Building On the PAST! (Sermon Audio)

Building On the PAST! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the June 2, 2019 sermon, “Building On the Past!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

 

Text: Ephesians 2:11-22

“. . . built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

We tend to approach the past in one of two ways. 

One, we try to ignore it and thus learn nothing from it.  In this mode, we tend to remove/replace/destroy anything that we feel doesn’t have meaning regardless of the history and/or functionality to someone else.  

Two, we worship the past and still learn nothing from it.  In this approach, our “rose-colored glasses” keeps us from seeing things as they really were.  We hang on to things that represent who we once were regardless of whether we, or anyone else, are still being served by those things.

God’s approach in scripture seems to be that we would learn from the past so that we can be built up into the body He desires.  

Here are the main points from the sermon:

As we look back, we must make plans to build on  . . .

  • Promises:
    • Building on promises requires that we are people of our word.  When we build on the promises of God, we find a foundation that will never crumble, no matter how much it is shaken, because God always keeps His promises.
  • Actions: 
    • Building on actions requires that we acknowledge work that has already been done.  We are where we are because of the work done by those who have gone before us.  As Christians, we not only build on the work of the people in our immediate history, we build our life on the work done by God since the beginning of creation.
  • Sacrifices:
    • Building on sacrifices requires that we acknowledge and honor those who have given up things of value to them so that we can be where we are today.  There is no greater sacrifice that we can build our life upon than the sacrifice of Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin.
  • Triumphs:
    • Building on triumphs may sound like the best part, yet many of us struggle to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  When we build on the victories we have experienced, we celebrate what has been accomplished while keeping our gaze fixed ahead on what is yet to be done.  Building a life that endures will require that we build it around the triumph that Jesus claimed over death.

Building on the PAST is how we are able to celebrate the work of God without becoming complacent to the extent that we no longer expect Him to work.  God wants us to take all of the lessons He will teach and use them to help others desire, seek, and have a relationship with His Son, Jesus.

Mind the GAP! (Sermon Audio)

Mind the GAP! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the April 7, 2019 sermon, “Mind the GAP!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
(I didn’t remember to turn the recorder on until after the sermon introduction, but this audio contains all three main points.)

Text: Ezekiel 22:30

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

Here are the main points from the sermon:

As you stand in the gap, you must pay close attention to mind the . . .

  • Goal:
    • Philippians 3:14 — In a world where long-term goals are often set aside in exchange for temporary pleasure, we must avoid falling into the gap that exists between where we are and the eternal goal for which we have been called heavenward.
  • Attitude: 
    • 1 Peter 4:1 — Some say that attitude is everything which makes it critical that we don’t get lost in the gap between a worldly attitude and the attitude of Christ that ought to be ours.
  • Promises:
    • 2 Peter 3:9 — When everything around us seems to demand instant results, we must pay close attention to no get caught up in the gap that exists between our timetable and God’s when it comes to His faithfulness in keeping His promises.

As children of God, we ought to be standing in the gap on behalf of the country we live in, our churches, and our friends and families.  Not only should we “mind the gap” in our own life, we ought to be helping our brothers and sisters avoid the many temptations that lurk in these gap areas.

The Best Monday I’ve Had All Week!

The Best Monday I’ve Had All Week!

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A friend of mine, while serving as the preaching minister in a local church, became known for consistently saying, “Today’s the best Sunday I’ve had all week!”.  At first glance, it may be easy to chalk that up to it being the only Sunday in the week, but it was really a statement about attitude rather than frequency.  I’ve worked in ministry long enough to be certain he wasn’t saying that everything had gone just as he had wanted during the previous week, or that the events of the day were even going fully according to his plan.  No, I believe it was one tool of many which he used to remind himself and others that it was a day given by God and a day meant to be used to honor God — no matter what!

I thought about that example today as I worked through my morning routines on a Monday that is anything but routine.  While we often think of Monday as the start of a new work week, it almost always has baggage from the previous week hanging around.  For me, last week was filled with struggles and issues that remain unresolved but aren’t really within my ability or responsibility to resolve.  Nonetheless, they weigh on me and can have a tendency to fill my mind to the point of distraction and even discouragement if I let them.  With last week’s burdens still hanging over me, I woke up to fresh snow that I wasn’t expecting — meaning extra work to start the day.

But then my routine kicks in.  The sidewalks are cleared, the building is cleaned and prepped for the day, and I settle in to write the prayer guide for next week.  After some time with God, we settle in on a topic based on Colossians 3:2 which says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Monday mornings I typically set aside to write the prayer guide that I will publish and send out the following week.  Some weeks the topic comes easily and other weeks it is a struggle to hear God clearly in regard to where the focus should be.  Some weeks I’m not sure who the primary audience is that God will use it to reach and other weeks I’m pretty sure it is meant to speak directly to me before it goes out to anyone else.

The reminders I worked on this morning were priceless.  Reminders to not worry, to be open to the instruction of Scripture, to allow the Spirit to fill my all of me including my mind, to be transformed by having a renewed mind, to engage my mind in prayer, and to surround myself with like-minded people who seek to honor God.  Yes, it’s the best Monday I’ve had all week — not because it is the only Monday I’ll have all week, but because it came with an attitude adjustment that calls me to reset my mind on the things of Christ.  Now that doesn’t mean the struggles are gone or resolved, they remain and some of them continue to grow.  What changes, and what must change, is how I set my mind in the midst of things beyond my responsibility and control.

The morning made me think of the photo I put at the top of this post.  It is one I took last Saturday and I would guess most people looking at it are drawn to the blue sky and bright white clouds.  Yet within the same photo is a base of drab browns and grays of a sparse winter landscape.  Your view of that photo is really dependent on where you set you mind, whether consciously or subconsciously.  On this best Monday you’ll have all week, it is time to set your mind on things above!

In prayer,
Tom Lemler  

Just Looking

Just Looking

What are you looking at? I mean, when you’re not reading this wonderful blog, what catches your eye on a regular basis? Is there any harm, or benefit, in “just looking”? Do you even give much thought to the things you not only see but to that which you allow your thoughts to rest upon for more than a moment?

Most of the major purchases I’ve made in life began as “just looking”. Sometimes the “just looking” phase is a research time in order to find the best possible solution to something that I actually need. Many times, though, the “just looking” is more of a dreaming or longing for something that I know I don’t need but somehow it has caught my attention.

I’m not sure there is a problem with just looking . . . other than it is not possible to do over some length of time. No, the problem typically lies in what we are just looking at rather than in the fact we are looking. It seems our thoughts, and then our actions, typically follow our line of sight. So, “just looking” becomes “just thinking” which, in time, becomes “just doing”.

From Eve “just looking” and seeing the fruit forbidden by God was “good for food” to the heroes of the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 who were “just looking” for a kingdom whose architect was God, the Bible is filled with stories of people whose actions were determined by the direction of their gaze. Some show the pitfalls of “just looking” in the wrong direction. Eve “just looking” at what God said was off limits. Lot “just looking” at the cities of the plains which were filled with wickedness. The people of Israel “just looking” at the nations surrounding them. Each followed their “just looking” with actions which led them into sin they probably thought they would never be involved in.

Others chose to fix their gaze on things of a more noble nature. Abraham was “just looking” for a land promised by God of which he did not know. Moses found himself “just looking” at God rather than the treasures of Egypt. The Bereans were “just looking” at scripture to see if what they were being taught was from God. Each of these, and many more, turned their “just looking” into a faithful pursuit of God even when the visible wasn’t always complete.

And then there’s David. David portrays the range that most of us deal with throughout our life. There are times, such as when facing Goliath, that he is “just looking” at God and not being distracted by the enemy. And then there are other times, such as His relationship with Bathsheba, when he is “just looking” at the things of this world in a way that he shouldn’t and it leads him deeper and deeper into sin. That is why God tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” When we live a life “just looking” at Jesus and the truth found in His Word, we will find our thoughts and actions will follow our gaze and be pleasing to Him.

So, what are you “just looking” at today? Where is it leading your thoughts? How will your actions be influenced by the things you allow your eyes to settle on today? Are there things you are doing now as a result of “just looking” in the past that you wish you had never gotten involved in? How about good things that your past “just looking” has led you to? What do those experiences tell you about what you ought to fix your eyes on today?

I pray that you and I would pay close attention to the things we rest our gaze upon so that the influences of what we say and do would lead us to a life pleasing to God.

In prayer,
Tom Lemler

A Life of PRAYER

A Life of PRAYER

I had the opportunity to preach yesterday but didn’t remember to take my mp3 recorder with me, so no audio to share this time.  As I practice, and teach about, a lifestyle of prayer, there are a number of things that I find happen through such a way of life.  I’ve prepared several sermons that highlight some of what a lifestyle of prayer is, and yesterday’s message was one of them.

Many times when we try to describe something we skip the most obvious part of it because it is so obvious we think everyone must know that much about whatever we are describing.  In an attempt not to do that, the message I shared was “A Lifestyle of Prayer is a Life of PRAYER”.  But not only is it a life filled with prayer, it is a life filled with the results of prayer and that is what the sermon focused on — some of those results.  With no audio to share, here is the outline and some of the main points from the message.

A Lifestyle of Prayer is a Life of . . . 

  • Peace:  The Bible teaches that it is through a continual process of presenting our requests to God through prayers and petitions that we can replace anxiousness with peace.  Prayer may not bring an immediate change to the circumstance that has caused you to be anxious, but it should serve as a reminder of who is really in control of the situation.  Our prayers should fill us with peace as we grow in our trust of God to carry us through, and beyond, the anxious moments of life.  
  • Respect:  As we live with prayer as a lifestyle, we find that our approach to God grows in regard to the respect we give Him.  It seems our respect often fluctuates based on how real we view God to be.  When we are consistently engaged in conversation with Him through prayer, we find that He not only demands respect but that He deserves respect.  It is this life of respect that continually reminds us that while prayer is a conversation, it is no ordinary conversation — it is communication with the living God.
  • Answers:  This is the part of prayer that we often desire most and can be the most likely to wreck our prayer life when it doesn’t happen according to our expectations.  Yet a lifestyle of prayer is a life of answers — some “yes”, some “no”, some “not right now”, and some so far removed from the answer we wanted that we fail to see it.  When our prayer life is sporadic, we often fail to “connect the dots” of God at work and thus miss the answers He is providing.  But the more that prayer is woven into every aspect of our life, the more we begin to notice that God has been answering all along in ways that are for our good.
  • Yielding:  In nearly every relationship we have, the more time we spend with someone the better we get to know them.  An active prayer life is time spent with God both talking and listening so that we begin to become familiar with the things of God that He has revealed by the power of His Spirit through His Word.  In a life of prayer, the yielding is often interwoven with the answers as we learn to accept that His answers are better than ours.  When we can pray, “not my will but Yours be done”, and really mean it, we find that we will be more likely to yield to the answers that God provides as we learn to trust Him.
  • Encouragement:  A life of prayer can bring great encouragement — not just to those who pray, but to the people that see and hear of the mighty work of God that takes place in the lives of those who pray.  It is this encouragement that not only emboldens the life of the one who prays, it often causes others to consider what a life of prayer would do for them.  While we ought to pray just for the privilege of talking with the creator of everything, many times it is the benefit that prayer brings into our life that keeps us going back to God.  Let’s face it, if every conversation we have with a person makes us feel poorly about our self for some reason, we will likely not seek to continue that relationship.  However, when our time with God brings daily encouragement to both us and those around us, our desire to pray ought to grow each day that we live.
  • Renewal:  Isaiah wrote that “even youths get tired and weary, but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”  A lifestyle of prayer can result in a life of renewal as we continually seek the “new mercies” that God promises each morning.  The Bible teaches that we are to be transformed by a renewing of our mind, and prayer is a major part of that change of mind that can bring about a godly transformation.  When we allow a growing lifestyle of prayer to bring peace, respect, answers, yielding, and encouragement into our life, we will find that we are indeed being renewed daily by the power of God’s Spirit and through the truth of His Word.

When we live a lifestyle of prayer, we ought to find that these qualities are growing in our life.  And as they grow, we find that we are more drawn to prayer as a way of life each day that we live.  It is my prayer that each one of us would grow in our desire to live a lifestyle of prayer that results in a life of PRAYER!

In prayer,
Tom

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Spring Reflections

Spring Reflections

I enjoy taking photographs of items that are reflected in various bodies of water.  As I’ve done this, I’ve discovered at least two key ingredients to a good (and accurate) reflection.  One is the stillness of the water and the other is the purity of the water.  In nature, both ingredients are highly variable even from one day to the next in the same body of water.  The photo below is one I’ve taken many times and sometime the water is calm and pure giving a clear reflection of the spring house, and other times there is no reflection at all.  The source of the water comes from a spring the little house is built over — thus a “spring house”.  The water is pure and clear coming from the spring, but once out in the open it doesn’t always remain so.

I suppose the same is true in my efforts to accurately reflect Christ so that He is seen when others observe me.  The source, Christ, is unchanging in its purity and clarity so any imperfection in the reflection has to come from me.  My ability to be still and know Him as God will be a determining factor in how well He is reflected in my life.  The purity I live my life with will either help people see Jesus in me or cloud their view of Him.  As I spend time at the well of Living Water and allow His Spirit and His Word to continually wash over me, I find that the turmoil and impurity of life no longer gets in the way of others seeing who resides within.

I pray that you and I would desire our lives to accurately reflect Jesus.  As we live out that desire, I pray that we would be both still and cleansed so we would not become a distraction to the reflection of Christ others should see in us.

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A Voice in the Crowd

“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  
John 10:2-5 (NIV)

How often have you witnessed or experienced someone saying, “I would recognize that voice anywhere!”  Most of us have people in our lives that could be talking in the midst of a crowd and not even knowing they were there, we would immediately recognize their voice and know who is talking.  That type of recognition doesn’t happen overnight.  It requires much time spent conversing and listening so that we not only know the sound of the voice, we also know the character of the content of what will be spoken.

It is fairly easy to find people who want to hear from God.  Hold a class or teaching series on knowing God’s will and people are quick to sign up.  Change one word in the title and focus the class or teaching series on doing God’s will and all of a sudden participants are nowhere to be found.  Is it possible that many within our modern Christian culture have such a difficult time hearing God’s voice because we have consistently failed to listen to the things we know He has said?

Rarely a day goes by but what I hear or read the statement, “My God would never ____________” with the blank being filled in by something that even a casual reading of scripture would show God has in fact done or said.  I find it interesting that these statements are always “My God would never” and not simply “God would never”.  We have indeed created God in our own image and often define Him in ways that make us feel comfortable and safe.  In the midst of such a culture, it is no wonder we struggle with hearing and knowing the voice of our Shepherd.

It is in our quiet times with God and His Word that we become familiar with His voice and begin to recognize the things that He would say by understanding the things that He has already said.  The quiet times are necessary so that we are prepared to hear our Shepherd’s voice even in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Scripture teaches us that Jesus would often withdraw to “lonely places” to spend time with His Father, but as you read about the life of Jesus it should be clear that He recognized and obeyed the voice of His Father even in the midst of the crowds.  God expects and wants us to listen, to recognize His voice and to follow it, each moment that we live — whether in quiet times or in times surrounded by the crowds of this world.

Jesus says that His sheep will know His voice and they will follow Him.  When you and I struggle with questions about hearing God, perhaps we need to seriously examine if the problem is really in the hearing or in the following.  I pray that you and I are not only hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word as well.

In prayer,
Tom