Archive for April, 2016

simplify webThis past Sunday we came to the last week of our sermon series, antidotes for the out of control lifestyle. After covering topics such as slowing down, saying no, and finding peace, we now tackled ways to simplify our lives. We referred to Matthew 6:25-34 which spoke to our need of worry over things we want, God will provide.

Today I want to start with the dictionary’s definition. According to Mirriam-Webster, simplicity means; “easy to use or understand, uncomplicated.” Sounds good doesn’t it, “easy to use or understand, uncomplicated.” Certainly not trying to understand the Affordable Care Act or the tax code that goes along with it, even our election process.

But if we look at our lives, do we have things that we would consider simple? How is your life simple? Maybe it’s not, and that’s ok. You are among friends here. But if we are to simplify our lives, what do we need to do?

Well, I think we need to eliminate three words from our vocabulary, three words from our lives. Overwhelmed, Overscheduled, and Exhausted.

I first learned of these words from Bill Hybels who is the lead pastor at Willow Creek in Barrington and they rang so true for me because I have felt overwhelmed, overscheduled and exhausted on more than one occasion, in fact on many occasions.

Overwhelmed many times comes from financial trouble, thinking that you don’t have enough to make ends meet, from living paycheck to paycheck, worried about what is going to happen next week. Don’t worry, our passage from Matthew tells us that, but verse 33 tells us more; “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Seek his kingdom first, before anything else, before work, before the football game, before doing the dishes or laundry, seek him first! Be in study of the word, spend your 15 minutes alone with God and things will fall into place. Remember when I say this, LESS IS MORE!

Ok, the next word, I’m almost scared to share, is overscheduled! This hits so close to home for me. I remember many times as I was coming home from a meeting at work, a committee at church, a rehearsal, a performance or many other activities that I have been involved with and thinking, “Why do I even own a house?”

It seems like all I do there is sleep. I don’t want to live that way! I know that there will be some nights that I have things scheduled, but every night! No more! Sometimes it just takes getting angry at your schedule to clear it. So get angry at your schedule! Yell at it! Tell your schedule, NO MORE! Remember when I say this, LESS IS MORE!

I am exhausted! How do we eliminate this word, exhausted, from our vocabulary?

In our society, we are taught from a very young age, that we need to be successful and the way to do that is to climb the ladder of success. How do we do this?

Well we start at the bottom, we get an education. So we climb the first rung and look up to the next one and get a job or a career. Then more steps, and more steps.Well, you get the idea; you have to continue to climb until you reach the top. But the question starts to creep in; will you ever reach the top?

This example goes for success in our society too. It even creeps into our church life, our spiritual life. Add it all up, work, our kid’s activities, church meetings, friend’s groups, parties; they all add up to one word, exhausted! And guess what? We are not at our best when we are exhausted, we get angry, bitter, frustrated with everything and everyone around us. We become our own worst enemy, because frankly, we don’t even want to be around ourselves when we get this way.

More importantly, we don’t see the world around us the way we should, in fact, we don’t see the world around us the way God wants us to. It becomes difficult to look for the lost, lonely and hurting when we are this way.

So as you take an honest look at your life this morning, eliminate all of those things that do not help you grow in your faith in God and help you serve others around you. Focus on what God is telling you today about where you need to go with your life. And spend time in study and prayer to replenish your spirit. Remember when I say this, LESS IS MORE!

For video of the entire sermon, click on the following link: Simplify – Why Less is More!

Antidotes Series Week 3 Sermon Slide

We at Lanark UMC are in the middle of a series about the out of control lifestyle, and this week we focused on finding peace in this high anxiety world. But how do we find peace in our lives? How can we not only find it, but be comforted by it as well?

Well first we have to acknowledge the need for peace and this comes with the recognition of what keeps us from peace. Fear, anxiety, worry, and stress, all keep us from feeling peace in our lives.

Fear comes at us from every side. We watch the news and see all of the things going on around us. From the upcoming elections, the real threat of Isis, disasters like earthquakes in Japan, wildfires in the west, to tornados in our own communities.

We are scared about the future this world holds for our children or grandchildren. Will there be enough resources, will we be able to curb the violence, or what will the financial stability be?

This fear leads to anxiety, worry, and stress.

Now I want to express something to you, although we all want to live a stress free life, it’s impossible. This is for a few reasons, one, you can’t control the world around you and there are things that happen to you that will force stressors upon you, that’s life.

Second, we have to have some stress in our life, it pushes us to learn new things, gain valuable insight and skills needed for our lives. I remember in one of my classes, I had a high level of stress as I was approaching our final exam. This level of stress pushed me to study more, and learn as much as I possibly could. Without this stress, I would have not had the urgency to study and learn as I did.

Think of stress like a violin string. The stress tightens the string to the right amount. If there is no stress, the string would not be able to produce music, there will be no sound. If the stress is too much, the string breaks. But if there is the right amount, beautiful music comes. Just as our lives, with the right amount of stress will be beautiful music in our Father’s eye.

So we all need a little stress and anxiety in our lives. This stress becomes a problem when we enter crisis mode. So how do we get to the right balance, especially when we are feeling overwhelmed, maybe even approaching a crisis?

We find our answers, as we have been talking about throughout this series, in scripture. In Psalm 56, like many others, we find the psalmist writing about fear and being afraid. What do we do when we are afraid, verse 3 tells us. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Verse 11 “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”

Jesus and his disciples are out in a boat, Jesus is sleeping and a storm begins to build. The waves are starting to crash into the boat, in fact they were crashing over the sides of the boat, the boat was filling up, they were sinking! And yet, Jesus is calmly sleeping in the bow of the boat. They woke him up and asked him, “Don’t you care that we are dying!” Why aren’t you afraid of dying?

“Peace, be still” Jesus speaks peace to the wind and waves, and suddenly, everything was calm. Jesus then turns and asks them some questions, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

But why should we not be afraid? The psalmist tells us why, and Jesus shows us why. God will deliver us, God is with us. Isaiah 41:10 tells us; “fear not, for I am with you.”

Jesus, God in flesh, was with the disciples. They did not need to be afraid, God was with them. So too with us, God is with us, all the time.

So many times we recognize that God is with us when things are going well, but when things go bad, God has somehow deserted us. Many of the Psalms show this, especially Psalm 22 which starts, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God has not forsaken you. He is still with you, even when you are in the valleys. Actually, God is with you especially in the valleys.

Paul wrote the church in Philippi and he told them in Philippians 4:6-7; “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

But notice the beginning of verse 6 starts without a capitalized “do.” Why? Because the sentence begins in the last part of verse 5. It starts this way; “The Lord is at hand;”

This is why we should not worry, or be anxious, excessively. Because God is at hand, God is here.

Antidotes Series Week 2 Sermon Slide WebLast week we looked at slowing down in this hurry up world. Today we will talk about this phrase; “If I Don’t Do It…”

In Exodus, we find Moses, leading the people out of bondage in Egypt, through the Red Sea, interceding for the people when they were hungry and also when they were thirsty. Moses is pretty popular, and powerful.

The people started coming to Moses with disputes, disagreements, even looking for judgement when people broke the law. Moses saw a need, said yes, and started being a judge in all of these arguments. I’m sure it started out innocently, Moses presided over a bread stealing, maybe a family argument, maybe there were a half dozen cases.

Then it grew, more and more, every day until Moses was spending all day and part of the night, judging between people and their actions. Moses didn’t have time to do anything else except judge. Moses probably thought he was the only one who could handle that task, maybe that he was the only one qualified to do it. Maybe that if he didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done to his satisfaction. Moses had too much on his plate!

We all have these plates, some are larger than others and only you and God know how much you can put on your plate.

It all starts so innocently. Our plate starts off empty, but the necessities like sleeping and eating have to go on there. But then we keep adding things to our plate, family, kids, jobs, activities, sports, crafts, then comes overtime, a health crisis and our plate becomes overloaded.

In order to put all of this on the plate, some things had to come off. Sometimes we don’t even realize when they fall off. For me, it was family time. Playing games with my daughters.

It was also leisure time. The last vacation I had taken was in 2006, I didn’t have time for it, other things were too important. I had no time for the things that filled me up. No time for my family, no time for myself, and no time for my relationship with Jesus Christ. I was a wreck.

My birthday rolled around one year and my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I spoke with a joking voice when I said it, and I think even at the time I thought I was kidding when I told her, but in all seriousness, my request was a cry for help.

I told her that I wanted more time. I felt trapped by all the obligations that I had on my plate, so much so that I wasn’t sure if it was my plate anymore. I wasn’t living my life anymore, I was living for everything that I said yes to.

My present came that year. It was a clock, but not your ordinary clock. This one had 14 hours instead of twelve. My father created me a clock with two extra hours. Oh, if it were only that simple, it doesn’t work. Well, yes, it works, it just doesn’t add extra hours in a day.

Here’s what I have learned, although it has not been easy. I learned that you have to say no sometimes. As bad as it feels, as much as it makes you feel guilty, you have to say no every now and again. Here’s why…

If every yes equals another no, than the opposite must be true as well. Every no, means that you can say yes to something else.

So remember this, and strike this phrase from your vocabulary “If I don’t do it…” Because brothers and sisters, every yes will mean that you have to say no to something else, and it might be a date night, an evening playing games, a sport that you love playing, or maybe your 15 minutes with God.

Guard these things with all you have, but remember that the opposite is true. Every no, means that you will have room to say yes when it is really needed.

Antidotes Week 1 copyThis past Sunday we began a series on our “Out of Control Lifestyle.”

I am looking forward to this series, not just because I know many of you feel this way today, but that there are times when I do too.

I have to be honest with all of you. This series scares me. This series hits a little too close to home for me, as a pastor yes, but also as a person in the business world. I lived a life that had very high demands on my time, both at work and when I was technically “off” work. I imagine that it is the same for many of you. The demands work has for us can be overwhelming, and this influences every aspect of our lives. It leaves us short of time.

Sometimes, this shortness of time can led to anxious, angry, tense moments. I can see this as I get behind someone driving down the road. The speed limit is 30 mph, but my speedometer is reading 28, maybe 29. Really, why are they driving so slow? I have somewhere important to be, and this idiot is eating up all my time.

I see it in the grocery store. I’m pushing the cart full of our groceries to the registers and find myself carefully looking over the cashiers, which ones are talking more, which ones are flying through the can goods. But that’s not all, you also have to judge from the back, how many items are in the carts ahead of you. Calculus has nothing on me as I am determining which lane will get me out faster.

Even ordering food at restaurants, you know when you have finished placing your order and when that other table ordered their food, but then they get their food before you do, what? How did that happen? Did our waitress or waiter not turn in our ticket right away?

We come to a realization that we need to slow down, but how, what can we look to in order to find direction with this?

Exodus 20:8-11 talks about the Sabbath, in fact, it is one of the Ten Commandments, actually the fourth of the ten. Before commandments about murder, adultery, and stealing, we have this one about rest.

What happens when we keep the Sabbath, when we stop for a day? I want you to remember these three things, all three begin with an “R,” and they will all help in slowing down this hurried life we are in. Rest, Renew, and Remember.

So Exodus tells us that we should stop, once a week, remembering the Sabbath and resting. But the gospel of Mark 6:30-32 also tells us something about slowing down.

Jesus is talking about resting a little more frequently. Jesus, throughout his ministry was going away to a secluded place to pray, to reflect, and to rest. This is so important, so much so that Jesus modeled it for his disciples and he taught them, like in our passage today.

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to find a place where you can get away, in your house, outside (now that it’s getting warmer), in a tractor, wherever, just find a place where you can spend 15 minutes alone, and quiet. Read scripture, a devotional, or pray.

Now, when you are praying, don’t fill up the whole time with your words. It’s a two way conversation. God wants to speak to you, you just need to give him the space and time to do it.

I had a real hard time with this, I had always thought that prayer was me telling God what I wanted, I thought that if I rubbed the lamp, God would listen and magically give me what I thought I needed. It doesn’t work that way, and I think many of you know that.

I would actually challenge you to open in prayer and then sit in silence, listening for a message, feeling a tug in a certain direction, a feeling that you should do something, call someone, visit a friend, whatever God may be calling you to that day, and then do it. 15 minutes will change your life. God loves you, and he wants you to slow down, take time to be with him, have a conversation with him, listen to him.