“Selling the Sizzle”

Sermon: “Selling the Sizzle”
Scripture: Matthew 3: 1-6, 13-17
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17.

1. How is John the Baptist the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy? (hint: see verse 3) What Old Testament Scripture is verse 3 quoting?

2. Why might John the Baptist’s appearance be significant? How does his appearance and style compare to that of the religious leaders of the day?

3. Pastor Mick talked about “selling the sizzle.” Were the Pharisees “selling the right sizzle” in their day? Why or why not?

4. Why do you think Pastor Mick described baptism as a gift from God? What does baptism mean to you?

5. Pastor Mick discussed a vertical and horizontal aspect to the baptismal covenant. What did he mean by that? Do you agree?

How is this related to The Greatest Commandments?

6. Do you agree with Pastor Mick that sometimes we tend to create Jesus in our own image to make him more comfortable? Why or why not?

7. What does it mean to fulfill your baptism? How are you doing with that?

Prayer for the Week: (from UMH #253)

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

“Three Wise Wesleyans”

Sermon: “Three Wise Wesleyans”
Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Matthew 2:1-12.

1. How is the term “Epiphany” used differently in the church compared to its usage outside the church?

2. How is the Magi story an illustration of God’s grace, specifically from the Wesleyan understanding of grace (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying)?

3. When have you experienced God’s prevenient grace (God wooing you) in your own life? Do you still experience it sometimes?

4. Can you recall when you experienced God’s justifying grace (sometimes called being saved)? Did anything change in your life as a result?

5. How do you experience God’s sanctifying grace in your life (transforming you more into the image of Jesus)? Is this sanctifying process always enjoyable, or is it sometimes difficult?

6. Do you believe that “God who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”? (Philippians 1:6 paraphrase) How have you experienced God’s faithfulness in this work in your life?

7. What can we learn about our own tithing and offerings from the Magi’s offering of gifts to the Christ child? Why do we give and to whom/what do we give?

Prayer for the Week:

Creator God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth. We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears, new decisions and old controversies, new dreams and old weaknesses. Because you are a God of hope, we know that you create better possibilities for the future. Because you are a God of love, we know that you forgive all the mistakes of the past. Because you are the God of our faith, we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise. We come into your presence with gladness and joy, as we strive to serve and bless you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

“Incredible Love”

Sermon: “Incredible Love”
Scripture: Luke 1: 39-45
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

1. The grown up’s message this week is titled Incredible Love. The children’s message is about God’s love for everyone and how everyone matters to Him, even the lowliest of people. Their word for the day is Invisible…sometimes we feel invisible and unloved… not worthy of God’s Incredible Love. Have you ever felt invisible and unloved? If so, what steps did you take to overcome those feelings?

2. When you think of Incredible Love…what words come to mind that describe Incredible Love? List them and discuss their meanings. Do these words describe the love you feel from God? Why or why not?

3. Read Luke 1:39-45. As you read this text…what are some of the ways you see God’s Incredible Love in action? How do they relate to the way God loves you?

4. Super-heroes fly around in flashy costumes and they have superhuman saving power…they get noticed and certainly they’re worthy of Incredible Love. What about those who are invisible or feel invisible…not so flashy? Do they get overlooked? If we look at the Christmas Story…in what ways do you see Mary as “Invisible”? How do you see the shepherds as “Invisible”? Are there others that appear “Invisible”? How do you see God showing them Incredible Love?

5. What changes do we need to make in our lives so that we have “eyes like Jesus”…to see those that are invisible to humankind, or are hurting, and crying out for help? God has an Incredible Love for each and every one of us…How might we show that same Incredible Love to everyone we meet?

Prayer for the Week:

Dear Jesus, you remind us that when we accepted you into our lives, our old life was dead and we have the opportunity to celebrate a new life. My new life has been changed forever by your Incredible Love and sacrifice. Today I will praise You, I will honor You, and I will share your Incredible Love to everyone I meet. May we give You all the praise and glory during this Advent season, Lord. It’s in your name I pray. Amen.

“Incredible Hope”

Sermon: “Incredible Hope”
Scripture: Luke 1: 26-38
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Luke 1:26-38.

1. Why do we call this season Advent and why is it such a celebration in the church every year? (Hint: Advent means “coming”)

2. How does The Annunciation (Gabriel’s announcement to Mary) give hope to the whole world?

3. The grown up’s message this week is titled Incredible Hope. The children’s message is titled Incredible Trust. How are hope and trust related? How do we see this relationship between hope and trust in Mary?

4. Mary trusted God, and that was enough for God to do something incredible in and through her. Do you think God wants to do incredible things in and through you too?

5. Super-heroes are all the rage in American pop culture these days. They are regular people with incredible gifts that give them incredible power to change lives, and even change the world. What gifts has God given you that might make you a hero to someone else? How are you using your gifts?

6. Do you believe that God can and will do incredible things in and through everyone who trusts in Him?

7. Have you asked God lately to show you what the next incredible thing is that he wants to do in and through you? If not, why? If so, what message did you receive?

Prayer for the Week:

O God our Father, you have brought us again to the glad season of Advent, when we anticipate and celebrate the birth of your Son Jesus Christ and his coming into our lives as our Lord. Grant that his spirit may be born anew in our hearts this day, that we may be filled with hope as we joyfully welcome him to reign in our lives. Open our ears that we may hear the angelic chorus of old. Open our lips that we, too, may sing his praises. Open our hearts that we may fully trust in Christ for our salvation, and then share this hope with others. Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace and goodwill toward all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“The Right to Remain Silent”

Sermon: “The Right to Remain Silent”
Scripture: James 3:3-8
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we wrap up the 7 Deadly Sins plus 1. The plus 1 sin could possibly be the most dangerous of them all. Not only can it be a “church killer”…it can pretty much be an “everything killer.” What are we talking about? GOSSIP!

1. How would you define “gossip”? What about “slander”?

2. How has gossip affected you personally? What were the immediate and long-term effects from the gossip? How did you respond?

3. Billy Graham suggested that we ask ourselves three things before we speak: Is it true? Is it kind? Does it glorify God? How might asking these questions help us as we sort out whether we should or should not listen to someone who wants to share something with us? How might these questions help keep us from spreading gossip?

4. The Bible has quite a bit to say about gossip/slander. Read Psalm 15:1-3, Proverbs 10:18, 1 Timothy 5:13 and Proverbs 16:28. What are some of the consequences of spreading gossip/slander?

5. What changes do you need to make to remove the sin of “gossip” and “slander” from your life?

Prayer of the Week:

Gracious Lord and Savior, you have warned me that I will be judged by the words I speak. Please keep me mindful that I have influence on many people. Help me to speak in a way that glorifies and honors You, Lord. Give me the courage I need to either distance myself or rebuke the gossiper when I find myself in a precocious situation. It’s in the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

“Give Me More...of Jesus”

Sermon: “Give Me More...of Jesus”
Speaker: Pastor Diane Mendelson

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

What is Gluttony?
The English word comes from the Latin and means “to gulp.” Gluttony idolizes food to feed our own self-love. Merriam-Webster defines gluttony as "habitual greed or excess in eating...greedy or excessive indulgence."

When you think of the word gluttony, what is your understanding of it? How might or how does gluttony affect you?

Read the following Scripture texts: Luke 12:22-23, Proverbs 23:19-21, and John 6:35…what do each of these texts reveal to you about “gluttony”? Do these texts reveal anything new that might relate to you?

Read Titus 2:11-14. This text talks about “self-control.” When you think about “self-control” do you think about it with joy and freedom or with a sense of loss and sadness? What things have shaped your thinking of “self-control” and how can God help you to value the positive impact of “self-control” in your life?

Read Matthew 6:25-34. Do you believe that you have what you have because of God’s care? Of the things you have…what comes because of your hard work and careful planning? Does God get credit for having any part in your ability to work hard? Jesus talks about worry in this text…In what ways have you sensed that your commitment to Jesus has reduced the “worry factor” in your life? Are there burdens or worries that you would like to ask Jesus to help you lay aside?

Prayer of the Week:

Gracious God in Heaven, please fill me with an appetite that reflects a goodness for you. You told us Lord, that we do not live by bread alone…I ask that you forgive me when I let my appetite for life take your place at the center of my being. Help me to have eyes to see when I am not being honest about my own self-indulgence. Help me to remember you, Lord and to desire your love and to remember your promise to set me free from anything that does not come from you. Help me to always seek you and your kingdom of righteousness. Amen.

“It’s Not Easy Being Green”

Sermon: “It’s Not Easy Being Green”
Scripture: James 3:13-16
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read James 3:13-16.

1. This week’s passage is part of a larger narrative describing wisdom from above and wisdom from below, or godly wisdom vs. worldly wisdom. From which wisdom do we get envy? How do we know?

2. James says “where you find envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Why do you think that is? How have you seen this play out in life?

3. One writer spoke of jealousy and envy, saying, “When taken together, they are the most corroding of all the vices, coals that come hissing hot from hell.” Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

4. Read 1 Samuel 18:5-12. What made Saul so mad about the way people described him versus how they described David? Why did this make him so mad? How did Saul respond? What might have been a better way to respond?

5. Envy was described as “we’re sad when they’re glad and we’re glad when they’re sad.” When have you felt this way in your life? Did feeling this way make your life better or worse? Why?

6. Envy was described as a sin that no one wants to confess. Why do you think that is?

7. Why do you think kindness is considered the virtue that is the antidote to envy? How might this help you in areas of your life where you struggle with envy?

Prayer for the Week:

Lord Jesus, thank you for every good and perfect gift you bestow upon us. Help us to share these gifts with others, so that we might all have everything we need. Teach us to be content with what we have, and not focus on, or worry about, what we don’t have. Lead us not into the temptation and trap of envy, but help us instead to replace envy with kindness. Jesus, you are our Master! You are our King! You are our Savior and our Lord. Help us to live our lives in such a way that this is evident for all to see. May our actions speak even louder than words in proclaiming your love to the world. We pray all of this in your precious, holy and strong name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

“It Happened”

Sermon: “It Happened”
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:1-5
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we’re continuing our sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins + 1. This morning we’re looking at the sin of “Lust.”

1. Read Galatians 5:19-21. Take time for honest, prayerful selfappraisal. Which of these “acts of flesh” do you find in your life? Do you believe these are a result of our human brokenness?

2. Continue reading Galatians 5:22-23. Where do you see the fruits of the spirit growing in your life? Do you believe these are godly characteristics? Why?

3. Read 2 Peter 1:3-9. In this text, Peter says that God’s forgiveness and divine love give us the inner strength we need to stand firm against the evils of this world. What are the positive virtues God offers us? Which of the positive virtues that Peter lists in verses 5-7 are most appealing to you? What does Peter say will happen if we add these virtues to our life?

4. Read Colossians 3:1-10. What are some practices you have found that help you set your mind on things above? What activities seem to draw you away from God?

5. Paul says that a Christian has taken off the old self, with its practices, and put on a new self. Can you see places where this has happened in your life? Where does your “old self” still give you trouble?

Prayer for the Week:

Gracious God in Heaven, please show me what is in my heart. If there is anything impure or displeasing to you, please fill my heart with your love. Forgive me when I give in to temptation and open my heart to the allure of lust. Create in me a clean heart and show me the joy of living and loving in a way that pleases you. It is in your name I pray, Lord. Amen.