St Luke Simpson UMC Blog and Sermon LOVE series

Last week we kicked off a new sermon series using the passage from Matthew 22:34-40 where Jesus calls us to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul! When we follow the greatest commandments, we love God for who God is and for what God has, is, and will continue to do in our lives! Rev. Black submits this week that we are also called to love the CHURCH! The universal Church is an extension of who God is and what God has, is, and will continue to do with us and for us! The Church also brings us into a loving and unique relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This text from Matthew 16:18-19 reaffirms that Jesus wants us to be connected to God through our relationship with the Church that Jesus himself founded!

To be a part of the Church where the body of Christ gathers, worships, and experiences God’s love together is a gift! God works through the life of the Church and through these relationships and these moments so that the love we have for God, neighbor, and self is used to help the universal Church to TRANSFORM THE WORLD through LOVE!

For those who feel they do not need to be a part of a church to love God, think about a relationship with God and church like this: Have you ever found yourself thinking “I do not need to go to church to love God or know God”?

What if we lived by this philosophy? Our lives would look something like this:

“Oh, I am married to my spouse but that does not mean I need to live with my spouse or share life with them or love them.”

“Yes, I am a parent but I do not need to ever gather, see, or visit with my kids to share life with them or love them.”

Sounds sort of crazy right? To be in relationship requires us to make time for one another out of LOVE! To be in relationship requires us to spend time with one another growing in relationship with one another and our maker!

Same goes for the church. It is biblical for the church to gather and grow together in God’s love. God moves and gives power to the Church to love and transform the lives of others. Remember, we are a part of a story. The universal Church’s story included chapters of our relationships with the Church. These chapters reflect stories of how God’s love through the church has brought about radical transformation to the world through hospitals, charities, writers, musicians, church leaders, and church ministries everywhere!

Today, we encourage you to be a part of God’s church. Come and be a part of this chapter in the story!

Come be the Church.

Come be changed.

Come be transformed.

Come be a part of a family, a body of Christ who changes and transforms others.

Come love and be loved.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Amy Duhon Castro

St Luke Simpson UMC Blog and Sermon LOVE series

We are jumping into a new sermon series that began on January 10, 2021 so that we can wrestle with how to honor the greatest two commandments our God has given to us: Love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Click Here for the scripture reference of Matthew 22:34-40

To begin, Rev. Amy challenged us to think about how we go about loving God day after day.

She let us know that Jesus is found in Matthew 22 quoting an Old Testament text from Deuteronomy 10:12, which reminds us that loving the Lord means to fear the Lord, walk daily with the Lord, and serve the Lord!

Rev. Amy connected loving the Lord with all of your heart with fearing the Lord. To fear God is to be in total AWE of what God has been, is doing, and will keep doing in your life and in the world around you! To fear the Lord is to recognize God as Father, Creator, and Savior! When our hearts fear the Lord and recognize God’s majesty, our hearts are more prone to desire wisdom and grow in loving God!

To love the Lord is also to walk daily with the Lord! To be in a relationship and do life with someone DAILY brings you closer to one another. So how do we walk daily with God? How do we connect daily to God? Perhaps praying with God, reading God’s holy word, seeking goodness and purity in what our minds consume, and stopping to be aware of the presence of God each day will open the doors of your mind AND heart to become more susceptible to God’s love every day!

Lastly, loving God can and should lead us to find ways to serve God and serving others! God made the body THEN breathed a living soul into us (See Genesis 2:7). Our living and breathing soul is created to love and SERVE God. Therefore our life, our actions, our service, the THINGS WE SPEND OUR TIME DOING – can ALL reflect AND spread the LOVE OF GOD!!!

In Matthew 22, Jesus encourages us to truly love God, self, and neighbor so that we can naturally keep the commandments and naturally love others with a transformative type of love that changes the world. The world could use some RADICAL CHANGE, don’t you think? The change starts with me and it starts with you. Are we loving our God with all of our heart? Are we walking with our God daily so that this world does not conform our minds, rather God’s love does the transforming? Are we loving God with our souls by actively serving the Lord with our LIFE, our actions, our deeds? Friends, the world needs us to listen to Jesus’ commandments.

Because our love for this world is DIRECTLY related to the loving relationship we each have with God, It is time to LOVE GOD WITH ALL OF HEARTS, MINDS, and SOULS. So, let God into your heart, love God with your mind by seeking God daily, and love God with your soul by serving because what the world needs now, is love. God’s love. Amen.

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR ANOTHER SERMON RECAP BLOG ENTRY AS WE CONTINUE EXPLORING WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN WE KEEP THE GREATEST COMMANDMENTS: LOVING GOD and LOVING OTHERS AS OURSELVES!

A leisurely walk in nature reveals beautiful plants, seasonal flowers, and sturdy trees.  While our eyes are drawn to the beauty of the colors or the magnitude of the branches high in the air, the source of strength, stability, nourishment, and even protection for plants and trees comes from the root system in the ground below.

Fascinating, isn’t it, that the gorgeous plant or a giant tree gets its life and health from an unseen root. It’s not what is seen but what is actually invisible that is the source of life and vitality.

Our spiritual lives are similar.  I think that’s why the Bible uses so many analogies with roots and plants.  While people see and observe our outward actions and appearances, it’s actually the unseen roots, the spiritual roots that abide deep in our souls, which lead, guide, protect, and direct our lives.

Thus, it’s critical to make sure our roots are embedded in grace, truth, love, compassion, and hope of the Lord.  Though different, the ancient city of Colossae, faced temptations and challenges to root their lives in faith.  In many ways, their challenges are still our challenges today.

Click HERE for the next portion of our study, Colossians 2:6-23.

From the previous sessions click HERE

In the mid-80’s, the band Tears for Fears released the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” one of the biggest hits of the year. For those of us who grew up in the 80’s, we may remember the song and its catchy beat and memorable chorus.
However, beyond a chart-topping hit from the 80’s lies one of the most important questions for people to consider, a question that I believe only faith can answer…Who Rules The World?

In the toxicity of the political climate, it might be a good time to consider Who Rules The World? Do politicians, or a political party/candidate, rule the world? Do celebrities rule the world? Or, does a worldview, such as the human quest for money, power, or control rule the world?
It’s important to note the answer to this question is just as challenging for people inside the church. As much as we want to believe that God is the ruler of the world, we all struggle with the pull to place our allegiance elsewhere.
Perhaps now more than ever we need to really consider who, or what, is the ruler of the world…because whoever, or whatever, we believe rules the world also rules our lives.

Our Scripture today, Colossians 1:15-2:5, stresses the supremacy of Christ and invites us to establish His Lordship and Kingship as the true ruler of the world. To prepare for today’s study, I encourage you to read the preceding passages, and then click HERE.
If you missed the first two lessons, click HERE for the introduction or HERE for session 1.

“Will you be my boy/girlfriend….check Yes or No”

“We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into this University next fall.”

“Dear Mom and Dad, I made it through another week behind enemy lines.”

Letters….so intimate, so tender.  Whether it’s nervous school kids contacting their first crush or parents pacing the floor to hear from their child away at war, letters often contain the most memorable, emotional, and exciting news in our lives.

Although texts and tweets are the preferred style today, the feelings are the same when we receive a message from somebody special in our lives.

In our podcast today, we’re studying a letter….a love letter actually.  The Bible should be viewed as God’s letter to us, a letter that expresses God’s love, communicates God’s guidance, and details God’s plan for our lives.

Today’s study will cover Colossians 1:1-15.  Take a moment to read those verses and click HERE for the newest podcast.

If you missed last week and want to hear the introduction, click HERE.

 

Do I matter?  Do my efforts serve a purpose? If I was gone, would anybody notice?  Can the miraculous occur in the normal, routine, daily grind of my life?

From ungrateful children to students who don’t listen, from bosses who don’t care to the sick who don’t recognize us, it can be really difficult to operate with the confidence that our lives are extremely important and making a far greater difference than we realize.

The New Testament book of Colossians reminds us that often times, God’s greatest work occurs through seemingly unimportant people places presumed to be unimportant as well.  Furthermore, this great letter of the New Testament flows out of personal struggle to a church threatened by dangerous heresy and wayward leaders.

With 2017 still in its infancy, SLS invites you to experience a new Bible study via podcast.  These 15-minute “Drive Time Devotionals” are perfect for your travels to work or school, to help log a mile on the treadmill, to pass the time while you wait on your kids, or as a companion on your evening walk.

Click HERE for an introduction to the Book of Colossians and an encouragement that you are extremely important at the dawn of new year!

Maybe the mantra “it’s better to give than receive” should be reconsidered, at least partially, because most people are in great need of receiving gifts as well.

American culture is crippled with feelings of despair, loneliness, fear, and exhaustion. Academic studies consistently conclude the unhealthy psyche we often operate with. Perhaps the gift-giving component of Christmas amplifies rather than alleviates those feelings. Does Christmas feel like yet another busy task on the already enormous “to do” list of your life? Is Christmas another example of you giving 100% to others and receiving very little in return? If any of this sounds familiar, open yourself to receive some important gifts this season:

Receive the gift of God’s Love: Most people believe God loves the world, but how many also believe that God loves YOU…yes YOU!!! It’s a wonderful gift to be reminded that you are a precious son or daughter of Almighty God. The sad reality is most people think pretty lowly of themselves, focusing on parts of their life they regret or on insecurities about their physical appearance. In a world of low self-esteem, it’s a wonderful gift to know you are cherished and loved by God.

Receive the gift of God’s grace: You’ve made mistakes…we all have; you’ve messed up…so have I; you’re not perfect…and that’s okay because God is! God’s love and grace is not a trite sentimental expression but a burning, holy radiance with supernatural power to redeem and restore humanity from our brokenness. In describing the refining and purifying nature of God’s grace, the Bible states that if we receive this gift, we stand holy and blameless before God. Striving for perfection, feeling inadequate, or living with regret leaves us in mental and emotional prisons…but God’s grace is a gift, a gift with power to set us free.

Receive the gift of Stopping: The most beautiful gift you can receive this season might be breaking the addiction of busyness by entering into God’s rest. Yes, there is the gift of STOP and actually resting from the breakneck pace of the holidays. This can include setting apart time for worship, reading a devotional, enjoying recreation, or taking a nap. God created the gift of stopping because the human soul needs rest and renewal.

Receive the gift of Letting Go: Part of our desire to be the constant giver of gifts is because the giver is in control. It can be wonderful to let go of control, of freeing yourself from believing the happiness of the whole world depends on you. I know, if you don’t take care of it, chances are it won’t get done. And maybe it won’t get done….but maybe it will. Letting go might allow others to help or become more responsible. But what if this doesn’t get done we lament….maybe it doesn’t need to get done. Most things in our lives are not life or death, and letting go might allow you to see what’s really important and what might be cluttering your life with unnecessary stress and distractions.

 

– Dr. John Robert Black