09/15/2019 = Isaiah 43:25 = “What Does God Remember?”

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Mark Wheeler

Isaiah 43:25

“What Does God Remember?”

09/15/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I turned 58 last February, and I am experiencing most of the normal “early-senior-discount-age” phenomena – aches, pains, bathroom-frequencies, gray hair, lost hair, and … what was it? … oh, yeah … memory loss.

You’ve probably heard the old quip that “as we get older, short-term memory is the second thing to go; I can’t remember what the first thing is.”

That’s kinda funny because it’s true, right? Who here has ever forgotten the word you were looking for mid-sentence? Everyone! Right? And, boy is it … what’s the word? … frustrating!

 

Today we start a new sermon series about Bible verses that are so often quoted, but with no understanding of their context and therefore so often mis-applied, applied to life-situations that really don’t fit the verse’s intent or meaning. We’re going to look at these verses and discover God’s Word for us.

 

So, today, remember how we started two minutes ago? Our memory is fallible, imperfect, faulty. But then we come to today’s Bible verse about God’s memory. ….—-

Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Right? How are we supposed to understand God’s memory? Does God literally, actually forget what happened? Does He really not know what I did yesterday? Has He truly forgotten the time you stole a piece of penny-candy from the corner mercantile when you were 6-years old? Do you think He can’t remember the gossip you spread, or the way you slandered a neighbor, or the driver you cussed out … under your breath … on your way to church … this morning … in the church parking lot?

 

Before we get to the theology of sin and forgiveness.

Think of the ways the Bible describes God for us. Because of our limited brain-ability, the Bible describes God with analogiesThe Lord smells a sweet aroma (Gen 8:21); God hears the groaning of His people (Ex 2:24); the Lord sits on a throne (Ps 9:7); and He comes down to us (Micah 1:3). All of those activities require body-parts: nose, ears, a bum, legs. Does God have a body? No. God is spirit! These descriptions are analogies so we can understand something about God’s character.

The Bible also gives God human emotions: regretful sorrow (Gen 6:6), jealousy (Ex 20:5).

Again, God has no body, but the Bible talks about God’s hands (Ps 118:15), eyes (Prov 15:3).

And what about human relationships and occupations: husband (Hosea), father (Deuteronomy), king (Isaiah), shepherd (Psalms).

I wonder if God’s remembering and forgetting should be understood in the same way!

 

So, trusting that God’s Word is, in fact, infallible, using the “analogy of faith” as a means to properly interpreting less-clear passages with more-clear passages. Here’s what I think: God’s “forgettingcannot be literal memory lossGod is perfect, after all! It’s not like how I have forgotten so many Algebra formulas from high school math classes, or the names of our neighbors when I see them at the store instead of in their front yard!

We believe God is omniscient – He knows every.thing! There is nothing He does not know! His knowledge is perfect, from before the beginning of time. He knew you before you were being knit together in your mother’s womb. He knows the end from the beginning. There is nothing He does not know!

Therefore, how could He forget our sins and transgressions?

 

We’ve all had times we wish we could forget, don’t we? I mean I want a better memory, not a worse one – but I would love to forget the time I jumped to a conclusion and hurt my son’s feelings (I mean, he would still remember, and that would suck, but at least it wouldn’t bother me!). I’d love to just forget the time my sister made fun of my hairless arms (I’m pretty sure she has forgotten that entirely!)!

We also know people, love people, who simply cannot remember. Alzheimer’s has robbed her of the memory that this man has been her faithful, loving husband for over 60 years! She has no idea who he is!

This is not who God is!

 

So, what does God mean when He says, “I … am he who … remembers your sins no more”? This is what theologians call “Covenantal language”. This means that this phrase is part of God’s Covenant with His people which offers complete forgiveness of their sins. The context of this verse in Isaiah 43 is that God has just reminded His people of their unfaithfulness to Him and their false worship, or worship of false gods. But, even though the people to whom this is originally addressed are known for their lack of faithful worship and service, Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 44 (which includes Isaiah 43:25) is mostly God assuring Israel of His comfort and grace. Listen to how Isaiah 43 opens: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;    I have summoned you by name; you are mine….  For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….  Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you (1-4).”

Then He says, Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  Despite their sin, God communicates His covenant assurance. When He says, “for my sake” He is saying that this is not because we are so deserving – but it is because God is pure grace and love for His people, and He takes away their sins!

Isaiah uses two phrases to emphasize God’s perfect and complete forgiveness of sins. He writes that Godblots out your transgressions”. To “blot out” is to erase, to delete, to remove like as if they never existed to begin with! Our transgressions are unrecoverable and irretrievable! They exist no more.

Then He says that He “remembers your sins no more”. As good as forgotten. Never to be brought up again.

 

Getting” is something that happens to us. Right. We “get” a smile, a hug, a complement. We “get” some ice cream, some lovin’, some grace.

Giving” is something we do! When we “give” a smile or a hug or a complement, someone elsegets” the gift. When we “give” some ice cream, some lovin’, some grace – the receivergets” the benefits.

When God for“gets”, He also for“gives!

 

That’s what this Covenant Language is really all about. The rest of the Scriptures, from Genesis through Isaiah 42, and Isaiah 44 through Revelation, reveal how God can have such a Covenant relationship with sinful people like you and me.  When He “forgets” our sins, your sins and mine, it’s not due to a memory lapse, nor is it merely a trite idiom.

It is because God sent His Son to bear all the sins of all His people, and to die in our place on the cross, deleting the guilt of our sins and making them as if they never existed.

So that, when we break our relationship with God, when we “dis-memberour relationshipGod’s forgiveness re-members us with Him.

 

Dear friends, you are forgiven by God. And you are re-membered into His grace and mercy! Please receive that gift – and pass it on to those around you. “Get” and “giveGod’s grace.  Amen.

 

Resources:

McCracken, H.P.; TableTalk; August 2019; Pp.4-5.

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09/08/2019 = Luke 13:18-21 = “Rules, Fools and Real Tools”

(Click HERE to listen to this message)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 13:18-21

“Rules, Fools and Real Tools”

09/08/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

[Play Lifeline Productions, the Comic Strip of Radio: “Creating Our Own Rules” (www.Lifelinepro.com ).]

 

We are exploring some of the Parables in Luke’s Gospel. Remember what a Parable does: like a fable which tells a story that teaches lessons about good morals, a parable teaches lessons about good truths.

Last week’s good truth is that God really wants us to repent and believe so He can restore us to our rightful place!

Today’s good truth lesson will be: God does more than we expect, in ways we least expect, and at times we least expect it!

 

Hear the Word of God, Luke 13:18-21 (P. 738)…. —-

     18 Then Jesus asked, What is the kingdom of God like?  What shall I compare it to?   19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

20 Again he asked, What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?   21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

 

Two short, little parables, asking and answering the question: How do we describe the kingdom of God?

But why is Jesus and asking and answering that question? What is the context of that this inquiry?

Here’s what Luke tells us: It was a Sabbath Day and Jesus heals a woman who had been a cripple for 18-years! Whhaaa? He healed on the Sabbath?! That is Unacceptable! Why did He not heal her on Friday? Or just wait until Sunday! (Remember that Jewish Sabbath is Saturday.)

And Jesus says, “Shut the front door, you hypocrites! You know you go to the trouble of giving your donkey a bucket of water on the Sabbath – every week! How is healing a ‘daughter of Abraham’ worse than watering your donkey?

          “let me tell you a couple stories about the Kingdom of God….”

 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day are upset that maybe Jesus is breaking the 4th Commandment by healing this woman on the Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Do no work  on the Sabbath – and don’t make anyone else work on the Sabbath either!” There are 39 categories of things that it is illegal to do on the Sabbath! And within those 39 categories are countless ways to break the Sabbath rules.

Here are a few examples:

  • No plowing the field – obviously, plowing would be work
    • Therefore, no moving furniture, because what if the chair leg drags a groove in the dirt?
    • No spitting, because what if the loogie rolls a groove in the dirt
  • No lighting a fire
    • Therefore no cooking
    • No flipping an electrical switch
      • In Israel, on the Sabbath, elevators stop on every floor automatically
    • No building
      • No Legos® or Lincoln Logs®
      • No pitching a tent
        • No opening an umbrella

So, of course, no healing on the Sabbath!

 

Are we much different? The Christian Right (that is the category of Christian I generally identify with) acts just like this ruler of the synagogue. We are known for being angry that Bible rules are broken willy-nilly – we make the news for the ways we angrily protest against people that seem to us to ignore God’s rules.

And the Christian Left that become angry that any rules even exist!

Jesus starts by calling these rule-followers hypocrites! Is that us? We all know someone who has criticized someone else for “working on the Sabbath”; and then go out to Denny’s® for lunch (and tipped bare minimum!)!

Remember what today’s good truth is? God always does more than we expect!

 

So, in Luke 13, Jesus heals on the Sabbath, and then He tells these two parables, about the Mustard Seed (What’s the point? The tiny seed grows into a tree where birds build their nests), and the Yeast (What’s the point? The microscopic single-cell fungus mixes with the flour and causes the whole loaf of bread to rise into deliciousness!)

Just like that, the Kingdom of God is a realm wherein Kingdom-of-God-things happen! Including that this woman is healed of her crippling disease! Because God always does more than we expect!

I watched an episode of Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor this week where a group of High school students in Houston, TX, built a home for a Viet Nam veteran who has been homeless since the 1970s! That is God doing something beyond what anyone could have predicted, using people no one would have guessed, to build something that surprised everyone! And God gets the glory every time that happens!

God is always able to do beyond what we expect:

  • John 10:28-30Jesus tells us, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” Our salvation is secure, God is able to keep us saved!
  • Romans 4:21God had power to do what he had promised. He is able!
  • Romans 16:25Paul reminds us, God is ableto bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
  • Ephesians 3:20Paul exalts the work of God, Now to him (God) who is ableto do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us …. God does more than we expect, in ways we least expect, and at times we least expect it!

And we could go on all day:

  • Abram and Sarai – in their very senior years began the bloodline that leads to Jesus.
  • MosesBurning bush, Red Sea, Manna from heaven, Water from a rock, shoes and clothes that don’t wear out.
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah – in their very senior years bring John the Baptist as forerunner to the Messiah.
  • Mary and Joseph – still a virginall things are possible with GodNothing is impossible with God

 

God does more than we expect, in ways we least expect, and at times we least expect it!

  • He forgives my sin – and yours, and theirs!!!
  • He invites us into His work of bringing His Kingdom to earth as it is in heaven!
  • He loves you. He loves the neighbor you can’t stand! He loves the Muslim and the LGBTQ and the NeoNazi (I did not say He approves of them, but I know He loves them!)
  • He holds us accountable – to receive His love and forgiveness and invitation to follow Him – which means to also know His Rule Book and love Him by honoring it!
  • He transforms me – He makes me into someone better than I currently am that better reflects His glory – and He does that for you – and He does that for that other guy! He wants us to be His. And God does more than we expect, in ways we least expect, and at times we least expect it!

 

Let’s start expecting more, and watch Him still do more than we expect (we cannot out-expect God)!:

[Prayer for Blessing the Backpacks]

 

Resources:

09/01/2019 = Luke 13:1-9 = “Bear Figs or Be Felled”

(Click HERE for the audio of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 13:6-9

“Bear Figs or Be Felled”

09/01/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We are exploring some of the Parables in Luke’s Gospel. Last Sunday we were blessed by Josh Snodgrass’ sermon on the parable in Luke 7 where two men who owed debts, one very little and one very much, were forgiven their debts. And Jesus asks us which one would be more grateful – and the answer given is the one who had been forgiven much. And Josh reminded us that we all owe a debt to God, and that not any of us can pay it – but God has paid it with His own Son.

Remember what a Parable does: it’s like a fable, but instead of a story that teaches lessons about good morals, a parable teaches lessons about good truths.

Last week’s good truth is that God offers us forgiveness, and that we desperately need it!

Today’s good truth lesson will be: God really wants us to repent and believe so He can restore us to our rightful place!

 

Hear the Word of God, Luke 13:1-9 (P. 737)…. —-

     1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

     6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

 

Did you hear the problem this passage presents[They] told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  The story doesn’t actually tell us why they brought this scenario up to Jesus, just that they did – but Jesus’ response gives us a clue about the religious and political climate.

 

His answer indicates that they were blaming these Galileans’ bad fortune on their sins, or their sinful lifestyles. Jesus says, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! … [and then He adds one more urban legend about the results of sin when He says:] Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!”

And before getting to the parable, Jesus makes these prejudices personal. Did you catch it?  Jesus says, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  And He says that twice!

Does this sound a little like the “take the log out of your own eye before you worry about the speck of dust in the other guy’s eyeparable? Take care of your own stuff before you start accusing bad things on others’ stuff.

 

But the trouble Jesus answers is not limited to the people of Jesus’ time and place. We do it, too. It’s true that sometimes our own actions do result in consequences we don’t like. If I drink and drive, the accident I cause can accurately be credited to my sin of taking a drink and then taking a car. But it is not always that clear-cut and obvious. The mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas last year – did you hear people say that that was God’s judgment of Sin-City? Or when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans – the same accusations came out? Or, to take Jesus’ own examples, “Those 3,000 who died when the Twin Towers in NYC came down? Was that because of their sin? By all means, NO!” But Jesus continues, “Unless we repent we, too, will perish!”

Whatever sin we think is doing someone else in – be aware that, in fact, we are no better off – unless we repent and believe!

 

The warning is that we are all sinnersPaul’s words are “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – last week’s parable was that Jesus forgave the woman of ill repute, and that He was willing to forgive the Pharisee if he, too, would only repent!

 

And the Good News in this parable about the barren fig tree that comes next? God really really really wants us to repent and believe so He can restore us to our rightful place! And repentance and belief ought to change us so that we end up reflecting God’s character of patient grace by being patiently gracious with others just as He is with us!

In my own personal devotional reading this morning, Old Testament prophet Jeremiah 7:3-7, listen: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place [My presence]. …   If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,  if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,  then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.” (I love when Bible readings “coincidentally” come together!)

 

There is NO delight in heaven when someone refuses to accept God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Ever.

The Apostle Peter writes, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:7-9)

This parable says, “Let’s tend the fig tree for another yearfertilizer, water, sun, Miracle Gro®, attention. Eventually, it will be cut down – but let’s not rush itmaybe it will bear figs and it won’t have to be felled!” It’s not just “sit back and wait” – it’s “do the job and see what happens”!

In John 3:16, we read that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will NOT PERISH but have everlasting life!” John 14:7, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father but by Me.

He urges us to repent and believe, before it becomes too late, so that we too will not perish but have eternal life!

God urges us to receive His Son because He really really really wants us to repent and believe so He can restore us to our rightful place!

 

If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down. But remember that God really really really really wants us to repent and believe so He can restore us to our rightful place!

 

Let’s start with a word in prayer:

Almighty and forgiving God,   we confess today, all the ways we judge others without looking squarely at ourselves – for thinking our sins are not as bad as theirs, or that the eternal consequences are actually different – we repent, right now, hear our tears  –receive us a little closer in to Your presence today.  Today we acknowledge the extreme measures You have gone to restore us to You – You gave Your Son for us!!  And we believe … by grace through faith, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Resources:

September 2019 = Lead newsletter article

Rightly Interpreting God’s Word

Have you ever read a sentence wherein you understood every word, but wondered what the author meant by stringing them together in that particular order? Or maybe we simply need a tone of voice to help us comprehend the exact intent. You know, like, does “Oh, I really LOVE Brussel sprouts” mean that I really like them a lot? Or does it mean I can’t stand the sight, smell, taste of them?

This has become even more of a problem lately, with text messages and emojis. What does “Imho, Brussel sprouts r [here are three different emoji faces, apparently wordpress doesn’t have a font for emojis{?}]” mean? (I wrote it, and I have no idea….)

There are entire websites designed to help people interpret emojis (emojipedia.com). Several people have tried to invent new fonts or punctuation marks so that sarcasm might better be intoned by the reader (like THAT’ll *really* work!)

Often times, jokes are told, not by the words used or the sentence structure, but by the verbal cues that are attached. So a joke on paper may not be funny at all, but told in person puts you on the floor laughing. (And in case you thought that was funny, insults can be told in the same way, Genius!)

This becomes the task of the Bible reader! Reading the Psalms is very different than reading the Epistles – even one Psalm might be a different read than another Psalm! The History books of the Old Testament should be understood in a different light than the Prophetic books. The Gospels fulfill Old Testament writings, but they begin New Testament instructions. Within the Gospels, gaining an understanding of “voice” and plot and conflict development and resolution help us know how to interpret God’s Word more confidently.

That’s what we are looking at this Fall. Scripture passages that are often quoted so out of context that they have “lost” their truer purpose and meaning. Take a look at the Calendar and note what verses we’ll be exploring each Sunday (starting on September 15, that’s when the Choir resumes and we start a new series). Our goal is to “rightly divide the Word of God” by studying these verses in light of the “whole counsel of God”.

I expect to be challenged by God’s Word, and encouraged to keep digging. I hope that’s your experience, too.

Mark

PS  In this edition of the Ledger we are invited to three different events – all of which are amazing. Check the Calendar and look for the articles announcing:

  • Laugh for Life – FREE comedy event at Turning Point Church (11911 N. Division St), Friday 9/13, doors open at 6:30pm, for the whole family! Free-will offering goes toward Life Services Crisis Pregnancy Center.
  • The 24/7 Dad classes – FREE education event for fathers at Hillyard Baptist Church (2121 E. Wabash Ave), Mondays & Wednesdays, starting 9/16, 6:30pm for dinner. This class is presented by the Spokane Fatherhood initiative.
  • The Bible through the Eyes of a Jew – FREE presentation of biblical interpretation (speaking of our next sermon series) and Holy Land pictures by a Messianic Jewish historian and tour guide, at Calvary Spokane (511 W. Hastings Rd), Mon-Thurs, 9/23-26, 7-8pm.

08/18/2019 = Luke 12:13-21 = “Make Me a Channel”

(Click HERE to listen to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 12:13-21

“Make me a Channel”

08/18/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We are exploring some of the Parables in Luke’s Gospel. Here’s a quick reminder about what a Parable does: it’s like a fable, but instead of a story that teaches lessons about good morals, a parable teaches lessons about good truths.

Today’s good truth lesson: God blesses us beyond our ability to use it all up!

 

“… all you need in life, [is] a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is- a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that [junk] you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get … more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

Those are some of the opening words to a 1981 George Carlin routine.

 

I start with that today, because whether George Carlin knew it or not, he was doing a commentary on today’s Parable.

 

Jesus is preaching to a crowd of “many thousands”, giving warnings about how the Christian faith can effect our relationships and offering encouragement by way of Holy Spirit gifts and fruit. But then, Luke 12:13-21 (P. 737)…. —-

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 

The problem presented to Jesus here is that two brothers, siblings, children in the same family, are fighting over their potential inheritance.

This is not an isolated case, right? Others in Scripture deal with the inheritance issue – the Prodigal Son parable that comes 3-chapters later deals with inheritance.

 

Some of us here have been involved with something similar. Every single one of us deals with some sense of greedmaybe every day. Maybe we are the one who struggles with greed, maybe we’re the one who is the victim of greed. My guess is that we each play both parts almost every day.

I ran across a single panel comic a month ago where a pastor was complaining that he had too many books in his personal library, that he really needed to get rid of some – “Ooh. Look! A book sale!

For some of us it is books; for some it may be musical instruments; maybe things for the garden, or car accessories, etc., etc. For my mom it was teacups – she just couldn’t get enough teacups.

 

But did you catch this parable’s good truth lesson? God blesses us beyond our ability to use it all up!

 

This is not new to this particular parablebeing blessed in order to be a blessing is as old as Genesis 12. God blesses Abram with the promise of children and offspring, and then “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Blessed to be a blessing.

 

When we withhold what God gives us – we withhold God’s blessings, for God’s blessed purposes. ”You fool!”, God says, “This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.

The very next words out of Jesus’ mouth are: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear….   But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.     Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail …. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

The implication here is that “Richness toward God” occurs when we are generous toward other people. Lidgerwood is a small congregation, with very limited resources, and, not to toot our own horns, but I want to throw a few things on the floor that show something generous:

  • Deacons Food Pantry
  • Spokane Woodcarvers Association
  • Over-eaters Anonymous
  • Shuttle-birds Tatting Group/class
  • Daughters of the Union Veterans
  • Russian language Bible Study
  • Just-for-Fun singing group
  • Faith Comes by Hearing Military Audio-Bible Sticks
  • Saturate Spokane
  • Child Empowerment Outreach
  • If You Could Save Just One
  • Eat More Rainbows

 

As pastor here, the generosity of all this support for things outside of ourselves makes it super fun to talk about the ministries at Lidgerwood. But it does not stop with the list of corporate missional activities. This congregation has individuals who volunteer with:

  • The UGM
  • Luke Rehab Hospital
  • Holy Family Hospital
  • Catholic Charities
  • Mission Community Outreach Center
  • What else?

 

In addition to these outreach ministries we have a nearly uncountable number of ways y’all give to each other – rides, food, cards, visits.

 

We are not perfect. Right? We are not the perfect example of being rich toward God. As a church we have withheld some of our space and time and stuff; as individuals within this church we have guarded against our space and our stuff being abused or lost.

 

And every time we share something God has given to us, put into our stewardship care, we bless others with what God blesses us with beyond our ability to use it all up!

 

Let’s start with a word in prayer:

Dear Almighty and awesome God,   thank You for sharing with us the ability to share beyond what makes sense – to never be able to out-give You – to our family, to our concerns, to the world in which You put us – to experience Your blessings so that those around us might also experience Your blessings … by grace through faith, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Resources:

Carlin, George; “A Place for My Stuff”; 1981; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Place_for_My_Stuff. (There is a little “language” in this clip.)

08/11/2019 = Luke 11:5-13 = “Snakes and Scorpions for Supper?”

(Click HERE to lisssssten to thissss messsssage.)

Mark Wheeler

Luke 11:5-13

“Snakes and Scorpions for Supper?”

08/11/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We are exploring some of the Parables in Luke’s Gospel. A quick reminder about what a Parable does: like a fable, but instead of a story that teaches lessons about good morals, a parable teaches lessons about good truths.

Today’s good truth lesson: God offers us a secure and safe relationship and He can hardly wait to bless us!

 

Let’s start this morning with a quick on-the-spot assignment: What if I pointed at you and said, “Barb – or Velma – or Darlene – or Ron- please stand up and say an opening prayer”? Wh-wh-wh-how-what would you do?

Many of us would shake in our boots, pour out a bucket of sweat, and st-st-studder an excuse why we can’t.

Even those of us who might very willingly jump in and rescue the stammering pray-er by offering to pray in their place – even you have had moments when you just did not know what to say. A month ago I sat in an ICU at 3am with a family who had to decide when to unplug their 21-year old son from life support, and I confessed, I’m not sure what to pray right now. And then I stammered out, and cried my way through a prayer for comfort and confidence and peace.

Everyone gathered in this room has had moments when we ran out of words to pray, when we became so lost in the pain or fear or unfair frustration that we just had no-thing to say to God. Maybe it’s a sister in pain, a child in crisis, an intrepid fear of nothing changing for the better, or fear of everything changing without my permission. It could be personal, it might be political, perhaps it’s related to emotions that we can’t even define.

 

That’s sort of what’s happening in today’s Bible story and Jesusparable. The situation is that, as is often the case, Jesus found a solitary place and sat down to pray. So His disciples found Him and asked Him to teach them to pray – “What if the pastor asks me to pray next Sunday, Lord, teach us how to pray…?

And this is where we get The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says, “Pray like this.” And He gives us what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It’s, at minimum, a prayer outline that includes praise (“Our Father in heaven, holy is Your name”), provision (“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us today our daily bread”), petition (“Forgive us our ‘trespasses’ [in Luke], as we forgive others”).

  • Praise
  • Provision
  • Petition

But He doesn’t stop there! Without skipping a beat Jesus starts in on a parable about persistence in prayer. Listen to what He says, Luke 11:5-13 (P. 735)…. —-

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Remember what I said this parable is about at the beginning of this message? Today’s good truth lesson is: God offers us a secure and safe relationship and He can hardly wait to bless us!

How does a parable about persistence teach that good truth?

 

In the parable Jesus uses a neighbor who finds himself in unexpected need, and another neighbor who ends up helping even though it’s inconvenient and maybe he doesn’t even want to. But he does because his neighbor keeps on asking, seeking, knocking on that darn door!

The NIV says that he answers because of your “shameless audacity”. The KJV calls it “importunity”. The Greek words Luke wrote are: ναίδειαν γερθες which literally might be “great relentlessness” or “relentless greatness”.

 

Then He adds the little parable-appendix about the father and his child asking for a fish or an egg and the dad not being so cruel as to feed him a snake or a scorpion.

 

In both examples what Jesus is saying is that even we dumb dads and ignoble neighbors can do the right thinghow much more will God do what’s needed?! (btw, I find it very interesting that this parable about the neighbors comes only a few verses after the parable we just read about the Good Samaritan being neighborly – I wonder if there’s an underlying lesson we need to pay attention to, as well.)

 

Some of the last lines in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is about forgivenessFather, forgive us – as we forgive others. Forgiving others is how we honor God; it’s one way to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, strength; extending what God offers us blesses God and it blesses others, and it blesses us!

 

God offers us a secure and safe relationship and He can hardly wait to bless us! The secure and safe place is that when we seek Him He will always be there, when we knock He will always be welcome us and when we ask He wants to give. Yesterday, Sandy B mentioned that she passed by a bus stop bench ad from Shine 104.9 proclaiming “God treasures you.” He can hardly wait to bless us!

 

It’s like when we have bought or made or even just happened to find what we think is the best gift ever for a loved onewhat do we do? We can’t wait for Christmas (or her birthday, or for her to come home). I was so giddy two years ago when Jennifer was gone for a couple weeks and I had a garden-window installed above the kitchen sink. Antsy with excited anticipation.

You all know that feeling – a macaroni necklace for mom, a bicycle for a grandchild, the special homemade card for gramma. When I hear this parableif the neighbor can do this, and the dad can do this, then imagine what God can do – and in the parable Jesus invites us to ask and seek and knockwhat I see is God rubbing His hands, tapping His heels, just waiting for us to reconnect with Him!

 

Andrew, Brianna, Caitlin, Jennifer, Mark, Bob, Jack, Helen, GerriGod is always anxiously waiting for us to come running to Him.

 

Persist in asking, seeking, knocking – and we will know how God offers us a secure and safe relationship and He can hardly wait to bless us!

 

Let’s start with a word in prayer:

Dear Almighty and awesome God,   thank You for hearing us as we ask … what, today, are we asking God for? [prayers from the congregation] …     thank You for being right here with us, always, …     thank You for welcoming us into Your perfect and eternal presence!     [The Lord’s Prayer]

 

Resources: