Tag Archives: Evangelism

Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”           — Proverbs 1:7

I heard a radio preacher talk about the fear of the Lord yesterday. i expected him to go to start talking about the fearful, terrified, condemnation-style fear and how God was, well, almost like a bully that we’d be afraid of running into. But he didn’t! Instead, he talked about the kind of fear that I would call reverence.

And then this morning, I opened up a devotional called Augustine Day By Day and today’s entry, “Chaste Fear,” was bringing out this same approach.

Just from the fact that you try to avoid evil, you improve yourself, and you begin to desire what is good. When you begin to desire what is good, there will be a chaste fear in you.

That fear by which you fear being cast into hell with the devil is not yet chaste, since it does not come from the love of God but from fear of punishment. But when you fear God in the sense that you do not wish to lose Him, you embrace Him, and you desire to enjoy Him.

YES!

When I was growing up, so many of the gospel presentations were not GOOD News, but rather FEARFUL WARNINGS!

  • ‘You better make the right decision or you’ll go to Hell!’
  • ‘If you accept Jesus, you’ll be saved from Hell!’
  • ‘Turn or Burn!’
  • ‘Make sure you’ve got you’ve signed up for your eternal  fire insurance!’

I have one fellow pastor and friend who is always dwelling on the negatives. And yes, I know that seems like a generalization, but in this case it’s pretty accurate! He tries to draw people’s attention to how horrible, bad, awful, and sinful the world is around us. And that’s his attempt to share the “good” news! I love him and he has the sweetest wife, but I can only be around him for short periods of time and generally avoid reading anything he writes. It’s all pessimism and fear based. I don’t need more of that in my life!

It seems to me that that radio preacher (I don’t even know who he was) and St. Augustine have the healthier, more Godly approach. Yes there is a gratitude for what Jesus saves us from eternally in regards to punishment, that’s NOT the motivation for my walk with Christ or my understanding of God. Instead, there is a JOY in getting to know God better as I walk with Christ… as I learn to be His disciple and become more like Him. My relationship becomes more and more about love and respect and gratitude and reverence… not fear of punishment.

After all, the definition of “gospel” is supposed to be “GOOD news.”

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entry for July 29 “Chaste Fear” in Augustine Day By Day, compiled and edited by John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Catholic Book Publishing:New York, 1986, page 113. Quote drawn from Augustine’s sermon on 1 John 9, 5.
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Accidental Evangelism

I originally shared this in another setting several years ago. The events described occurred in October 2006.

My daughter Sarah and I were in an accident this past week.

It was Tuesday night and we were on our way to pick up my 2 year old son from the babysitter. Sarah, 16, for some reason had decided to sit in the middle seat in our mini-van, and I, of course, was driving.

We came to the spot on route 322 where I needed to turn left onto Thunderbird Road. There was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction, so I stopped and waited for them to pass. Another car came from behind, unaware that the traffic ahead of her had come to a stop, and she rammed into the rear of our van. She apparently had been busy with a cell phone or maybe the radio, because there was no braking at all… She just drove into the back of our stopped car.

Both cars are probably totaled… although the insurance companies are still working on that end of things. As for us, we had seat belts on and, other than a bit of neck strain and some soreness, Sarah and I are fine. The ambulance trip and a couple hours at the ER confirmed that. The girl that hit us had a few more injuries, but I saw her later as she was being discharged, so I know she too is OK.

All of that is merely background.

Because when I saw her, when she was being discharged, she came to my ER room (I was last to be discharged), she again apologized and then she thanked me!

I was blown away! She simply thanked me for “being so nice.”

It’s moments like that that remind me that God really is still working on me. Family and friends can tell you that there were times in the past when my anger would have flared up and I would have expressed that anger… in not necessarily kind ways. But it didn’t even enter my mind this time… I knew that Sarah and I were pretty OK… but this girl (and her car) had taken the brunt of the damage. I literally was scared that there was something wrong with her… and afraid she might go into shock (or worse) at any moment.

Other than a praise for safety during the “giving thanks” part of our prayer time, I didn’t really bring my experience into the sermon today. Instead, we focused on the Scripture text from Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have a bad day. They had been harassed by a slave girl with a demon for days on end, until Paul finally turned around and cast the demon out of the girl… which upset the slave owners who had been making money off of her ‘talents.’ Paul & Silas were hauled in front of the magistrates, were stripped, were beaten with rods, and were thrown into the inner prison, bound and in stocks. To me, that would really be a bad day!

Frankly, I imagine I would be somewhere between loudly protesting and whining, moping, and crying. But according to Acts 16:25, Paul & Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God…”

WOW!

The thing that caught my attention even more was the next phrase: “… and the other prisoners were listening to them.” And a few verses later, after a Divine intervention occurs, the jailer himself notices the godly behavior of these men of God… and asks them how he might have what he notices in them. He says “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And we read in verse 31, their answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”

Paul & Silas, in the midst of a bad day, were godly. They prayed and they worshipped God… even in the midst of the ‘stuff’ of life that was going on around them. And everyone around them was noticing!!!

My pastor, right before I entered ministry, was Rev. David Bunnell, and I once heard him use an analogy of a teacup. He said that each of us are like a teacup… possibly ornate or ordinary, delicate or rugged, fancy or plain, small or large… but it doesn’t really matter what kind of teacup we are… it matters what our cup is filled with.

He then said that you can never really tell what’s in each other’s teacups… until your cup is bumped. When something happens that upsets you or messes up your day… then it’s like your cup gets bumped… and whatever is inside spills out a bit.

Many of us, when our cup’s bumped, have rage, bitterness, or sarcasm spill out. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times. But Jesus Christ offers us the chance to be ‘refilled’ by His Holy Spirit continually. You know this is reality when your cup gets bumped and people around you can see what you’ve filled your cup with.

This week my cup got bumped… and some of the love and grace of Jesus spilled out… But unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If it were a bigger bump, and more spilling occurred, I’m afraid the sludge and YUK that’s in the bottom of my cup might have spilled over too.

That’s why we need to make sure we’re allowing Jesus Christ to continue to fill us. It’s not enough to ‘be filled’ when we get saved and then we walk through life and the dust and dirt and debris of life settle into our cups. That’s why we need to be in a constant refilling, like a cup that’s attached to a garden hose… even if dirt falls into the cup… it’s swept away by the constant infilling from the hose…

That’s what I want. Not to be filled with Living Water or the Filling of the Holy Spirit like it was some one-time event in the past at which I can wistfully look back and remember. NO! I want to filled and refilled and renewed all the time… so the sludge of life doesn’t have a chance to settle in… and even the stuff that was already there is eventually washed away.

Guess I’ll know even better how that’s going the next time my cup gets bumped. How about you? It’s absolutely vital that we get this right, because as my week showed and Paul & Silas learned… the world around us will notice!

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All Possible Means

This was my pastor’s letter for the August newsletter from Clarks Mills UMC.n2014-08a

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I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

  — 1 Corinthians 9:23 (NIV)

      The Clarks Mills church has a long history of using creative ways to get God’s message of love out to people.  We’ve held Vacation Bible School’s using themes and dressed up as angels, or island natives, or weird animals. Throughout the years, we’ve used flannel boards, stuffed animals, soloists, special music groups, choirs, instruments, dramas, games, computers, videos, audiobooks, stories, and interactive events like ‘Night in Bethlehem’ and ‘Journey to the Cross.’

Some may wonder “Why?” Why not just preach sermons and teach regular Sunday School classes? Why do we have to do all these other things? Well, we got the idea from the Bible.

We all know the Bible shows people lecturing or preaching pretty often, but the Scriptures are also filled with examples of people using stories and parables to get the message to their listeners. Jeremiah used pottery, Ezekiel acted out the siege of Jerusalem,  Jesus made up stories to illustrate his points (parables), Paul talked of wrestlers and racers, and John describes dragons, beasts, scrolls, and  seals. God even had the prophet Hosea choose a wife based on God’s need to teach the people a lesson using Hosea and Gomer as an example! They used whatever means necessary in order to get the message of God out to people.

No matter how different it might appear, no matter how many times something might have been done before, the prophets and teachers in Scripture assessed what their situation was in their setting and, under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit, used the means necessary to proclaim the unchanging truth of God’s word.

At Clarks Mills UMC, we want to get the message out in whatever way we can. Come and join us… you may meet a weird animal, hear the word acted out like a reader’s theater, see a Jewish High Priest (Caiaphas), or hear angelic voices… but you’ll definitely hear the word.

Pastor Dayton

 

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Church Signs… Funny or not?

Please check out this video and then read my response. I’m interested in having some conversation about my concerns.

The Funniest Church Signs!!!! from churchsignslol on GodTube.

I enjoyed some of these. But I wonder if I’m SUPPOSED to be enjoying them. (Not that there’s something wrong with my enjoyment, but rather shouldn’t the public sign of a Christians church offer hope and invite the non-Christian into relationship with HIM? Signs that only a Christian insider can understand are probably lost on the ones we say we’re trying to reach? And signs like “God doesn’t believe in Atheists” and to the “dyslexic atheist” seem to be a deliberate snub or mocking of the atheist. And I was appalled to see a United Methodist Church sign mocking victims of natural disasters and blaming them on God. How does that do to help them receive the REAL message of Christ?

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The HEART of the Team

These are my sermon notes for this past Sunday (January 1, 2012) at the Clarks Mills UMC. This is primarily an expanded outline from which I then preached. 

JUST A FEW WEEKS FROM NOW…

 

Super Bowl!

TEAMWORK…Establish a team that can work together and knows the same playbook…
AS CHRISTIANS……..
Christ wants to establish a team WITH US!
Not just those who SAY they’re Christian or those who go to church… but those who know the same playbook, have the same ground rules for working together with each other and with Christ.

 

1 Samuel 16:7

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
It is in our hearts that we will be Christian.
In our hearts we will make the choices to be a part of the team, set out to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
It is through our hearts that we will show
Matthew 7:16
“By their fruit you shall recognize them.”
What will people around us recognize by the “fruit” the grows from our hearts?


Dr. Roy Trueblood, in his book Partners in Ministry, used that word HEART as an acrostic to identify 5 key ground rules that teams, especially ministry teams, HAVE TO HAVE in order to be GREAT teams.
H
HEAR AND UNDERSTAND ME
Jesus said repeatedly, Let him who has ears to hear, hear.
Don’t let this message go in one ear and out the other….
PAY ATTENTION… HEAR ME AND UNDERSTAND ME!
Jesus showed us the importance of this and gave us the example…
John 4… Woman at the well.
He’s tired, and sits down to rest while the disciples go on…
He hears the woman… understands the rejection and pain that she’s operating out of, and meets her right there where she is.
So often we Christians look at where the world around us & the people around us OUGHT to be and get upset , angry, or depressed because they don’t seem to get it.
Jesus showed us the better way… Stop. Hear them and REALLY listen. Understand where they’re coming from. Meet them where they are.


E
EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME WRONG
Again, Jesus is our example:
John 8…woman taken in adultery…

Who accuses you?

Go and sin no more.


A
ACKNOWLEDGE THE GREATNESS WITHIN ME
Jesus affirmed the greatness and worth of those around him.
Example:
·       Ate & drank with sinners and even prostitutes mk 2.16
·       Nathaniel… I saw you under the fig tree… john 1:48


R
REMEMBER TO LOOK FOR MY LOVING INTENTIONS
John 12:1-18
Mary & Martha’s home
Mary broke box of ointment, disciples complained about impracticality. 

Jesus saw her loving intentions.


T
TELL ME THE TRUTH WITH COMPASSION
Ephesians 4.15
Paul teaches that it is as we speak “the truth in love” that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Truth, without love, without compassion, tears down and wounds the one to whom you speak.
   – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 
In many organizations, at their first meeting of the year, they install their new officers. And, in essence, so do we today. BUT, I want us to be MORE than just a roster of officers… It is my hope, my prayer, and my goal, that we be a MINISTRY TEAM.
Officers have authority to do their job and are responsible to go do their job and carry out their assigned tasks.
A Ministry TEAM, has team members who do have specific tasks and areas that are their responsibility, but they are dependant upon everyone else in the team doing their jobs as well.
So, I don’t talk about “officers” of the church “organization,” but rather we work as a “team” each of us doing our job but completely ineffective unless we’re doing it WITH the rest of the team as a part of that team.
One final word…
All of these things we’ve talked about today are built upon the assumption that you KNOW Jesus Christ first!
These are not qualities that you’re going to be able to work on alone. You MUST have Jesus Christ as your foundation you or it won’t make a difference.
That’s why one of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, (the “play book” if you will of the United Methodist Church) includes a requirement that those serving in positions of leadership and responsibility must have Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior first or else they are NOT eligible to lead in our church.
As we work together in 2012, let’s remember the HEART of the team!
–All Scripture references from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984 (NIV).

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