Monday, September 20, 2021

September 19 Sermon and Announcements

 

CERRO GORDO CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN

September 19, 2021

 

What’s Your Excuse?

ACTS 19:21-41, 20:1-3

 

This is going to be the last message we do on the early church from Acts. In the future we may refer back to Acts from time to time. The final chapters of Acts talk of what Paul especially, but other apostles as well, was doing in the major regions discussed elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

In the verses we read this morning, we see yet another controversy has arisen. Early on in Acts all the people who were most upset with the early church were Jews. The Jewish leaders would try at times to stir up the Roman leaders to do their dirty work but they one way or another wanted this early church and these Christians stopped. Many of the Jewish leaders may have genuinely refused to believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. Clearly, Satan had blinded their eyes to the truth. The prophecy in the Old Testament as we call it told of a king establishing his throne on the throne of David and his kingdom would never end. Also, all of God’s enemies would be defeated when this king established his kingdom. The Jewish leaders and the Jewish people longed for this king to come. They wanted the king to put the Roman empire in its place as well as avenge all the peoples of the past who had oppressed the Jews. Jesus pointed out during his ministry that his kingdom was not of this world. So, the Jewish leaders refused to believe Jesus was the one promised by God through the prophets of old. Jesus did not do what they wanted him to do the way they wanted him to do it.

 About 1/3 of the way through Acts, God opened his kingdom up and welcomed the Gentiles in without any conditions. For the most part, the Gentile people from every city and region embraced God’s message of love, mercy, and grace. In the 19th chapter of Acts, however, we see not everyone was happy about what Paul was sharing with the people of Ephesus. A man by the name of Demetrius figured out that if the Ephesians embraced Jesus as Lord what he and others had done to make money may suddenly disappear. Demetrius made personal images of Artemis, a god who was at the center of worship for the Ephesians. Seemingly, everyone had their own personal shrine at their homes as well as a huge temple for worship to Artemis. Demetrius said Paul had convinced and led astray large numbers of the Ephesians. Something had to be done to stop him. It was not so much because they believed in Artemis as it would seem that they were getting rich from the sale of personalized articles for worship. We can tell these people were really good at what they did. They probably could have used their talents in other ways, but they had grown comfortable doing what they had been doing and made a lot of money at it. Demetrius stirred up enough people in Ephesus and convinced many that Artemis was the true goddess worthy of worship, so the whole city was in an uproar. They grabbed one of Paul’s associates and was coming after Paul as well. The 32nd verse shows how chaotic the situation was. It says the assembly was in confusion; some were shouting one thing, some another. Most people did not even know why they were there. Talk about getting caught up in the moment. I do not know if any of you have been part of something that started small and then just grew, sometimes to the point people are asking, “What is going on? What is everyone doing?”

 

Ultimately, we read a city clerk helped bring calm before things reached the point of no return. Paul continued to speak the word throughout Asia. To begin with we saw the Jewish leaders were against the apostles so they went to the Gentiles. Now we see there is resistance in the Gentile regions as well. The Gentiles had created gods for themselves through the years and while many Gentiles were excited to accept God’s offer of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, some were not ready to let go of the past. One of the things that stuck out for me from this year’s Annual Conference was the speaker who pointed out why we so often resist change is fear of the unknown. Change forces us to leave our comfort zone. These craftsmen in Ephesus resisted Paul’s message more out of fear of losing their income source than rejection of the message Paul was sharing. They refused to see God could open up new possibilities for them. They were comfortable doing what tradesman had done for centuries in Ephesus.

 

What about you and me? Do we resist change because we do not agree with the change itself? Or do we resist at times because we just do not want to be bothered? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Satan has been able to play on people’s personal comfort zones since the beginning of time. The Jewish leadership largely rejected Jesus as Messiah because he was not doing it the right way. Why is it so hard to break addictions? Because we like what that addiction does for us. Satan uses addiction to artificially fill a void God wants to fill. Excuses of all kinds to do or not do things that are best for us as well as others sneak in the same way. Satan began planting excuses in the hearts of God’s creation starting in the Garden of Eden and he is still doing it to us today. Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest causes for excuses, but pride can be another way Satan tricks God’s people as well. There is a song (see lyrics below) by the Kingsman that was done several years ago called “Excuses.” It shows how Satan is working on us in the church as well.

 

Throughout the book of Acts the apostles had obstacle after obstacle but thru the power of the Holy Spirit God’s message and messengers would not be stopped. Biblical historians tell us all but one of the apostles were killed for their testimony of Jesus Christ; only John died a natural death and he died in prison.

 

God’s reward is greater than all the excuses and persecution that might keep us from fulfilling God’s purposes here on this earth. What’s your excuse, what’s mine, that is keeping us from more completely doing what God is calling us to do? 

 

Excuses (by the Kingman)

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.

And the Devil he'll supply them, if the church you stay away.

When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

In the summer it's too hot. And, in the winter, it's too cold.

In the spring time when the weather's just right, you find some place else to go.

Well, it's up to the mountains or down to the beach or to visit some old friend.

Or, to just stay home and kinda relax and hope that some of the kin folks will start dropping in.

Well, the church benches are too hard. And, that choir sings way too loud.

Boy, you know how nervous you get when you're sitting in a great big crowd.

The doctor told you, "Now, you better watch them crowds. They'll set you back."

But, you go to that old ball game because you say "it helps you to relax."

Well, a headache Sunday morning and a backache Sunday night.

But by worktime Monday morning, you're feeling quite alright.

While one of the children has a cold, "Pneumonia, do you suppose?"

Why the whole family had to stay home, just to blow that poor kid's nose.

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.

And the Devil he'll supply them if the church you stay away.

When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

Well, the preacher he's too young. And, maybe he's too old.

The sermons they're not hard enough. And, maybe they're too bold.

His voice is much too quiet-like. Sometimes he gets too loud.

He needs to have more dignity. Or, else he's way too proud.

Well, the sermons they're too long. And, maybe they're too short.

He ought to preach the word with dignity instead of "stomp and snort."

Well, that preacher we've got must be "the world's most stuck up man."

Well, one of the lady's told me the other day, "Well, he didn't even shake my hand."

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.

And the Devil he'll supply them if the church you stay away.

When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

 

Well, the sermons they're too long. And, maybe they're too short.

He ought to preach the word with dignity instead of "stomp and snort."

Well, that preacher we've got must be "the world's most stuck up man."

Well, one of the lady's told me the other day, "Well, he didn't even shake my hand."

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.

And the Devil he'll supply them if the church you stay away.

When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

Pastor Larry

Announcements:

 

Bible Study 9:30 Tuesday

 

Sept 29 Submissions due for October newsletter.

 

October 2 All church wiener roast 4:00 at Shirley & Oren’s. Sign up sheet for food in the back. Women’s Fellowship will provide hotdogs, buns, tableware. Beverages will also be provided.

 

October 3 World Communion Sunday—bread and cup communion during worship

 

October 9 Rummage sale at Brethren Church to benefit the Lord’s Storehouse. Take items to Katie or Amy.

 

November 5, 6 District Conference—One delegate still needed

 

Offering plates are in the back of the sanctuary. Thank you!

 

Donation Box: Pastor’s Assistance Fund

First Sundays: food donations for food banks

 

Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362

 

To keep up on Church of the Brethren news:

Denomination: www.brethren.org/news Sign up for Newsline by clicking link on left side of page.

District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook

Our pages: cerrogordocob.com (printed sermon, announcements, & calendar) and on facebook

Keep in Your Prayers

Betty Sue Laird and family; family of Sherry Wright; Kres Lipscomb; Marlene Schultz; Randy West; Jen Durst; Sarah Rudelick; Sydney (Nancy Gorrell’s niece); Tera Runyan; Carl and Wilma Cable; Marge Starr; Mike Gentry; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Owen Wright; Anna Gentry Thompson; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 660,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren

 

Military and Other Services and their families

Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers

 

Church of the Brethren vision statement:

Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.

                       

Our Mission Statement:

Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace.

Monday, September 13, 2021

September 12 Sermon and Announcements

 

CERRO GORDO CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN

September 12, 2021

 

Can We Get an Amen?

ACTS 15:1-14, 19-20, 36-41

 

As we begin looking at what is happening among the believers this morning, we see there are some of the Jewish converts that believe the way to follow Christ has two basic steps to it. The first step is you must accept the Law of Moses and all that involves; then you will be ready to accept the teachings of Christ. There once again is a dispute that has arisen that basically says to be a Christian you must do things that way. All of the first to receive God’s message of salvation through what Jesus Christ did on the cross were of the Jewish faith. It would seem some were clinging to the belief you must become a Jew before you can become a Christian. We first saw Peter have the vision from God about the kingdom being made available to the Gentiles. It has been reinforced in every chapter ever since. Actually, the first reference of God opening the kingdom to everyone began with Saul’s conversion in chapter 9. We read in the first verse this morning that some point blank stated that if you are not circumcised as was the custom starting back in Moses time, you could not be saved. To this point, in the previous chapters, not a lot was said about what the requirements for the Gentiles should be. Paul and Barnabas as well as some of the other believers left to go to Jerusalem to address this latest controversy. As they made their way back to Jerusalem, they stopped at each church along the way to remind the churches how God was working in the lives of the Gentiles. When Paul and Barnabas first arrived back in Jerusalem, they reported on all the great things God was doing building churches in every town. Then some of the Jewish believers who had been part of the very rigid group called Pharisees stood up and said all that is well and good but these Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses.

 

After what was certainly considerable debate, Peter stood up and reminded everyone of the fact that God had confirmed the message with the Gentiles the same way as with the Jewish converts. Peter turned the tables by asking the question, “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of these disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” Peter made it not a debate between men but a debate or a dispute with God. Peter reminded them we are saved by grace through Jesus Christ. In other words, we have never been able to earn our salvation and we never will. Then it seems Paul and Barnabas jumped back in to describe all the incredible things God was doing among the Gentiles in the church.

 

Then yet another apostle, James, quoted the Old Testament in verses 16—18, which we did not read, to show this day was foretold long ago through the prophets. After James listened carefully to all the different points that were made, the Holy Spirit led him to add his opinion. James said there are a few things we might want to have the Gentile believers avoid, but otherwise we must trust the same Holy Spirit that is guiding us to guide them as well.

 

We again skipped verses 21-35 but they basically tell us the church in Jersusalem agreed with what Paul, Barnabas, Peter and James said. Afterwards the church sent not only Paul and Barnabas but also Silas and Judas (called Barsabas) back to Antioch. After a while they felt led to check in with many of the churches they had helped start. We see, though, that this dynamic duo had a major disagreement. All through the years together they were seemingly always on the same page. But apparently John Mark was there in Antioch, and Barnabas wanted him to go out with them on that next missionary trip. If you recall, though, back in the 13th chapter John Mark abruptly left Paul and Barnabas. We can see now Paul was not happy with him abandoning the work that God was doing.

 

Barnabas was ready to give John another chance, but clearly Paul did not believe it was worth the risk. So, we read after Paul and Barnabas had what I am sure was a very intense heart to heart, they came to the conclusion Barnabas would take John Mark and they would go to the churches in Cyprus, and Paul would take Silas and go the churches in Syria and Cilicia. We can see even the most committed believers can, on occasions, have disagreements.

 

We started off the 15th chapter with a debate of what should be called the right way to be obedient and faithful to God, and we closed out the chapter with a sharp disagreement between two of the most important apostles for especially the Gentile believers. What is so encouraging in both cases was a way was found to keep moving forward for God. When believers are truly willing to seek God’s wisdom and guidance, there will always be a way. With the first disagreement, God through the power of the Holy Spirit got everyone to agree with the right way to share the word of God and receive salvation. The second disagreement found Paul and Barnabas in some ways agreeing to disagree. We are led to believe God did not allow this disagreement to stand in the way of the message of salvation to continue to go forward.

 

The title today is “Can we get an amen?” It should always be an exciting time when disputes or disagreements occur and yet we do not let it destroy the relationship God has established. God wants his church to emphasize the things we can agree on without compromising on the true message of Christ for our church, our community, our world, our lives.

 

God is continuing to show us valuable lessons of how to work with one another to achieve God’s purpose of reaching our world with the lifesaving message of Christ that should always be the most important focus. May we here in this church be examples of love, mercy and grace to our community. There will be times we do not always agree on everything in our church, as well as our families and elsewhere. If we follow the example shown us in the 15th chapter of Acts, we will see God’s love and it will win the day. To which will lead us to say in our own ways when it comes to serving God and sharing the message of Christ’s love, mercy and righteousness: Can I get an Amen?

Pastor Larry

Announcements:

 

Bible Study 9:30 Tuesday

 

October 2 All church wiener roast 4:00 at Shirley & Oren’s. Sign up sheet for food in the back. Women’s Fellowship will provide hotdogs, buns, tableware. Beverages will also be provided.

 

October 3 World Communion Sunday—bread and cup communion during worship

 

October 9 Rummage sale at Brethren Church to benefit the Lord’s Storehouse. Take items to Katie or Amy.

 

November 5, 6 District Conference--Delegates are still needed

 

Offering plates are in the back of the sanctuary. Thank you!

 

Donation Box: Pastor’s Assistance Fund

First Sundays: food donations for food banks

 

Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362

 

To keep up on Church of the Brethren news:

Denomination: www.brethren.org/news Sign up for Newsline by clicking link on left side of page.

District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook

Our pages: cerrogordocob.com (printed sermon, announcements, & calendar) and on facebook

Keep in Your Prayers

Betty Sue Laird and family; family of Sherry Wright; Kres Lipscomb; Marlene Schultz; Randy West; Jen Durst; Sarah Rudelick; Sydney (Nancy Gorrell’s niece); Tera Runyan; Carl and Wilma Cable; Marge Starr; Mike Gentry; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Anna Gentry Thompson; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 660,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; Haitian Brethren

 

Military and Other Services and their families

Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers

 

Church of the Brethren vision statement:

Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.

                       

Our Mission Statement:

Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace.