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.

Learning To SEEK God! (Sermon Audio)

Learning To SEEK God! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the May 5, 2019 sermon, “Learning To SEEK God!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

Text: Isaiah 55:6

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.”

Here are the main points from the sermon:

We SEEK God when we learn to  . . .

  • Serve God:
    • Joshua 24:14 — In a world filled with many voices claiming to be truth, we must choose to serve God in order to seek Him with a whole heart.
  • Expect God: 
    • Psalm 5:3 — Seeking God wholeheartedly requires that we learn to wait in expectation, trusting God to work in the time that is just right.
  • Engage God:
    • Deuteronomy 30:14 — As we grow in our desire and practice of seeking God, we must learn to engage every part of our being with Him.
  • Know God:
    • Psalm 46:10 — Perhaps the most difficult part of seeking God is the simplest part to say . . . be still and know.

Seeking God is not a “once and done” activity but rather a lifetime of learning.  When scripture teaches that we should “seek the Lord while He may be found”, it suggests that there could be a time when He can’t be found.  Our walk on this earth is the time given to us to seek God.  Once we are gone from the earth, whether through death or the Lord’s return, the time of seeking and finding will be over.

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  

MATH Advice (James 1)

Brotherly Advice:  A Study Through the Book of James

There are times in life when we could all use a little advice.  I pray that you have people in your life that you can go to for wise, godly counsel when your way seems uncertain.  Many times we have a brother or sister, whether biological or spiritual, that has already been down the road we’re travelling and is equipped to help us along our journey.

For me, the book of James is one of those methods God uses to pass along some brotherly advice.  Most scholars seem to be in agreement that the person writing down the words in the book of James is James, the brother of Jesus.  Here’s a guy that grew up around Jesus yet did not believe through most, if not all, of the life of Jesus on earth.  Yet eventually James came around and believed that Jesus was more than a brother, He was the Son of God! 

What do you do when life doesn’t seem to add up?  Who do you turn to?  James is a great place to turn for some brotherly advice in those circumstances.  In the first chapter, we find what I will call some MATH Advice to be used when life doesn’t add up for you.  Let’s take a look at the four elements of this advice. 

  • Maturity Advice:  When life doesn’t add up and we turn to God for some MATH Advice, we often need a good dose of Maturity advice to begin with!  James opens with this incredible equation that at first glance may not make much sense.  He says we ought to consider trials of many kinds to equal pure joy.  The laws of mathematics state that what is on one side of the equation has to equal what is on the other side for the statement to be true.  While this one may seem difficult at first, it is a fun “proof problem”  to go through the steps God shows us are necessary for this equation to be true.  The end result of the trials of many kinds is maturity that makes us complete and equipped with everything we need.  When life doesn’t add up, it is important to hear the brotherly advice passed along by James that God wants to use everything to bring you to a greater maturity.  He also want to use the trials and hardships of life that you go through to help others reach a greater maturity as well.  Your story of faithfulness can be a great encouragement to others if you are willing to share it.  As God moves you along in your journey with Him, take time to listen to some MATH Advice and consider the greater Maturity He is calling you to. 
  • Attitude Advice:  As we continue to look to our brother James for some MATH Advice when life doesn’t add up, he turns to giving us some Attitude advice.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem to add up for us because we need a serious look at our attitude.  James addresses two extremes that we tend to gravitate toward and they both need corrected.  He says the person in humble circumstances needs to take pride in our high position while the one in rich circumstances should take pride in their low position.  While that may sound like some upside down math advice, it is just the advice we need when our attitude seems to be upside down.  When our attitude is down in the dumps and we begin to believe we can’t be useful to God, James would give us some brotherly advice to look up and recognize the value we have in God’s sight.  As much as that attitude advice is needed, many times we have problems with the other side of thinking too highly of ourself.  It is in those circumstances that James passes long some brotherly advice to remember where we came from and that without Jesus we are hopelessly lost.  We are able to grow in the MATH Advice that James wants us to learn when we allow God to examine, and adjust, our Attitude.
  • Temptation Advice: One of the reasons that life doesn’t seem to add up for us is because we need to spend more time listening to the MATH Advice that James gives us in the area of Temptation.  James begins this advice with a reminder that God is not the author of temptation.  While we would rarely claim that God tempted us, many times we live as though we believe just that!  James makes it clear that it is our lusts and desires that carries us down the path of giving in to temptation.  When we excuse our behavior and act like God doesn’t care, or we even blame God for putting us in a position where we feel we have not choice, we live as if God has tempted us.  James tells us how the seeds of temptation are planted through desire and we allow it to grow by keeping it fed and watered rather than rejecting it completely.  The advice James gives us in dealing with temptation is to always remember that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift.  God does not tempt us, He has promised to provide a way of escape — a way to overcome the temptation — if we look to Him and trust His Word.  As we live life that doesn’t seem to add up, let’s take some MATH Advice from James and learn how to recognize and deal with Temptation.
  • Hearing Advice:  James closes out his MATH Advice in chapter one with some much-needed Hearing advice.  Sometimes life seems to not add up because we are in the midst of learning a lesson that brings us to a greater maturity.  Sometimes it is because God is adjusting our attitude.  Other times we are in need of greater strength in rejecting temptation.  Many times though, our life seems upside down because we are not doing what God’s Word says!  We attend church, we may even read the Bible and pray, but if the Word isn’t getting into our actions then we really do need some hearing advice from James.  Our time with God ought to call us to action.  If we are really hearing the Word of God, people ought to notice it coming out in our lives.  And in case you’re wondering what that means or looks like, James gives a very clear picture in his hearing advice — look after orphans and widows and keep yourself from being polluted.  If you are in fact taking in the Word of God, how is it being displayed in your life?  In what ways do you care for those that are helpless or without care?  How diligent are you in keeping your mind, body, and spirit free from the pollution of the world?  If you are not sure how to answer those questions, then perhaps it is time to sit at the feet of James for some brotherly advice!    As we grow in the MATH Advice James gives us, it is important to understand that real Hearing involves real doing.

So, how are you doing with the brotherly MATH Advice that James would pass along?  As you move from where you are to where God wants you to be, do you listen to the Maturity Advice?  Are you open to recognizing, and responding to, the Attitude Advice that God would give?  Are you living your life in such a way that you have taken the Temptation Advice and set your path far from evil?  Are you spending regular time with God to understand that His Hearing Advice is as much about the rest of your body as it is your ears?  I pray that you will pay close attention to the brotherly advice James wants you to hear so that when life doesn’t seem to add up, you can turn to his MATH Advice to have a better understanding of God’s perspective!

Pure In Attitude

This is part of a series of writings I am working on to expand the post I published earlier, Pure In HEART.  This series will be taking a more detailed look at each point of that post.  Today I look at part three, Pure in Attitude.

Again, the seeds for this series came from God through a song that took up residence in my mind for the better part of a week.  🙂   I think the song may be titled, “Highway To Heaven”, but the line that stuck with me is, “it’s a highway to heaven . . . none can go up there . . . but the pure in heart . . . well, it’s a highway to heaven . . . walking on the King’s highway!”

The phrase that continually jumped out at me was the idea of “pure in heart“.  I believe God has given me another acrostic to provide the framework for a sermon He has been giving me — and thus a series of writings.  What does it mean to be pure in heart?  I want to look at five areas that should help lead us toward being pure in heart and I begin with this post focused on the attitude we live with and view life through.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

We’ve all probably said it at some time or at least heard it said, “Boy, do they have an attitude!”.  How many times have you heard a parent, or someone else, say, “Drop the attitude now or you’re going to find yourself in big trouble!”?  Typically when we think about attitude or talk about attitude, more often than not it is going to involve a bad attitude.  Is that because they are more common, more noticeable, more in need of correction, some other reason, or some combination of several reasons?  The reason for a bad attitude isn’t all that important — the important part is what will I do to replace it!

God says that when we become His child, part of getting rid of the old self is to take on a new attitude in our mind — to become pure in attitude!  How do we do that?  Our new attitude comes when we commit to a diligent pursuit of “out with the old, in with the new”.  We escape being conformed to the attitude of this world when we are transformed by a renewing of our mind.  As we consider what we have through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, we should be compelled to examine the attitude we live life with and the attitude we view others through.

Paul writes to the Philippians that because of all that we have through being united with Christ we should not only look to our own interest, but be concerned with the interest of others as well.  He says to do this our attitude needs to be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  We must allow the renewing of our mind to replace our worldly, selfish attitude with a Christ-like, serving attitude.  We grow in purity of attitude when we willingly humble ourself and take on the role of a servant to those around us.  Being a servant is not that unusual — most of us are in that role at least at times in our life.  The big question for this discussion is what attitude do we carry into that role?  God calls us to be pure in attitude and serve others with a willing and humble heart.  It is this type of pure attitude that portrays the nature of Jesus to a world that is in desperate need of a true relationship with God that can only be found through Him.

So, how’s your attitude?  Are you allowing your attitude to be transformed by a renewing of your mind by God’s Spirit?  Do you willingly humble yourself and serve others with a pure attitude?  I pray that you and I would pursue God faithfully and be found “pure in HEART” because we have paid attention to purity in our Humor, Eyes, Attitude, Relationships, and Teaching!