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!
A long time ago, but not so far away. A baby was born on this special day. As this girl grew with each passing year. She faced life head-on with hardly a fear. When the time was just right, at least in my mind. This brave, fearless girl I was lucky to find.
Happily ever after, is how this story goes. But that’s only in fairy tales, everyone knows. So in the spirit of truth, it really has all been roses. Though some have held thorns, not fragrance to our noses. But I’ve learned through the pokes and sweet-smelling scent. Though not always easy, for this we were meant.
On this special day as we celebrate you. I’m so very happy that you said, “I do”. And I am so thankful to God up above. that we have each other to share in His love. So the happiest of birthday’s to my wonderful wife. I’m glad we’re together in this journey of life!
Just a little poem I wrote for my wife’s birthday today! It is a reminder that even in the ups and downs, sweet aromas and thorns, life can be made much better when the journey is taken together with the right person. Though in reality, I have discovered it seems to have much more to do with being the right person than expecting someone else to be that person for you. I pray that your journey is sweetened by the people that God brings into your life!
I sit in the darkness, keeping watch through the night. My eyes become heavy waiting for morning’s light. The sheep were all safe as I made one more round. Checking for danger, praying none would be found.
My brothers were sleeping, as best as they could. And soon we’d switch places so I could rest as I should. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of the night! We were surrounded by glory which glowed like a light!
In the midst of this glory, an angel spoke out. To bring us the news of what this night was about. It frightened us greatly to see such a thing. Though the angel said, “Fear not, good news I do bring.”
“The news is for you, and all through the earth. God’s keeping His promise through the Messiah’s birth. The baby you’ll find is no ordinary one. No, the one in the manger is God’s only Son!”
When the message was given, the sky was soon filled. With a multitude of angels who sounded quite thrilled. “Glory to God, and peace on the earth. To all who are favored by this Savior’s birth!”
With that glorious message ringing loud in our ear. We just had to check up on what we did hear. We rushed off together, my brothers and I. To see for ourselves what was announced in the sky.
We arrived at the stable and beheld such a sight. What the angel had told us, surely was right! The baby was right there with Mary and Joe. So we spread the word wherever we would go.
And when I returned to those sheep in the night. I couldn’t quit thinking of that beautiful sight. The angels were glorious, that is for sure. But they were no match for the baby so pure.
My life had been changed by a baby that day. And from that moment on I had something to say. “Glory to God and His peace on the earth! My Shepherd has come down to walk on this earth!”
I pray that you listen to what I did learn. And accept a great gift that you never could earn. The baby I welcomed on that dark, lonely night. Was given by God to bring us His light.
So I no longer walk in the darkness at all. I’ve chosen to follow my good Shepherd’s call. And as I do follow, He calls to you too. Come join the Shepherd and be made brand new!
As I was praying, cleaning, and working on some year-end teaching material early this week, part of this poem showed up in my mind. I wrote down what I had but it just didn’t feel like it was complete — the story was only half told. As I worked on a cleaning project today, several days after the original lines, the rest of the poem arrived. I hope it was the poem I was supposed to write and not just the result of the cleaning product fumes. 🙂 I pray that you would know the joy of God’s presence not just at Christmas time, but each day that you live!
Sometimes I wonder as I live life each day. If today I met Jesus, just what would He say? Would He mention my Facebook, or perhaps that “great” tweet? Or would He question my absence from the few at His feet?
Would He wink at that meme that I knew wasn’t true? But I just had to share it to get back at you. Would He ask why I’m so bent on proving I’m right? Did I honor His name by joining that fight?
Would He ask any questions that would give me a chance? To explain the appearance of my online “dance”? I sidestep the truth and I whirl around. And get in my jabs when opportunity is found.
Or would He just smile and say, “Job well done! You have lived life quite well as you followed the Son! You chose to use My Word to help and to heal. And stuck to its truth, above how you ‘feel’”.
“My Word is a lamp and a light to your way. So stay true to it in all that you say. And be very careful, when you say words are Mine. That you’re not justifying things you think are ‘fine’”.
“That lamp and that light can only be lit. When you speak Words of truth and don’t add to it. So, shine that light brightly as you follow the Son. And share My full counsel with each and every one!”
As I was praying this morning during the morning building clean, I found myself seeking God regarding various social media posts, meme, and conversations that I’ve wanted to respond to over the past week or so. While there is much good that can be accomplished through the tools of social media, there is a very real element of danger that exists in the ability to immediately share, post, or comment on things we’ve not spent any time talking to God about. We see something that pokes us in one way or another and we “feel” that we just have to share it if we agree with it or comment if we disagree. And far too often we use God’s Word out of context to add “power” to our opinion. We play fast and loose with what He says His Word is about and instead of lighting a path so that people can see Jesus, we create confusion and conflict when there ought to be clarity. Out of that prayer time came this poem as I considered what Jesus might say if He were to simply drop by my office for a visit today. I suspect that the more deliberate I am about sitting at His feet and listening rather than having to have the “last word”, the more likely I will recognize His presence as I “walk in the light as He is in the light.” I pray that you and I would be very careful in how we represent Jesus in all situations, but especially in our online presence.