, we can pray, we can talk to God about it. He wants us to end the race in heaven with all the other believers, so keeping on the boreen is hard, and in our own strength impossible but with the Spirit guiding us, a lamp to our feet, we can stay marching, ever forward.

God has a call on all our lives to proclaim the good news in our everyday lives. We don’t have to travel to do it. We witness in our families, in our neighbourhoods and communities and in our vehicles. A guy with an icthus bumper sticker has road rage – what is wrong with this image? A woman in the shop gets impatient in the queue and makes a cutting remark following up chatting about church life – what is wrong with this image? A Christian businessperson persuades someone to buy something they know they can’t afford – what is wrong with this image? Christian children call Muslim children names – what is wrong with this image? I could go on

We have been called to live distinctive authentic lives and not blur the lines, but showing compassion to those not there yet.

Sermon Twenty Five On judgement

john                                                    audio clip

I am so glad that it was one of Wesley’s drier sermons that I read this morning. I can only imagine the puddle I would have become if it was one of his discourses on all-in-all Christians. I am in a state of being overwhelmed, I am hoping it will pass or I will have to put off something I am supposed to do on Sunday to another time, maybe never.

So when collywobbles attack a good dose of 18th Century dry writing is needed. I definitely think that this sermon was written at a time when Wesley was being criticised from all sides. It reads more like a defence than teaching. In other sermons he has explained why the use of certain things would have been important to the Jews but here there is no mention of the importance of “dogs” or “pigs.” He suggests that this part of the sermon is directed at non-Christians chiefly which I do not concur with.

Why?

Non-Christians believe us to be the most judgemental people, and we as church body have to accept this criticism. In Wesley’s time and in ours people on the outside looking in say things like “That’s not very Christian, or, that’s not how a Christian should behave” and yet in our churches we judge. One woman puts on her very best clothes and looks so stylish and yet is very poor causing another to cast aspersions on her poverty. Because churches have all kinds of people in them, seekers, almost and all-in-all there is judgement.

Instead of getting our lives in order and taking the log out of our eye, we look around and think “Well I am doing okay compared to…”

Shame on us, we primarily should be focused on our individual walk with the Lord not getting distracted by this one or that. Our hearts must remain soft, beating to the God’s rhythm and we cannot do that by looking left and right at our sisters and brothers. Now even if we ourselves do not judge we have to take corporate responsibility for all our church family. We should be showing people how not to judge without indulging people.

The reason I don’t judge is because I have seen the face of human judgement against me and it was not pretty. It was horrific. It is the reason I find it so hard to share my testimony locally. Maybe that is why the collywobbles have started, because I must give an account of it next week – only two minutes followed by three on something else. What to leave out, what to keep in? Will I just walk away so they don’t have the opportunity to judge me.

To keep from judging we must cherish the gospel, the gospel message is the “pearl” in the parable. Do not waste time arguing with atheist debaters as they will twist your words against you. Instead show them Christianity by the way you live your life. Pray for them, and pray for yourself.

Love those people because you love God and he loves you and them. Be compassionate with them, they don’t know yet the glorious saving grace of the Lord. Be kind, they think of justice in terms of a weighing scales, not understanding God’s mercy on which we cast ourselves.

Believe me there will be buckets of prayer in this house, this day.

Sermon Twenty One On prayer

john                                          audio clip

This part of the Sermon on the Mount can be tricky for people. People do love to give but they want everyone to know about their giving – the ostentatious €50 note on a collection plate, the biggest box at a birthday party. It is part of the rush of giving – the kudos you receive.

Well Jesus didn’t see it like that. He calls us to give, and give generously but to do so quietly, without fuss and fanfare. Back in his day the rich folk would have someone blow a trumpet, according to John Wesley, in order to announce their giving to the poor.

Nowadays we have celebrities being photographed giving to the needy, the photogenic needy. You don’t see them kicking a football on the field in Knocknaheeny but you will see them gently rolling a ball to an angelic child in Cope. The giving of alms on Maundy Thursday buys into this “being seen.” Every year a bin liner of stuff goes from Kerry to Cork, it is full of knitted garments for people without homes, there are various people who put stuff in the bag and it arrives at the Simon Community. They always ask where it came from and I merely say Kerry. I don’t go into any more detail. When one of the people who had contributed heard, they were not pleased, they wanted it to be known where it came from specifically. But that is not Jesus’ way.

Kindness is catching, there is wave of passing it on going through our nation. People want codecils on their giving though. I give you this if you give me that. Personally I love to give, none of it tax deductible, just plain old giving. And I do like to do it secret. And I do like to give to my utmost and I do like to do random acts of kindness. There are people who do all this but give only to people they know, or people they think aren’t looking for an angle or whatever reason, they add codecils. It is not about being Lord and Lady Bountiful, it is giving something from God via us to another human.

The same principle Jesus applies to praying. Pray in a press, don’t be like the Pharisee with the loud prayers. God is interested in relationship, with communication not with how doctrinally sound or theologically correct our prayers are. He doesn’t need our prayers to be full of passages from the bible. He wants us to be honest and sincere, he wants our very hearts.

Prayer is one of those things that as a new Christian you think everyone has been to prayer school, they have words you’ve never heard of before, they talk of sanctification and justification or intercession and extempore. Words that trip off their tongues and tie yours in knots. As a Christian you have yourself as a living proof of his transforming power. So a prayer might begin Dear Lord…and go on to say … thank You ..and end..Amen. When we say thank you to God it encompasses everything we are thankful for in our hearts, it is a prayer of thanksgiving in five words. Like wise – I’m sorry is a prayer of confession. Yes God wants to hear more but he can hear our hearts so if we are saying sorry from the heart he knows. And in time we get our voices so we can pray to God.

I met a woman a few days ago from my neck of the woods and we talked in our dialect for a while and then we prayed and her voice changed into a different pitch but also a different voice. I am left wondering should I change my voice when speaking to God, if I change my voice am I changing something of my story too, do I change my voice when I pray to God. Just questions, no answers yet.

Wesley then comes to the Lord’s Prayer and expounds each phrase in great detail and I have nothing to add, he put it so well. In response to his writing, I see how perfect that prayer is, it covers everything we need in a prayer, we should say it more often, we should mean it more often, we should live it – always!

Sermon Twenty Four On worry

john                                                     audio clip

There is more scripture in the first half of this sermon than exposition (that’s a fancy name for explaining the text in language we will understand with illustrations from our own life so like describing it and explaining too). The texts he referred to were when God’s people were mingled with strangers and a double worship took place, keeping the rituals of worshipping God and also worshiping the false gods. Daniel is a good example to us of someone who refused to comply with idol worship in any form. Solomon is a good example of someone who thought he could traverse the two lifestyles and of course he couldn’t.

I remember the story of the man that died on a plane and in the coming months his two wives found out about each other but also found out about the two men – distinct personality traits that were displayed at one address and not the other. There are people who are known as “Sunday Christians” who worship the Lord with all the being on a Sunday but on a Monday it is business as usual, the master of money takes over. It can surprise us when we find out that people in the media “come out” as Christian, but in their day job do not display those characteristics of being a follower of Christ.

This can be true in our own lives. There was a guy who gave his life to Christ and had to give up his job, he was a thief. But what if our day job is not in keeping, or our business practices are not in keeping with the ways of the Lord. Which do we stop? Being Christian or shady dealings. Or do we try to traverse the two?

If God is our master we serve Him alone, we cannot serve two. Serving God means believing in him, trusting him as the source of our joy. It means loving him, not just on a Sunday but every second of every day. It means imitating him, young people particularly are fabulous mimics, they follow their pop idols – the way they dress, talk, walk, dance, wouldn’t it be so wonderful to take those mimicking traits and apply them not to worldly matters but to God – love because he loves, be merciful because he shows mercy, be kind, compassionate and tender hearted because he is all of those things. Serving God means to obey him, glorifying him with our bodies, mind and spirit.

If mammon or money is our master, it means we serve the world so we love the world, desiring it for its own sake looking to worldly things for our happiness. We conform to the world and its standards so we are ambitious and full of pride. We obey the world, we try to be like everyone else following fashion trends and foibles.

If we try to have both as masters, we get confused, it is not consistent or comfortable and is not in anyway conceivable, it is a fallacy.

In the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus talks about worry he is not telling us to be casual about our lives. He expects us to work and take care of our people and live honest lives and not run up piles of debt. He is telling us to not worry about the things that are out of our hands. Do what you can in the present. Seek the Kingdom of God first before thinking of anything else, seek what God requires of you. He will give us what we need to advance the Kingdom.

There is a very famous story of a guy who ran up to people on the street and said “If you were to die tonight would you go to heaven” now many, many people heard this same line, and some probably discarded it as the ramblings of someone deranged, some heard and were discouraged, some heard and made a few changes in their lives BUT some heard and really heard and went seeking the Lord. Some of these people now are pastors and missionaries. This man with his catalystic words helped Christ transform lives and those lives then went on to help Christ transform many, many more. This guy was no one special in the material sense but in God’s sense he was vital, a link in the chain that brought the Kingdom ever closer.

Will we be links in that chain? Step by step the Kingdom comes, the Kingdom grows, the Kingdom gains ground. Today is the day we will be witnessing to everyone we meet, are we ready?

Give Him your heart NOW

Trust in Him NOW

Be as holy as He is NOW

Seize every opportunity of doing His will NOW

Put up with suffering NOW as you follow Jesus

Surrender yourself today – ALL OF YOU, clear out the cobwebs in your mind, discard the shards of glass in your heart, leave the things of the world behind, they mean nothing.

Seek only to know God and his Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit

Love Him, serve Him and enjoy Him now and throughout eternity