11/15/2015 – Exodus 20:17 – “#10: Find Contentment”

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Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #10 Find Contentment”

November 15, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Two friends meet in the street. One looks sad and almost on the verge of tears. The other man says, “Hey my friend, how come you look like the whole world has caved in?

The sad fellow says, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me $50,000.”

“Well, I’m sorry for your loss, but that’s a nice unexpected income!”

“Hold on, I’m just getting started. Two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew kicked-the-bucket and left me $95,000.” 

“Wow, that’s great for you! I wouldn’t mind that.” 

“Last week, my grandfather I never met passed away. I inherited almost a million.”

“So why are so glum?” 

“This week – nothing!”

 

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to just be satisfied?

I recently read that, according to Rolling Stone magazine, the all-time number one song is Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. Now, the fact that the song and the Rock ’n’ Roll magazine have the same name puts a little suspicion on the recognition – still, who’s qualified to argue? The all-time number two song? Are you ready? The 1965 classic by the group called The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.

It does seem like that has been our cultural anthem for the last 50 years. USA Today reports that the majority of Americans in every age group feel like they have not really reached their fulfillment – we are not satisfied. And no satisfaction means no contentment!

In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

And in the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

We have been in the 10 Commandments since early September….

Here’s a quick summary of the first four of the Big Ten, the ones about “loving God”:

  1. You shall have No OTHER godsanything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
  2. You shall Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. Because the 3rd Commandment says to not use the Lord’s name in vain, we say: HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. And we’ve interpreted the 4th Commandment about remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy by saying: Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (love God above/before anything else), and our cares and concerns will be taken care of.” We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized. If we do not love God first, we misunderstand how to love our neighbors rightly.

After we learn how to love God first, He says to love our neighbors. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us
  5. We are to Speak HELPFULLY so that whatever we say has the chance of bringing blessing
  6. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Ten. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” That’s the Exodus version of this 10th Commandment. Look at the second way it was stated, in Deuteronomy 5: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” It makes me wonder what was going on among these wandering Israelites that made Moses change the order and apparent more-common-object-of-desire the second time around. But either way, how do we love our neighbors? Do not covet what they have over what you have.

This 10th Commandment is truly about a “heart sin” and not just a behavior sin. “Do not covet” implies our dissatisfaction with our own lot in life and wishing we had it as good as that other guy. The sin really is about our unsatisfying hope for contentment. If only I had another $10,000 (or $100,000, or $1,000,000); if only I did not have this chronic disease (or that addiction, or those bad habits); if only I was married to him (or if my wife would do that, or my parents had given me this).

I am convinced that this is the easiest Commandment to see Jesus as the answer to – because, in fact, growing in Christ gives us what the world cannot give us – contentment, no matter our circumstance.

The Apostle Paul discovered this truth the hard way, but in Philippians 4:11-13 he wrote to those suffering Christians, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound … I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me.”

It’s all about that relationshiprelationship with God, through His Son, by means of the Holy Spirit. Even the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah knew that contentment, peace of mind, spirit-filled rest, happens in that relationship. Jeremiah, referring to King David’s words in Psalm 1 (about 400 years earlier), wrote in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the one who TRUSTS in the Lord … and is not anxious ….” Anxiety is the result of non-contentment.

Remember that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, talked about murder and adultery and loving our neighbors – but Jesus made these Commandments about the deeper desires of our hearts and not just about our behaviors: “if you even hold a grudge against, if you even lust, you have committed murder and adultery in your heart; and I say love not only your neighbors but even your enemies.” Yes, the actions of sin are obviously wrong; but it all begins in the HEART! (Matthew 5:22, 28, 44)

In John’s Gospel Jesus made this image of being related to Him even deeper in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides, resides, dwells, lives in me, and I in him he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

It is impossible to have biblical contentment separated from God. “Apart from God we can do nothing”, but “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Abide in Christ and we discover contentment. We abide in Christ by living in His Word, by seeking Him in prayer, and by walking in obedience to His Commandments.

The Rolling Stones were correct: we are going to be discontent until we admit, “I can’t get no satisfaction!Exhausted we yield to Christ and say, “It is well with my soul – whatever my lot; it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

How do we love our neighbors? When we find Contentment, we discover the ability to love without prejudice.

Yes, we are still sinners, and we will still covet and envy what those around us seem to have; but we do not have to live in that pain. We can, as we remember how much we need a Savior, as we realize our depraved desire for that which is not ours to desire, as we recognize God’s character growing in us, ever so slowly, as people created in His image and who have been redeemed by His grace, we can find contentment and peace, even in the pain and suffering.

Do you need to believe this Good News today? Are you at a place where you are understanding this truth for the first time? Or even for the 100th time? It’s as simple as saying, “Thank You Jesus, I do believe. Help me, today, with where I don’t believe enough.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got;

and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful! Give generously! Speak helpfully! Find contentment by abiding in Christ!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We have heard plenty of debates over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church.

If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever.

Psalm 119:176 speaks our prayer: I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your Commands. Amen.

Resources:

Table Talk; “Finding Contentment”; Melissa Kruger; Ligonier Ministries; Sanford, FL; December 2015; Pp. 16-19.

Table Talk; “Our New Affection”; Sinclair B. Ferguson; Ligonier Ministries; Sanford, FL; December 2015; Pp. 20-25.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 7-8.

11/08/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:20 – “#9: Speak Helpfully”

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Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #9 Speak Helpfully”

November 8, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The Ten Commandments display was recently removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

There was a good reason for the move. You can’t post

Thou Shalt Not Steal,
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,
and Thou Shall Not Lie
in a building full of lawyers and politicians without creating a hostile work environment.

 

We have invested two-months looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

And in the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

We have a tendency to really concentrate on the “secondGreat Commandment, and even ignore the “first”. We emphasizeloving our neighbor” (which is a very good thing), but when we do that to the exclusion of firstloving God with everything we are” we run the risk of misinterpreting what “loving our neighborreally means.

So, a quick recap of the first four of the Big Ten, about “loving God”, are:

  1. You shall have No OTHER godsanything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
  2. You shall Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (love God above/before anything else), and our cares and concerns will be taken care of.” We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized.

After we learn how to love God first, He says to love our neighbors. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us.
  5. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Nine. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Probably better memorized as “No lying!” How do we love our neighbors? Do not give false testimony about them!

I looked in my old Nave’s Compact Topical Biblenot just a Concordance where you look up a word and find where that word is located in the Scriptures, but this book groups ideas together and tells you where you might find that “topic”, or idea, discussed in Scripture. This version is not even exhaustive – it just gives some sample places. An exhaustive Topical Bible would be several volumes long.

So I looked up “lying/false testimony” and it also led me to “gossip” and “slander” and “grumble”.

The Women’s Lighthouse Circle, a couple of months ago, was asked by their President, what command in the Bible was the most often repeated. The answer? “Fear not.” But I would guess that this topic, “false testimony”, lines up as a close second place.

And, “False testimony” is MORE than simply lying, right? Name some other ways we might give “false testimony”:

  • Half-truth
  • One-sided truth
  • Any comment that is meant to deceive
  • When we talk behind someone’s back
  • When we share a “prayer request” in the form of gossip

When we were children, I’ll bet every one of us heard our parents tell us something like: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And probably most of us have passed that along to our children as well.

It is good advice – but sometimes really hard to follow – because we’re also told to always tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is not nice. “Does this dress make me look fat?Husbands, how do you obey both of those rules at the same time?

I have learned that a better grown-up version of that rule is: “If you can’t say something HELPFUL, don’t say anything at all!

The “truth” might be that the dress does indeed make her look fat – but if admitting that will only hurt her feelings, or start a fight, it’s probably not HELPFUL. If she’s about to go to a photo-shoot, and she wants to look thin, maybe an “honest” response is the best! You see?

So, if I have a complaint about the way my boss is treating me, or a friend, or a fellow church member, I can just complain about the person to others in the group – or I can find a way to make the situation more healthy.

  • Should I just be quiet – because talking/gossiping/grumbling/slandering is not HELPFUL?
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the Lord in prayer? Because honest praying is HELPFUL.
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the proper person (maybe the person we have a complaint about), so we can find a HELPFUL solution together?

I think we all know the damage that is caused when we are around people who are always critical. We know because we have all been the victim of that. Right? Take a moment and remember when you were the one being talked about, but not being helped by that talk.

Now, just for a moment, remember the person you felt was responsible for that back-biting conversation (do not look at him right now!). Do you recall what you, and maybe several others in your group, thought of that person? Do you remember thinking how miserable she must be to always be that critical? Do you recall wondering how bad his childhood must have been to become such a pain in everyone’s backside? Do you recall wanting to shut that person out of your secrets and your personal dreams for fear that she might just break them apart with her harsh words? Do you recall wanting to return his meanness with some of your own?

How does a habit of “giving false testimony” hurt the one doing it? For starters, even if this is someone we really do like, we become more closed off and people, especially those on the “outside”, distance themselves. Relationships are fragile enough without putting this strain on them.

How do we love our neighbors? I believe this “no false testimonyCommandment is really all about how helpful we could be. When we speak, speak helpfully!

Steps to becoming more “helpful”:

  1. PRAY for God’s involvementLord, please intervene. Lord, please show me my role in this. Lord, please step into this with me, I need Your patience, Your grace, Your strength, Your wisdom.
  2. Look for POSITIVES I believe it was Gerri who once shared that a former pastor or friend of hers thinks of others as “trying to do their best, given their life skills and circumstances”.
  3. Speak only that which moves toward being HELPFUL Lord, if this will not be helpful to the situation keep my mouth closed – if it will be helpful, help me to say it well, lovingly, with grace.

Yes, we are still sinners, and we will still speak hurtfully from time to time – I am among the biggest of these sinners. That’s why God has given us the gift of apologies and forgiveness. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of “slander”, we give glory to God, we honor our neighbor, we respect the life that we encounter, we act generously to those around us, and we speak words of helpfulness and health.

Remember why God gives us these commandments:

  • To talk about how much we need a Savior
  • To topple down our selfish desires to speak against each other
  • To tell us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, because it was “while we were still sinning that Christ died for us.” (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Do you need to believe this Good News today? Are you at a place where you are understanding this truth for the first time? Or even for the 100th time? It’s as simple as saying, “Thank You Jesus, I do believe. Help me, today, with where I don’t believe enough.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got;

and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful! Give generously! Speak helpfully!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We have heard plenty of debates over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.

Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever.

Psalm 119:175 speaks our prayer: Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 7.

10/18/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:17 – “10 Rules for Faithful Living: #6 Respect Life”

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Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #6 Respect Life”

October 18, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911. He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?

The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says: “OK, now what?

 

I realize there is a risk in telling a joke about murder from the pulpit. If I was out of line, or if that offended you, I apologize. But I told it because it speaks of the ease in which our culture is entertained by death. The number of murders on Network TV every week is in the dozens! And those are just TV shows; it doesn’t count the video games or the movies or the news.

We have spent the last five Sundays looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’” And we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Can you name those first four?

  1. No OTHER godsall those other things that we allow to take first place in our lives are out of order!
  2. Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

These first four Commandments are all about that most important one! Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!

But Jesusgoes a little bit further: In the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

That’s what the next six Commandments are about. How do we love our neighbors?

Today we look at Commandment No. Six. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not murder.”

Your Sermon Notes page asks, “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” And many of us memorized this in Sunday School so we could earn a prize – John 11:35 (your Sermon Notes page says Matthew 20:16I do not know where that came from), John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”

But, are you ready, that’s not really true (mind blow!). In Greek, the language John was originally written in, that verse is THREE words, and a total of 16 letters. Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 are just TWO words in Hebrew, and only 6 letters! “Lo Tierzach!” “No murdering!

Let’s talk about that for just a minute or two. The KJV, the most widely read English language book of all time, and the version many of us memorized these Ten Commandments in, says it like this, “Thou shalt not kill.

I have had military veterans, reeling from guilt about their service to this nation, and to our world, ask me whether they have sinned.

I have also had people of all ages, and both genders, chide me about stepping on a spider, or even pulling out a weed – because I have just killed that arachnid or that ficus. Is that what this means?

Is “killing” always wrong? What do you think?

When is “killing” OK? Ever? Under what circumstances?          [“Murder”, not “kill” – taking of innocent life – on purpose – with intent to kill]          [war – self-protection – clan-protection – societal protection – food – safety – “rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every creature …”]

Remember the context of these Commandments. 400+ years of oppression and abuse from the Pharaoh of Egypt -> the murdering of innocent baby boys by throwing them into the Nile River -> Moses having killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave (was that murder? Did he intend to kill him?) -> the Passover event resulting in the death of Egyptian boys by the hand of God’s Spirit.

Murder? Seriously? Was this Commandment really necessary?

Let me remind you of the three vital things these Ten Commandments are meant to do for those who recognize the gift God gives us of His presence, I am who I am, Emmanuel, I am with you to the end of the age:

  • To reveal to us how much we need a Savior – even more than how much the Hebrews needed a savior from their oppression under Pharaoh, we need a Savior from our oppression under depravity
  • To reel in our selfish desires to kill each other – to restrain whatever evil we are tempted toward
  • To remind us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

Necessary? I think so. Look at the news, watch an evening of TV, look at what the guy on the bus next us is playing on his I-Pad. Murder is everywhere!

But even more necessary than that. Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, 21 You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ [“moron”] will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5)

The Apostle John wrote, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.” (I John 3:15) Are you guilty? Probably. I am.

Is “murder” a forgivable sin? Anybody who’s ever driven right here on Nevada Street better hope so, because we have all broken Jesus’ version of this Commandment (maybe today on our way to Church!).

And, yes it is, “for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life and the lives all because Christ died to save our life for all eternity.

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:88 tells us: In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.” Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 6.

09/27/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:11 – “Hallowed Be Thy Name”

For an audio version of this message, click this link: http://ppl.ug/gCxsgPbHBvA/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: Hallowed Be Thy Name”

September 27, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Last Sunday the Green bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, walked over to the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, and said, “Knock-knock.”

Wilson said, “Who’s there?”  

“Owen.”

“Owen who?”  

“O and 2, Loser, that’s who!”

 OK, that didn’t really happen – I’m sure Aaron Rodgers is a better sport than that. But it plays into the importance of names.

 Names are super important. Choosing a name for a new baby can occupy a couple right up until birth – sometimes even beyond. Jennifer and I had agreed on Caitlin’s name fairly early on, but Brianna’s was not really decided until her actual birthday, and we’re still not agreed on Angus’ – er, Andrew’s – name.

And it seems that names come in cycles. When I was a kid, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting some boy named Mark – but that is way less true today. And I had only heard the name Caitlin once in my life (and loved it), but when we told the hospital nurse our first baby’s name, she said, “Oh good, another Katelynn.”

It seems that Madeline is making another comeback, and maybe Henry…. Dweezil and Moonbeam may never make the top ten American names (I can only hope)….

In some cultures, names are meant to actually mean something. Do you know what your name means? What language it comes from? Last names, or family names (sir names), are different. They tell us where we came from (Johnson, McNeil, Wheeler), but not necessarily where/who we are today.

I’ve heard that in Iceland people are listed in the phonebook by their first names because all the last names simply indicate who their father was.

Names are important. They identify us with a community and a place. We can all tell an Irish name from a Russian name. I’ll bet many of us have been quizzed by new acquaintances about our relations to someone else they know with our last name.

And sometimes names are just fun. In Tacoma our pediatrician was named Dr. Hurt. Here at LPC we sit and worship with a Jack Kennedy every week.

Have you ever done any name-dropping? You know, dropping the name of someone famous or important that, maybe, you had an accidental meeting with? I had a pastor once who sat next to Muhammed Ali on an airplane from NY to LA. 5 hours of conversation with “the greatest”. You can bet he dropped that name as often as he could.

In today’s passage from Deuteronomy 5 (and from Exodus 20) we hear a Commandment about God’s name. Remember how and why God gave us these Ten Commandments? ·

Israel in Egypt for 400 years·

Egyptian kings forgot how valuable Israelites had been to Egypt’s economy·

New Pharaoh, out of fear of the large number of these immigrant people, becomes a tyrannical power player and puts the Israelites in poverty·

God gives the Israelites Moses as a deliverer·

Moses meets God in a burning bush, and God tells him His name is YHWHI am who I am (whenever we read the word Lord in all caps, that means the Bible actually says YHWH [or Jehovah], but God’s name is too holy for the Jews to actually utter, so they say Adonai which means Lord

Moses rescues them from Egypt and they wander for 40 years in the Wilderness on their way to the Land God had Promised their forefathers

While in the Wilderness God gives these delivered Israelites a new way of living from what they had known under the power-broker Pharaoh – the Ten Commandments Listen to the Word of the Lord from Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 11…. —-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

11 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

This is a Commandment that declares the importance of God’s name! It is Holy! Hallowed be Thy name!

Middle Eastern cultures know the importance of namesMoses’ namedrawn out” from the Nile like Noah was drawn out from the great flood, like the Israelites were drawn out from the Red Sea. God’s nameI amalways present tense. God is inescapable. King David asked, “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, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

That’s all right there in His name!

The Israelites knew that. You can’t separate the name from the person. You can’t just use someone’s name without having the person it belongs to dragged along behind it, willy-nilly. So before we start tossing anyone’s name around in conversation, we better know what we’re getting into. Don’t do it carelessly, and don’t do it ignorantly.

That’s what the 3rd Commandment is all about. “You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain: for YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Remember why God gave us these Ten Commandments:

  1. to show us we need a Savior (just like the Israelites needed a savior from Pharaoh),
  2. to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3.                to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification

So, what does this Commandment mean? What does it mean to “misuse” YHWH’s name (NIV)? What does it mean to “take YHWH’s name in vain” (KJV)?

The Hebrew word “shav” that is usually translatedin vain” means “emptily”, or falsely, or without substance. What are some ways we use the Lord’s name emptily or falsely or with substance lacking?

God gave His name to the Israelites as a gift. God gave His name with the understanding that along with His name He was giving them the right to call upon Him and in some sense YHWH God now belonged to them as they belonged to Him (I will be their God and they will be my people). This gave them the right to call themselves the people of the Lord, and invoke His name, claim His power – for protection and justice and wisdom. But there are limits to the ways we can use His name! “Not in vain!

Can you name some ways you have heard othersmisuse God’s name”? Not you, of course, but people you might know of? How do people break this Commandment?

  • Use God’s name to curse with (“Gol durn it!”)
  • Use God’s name to validate a false statement (“I swear to God”)
  • Use God’s name to make an oath (“on God’s honor, I will …”)
  • Use God’s name to argue something against God’s Word (“No one will go to hell, because God is love”)

Remember the three reasons why God gives us these Commandments? One of those reasons is to reveal God’s character. His character is wrapped up in His name, and we human beings, all of us, including you and me, will start using God’s name for our own purposes; we’ll borrow a little power, appropriate a little authority, grab a little glory. Little by little, we human beings will substitute our own agendas for God’s – thus breaking the First and Second Commandments as well.

How do we gain victory over our natural tendency to misuse the Lord’s name? One solution would be to follow the Jewish Rabbis’ rule: never ever say the Lord’s name at all. Remember when I told you about why the word “Lord” is in all caps? But that doesn’t seem like the right way to use a precious giftGod did not give us the gift of Himself, either in the form of His name and the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, or in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, so that we might just tuck Him away in a safe place and only bring Him out when the pastor visits or our Mom is coming over. He gave Himself to us for everyday use, for all of life.

So, it seems, the only real solution is to learn how to take care of this gift.

Almost always, the first example people give of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is to use it as a cuss word! Why is it such a common cuss word? My theory is that it is because it is a name with power – it is used to damn people to hell! What is more powerful than that?! But I believe that some of the other ways we mentioned as misuses of God’s name, while more subtle, are even more common and dangerous.

How do we properly use the name of God? Look with me again at the Call to Worship, from Deuteronomy 6. In that passage who is expected to learn the Law of God? Who was expected to know the Ten Commandments? Who does this say should meditate every day, all day, on the Word of God?

This is super-key! The answer is everyone! From the richest to the poorest, from the oldest to the youngest, from the most influential to the ones with the least impact. Everyone is meant to study God’s Word so that everyone, from the greatest to the least, can know God personally and grow in His character traits – we are, after all, created in His image; we should start to look and sound and act more like Him!

This was very different from the Pharaoh of Egypt (or the kings of any of the other neighboring great nations). The more you know, the more power you can wield – therefore they did not want anyone to know their law – that way they could punish you for breaking it, thus creating more power for themselves and more poverty for the rest.

Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad: Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God is one Lord; and you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Israel’s God, our God, does not play favorites. Israel’s God, our God, calls each one of us to responsibility in the covenant relationship we have been called into. The study of the Word of God is a major priority and a serious faith-duty. Spending time in God’s Word is the only way we can keep our faith-lives consistent with the character and purposes of God. It is too easy to slip into a way of life that has more to do with our own desires than the nature of God, and the requirements of discipleship.

The name of God is more than just a sound. The name of God is the whole person of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The name of God is the whole history of God with his people; the name of God includes His requirements for and promises to all those who love Him. God’s name is never empty. Let us never act as if it is empty by trying to fill it with anything other than His own truth.

Our challenge today is to ask ourselves how full of God’s truth, God’s Word, our own lives are. How much time do you invest in learning the Word of God, in meditating on it, in making sure that our lives as Christians conform to the purposes and character of our Lord? Do you spend time daily in the Bible? Do you meet with fellow Christians, helping one another to be accountable?

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and foreverPsalm 119:20 proclaims: “My soul is consumed with longing for Your Laws all day long.” Amen. 

Let us spend a moment in silence asking God to give us a hunger for His Word, and to give us the discipline to make regular time for Him. When you claim God’s name as your own, is it empty or full?

Resources:

Bucklin, Alison; “A Full Name”; Vashon Presbyterian Church (USA); Vashon Island, WA; January 1998.

 The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.

09/20/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:8-10 – Ten Rules for Faithful Living: #2 “No Icons on the Desktop”

http://ppl.ug/_kx6cz4h314/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:4-63; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Icons on the Desktop”

September 20, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

A Sunday School student was asked to list the 10 Commandments in any order.

His answer? “3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7.”

 

Martin Luther once said that “anyone who knows the Ten Commandments perfectly knows the entire Scripture.” (The Larger Catechism)

We all know that Jesus agreed with Martin Luther when He was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy (look again at your Call to Worship from Deuteronomy 6). Love the Lord your God with all that’s in you, with all you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification

Here are the opening words, and then the second of the Big 10 Commandments from the book of Deuteronomy – the second reading of the Law of God. Hear the Word of God….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image … [to] bow down [to] or worship ….”

We got the First Commandment last week pretty clear – but what does this Second Commandment mean?

It seems straightforward – no idols, no icons, no things, that you might worship as more essential than God Himself.

This is really a Command about our inner-desires, isn’t it? Desire Goddo not desire whatever it is that might take God’s place.

There have been debates and church splits over how to define and obey this Commandment – does it mean no art work of any kind? Churches have been vandalized and torn apart and destroyed because of a statue or a painting in it. It does say, after all, “do not make any image of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the water ….” But the Commandment adds the phrase about bowing down and worshiping. When the artwork becomes more important than that which it depicts, it becomes a sin. I think the issue here is about when our desires become disordered by yearning for what is enticing us as if God does not exist!

Why is there a Commandment about not making forms and images? Let’s ask this question another way: What are God’s physical characteristics? God is Spirit, right? So how do we accurately depict that with an icon? How would one appropriately make something that looks like God?How do we meet God in the Old Testament? ·

Fire … burning bush, pillar of fire·

Smoke … pillar of smoke·

Wind … hovered over creation – no way to precisely depict something that is ever changing shape·

Voice … God speaks with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with Jesus! (with Paul.)

God reveals Himself through voice – sometimes spoken, sometimes written. So, God forbids the worship of the true God by way of any images or resemblances – there are to be none. In the time of Moses many nations claimed that their images were gods, others that their images were mere reflections of gods; but the God of the Bible says, NO IMAGES.

This Commandment includes some harsh wordsI, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. The sins of one generation often have consequences that fall on the next. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrong – take that role seriously.

But this Commandment also comes with amazing promiseI, the Lord your God, show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrongtake that role seriously.

 

But the real reasons why worshiping idols don’t work is that idolsicons on our desktops, figurines in our parks, flags on our poles, money in our banks, dreams and desires that pretend that God doesn’t really existidols cannot engage with us, cannot be in relationship with us.

Listen again to the voice of God remind us why He gives us the Ten Commandments: The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

God wants honest relationship with you, with us. If He is not in a living relationship with us, we might have an idol.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah tells us that idols are nothing more than extra baggage we carry around with us – made of stone or wood but with no more integrity or glory than vanity or a puff of wind. Can we name our idols? We can probably all name idols that our neighbors have, or our pastor….

But let me step on some toes this morning with some generalizations that are at least partly true.Generationally we all carry some idols in our lives, things we value and worship, sometimes more than we value and worship our relationship with God. Ready?

I’ll start with the newest generation – those that are in what is sometimes called Generation Z (born after 2000). People in this Generation value “Beauty”. Beauty, above all else, is what is important. Beauty is good, and important, but should it surpass receiving the relationship with the God of Beauty?

Millennials (born between 1985 and 2000). People in this generation value that which is Good. If it is Good, for the poor, for the environment, for those who need “good”, than it is valued as most important; but should “Good” go beyond the God who created Good from nothing and expects, demands Good from His followers?

Busters (born between 1964 and 1985), sometimes called Generation X. This generation values what is Real, authentic, transparent. If it is “Real” it is worth our attention and time. But is it better than the only Real God there is?

Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1963). This is my generation. We value that which we recognize as Truth. Truth trumps all else, but should concepts of Truth outshine the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life?

Builders (born between 1924 and 1944), most of us in this room. This generation is known more for their religious fidelity than the younger generations (as is evidenced by attendance in churches like ours across this land); and so they have come up with sayings like “I stand for God and Country”, “God and Flag”, “God and Duty”. But sometimes the tendency is to place Country, Flag and Duty as co-equal with, even out-doing, God.

This Second Commandment, along with the First, tells us that God does not want, does not need, and shuns these icons on our desktops – the God-ands we proclaim, the Truths we preach, our Real feelings, our Moral judgments, and even our Beauty admirations. These all become “forms” of a god. What God wants is our desireabove and before our desire of anything else, God deserves to be at the head.

How do we possibly gain victory over any of these idols that call our names, how are we successful over whole generational ideologies of value?

Let me give you two simple strategies: worship and prayer.

When we worship the only True God, when we gather together to sing His praises and when we come before His throne all on our own, we put God first – and all the idols of prestige and importance, the icons of philosophy and valued perspective, the forms of want and fancy become desire for God Himself!

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:11 tells us: “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Amen.

Resources:

Hauerwas, Stanley; William Willimon; The truth About God: The 10 Commandments in the Christian Life; Abingdon Press; NY, NY; 1999.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.

Wilson, Tobin; “No Eikons on the Desktop”; sermon preached at Placentia Presbyterian Church; 08/16/2015.

09/13/2015 – Exodus 20:1-3 – 10 Rules for Faithful Living: “No Other”

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:1-7; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Other”

September 13, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, on this weekend when we remember the devastations of 9/11/2001, and we are humbled by the gift we have – the gift of freedom and the opportunities to live into that freedom. Help us, right now, to put away any lingering anger or fear, any prejudice or hate, even any thoughts or wonderings about those who perpetrated such evil or the direct victims of that evil. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Ma and Pa made their annual visit to church for the Christmas Eve service.
As they were leaving, the minster said, “Pa, it sure would be nice to see you and ma here more than once a year!”
“I know,” replied Pa, “but at least we keep the Ten Commandments.”
“That’s great,” the minister said. “I’m glad to hear that you keep the Ten Commandments.”
“Yup,” Pa said proudly, “Ma keeps six of ’em and I keep the other four.”

 

7 habits of,  3 steps to,  10 rules for …

Too simple to be real, but often offer something of substance …

The right place of order/law – keeps us in line (speed limit, good neighbors=good fences)

The historical/social context of the 10 commandmentsescape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty

The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,

2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ)

Page 2 of The Law of Liberty – “O How I Love Thy Law”

The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.

Here are the opening words, and the first of the Big 10 Commandments. Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

 

And from Deuteronomy 5 (Latin or Greek majors? What does “deuteros” mean? Second – that’s what this whole book is about – the 2nd time Moses tells us about the Law.) Hear the Word of the Lord….—-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. Let’s do this sermon a little differently today – turn to someone near you and tell that person what this Commandment means. Both Exodus and Deuteronomy tell it in exactly the same way: You shall have no other gods before me. What does that mean? Now, let’s hear what some of you said – anyone? Would anyone like to yell out a god that maybe threatens this Commandment? What gods in our culture seem to come before the Lord our God?·       Money·       Success·       Education·       Being right·       Fun·       Stuff·       Worry·       Fear·       FOMO

How do we have victory over these “other gods”?

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

And the second time Moses said this, when he reminded the Israelites, and you and me, of these Commandments, he said it like this:

Deuteronomy 5: Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

How do we have victory over these “other gods”? Trust in the Lord our God! He is the One who rescues, redeems, saves, and secures us in His presence!

We all know that Jesus was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy.

In Luke’s Gospel some lawyer who wants to be a follower of Jesus asks Jesus how to follow Him, so Jesus asks the lawyer what the greatest Commandment is – and this lawyer gives this exact same answer (Luke 10:27).

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods!

 

This first Commandment sets the tone and the pace for all the Commandments which follow. If we can remember that the Lord our God, Yahweh, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all that is – if we can remember that He alone is entitled to supreme reverence and worship – and that anything else that we might cherish lessens, weakens, our trust and relationship with Him – if we can remember that, then the next 9 Commandments become easy.

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives. If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:2 tells us: “Blessed are they that keep God’s testimonies, and they that seek Him with their whole heart.” Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “O How I Love Thy Law”, “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 2-4.

02/15/2015 – Exodus 3:1-14 – “In a Word, God: Who Are You?”

Mark Wheeler
February 15, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Exodus 3:1-14
“In a Word, God: Who Are You?”

Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Mountain-top experiences are those rare times when we cannot imagine being in a better place. “I’m on top of the world! Over the moon! In the clouds!”
We’ve all had such experiences – the day we got married – the day our baby was born – the day we got a raise, or moved into our first house, or graduated from high school, or the day we were born (I’ll bet if we could remember that day it would be near the top of the list), or the day we were born again (some of us can remember that day, others only know it happened). Those all describe some of my “mountain-top” experiences. Also, when I traveled to the Holy Land with my family; visiting the Greek city of Corinth with a very small group of Lidgerwoodians and a brand new band of friends from across this country. But maybe my most memorable mountain-top-travel experiences were visiting my grown-up daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and six weeks ago visiting my other daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Shishmaref, AK.
You can think of your own mountain-top experiences and wonder in the awe of those moments.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday on the liturgical calendar – the day we commemorate Jesus’ mountain-top experience with James and John and Peter; oh, and Moses and Elijah, too. Our Children’s Message time was spent talking a little about that day.
We are looking at another mountain-top experience in the Bible. This one happened 1,400 years before Jesus, when Moses was still a young man before he became the great deliverer of his people from slavery in Egypt. You know the story: he was born at a time when the Pharaoh had declared that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed, but baby Moses was hidden for a few months, and then he was put in a basket and floated down the Nile River toward where the Pharaoh’s daughter would find him; she does, and hires Moses’ mother to be his nurse-maid, and Moses is brought up in the Pharaoh’s house as if he were a son of the king; when Moses discovers his true identity, he kills an Egyptian slave-master for beating a Hebrew slave; so Moses runs into the hills; and while there he works as a shepherd.
This brings us to today’s Bible passage, from Exodus 3:1-14 – let me start with the end of Exodus 2 …. —-
23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.

Can you imagine that mountain-top experience? I don’t care if you’re a professing follower of Christ or not, a day on top of THAT mountain would go in your blog.
This is a desert-like wilderness area, so plants are often turned into dry tinder; and it’s an area known for lightning storms – so flaming flora are not all that infrequent.
But a burning bush that does not actually burn – that’s a miracle! And this miracle was God speaking to Moses! Now, we can guess that Moses was already a praying man. Wandering around the wilderness, fearing for his life, and all alone – “C’mon God… Seriously? Is this why I was pulled out from the Nile and raised in the Pharaoh’s house? To live as a foreigner, with no family, no home, no nuthin’? C’mon God.”
I’ll bet that’s what Moses was praying the day God brought him to Jethro’s house and gave him Ziporrah for a wife. But still – I’ll bet he never expected God actually speak to him, and not from a blazing bush!

What are some ways God speaks to His people in the Bible? Give me some shout outs …. Directly (Adam and Eve) – through a donkey (Balaam) – by the handwriting on the wall (Daniel) – in dreams (Daniel, Joseph, others) – through angels (Abraham, Mary, others) – a burning bush (Moses)!

What are some ways God speaks to His people today? Does God speak today? What are some ways? … the Bible – in sermons – through friends – books – sunsets –

Has God ever “spoken” to you? … How did you hear Him? … What did you hear? By the sequence of closed doors and open opportunities – by the invitation of people of authority – through biblical texts/themes grouped together from varieties of unrelated sources – by weird, temporary paralysis –through an actual body-less audible voice //// be calm, I am here with you – go to Spokane, and stay until I release/send you – go to TGH Room 324

I love this story in Exodus 3. Moses made it to this point in his life through miracle and opportunity. He was born in a place of oppression, in a time of desperation – he was supposed to die on his (actual) birthday! He was rescued by the daughter of the tyrant who ordered him dead! He was raised by his own mother, who got paid to raise him when she was supposed to be a slave! He grew up in privilege and prestige instead of dirt and destitution! But at this point in the story, Moses is a homeless fugitive, living in a foreign country with no kin or company – other than his boss/father-in-law, new wife and one baby boy.
And, not doing anything of any special religious nature – he wasn’t in the temple (there wasn’t a temple yet), he wasn’t even praying, not reading his Bible (again, there wasn’t one yet), he wasn’t feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or visiting the imprisoned – he was just doing his job!
He was washing a car, balancing a budget, making payroll, making a sale, teaching a child to read, taking someone’s temperature – and out of nowhere – God shows up and this particular day at the mill becomes a mountain-top holy moment of sacred and scared-spitless divine intervention!
A non-consumed inferno of vegetation – and a voice – “Take off your shoes and pay attention – this is the voice of God Almighty – you have no choice here, but to listen, so make sure you hear what I say!”
And Moses does just that – but before he is excused, he raises his hand to ask one question – “Who do I tell these people is sending me with this message of freedom? When they ask, ‘who is this God who can do this great thing?’, what do I say?” In a word, God: Who Are You?

I have here a poster filled with nothing but names for God from the Bible: Shout out a few names for God you can think of, What are some of the names for God that are in the Bible? Creator God – God Almighty – Adonai/Lord – God most high – then there’s a whole slew of Yahweh/Jehovah names; Jehova-Jireh, Provider-Lord – Jehovah-Rapha, Healer-Lord – Jehovah-Sabaoth, Lord of hosts; heavenly Father – Prince of peace – etc, etc, etc

What are some of the names you call God? Does that name mean something special to you?
Those are all great, powerful names! Now, what does God tell Moses His name is? “Tell them ‘some unpronounceable tetragrammaton’ that in English is spelled “YHWH”’ sends you. In a Word – THAT is my name!”
Most of our English language Bibles translate that as “I-AM-WHO-I-AM sends you.”
Why is this name for God so significant? What does it mean?
Let me illustrate this with a calendar and a map:
Last Thursday Kathy and Kathy and I went to Opportunity Presbyterian Church for an important Presbytery Meeting – then in the evening Kathy Samuel came here for Cantata Choir practice, Kathy Sandusky went to Manito Presbyterian Church for a function there, and I went to Sheridan Elementary School for a Spokane School District Mentor Training session – we were at those different places at those specific times.
Today Kathy and I are here at Lidgerwood and Kathy Sandusky is at Manito worshiping. We are at those places at these specific times.
On Wednesday this week, I will be going to Oakesdale as their church’s liaison from the Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry. I will be in Oakesdale.

But God? God’s name is I-AM! Where was God on Thursday? Last Thursday God IS at Opportunity Presbyterian Church! Last Thursday God IS at Cantata Choir practice! Last Thursday God IS at Manito Presbyterian Church!
And that’s where He IS today! And that’s where He IS next Wednesday! He IS there, present tense, in every past, present and future moment of time! And all at the same time!
And God IS also in Oakesdale, and in NYC, and in Bagdad, and in Kiev, and in West Africa, and in Chiang Mai, and in Shishmaref! His name is I-AM – I-AM – I-AM!

How does this affect my faith? For me, it encourages me when I am nervous – God is there; God is there in the fiery furnace! God is there in the lion’s den! God is there in the burning bush! Not just because we invite Him to be there, but because His name is I-AM!

On that other mountain, 1,400 years later, when Jesus took His three good friends to meet Moses and Elijah, the voice from Heaven announced, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased – listen to Him!”

God is right here in this very room. And, God still speaks. Are we listening to His voice? In prayer this morning, quiet Presbyterian prayer – let’s listen first – what might God be saying today?

Resources:
Fuquay, Rob; The God we Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus; Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 4-10.