11/26/2015 – I Thessalonians 5:17-19 – “Now Thank We All Our God”

Thanksgiving 2015

 

Now Thank We All Our God

 

We all know what we’re supposed to today – thank we all our God!  Even un-believers and non-church-goers, even the most base and crass TV families stop for Thanksgiving and offer a word of gratitude to some oft-times-unnamed Higher Power.

Really we don’t believe there’s anyone to thank for most of what we have – we earned it, we deserve it, and we deserve more!

But, we’ll stop one day a year and say Thank You to God.

 

This year, perhaps more than many, we say Thank you to God and to neighbors and to our effervescent electric company. Right? Thank we all our God!

 

Some of you have heard the story behind the song, “Now Thank We All Our God.”  Listen again:

 

This is from Catherine Winkworth’s “Christian Singers of Germany.” She is the one who translated the 17th century hymn into English in the 19th century. “This classic hymn was written by a pastor (Martin Rinkart) who suffered greatly through the 30 Years War in Germany during which (through war and famine) 4/5 of the population of Germany died. He himself was in extreme poverty and when the pastors of his 2 neighboring towns died he ended up having to do the work of 3 pastors, burying 4,000 people in 1637 (50 per day!) – including his wife – when the plague hit. This was followed by a famine so severe that 30-40 people could be seen in streets fighting to the death over the corpse of a dead cat. And then right after this the Swedes invaded and demanded a ridiculous amount of money in tribute. The story goes that he went to intercede with the Swedish commander to reduce the tribute and the commander refused. At this point Rinkart turned to the crowd that was with him and said “Come my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men. Let us take refuge with God.” he then fell to his knees and prayed with such pathos that the commander reduced the tribute from $30,000 to $2,000. He wrote this hymn in 1644, 4 years before the Peace of Westphalia that ended the War in 1648.”

“Now, thank, we all, our God!”

Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonika,

1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NIV)

17 Pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances – not for all circumstances, that might just be silly; but in all circumstances – for God’s power and presence, His grace and might, can be found in every situation.

 

So, today, we look at “HOW” thank we all our God.  If EVERYBODY says some sort of grace on Thanksgiving, if EVERYONE goes around their Thanksgiving dinner table and recites something they’re thankful for, then HOW ARE WE who claim to believe something with substance any DIFFERENT?

 

Among our Sunday studies on the Ten Commandments, we have heard, and today we are reminded, of two things that can make us different:

 

First,

Remember the Lord your God; for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Deuteronomy 8:18

In good and in bad, remember the Lord your God; always give credit to the One who deserves it.  Anything we have, everything we have, is because God has entrusted it to us.

 

Second,

Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

When God entrusts us, He hopes we will trust Him back.  We all know the “God loves a cheerful giver” verse, but it begins with an imperative to be honest and to have integrity.  To respond to God’s love with our STUFF.

 

We will be different from our neighbors this Thanksgiving by being generous and faithful.  And when life is hard, we will find refuge with God.  Now, thank we all our God, together.  Amen.

 

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11/22/2015 – Ephesians 4 – “Christ the King Sunday”

[There will be no audio attached this week – no power at the church, everything was very acoustic this morning.]

Mark Wheeler

Mark 12:28-30; Matthew 28:20; John 14:15-24; Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 4

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: Is He King? Or Not?”

November 22, 2015 – Christ the King Sunday

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

We bow before You as our ultimate Ruler and Authority, dear Jesus. Thank You for the gift of the Ten Commandments, and Your simple and profound summary of them. Today, we listen again; and we promise again, to obey. Bend our ears to Your Word, and our wills to Your Commands, we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior. Amen. 

Ma and Pa made their annual visit to church for the Christmas Eve service.
As they were leaving, the minister 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.”

 

Last week we finished our final lesson on the Ten Commandments, and today, Christ the King Sunday, we recommit ourselves to obedience.

 

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

That’s not too different from our world – it is, but there are similarities. While we are not under the thumb of a dictator tyrant we do live in a culture that demands we give up some fundamental Christian life-choices, all in the name of more tolerance. We live in a world where the 1% rule over the 99%, without even realizing it. We live in a time where prejudice surrounds us, and even dwells inside us. We, too, need escape from the injustice of dishonor and death and infidelity and greed and slander and even the heart disease of being pained by dissatisfaction.

So God rescues us, as He rescued the Israelites, and He gives us what we have come to know as the Ten Commandments, what James called the Law of Liberty (James 1:25, KJV) and what Paul describes as living a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1, NIV).

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)

 

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.

 

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? (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.

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.”

 

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.

 

Because this week has been a hard week, for some of us a lonely, cold, dark, week. Let me just walk you through some Bible verses, then I will briefly share a quick discovery I had this week; then we’ll open the floor as we gather in prayer for anyone to share your insights, wonderings, etc. Then we’ll move into our Congregational Meeting.

While we do not have heat here, we do have each other. Some of you might need to get back home, and others might need to linger together. All of that will be possible.

 

Let’s do this together. What are the Ten Commandments?

  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 – do not commit murder
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship – do not commit adultery
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us – no stealing
  5. We are to Speak HELPFULLY so that whatever we say has the chance of bringing blessingno giving false testimony
  6. And, we are to find CONTENTMENT whether we are empty-pocketed or overflowing with stuffno coveting

 

The very close of Matthew’s Gospel, after the resurrection, just before Jesus rises into the sky, into the heavens with His Father to sit on His throne as King of kings, in Matthew 28:20 Jesus tells us who follow Him, “18  ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [as King of kings]. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

 

In John’s Gospel, in the scene just before the Lord’s Supper is instituted, Jesus gives this command to His followers: “If you love me, KEEP my commands.” (John 14:15) Whether or not we decide to obey reveals our decision to put no other gods before Him! If Christ truly is “King of all kings and Lord of all lords”, how do we tell Him that that is true? We keep His commands!

 

How do we tell that to the world around us? Paul says in Romans 13, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to LOVE one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…. 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the LAW.

 

Here’s what I discovered this week – on Friday while at a cross-denominational prayer gathering, we read from Ephesians 4, just the opening verses, but then I read the whole chapter. This is Paul’s instructions to a Church in a very hostile environment and the whole chapter is about keeping the Ten Commandments, although he never uses those words. Listen to Ephesians 4:

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. …

 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live … separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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. Is Christ King of our lives? Or is He not?

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.

As we move into our time of prayerwhat do you want to share with us about what you have learned in this study of God’s Word in these Ten Commandments?

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “The Law and the Gospel in Perfect Harmony”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 29-31.

11/01/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:19 – Commandment #8: “Be Generous!”

To get an audio version of this message, click here: http://ppl.ug/jDjJbHYxGpc/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #8 Be Generous”

November 1, 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. 

You’ve probably all heard about the burglar who walked into a quiet little house at the end of a road.
He was stealing diamonds when he hears, “Jesus is watching you.”

The guy freaks and turns around, seeing nothing he goes back to stealing diamonds. And again he hears,
“Jesus is watching you.”

He turns around again and this time sees a parrot in a corner cage saying, “Jesus is watching you.” The guy gets all embarrassed about freaking out over a little parrot and says, “Who do you think you are?”

The bird replies, “Moses.”

“What kind of idiot names their bird Moses?”

“The same kind of idiot who named their Pitbull Jesus.”

Sorry about that. But there just aren’t a lot of good jokes out there about “stealing”. In fact, when I GoogledJokes about stealing”, what came up was a ton of articles about professional stand-up comics stealing jokes from other comedians.

That, all by itself, says something significant about our culture’s understanding of what’s OK and what’s not.

We have invested almost-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 we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Let’s just take a second and name those first four:

  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

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 gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence! We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized.

And then Jesus goes a little deeper: 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?

  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. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Eight. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not steal.” How do we love our neighbors? Do not steal from them!

I considered two ways to go about this Commandment:

  • Talk about all the ways we steal without even recognizing that we are, in fact, stealing:
    1. Eating a grape in the produce section of Rosauers
    2. Not declaring our “tips on our Income Tax forms
    3. Not leaving a healthy tip on the table at a restaurant
    4. We steal every time we take from someone without paying a fair price/wage
    5. So, we also steal by not giving our best effort
      1. We rob our neighbors of dignity by not paying respect, giving honor
      2. We rob our neighbors of value by not offering polite hospitality
  • We rob our neighbors of health by not providing out of our abundance to care for their absence
  • Or we could talk about ways to NOT steal, lifestyles and life-choices of generosity:
    1. In the Old Testament we find God’s expectations that farmers would leave some good grain or produce in the field or vineyard so that the poor might come and glean some food for their families (look at the book of Ruth as a prime example)
    2. Honesty is the best policy” may not be a Bible verse, but it is certainly a biblical ethic so that we ought to be open and not hide anything from those around us (look at the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5)
    3. Generosity in all things makes us the opposite of stealing thieves.
      1. Remember what I said at the beginning of this message about what popped up when I Googledjokes about stealing”? This is why we pay a little extra for the license to print words to songs, or to show movies; this is why, in print at least, I try to give credit to sermon pieces.
      2. It is wrong to steal material property, intellectual property, software property, dignity, personal value, or human rights.

In Deuteronomy 11-25 (that’s 15 chapters) we are given laws and regulations and rules after laws and regulations and rules, about how to love our neighbors. And in a section about how to live with those who are in poverty (15:10) we hear the Lord say, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”

Most of II Corinthians 8 & 9 are Paul’s instructions to the Church about generosity. You will recognize this verse: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:6-7)

Generosity quenches the desire to steal. When we go out to eat, ready to put a 25% tip on the table, we will look for ways to compliment our wait-person. When we go to a garage sale, hoping for a chance to bless someone, we’ll give a little more than the asking price for that thing we don’t really need anyway. When we come to a family reunion, wanting to offer forgiveness, we’ll be ready to give grace and kindness before we grump and criticize.

Being a generous person requires having a generous spirit. That means being filled with God’s Holy Spirit, being submissive to Christ as Lord, following Jesus as God’s only means of salvation from the tyranny of ego and self-centered service.

Yes, we are still sinners. 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 “stealing”, we give glory to God, we honor our neighbor, we respect the life that we encounter, and act generously to those around us.

Remember why God give us these commandments:

  • To shine a light on how much we need a Savior
  • To slow down our selfish desires to cheat each other
  • To show 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 so-super-generously-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 so-super-generously died for us.”

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; in Malachi 3:10 – this Old Testament prophet tells us that we steal from God by not giving His church a full 10% tithe of our income – God even dares us to test His faithfulness to us by trusting our faithfulness to Him.

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

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 119:174 speaks our prayer: I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight. Amen.

Resources:

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