Sunday, October 27, 2013

Disciples Path : Come and See

October 27
Come and See

John 1:35-49   (NRSV)
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

One of the dirtiest words in the Christian lingo among mainline Christians and non-Christians is the word EVANGELISM.

That word tends to create all kinds of images in our minds
          First Baptist Church of Hammond
                   Knocking on your door
                   Bus ministry
          People handing out tracts
          More concerned about what you believe than how you live

But what does the word really mean?
          According to the dictionary the word means
                   "the preaching or promulgation of the gospel"

Gospel of course means "good news"

So evangelism is sharing the good news

It is neither a positive nor a negative word in itself --- it all depends on how it is done!

Most of us have experienced what we would classify as negative evangelism --- however, if we ask ourselves how did we end up at Ridge Church? --- the reality is we came because of positive evangelism

So what does positive evangelism look like?

Let's take a deeper look at our scripture this morning and see if Jesus doesn't model a better way of doing evangelism for us.

Our scripture comes from the opening scene in the gospel of John.

In it we meet two disciples of John the Baptist.

They had been with him in the wilderness for some time.

They hear John the Baptist say:
          “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

When they heard their master say this they decided to see what John was talking about so they began following Jesus.

Jesus turns to them and asks them:
          “What are you looking for?”
And then he offers the invitation:
          "Come and see"

We are told that they remained with Jesus for a day and then the gospel story tell us that why they came across Simon Peter (Andrew his brother was one of the two who had encountered Jesus) they told Peter
          “We have found the Messiah”

The next day they went to the Galilee and came across Nathanial and Philip said to him:
“We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Notice that Philip followed Jesus lesson in how to evangelize --- COME AND SEE

Please note
          There is no coercing or manipulation
                   No ---- "Do you know where you are going if you die tonight"
          No pressure
          No hard sell
          COME AND SEE was the invitation

Come and see the one whom you will eventually understand is the answer to all the searching that you are already doing.

Later in John's gospel we find a similar story

Jesus has just met a Samaritan woman sitting beside Jacob's well

The story begins with a simple conversation about Jesus being thirsty and needing a drink of water.

By the time the story ends, this woman has discovered that Jesus is "Living Water" and runs off to tell everyone that she can find.

If you go home this afternoon and pay attention to the way that Jesus engages with people --- I think that you will discover that there was a pattern to the way Jesus reached out.

It seems to have a very consistent pattern that includes:
·         conversation rather than confrontation
·         invitation rather than invasion
·         an adventure rather than an argument
·         a meeting of the hearts rather than a making of a point
·         personal discovery rather than vigorous debate

This style of evangelism is centered on loving people and giving them life rather than the negative images of evangelism that saturate our consciousness

The question really isn't should we evangelize ---
Charles Wesley said:
"We cannot expect the wanderers from God to seek us.  It is our part to go and seek them."
The question is HOW, --- how do we share our love of Jesus with others?

It begins with friendship
          It can't be manipulative
                   It must be centered in loving, caring friendships
You can't share Jesus until you really get to know somebody

We need to learn to LISTEN
          We don't really need to tell about Jesus
                   We need to find out what people are looking for
                             Remember --- that is what Jesus did to Andrew
                                      He asked him "What are you looking for?"

          Listen as they share their story

Know your story
          Know and understand how and why Jesus makes a difference in your life
                   Can you articulate that in a simple and concise way?

Offer an Invitation
          What is the invitation that Jesus offers?
                   COME AND SEE
          What do we offer them to come and see?
                   That is going to depend on the individual and their circumstances
                   It might be something such as:
                             Bible Study
                             Fun event
                             WWE Dinner
                             Youth Group
                   Or it may be something totally different

Trust God
One of the hallmarks of our Methodist tradition is the concept of Prevenient Grace
We believe God is already at work in their lives whether they know it or not
God helps us in this process --- we don't do it all

But what is the most important ingredient in evangelism?

What are you passionate about?
          Duke Basketball??

What does it take for us to become passionate for Jesus?

They key is knowing our story and how God intersects that story    

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Step at a Time

October 20
One Step at a Time
2 Corinthians 8:7-15

2 Corinthians 8:7-15    (NRSV)
Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,
    and the one who had little did not have too little.”

The buzz word for the last couple of weeks has been economics.

The looming question was --- if Congress had not passed a budget bill of some variety would our (and the world's) economy collapse.

But it posses and interesting question that nobody seemed really to answer.

Just what is "economics?"

We love to talk about the economy --- but my hunch is most of us really don't understand it --- other than watching whether or not the price of gas is going up or down.

A few years ago, there was a New York Times best selling book that seemed to challenge our thinking about the whole idea of economics and how financial and social capitol actually move in our culture.

The book, if you are familiar with it is: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Looks at the Hidden Side of Everything.

The rogue economist is Steven Levitt who, along with partner Stephen Dubner, looks at the real nature of economics as a web of interconnected relationships.

Their premise?
“If morality represents how we’d like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work.”

I think why I was attracted by the book, was instead of doing what most economist do --- which is look a the numbers and make statements or predictions --- Levitt asks WHY?

He believes that at the center of economics is the concept of incentives.

He writes:
“Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing . . .  An incentive is a bullet, a lever, a key: an often tiny object with astonishing power to change a situation.”

If the incentive is great enough, with enough of a payoff in the end, people will go to great lengths to achieve it.

In a world where conventional economic wisdom is all about acquiring enough money and things to live comfortably and secure, Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church offers a completely different way of thinking economically and spiritually.

Let's take a quick look at what Corinth was like in the first century.

Corinth was a cosmopolitan culture where the economy, status and religion were all based on competition between individuals and groups (sounds a lot like today).

The basic incentive that drove people was the desire for “excellence,” or one-upping others in any pursuit.

Much of 1 Corinthians is devoted to Paul’s arguments against this kind of thinking in the church.

Paul says that instead of climbing over one another to be the best or most worthy, we should move toward equality and unity in things like worship (1 Corinthians 11) and in the use of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12).

My hunch is the people of Corinth felt pretty beat up by Paul's first letter and it created some hard feelings in the church toward Paul and, in particular, about the collection that Paul was asking for from all the Gentile churches to support the work of the Jerusalem church among the poor and needy (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).

It wasn’t that the Corinthians were unwilling.
          They simply lacked incentive.

Without an incentive to take up the offering, other than a perceived obligation, the Corinthians were falling behind.

A year earlier they had been all for it, but since their relationships with Paul had apparently been strained, they had become less enthusiastic about giving to his cause (2 Corinthians 8:10-12).

Clearly, they needed a different kind of incentive in order to finish what they started.

We run into the same dilemma every year

Every fall there are letters written, newsletter articles posted and sermons from me soliciting your support through estimates of giving for the coming year.

And as we try to plan our annual campaign, one of the things that quickly becomes apparent is that there are hundreds of campaigns out there.

One of the most offensive to me (because it is theologically WRONG) is the one that says:
          Give and you will prosper financially
or       Give $1000 and God will grant you new wealth.

The bible is full of talk about blessings --- even blessings that are in response to faithful giving.
          But the scriptures never promise a shopping spree.

Another approach is to encourage you to support the budget.        
          To give your fair share . . .

As I said a couple weeks ago --- we don't GIVE to raise money for the church or to support the budget.
          That's not why you bring an offering each week

We have even been known to use guilt to try and get you to give.
I bet some of you have heard some of these lines over the years (I hope not here!!!)
          "If you don't raise your giving we may have to close the church doors"

          "We may have to let staff go"

          "We may not have Sunday school material for our children"

Guilt doesn't work too well!

I even read about a church that tried a lottery approach
          Probably appropriate in this day and age with our love of gambling

What the campaign said was: Bring your offering in a sealed envelope.
Once the offering was collected --- all the envelopes were placed in a big drum, like the ones used for bingo
The pastor spins the drum and pulls out an envelope
The name is read and the winning person gets double his or her money back


Or there was the weight loss challenge.

Some members of a congregation challenged the Sr Pastor to lose some weight
          They pledged money for every pound that he lost
It was kind of a win -- win situation
          The Sr Pastor wins by losing some weight
          The congregation wins by getting some money

Silly --- maybe even amusing --- but sad at the same time

Why do we give to the church?
          Why do you give?

If not to raise money for the church ---- WHY?

As I said a few weeks ago
          Giving is essential to Discipleship
                   One cannot be a disciple of Jesus and not be generous

So let's take a quick look at Paul's approach.

What Paul realized was that the church at Corinth needed a crash course in faith-onomics, or better yet, grace-onomics.

Paul starts where they are.

He knows what motivates these Corinthians, ---- what incentive will work.

What he had chided them about in the first letter, he now uses to bolster his argument in the second:
If the Corinthians want to demonstrate “excellence,” here is the perfect chance to do so (8:7).

The Macedonian churches (particularly those at Thessalonica and Philippi) had already given sacrificially and enthusiastically to this offering, even though they were dealing with their own poor economic conditions (8:1-6).

Despite their own poverty, these people gave “beyond their means” and begged for the privilege of doing more.

The poor Macedonians have outdone themselves, writes Paul to the wealthy Corinthians.

          So, it’s your call.
          What are you going to do in response?

Paul not only encourages the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonians in their giving, but even more so the example of Christ, who “became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (v. 9).

All that they have, materially and spiritually, is the result of the grace of God and that grace is, in fact, a form of wealth in itself.

God has poured himself out for them in Jesus Christ — how can they not do the same for others?

Understand that Paul is not talking actual drachma amounts here, like a corporation that offers matching gifts to charity.

He’s talking about attitude and motivation, urging the Corinthians to give out of the abundance of what they have, not focusing on what they don’t have (v. 12).

Balance, fairness and reciprocity are the economics of God, where all share together in the model of Christ in whose eyes all of us are equal (v. 13).

It’s not about tossing God our leftovers, but about seeking the higher value of excellence in our stewardship,
living our lives with open hands as well as open hearts, rather than begrudging our giving.

Paul’s basic economic theory, very different from that of Levitt and Dubner, is that everything belongs to God in the first place, but God has seen fit to share it with us — even to the point of sharing God’s own self in Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:21b-23).

Even if we don’t have a penny to our names, we are rich because of God’s grace toward us.
          It’s thinking that runs counter to just about every economic theory.

So why do we give?

Let me offer to us some reasons why we give


We give to express gratitude and joy for the gift of life.


The gift says something of what I am about.

It proclaims that I want to be involved in what my church is doing.

A mature Christian is one who wants to be involved and who wants to make a contribution


We don't give to make the church bigger.

We give in order to facilitate our own steady growth as disciples of Jesus --- and to make sure that others can join us on this Discipleship Path

A good gift is one that has a positive effect on the spiritual life of the giver!

We give not to get, but because we have received.
We love because we have been loved.

Our incentive to give of our time, our talents, and our treasure in God’s service has nothing to do with what we’ll get in return.

Instead it has everything to do with what God has already done for us.

Monday, October 14, 2013


October 13
Ephesians 4:1-16  

Ephesians 4:1-16
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

When you join any United Methodist Church, you promise to support the church with your:     Prayers

But as a follower of Jesus --- you promise to become an active participant in Jesus' ministry of service to the world.

One of the hallmarks of the Reformation is the affirmation of the Priesthood of all believers. 
          In other words, all followers of Jesus are ministers.

In the United Methodist Discipline (our rulebook) it declares:
"all Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God."

Whoever you are
          clergy person --- staff person --- layperson
          man --- woman
          young --- old
          skilled in the bible  --- or one whom the bible is new
ALL are called! --- And that includes YOU!

One of the mistakes that we --- as ordained ministers make --- is in implying that calling is only something we get.
                   Every call is different

The task of the church is pretty simple in regards to this ---- we are here to help you discover your call, understand your spiritual gifts and help you find your place in service --- and then to support you in using them!

But what are these things that I am calling spiritual gifts?

Our scripture this morning reminds us that as followers of Jesus we are all given spiritual gifts
·         these are not something that we earn
·         God gives this to us and expects us to use them
·         You could say that God pre-wired us to use our natural talents, our personality, our passions, and the gifts we have been given to become a part of God's transformation of the world through God's love

Remember, the purpose of the church is to "make Disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."  THAT IS OUR MISSION.

YOU have been called to be a part of that mission.

Paul, as he was writing to the church at Corinth was trying to help them understand their spiritual gifts.

He tells them: (1 Corinthians 12 selected The Message)
What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. . . .

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!

Every follower of Jesus ---- Every Christian is gifted by God.

One of the best ways to find out what your spiritual gifts are is to take a spiritual gifts inventory.

A simple one can be found at
          It is free and easy

Once we figure out what our gifts are, then we can figure out what God wants us to do with them.

And by that I don't mean that we are to volunteer.

God doesn't want volunteers
God wants us servants.

And there is a big difference between being a volunteer and being a servant
·         being a volunteer describes a particular activity that is not at the center of your identity ---- but being a servant describes something about you as a follower of Jesus
·         A volunteer gives of time and talent when it is convenient or when it fits into one's schedule ---- a disciple of Jesus understands that they are a servant ALWAYS
·         A volunteer serves based on their interests or values ---- a disciple is guided by the Jesus' kingdom values.

Can one be a disciple of Jesus and not be a servant?
          The author of James says NO (James 2:14-17)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Faith without action is no faith

Being a Christian is not just about BELIEVING certain things --- being a Christian is about a way of life.

On May 16, 2006 an auction was held at Christie's in London.

Up for auction was an old violin
People were in awe when the price for the violin went past $1 million, and then $2 million
When the gavel finally came down ---- the violin sold for $3.5 million, the highest price ever paid for a musical instrument.

The violin was one that was hand made by Antonio Stradivari --- without a doubt the greatest maker of violins ever.

George Eliot, the pen name of 19th century British novelist Mary Anne Evans wrote a poem simply titled: Stradivarius.

In the poem, a young, undisciplined painter named Naldo mocks Stradivari's hard work, telling him that he could have fame and wealth with a lot less labor.

Antonio replies that any musician who holds one of his violins will be grateful that Stradivari lived, made violins, and made them the best that he could.

Antonio says that God gives the musicians their skill, but that he gives them the instruments to play: "God choosing me to help him."

Naldo is shocked by the idea that God might need Stradivarius' help.

Antonio replies:
Not God Himself can make man's best
Without best men to help him . . .
. . . He could not make
Antonio Stradivari's violins
Without Antonio

Stradivarius understood how God works in the world

God works in the world through us!

The churches job is to help you figure out what God has gifted you with ---
          but not to stop there
                   to help you put those gifts into action

So that with the help of the Holy Spirit you can help in the transformation of the world

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Slow Down

October 6
Slow Down!!

Genesis 37:5-12   (The Message)
Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said, “Listen to this dream I had. We were all out in the field gathering bundles of wheat. All of a sudden my bundle stood straight up and your bundles circled around it and bowed down to mine.”

His brothers said, “So! You’re going to rule us? You’re going to boss us around?” And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.

He had another dream and told this one also to his brothers: “I dreamed another dream—the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to me!”

When he told it to his father and brothers, his father reprimanded him: “What’s with all this dreaming? Am I and your mother and your brothers all supposed to bow down to you?” Now his brothers were really jealous; but his father brooded over the whole business.

As many of you know --- three years ago ---- I got tired of always watching Nancy run marathon after marathon.

And on my 50th birthday I announced to all of you in worship that I was setting a goal of completing a marathon before my 51st birthday.

I didn't make it --- I actually completed my first marathon 2 weeks after my 51st birthday.

Since my 50th birthday I have completed 2 marathons and 5 half marathons with a sixth in two weeks.

As many of you know --- Last year when I ran the Chicago marathon Nancy and I finished hand in hand together --- it is a highlight of my life!

This past May, Nancy and I ran the Indy Mini together and the day of the race just happened to be our 27th anniversary

We had been training together and I had it in my head how awesome it would be for us to finish together.

We started out pretty good, but at about mile three I had to stop and smell some flowers and I never saw Nancy again.
          She finished with her fastest ever half marathon 1:53 minutes
          I struggled across the finish line some 18 minutes behind her

Again we trained together every day for our next race
          And as we would train Nancy would say to me
                   "We are running the same pace, we should run together"

We were up in Wine Country Michigan at the end of August and Nancy said to me before the race began --- "If I am running too fast let me know"

We started out at a pretty good pace, but at around the second mile I said to her we were running too fast --- she kind of looked at me and kept on going.

I finished in just under 2:05 minutes --- but a good 6 minutes behind Nancy

As much as I wanted to keep up with her --- I couldn't and she was not willing to slow down and run with me

I think I have done the same to you

          I have been running faster than you can keep up

          Some of you pointed that out to me this week
                   And the surprising news ---- I actually listened

So I want to slow down this morning
Try to regroup
Explain why I am preaching this series
One that I believe may be one of the most important that I have shared with you

Almost three years ago we were invited as a church to participate in the Fruitful Congregations Journey.

12 Lay People committed to be a part of a process in which they would meet once a month with a coach and then meet a second time each month with the pastors.

Over the two years we met we read a number of books and prepared to bring in a group of consultants who would evaluate what we were doing and the things that we might improve on.

Last spring we had the consultants come and give us their recommendations.

The recommended 5 areas that we work on.


They suggested that we improve our website

That the Trustees create a task force to look at signage issues

That we develop better lines of communication among the staff and the congregation

We are well on our way to achieving this goal

·         Website
New website is in development and should be up soon

·         Signage
As far as I know the Trustees have not acted on this recommendation yet

·         Communication
We are trying to do a better job communicating.
          Staff Meeting weekly
          I meet with most of the staff individually each week


Do you know what the mission of Ridge Church is?
to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world

Do you know what our vision is?
          Offer hope, unconditional love and meaning for life

I try to make sure I life those up in every worship service and we seek to make sure every ministry we engage in is in line with those values


You have been hearing about our Grow One Step stewardship campaign and in the spring of next year we will be conducting a capital campaign to fix the roof and pay off our debt.

The one area that they challenged us in as regards stewardship is they felt we had too many fund raisers.  That has not changed.


This is the one area that we have not at all tackled.  The Fruitful Team will be taking this up at their meeting next month.


The goal is to develop a clear and articulated path to help people who come to RUMC grow into a committed follower of Jesus.  This process with be one that persons of all ages and levels of spiritual maturity will have the opportunity to connect, move and grow along this path into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

This path, will seek to help persons grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ by sharing hope, loving unconditionally and helping one another recognize that we all have gifts to share on our journey.  We will encourage persons to:
·         Develop a transformational relationship with Jesus
·         Participate in passionate worship and relevant Bible study
·         Connect with the community for support, prayer and accountability
·         Sent out to serve others in the community or world

This is what this sermon series has been about.

I am convinced that if we take the five promises we make when we join the church, we will be well on our way to helping all of us grow as disciples.

This is not saying that we are not good disciples already --- the point is we can become better disciples and more intentional in helping others to grow in a love relationship with Jesus.

So for the past three weeks we have looked at the first three promised that we made when we joined the church.

We promised to support the church with our prayers

We promised to support the church with our presence

We promised to support the church with our gifts

But the ultimate question is what is the outcome that we are looking for?

Well clearly, the hope is that you will get intentional in your relationship with Jesus.

That means that we have to become more intentional in our prayer life

Become more intentional in our participation in our spiritual growth
          attend church regularly
          participate in some type of small group

Grow in your generosity.

But more than that, that we will become more aware of those around us who are new on the Discipleship Path and that we will intentionally help them find their way