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“Peter- From Denial to Street Preacher” 8-16-15

“Peter- From Denial to Street Preacher”  Acts 2:14-21, 37-39  8-16-15

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Peter’s message was simple in response to those who said, “What shall we do?”  Or, “How can we be saved?”  It was to repent and to show that repentance and faith by baptism.  For people in our day, this is a really, really hard message to hear.  We are almost blind and deaf to it. But, it is still the most important message for us.  In our day in the West people are saying you don’t need to repent- you just need to feel better about yourself and get more coping skills.  In our day in the West people are saying, you don’t need to commit- you just need to learn and be free to move on whenever you feel like it.   We are called to repent.  To get free of our debt, to get free of our addiction, to get free of our meanness- we have to acknowledge there is a problem and turn from it.  But we don’t get free from debt by thinking that we just don’t believe in ourselves enough.  Psychologists have said for decades now that the root problem of people is low-self-esteem. Their reasoning is that if people just felt better about themselves- if they had money, or work, or an education then they wouldn’t abuse their spouse or steal or be mean spirited.  But this is just not true.  Rich people can be greedy and steal from their employees or their companies.  Educated people cheat they call it plagiarism.  One person from the American government said that if we could just funnel money to ISIS and give them jobs, perhaps their problem would disappear.  This is the reasoning that says we just need more confidence in ourselves.  ISIS problem is not money or jobs or education or self-confidence.   Tim Keller points out that up until the mid twentieth century every culture in the world thought the problem with people is pride, arrogance, and high self-esteem- or hubris.  In fact, as Psychologist Lauren Slater points out in an article in the NY Times, high self-esteem is not the cure but the culprit of drugs, alcohol abuse, poor academic performance and harsh social skills.  People with low-self esteem actually seem to try harder and achieve more.  I look at the Geeks in high school as some of the most successful people around.  I say all this to point out that we don’t want to repent- we want more and more self-esteem.  The idea that we need more self-esteem avoids morals avoids God, and makes us want our own way.  When you want to get your own way- you are feeding your self-esteem and there is no room for repentance.  If someone disagrees with you- they are being cruel trying to squeeze you into their mold.  But Peter said and still says to us- quit going your own way- repent.      Years ago there were two brothers who went opposite directions.  The younger brother was convicted of murder and the other brother had been a help to the needy and was very popular in the state.  The free brother went to the governor and had obtained a pardon for the younger brother.  He put the pardon in his back pocket and went to see his brother in prison.  He asked, “What would you do if you got out of prison?”  He said the first thing he would do is get that judge that put him here and the second is to murder the witness that testified against him.  The older brother left with the pardon still in his pocket.  There is no pardon without repentance.  Forgiveness is what we want, but we have to stop the wound in order for there to be healing.     The other thing he says to us is to “be baptized.”  We don’t like that either.  We are a non-commitment culture.  Half the young people would rather live together without getting married and they have fooled themselves into thinking that living together will not hurt and develops just as much trust. We are not joiners- we are consumers.  If we do not like something today- we, as consumers of all of life, want to be able to pack up our bags and leave.  We are committed to being non-committal.  In that sense we are committed to being alone- not trusting anyone but ourselves- living in fear of someone.  We are building walls and making our island to live on by ourselves. In contrast Baptism- is joining ourselves to Jesus.  It is like a permanent- non-erasable tattoo.  You cannot be unbaptized.  Some feel the same way about joining the church.  There is freedom and blessing in commitment. It is like being a part of the family versus only being a guest.   The church makes mistakes and messes up and does and says wrong things.  I am not sure I want their name attached to me.  Perhaps you feel like you never make a mistake, mess up, or do wrong things.  Peter, the head of the church, was not afraid of sin anymore- because he knew the power of Christ to wash it away.  Peter said, “Be baptized into the name of Jesus.”  This means you are all in- no backing out.  It means you are committed to making it work.  It means that despite all the failures- and the early church had just as many as the church today- immorality, pride, divisiveness- despite it all- we are part of the family.   The call to repent and be baptized is an acknowledgement that life does not revolve around us.      Changed people who are really changed and know that God changed them can hold out with strength the power of change.  Peter is perhaps the best example of this.  Paul is another.  Peter and Paul were both moral failures.  They knew they didn’t need more self-confidence- they needed Jesus and to be set free.  The two greatest preachers of the church are the greatest examples of something Jesus said long before- “He who has been forgiven much loves much.”  , and he remembered Christ had washed his feet.  To be baptized in Christ’s name means his washing is good once for your entire life.  There were three transformative things in Peter’s sermon that can not only help us cope- but can help us turn our lives around in the right direction- and then keep them headed that way- the Spirit, the promise, and repentance.  This sermon brought in 3,000 people to the church in one day.  It is the birthday sermon of the church.      Peter said to people who believed in God what they needed to do.  In those days everyone recognized they believed in something or someone.  Yet, it was these who believed in a concept of God who rejected God in the flesh.  By Jesus’ standards, by Peter’s standards, by Paul’s standards, by Moses’ standards, by James standards- by Biblical standards- it is not enough just to believe in God.  Peter said to people who believed in God and were asking, “What shall we do?”  that they needed to do two things- repent and be baptized.  Repent means to change the way you are living- start living in God’s way.  Say in your heart I don’t want to go my own way- I want to go your way.  It is a turn away from selfishness toward godliness.  But the other thing was to be baptized.   To be baptized meant you were all in- you had the water on you.  You were signed, sealed, delivered to Christ. You weren’t playing about your faith you made the jump. Peter knew the power of God to change people because he had been changed- for good this time.  Peter had many little conversions.  I once knew a man in Asheville who said he had  been baptized at least 15 times and he sure hoped one of them would stick.  The baptism that counts is not how many times we have a religious experience- but the one in which God is truly at work in our lives. Peter gave them two reasons to repent and be baptized: the Holy Spirit and the promise.  That is, God is working in your life today and in the future.  He is not the God of just the past. I. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT (14-17)- Peter began his greatest sermon- perhaps one of the greatest sermons in history- by talking about the unseen Spirit being revealed right now.   He was saying God is at work.  God did not just die on the cross- or disappear with the past.  God is at work through His Holy Spirit.  God is not just God of a previous generation- and today I hope we know better.  Our decadence, our debasing ourselves in newer and newer ways; our lack of shame and the cruelty of life all point to a lack of moral progress.  The continual epidemic of depression, anxiety, and lack of peace in our society and our families- all point the need for God’s Spirit to act right now.  It is not that maybe the previous generations were weak and we are great.  We are all standing in need of grace     When we think all is lost and God has disappeared- that is when the Spirit is poured out in generous measure.  I do not doubt He is poured out upon us today.  The Spirit is at work today.  I have seen it with my own eyes in looking at some of you.  It is amazing to see God’s grace working in you. Lives changing.  Hearts growing warm to Christ that I never thought would.  Do not discount the Spirit.  He works today.

  1. THE WITNESS OF THE PROMISE (39)- Peter was speaking of baptism as a promise- a promise to be bestowed on children. The promise of God affects all people of every age. Often people will talk about the effects of evil upon people- pulling them down, ruining lives.  But we forget the power of the promise of God to pull us up when we could not pull ourselves up.      The idea of covenant is tied to the idea of promise.  God is tied to His Word and blessing.  Peter was saying that if you have faith it is a blessing to you and for your children.  This was literally true for the people he was preaching to.  For in about 35 years the Christians would escape the city of Jerusalem as they had been warned of its doom by Jesus.  But those who did not believe Jesus words were left in the city and all adults were killed or enslaved.  Peter was saying that belief in Jesus is a blessing- he didn’t have to enumerate it.  Having a promising life- with promising hope- is a whole lot better than what people have today- little hope, little promise.  I hope that the recession we just went through begins to show us that our checkbook, savings accounts, investments- even investments in our house will not save us and bring us ultimate happiness.   It is not our silly ideas of finding self-esteem that give us hope.  One of the reasons we built this children’s building was because we believe the promise is not just for us- but for the next generation.  Aaron and Virginia baptized Evie today believing the promise is not just for them- but for their children.  Peter was saying to people then- and his words are saying to you- there is a promise from God for you.  It is a promise of eternal life- a promise of a second chance and abundant life right here.  The promise is there- just take it and hold onto it.

III. THE WITNESS OF REPENTANCE (21,38)      Peter knew the power of repentance.  He had repented himself and had been accepted. Peter did many things in threes.  Be patient with me as we think about these: 1) 3fold confession: We believe and sure that you are the Son of God. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. 2) 3 fold boast Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended. Though I should die with you, yet I will not deny you. Lord I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death 3) 3fold warning: Satan has asked to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you. Get thee behind me, Satan, for you want not the things of God but desire the things of men. Before the cock crows you shall deny me three times. 4) 3 denials I know not what you say. No not me. I am not his disciple. With curses he said, I do not know the man. 5) 3 fold restoration- Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me. Lord you know all things- you know that I love you. Peter had the best of intentions- great boasting- but he messed up big time.  But God restored him from a denier to a street preacher- through the two things he told them to do- repentance and the washing of baptism. Christianity is not a backward looking religion. It is rather both present and future looking.  The Spirit is alive today- today is the time of salvation.  The promise is for the future- for your children and even those beyond them- those far off generations.  If you will come to Christ in repentance and baptism, it allows you to move forward in your life- shrugging off the shackles of self-esteem freeing you to forget yourself and join.  You don’t have to be the Lone Ranger out there battling the world by yourself as the one who really knows what is right.  Be part of the body.  Be part of the family.  Be part of the church- repent and be baptized.  I want to ask you to join us.  If you haven’t been baptized, I invite you to come.  If you haven’t joined the church but have been coming for awhile, now is a great time before the school year starts.  Jesus needs not spectators- He needs committed people- we at LMPC need you too to go Christ’s way and to be committed.

Prayer Requests

Requests as of July 31, 2015

New Requests: Ronnie Collins family (died 7/30; funeral 8/2 3 PM at LMPC); Sarah Hoffman & Michael Reid Hoffman (new baby 7/27); David Evans; Johnnie Sites, mother of Amee White- hospital tests; Bill Morrow- pacemaker 7/24 then knee surgery; Kay Sloan (knee replacement 7/21); Tracie Stewart’s uncle; Samantha and Eric Kaufman (new baby); Alysson Grimsley (new baby- grandparents Alan and Janina); Joe David (lost brother- and chemo); Sandy Brossard (father died); Julia Hermelin (mother died); Jordan Gill (granddaughter of Midge Burgess- fell off horse), Charles Blau (carotid artery surgery); Cal Cruz (heart ablation and wreck); Addy Hinston (tonsillectomy); Samantha Kauffman (baby Robert on the way); Ryan Batson family (grandmother died in wreck, aunt in ICU); Hadley & Gentry Eddings family upon the loss of their children; Susan Mullis; Ellie George Howe at MUSC (granddaughter of Stan and Mary Jim Howe); Jackie Rhame (cancer); Melinda Rogers (back surgery 5/15); Kirk Burnett and family upon the death of his father Donald (5/8); Mark Johnson’s father; Lynn Hill (daughter of Joanne Coker); Joe Williams (stroke recovery); Lodi Williams upon the death of her brother, Thadeus Huggins of Hemmingway 4/27;  Leann Edwards; Family of Zach Wenham (USC student who died this week); Chas Nicholson- heart surgery 3rd week of April; Stuart Peters (heart surgery recovery); Tricia Cullum (shoulder surgery recovery). Elinor Harris as she recovers from her Good Friday successful surgery;  Neva Loftis’ as she grieves the death of her mother, Tilde Armette (funeral 4/14 Loris, SC); Steve Holleman upon the death of his father, Hugh.  John LaFond, our treasurer- as he faces back problems and his son-Phil;We rejoice in Erik & Ashley Norton joining 4/12 with their children Sara, Anna, Margaret, and Charlie.   We rejoice in Gene and Kirstie Livermore who joined 4/5;  We rejoice in Evelyn Shealy born to Aaron and Virginia on 3/31/15.  Howard McKeone in Afghanistan; Our men and women in the armed forces.

Bereavement: Zach Wenham family (funeral 4/29);  Neva Loftis family upon the death of her mother (funeral 4/14/15); Steve Holleman upon the death of his father Hugh in Franklin, NC (4/10/15); Danny Hood family upon the death of his father, Jean (died 3/16/15 Goldsboro NC), David Ewan family, Buster Rhame family,  Lewie Harrell family; Betty McEntire family; Olin Rowe family Memorial service LMPC 7/19 2 PM; Lovic Brooks upon the death of his father, Lovic Brooks II- funeral 7/18 11AM Rosalayn UMC in Atlanta; Anne Peters upon the death of her mother 6/23; Pam Helms upon the death of her mother. Eric Rogers upon the loss of his grandmother; Ryan Donahue upon the loss of her grandmother;  Pat Griffin family (funeral at Westminster 5/15 7 PM); Shay Rube upon the death of her father; Kit Oswald upon the death of her mother; Becky Hash upon the death of her parent; 3/1 – John and Lee Riser upon the loss of his father.  2/7- Dede Elmore and family upon the loss of her mother, Betty Deane; 2/5- Danny Hood and family upon the death of his mother; 2/4 Will Clary- death of his mother in May, step-father in February; Jondy and Ken Loveless upon the loss of their nephew, Chase Loveless , Bill Salisbury Family, Hanes McEntire Family, Jenny Aldrich upon the death of her sister, Cathy Cook; Glenna Shuler Family, Bob Gjertsen Family, Neva Loftis Family, Sue Madden Family, Roland Lavigne Family, Dwayne Taylor Family, Mike Truluck Family OnGoing Health Concerns: Midge Burgess, Tricia Culluam, Paul Scott, Wendell Ligon Sr. (cancer);  Mike Burgin (Paul’s brother- heart 7/25); Nancy Whiteside, Shannon Harrill; Van Brown, Vickie McGahee, Phil Trefsgar, Paul Burgin, Joe David, Roxanne Edwards, Bill Bradshaw, Ruth Palassis Dave Shuler, Kay Sloan, Lewis Harrell, Otis Bobb, Marty Milam, Walt Rucker, Charles Cothran, Daniel White and Family, Serving our Country: Howard McKeone (Afghanistan); Cody Millager (Marines) Relatives and Friends:  Maureen Boeke- sister of Lorraine Gjertsen (cancer); Deborah Shields, sister of Judy Jarrett Brown, Bruce, Joanne and Mary Grace Loveless,brother of Ken Loveless; Praise and Thanks: Creighton Edward’s birth (Trish and Eddie grandparents); New Rogers baby- Julia Lane Rogers 6/15. LMPC concerns: “A Child Shall Lead Them” Campaign and Project, Construction- Speed and efficiency of the work; Session decisions, our church, presbytery and denomination, Sunday Schools classes and Bible studies, new offices, new parking and new daughter church “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear to dull to hear.” Isaiah 59:1

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

“Pray continually.” I Thess. 5:17


5-3-15 “The Light in the Window”

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The Light in The Window  5-3-15 1 Jn. 1: 5-7; Mt 5:14-16

This past week I attended a funeral of a senior at the University of SC.  There must have been a thousand young boys there in blue blazers.   The young man died of an overdose.   The young man appeared to be handsome, nice- had lots of friends, smart, his family even went to church.  Friends, we have to do something to keep our young people alive and give them hope- let them see the light of Christ and give themselves to Him.    There is a light in our window.   I think it got there one Christmas.  Like Tom Bodette- “we’ll leave the light on for ya.”  The Methodist minister in town said, “I see your light in your window each night- what is that about?”  That light is a prayer of welcome for all the prodigals out there- for those who stray away from hope and meaning, purpose and truth- to come home to the light.      I THERE IS AN IMPORTANT LIGHT TO HOLD OUT- One of the great images of the church for many years is a lighthouse.  The job of the lighthouse is to both show you the hazards and to show you the way into the harbor where the still waters are.  Jesus is that light.  We are called to reflect that light- and shine it.  As we hold forth the teachings of love and truth- grace and holiness together we bring something to the world that it does not normally see.        Several have asked me, “Okay so we have a new building, where do we go from here?”  Well the building is not an end in and of itself.  It is a tool to reach children and families with the faith hope and love of Christ.    Our mission statement formed years ago- and that I think is still very valid, says that we exist to “call the wandering heart home to Christ.”  We are to be like a light house.  It is not about the numbers or the money or the building.  In fact, we have said in our thinking that we do not want to purposefully become a mega church.  Yet we also know we cannot put signs out saying, “we are full- and you are not welcome.”   Our task is to be a lighthouse.  The church is an ark- but we are also  an ark that lights up and says “get inside  its raining out there.”  I am totally convinced that if we seek to love each other and to hold onto the light of the faith and hold out the light of the faith God will guide us- and be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
II. OUR TASK OF LIVING AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT- We should not just talk about the light- we should live in the light   Our passage says, “Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father.”  1 John says, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another.”  Let us walk and not just talk.  40 years ago some started this church.    I hope we can have the vision that we do not want to keep our light under a bushel. Let me give the example of Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta.  Peachtree is a model church in many ways- the largest Presbyterian church in our denomination. I love Peachtree.  I have been there many times, and held our graduation ceremony there.  Many of you once were members there.   It ministers to a diverse group and is mission and outreached focused. I wish we could do half of what Peachtree does for missions.  But Peachtree has lost 3,000 members in the last five years.  Part of the reason is what is going on in our culture- but I refuse to buy that.  There are other churches around Peachtree that are growing.  Part of it is it stopped starting new daughter churches.   When you stop being a light- you grow dim.  God will not bless your witness if you are embarrassed or withdraw.  We have something to say that no one else can.  Peachtree had it as a goal to start a church a year and to build three Habitat houses a year for the needy. When it did this the church ironically exploded in growth.   Some have said we should not start new churches because of the denominational problems.  I say that is all the more reason to start a church.  Never does the Bible say to stop your witness when the church is in decline.  It should be just the opposite.  Everyone knows there are subdivisions popping up everywhere in the Chapin Irmo area.  There are new really good schools going up, and the low crime rate- sparked in large part by our faith and values-  will attract people to our area.  But if we say we don’t care that these new folk have a place to come as long as we meet our church budget and our sanctuary is full is so very sad.  If you want to keep your values- if you want to keep the low crime rate then continue to reach the new people for Christ.  That is done best when we start new churches.  Many would rather join something new and plug in right away.  Today the confirmation class joins.  Statistically, about half of this class will stop coming to church, Sunday School, and youth group in the next two years.  Probably one fourth will never come back to church.  This is my challenge to this class.  Do not snuff out your light.  Pass on the light of Christ to the next generation- do not let the light die with you this day.
III. OUR TASK OF HOLDING UP THE LIGHT- Don’t hide your light under a bushel.  Instead glorify God- let your light out.  If you believe Christ has helped you- then that is a reason to tell someone else about your faith.  There is a sense in which we are called to find content and peace in the light of God.  But that does not come at the expense of reaching out to others.  You don’t have to know everything about the faith to share it- in fact some of the best and our best evangelists- are children who simply invite another child to church or Sunday School.  Don’t let fear make you hide your light- someone needs you to be brave. Don’t let your own comfort level keep you from inviting another to join you.  Christianity is an inviting religion- whosoever will- let them come to the light  I have seen some of our teenagers pick up other teens and bring them to lock ins or conferences.      One of the things I have really appreciated about this church in its past is its willingness to be flexible and to put reaching out to others ahead of being comfortable.  It has been this attitude that has seen us through some tough times and has been a guiding light for our future.   As we grow, we must be patient and flexible with each other- just like a good family does.  We must respect each other- our differences- but also not lose sight of the light that brought us together in the first place.  There is room here for young and old.  We have added this sanctuary- one of the largest and most beautiful around to accommodate people.  We have added space for children and freed space up for adults and youth by doing so.  We are not like the people who move to Chapin and as soon as they see what a great place it is put up a sign that says, “Keep out and go away.”  Our church is a lighthouse- calling the wandering heart home into the harbor of Jesus Christ.  The world needs that.      There was a long running TV show called ER- ran from 1994- 2009.  Dr. Mark Green was a character-star and he was dying of inoperable cancer.  He decided he would go to his boyhood home of Hawaii to die.  He gathered his children around him and gave them his last bit of advice- “Be generous” is what he said.  Now there are many things we could say, but this is not a bad word of advice.  Be generous with your time- your money- your life- your smile- your kindness.  The Bible says “a generous person will themselves be blessed.”  Be generous with your faith.  Share it in action and in words.  Don’t hide it- but let all the world see it.      One of the things that isn’t told that much is the role the church played in calming things in Baltimore where riots were destroying the whole west side of the city.  One hundred seventy-five ministers gathered on North Avenue- a hot spot in the city.  They joined arms and stood between the rioters and the police  They had no idea what kind of reception they would get, but what they found was that thousands of citizens joined them.  They marched toward burning cars and looters and they scattered.   Even some gang members, surprisingly, joined behind them in the end.  It is the pastors and church members who need to go to our communities and tell our young people to get off the drugs and to avoid alcohol abuse.   I am not saying this because I am a saint- but because I know God saved me from drugs- I have friends who died in the 70s or ruined their lives with drugs and alcohol.  We have the light. We have hope and meaning in a world without both.   We need to hold it up.  These confirmands stand in sharp contrast to the young people who stray away from the light.  But there is a light in my window.  I pray that there will be a light in yours as well.