First United Methodist Church
July 13th, 2023
Rev. Lauren Hall
Are we too Focused on Problems?
The topic I believed needed to be addressed was how we get so focused on the problems that we don't look for solutions. We get so wrapped up in what is wrong with the world, the church and each other that we forget the reason we are here, our purpose, our
When I first began writing the sermon for this week I thought I needed to preach something hard, something thatwould step on people's toes, wake us up and challenge us. I began searching the Bible for topics. Believing I found what I was looking for I began trying to write. But I couldn't get past the first page before everything went blank. I tried countless times to form a spark so I could build it into a raging fire, but still nothing would come. I became frustrated, knowing that it was my duty to find something that would demand attention and action. Then through a thought question in the lesson study it hit me. What I thought was the topic to a powerful sermon was really an arrow pointing me to what I needed to find.
The topic I believed needed to be addressed was how we get so focused on the problems that we don't look for solutions. We get so wrapped up in what is wrong with the world, the church and each other that we forget the reason we are here, our purpose, our goal, and our reward. I wanted so badly to pick at a wound that needed to heal. Then I remembered, "when you preach, you should speak to yourself as well as the audience." So I argued with God, trying to explain that I too was guilty of overlooking all the positives in exchange for glorifying the negatives. But what to do about it? My thought was to come up here and give a Bible thumping, heart-breaking sermon. But this was not the salve needed for the wound. I knew my heart wanted to go in the right direction, but the rest of me wouldn't listen. I became more and more frustrated. I prayed God would give me the answers I sought. His response was He already had. I knew then what I needed to do. Instead of beating the proverbial dead horse, search for solutions.
1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
Psalm 105:16-22 New International Version
16 He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; 17 and he sent a man before them Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he please and teach his elders wisdom.
Psalm 105:45 New International Version 45 that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws.
Turn to Psalms 105. Here is part of the answer. We as a nation and a church complain to readily. We have our lists of what is going wrong, but what about the other side. What do we have that is going right? If we earnestly seek the solution, the problems will fade. However, we have bogged ourselves down in despair and disappointment so much that it is no wonder church attendance is falling. People everywhere are still searching for hope, fulfillment, and something to fill the voids in their lives. Yet when they see how distraught and dejected we are, they naturally assume we too have not yet found the answers. When in reality, we have only overlooked them and replaced them with the problems.
We point fingers at the media for corrupting our youth; at money for corrupting our leaders; we complain about lackluster evangelistic seminars; we blame each other for any dissension in the church; and complain because the pastor has not waved some magic wand and made it all better. We are so stuck on ourselves and our right way of doing things we have forgotten it is not ourselves we are to worship and glorify, but the One who gave us minds and abilities to carry out His work. People won't flock to a church to follow one man or another; they will come when they see God in our midst, shining through our actions, and leading us into victory.
This psalm gives us our clear mission, our complete evangelistic series messages; it gives us why we should and our ultimate rewards. The note in my Bible describes the chapter as an "exhortation to Israel to worship and trust in the Lord because of all of His saving acts in fulfilment of His covenant with Abraham to give all his descendants the land of Canaan."(read verses 1-6)
A call to worship. Not a call to show up at church, find our favorite spots, go through the motions, and wonder how long the speaker is going to preach today. Worship is not merely a requirement we are obliged to perform, but a full body experience. We may come through those doors at the beginning of the service with the weight of the world on our shoulders, beaten by life. But if we are truly seeking the Lord, we will leave with a pep in our steps, a gleam in our eyes, and energized to take on the world. Nor is it a function that is to stay isolated to one day of the week and remain within the walls of the church. It says to "make known among the nations." We here know the power and glory of God, we have tasted firsthand the redeeming power of the cross, but do we let that power show. We need to wake up. We have become walking zombies. Witnessing with a frown is useless. So too is having to act Christian, to the point where it seems fake. Keep it real people. You don't have to have some made for tv movie of a Christian experience to share with others. What you do need is to be able to answer the question "why." Why are you here? Why do you follow Jesus? Why is it you believe what you believe, do what you do, and say what you say? If we cannot completely answer these questions, why should anyone want to listen, much less follow us in here. If we don't have it together, how can we give it to the world?
"Give thanks to the Lord." Why? I had an English professor tell me one of the most important questions I could ask myself when writing is why. If I make an assertion, why; I state a reason, why. Give thanks to the Lord, why? Why do we give thanks? Humans must have a purpose; without purpose we would do nothing. So why give thanks? Don't give me some trite, cliche answer, like "because of everything He has done for me." That's great what He has done for you, but how does that apply to me? We give thanks for living in a land where we can worship as we choose, where we can walk down the street withoutfear. And because someday soon God will return and take us to a land where we will neither suffer nor die. A land of peace and plenty.
"Make known to the nations what He has done." Why? Because salvation is available to every person on planet earth, not the select few here today. We are not to hide in church, hoarding the gospel to ourselves. We are to take it to every kindred, tongue and people. I'm not saying that you must stand on the street corner and preach to the passers by. For we as Americans have a lot of words, but language can be fraudulent. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ show in our lives. In how we deal with our co-workers, the guy down the street, and our brothers and sisters in the church. For if we say one thing and do the opposite, we are hypocrites, no better than those who condemned Jesus. And hypocrisy will drive people away and isolate the church faster than admitting we are flawed sinful beings, but that we have hope. Paul said "What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God!"
So what are we to make known to the nations; everything He has done. And what has He done? The answer is everything. He set the world in motion. He created us, not merely as a whim or because it felt right to place us on earth. He wanted to have a close intimate relationship with His creation. We are fashioned in His image; no other life form can claim this title. At the same time the world began, so too began the plan of salvation. That if we should ever fall away from Him, there would be a plan to gather His children back to Him. And this is just the beginning. Tell on about the answered prayers, the sicknesses healed. Add to the Bible stories with stories of you own. We are also to "tell of His wonderful acts." The Hebrew word translated here says to "declare." This admonishes us not only to tell and retell the miracles of the Bible, the love of Jesus, and the home
awaiting us while we are in Sunday school, or moved during calls for testimonies. But to proclaim to those we meet that Jesus is love, and love being the greatest of all miracles, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now I am not telling you to turn into raging fanatics, harassing people on the street or in the grocery. If we truly have a close relationship with Jesus, He will shine through us.
If we walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders, looking weary and wore out from the road. And wanting to tell people how Jesus will carry our burdens, take away our cares, and take care of our lives; not too many people will buy it. If I'm trying to sell a miracle cure but still have the disease, I won't have too many customers.
However, if we have the look of joy on our faces, we won't be able to keep the people away. What does joy look like? It's not some cheesy grin to be sure. It is a look like you've got something, or you know something. A look that says you are in this world, but not controlled by it; it says you know where you are going and are determined to get there. It is a look that makes other people curious. People won't come to you and ask why you look so haggard and beat up. But they will ask you what you've got, what you know, and where you are going. They will ask how you do it. You're not the richest or the prettiest, but you've got something that keeps you energized and moving, with your head held high. Something that keeps you afloat in the turmoil of the world. How do you do it, they will ask. The answer is you don't do it, God's got you and is carrying you home.
"Sing to Him, sing praises to Him...Glory in His name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice." Why do people sing? People sing for lots of different reasons. During the 60s hundreds of protest songs were written and performed to say something, to make a point. They didn't expect one song to change the world, but one song sung by millions of people united behind one message could. Others sing of hardships or heartache. They are not singing to keep themselves down, but to pull themselves up and show that they made it through. Not to have people pity them or feel sorry for them, but to show that they made it despite the troubles of their lives, they still had the power to sing. Still others sing because it makes them happy or makes them feel good. They sing of the things in life that make it worth living. They see the beauty and the power of life and want others to enjoy the same.
Have you ever seen a singer after a concert. One where the artist loves doing what he or she is doing. They are beat, drenched in sweat, collapsing in a chair with their chest heaving. But they are on top of the world. They have a smile a mile wide on their face and electricity in their eyes. No matter how tired they may be from the performance they are on some sort of high. Singing increases blood flow, adrenaline starts pumping, and natural endorphins start streaming through the body. This creates a kind of natural high. Songs and music are an integral part of the human experience. They have been used throughout history to teach, lead and unite, as well as energize and lift spirits. Why do you think they play music at sporting events? Its not to fill the downtime. It pumps up the crowd, hyping them up and helping them cheerfor their team. We sometimes sing the hymns like we are not suppose to enjoy them, or we don't want them to be heard. Now I'll be honest, I cannot carry a tune, but the Holy Spirit blends our voices into something beautiful by the time they reach God's ears. I know its hard to do when you may have only pre-recorded music, but we can still lift our voices and let the world know that we have overcome and want to share our joy!
"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."We know we are weak, insignificant specks in a vast universe. But to God we are everything. He wants us to seek Him, ask for His help, and lean on His strength. In ourselves we can do nothing. We are flawed creatures prone to sin, and to be ruled by sin. Yet the strength of the Lord is far greater than anything else, if we choose to use it. Scientists are trying to develop new sources of energy to power the world; people are looking for something to drive their lives. Here we are told where to find it, if we only "look to the Lord." Why are we to seek His face? Because it is hard to have a relationship with someone without looking at them. When babies start to walk, they don't look at the ceiling or the walls, they look at the faces of their parents. For assurance that they will be waiting and to make sure they are doing it right. In times of crisis we look for someone's face, whether it be a parent, friend, or leader. Whenever something happens in the world we look for the face of the Presidentto reassure us that all is being taken care of; then we look for the face of a trusted news caster to keep us informed. We are made to feel safe by the sight of someone's face.
Franklin Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I say he was wrong. For if we are in constant contact with God, we will have absolutely nothing to fear. God will take control of our lives if we let Him.
And even if trials come along or sin rears its ugly head, we will know that God has taken care of everything. That He is running the show and that anything thrown at us will have no affect, for God is in control. When Peter stepped out of the boat and started walking to Jesus across the waves, he was doing fine until he took his eyes off the Lord, then he began to sink. If we keep our eyes on the Lord, we will never sink, and we will reach our destination.
Finally we are to "remember." Why is it important to remember? When we remember things, we make a special effort to acknowledge something.
Anyone can do what is commanded of them, but we must choose to remember, showing that we care personally for what God has done in our lives and will do for our futures. If we choose not to remember God, we choose to forget about ourselves, for without Him we are nothing. When you remember something, your minds does not only find the specific piece of data trying to be accessed, it picks up the memories associated with it. If we rememberthe Lord, we will remember everything he has done, further strengthening our relationship with Him. Eventually we will come to the point where we will say I do not have to try to remember the Lord, for how can I forget. We remember many things. One of the most important is our ancestry. God has helped us to remember all the way to the beginning.
Adam was the son of God, which makes us direct heirs to the kingdom. We need to remember where came from in order to know how to get where we are going.
Give thanks, make known, sing, tell, glory, rejoice, look, seek, remember. These are the things we are admonished to do by this psalm. If we live by these things daily, we will grow spiritually, are relationship with God will become closer and you will see the church flourish. We are not to be a bunch of grumpy people who like to complain. We are to be a people on fire for the Lord, charged by love He has shown to us and ready to show that love to the world. We are to be living examples of God's will and power. For we can say a lot, but if we do not live what we say it is meaningless.
Why do we complain? Because it is the easy way out. We do so in hope that someone else will see the problems and do something aboutthem. Wedo not realize someone has, yet we refuse to see the answers because we seem to believe the problems are too big to get around.
As I said earlier, to be followers of Christ we need not be fanatics attacking people with the gospel. They will see Jesus through us if we let Him come in and take control of our lives. There are two types of Christians in this world. There are those who pretend and those who are not so good at pretending. Those who pretend say the right things at the right times, and do good things only when it will glorify themselves. The ones who aren't so good at pretending, acknowledge they have faults and have sin, but these are the ones who step back, let go of pride and ego and let God have control. The ones who pretend say the things in this psalm are good things to do, the others do them because they know they are. Those who pretend know the gospel by heart, the others live the gospel in their hearts.
God wants us to live and the only way we can truly live is through Him. He gives us guidelines to live by, answers to life's problems, and the capacity for joy. When we start realizing that we can be a Christian and still be happy and that there are no problems God can handle, life will be more satisfying and others will see that you have something they want, they want God to give them what He has given you. Don't let the moments pass you by to start living. Be part of the solution not part of the problem.