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 January 5, 2020 sermon, “Proclaiming the WAY”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: Mark 1:1-15
As we look forward to the return of Jesus, and study the life of John the Baptist, there is much we can learn about proclaiming the way of Christ. As John prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus to be received by the people, we too can prepare the way for people to be ready for Christ’s return.
Preparing for Christ includes proclaiming His:
Mark 1:7-8, Hebrews 3:3 — John understood that the worth of Jesus far exceeded his own. In fact, it was his role in announcing the coming Messiah that fulfilled his purpose in life and gave him worth. To those who honored Moses and esteemed him for his role in serving God as the deliverer of Israel, God said that the builder and architect of that deliverance had even greater worth. When we stop to recognize the work of God in our life, we ought to be filled with stories to tell people of just how much Jesus is worth to us. For starters, our deliverance from sin was accomplished through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But not only that, each day that we experience a moment of hope, peace, comfort, endurance, love, kindness, or any other of an assortment of God’s characteristics, we have a story to tell of the worth of Jesus in our life. Not only can our words give honor to Jesus and proclaim His worth, our level of obedience to Him communicates to those watching us just how much we really believe Jesus is worth.
Mark 1:10-11, Matthew 28:18-20 — Nothing says authority like having God speak from heaven and announce Jesus as His Son in whom He is well pleased . . . well, except perhaps Jesus stating in the end of Matthew’s gospel that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. We proclaim the way of Christ when we proclaim His authority over all things. While it is relatively easy to proclaim His authority with our words, the more telling story is how well we submit to His authority in the day to day activities of life. In a worldly culture that rejects the idea of authority belonging to God and a Christian culture that wants God’s authority applied to everyone but themselves, our choosing to live under the authority of Jesus goes a long way towards making our proclaiming that authority believable.
Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:17-21 — Mark writes and tells us that Jesus announced the time had come for the kingdom of God to be near. Luke tells us that Jesus announced His coming was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the year of the Lord’s favor. I remember a time when each year was referred to as “The year of the Lord, _____”. I don’t hear that anymore and I’m not sure when its usage was dropped. As each year rolled around, we would say it was the year of the Lord, 1972 . . . or whatever year it happened to be. While subtle, the very proclamation of such was a recurring reminder that the year did indeed belong to the Lord. While we don’t know the year of the Lord’s return, by proclaiming this as a year of the Lord in our life, we can be that consistent reminder of who the year belongs to . . . and who we belong to.
We will help others be ready for the return of Jesus when we make it our practice to Proclaim the WAY!
It is my prayer that you not only proclaim the way to those who would listen, but that you would live each day according to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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.
This will serve as the November 3 post in the series I am writing this month on giving thanks. This is the audio from the November 3, 2019 sermon, “How To Give THANKS”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: Psalm 100, 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Anyhow, this version of “How To Give THANKS” is based around a “made-for-the-movies” stereotypical family thanksgiving day. Here are six things I think we can learn about giving thanks from a traditional Thanksgiving Day gathering:
We give thanks to God, and to others, when we give:
Hebrews 5:11-14 — I know, you probably have the same reaction that the congregation did this morning — “What? Did he say what I thought I heard? He didn’t just say turkey, did he?”. Yep, I said turkey! When you think of Thanksgiving, for most people, the first thing that comes to mind is turkey. It is the traditional main course, the very center and substance to the meal which surrounds it. When I say, “give turkey”, that is what I mean — give thanks with substance and meat at its very heart. Don’t settle for simply mouthing the words thank you when you can give thanks with turkey — with real depth and meaning behind it. This is a thanks that settles in and satisfies the deepest reaches of a person’s being.
Psalm 126:2-3 –Without a good sense of humor, Thanksgiving and other family gatherings can fall apart quite quickly. We give thanks when we don’t take our self too seriously. God says that a cheerful, or merry, heart is good medicine! I believe that there are boundaries that need to be kept when it comes to humor but laughter is not only good for the spirit, it is good for the body. This is not only true of an individual but it applies to a family, or a church family, as well. Don’t take every situation more seriously than it ought to be taken. True joy can shine through brightly when you give thanks with humor.
2 Peter 1:2, John 10:10 — Does anything symbolize the American Thanksgiving Day gathering any more than a table overflowing with every variety of food imaginable — a table of Abundance? Jesus said He came to not only give us life, but to give us life abundantly! Do you give thanks with abundance, or just enough to get by? When we want to celebrate or to remember great things, we would likely never ask how little can I do and still look good. No, we would examine our resources of every kind to determine how abundantly can I celebrate to make my joy known to all. When we want to express deep-felt thankfulness it ought to be the same way — not what do I have to do but how much can I do. Your generosity overflows when you give thanks with abundance.
1 John 3:18-20 — Ahhh . . . turkey, plenty of good humor, an abundance of food . . . I’m tired. What good Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without a Nap? We give thanks when we give Naps! When we allow a person to relax and rest we communicate that we value both them and their time. If every interaction with a person has you walking away knowing that they expect something from you it is not likely that you will feel a true appreciation regardless of any words of thanks. Resting is a God-given concept and gift that we typically don’t use enough ourself and seldom think to give to others. The sabbath concept, a day of rest, is connected by God to the fact that on the seventh day He rested from His work of creation. We, and those around us, are more tolerable when we give thanks with naps.
Ephesians 4:31-32 — What family gathering is complete without that cousin that’s . . . well, he’s just different. Regardless of his different looks, different political views, different lifestyle, different pie preference, or different whatever, he is part of the family so we give Kindness. Extending kindness doesn’t mean that we agree or approve of everything about him — we may pray and work desperately to influence positive change in his life. It does mean, however, that we acknowledge his value as a person and do our best to include him in the family celebration of the Thanksgiving Day gathering. We all sin and find our self in need of God’s greatest kindness — the undeserved gift of forgiveness and salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus! It is this example that we must follow when we give thanks with kindness.
Proverbs 16:24 — Finally, the part that no one really needs but no Thanksgiving Day gathering is complete without — Sweets! Take away the pie, the ice cream, the cookies, the fudge, the chocolate, the candies, and the other desserts and what do you have? You have one very unhappy and disappointed family! Sweets are those over-and-above extras in life that shout “thank you” in ways that little else can. When we really want to give thanks, we adopt an “and then some” attitude. We do what is expected and required . . . and then some. We walk the extra mile. We take the extra time. We give the extra attention. With our actions we say loudly, “you’re worth it!”. Just as dessert completes the Thanksgiving Day gathering, our expressions of gratitude are completed when we give thanks with sweets.
So, how are you at giving THANKS? I pray that as you gather with others this Thanksgiving day, and any other day, you would give “Turkey”, give Humor, give Abundance, give Naps, give Kindness, and give Sweets!
This is the audio from the October 6, 2019 sermon, “Living As ONE!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Here are the main points from the sermon:
Being one in Christ means we learn to live as:
1 Corinthians 12:15-16, 2 Corinthians 10:5 — Living as one with Christ and with one another will require a steadfast pursuit of an obedient life. One key to bringing our actions into obedience to the will of God is learning to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” Our obedience to Christ will lead us to do the work that God uniquely created us to do. Not only do we grow in obedience to Christ, our living as one should lead us to a greater obedience or submission to one another. .
1 Corinthians 12:17-21, Ephesians 4:11-16 — Living as one with Christ will also require a recognition of how necessary we are as a part of His body. Our culture seems to have trained us in the very bad habit of evaluating a person’s usefulness based on a standard that doesn’t take into account what each person was created to do. When we come to understand that we are vital to the well-being of the body as a whole, we are more likely to live as one with those who bring different gifts and abilities to the body.
1 Corinthians 12:22-25, Romans 15:5-14 — Living as one with Christ will also require that we accept that we are enough just as Christ made us. To be fair and honest, this isn’t an excuse to quit growing and improving. God’s desire is that we would always give Him our best and be our best in our interactions with others. What it does mean, however, is that when we offer ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, what we offer is enough. We don’t have to become what someone else is or what they want us to be — in fact, doing so would often lessen the effectiveness of the body as it would be missing the part we were created to be!
Choosing to live as ONE will always have to begin with me. I must live as Obedient, Necessary, and Enough before I can expect that from others. Because we are part of one body, the body of Christ, after applying these lessons to ourselves we then begin to see how each attribute benefits the body. Our obedience prospers when it is built on the Word of God and grows out of submission to one another. Our sense of belonging grows when we realize just how necessary we are and how equally necessary all of the other members of the body are. Our value is measured accurately when we no longer have to measure up to the standards and expectations of another person whose task is different than ours. When the body functions as one and each part of the body lives as Obedient, Necessary, and Enough, we will make great strides in being the disciples God has called us to be and the witnesses for Jesus that He needs us to be.