This is the audio from the February 23, 2020 sermon, “A SIMPLE Witness”, shared by Tom Lemler at the Three Oaks Church of Christ.
Text: Acts 1:8
When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, His final instructions to His followers was that they were to be His witnesses where they were and everywhere they would go. I believe that command is not just for those who were present that day, but to all of us who live as children of God. Since we have a tendency to complicate things and even act as if being a witness is the job of ministry professionals and missionaries, I used the word “SIMPLE” to outline how each of us ought to live as witnesses for Christ. The simplicity is more in the ability to understand rather than in the actual doing as most of these character traits require effort on our part and the work of God’s Spirit in us to accomplish them with effectiveness.
So, let’s take a look at what it takes to be a SIMPLE witness:
A Serving Witness:
1 Peter 4:10, Mark 10:45 — In a world where people fight their way to the top so that others will serve them, our witness for Christ shines brightly when we learn to serve like Jesus. Jesus made it clear that His purpose on earth was to serve mankind in a way that brought salvation to all who would accept it. His teaching calls each of us to serve one another just as He humbled Himself and became a servant to all.
An Including Witness:
James 2:1, Romans 15:7 — If you’ve begun to make a list of who you will serve, you can go ahead and stop doing that. To be a witness for Jesus will require us to include everyone without partiality or favoritism when it comes to our willingness to accept and serve. Our acceptance of one another is not based on anyone’s goodness, other than the goodness of God, just as His acceptance of us is based solely on our choosing to be in Christ.
A Motivated Witness:
Hebrews 10:24, John 9:4 — One of the greatest tools of distraction when it comes to being a witness for Christ is the consistent lies of the enemy that it isn’t that important and now isn’t a good time. Most of us need a good “spur” appropriately placed in our life to motivate us to do what we ought. While we like to think “there is always tomorrow”, Jesus makes it clear that a time is coming when our opportunities to do His work will come to an end.
A Praying Witness:
Philemon 1:6, Daniel 6:5 — Being a witness for Christ is most effective when we live in communication with our Father. Our prayer life helps us to be prepared to share with others about all Christ has done in transforming us more and more into His likeness. When our communication with God is a natural part of our growing relationship with Him, prayer isn’t something we do to be noticed but a vibrant prayer life will often cause God to be noticed in us.
A Loving Witness:
Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28 — All of our efforts to be a witness for Christ will generally fall on deaf ears if we haven’t chosen to love people like Jesus does. When Jesus taught the need to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us, He tells us that doing so is an attribute of being a child of our Father in heaven. Loving people the Jesus way doesn’t mean we agree, like, or even accept everything they do but it does mean we want and work for that which is best for them.
An Encouraging Witness:
Hebrews 3:13, Philippians 1:14 — If you haven’t noticed, we live in a time that can be very discouraging. The statistics for hopelessness, despair, depression, and such emptiness can be quite alarming. I find it fascinating that the instruction to encourage one another is given with the stipulation that we do so “as long as it is called Today.” Since we are not able to live in the past or the future, it is always today! Not only is it always the right time for encouragement, it is always right to encourage others no matter who they are.
Being a witness for Jesus may not be all that simple, but we can be more effective by learning to be a SIMPLE witness!
It is my prayer that you would learn and practice the acts of being a Serving, Including, Motivated, Praying, Loving, and Encouraging witness as you live for Christ out loud for all the world to see and hear.
This is the audio from the February 2, 2020 sermon, “Learning to FISH”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: Mark 1:14-28
When Jesus began to call His disciples to Himself, He called them to leave what they were accustomed to and become “fishers of men”. In our life as a Christ-follower, we also are called to be “fishers of men”. Here are some lessons we would do well to understand as we seek to learn to FISH.
Learning to fish includes learning to:
Mark 1:16-18, John 10:4-5 — Many of us have great difficulty in following because we want to be the leader. Christ ought to be the supreme example that we follow in all things. The way we follow Jesus should help others to see the great value in being His disciple. Our effectiveness in fishing for men will follow our consistency in following Jesus in all things.
Mark 1:19-20, Romans 15:7 — When we learn to follow, we find that the following isn’t just for us. As Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He added to the number with the expectation that those called first would include those called later. This was not just true with the twelve, but it also was the expectation in the early church as it reached beyond all racial, economic, geographic, and any other barriers that existed. Our effectiveness in fishing for men hinges on our ability and willingness to include all who Jesus would call to Himself regardless of how similar or different they are from us.
Mark 1:22-26, Luke 14:31-33 — Related to following and including is our need to fully surrender. As Jesus called the early disciples to Himself, they were soon exposed to the authority of Jesus even over evil spirits. Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t something that takes place on our terms. Jesus makes it clear that peace with God requires every one of us to surrender to Him unconditionally. Our effectiveness in fishing for men will require us to not just talk and teach about surrender, but we must actually do it so that others can see it being done.
Mark 1:27-28, Matthew 7:24-25 — Being a disciple that brings others into a discipleship relationship with Jesus involves a great need to hear. When Jesus called the twelve to Himself and taught them and the crowds, there were many who would listen to His words but few who would actually hear what He was saying. Those that did hear were amazed at His teaching which was nothing like the teachers they were accustomed to. The proof of hearing is found in our willingness to put into practice the things Jesus taught. Our effectiveness in fishing for men will be directly related to our willingness to hear in a way that changes everything we do.
We will grow in being the disciple Jesus calls us to be when we learn to FISH!
It is my prayer that you not only learn to Follow, Include, Surrender, and Hear, but in doing so you would become an effective “fisher of men”.
This is the audio from the December 29, 2019 sermon, “#PraySTRONG”, shared by Tom Lemler at the Deer Run Church of Christ.
Text: Zechariah 4:6, Ephesians 6:10-11, 18
Learning to pray strong begins when we realize that the strength of our prayers is not by our power or might, but by the Spirit of the Living God.
As we develop a lifestyle of prayer seeking to pray strong, we must learn to pray:
Matthew 6:10 — Perhaps one of the toughest parts of praying strong God’s way, is learning to empty our prayers of self and be fully submissive to God. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. For that to happen, we must take captive every thought and motive that influences our prayers toward our selfish desires.
Luke 18:13 — I suppose we get so used to hiding behind a mask with one another that somehow a lack of honesty with God infiltrates our prayer life. When we pray truthfully, we begin by being honest with God about our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins so that they don’t become a hindrance to our prayers. Adam and Eve’s communion with God was interrupted not only by sin, but by an ill-conceived attempt to hide the truth from God.
Matthew 18:3 — Learning to pray truthfully really only becomes powerful when we follow it up with praying repentantly. It is not enough to be truthful with God about our attitudes and actions, we must turn away from all that is not of Him and allow His transforming power to change us. Praying repentantly leads us to the freedom necessary to walk in conversation with God in all that we do.
John 4:35 — The disciples that walked with Jesus each day often missed the opportunities that were right in front of them simply because they weren’t looking with the same kind of eyes that Jesus was looking with. Praying observantly leads us to notice people and situations that are far too easy to walk by without a second thought. When we ask God to open our eyes to see the fields which are ripe unto harvest, we soon discover that the harvest is indeed plentiful and it is much closer than we probably thought.
Matthew 5:16 — While praying noticeably may sound contradictory to the scripture that tells us to go into our closet and pray in secret, there is a difference between praying to be noticed and praying that is noticed. In fact, if we learn from Jesus, we see that His prayer life got the attention of the disciples to such an extent that it was the one thing we find recorded in scripture that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. Prayer ought to make such a difference in our life that people notice it and even if they don’t know prayer is the reason, they want to know how to have what we have.
Matthew 9:38 — I suspect when you read this topic, one of the first things that comes to mind is to pray for those involved in missions work around the world. While that definitely is included, the oft overlooked part of praying globally is the fact that your next door neighbor, coworker, stranger you encounter in your day to day life, and the homeless person sleeping on the streets are all part of the global population. Praying globally will have you praying for people who are like you and for people who are very different from you no matter where they live.
When I think about praying strong, I think about Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel. If you didn’t know the story and who was on which “team”, I think the American concept of praying strong would tend to choose the wrong side of this epic showdown. Rather than finding strength in numbers, volume, activity, or even length of prayer time, the real strength of prayer was found in a sole individual who humbly asked God to answer in such a way that the people would have no doubt that God was indeed the one and only true God.
I pray that you and I would learn to pray Submissively, Truthfully, Repentantly, Observantly, Noticeably, and Globally in such a way that those who are watching us would know that the God we serve is the one and only true God.
This is the audio from the December 1, 2019 sermon, “Looking For the Perfect GIFT”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: John 4:10, Colossians 1:27
As we enter a season when many individuals are looking for the perfect gift for someone special, or even for themselves, let’s look at some lessons we can we learn from the things we look for in the perfect gift we give or receive. Each of these lessons not only help us to give the perfect gift, they help us see Jesus as the perfect gift that has been given to us.
When looking for the perfect gift, look for:
Psalm 27:13-14 — When giving a gift that we want to be “just right”, we search for something filled with goodness. Something that is appropriate for the person and situation the gift is meant for. The gift must not only meet our standards, but it must be acceptable by the standards the recipient is known for and deserves. Jesus reminds us that while our nature is to give good gifts to our children, even greater is the nature of His Father to give good gifts to those who are His. Even in the midst of a very up and down life, David writes of being confident of seeing God’s goodness in the land of the living. Yes, he knew the goodness of God exists throughout heaven in eternity, but there is also an element of God’s goodness that He showers upon us here on earth — with the supreme example of that goodness being the sending of Jesus to die for our sins.
Psalm 25:8-9 — When looking for the perfect gift, we want to be sure it does what it should. Whether we read them or not, we want to know there are instructions and help available should something not make sense in the use of the gift. With all of the “some assembly required” gifts that we give, the quality of the instructions go a long way in making sure the gift will look and work as it is supposed to. When it comes to the perfect gift of Jesus, God has given us His Word to instruct us in every area of life we will face. Working in combination with His Word, the Holy Spirit has been given to God’s children to help us know and understand the instructions God has given each of us for life. From entering the kingdom of God, to living as kingdom citizens here on earth, to be ready for eternity in the presence of the King, God’s instructions are both clear and complete.
John 8:34-36, 2 Corinthians 3:17 — The perfect gift always comes with an element of freedom, otherwise the gift quickly becomes our master and we soon resent both the gift and the giver for enslaving us. Many people have received gifts that at first glance appeared to be beneficial and wonderful . . . and then they discovered the time and financial commitment required to keep such a gift. God has shown us that His laws, even the “thou shalt not” laws, are given to us for the purpose of teaching us how to live as those who are truly free. The gift of Jesus has been given to us to set us free from both the penalty and the power of sin in our life. Being cleansed of our sins and living by the power of the Holy Spirit within us frees us to live for Christ rather than for self.
John 1:14-17, 14:6 — Finally, the perfect gift is always given in truth. No misrepresentations, no double-talk, no hidden agendas, no bait and switch, and no exaggerations. In a world that not only wants something for nothing, but wants you to believe it is giving you more than it can, truth in giving can be a very uncommon trait. The advertising world thrives on making things appear bigger, better, faster, quieter, louder, or whatever other characteristic you desire; than what they really are. A few years ago, a national sandwich chain took a lot of heat because their “foot-long” sandwiches weren’t really twelve inches long. They’re initial response did little to satisfy the general public as they simply claimed “foot-long” was meant to be an approximate term and not an actual measurement. With Jesus as the perfect gift, He makes it clear that He is truth. In fact, He expects the same from us as He calls us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Part of the prayer of Jesus for His followers is that we would be set apart by truth, the truth of God’s Word.
In all the gifts ever given, there is none so perfect as Jesus!
It is my prayer that you not only accept this perfect gift, but that you would live your live sharing this gift with others.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for the promises of God — specifically the promised return of Jesus to gather those who are His to Himself. I am thankful that God has given us His promises for the purpose of encouraging one another. I am thankful that after a month of writing a daily “Giving Thanks” post, I still have so much more to be thankful for than just the things I’ve written about. I am thankful that we are not only “caught up” to be with Jesus forever, but we “will be caught up together with them” — the “them” being those who are in Christ but have already passed from this life.
Clouds have a way of obscuring things as they keep us from clearly seeing what is beyond them. At times, clouds can completely hide known objects from view yet we live with confidence that what disappeared behind the clouds is still just as present as it was when we could see it. While there have been lengthy periods of time when the clouds take over and it feels like the sun will never be seen again, but the truth is that it is always there even when unseen and it always breaks through the clouds no matter how many days may pass before it does so. It is in the cloudy days of life that I am most thankful for the unchanging nature of God as it reassures me that His promises will all be kept.
As I spent the day with my family chasing a steam locomotive to photograph, we kept looking for the clouds of steam and smoke that rose in the air as a tell-tale sign of where it was. There were even times when the clouds of steam would completely hide the train from view, yet the cloud itself was proof that the train was there. “Being caught up in the clouds” is an encouragement only if we believe there is something beyond them. Even when the clouds of this human flesh obscure our vision and understanding of what heaven is really like, we can trust the promises of God that it is not only real but it is a place of complete peace in the presence of God.
I pray that you and I would continue to be thankful every day that God gives us life. I pray that we would hold fast to the promises of God in such a way that we are encouraged by His faithfulness. I pray that we would encourage one another as we trust God with everything that is beyond our vision.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.“ Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a family which derives its name and purpose from our heavenly Father. I am thankful for the family of God that I have been adopted into, but am especially thankful for the godly immediate family that I am part of. I am thankful that we continue to learn how to work together so that each part of the family benefits. I am thankful for shared interests that give each of us joy as we search out the beauty of creation to photograph. I am thankful for the power of God to help us endure the times of difficult health with the knowledge that God is with us in the midst of it.
I am thankful that I grew up in a family that did life together as it taught me much that I use even today. Yes, we worked hard growing up on a farm but we worked hard together. I also have very fond memories of the times we played together both on the farm and on family trips and vacations. No, we didn’t always get along or even recognize what we had, but we were given no option but to endure and overcome whatever difficulties we faced — and especially the ones we created.
I am thankful that I carry these lessons forward and have slowly learned over the years just how much my parents patiently endured as we did life together. I am thankful that God gives us families where we can work on learning to value each part of His family. I am thankful that my family is a reminder that we are never alone and that God will never leave or forsake us.
I pray that you and I would continue to become the family member God created us to be — both within our physical family and within the family of God. I pray that we would know and experience the power of God as He fills us with the full measure of His Spirit.
“How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.“ Psalm 36:7-9 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a God who provides abundantly more than I can think or ask. Do I always have what I want? No. Do I always have what I think I need? No. Sometimes I simply don’t ask. Sometimes I ask and the answer requires some effort on my part that I’m not willing to give. Sometimes I ask selfishly and my request would not be a true benefit to myself or anyone else if granted. Sometimes I’m impatient and assume the good that I’m asking for isn’t coming when it just isn’t time yet. When I think of God providing abundantly, I think of the promised land that was “flowing with milk and honey”. When confirmed by Joshua and Caleb that this was in fact true, the people resisted and rebelled because of the other reports that detailed how much work and difficulty appeared to be involved in claiming God’s promise. God’s promise of abundance doesn’t always look like we expect it to and the promise is really about God providing Himself so that the abundant life He gives is an eternal life.
Spending a month writing a post each day about giving thanks is a helpful exercise in seeing the abundance given by God. When doing that, I realize my abundance isn’t accurately measured by my bank account or my house or my truck or by any other possession I have but rather my abundance is measured by the goodness of God He has placed in my life. I am thankful for the things God has given me. Even as I have a turkey on the smoker this morning, I am thankful for the feast God provides daily through His Word. With coffee cup in hand, I am thankful for the living water that God provides as I surrender my life to Jesus. After a day of brutal winds, I am thankful for the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit providing comfort and direction to my soul.
I am thankful that God is accessible to me, and to you, no matter how the world sees us. I am thankful that God is a refuge to all who would come to Him. I am thankful that God’s love never fails. I am thankful for the people God uses to comfort and encourage me. I am even thankful for the people God uses to challenge and convict me when I allow my life to drift off track.
I pray that you and I would know an abundance that isn’t measured by material possessions. I pray that we would count our blessings each day as a reminder of what God is doing in and through us. I pray that we would see even our material abundance as a gift from God and use it to bring glory to His name.