02/26/2017 – Colossians 1:1-14 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Colossians and Spokanians”

Click HERE to find the audio link.

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 1:1-14

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Colossians and Spokanians”

02/26/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

There has always been “Fake News” – we used to call them rumors and gossip; and there always been “alternative facts” – we called them lies and cover-ups. But we now live in a world with Social Media run amuck and, we tend to believe whatever we see in print. But among things like National Enquirer at the checkout stands and TMZ on TV and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat or any of the over 60 Social Media sites – these stories can now spread like a virus in a crowd of completely unprepared victims.

 

And that happens in church circles, too. Christian believers get caught up in the foray of fake news just as quickly as the population at large. And sometimes the ways these tales are told change the ways we think and believe.

 

As we enter into the Season of Lent this week (Wednesday is the official beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday – and while we do not have a sanctioned service in the works, from 8:30am to 5:30pm I will be here to pray with you and anoint you with the ashes of repentance and the oil of reformation), we begin a study in the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Spokanians (or if not the whole city, we Lidgerwoodians, certainly).

Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!

 

Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.

 

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 1:1-14 ….—-

           1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

                3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s peoplethe faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

In these introductory verses we see four main items of business. Remember, this is a letter – or an epistle, which simply means it’s a letter to be circulated among the people.

 

So the first item of business is the salutation: From Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and from Timothy. Paul is quick to establish that he did not ever seek this role of missional church planter and over-seer. God stopped him en route from one city of persecution to the next, and God made him as one sent on this mission! To God’s holy people in Colossae, faithful brothers and sisters: Grace and peace to you. Today, we receive this word from the Lord to us: holy people at Lidgerwoodnot better than the rest, not holier than Thou, just called by God to be His peoplebrothers and sisters of faith. Paul’s greeting includes a prayer for God’s grace and peace, shalom, to be experienced and to be real.

 

The next two main themes in these opening 14 verses deal with the person of Jesus and the practice of prayer. For our purposes, let’s see what Paul says about Jesus first.

In verse 5 Paul says that Jesus is “the true message of the Gospel”. In their world there were a lot of false gods one might choose to worship – what are some of the false gods in our world?

This is the true message of the GospelJesus is trustworthy, His precepts are dependable. Half-truths about Jesus are not good enough – a half-truth is still a lie. What are some half-truths about Jesus we often hear? [Jesus loves everybody and so it doesn’t matter what we believe; Jesus is a good teacher, but not the Son of God; Jesus is a son of God, but so is Buddha and Mohammed.] Believe the whole Gospel or admit that we don’t believe the Gospel at all.

Verses 13 & 14 say that Jesus has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and it is in Jesus that we have redemption and forgiveness of our sins. Certainly that at least implies that without Him we lack redemption and forgiveness is out of reach. When we combine this with several of Paul’s other teachings we discover that this truth is not merely implied, but taught straight out. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) also teach this about the Gospel. Other religions might have great teachings, wonderful examples, superb lessons – but they lack this fundamental truth: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6)!

 

The third teaching point in this start to this epistle is the power of prayer. It is riddled with prayer.

We always thank God … we pray for you … we have not stopped praying for you … we continually ask God to fill you … giving joyful thanks  …. In John 17 Jesus says that He is praying for us, those who have not seen Him when He walked this planet but believe anyway. We have people praying for us all the timeparents, friends, grandparents, pastors, elders, deacons, teachers. We are prayed for personally, for our individual life situations. We are prayed for corporately, as a church, in our denomination, as Christians in a very un-Christian world.

 

The fourth, and final, and I would say formative, point deals with the effect of these last two items – the person of Jesus and the power of prayer – on our faith and life. Paul says, in direct correlation to our faith in Jesus and the effect of prayer: so that you live lives worthy of the Lord … pleasing Him … bearing fruit … growing in knowledge … being strengthened … giving you great endurance …

If anyone here has ever wondered if your life mattered to Godif your choices pleased Himif you might ever “bear fruit (which I believe could be understood both as bringing new people to faith in Christ and growing in Galatians 5:22 fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) – if your understanding of Scripture might growif your faith might gain confidence — all of that requires effort on our part – but when our efforts are supported by prayer, we cannot fail!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means having the truth about the Triune God, and believing that prayer connects us directly to the perfect power of that Triune God! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church.

 

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee, for Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself to me; I have no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne; my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone! Amen.

 

Resources:

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 11-18.

 

Chisholm, Thomas O.; Living for Jesus a Life that Is True; 1917.

02/19/2017 – II Corinthians 12:5-10 – Promises of Grace: “Le Me Hep You Wit Dat”

Click HERE for the audio link.

Mark Wheeler

II Corinthians 12:8-9

Promises of Grace: “Let Me Hep You Wit Dat”

02/19/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, we come to You today hungering for Your Holy Spirit to fill us with Your power and love, with Your grace and mercy, with Your truth and wisdom. Fill that need today, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

30 years ago when I was doing my ministry internship at St Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City, CA, I met a man who has unknowingly challenged my independent nature in countless ways. And he did it simply by being polite. Deacon Louis Hensley approached me on my first Sunday while I was folding some bulletins and he said, “Let me hep you wit dat, suh.”

St Andrew Presbyterian Church was a small church, about 30 people in worship, made up of university and seminary professors, doctors, lawyers, and African American seniors with not much more than a 3rd grade education and living in government subsidized housing.

There’s a lot of history that tells the story of this church and those who worshiped there – but let me just say that I am eternally grateful for my three years of baptism with these fine people.

Deacon Hensley said simply, “Let me hep you wit dat, suh.”

Maybe some of you have the same “problem” I have? Never wanting any help, and refusing it when offered, even when it really would be nice….

Today is our final Sunday in this short sermon series looking at some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s Promises of Grace; today we re-discover the gift of recognizing that we need help, and hearing God’s voice, which might sound a little like Deacon Hensley’s: “Let Me hep you wit dat!

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Second Letter to the Church in Corinth. I will read from the NIV, and I invite you to follow along – if you use the Sermon Notes page, you’ll be following along in the Hawai’ian Pidgin translation. II Corinthians 12:5-10 ….—-

           5 … I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Did you catch the beauty of this Promise of Grace? We are never expected to go it alone! Never! This is why, I believe, God created that most basic of human communities – our families. Spouses, parents, siblings, children – immediate, extended, tribal, church. Almost always, when Jesus sent His disciples out on mission He did so in pairs. But even better than our partners in mission (ministry, business, life), He also tells us that whenever we are gathered in his name He is right there with us as well (and this is more than a promise – it is stated simply as a fact, it is a covenantal truth)!

We read a few weeks ago the Promise of Grace that we would not be tempted beyond what we could handle, because we would have God’s power and presence with us. This is covenantal truth!

But, because we are human, from the time of Adam and Eve, when God promised to be with them and all they had to do was not eat from that one tree – and they decided they could go it alone, so they ate from the tree of “forbidden fruit”; because of that human condition, Paul says, “in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” Paul, it appears, was tempted to go it alone. So God stopped him with this “thorn in his flesh”.

What was Paul’s “thorn in his flesh”? He never really tells us what that means – a literal thorn, a thistle? Or something else? Many people believe it was something like macular degeneration, or some other eye-disease. Some of his letters were actually written by others – they were Paul’s words, but in someone else’s handwriting. Some of them were signed by Paul – he comments on the hugeness of his signature. And we all remember that when he first met the Lord on the road to Damascus Saul the persecutor of Christians was blinded….

But whatever this “thorn” was, Paul says it was become a blessing because by it Paul heard Jesus say,‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Of course, this makes me ask about my own “thorns – I have prayed uncountable times to be relieved of my chronic Type 1 Diabetes, which limits all kinds of activities; I have a slight speech impediment which, of course, causes the “preacher” in me to wish it were different; I am not terribly talented in any singular skill or ability, I dabble is dozens of things, but expert in really none, so I envy almost everyone else; the list goes on and on.

What is your “thorn”?

Most of the time, discovering the “blessing” in our thorns takes time, but it also requires an eye for the opportunities God places before us. Your Sermon Notes page asks you to imagine ways God might use your “thorn” as a blessing for you.

My time in Marin City’s St Andrew Presbyterian Church taught be that God is, indeed, always with us. It also showed me how my Diabetes allowed me to connect with others, with all kinds of different physical maladies and health concerns, in ways I never could have without this potentially terminal disease.

I experience, probably daily, and if my faith was strong enough I would see it daily, God’s power and presence in my life because I am forced to be humbled by my limitations. I need to rely on God, because without these aches and pains I would start to think I was good enough without Him.

Deacon Hensley said, “Let me hep you wit dat”, not because he wanted to intrude on my first Sunday at St Andrew, but because he humbled himself enough to fold bulletins.

God humbled Himself, we read in Philippians 2, by making “himself nothing   by taking the very nature of a servant,    being made in human likeness.   And being found in appearance as a man,    he humbled himself       by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” He did that for you!

Three times awready I wen beg God da Boss fo take dis ting away from me. But He wen tell me, ‘I do plenny good tings fo you, an dass all you need. My power mo strong inside you wen you no can handle trouble yoa own self.’

God says to you, and to me, “Let Me hep you wit dat.” Will we let Him help?

What might we be called to do, but feel very inadequate to accomplish? Sunday School? Mission to Kenya? Feed hungry children at our local schools? Support refugees in some way? What is it for you? What is it for us? Can you hear God’s voice? “Let Me hep you wit dat.” Amen.

Today, immediately following our worship we have an opportunity for more prayer, downstairs during the Fellowship Time in the Social Hall. Let’s pray for God’s power in our lives, not despite our own weaknesses and fallibilities, but because of them.

Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, today we bow before You as the King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, the only One with the authority and the ability to actually conquer sin; and today, we choose to prioritize above all else Your Word and Your will for our lives, we want to experience Your power and love in brand new ways, and so lean on You, trusting that in our weakness we will, in deed, experience Your strength. Show us Your love today, and help us to show Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Resources:

02/12/2017 – John 14:1-7 – The Promises of Grace: “The Breath of Life: Part II”

Click HERE for the audio link to this message.

Mark Wheeler

John 14:1-4

Promises of Grace: “The Breath of Life: Part II”

02/12/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, we come to You today hungering for Your Holy Spirit to fill us with Your power and love, with Your grace and mercy, with Your truth and wisdom. Fill that need today, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Two kinds of people jokes:

  • There are three types of people in this world. Those who can count and those who can’t.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.
  • There are 2 kinds of people – Those who finish their sentences. Those wh

 

And then there’s this C.S. Lewis quote from his all-time favorite short story called The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

 

In our short sermon series looking at some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s Promises of Grace; today we continue what we started last Sunday, looking at His promise of loving every human life. But this Part Two sermon will look at God’s Promise of eternal life!

 

Listen with me to God’s Word from John’s Gospel, and we will hear a few verses supporting what C.S. Lewis just said. Our main reading today comes from that passage I read at almost every funeral and memorial service at which I officiate. This is Jesuspromise to His followers, from John 14 ….—-

           1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

 

Jesus said these words on the night before He was arrested and then crucified the next day. Death was just around His corner. Why do we read this at funerals? I think it’s because these words offer hope for our eternity… because we are curious about what’s next… because we have a desire for something beyond what this life offers.

 

In his all-time classic theological treatise, C.S. Lewis addressed this when he said, “The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in THIS  world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for ANOTHER  world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

I love that quote. God gives us the opportunity to fulfill our biggest unreachable dream simply by receiving Jesus as our Lord and our Savior. Lewis also said, “Aim at heaven and you’ll get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all your earthly needs will be taken care of.”

But did you catch the part that relies on us?

 

In John’s Gospel, chapter 3, we find what is probably the most famous and well known verse of all: “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.God does indeed love you! In fact, His love is so thorough that He gives us the right to receive Himor not! Just a paragraph later John tells us these words:

John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.The Promise of God’s Gracethe Breath of Eternal Life – is awaiting us to receive it – or to reject it.

 

Two chapters later (the Sermon Notes page says chapter 4, it should say FIVE, Jesus says it as clearly as He could: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.’

 

This is the whole purpose of the Bible story – that we might know the Father by receiving His Son as Savior and Lord!

 

In John 11 when Jesus hears that His friend Lazarus had died He met with Lazarus’ sisters. On Thursday I read this story from a translation called Young’s Literal Translation. Listen to this conversation between Jesus and Martha: 21 Martha, therefore, said unto Jesus, `Sir, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died; 22 but even now, I have known that whatever thou mayest ask of God, God will give to thee;’

23 Jesus saith to her, `Thy brother shall rise again.’

24 Martha saith to him, `I have known that he will rise again, in the rising again in the last day;’

25 Jesus said to her, `I am the rising again, and the life; he who is believing in me, even if he may die, shall live; 26 and every one who is living and believing in me shall not die — to the age; 27 believest thou this?’

she saith to him, `Yes, sir, I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming to the world.’

 

Jesus says, also, to us: Believest thou this? Do you, also, believe this?

 

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in THIS  world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for ANOTHER  world.

 

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

 

Which kind of person are you?

 

Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, today we bow before You as the King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, the only One with the authority and the ability to actually conquer sin; and today, we choose to prioritize above all else Your Word and Your will for our lives, we want to experience Your power and love in brand new ways, and so we seek after Your Kingdom purposes and today we start to place our confidence in Your promise of grace. Show us Your love today, and help us to show Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Resources:

Lewis, C.S.; Mere Christianity; MacMillan; NY, NY; 1952; Pp. 118, 120.

 

Lewis, C.S.; The Great Divorce; MacMillan; NY, NY; 1946; P. 90.

 

McLaren, Ross, editor; Advanced Bible Study: Winter 2002-2003; Lifeway Christian Resources; Pp. 74-82.

02/05/2017 – Psalm 139 – The Promises of Grace: “The Breath of Life”

Please click HERE for the audio link to this week’s message.

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 139:13-16; Mark 10:13-16

Promises of Grace: “The Breath of Life”

02/05/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, we come to You today hungering for Your Holy Spirit to fill us with Your power and love, with Your grace and mercy, with Your truth and wisdom. Fill that need today, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

There is an almost endless score of ways to illustrate the truth that to God your life truly matters. And that statement is true no matter whom I might be talking to. In the news over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed, and maybe even participated in, things like the “women’s marches” in cities all across this nation. Last weekend Spokane had a March for Life downtown. In mid-January there was the Martin Luther King March demonstrating the truth that all cultures and ethnicities’ lives matter. Yesterday some of us attended a meeting at Fourth Memorial Church where we heard stories about refugees and their lives.

But here’s the illustration that hit home for me. And I have been given permission to share this story, so I want to thank Jack Stewart for allowing me this privilege. The truth is, many of you could exchange Jack and Betty’s names with your own, or your parents, and while some of the details might be different the story really is the same story.

Jack and Betty are preparing to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in five months, and they have loved each other and supported each other and conquered life difficulties with each other for all those 70 years. And the only time they had been separated was during Jack’s days in the Navy…. Until this year. Jack had hip surgery on November 1 and had to spend almost two months in a care center while he was recovering; he came home in late December. And last Tuesday Betty was moved to another care center for her dementia. And when Jack shared the pain and struggle of that decision, which he believes is necessary and best for her, all I could hear was how much she mattered to him. It felt like he had the wind knocked out of him, like he had lost his breath of life.

We are halfway through this short series looking at some of the Bible’s teaching about God’s Promises of Grace; today we look at His promise of loving every human life.

Listen with me to King David’s words in Psalm 139 and then to the story about Jesus and the little children in Mark 10.  Listen for how God places value on His people:

Psalm 139 ….—-

           1 You have searched me, Lord,    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,    too lofty for me to attain.

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;    the night will shine like the day,    for darkness is as light to you.

 

13 For you created my inmost being;    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;    your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you    when I was made in the secret place,    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;    all the days ordained for me were written in your book    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,    they would outnumber the grains of sand—    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

At the Thursday morning Bible Study we have been noticing a few examples of poetic beauty in the form called “chiasm”. That’s where a piece of poetry or literature is written with some ascending and descending parallel points, with a peak in the center that turns out to be the main point.

Psalm 139 is an example of this (many of the Psalms are). In English it’s not a perfect chiasm, but we can still catch the flow. At the near center of this Psalm is verse 14 – that’s what is printed on our bulletin covers, and what I included on your Sermon Notes page (along with the whole stanza that surrounds verse 14).

Some of you have already done this, but look at that stanza, verses 13-16, and circle all the places where the word “You” or “Your” is used. I count seven times in these 4 verses. In your opinion, what does this suggest about David (he was the author) and his attitude toward God?

[God is the Creatorresponsible for lifeintimately personal approach to creation – artisticno accident/mistake – from conception to completion]

I know I just read this Psalm, and some of you listened without finding it in your Bibles to follow along, but notice the literary masterpiece this Psalm is. In four chiastic stanzas David articulates four amazing truths about God and how He values human life:

Verses 1-6 displays God’s omni-SCIENCE & AUTHORITY – His complete knowledge of everything, and of course, He creates everything! And His authority over His creation! In ten days we will hold our third Talent Show in the last 12 years, and some of you will present a piece of artwork or handicraft, and you will have full, intimate knowledge of it and authority over how it is to be handled, because you made it!

Verses 7-12 shows us God’s omni-PRESENCE & LOVE – He is everywhere. All the time. And His love for His people never diminishes!

Verses 13-16 (these are our verses today) reveal God’s perfect PLAN & PURPOSE for us – “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be!

And the closing stanza, verses 17-24 (most pastors avoid these verses – they talk about David’s wish that God would just kill those that disagree with him, those who slander God’s good name, how much David hates them) – but then it closes with a prayer for God’s WILL & WAY to be in our hearts – “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts … if there is any offensive way in me, lead me into the way everlasting.” I see that as true confession, repentance, and seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!

Who gives us the Breath of Life? God does! And as those created in His image, and as followers of His only begotten Son, it becomes our responsibility to find ways to honor all the human lives around usespecially those that suffer.

Look with me at this short story in Mark’s Gospel. Mark 10:13-16….—-

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

 

This is one of those stories that appears, almost identically, in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). And as you probably know, Mark is the shortest Gospel (by several chapters); but what might be a surprise is that he tells this particular story with more detail than any of the others. He includes one emotional response by Jesus and one behavioral response by Jesus that both Matthew and Luke leave out:

  • In verse 14 we see Jesus’ emotional response to this story of the parents bringing all their insignificant little brats to Jesus while He’s in the middle of talking with important grown-ups! And the NIV says, “When Jesus saw this He was INDIGNANT!” One could translate that INCENSED! ANGRY! FED UP! And so He said, “No, no, no, no. You let these children come to me – do nothing that would get in their way! Remove every obstacle!Why? Because, as Psalm 139 points toward, every one of these children are made for the Kingdom of God! You love them with everything you’ve got!
  • And in verse 16 we see Jesus’ behavioral response: Jesus “TOOK the children in His arms, and placed His hands on them, and blessed them!” As Christians, that is a command to us to do likewise!

It does not matter who the other person isGod created him, God loves her, and God expects us to take them in our arms and to bless themsnot-faced, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, from every tribe, tongue and nation, from every socio-economic background, from every political and even religious perspectivebless them and help them see they are created for God’s Kingdom.

Of course, before we can do that, we have to believe it about ourselves first – and then believe that God’s Promises of Grace extend to people different from me! God cares about your life – and God cares about every one of our neighbors, around the globe, just as much!

Gracious God, Grace-filled God, Grace-giving God, we recognize our own idolatry – self-sufficiency, simple lack of trust – and today we bow before You as the King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, the only One with the authority and the ability to actually conquer sin; and today, we choose to prioritize above all else Your Word and Your will for our lives, we want to experience Your power and love in brand new ways, and so we seek after Your Kingdom purposes and today we start to place our confidence in Your promise of grace. Show us Your love today, and help us to show Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Resources:

McLaren, Ross, editor; Advanced Bible Study: Winter 2002-2003; Lifeway Christian Resources; Pp. 66-73.