Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message;28 September 2014; John 15:1-11

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 15:1-11

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 & CEB

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 108 – God Hath Spoken by the Prophets (Use melody UMH 707)

UMH 314 – In the Garden  (verse 1)

UMH 452 – My Faith Looks Up to Thee

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“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Actually this is incorrect. When life gives you lemons, all you can make is lemon juice, some pulp, and maybe some lemon zest. To make lemonade you will also need sugar or honey, clean water, a pot to mix everything in, a stirring spoon and a source of heat (electric, natural gas, propane, firewood, stove).

Last week I shared with you a couple of my personal experiences of God. An obvious question to ask was, “How did you know that what you experienced was from God and not something that you wished for and your mind was playing tricks on you? How did you discern that it was from God?”

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Our personal commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other. God is the common denominator in our relationship to each other. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our commitment to God translates into how we work together with our neighbors. Our commitment to God translates into our willingness to step out and try something that we’ve never done before. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples, volunteering, voting, recycling, what we do and do not do.

Before we work together, before we step out on faith, before we make disciples, volunteer, vote, recycle and do whatever it is we do based on our commitment to God, there is a period of time when we are purposeful in our prayer and listening to God. We call it a period of discernment.

That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, I would like to take time today to talk about what discernment is and what it is not. Today I want to talk about times when we feel a nudge in a certain direction, and the process of figuring out whether this nudge comes from God or from our own egos and desires. Today I want to talk about the process of discernment that all of us go through at one time or another.

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1 Corinthians 12:9-10 New Living Translation

9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.

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{Illustration: Brimstone Hill}

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The obvious question is, how did I know that what I felt was from God and not something that I subconsciously decided would be a cool thing to do?

In my experience, when God communicates with me, it is like getting a bunch of lemons.

  • Using God’s instructions I can make lemon juice, some pulp and some lemon zest.

  • I can also get some sugar, some water, a big pot, some sweeteners, a heat source and a stirring spoon and make lemonade.

  • I can make lemon squares or lemon cake.

  • Or I can get some paprika, ground pepper, rock salt, and Old Bay, mix it with yellow mustard, lemon juice, lemon pulp, lemon zest and make a marinade for roasted chicken or baked ham.

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In my experience, I never received instructions that told me specifics like, “Here is a lemon. Make juice, make pulp and make zest.” In other words, when I feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, what I am being nudged towards is usually a bit more challenging. It takes a period of trial and error and CONFIRMATION from the Holy Spirit to discern exactly what I am being nudged towards.

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That period of discernment is a period of prayer, listening to God and figuring out what it is exactly that the Holy Spirit wants me to do. {Example: Some people also add fasting to this list, I have never felt a call to fast.}

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To discern exactly what the Holy Spirit was telling me to do on Brimstone Hill, I started with the Thanksgiving service. Bishop Tilghman and I had planned this service earlier, and the message was to be about what Thanksgiving means to me as a first generation immigrant to the United States. As I was writing this sermon AFTER my Brimstone Hill experience, it touched some of my personal and emotional wounds, and until the last moment that I stepped to the pulpit of The Potter’s House Ministries I was not sure that I had the courage or stamina to preach that sermon; it was too close to my soul. That message took a lot to write and even more to deliver.

Confirmation from the Holy Spirit came in the response from the congregation. {Illustration}

When we receive instructions from the Holy Spirit, here is what I think are some of the common aspects of communication from God.

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1) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, our resulting actions always glorify God (not elevate our status or boost our egos).

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2) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are always challenged to step out on faith.

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3) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we receive confirmation from others. Those confirmations [in my experience] are “ah-ha” moments, or “I did not think about it from that point of view” moments.

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4) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are rarely given everything that we need. Some of the stuff is provided along the way. {We get lemons, and then we get some sugar, some H2O, etc.} Those additional items that we need are not necessarily provided on our timing, but are provided when we ready to effectively use them to the glory of God.

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5) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions we are challenged to become the best version of what God created us to be. It is always easy to fall back to something that we know and to find an easy way out. The challenge is to allow the example of Jesus, the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God into our hearts and souls, and put our egos aside.

{Illustration: We see example of that in Acts 10 – the story where Peter is sent to Cornelius.}

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As a church, God gave us to each other. As a church we are challenged to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world; we are challenged to till the soil and to tend to this corner of the Garden of God’s Creation; we are challenged to make this world a better place.

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In today’s metaphor, we are a bunch of lemons. As the world turns and as time flows, the Church of Jesus is constantly discerning how to reach beyond its walls. We are given ingredients that make the “lemonade” that God needs at the time and at the place. We are challenged to reach beyond the walls of this building, to be instruments in God’s hands and help each other and our neighbors to become the best of what God created us to be.

That is one of the reasons for why we take care of our physical facilities. {Illustration}

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