05/08/2016 – II Peter 1:16-21 – Living Stones: “God’s Word Is Available and Reliable”

For this week’s audio version click here.

Mark Wheeler

II Peter 1:16-21

Living Stones: “God’s Word Is Available and Reliable”

05/08/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Who here remembers the very first church song you learned – maybe as a young child, maybe taught you by your mother?

Here’s the one I think I learned first – I’ll bet it was early on many of your play-lists, too:

Jesus loves me, this I know – for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me – the Bible tells me so!

If I’m wrong about that song being first, then it was this one, for sure – (How about you?):

The B-I-B-L-E! Yes that’s the book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God!

The B-I-B-L-E!

Children, as well as adults, find comfort in knowing that there are places of safety, places where they can find help and guidance, places where they can trust the source to be trustworthy! The Bible is just such a place!

 

The First Century spiritual climate wasn’t all that different from our 21st Century spiritual climate. People practice individualistic religions of personal preference. Even our prayers tend to be prayers for what I want, or think I need. When was the last time we prayed together and just listened??

2,000 years ago people could pick from a spiritual smorgasbord of cults and deities that they felt most met their personal tastes and desires. As long as you worshiped the Emperor and the statue of Caesar, you could add all the other gods you wanted to, and no one really cared.

Today we hear things like, “Whatever is true for you is true for you … whatever is true for me is true for me.” There is no absolute Truth allowed in our society. It’s really all the same thing.

 

Peter says something totally different, though. And John and Jude agree with him. “Jesus is the Truth (capital T Truth); and we can tell you about Him!

Peter agreed with the Jewish assertion that there is only one God, and we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! And Jesus made God visible and tangible! This so shocked and surprised those First Century listeners that they stood in awe of this Good News!

And, Peter said, we don’t have to search out the Truth about this God or even this Jesus by ourselves. God has not hidden His Truth! We are not left to grope blindly, guided by nothing more than our own hopes and dreams! God has given His Truth; He has revealed His Truth so that we might continually read, study, and apply it to our lives every day!

The Living Word of God, found in Scripture, the B-I-B-L-E, is the help we need so that when the rains fall and the rivers rise and the wind beats against our house – we will not fall because our faith is built on that Solid Rock!

 

During these couple of months following Easter we are invited to listen to the Apostle Peter, and hear some Biblical instruction that’s been around for nearly 2,000 years, and is based on totally true counsel, about “good masonry” with Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone of God’s Cathedral.

 

Listen to these words from the Apostle Peter. This comes from a letter he wrote to the churches in Asia Minor, south Turkey, to people who faced death daily. Listen to how he says we find faith-filled integrity when we apply ourselves to God’s available and reliable Word – the Bible.  II Peter 1:16-21….—-

 

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (Peter was with James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus when this happened. All three synoptic Gospels tell us about this.)

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

Not only can we tell you about our personal convictions, says Peter, but we also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable!

Luke tells the story about the events of the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead about two disciples, not the main 12 Apostles but just two other guys who followed Jesus, who were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem and the resurrected Jesus catches up to them and He tells them, from Moses and the prophets (from Genesis, the Books of Moses, thru Malachi, the major and minor prophets – that’s the whole Old Testament) how the promises of the some-day Messiah, the coming Christ, the descendant of Abraham who would come to save the world, were fulfilled in Jesus Himself!

Peter tells us that this Old Testament is available, “we also have the prophetic message”, and is completely trustworthy, “as something completely reliable”!

 

A week ago we had our Spring New Member Class, and I asked at the beginning, as I always do, what the participants think the Bible is. “In one word, or one phrase, how would you describe what the Bible is?

The answers that people share almost never surprise me: God’s Word, the Truth, Guide Book, story of God’s power and love.

Do you have a copy of the Bible in your possession? That’s one of the questions we will learn from the families and leaders of the church and the Shim Children’s Center in Kiminini, Kenya. Do you own a Swahili version of the Bible? It is available for you to read!

Is it trustworthy? Do you trust it as God’s Word to tell you what you need to know about God and about yourself? If it is trustworthy, do you obey what it tells you to do?

Peter goes on to say, “you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

 

Can someone shout out a benefit of incorporating God’s Word into our lives as believers?

Do you see what we just did there? As a gathered community of faith, a local church, we added to each other’s benefits. It’s entirely possible that no on other that Diana would have thought of “vitamins” as a benefit of having God’s Word in our hearts, trusting the Bible as dependable and reliable as a source of Godly wisdom. Thank you, Diana, for adding that particular benefit to our collective wisdom!

 

In today’s Call to Worship we read in Hebrews 10 that part of being a collection of Christ-followers together is that we “consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together … encouraging one another, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.”

Can someone give a shout out about how, maybe, you have experienced being strengthened/supported/encouraged through a difficult season of your life by being involved in this wing of God’s Cathedral, by being a part of LPC? Describe some ways you have been blessed through your church:

This is what John Calvin calls “be[ing] guided and receiv[ing] maternal care until [we] grow into the perfection of faith.

 

We are to build our spiritual “house” – our church mission, our lives of faith, our families – on God’s firm foundation, with Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone; and this requires that the Bible be our Book!

We live in a world that insists we build our “house” on sand; that we ignore the Truth taught us in Scripture; that we deny the Divine claims of Jesus Christ.

Living like we believe what we say we believe – as followers of Jesus Christrequires a desire to live counter-culturally! Even deciding to get up on a Sunday morning and giving that time to the Lord has become a unique and counter-cultural activity! (And yes, I know that I am preaching to the choir here.)

But, as an encouragement to yourself, write down on the bottom of your Sermon Notes Page any description you can think of of an experience in your life in which you had to choose to act in accordance to your Christ-centered beliefs in spite of pressure to do otherwise. What happened? Was there a Bible verse, or a Sunday School lesson, or a voice from your Mom, that strengthened your faithfulness during that temptation?

 

That is a benefit of accessing God’s very available and readily reliable Word in my life, in your life, in our life together.

 

This Easter Season, this Resurrection Season, let’s trust even deeper in God’s Word!

If you heard God calling your name today, if you sense that Christ’s death and resurrection was meant for you today, if you want your life to withstand life’s storms today – drop a note in the Offering Plate, and I’ll get with you later this week. Let’s dedicate, rededicate, our rocky past into service as living stones today!

 

The B-I-B-L-E! Yes that’s the book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God!

The B-I-B-L-E!

 

Happy Easter Season! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!

 

Resources:

Bettridge, Becce; Living Stones: The Making of an Eternal Fellowship; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2012; Pp. 32-39.

 

Calvin, John; Institutes of the Christian Religion IV:I Summation.

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02/07/2016 – I Corinthhins 12 – Working Together

Audio link: click here

Mark Wheeler

I Corinthians 12

Who Are We as a Church? “Working Together”

02/07/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Heavenly Father, on this 50th Super Bowl Sunday we are also exactly 50 days away from Resurrection Sunday – the day we celebrate Christ’s victory over death. As we enter into this season of special attention to our own wanderings from Your Word, our wayward walk-aways from Your path, our seemingly perpetual propensity for sin and self-centered decisions – help us, as Your Church, Your people, to move closer to what You want for us. Draw us closer to our Lord and Savior, in His name we pray, Amen.

 

I have had several conversations over the last several months about how our Christian faith is perceived by both people outside the Church and even those who are inside. Here’s one version of one of those stories – written by a well-respected Church-leader named Thom Rainer. I don’t know if this is an actual true story, or just a based-on-true story. Listen to this and see if you relate:  

Michael and Liam began meeting for Monday morning breakfast at 6:00 over 5 months ago. They originally thought it would be a one-time event. They met in a couples’ Bible study group in their church. For many different reasons they hit it off and were becoming good friends. When Michael originally invited Liam to meet him for breakfast on a Monday morning several months ago, Liam readily agreed.

The two men enjoyed their time together so much that the one-time event became a weekly event. It was now rare for the two friends not to meet on Monday morning.

Early in their friendship the conversations focused on sports, family and politics. They had much in common. Michael was 41 and Liam was 39. They each had 3 kids and they both were college football fanatics. Each of their teams were in the same football conference, but they were pretty fierce rivals as well. The guys thoroughly enjoyed trash-talking the other’s team in a friendly spirit.

But on this particular Monday morning, the conversation turned serious. Michael and his wife noticed some changes in the demeanor of Liam in their Bible study group. He no longer seemed as interested in studying and discussing the Bible as he did talking about their church. And his comments were often critical about the congregation where the two families had their memberships.

Still, Michael was caught off guard on that particular Monday morning. Liam loved the poached eggs in the little restaurant; it was his regular order. But on this Monday morning, he had not touched them. He was barely sipping his coffee.

Liam didn’t take long to get to the point. “Michael,” he began, “Lana and I have decided to leave the church.” The pause seemed to last for minutes. Neither of the men seemed to know who should speak next. Michael took the initiative and spoke softly and deliberately.

“You want to tell me about it?” Michael inquired. He honestly didn’t know if Liam wanted to say anymore about it. His friend seemed resolute. Nevertheless, Liam began to explain his feelings and decision.

“Lana and I went to church to learn deep truths about the Bible,” Liam offered. “But Pastor Robert is not feeding us. We’re not getting anything out of his messages. Sitting in the service on Sunday mornings is just a waste of our time.”

Michael didn’t respond. He could tell Liam had more to say.

“There are several great people in the church,” Liam continued. “You and Karen are the best, and there are a few more like you.” He paused and his facial expression became even more serious. “But honestly, Michael, our church is full of hypocrites. Did you hear Jim at the kids’ basketball game? He embarrassed me the way he was screaming at the refs. What kind of testimony is that for a Christian? And of course, everyone knows about Neal. He was supposedly this pillar of the church, and we find out he’s been cheating on his wife for over a year. What kind of church is this with these kinds of people?”

Liam was angry but controlled as he continued to vent. “Look, Pastor Robert acts like he cares for us, but I’m not so sure he does. I told him that Lana’s dad was in the hospital for hernia surgery, and he never visited him.”

Michael knew that Lana’s father was not a church member, and he lived 50 miles away. He also knew that Pastor Robert called him and had prayer with him. But he also knew that any rebuttal would not be appreciated at the moment. Michael held his tongue.

Now it seemed that Liam’s mild rant was winding down. Liam seemed exhausted, and ready to bring the conversation to a close. He did, however, offer a few pointed comments and two insightful questions.

“Michael,” Liam began softly. “I really like you and Karen and the kids. All of you are a class act.” He paused briefly. “But you seem enthused about the church. You keep serving and contributing. Don’t take me wrong, but I wonder at times if you are blind to all the problems in the church.”

Then Liam offered a closing that really spoke more than he realized.

“We are really two different types of church members,” he stated. “Why is that? Why do we have such different perspectives?” 

 

That’s the question we will be dealing with over the next several weeks of Lent. Who Are We as a Church?

 

That was a long intro to our first sermon series’ message addressing that question. Listen to the Word of God, from I Corinthians 12:12-27 …. —-

12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?

20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Part of the difference between Michael and Liam? Michael was a member willing to work with the others, and Liam was a member just wanting to be served. Church membership means, in part, recognizing that we are all necessary parts of the whole thing!

Turn to your neighbor, look him/her straight in the eye and tell her/him, “You are necessary here! Thank you for doing your part!

 

Church membership means we are all different – and we work together! Some are thoughtful, others are action oriented; some are prayers, others are Bible scholars; some are caregivers, others are detailed organizers; and the list goes on and on. We absolutely need each other to work together!

 

Church membership means everything we say and do is based on a Biblical foundation of love! There lots of organizations we could be “members” of that couldn’t care less about what the Bible says – but as the Church we must care more about what Scripture says than what society at large announces; we must put God’s Word above all other words. If we don’t do that, we are just another good (or even great) organization, but we are not the Church.

 

I Corinthians 12 uses the image of a human body to describe how the Church of Jesus Christ functions best. Yes, there are human bodies which have non-functioning body partsblind eyes, deaf ears, non-working kidneys, deletable pancreases, missing arms, artificial hips, etc – and they are still as valuable a human being as any other; that would certainly be true of churches, as well. We might be a church with missing organs or limbs – but Paul’s point is that whatever parts we do have need to be functioning at their best. Right? They say that a person who goes blind often gains ground in other senses.

But Paul’s point is even more poignant than that. The Church of Jesus Christ is never limited to just THIS expression of Christianity. Each particular church, each local congregation, is also connected to the larger Church (capital C). LPC is part of the PC(USA), which is part of the Reformed Body of Believers, which has its roots in the Church Global. LPC is also in coalition with other Hillyard area churches – so we take part in an annual joint worship service at Harmon Park every August during Jim Hill Days; and this year we venture into joint mission work with the Fellowship Church of God over on Crestline, as they have invited us to participate in sponsoring the Shim Children’s Center orphanage in Kiminini, Kenya!

 

These examples describe, at least in part, what it means to be the Body of Christ.

 

In the coming Sundays, each week’s Sermon Notes page will include a personal pledge for each person to sign and date – and maybe rip from your bulletin and put in your Bible or on your bathroom mirror or your refrigerator door as a reminder. If you want to be a real member, a Biblical member, of the Church Jesus Christ institutedsign, date and rip from your bulletin.

Pledge #1:

Because I am a member of the Body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, whether I am an “eye”, an “ear”, or a “hand”. As a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

 

Let’s be the Church of Jesus Christ – may we work togetherwell – to the glory of God. Amen.

 

Resources:

Nyquist, J. Paul & Carson Nyquist; The Post-Church Christian; Moody; Chicago, IL; 2013.

 

Rainer, Thom S.; I Am a Church Member; B&H Pub. Grp.; Nashville, TN; 2013; Pp. 1-20.