03/25/2018 = Luke 19:28-40 = Palm Sunday

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.(V) 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany(W) at the hill called the Mount of Olives,(X) he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.(Y) 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks(Z) on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,(AA)the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b](AB)

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”(AC)

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”(AD)

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”(AE)

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03/18/2018 = John 3:14-17 = Questions of Faith: “Is Jesus Really the ONLY Way to Salvation?”

Click HERE for an audio of this message.

Mark Wheeler

John 3:14-17

“Is Jesus Really the ONLY Way to Salvation?”

5th Sunday in Lent, 03/18/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

Today is the Fifth Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.

 

We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we have asked some of the important questions of faith – to see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.

We have explored the questions of God’s existence, whether the Bible truly is God’s Word, if our belief that God cares has any merit , and how/why the Christian faith teaches that Jesus is both fully Human AND Fully God – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt any of these questions, we are coming to realize that the Christian faith system is the most logical philosophy for life.

So, on this last sermon in this series (next week our Cantata Choir will bring us God’s Word in a beautiful musical presentation) we ask the risky question about the exclusive claim of Christianity as the ONLY way of salvation.

 

Play 1974 “Vintage Burger King – Have it your way” commercial.   [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJXzkUH72cY&feature=share ]

 

That commercial was not the beginning of America’s individualistic consumerism and demand for self-indulgence – but boy did it capitalize on that public scream for personal attention! That ad first aired in 1974! And those of us who watched TV 44 years ago can still sing that ditty like as if we heard it yesterday.

And, you know what? We have brought that same agenda into every arena of life – and almost every arena has adapted to this agenda’s demands – TV (how stations are available now? Literally thousands!), brands of soda (how many are there? dozens, if not hundreds), flavors of Coca Cola (how many varieties are available? The Coca Cola website offers over 3,500 different beverage tastes from their company, their new slogan is: “There’s a Coke for me; for us, there’s a Coke you!”).

That’s not all bad, right? That means we can all get what we want!

 

So, it’s not surprising that we have also brought that request into our spiritual understandings as well. The idea that we have no choice about the way of salvation seems abhorrent to the spiritual consumer of today. No, our world says that it really doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re more good than bad you’re going to heaven. Or even easier yet, all dogs go to heaven! In other words, if God is love, then obviously His love forgives every wrong and all people are saved!

 

What do we do with the old-fashioned Christian claim that Christ is the answer to life’s ultimate question?

 

Well, let’s take a look at today’s Bible reading, from John’s Gospel account of the story of a conversation between Jesus and a teacher of the Old Testament Law: John 3:14-17 …. —-

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

 

I need to restart this message by reminding us all of what we have learned over the past few weeks – and I know some of you here today may not have been here every Sunday for the last month. In those messages we saw that God really does exist – and that the Bible is trustworthy as God’s Word for our faith and life – and that this God who speaks to us through the Bible does actually care for His creation – and that this God has revealed Himself to us as a Triune God, wherein the second Person of that Trinity is both fully God and fully human. If we don’t start with those realizations, then referring to the Bible for an answer gets us no where.

We just read what may be the most memorized verse in the whole Bible – one that is quoted every where – as passwords, at sporting events, in every sort of evangelistic effortJohn 3:16 is everywhere.

Last Wednesday, March 14, is known as Pi Day, because 314 are the first three digits of that irrational number used to figure things like the area of a circle (PIr2). There’s a new movement to call last Friday’s date Good News Day (because 3/16 is the chapter-verse of John 3:16).

 

But did you catch the context of that verse? A Pharisee sneaks in to see Jesus in the middle of the night to ask Him about how to be saved, and Jesus talks about being “born again” (this is where that phrase comes from), Jesus refers to an Old Testament story (Numbers 21) about how Moses built a bronze snake on a pole for people to look at and be saved from snake bites and then saying He will be lifted up for people to look to Him for salvation, too.

And then, Jesus stops talking and John makes a theological application of Jesus’ statement when he says, “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.”  But John doesn’t stop with that Good News, he continues with more Good News: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And then, just to make it more than perfectly clear, at the Last Supper, in John 14:6, we hear Jesus tell us in His own words: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

Does that sound intolerant? Or too exclusive? It seems that our default setting is that we would rather lower God’s expectations or not even talk about God at all. We would rather lower the expectations and be justified by our own works than hear God say that the news is far from what we have contemplated.

This famous John 3:16 continues with, “Whoever believes in the son is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” So it’s not just that there’s going to be a Last Judgment and we’re not quite sure whether our good is going to outweigh our bad. It is, in fact, much clearer than that.

But as exclusive as Christianity is – it is totally open to everyone! No other religion in the world is as able to adapt to cultures all over the globe like Christianity is. It is true that we seem to always bring our own culture to whatever new place we bring our Christian faith – but that does not have to be. From the beginning of time, the Christian faith invites everyone in!

 

This is not an argument about what happens to babies who die before they are old enough to understand the words said at their baptism. Nor is this a statement regarding those who have never heard the Gospel, or worse, those who have heard it and then been witness to Christians who have destroyed the Gospel message by their hateful living!

Let’s just talk about you and me for now.

 

What this tells us is that if we don’t trust in Christ, we’re already condemned. I can tell you right now, on the basis of God’s Word, that if that is us the verdict toward us is a sentence of everlasting condemnation.

If the God who says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, he sent his son not to condemn the world, but to save the world,” we have no one to blame but ourselves if we turn away from trusting in this good and gracious Father and in His son, Jesus Christ.

 

I heard a sermon last May by a Pastor who said, quote, “Jesus is not saying ‘it’s my way or the highway’. He wouldn’t do that.” Jennifer and I were in a “reader’s theater” play last week, called “The Christians”, in which a senior pastor experiences a change of heart about whether or not there even is a hell. He starts preaching that all people go to heaven regardless of their faith in Jesus. And his associate pastor argues with him that, as much as he hates the thought of hell, he is convinced that that is what the Bible teaches.

 

What do you think? If the Bible is right about our sinful condition, then Jesus really must be the only way of salvation – His full humanity is small enough to know our human condition and His full divinity is big enough to pay our debt.

And if the Bible is right about that, then our responsibility must be to proclaim Him as the only way of salvation! Love of God, love of Christ, love of neighbor, and love of truth leave us no alternative!

 

Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we believe this reality as truth, even in the midst of doubts and wonderings, we hear Him call to everyone, we hear Him call to us personally, to repent, believe, and bow our knee before Him. He is truly worthy of all our praise. And we give glory to God!  Shall we skip whatever our favorite flavor of Coca Cola is and drink from Psalm 116:13’s cup of Salvation? Let’s drink it together, in faith through Jesus.

 

As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.

 

Resources:

Anderson, James N.; “Is There Only One Way to Salvation?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 16-17.

 

Hnath, Lucas; “The Christians” (play); 2015.

 

Horton, Michael; “How I Can Believe in a God Who Sends People to Hell”; CoreChristianity.com; 12/04/2017.

 

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church Elder Council; Spokane, WA; 03/13/2018.

03/11/2018 = John 1:29-34 = Questions of Faith: “Fully Divine AND Fully Human?”

Mark Wheeler

John 1:29-34

4th Sunday in Lent, 03/11/2018

“Fully Divine AND Fully Human?”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

Today is the Fourth Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.

 

We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.

So far we have explored the questions of God’s existence, whether the Bible truly is God’s Word, and if our belief that God cares has any merit – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt any of these questions, we came to realize that the Christian faith system is the most logical and philosophy for life.

So, as believers in this Trinitarian God’s existence, today we ask how Jesus could be FULLY God AND FULLY human.

 

The new Marvel Blockbuster film that just came out, Black Panther, is one of those super-hero stories that is told so cinematographically beautiful that the audience easily slips into forgetting that it’s just a story, nothing truly real about (except maybe a life lesson about sharing our resources with those in need around us). But, as is true in all sci-fi fantasy, it’s not truly real. There is no African country called Wakanda; and there is no super-element called Vibranium that holds the potential of all the power in the universe!

So, of course it’s OK when the Wakanda people think of their King as a demigod, half-deity/half-human. It’s make-believe.

In two weeks another movie opens that is based on a real person: Paul: Apostle of Christ. This movie tells the story of the New Testament era church-starter, letter-writer, and ultimate promoter of the Christian faith. But, because of miracles and new-fangled medicinal treatment, Paul’s friend and biographer, Luke, is hailed as a half-god human. Of course this is fully denied. In Acts 14:12 the people credit Barnabas as being the Greek god Zeus and Paul as being the Greek god Hermes. Again, this is fully denied by both Paul and his buddy Barney.

 

But what about Jesus? Is Jesus like Hercules? Hercules was considered the son of Zeus (god) and Alcmene (human), and therefore a demigod, half of each. Of course, this, too, is mere folk-lore in the annals of Greek mythology.

But what about Jesus – according to Matthew and Luke, the Gospel writers, Yahweh God and the virgin Mary had a baby named Jesus: half-God and half-human? You see why this is a real question in theological history?

 

Well, if the Bible is believable at all, it offers and answer.

The writings of Jesus’ Disciples, those who knew Him best, and who lived and died because of their belief in whom He was! In fact, even in the recorded words of Jesus Himself, we read where He calls Himself more than mere demigod, but FULLY God incarnate, fully human.

In the earliest written account of Jesus, the Gospel according to Mark, at Jesus’ trial, 14:61-64, the High Priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus answers straight forward: “I Am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.

Now, it might be easy for you and me to miss some of the significance of this dialog, but His 1st Century hearers (and Gospel readers) did not. The question, about “Christ” and “Son of the Blessedare Old Testament code words that point directly to God Himself.  And Jesus’ answer refers to two Old Testament scripture passages, AND to the name of God Himself, YHWH! He undeniably called Himself FULLY God and FULLY human. We know that the High Priest understood His answer by the way he responded: “The High Priest tore his garments and said, ‘What further witness do we need? You heard His blasphemy!” And the whole Sanhedrin understood what Jesus meant when they condemned Jesus as deserving of death.

In the Gospel of John, after healing a man on the Sabbath, a Law that the Jews considered a mortal sin to break, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Am working. (John 5:17)” The next verse says that this is why the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus – He broke the Law AND He claimed to be equal with God, again invoking God’s holy name as His own!

Why do the Gospels say the people wanted to kill Jesus? Not just for being confused or arrogant, but because He claimed to be Divine, blasphemy, and the legal, just, punishment for that was execution!

And it’s true that Jesus continually articulated His harmony with His Father in heaven Can anyone think of an example of that from the Scriptures? Can you think of a way Jesus was identified as God? [Baptism “This is my Son”; at 12 years old “I was about my Father’s business”; “the Father and I are one” etc.]

Today’s Bible passage is from the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is barely even introduced yet, and we read these words, John 1:29-34 …. —-

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world30 This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’

32 Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’

 

Lamb of God” is a sacrificial reference, right? But this Lamb of God is the same One whom we were introduced 28 verses earlier as “the Word [who] was with God and the Word [who] was God!” Sacrificial lambs are offered for the forgiveness of sins. But John says that this Sacrificial Lamb of God takes away EVERY SIN, the sin of the WORLD!

And this Sacrificial Lamb which can only be divine because of what He does – who else can forgive sins?John gives the testimony that the Holy Spiritdivine, FULLY God – the Holy Spirit comes on Jesus, and Jesus will “baptize with the Holy Spirit”, “God’s chosen One”.

 

And so, those who know Him best, His Disciples, those original followers were very bold and definite in their proclamation of things like: “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13:2, II Peter 1:1)”; “the Lord of glory (I Corinthians 2:8)”; “one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things (I Cor 8:6)”. This is exalted language.

Not demigod or semi-god, or hemi-god (that was for you big pickup guys) – Jesus is fully God!

 

Truly, in Jesus, the Creator has entered into His own Creation, and we cannot hide from His claims on us! We cannot be neutral about who Jesus is. Either we believe Him – or we reject Him!

In the Fourth Century the Church was dealing with some who denied that Jesus was really human, and so His death and resurrection were not real (gods cannot literally die, so Jesus merely appeared to die). Others who claimed Jesus was only human, and not God (yeah he died, but all humans die, so, so what?).

Using what the Bible says about who Jesus is the Church held a Council (actually a number of Church Councils – like General Assembly Meetings) to figure out what the Scriptures teach about Jesus.

Turn with me to No. 15 in your hymnbooks, and read with me the words of the Nicene Creed. Notice how much more is about Jesus than about God the Father or God the Holy Spirit:

 

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen. [What has God created? – absolutely everything!]  [That’s all there is about God the Fathernow we come to Jesus!]

 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father [That means from before time began!], Light of Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made; [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]

For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became truly human. [Did you hear that? The early Church, our faith-mother, has told us from the beginning that Jesus is FULLY God AND Fully human!]

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, his kingdom will have no end. [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]  [Next we have God the Holy Spirit.]

 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, [the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son – that was actually added 200 years later, and 400 years later caused the first major split in the Church (West and East) – not over the divinity of the Son, but over the Person of the Holy Spirit! But what does that say about the Son?]

who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,  [What did you see there about who Jesus is?]

who has spoken through the prophets. [And that’s all there is about the Holy Spirit. Next comes belief about the Church:]

 

We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

I want to close this today by asking what YOU see, or what YOU wonder about, the full humanity and the full divinity of Jesus from this Creed. Any insights or questions?

 

Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we submit to His full divinity AND His full humanity, even in the midst of doubts and wonderings, we hear Him call to everyone, we hear Him call to us personally, to repent, believe, and bow our knee before Him. He is truly worthy of all our praise. And we give glory to God!

 

As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.

 

Resources:

White, James R..; “Is Jesus Really God?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 14-15.

03/04/2018 = I Peter 5:6-7= Questions of Faith: “Does God Really Care?”

Click HERE to listen to this message.

Mark Wheeler

I Peter 5:6-7

“Does God Really Care?”

3rd Sunday in Lent, 03/04/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

Today is the Third Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.

 

We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.

So far we have explored the questions of God’s existence and whether the Bible truly is God’s Word – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt either of these questions, we came to realize that even most atheists believe in some kind of transcendent Being. And that God does indeed speak to us through this Bible.

So, as believers in this Almighty God’s existence, today we ask if God Honestly Cares for His Creation.

 

What do you think? Does God Care? Does He care for you? Does He care for the infant in the ICU? Does he care about the starving children in Kenya? Does He care about the victims of war, or terrorism, or school violence?

These are fair questions. If God really exists, which we believe He does, and if He’s Almighty, why doesn’t He do something to stop the suffering?

 

Peter Atkins, a famous atheist and professor of physical chemistry says that the question of God caring is a ridiculously silly question. But for those who believe in some kind of All-powerful Transcendent Being, we are almost forced to wonder if this Intelligent Designer/Creator is really any good….

 

There is another group of people called “deists” – many of our nation’s Founding Fathers were deists. Deists do believe in God, but their claim is that after God created the universe He just sort of stands back and watches without must interest in what happens. I’ve heard this compared to a groundskeeper who chalks the football field and then just watches the game without a care in the world about who wins or loses, who gets injured, or what happens….

 

The Bible paints a very different picture of God.

Let’s start with today’s Bible passage, I Peter 5:6-7. Before we read that though, let’s do a little introduction: Most of us probably recognize Peter’s name as one of the 12 Disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him. Some of us can recall a few things about Peter’s character – he was a fisherman with his brother Andrew; he was often the first to blurt out an answer to a question; he is the one who, when Jesus asked the 12 Disciples who they thought He was, answered, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!”; but he’s also often the first one to argue with Jesus – “No, Jesus. You will not die!”; and the first to claim total allegiance with Jesus – “I will die with you!” And then on that fateful evening of Jesus’ arrest and trial Peter is the one who denied even knowing who Jesus was – 3 times, let alone loving Him, following Him, and claiming Him as Lord and Savior! It’s also the same Peter whom the resurrected Jesus promised a role of leadership in His Church.

This Peter is the one who preached on Pentecost and boldly proclaimed the power of the Gospel!

So, in this open epistle to the Church, in a paragraph that’s really about how we connect to each other, Peter writes these words. Listen to the pericope, and then to the affirmation: I Peter 5:5-11 (6-7) …. —-

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Does God really care? Does Peter’s proclamation prove anything?

 

Let’s take a deeper look at the testimonies of our faith-founders:

Our very first “parents”, Adam and Eve, deliberately turn their backs on God and do their best to destroy their relationship with God. Do you remember God’s first recorded words with these “literal dirt-bags” (created from the dust of the earth??) after their sin? Genesis 3:9 tells us God calls out, “Where are you?

This is obviously a rhetorical question; God is omniscient – He knows all things. He knows where they are hiding. (King David composes that we “cannot hide in the heights of heaven or the depths of sheol, for You are there” [Psalm 139].

Rather, what God is doing here is offering the world’s first sinners an opportunity to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. It is an offer of care! They refused, and instead God promised a future Savior, fulfilled in Jesus Christ who “died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8)!

 

God’s care for His people works like a corner stone holding the weight of the Bible’s record of the whole of human history. Immediately after rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering through the desert before entering their Promised Land. 40 years of rebellion against God, cursing God for taking them out of bondage, questioning God for His care for them, making and worshiping false gods, etc. And each step of the way God provided for their needswater from a rock, bread from heaven, hens for dinner, Rules for faithful living, guidance by pillars of smoke and fire, etc, etc.

 

Time and again we read testimonies of God’s people admitting His unfailing care.

What is Job’s story ultimately about? How, even through the tragedies of his life, God took care of him!

Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes: “The Lord of hosts cares for His flock! (Zechariah 10:3)”. King David’s beautiful poetry declares, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall have no needs! (Psalm 23:1)”

In another place King David, pondering how we tend to treat our God, wonders, “What is humanity that You are mindful of us? (Psalm 8:4)”.

 

Last Thursday one of our Thursday Bible Study classmates commented that one of the things she has told her family is that God never promises any of us that we will not be faced with sufferingdisease, disability, debts, death, loss of life, loss of limb, loss of trust, loss of treasureGod does not guarantee health or wealth or success or excessbut God does promise to be with us, to walk with us, to hold us, to strengthen us, to embolden us.

She said, in essence, that we can cast our anxieties on God because He is trustworthy to carry us through the scary storms.

Peter says, “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”!

 

What causes you to be anxious? What is it that gives your heart and faith stress? Can you trust God to see you through? Do you trust Him?

Here’s one more thing: In James 1:27, this brother of Jesus writes that “pure and undefiled religion” includes “taking care of orphans and widows in their affliction”. “Orphans and widows” may be literally parentless children and wives who have lost their husbands, but it is also code word for anyone who needs help. This means that, while God does not require our assistance to accomplish His care, He does indeed invite His Church, His children, He invites you and me to join Him in caring for the needs of the poor, the dispossessed, the underprivileged, the sick, the disabled, the lonely, the vulnerablearound us and around the world!

 

Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we trust in His never-ending care, even in the midst of insufferable pain and paralyzing fear, we discover strength that is His gift to us. And we give glory to God!

 

As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.

 

Resources:

Blanchard, John.; “Does God Care?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 12-13.

 

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church Thursday Bible Study Group; Spokane, WA; 03/01/2018.