This week we begin a sermon series inspired by Mike Slaughter’s book Momentum for Life: Sustaining Personal Health, Integrity, and Strategic Focus as a Leader. This book was preached in January and February of 2005 at Ginghamsburg Church (Tipp City, Ohio). I have visited Ginghamsburg for their Change Conferences and I appreciate Mike’s leadership in helping the church address the world in which we live. After Cindy visited Ginghamsbur for a conference in 2003, Mike became her pastor via the internet. She challenged me to listen to these sermons in 2005 and his challenge helped me make some important changes in my life and our family’s life together.
Below are links to Mike’s best books and the Devotional Guide prepared by Bishop Reuben Job and Norm Shawchuck which guides the corporate spirit life of Pinehurst United Methodist Church.
When I came to this church three and half years I was given a membership to the fitness center as a gift. It was a gift that said "you need to take care of yourself" and I tried to get there about three days a week. Eighteen months later I struggled to keep up with my friend Jim who came to walk the US Open with me around Pinehurst #2. This frustrated me, so I committed to getting to the gym five days a week, knowing that I might get there three to four days a week. This past summer after spending a week with a bunch of teenagers as worship leader for one of our conference youth events I knew I needed to take another step. I then committed to making it to the gym five days a week for 60 minutes of cardio activity … I am five months into that journey and its the first time that I have begun to notice any weight reduction. That came from three years of making a decision to start taking care of myself … I am developing in my physical life what Mike Slaughter calls Momentum for Life!
Now, any new year is a time when we reconsider things about our lives that we want to change. I will be challenging us in the coming weeks to make these changes in a systematic way. This week we begin the journey by remembering our baptismal vows as we celebrate the Christian feast day — The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s hear the word of God:
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in
their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John
answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but
one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie
the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing
floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will
burn with unquenchable fire."
when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been
baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit
descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from
heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased" (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22).
Today we will be considering what it means to take Jesus’ baptism as our own. A crucial part of this action is about change or transformation. Paul challenged his listeners in Rome to remember than we give our lives to Jesus the transformation journey begins:
appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to
God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
+ Discipline = Momentum for Life
Over the coming weeks we will pay attention to the anachronym DRIVE presented in Momentum for Life. This model for the life allows us to take on changing several parts of our personal life in a way that builds life momentum … change that continues to shape our lives forever. DRIVE should begin to call to mind the following phrases over the coming weeks:
= Devotion to God.
R = Readiness for Lifelong Learning
Investing in Key Relationships
V = Visioning for the Future
Eating and Exercise for Life.
Over the coming weeks we will begin to see that faith in God inspires a response from us. When our response is focused or disciplined, then we can truly develop momentum for life. The following "formula" will guide our journey together:
+ Discipline = Momentum for Life
was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to
the house of the LORD!" (Psalm 122:1)
During our worship celebrations for this sermon series we will be reciting several portions of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). These psalms were often said as a pilgrim approached the Temple in Jerusalem. No matter which direction you approach the temple you have to climb … a serious climb of a thousand feet. Today when we say "I was glad when they said let us go up to the house of the Lord" we drive, but the pilgrim in Jerusalem will climb the equivalent of the Empire State Building to "go up to the house of the Lord." So let’s look again at those words:
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers."
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good (Psalm 122).
In our day we have grown accustomed to the cheap grace of showing up to worship as passive believers, but the Psalms of Ascent remind us that active followers is the real calling of Jesus’ disciples (see Mike’s Real Followers above). As Mike Slaughter says, the
life of faith may begin in grace but the journey with Jesus requires our “sweat equity.” Paul reminds us:
exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a
perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run
aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my
body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself
should not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
picture for grace/sweat equity shows up throughout scripture: What about
the image of the working mother and wife in Proverbs 31? We often hear these words complimenting our mothers or wives at a funeral or on Mother’s Day, but when I hear them I see sweat, not grace!
rises while it is still night and provides food for
her household and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a
field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a
She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the
distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to
the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy (Proverbs
Now when I am confronted by opportunites for sweat in living as an active follower I often rationalize my way out of living into what God requires of me! When Jesus says
"to become my disciple you must hate your father and mother" (Luke 14:26), or
"if someone hits you offer them another chance to knock you down" (Matthew 5:39), or
"love your enemies and pray for those who hate you" (Matthew 5:43), or Paul says
"do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21),
I want to say, but God doesn’t know my situation. OH REALLY! When we enter the Word we are called to listen more than challenge, follow more than wander, and change rather than sulk.
Do not let the challenge of the next few weeks to pass you by while you say to yourself, "Pastor Allen sure has a good word for that guy/gal across the room. Remember when you said to your parents, "but all the other kids are doing it?" Most of our parents responded with a statement like "if all the other kids jumped off the cliff would you?" Their expectation was that their word was for you, not the other kid. God’s word today if for you — don’t rationalize it away!
There is another momentum buster that reminds me of the quote which used to be on my bulletin boad in seminary. It stated: "I’d
like to procrastinate, but I keep putting it off!” Most New Year’s Resolutions make it past lunch time on January 1 because we utter those infamous words of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, "there is always tomorrow." The wise one says:
long will you lie there, O lazybones?
When will you
rise from your sleep? (Proverbs 6:9).
are who we imagine ourselves to be. We cannot put off working with God to transform ourselves, our families, our community, and world.
as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23;7, KJV).
Buster: Wrong Visualization:
The final momentum buster is forgetting who we are. Remember
who we were created to be:
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created
them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
which we respond, but nobody’s perfect. We rest in the calm assurance of these words because they give us a picture of ourselves with which we can live. Nobody’s perfect, so I will do the best I can, whenever I feel like, if I ever get around to it, maybe tomorrow …
I invite us to remember Jesus’ challenge:
perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew
grace restores us to this possibility – it sets us free. In
baptism God offers us grace that allows us to move forward. The question is will we accept the gift of grace and move forward in being recreated in the image of God or will we sit and soak trusting solely in God’s grace?
you ready to build your momentum for life? If so I invite you to remember your baptismal vows with me now.
On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? I DO!
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? I DO!
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? I DO!
According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world? I WILL!
Go in peace to pursue the joyful, connecting, and transforming power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
… in our worship as we are embraced by God’s grace
… in our fellowship as we are conformed into the character of Christ
… in our service as we are humbly led by the Spirit.
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, rest, rule, and abide with us not and forever. AMEN.
NOTE: You may want to check out Mike’s sermons directly on this topic directly. Find them at: