The Raising of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus

(John http://starrgennett.org/online/ 11:1-45)

Enveloped in the darkness, he hears a voice calling to him, “Lazarus, come out!”  cialis online generic He recognizes the voice that calls to Him – it’s the voice of a trusted friend.  The stiffness seems to leave his body as he feels life flowing through his veins and warmth returning to his arms, legs, fingers and toes.  “How can this be happening,” he thinks to himself, “was I not dead?”  Actually, this man had been dead for several days.  Lazarus thinks to himself, “Any good Jew knows that once you die your spirit remains close by your body for three days, but hasn’t it been FOUR DAYS since they put me in this tomb?  How could this be?  Maybe it hasn’t been that long… maybe I wasn’t dead… but, oh that stench!  It SMELLS like I’ve been dead for a week!”

Lazarus stands up and slowly walks toward the light coming in through opening of the tomb, out of the cold damp darkness and into the warmth of sunlight.  He hears people murmuring, he hears shrieks of disbelief as someone begins to unwrap the viagra online overnight strips of cloth from around his head.  He recognizes the touch of his sister Martha and the voice of his other sister Mary.   As his eyes are uncovered, he squints against the brightness of the sun shining upon his face.  Like a person rising from a deep sleep he rubs his eyes trying to bring things into focus, when his gaze falls upon one single face in the crowd.  It’s the face of the One who called to Him.  Lazarus is looking into the eyes of Jesus.

Lazarus had been dead, but now he is alive! Jesus had done some amazing things in His day, but this one was surely the miracle to top all miracles.  Christ brought a man back to life.  A man who was dead has been made alive.

The Lazarus incident is not the only time Christ resurrected someone who had died.  He raised a twelve-year-old girl right after she died (Luke 8:49-56), and He raised a young man who had been dead for several hours (Luke 7:11-17).  In all three cases, Christ called upon the person who was dead and told them to rise, get up or come forth, and each one of them responded by doing what He asked.  The little girl was on a bed and the young man was in an open coffin – I’ve done over fifty funerals in my life, and I’ve NEVER seen that happen!

But Lazarus had already been buried and had been dead for several days.  He had already begun to decay.  Does this fact make him any deader than the little girl or young man?  No!  Dead is dead.

Similarly, sin is sin.  There are no degrees to sinfulness, just as there are no degrees to death.  Either you sin, or you don’t.  And in the case of us, we sin.  The sin in our lives brings Spiritual decay just like physical death brings physical decay.  Someone who attends church every Sunday may not seem to be as decayed as a drunk on skid row, but both of these are sinners.  They are both dead and held inside a tomb of their own sinfulness.

Sin brings Spiritual death.  All of us, as sinners, are trapped within the darkness of our own tombs.  But like He did for His friend Lazarus, Christ breaks the seal and removes the stone from our tomb providing a doorway for us to leave the darkness and enter the light.  He calls to each of us, “Come out!”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… All of us also lived [like that] at one time. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ… (Eph 2:1-5, NKJV).    

Enveloped in the darkness of my sin, I hear a voice calling to me, “Karl, come out!”  I recognize the voice that calls to me – it’s the voice of someone who wants to be a trusted friend.  The stiffness seems to leave my body as I feel new life flowing through my veins.  “How can this be happening,” I think to himself, “was I not dead as far as God was concerned?  Haven’t I done enough wrong in my life that I can never get right with Him again?”  Maybe I haven’t really been all that bad… but, whew – what’s that smell?  It smells like death in here…”

I stand up and slowly walk toward the opening of the tomb, out of the cold damp darkness and into the warm sunlight.  I am held back by the wrappings of all I want to hang onto from my life – all I’m unwilling to discard… but as the pieces of my sinful trappings begin to fall away, and my eyes are uncovered, I squint against the brightness of the sun shining upon my face.  Like a person rising from a deep sleep I rub my eyes trying to bring things into focus, when my gaze falls upon one single face – the face of the One who called to me.  I am looking into the eyes of Jesus.

Each of must let go of the grave clothes that hold us back within our tomb.  Each of us must walk out past the stone that has been rolled away for us.  Only then can we leave behind the foul stench of sin and death, and step out into the light where we smell the sweet fragrance of life with Jesus.  Each of us must answer the call of the Master, “John, come out! “Mary, come out!”  “Bill, come out!”

The longer you delay, the more you’ll decay.  What are you waiting for?  Escape the stench of death, and enter into the sweet smell of eternal life.

Amen.

Kent

Come meet Kent Powell, Missionary to Mozambique

Kent

Kent Powell, full-time missionary to Mozambique, Africa, is coming to St. Peter’s on Tuesday, April 15.  He and his wife Andrea are founders of Release Ministries, where they serve to provide opportunities to aid orphans, widows, and the elderly. Kent will share with us what God is doing through their ministry. He will speak immediately following the United Methodist Men’s Dinner scheduled for that evening.

The Men’s dinner will begin at 6:30pm.  The congregation is invited to come at 7:oopm to hear the presentation and learn about how the Good News of Jesus Christ is being brought to the people of Mozambique.

Kent is a former college classmate of Pastor Karl’s from the School of Design at North Carolina State University.

EGG-pic

The EGG-stravaganza is coming!

EGG-picOur Easter EGG-stravaganza is only three weeks away!

Whether you’re a believer in search of a church,
a non-believer in search of answers,
or someone simply looking for a great way to spend a Saturday…
we want you to come join us for a morning of free family fun!

Easter Egg Hunt for Candy and Prizes
Hot Dogs & Drinks
Coloring Contest
Face Painting with Skeedaddle the Clown
Easter Petting Zoo

Saturday, April 19
10:30am-12:30pm

111 Hodges Street, Morehead City

Everyone is welcome!

____________________________________

Attention all St. Peter’s folks: Invite everyone you can!
Below is a flyer which you can print and distribute to let people know about this event.

EGGstravanzaFlyerThumb
Click here for a printable flyer for this event.

wordfrompastor

Fasting

wordfrompastorFood is a major part of our lives.  Eating satisfies one of our most basic needs for survival.  If you skip breakfast on a Sunday morning, around 11:30 your hunger may start to take your attention away from whatever is going on in the worship service.  Your physical needs take control over your thought process.  Suddenly, instead of thinking about Jesus, you’re thinking about lunch.

Think about how you feel when you’re really hungry – those times that your hunger is so strong you say things like, “I’m starving!  I feel like I haven’t eaten in a week!”   And this comes after missing maybe one or two meals tops!  Now, imagine if you had not eaten in forty days.  No food, no snacks, no coffee, no water… NOTHING – for five and a half weeks.  Christ spent forty days fasting in the wilderness before He began his earthly ministry.  He went without food voluntarily.  Satan tempts Him by saying, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:3-4 RSV).

Fasting is a Spiritual discipline which is often overlooked in the church today.  We see it as an inconvenience.  We see it as too difficult.  We might even consider fasting a health risk (and in fact for some individuals this last excuse is a valid one.)  However, the main reason we don’t fast is because it means going without something we want.  Whether we observe a total fast wherein we eat nothing, or a fast in which we give up something like sweets or desert, fasting involves a sacrifice on our part.  Is that something we’re really willing to do?

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24 NIV).   We hear His call to deny ourselves, and we claim obedience, but… do we follow through?  How willing are we to make a sacrifice?

Years ago, when I was struggling with whether or not to answer God’s call to enter the ministry, I went on a fast.  For about 60 hours, I took nothing but water.  As the meal-less hours passed, I found my hunger at times to be almost unbearable.  Fasting gave me a new perspective on temptation – I had chosen to go without food in an effort to get closer to God, and every time I thought about eating, I would focus not on my hunger, but the purpose behind my fast.  I was not going to let the temptation of food come between me and God, and I had to rely on Him to give me the strength to endure.

When Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge and brought about the fall of mankind, she gave in to a hunger temptation.  The serpent enticed her through the thoughts of tasting something sweet upon her lips.  She surrendered to her physical hunger instead of focusing on God’s will.  When I went through my sixty hour fast, I constantly found myself torn between my physical hunger and God’s will.  I wanted to know His will for my life – was I going to keep my focus there, or give in to my physical desire?

Christ spent forty days fasting in the wilderness before He began his earthly ministry.  He had many temptations and battles ahead of Him.  He needed to be prepared for the temptations and battles that lay before Him. He needed to be One with the Father.  Fasting enabled Him to abandon His need for the things of the world and focus solely on His need for things of the Kingdom of God.  He relied totally on God during His temptation in the wilderness.

At the end of my fast, I knelt down in prayer in a church sanctuary.  I had gone, through God’s grace, from thinking about food to thinking only about God.  As I opened my heart to God that morning, I suddenly felt myself transported from the confines of that sanctuary, and placed but for a moment in the wilderness before being returned to that lowly church pew.  God gave me a vision of what I had come through with His help.  He showed me the wilderness through which He had brought me.  For the first time, I felt totally reliant on God.  For the first time, I felt as One with the Father.

Later that morning, I went to McDonald’s and ordered a Sausage McMuffin.  As I sat down to eat, I thanked God for getting me through those sixty hours.  I opened my eyes, looked at my breakfast, and for the first time in several days, I was not hungry.  I only ate that breakfast because I knew I needed to.  The only hunger I had at that point was for the Word of God.  He had carried me through the wilderness; He had delivered me from my temptations; He had awakened in me a new hunger.

The dictionary defines hunger as “a strong desire or craving.”  What do you hunger for – what do you crave?  Is your desire for the things of heaven, or things of this world?  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

Do you want to show God that you’re serious about growing in your walk with Him?  Consider fasting during this Lenten season. Put down your fork, and pick up your cross, and follow Him.

See you in church!

Pastor Karl

 

LWM-event blog 5

Lay Witness Mission

LWM-event blog 5A Weekend Spiritual Renewal Experience
April 25-27, 2014


A Lay Witness Mission is:

People searching, people taking time to listen, people sharing,
people singing, people experiencing personal spiritual renewal,
people enjoying fellowship and praying together.

Friday:
Evening covered dish dinner, small group discussions, singing, and team testimonies.

Saturday:
Home group breakfasts, children and youth sessions and luncheon.

Evening meal and sessions led by the Lay Witness Team.

Sunday:
Team participation in Worship Services and Sunday School.

Evening time of celebration, sharing and future planning.

The Holy Spirit will be there.
Hope you will too!

Mark your calendars!

clocksthumb

Spring Forward

clocksthumb

Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed this Saturday!

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday.

driveinthumb

St. Peter’s Drive In

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This year’s Valentine’s dinner was a trip down memory lane with a 50s drive in theater, poodle skirts, and an appearance by Elvis himself!  Thank you to the St. Peter’s UMC Youth for putting on  a wonderful event!

leahschapelrhumb

My First Sunday as a Minister

Leah's Chapel United Methodist Church

Leah’s Chapel United Methodist Church

January 25, 2004, was my first Sunday as a minister.  On Thursday of that week, the Raleigh District Superintendent, Hope Morgan Ward, had appointed me as interim pastor for Shiloh and Leah’s Chapel United Methodist Churches outside of Louisburg NC.  That Saturday my wife and I drove the backwoods of Franklin County to find the two churches so I would not be late the next morning.  I did not want my first congregation’s first comment about the new pastor to be “Where is he?”

I spent most of Saturday night tossing and turning, anxiously wondering what Sunday morning would bring.  Would they like my sermon?  Would they like me?  Would they like my wife?  How many people would be there?  How would I be sure to end the first service in time to get to the second service?  Would I even remember how to find either one of these churches?  Needless to say, when the alarm clock rang on Sunday morning, I was already awake, having stressed myself into an unplanned all-nighter.  As things turned out, however, all of my worry was for naught because both Leah’s Chapel and Shiloh cancelled their services that morning due to an impending snowstorm.

Since I did not have to preach that day, Cheryl and I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to our home church of North Raleigh UMC one last time. We drove through quickly deteriorating weather conditions to get there, and due to the snow piling up outside, our minister, Dr. Bob O’Keef, was forced to lead an abbreviated service.  Dr. Bob’s sermon was about following where God leads, even if it means getting up and leaving where you’re comfortable.  I remember thinking to myself, “That message sounds like it was written for me… how did Bob know I would be here this morning?”  I was supposed to be somewhere else!  Wasn’t that God’s plan?

When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he learned of God’s plans.  God said to him, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8 RSV).  God’s plan for His people was for them to enter into the Promised Land, but even after they left Egypt, the first Israelite would not set foot in that new land for forty years.  God saw that His people were not ready to enter that new life yet.  Could that be why it snowed that January morning in 2004?  Because God knew I was not yet ready to enter my new life as a minister yet?

Just in case I didn’t understand why my first Sunday as a pastor was put on hold, God gave me a big confirmation of my calling during that worship service at North Raleigh.  The closing hymn we sang that morning was “Here I am Lord.”  While we were singing, a man named Eddie left his pew, walked all the way across from the sanctuary to where I was, gave me a hug, and then walked out of the church wiping tears from his eyes.  Now, here’s the part of the story that still makes the hairs on my arm stand up: two years earlier, when God revealed to me He wanted me to enter the ministry, I was sitting in another church singing a hymn, and it was “Here I am Lord”.  God intended for me to be at North Raleigh UMC that snowy, icy morning when the Conference had wanted me to be somewhere else.  I guess God needed me to be ministered to one more time before setting me off on my own.  It was His way of telling me, “Don’t worry about how things will go for you as a minister.  I’m in control.  Everything will be fine.”  Come to think of it, the following Saturday night – the night before I did lead my first worship service – I slept like a baby.

Sometimes we might feel certain we know what God’s plans are.  But those plans might include some unexpected stops along the way.  On my first Sunday as a minister, I didn’t get to preach at all.  Ten years later, I get to preach at St. Peter’s.  Ten years ago, I had no idea how to even be a pastor.  Today, I am truly blessed to be your pastor.  You know, God’s plans always seem to turn out better than we expected!

See you in church!

Pastor Karl

 

 

 

Psalm100thumb

“Psalm 100″ – February 23

Psalm100blogOn Sunday, February 23, “Psalm 100″ will enrich our Sunday morning worship service at St. Peter’s UMC with their unique style of musical praise.

This group of singers describes themselves as follows: “Psalm 100 is a co-ed a cappella group on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Lord of our lives who brought us salvation by dying for our sins (Acts 5:30-32).  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our Connection through the Holy Spirit to the perfect Father God in heaven (John 14:6).  Every note we sing and every testimony we give is under His will and for His glory.”

We will have one worship service that morning followed by a Fellowship Luncheon; the schedule will be as follows:

Sunday School: 9:30am
Worship Service: 10:30
Fellowship Luncheon: 12 noon.

February 23 is also designated as an “Each One Reach One” Sunday at St. Peter’s UMC where all of our members and regular worshipers are asked to invite a friend, neighbor or co-worker to church.

Come and join us – you will be blessed!