01/24/2016 – I Corinthians 10:6-13 – “The Promise of Deliverance”

Audio version

Mark Wheeler

I Corinthians 10:6-13

“The Promise of Deliverance”

01/24/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Mighty God who delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, who cooled the fiery furnace, who closed the lions’ mouths, who sent Your only begotten Son to save us from our sinful nature, we come to You today, gathered as Your people, because we recognize that we need a Savior. Rescue us today, through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen.

 

Have you ever woke up to your alarm clock blaring, knowing you had something to be at, and then thought to yourself, “15 more minutes …. They won’t miss me …. Suppose I call in sick ….”? Of course you have. Maybe you didn’t follow through with that temptation, but you know you’ve been tempted.

That’s the thing. Everybody experiences temptation. All people get tempted. No one escapes. And you know what? All people also yield to temptation! Not every time, but even once and you’ve joined the club.

Temptation is a reality for everybody. I am tempted, almost constantly, to eat another donut.

Now, not all temptations hold the same consequences; right? Falling to the temptation to sleep another 15 minutes on your day off is probably not that big a deal. Falling to the temptation of sleeping with another 15 people probably is.

Today we are going to talk about that latter kind of temptation – that which is an invitation to DISOBEY God. It is vital to remember that temptation is not a SIN, but DISOBEDIENCE to God is a sin!

 

Give me a quick show of hands – did anybody here make a New Year’s Resolution? Who has been tempted to go off your diet, to skip a morning of Bible reading, to watch one more half-hour of TV? Right? We are 3-½ weeks into 2016! Of course we have all been tempted to break our Resolutions! In a general way, this is one of the most significant challenges every adult follower of Jesus facesovercoming temptation!

How can we, as growing disciples of Christ, as people who claim Jesus as our Savior and Lord, as church-going citizens of the Kingdom of God, how can we resist temptation?

If you look at your Sermon Notes Page you’ll see that there’s a simple 1-2-3 step process for resisting temptation. Don’t believe it. These steps will not secure you a sin-free life. They are, indeed, three practical steps toward overcoming temptation, but the only real security is in a living relationship with Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

 

Today we read from Paul’s letter to the Church in the sin-harboring city of Corinth. This city sat at the intersection of two major sea ports, with sailors and dockworkers and people from all over the known world – and all the sinful temptations that that kind of social climate produces; and Paul writes to the believers there to help them cope with the various temptations that spawned all around them. Listen to these words from  I Corinthians 10:6-13…. —-

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  

 

Paul begins this particular pericope reminding these Corinthian Christians of the mistakes made by people in the past these things occurred as examples to keep us from making the same mistakes! So he tells us what they did and why it was wrong; and the command for us is to not do the same things!

Step number 1 is Assume RESPONSIBILITY. When we sin we have no one to blame but ourselves! We can cry that our mother didn’t potty train us soon enough, or that the environment in which we grew up was filled with violence, or even that my genetic code “made me this way” – but the decisions to act on our temptations are all our own. I decide to eat another donut, to drink another beer, to steal what isn’t mine, to cheat on my test or my taxes or my spouse. Those are all on me; on you; on us.

The first step to overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to take responsibility for our own actionsconfess our sins, repent, and ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a temptation you are willing to assume responsibility for today.

 

Step number 2 is Be on GUARD. Look at verse 12: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  We seldom fall when we think we’re on slippery ice; we might, but we’re usually much more careful, maybe even asking for help, when we know the ground is slippery. But when we think it’s dry, solid, safethat’s when we take our eyes off the surface and start to make moves we shouldn’t have. We slip when we get a little over-confident or careless – when we think we’re safe!

The second step in overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to be on guard. When I’m a little hungry, I should not go near the table with the free donuts! I should run away from the temptations that usually get me down. That’s why 12-step support groups work. They help their participants recognize their own tendencies to falling, and avoid those slippery slopes. Call your sponsor. After confessing our sin, we repent – literally, we turn around and walk the other direction – and ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a place where your temptation is most dangerous and beware of that danger.

 

Step number 3 is Claim God’s PROMISE. Look at verse 13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to all mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Let’s take a minute to unpack that verse. First, he says that no one on earth is alone or exempt. All mankind faces temptation – and yours is really no stronger than anyone else’s.

Second, he reminds us, “God is faithful.” The whole of Scripture is account after account of God’s fidelity, His faithfulness, to His creation, to His character, to His Covenant of grace for His people. He is faithful. “Who is like Him, seated on the throne? The mountains bow down, every ocean roars. Praise Adonai!” “Beautiful Lord, wonderful Savior, I know for sure, all of my days are held in Your hand … You gently call me into Your presence, guiding me by Your Holy Spirit.”

The next line says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Sometimes we hear that line as, and some Bibles translate it saying, “He won’t let us be TESTED beyond what we can handle.” Tested implies that God is giving our faith a trial, to see if it’s real. God does put tests in front of us, but I think the context of this sentence holds that Paul meant to sayGod won’t let us be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear.” Here’s why I believe that’s what Paul meant. God does not tempt us. James is clear about that in James 1, “God does not tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” God does not drag us away from Himself. Temptation is an invitation to DISOBEY God. Satan gives us those invitations. Paul’s line in I Corinthians 10:13 is in the passive voice: “God will not allow us to be tempted beyond…He will not let Satan invite us to disobey in ways God will not give us an answer to.

But God will allow us to be tempted – that’s the broken, free-choice world we live in! But the last line in today’s passage says, “God will also provide a way out ….Claim God’s PROMISE!

The third step in overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to claim God’s promise. After confessing our sin, after repenting – turning around and walking the other direction – we ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a possible way out for you from your most susceptible temptation.

 

These are, indeed, three practical steps toward overcoming temptationassume responsibility for your own actions, be on guard for the next temptation, and claim God’s promise of a rescue; but the only real security is in a living relationship with Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin with a moment of silence as we each confess an area of temptation we are susceptible to slipping into, repenting of those times we have decided to go that direction, and asking Jesus to walk alongside us every day, as our Savior and our Lord.

 

Resources:

Family Bible Study; “Advanced Bible Study Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 58-65.

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

Click on this link to get the audio version of this message: http://ppl.ug/B1EsAFAYgw0/

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”

Click on this link to find an audio version of this message: http://ppl.ug/QT8cbXSlubA/

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.

10/25/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:18 – “Commandment #7: Be Faithful!”

Click this link to get the audio version: http://ppl.ug/3cef-tAGBJc/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #7 Be Faithful”

October 25, 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. 

I read a story about a man who spent days looking for his new hat. Finally, he decided that he’d go to church on Sunday and sit at the back. During the service he would sneak out and grab a hat from the rack at the back door.

On Sunday, he went to church and sat at the back. The sermon was about the 10 commandments. He sat through the whole sermon and instead of sneaking out, he waited until the sermon was over and went to talk to the minister.

Pastor, I came here today to steal a hat to replace the one I lost. But after hearing your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I changed my mind.”

The minister said, “Bless you friend. Was it when I started to preach thou shall not steal, that changed your heart?

The man responded, “No, it was the one on adultery. When you started to preach on that, I remembered where I left my hat.”

 The only reason this is funny is because it stirs in us a nervous guilt. That’s my guess….

We have invested the last month-and-a-half 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 gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!

But Jesusgoes 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. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Seven. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not commit adultery.”

This is not, especially in a traditional American mostly Caucasian senior-citizen church, [not] a comfortable subject to talk about from the pulpit! But – it’s in the Bible – and it still applies to us. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do not commit adultery!

And, let me add, because of the way Jesus talks about this commandment, and what Paul says in a few places, and what is in the Old Testament Torah-books, and elsewhere in Scripture, I think we can define “adultery as any kind of sexual ethic beyond what the Bible states as “giving honor” and “respecting life”.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, [you have this in your Sermon Notes page if you would like to easily read along – I read a paraphrase this week, by a Bible scholar named John Sartelle, that I think states this so plainly and perfectly; so listen to this paraphrase as you follow along: “‘Jesus is talking, and He says, “By the way, when you attempt to redefine the Law and use it to throw away a wife or a husband at your convenience so you can marry someone more appealing to you – that is nothing but out-and-out adultery. Your effort to legalize it does not make it something moral.” This scholar goes on to say, “Jesus was not setting forth a full treatise on marriage and divorce. He was talking about adultery – that was His subject. The Pharisees were saying, ‘We would never commit adultery. We simply divorce our wives and then we are free to marry more desirable women.’ Jesus was saying ‘That is still adultery! You tried to make it look right through a formal divorce, but it still adultery.’ (Matthew 5:27-32) He even says that just “lusting” after a woman commits your heart to adultery.

Why? Because the two had become one! You can’t, willy-nilly, tear that apart! Not without damaging both halves!

Let’s take a few more steps back – in time and in Scripture: Eve stood before Adam, and he stood before her. God had made them for each other. As they observed each other, there must have been wonder. She saw that he was the same, and yet different. He saw that she was the same, and yet different. However, in their differences they fit each other. Their differences actually enhanced their relationship. They reveled in the Creator’s design for their bodily union. And in short time they would discover that there were other differences as wellemotional differences, personality differences, etc. Daily they would discover that the other contributed something to the marriage that the first could not. Each of these differences made them better as a couple.

And because of these differences, God’s design was that, the two would become one. That was God’s plan. “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder.”

Now, let’s be honest. Adam and Eve had way fewer extramarital options or temptations than we have today! Whom would they have “cheatedwith? Right?

But let’s be just as honest as we look at what is right and what is wrong. The beauty of God’s plan is not made ugly just because we are given more responsibility to be faithful!

Is divorce ever permitted? Ever acceptable? Ever the best choice? Yes. It is not God’s hoped-for plan, but in this very passage, Jesus gives permission to make it right when there has been infidelity! The Command, therefore, is Be Faithful!

And infidelity comes in many forms, including “good, old-fashioned adultery”, but being unfaithful happens with abuse, with estrangement, with “lust”, with pornography, with lack of affection. With all the biblical pictures of “faithfulness”, we are not lacking understanding of unfaithfulness.

It is sometimes the wisest choice to leave an abusive spouse – the right choice for both the victim and the children! When lives are being ruined, by any understanding of infidelity, divorce might be the only right option.

But it should not be willy-nilly simple! God has revealed Himself as the Bridegroom, and Israel and the Church, the fulfilled people of Israel, as His Bride. And He stays with us even though we have strayed away from being faithful! Thanks be to God.

How should we then live? How do we make decisions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage? We must return to the truth and beauty of God’s original design. We must set before the world the wonder and majesty of that physical, emotional, spiritual union that our Creator gave to be an immutable and indescribable blessing to His creation.

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 infidelity to our spouse, we give glory to God, we honor our spouse, and we respect the life that our marriage represents.

For those in the room who are not married – you are not left out in this Command. Be Faithful, like Brelyn Bowman was.

Did you see the story this week of the bride who, at her wedding, gave to her father a certificate, signed by her physician, that she was still a virgin? This couple, and this family, was celebrating their pledge to be faithful to God’s purposes (no sex outside of marriage). And the uproar across this nation has been incredible!

Living with a Biblical standard of sexual ethics might be hard work. That is why God gave us this commandment:

  • To reveal to us how much we need a Savior
  • To reel in our selfish desires to mistreat each other
  • 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

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.

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!

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

We might argue and debate 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. Amen.

Psalm 119:105 tells us: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Amen.

Resources:

Bowman, Brelyn; ABC Good Morning America; 10/23/2015.

Table Talk: The Christian Sexual Ethic; “What God Has Joined Together”; John P. Sartelle; November 2015; Pp. 4-9.

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

08/02/2015 – Ephesians 1:3-14 – “Chozen: Let It Go”

Mark Wheeler

Ephesians 1:3-14

“Chozen: Let It Go”

August 2, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Does anybody here like to read Max Lucado books? If you’ve never read him before, I’m going to give you a taste today. Straight up, I am confessing a little plagiarism (except that I’m crediting him, so it’s not really plagiarism at all).

Between 1854 and 1929 about 200,000 orphans and abandoned children in eastern cities were placed on westbound trains and shipped across the US in search of homes and families. Many of the children had lost their parents in epidemics. Others were children of down-on-their-luck immigrants. Some were orphaned by the Civil War, others by alcohol.

But they all needed homes. Loaded on trains in groups of 30-40, they stopped in rural areas for viewings. The children were lined up on the platform like livestock at an auction. Potential parents asked questions, evaluated health, and even examined teeth. If selected, the children went to their homes. If not, they got back on the train.

The Orphan Train.

Lee Nailling remembers the experience. He had been living at the Jefferson County Orphan Home for 2 years when he, as an 8-year-old, was taken with his two younger brothers to a train in NYC. The day before, his biological father had handed him a pink envelope that bore his father’s name and address. He told the boy to write him as soon as he reached his destination. The boy placed the envelope within a coat pocket so no one would take it. The train embarked for TX. Lee and his brothers fell asleep. When he awoke, the pink envelope was gone. …

What I’d like to tell you is that Lee’s father found him. That the man, unwilling to pass another second without his sons, sold every possession so he could reunite his family. I’d love to describe the moment when Lee heard his father say, “Son, it’s me! I came for you!” Lee Nailling’s biography, however, contains no such event.

But yours does.

We have been investing this Summer in an extended sermon series on God’s amazing Grace – how it is so far more than we deserve, and so far greater what we imagine. Listen with me to God’s Word, from the New Testament epistle from Paul to the Church in Ephesus, 1:3-13. This follows immediately after the intro, and jumps straight into a word on God’s perfect sustaining Grace. Hear the Word of the Lord: Ephesians 1:3-14 …. —-

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. In his chapter called Chosen Children, from his book on Grace, Lucado reminds us: “There is something in you that God loves. You cause His eyes to widen, His heart to beat faster. He loves you. And He accepts you.”

Did you hear God’s Word to you in this Ephesian letter? Turn to your Sermon Notes page and read verses 3-5 out loud with me: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

First, let’s recognize that this letter is from the Apostle Paul! This is no Joe Schmuck from the “Happy Acres Preschool”. This is the Apostle Paul! He says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us. We give praise to God because He has already blessed us – not just a word of encouragement to “you”, but Paul includes himself! “Our Lord … has blessed us!”

How did He bless us? Verse 4: He chose us in Him before the creation of the world …. Now, let me ask you a question: in what year were you born? (You don’t have to say it out loud – but imagine that number in big bold numerals.) I was born in 1961! Some of you were born in the 1990s, some of you in the 1910s. that’s getting to be a long time ago, right? When did God choose you? Before the creation of the world!

Verse 5 says, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ. You heard your own voice read that out loud a minute ago!

God chose us before Genesis 1He predestined us for adoption to sonship. What did we have to do to earn that choice? What did we have to accomplish for God to adopt us? Thousands of earth-years before we were born – we were already chosen, already ear-marked for adoption!

When does an orphan become not-an-orphan? When that orphan is adopted, chosen, received into the family inheritance!

Max Lucado says, “All of grace, I believe, is God’s definitive reply: ‘Be blessed, my child. I accept you. I have adopted you into my family’.” Adopted children are chosen children.

That is not the case with biological children. When the doctor handed Mark Wheeler to Russell Wheeler, my dad had no exit option. No loophole. No choice. He couldn’t give me back to the doctor and ask for a better-looking or smarter son. The hospital made him take me home. (That’s my spin on Lucado’s illustration. – but even with biological children, parents choose to either love their children or leave their children in someone else’s hands – sometimes the way one loves best is to leave them to be cared for by another.)

But if you were adopted, your parents chose you. Surprise pregnancies happen. But surprise adoptions? Never heard of one. [Your parents] selected you. They wanted you in their family.

You object: ‘Oh, but if they could have seen the rest of my life, they might have changed their minds.’ Max Lucado says, “My point exactly.

God saw our entire lives from beginning to end, birth to hearse, and in spite of what He saw, He was still convincedto adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure.” (Eph 1:5 NLT)

Verse 11 says it again, “In [Christ] we were CHOSENSecurenever to be lost again. God chose us. God chooses you! All we need to do is accept that offer of adoption. Do you want to know God’s adoptive grace in your life? It is right there waiting for you!

Remember that 8-year-old orphan who lost his father’s letter? Things got worse before they got better. He and his two brothers were taken to several towns. On the 6th day someone in a small TX town adopted one brother. Then a family selected Lee and his other brother. But soon Lee was sent to another home, the home of a farming family, but he had never been on a farm. The city boy didn’t know not to open the doors of the chick’s cages. When Lee did, the angry farmer sent him away.

In a succession of sad events, Lee had lost his father, had ridden a train from NY to TX, had been separated from his two brothers, and had been kicked out of two homes. His little heart was about to break. Finally he was taken to the home of a tall man and a short, plump woman. During the 1st supper Lee said nothing. He went to bed making plans to run away. The next morning they seated him at a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. When he reached for one, well, Lucado says, I’ll let him tell you what happened.

 

Mrs. Nailling stopped me. ‘Not until we’ve said grace,’ she explained. I watched as they bowed their heads. Mrs. Nailling began speaking softly to ‘our Father,’ thanking Him for the food and the beautiful day. I knew enough about God to know that the woman’s ‘our Father’ was the same one who was in the ‘our Father who art in heaven’ prayer that visiting preachers had recited over us at the orphanage. But I couldn’t understand why she was talking to Him as though He were sitting here with us waiting for His share of the biscuits. I began to squirm in my chair.

Then Mrs. Nailing thanked God ‘for the privilege of raising a son.’ I stared as she began to smile. She was calling me a privilege. And Mr. Nailling must have agreed with her, because he was beginning to smile too. For the 1st time since I’d boarded the train I began to relax. A strange warm feeling began to fill my aloneness and I looked at the empty chair next to me. Maybe, in some mysterious way, ‘our Father’ was seated there, and was listening to the next softly spoken words. ‘Help us make the right choices as we guide him, and help him make the right choices too.’ …

After breakfast, as they walked me to the barbershop for a haircut, we stopped at each of the 6 houses on the way. Each time, the Naillings introduced me as ‘our new son.’ …

 

Our identity is not in our possessions, our talents, our tattoos, our kudos, or our accomplishments. Nor are we defined by our divorce, our deficiencies, our debt, or our dumb choices.

You are God’s child. You get to call Himour Father”.

Lucado writes, “Rather than conjure up reasons to feel good about yourself, trust God’s verdict. If God loves you, you must be worth loving. If He wants to have you in His Kingdom, then you must be worth having. God’s grace invites you–no, requires you–to change your attitude about yourself and take sides with God….”

How many of you have seen the 2013 instant Disney classic movie, “Frozen” (inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, the film tells the story of a fearless Princess Anna who sets off on an epic journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal pet reindeer, and a naïve snowman to find her estranged sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped the kingdom in eternal winter)?

The theme song, “Let It Go” closes with these words:

one thought crystallizes like an icy blast        I’m never going back,          The past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go                   And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go                   That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand       In the light of day       Let the storm rage on, The cold never bothered me anyway!

 

Like Elsa, we can sing those words – the past is in the pastlet it go, let it go – and I’ll rise like the break of dawnlet it go, let it go – that perfect girl is gone!

We do not need to be that perfect girl – or boy. God has Chozen you. His Grace is sufficient! Yes, our response ought to be to accept His love and live according to His standards – but His love cannot be earned by our good behavior.

We have been Chosen! He adopts us into His inheritance. We are His, and nothing can/will ever change that.

To live as God’s chosen child is to know, at this very instant, that we are loved by our Maker not because we try to please Him and succeed, or fail to please Him and apologize, but simply because He wants to be our Father.

The adoption is irreversible. You have a place at His Table of perfect Grace.

 

“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Resources:

Disney Movies; Frozen; 2013.

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 117-125.

07/19/2015 – Isaiah 30:18-29 – “Brace for Grace”

Mark Wheeler

Isaiah 30:19-29

“Brace for Grace”

July 19, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Stunned with anxiety. Overwhelmed with wonder and worry. Paralyzed with panic. Maybe it was a paper or a presentation (or a sermon) that was due the next day; maybe it was waiting for test results; or for a treatment plan after the results came back; maybe it was in regards to joblessness, or some financial investment.

I remember when I was 19-years old my Dad told me something about being a drama-queen over what I thought was a big decision – and then he came back and apologized because (his actual words were that “the world was not going to come to an end”), in reality, the world I knew was coming to an end. Everything was about to change. What is world-ending for one person might be very different from what is world-ending for another. But his first comment left me feeling alone, abandoned in my time of need.

Has anyone here ever felt that sense of fear, followed by that feeling of “there’s-no-one-to-help”?

When we first moved to Spokane we looked and looked for the right home, in the right kind of neighborhood, at the right price, etc.; and it seemed to take forever. We actually made several trips to Spokane, from Tacoma, for the sole purpose of house-shopping – and Loreen kindly let this family of five (including two who were still in diapers) stay in her basement while we went house-hunting. When we finally moved to Spokane, with no home to move into yet (and a home in Tacoma not yet sold!), we rented a house near where the Winningham’s live now. We took a cut in pay, to move and pay rent on top of still paying a ballooning mortgage. Stunned, overwhelmed, and just a little bit panicky.

I read a true-story this week about a medical missionary who was accidentally wounded and exposed to the AIDS virus so his team treated him with some meds, but they needed to fly him home to the States as quickly as possible. His grown daughter was with him. His temperature rose to over 104`, and his heart started beating irregularly, and his breathing became erratic. She prayed that there might be another doctor on the plane that could help her take care of him – she was stunned, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.

We have been investing this Summer in an extended sermon series on God’s amazing Grace – how it is so far more than we deserve, and so far greater what we imagine. Listen with me to God’s Word, from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, chapter 30. This chapter is in a section where God speaks thru the prophet against His own people who have ignored His Word and gone their own way. But even with their obstinacy, and now their desperation, their stunned, overwhelming paralysis, listen to God’s Word with them. Isaiah 30:18-29 …. —-

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;     therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.     Blessed are all who wait for him!

19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” 22 Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”

23 He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. 25 In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. 26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

27 See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar,     with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath,     and his tongue is a consuming fire.
28 His breath is like a rushing torrent,     rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;     he places in the jaws of the peoples     a bit that leads them astray.
29 And you will sing     as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice
as when people playing pipes go up   to the mountain of the Lord,     to the Rock of Israel.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.

How many of you have ever been to the beach, maybe along the coast of the Pacific Ocean? Who can remember the first time you stepped into the cold salty water, with the cold waves splashing against your ankles? And then you remember wading deeper into the water, where the waves are a bit bigger and you’re wondering, “should I jump over it, or dive under it?” And, that one-second delay, in your deer-in-the-headlights moment, the wave hits and you have no ability to stand against its force. Your feet are swept out from underneath you, and your head is knocked into the hard surface; and before you can get your bearings – the next wave comes – and then the next.

Anyone remember that day?

Now replace the cold, salt-water, waves of death with an even more overwhelming force of God’s comforting and totally surprising Grace – and that’s what Isaiah is describing.

This is a word addressed to the people of Jerusalem, about 700 years before Christ, at a time when they were so caught up in living their lives apart from God – that they could do nothing more than scream and cry. Do we not live in just such a time?

And because the God who is addressing them is the same God who addresses us, we can hear His promise to them as a promise to us as well.

The Lord longs to be gracious to us – what might be the obstacle to His Grace reaching us?

Blessed are all who wait for Him – maybe our lack of patient trust in Him is the main obstacle? Can we trust Him enough to wait for His timing and circumstances? Can we trust God enough to endure the hardships while we wait?

How gracious He will be when we cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer us what help are we crying for? Is it some chronic, even terminal, medical diagnosis? Does it deal with addictions? Is there a broken relationship that haunts us? Are we afraid of our financial future? Do we face some legal warrants we don’t deserve? How gracious He will be when we cry for help!

Our ears will hear a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” what is God telling us today? What is He telling you right now?

Remember that medical missionary I mentioned? His daughter rushed him to an airplane headed back to the States, with a fever of 104`, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, and she prayed that there might be another physician on board. When she finally turned to the passengers and asked, do you know what she found? This plane was filled with, more than 100, physicians returning to the States from their own overseas missionary ministries! Wave after wave of Grace.

They all prayed together, and they all knew what to do if more complications arose – and over time this very sick man recovered with no signs of the AIDS virus.

Remember the trouble Jennifer and I had in finding the house we believed the Lord might be leading us to? Our realtor finally took us to a house that was not yet on the market – it was a house he had once lived in 20 years earlier; it was a house our realtor had bought from Loreen’s son who was the first owner and resident of this house (Loreen, the PNC member’s basement we lived in all those weekends ago) and while we had a lease on the house we were renting, and still owned the house we had in Tacoma – in less than a week our Tacoma house sold (for exactly the same price this house cost us) and our lease was bought out at a reduced price; and, we learned a few months later, our new house had neighbors on either side of us, who were directly related to the pastor who baptized me as an infant in Arvada, CO, 34 years earlier!

Our ears had heard a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Wave after wave of Grace.

Isaiah 30 adds with these words: His breath is like a rushing torrent,     rising up to the neck….
And you will sing     as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice    as when people playing pipes go up   to the mountain of the Lord,     to the Rock of Israel.

Like wave after wave, God’s Grace pummels us with love. John’s Gospel says that (John 1) 14 the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John [the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace [grace in place of grace, grace after grace, wave after wave of grace]. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

 

St. Paul confides in us his own anxiety and frustration (II Corinthians 12) when he says, “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

Look back at your own anxieties, wonderings, worries and panics. Can you see any forms of God’s Grace sustaining you through your turmoil? We fear His Grace will run out, be insufficient; but God’s supply of Grace is never exhausted! His bank of Grace always has sufficient funds. God’s offer of Grace never runs dry.

 

Wave after wave of Grace. Are you in need of a little extra Grace this morning? If you believe God loves you, get ready for a torrent of Grace. Brace yourself, for God’s Grace upon Grace to conquer your fear and overwhelm your wonder and pummel your panic.

Why would any of us allow anyone in our circles of influence to fall short of the grace of God? Hebrews 12:15 reminds us to “Let NO ONE fall short of the grace of God.” Let’s pass God’s invitation on to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates; let’s invite them to experience the inundating GRACE of God – today! Amen. 

“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Resources:

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 93-101.

07/12/2015 – I John 1:8-9 – “A New GPS: Grace Placement System”

Mark Wheeler

I John 1:5-10

“A New GPS: Grace Placement System”

July 12, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

This coming Friday evening is our church’s “faith night” at Avista Stadium – a group of us from LPC will cheer on the Spokane Indians as they battle it out with the Tri-City Dustdevils. One of the joys of Minor League Baseball is the games the audience gets to play – like “catch the T-shirt” where they shoot rolled-up T-shirts out of a cannon and the audience tries to be one of the few lucky winners. But catching a T-shirt, or for that matter a foul ball, consists of four things all converging: 1) you have to be at the game; 2) you need to be paying attention; 3) there has to be a T-shirt being shot out of a cannon (or a foul ball hit off a bat); and 4) you need to be in exactly the right place for the shirt/ball to land in your lap.

We are in a series which explores the depth and the height of God’s Grace – how it is more than we deserve and how it is greater than we can imagine. Today we’re going to talk about how those same four factors fit into our study on Grace.

1)   Are we “at the game”?

2)   Are we paying attention? What do we expect?

3)   Is Grace being shot out of a cannon?

4)   Are we in the right place to receive it?

This morning we are reading from the First New Testament Letter from the Apostle John, and then we will also look at the Old Testament book of Psalms #32.

The first 3 of the factors we just mentioned are going to be assumed – and yes, I know that’s always a mistake – but because we are here this morning, and notat the lake” or still in bed or off to the casino, let’s just pretend we are all “at the game”. (The whole spectator image is a troubling image to begin with, right? We should all be “in the game”, not just “at” it. But let’s go with this failed metaphor for now. We’re at the game – we recognize that the Christian faith, as described in the Bible and taught by Jesus, is the only right faith system to live under. We areat the game”!

Let’s also assume we are paying attention! That’s a huger assumption, but for the sake of today’s topic I am pretending that I am paying attention to the things of God as well as you are; and that together we are paying close enough attention to actually see where God is leading us.

And the 3rd factor-assumption is the truth that Grace is being shot out of the cannon! God shot that Grace at us on the day that Jesus was crucified on our behalf. Grace was shot out on that day when I heard the Gospel clearly for the first time. Grace was shot out when I was fired, or cheated on, or failed that test, or missed that bus – and God’s perfect revealed will brought me to my knees. Friends, Grace is shot out today, right now. Are you at the game and paying attention?

From I John 1:5-10 we read these words of truth …. —-

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness [if we claim to be “at the game” and paying attention, but are, in fact, either not really walking in faith at all, or maybe we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, but today we have decided that it’s just not worth the struggle – if that’s the case], we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. [Ahh, there’s the Grace shot out of the cannon!]

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.

The 4th factor is where we are concentrating today! Are we in the right place to receive the Grace that has been shot out? What does that reading from I John 1 tell us is the key to this 4th factor? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Confession puts us in the right place to receive God’s Grace! Confession is the Grace Placement System! What does that mean? And how does that work?

The definition of the word “confession” includes the act or process of confessing, as in telling one’s life story as a series of failings or tribulations. We think of it as admitting when we’ve done wrong.

The root-word of “confession is the Latin word “fateri”, “to admit“, akin to “fari”, “speak“. And you add to that root the prefix “con which means “together” (congregate = gather together, commune = unite together). Therefore, confess = admit, tell, together.

When we confess our sins, we take off our masks, we reveal our-selves, we open our vulnerabilities, to God (and maybe to one another). And that act puts us in the right place to receive God’s perfect grace (and the grace that might be offered from the victim of our offense).

How many of you had a mom who told you something like: “Confession is good for the soul”? How is “confession good for the soul”? It puts us in the right seat to catch that T-shirt of God’s Grace! That’s the secret difference between going to the Indians baseball game and catching a foul ball or a T-shirt. Being in the right seat is just a matter of luck! Not true for catching God’s Grace. It’s not a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

But do not hear me say that there’s a way to earn God’s Grace. Confession does not make us worthy of God’s Grace. There is nothing we can do to make us more or less worthyGod’s perfect Grace is un-earnable. What confession does do is put us in the right placeconfession readies our soul to receive, confession softens our heart to consent, confession opens our spirit to accept the Grace God offers through His Son Jesus Christ, as Savior and as Lord!

Probably the most famous Bible confession is the Old Testament King David. You know the story: King David looked out over his kingdom and peeping-tommed a neighbor-lady named Bathsheba, whose husband was away serving in the military. So he invited her up for dinner, and before the night was over she was expecting a baby. The story gets much worse than that, but that’s the beginning.Later, David’s friend and adviser helps him see the error of his way – and he confesses, both to his friend and to the Lord.

Psalm 51 contains some of the words of that confession; and Psalm 32 tells the story of that confession. Psalm 32, verse 5, is in your Sermon Notes page, but listen to verses 1-4 as well …. —-

Blessed is the one    whose transgressions are forgiven,     whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one    whose sin the Lord does not count against them    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,    my bones wasted away    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night    your hand was heavy on me;   my strength was sapped    as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess    my transgressions to the Lord
.”   And you forgave     the guilt of my sin.

Did you catch the principles of confession in this psalm?

The beginning of verse 5 says:Then I acknowledged my sin to you    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess    my transgressions to the Lord.”

ADMITTING that we have sinned. Admit it! Acknowledge the fact that what I did was a sin! It offended God’s sense of justice and love. It was against His Laws. I disobeyed my Lord! Admission of guilt! I am a sinner!

The end of verse 5 says:And you forgave     the guilt of my sin.BELIEVING that God actually forgives sinners.

He forgives my sins. God forgives your sins. Christ paid the debt our sin deserves when He died on the cross – and was raised to eternal life. The letter of I John, our Thursday class has been discovering, repeats 3 tests of Genuine Faith – the moral test (do you obey the Lord’s commands?), the love test (do you love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind? and do you love your neighbor as yourself?), and the belief test (do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He forgives your sins through His death and resurrection?).

I John 1:8-9, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Confession becomes a new Grace Placement System – confessing our sin puts us in the right place to RECEIVE God’s grace.

 

The very bottom of your Sermon Notes page has a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his WWII era book called Life Together, written for the underground Church in Germany during Hitler’s tyrannous regime. Listen to his words: “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.

We Protestants get a little uncomfortable when we talk about “going to a confessional”. The Roman Catholics teach a doctrine about how forgiveness can only be achieved by confessing to the Father through a priest; and we Protestants believe that the Bible calls us directly to God, without the need of a human arbiter. But, there is something powerful about allowing our inmost fears and vulnerabilities be seen by a brother or sister in Christ. I have avoided this for most of my faith, except in general terms as we pray together in church. But for the last 15 years I have been meeting almost weekly with another pastor, a friend, a colleague, a brother, with whom we share our struggles and our fears and our sins, for the purpose of hearing a brother pray with and for us! I confess that I experience the presence of God in the reality of my friend Chris.

In just a moment we will go to the Lord in prayer, but let’s go there to sit in the right seat. Let’s be in the right place to receive God’s Grace.

Let us live into the challenge of Hebrews 12:15: “Let NO ONE fall short of the grace of God.” Let’s pass God’s invitation on to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates; let’s invite them to come into contact with the GRACE of God – maybe by confessing our sins with each other! Amen. 

“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Resources:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich; Life Together; Harper & Row; San Francisco, CA; 1954; P. 116.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php.

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 79-89.