11/29/2015 – Advent 1 – Luke 1 – “Look for What God Is Doing”

This link takes you to an audio version of this message:   https://pogoplug.com/s/xWz3AUWZiOg/

 

Mark Wheeler

Luke 1

“Advent 1: God’s Grace Revealed: Look for What God Is Doing”

November 29, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord, help me to be what You want me to be, so You can use me to accomplish Your purposes. Amen. 

Every year the neighbors surrounding our house have a friendly competition – which house will be the first to get their Christmas decorations up?

It’s really not a competition, because the neighbor to our immediate south is always the first! This year he’s already had some of the lights up for two weeks before Thanksgiving!

So, in the spirit of the “fun competition” Jim and David and Tim and Darren and I will harass Chris for weeks for making the rest of us look bad to our wives.

 

Jim and David and I are all active in our churches, but Chris and Darren and Tim are not. Chris has a strong Roman Catholic background, but not a weekly devotion. And as far as I know, neither Tim nor Darren ever participate in a faith community! We all are pretty friendly and helpful, I would even say loving, toward one another, but with very different life philosophies.

 

But Christmas decorations is the beginning of the secular worldview concerning Christmas. Right? This is a non-religious, end-of-the-year, holiday season which makes or breaks the economy. It’s not the celebration of the birth of the Savior, the incarnation of the Son of God. It’s barely even Christmas – it’s Happy Holidays!

And this is not even all that new. I once read where CS Lewis, in England, in the 1950s, was riding on a bus past a Nativity Scene when another passenger said, “Look at that! Now they’re even trying to make Christmas a religious holiday!

As we officially enter into the season which prepares us for Christmas, may we take the time to see God working in the hailstorm of holiday hoopla.

In the biblical worldview, God is always at work in the world to complete His redemptive work in Jesus the Savior. God works in and through His people to prepare the hearts of others to believe in Jesus.

 

In The Gospel according to Luke we discover this story of preparing for the birthday of our Savior. Luke starts off his version of the Good News of Jesus by mentioning his thorough investigation of the events Matthew and Mark tell. And then Luke gives us some historical markers so we can know exactly when these things happened. Imagine if you were alive 30 years after the very first Christmas, you could argue about who was governor, who was king, what they did and said. Luke tells us these things so we can trust his account. It was not rejected by those 1st century contemporaries. And Luke is the only Gospel writer to tell us about the birth of John the Baptist!

Your bulletin says we are reading Luke 1fear not! We are not reading all 80 verses of Luke 1. But we will read through this fascinating chapter and come away with four important encouragements for celebrating this season with integrity and hope and joy.

 

The first word of encouragement here is Luke cheering us on to Keep GROWING in faith. Listen to how Luke describes Zechariah: In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. (Luke 1:5-6)

This paragraph tells us when these events took place (“in the reign of Herod”, so, from 40BC to 4BC), and where these events happened (“Judea”, included from Galilee in the north to Beersheba in the south). And then he introduces Zechariah. Who was this man?

  • He was a priest – there were about 20,000 priests back then, divided into 24 different groups.
  • Luke tells us Zechariah was of the 8th of those 24 groups, “the division of Abijah”. Not a high-end, prestigious priest, more of a country-parson priest.
  • But Luke also tells us that Zeke’s wife is also from a priestly family.
  • But their family lineage is not the most important thing about this couple: they were “righteous in the sight of God …
  • they “observed all the Lord’s Commands and decrees …
  • and they did so “blamelessly.”
  • These people, whom we next learn were the parents of John the Baptist (not the parents of Jesus, but the parents of Jesusfore-runner) kept growing in the relationship with God. They never said, “we’ve done our work, now it’s someone else’s turn.” They never hinted that they had reached their pinnacle of faith development, so they could stop. They never stopped reciting that “the Lord our God, the Lord is one Love the Lord your God with – everything you’ve got!
  • They encourage us to Keep GROWING in our faith, as well.

 

The second word of encouragement here is Luke cheering us on to PRAY persistently. Listen to what happens to Zechariah: 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. (Luke 1:11-15)

Zechariah and Elizabeth were past retirement age, and childless, but they never stopped praying that God might bring them a baby.

  • Your prayer has been heard.”
  • Your wife will bear you a son.”
  • These people never stopped praying
  • They encourage us to PRAY persistently, for those things we think will fulfill our calling, as well.

 

The Third word of encouragement here is Luke cheering us on to Be READY to Believe. Even this couple who prays without ceasing, and who keeps growing in faith, can experience a set-back: 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)

Zechariah heard and saw an angel of the Lord tell him that God was answering his prayers – and Zeke has the gall to question him! Even as a priest, serving in the Temple in Jerusalem, a man known for his faith and righteousness, was not ready to actually believe God when put to task! I find comfort in this detail. It means that even I, and I’m no Zechariah, might still be used by God to fulfill God’s purposes.

  • God took away Zechariah’s ability to speak! He was a priest! His job was to speak! That’s like God taking away the singing voice of Adele!
  • And God promised to return Zeke’s voice back to him when is son would be born and Zeke announced that his name would be John.
  • We’re not told about Elizabeth’s readiness to believe (she probably was), but Zeke was not ready to believe, and that cost him his job for 9 months!
  • Luke is cheering us on to Be READY to Believe, regardless of our circumstances. Trust that with God all things are possible – and just maybe our prayers will be answered in the ways we hope.
  • What are your prayers? Do you pray them believing that God could answer them? He can. Believe on!

 

The fourth word of encouragement here is Luke cheering us on to Look for what God is DOING. As we come near the end of this chapter, we listen in on Zechariah singing praises because God answers prayer: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David….

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,                                    

to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-69, 76-79)

Luke tells us in verse 67 that good ol’ Zeke is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophecies. When Mary learns of her Virgin Pregnancy in the middle of this chapter and comes to visit with Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. And their son, as he goes about preaching and preparing the way for Jesus, Luke tells us, John the Baptist is also filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke uses these stories to report that this family was dedicated to Looking for what God was DOING in their lives.

  • Zeke sings this praise song to God because of what he experiences as God’s work in their lives.
  • The praise song that Zeke sings is about the coming Messiah, the baby not even due to be born for another three months! But whom Zeke knows his own son will prepare the way for. God is already at work!
  • And then the last few verses of this song are about John the Baptist’s experience of God already at work.
    • prophet of the Most High” – who is the “Most High”? God Almighty!
    • Announcing the “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” – this is what God is doing!
    • because the tender mercy of our God … shines on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” What is God doing? He is providing the One whom the Apostle John calls, “the Way the truth and the life”.
  • Luke is cheering us on to Look for what God is already DOING so that we might simply join Him and experience His presence and power all the time!

 

Why does Luke begin his Gospel of Jesus with a story about the birth of Jesus2nd cousin? I think it’s because Luke is introducing us to Jesus, and showing us how this 2nd cousin also introduced people to Jesus, thus inviting us to the opportunity of also introducing people to Jesus. At the end of his Gospel Luke gives his version of Matthew’s Great Commission, which is simply, “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised…

 

Do you remember who it was who first introduced you to Jesus? My parents were good and faithful church-going Christians, and they were the first to help me realize the truth of God and His Son Jesus (they prepared the way, and then Bud Cook, and then George Demspter, and then John Winterling, and a whole host of people, introduced me to Jesus at new and deeper levels.

I invite you to take some time today, on this 1st Sunday of Advent, to remember who introduced you to Jesus, who invited you to believe the Good News, who helped you GROW in faith and PRAY without ceasing, and to be READY to believe – and thank God for them!

And then seek God’s activity in your life today, so you might introduce someone new to our Savior! Whom will you tell this week?

 

Maybe even our Christmas decorations can be invitations to talk about faith.

 

Let’s pray together the prayer on the bottom of your Sermon Notes page – and watch for God to guide you into paths of peace this week:

Gracious Father, thank You for sending those who helped me to believe. Use me to help others to believe. Amen.

 

Resources:

Family Bible Study; “Advanced Bible Study Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 9-16.

Family Bible Study; “The Herschel Hobbs Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 7-16.

10/11/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:16 – “Give Honor”

click on this link for an audio version of this message: http://ppl.ug/YiPcVt-Byuo/ .

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #5 Giving Honor”

October 11, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

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

A Sunday School teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six-year olds.

After explaining the commandment to ‘honor thy father and thy mother’ she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Without missing a beat, one boy (the oldest of a family of seven) answered, “Thou shalt not kill.”

 

We have spent the last four Sundays looking at the first four of the Big Ten Commandments. 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 Ten Commandments are meant to do three vital things for those who recognize the gift God gives us of His presence, I am who I am, Emmanuel, I am with you to the end of the age:

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

When Jesus was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy 6 (our Call to Worship this morning). Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other godsno desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fearshave no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!These first four Commandments are all about that most important one!

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

That, Church, is His summation (and Leviticus’ summation) of the remaining six Commandments. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves?

Commandment number Five says, in Exodus 20, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

Deuteronomy 5’s version is slightly longer: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you.

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

Two quick and easy things to notice about this Commandment: first, it’s not about God (it’s about human relationships); second, it comes with a promise (that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you).

Why do you think this Commandment comes with a promise/positive consequence?

I think it’s related to how peace in our lives, harmony in our homes, respect in our relationships, results in an ability to establish deeper roots and more hopeful outcomesloving longevity.

What does the word “Honor” mean in this context?

Respect” is the usual synonym we choose, and it’s a good one. To hold in high esteem, to love and cherish. The Commandment says that this is what we are to pay our parents! Why does it specify our parents?

I think it’s because our Father and Mother are our first relationships. If we can start well with our first relations, perhaps we can translate that over to our siblings and our neighbors and our government officials and our pastors and our children and our peers.

We were probably all taught that honor and respect must be earned. I want to say how much I agree with that. If I want to be treated with decency and a degree of deference, then I must live with integrity striving to prove that my existence deserves some level of love. That is true as a husband, as a father, as a friend, as a pastor.

But this Commandment says nothing about the parents who are to receive this respect. It says simply that we are to give them honor! How can “honor” be a gift?

Here’s the real beauty of this Commandment. While I should not expect honor unless I earn it; but because God has already honored me with the gift of His nameHe gave me, and you, He gave us His name, to be used in powerful ways: to call on Him in prayer, to cry for Him when we are in need, to acknowledge His presence always, and to receive His Son and His Holy Spirit as daily Savior and constant Lord, to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, while we were still sinners, completely undeserving – (because God has already honored us with the gift of his presence) therefore I am meant to offer this same honor to those around me who obviously don’t deserve it either!

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! “But I can’t do that! My mom, husband, neighbor, boss, pastor – drives me crazy! How can I honor him?!

Only by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We might argue and debate over whether or not these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church.

If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever. Amen. Psalm 119:165 tells us: “Great peace have they who love Your Law: nothing shall offend them.” Amen.

Resources:

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

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

Mark Wheeler

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

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Other”

September 13, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

 

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

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

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

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

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

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

Exodus 20: And God spoke all these words:

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

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

Deuteronomy 5: Moses summoned all Israel and said:

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

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

“You shall have no other gods before me.

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

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

Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy.

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

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

 

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

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

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

Resources:

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

05/24/2015 – Matthew 16:23-25; Romans 12:1-2 – Following Jesus Today: “The Transforming Power of Love”

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 16:23-25; Romans 12:1-2

“Following Jesus Today: The Transforming Power of Love”

May 24, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

You are our refuge and our strength, O Lord. We pour our lives into Your hands that we may discover all the benefits of Your grace and all the power of Your presence. Amen.

Let’s see a show of hands of anybody here who remembers having prayers said in school. Did any of you have class field-trips to a local church? Who remembers when students could lead prayer at a baccalaureate ceremony?

All of that has changed, hasn’t it?

Six weeks ago we started a sermon series right after Easter called “Following Jesus Today”. We started this series recognizing that the America some of us grew up in seems to have changed. There was a time, not too many decades ago, when “going to church” was sort of the normal, expected Sunday experience. Our culture and society sort of revolved around church schedules: no youth sports of Sundays, no after school activities on Wednesdays (that was church youth group day), Spring Break coincided with Holy Week, etc.

60 years ago when Spokane’s population was half what it is today, church attendance was three-times what it is today. But something shifted – for better or for worse, that’s not the way it is anymore. The Church has become irrelevant to the felt-needs of the people around us; and as a result our pews are emptier and our resources are fewer. Our influence has waned, our authority has dissipated, and our presence is ignored. So, during these weeks between Easter and Pentecost, we have been looking at how to Follow Jesus Today. We have examined how our words and actions impact the world around us, how we experience both the absence of God and the embrace of God in our daily walk with Him (and how to invite others to experience God’s perfect grace), what it means to love God and to love our neighbors, how to know Truth from falsehood, and the importance of displaying our faith in forms our neighbors can recognize as ways we actually are following Jesus. 

Today we look at two different Scripture passages that appear to be completely unrelated; but I invite you to listen to the Word of God and discover the direct connection. Let’s hear God’s Word from Matthew 16:23-25…. and then from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 12:1-2 ….—-

Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (This happened immediately after Peter had made his out-loud faith declaration that Jesus is the one and only Messiah, the Son of the living God – and then Jesus told His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem where He would suffer and be killed, and Peter rebuked Jesus and said that that could never happen!)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

And from Romans 12: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. So, realizing that we live in one of the least-churched states of our nation, where fewer than 15% (the last poll I read [from 2002] said 17%, but church stats across our city indicate that it is lower today) fewer than 15% of Spokane is in a Christian worship service on any given weekend, what are we supposed to do?One model, and this has been in place for most of the 20th Century and continues into this 21st Century, is to try our very best to make our church more attractive than the church down the street and even more attractive than some of the other options our culture and society offers. So we build church buildings and develop programs that compete with society around us.

An “Attractional” Church tries to ATTRACT people to its building and programs, and to Christ. This model has worked for many churches – the churches with the resources to do it well – Life Center, Real Life, ONE, and in its day Calvary Chapel – have reached people for Jesus and grown! But even these churches confess to only reaching certain segments of society, and while they go out a mile wide, they often only go an inch deep.

There is nothing wrong with being attractional; being attractive is almost everyone’s goal. Admittedly, there are days when I look in the mirror and say, “Sorry world, this is as good as this is gonna get today”; but most days I at least brush my teeth and comb my hair. My resources can only make me SO attractive, but I usually try to be less unattractive than when my feet first hit the floor in the morning.

But I often wonder if this is just the worldly way of reaching people for Christ. Let’s look better, and see if we can win them to our side.God’s ways are different than our ways. Is this “suffering” that we encounter – this lower attendance in worship – because we have been lax in our efforts? Or is this part of God’s work to strengthen our faith and our fellowship? Or is there some third way to see this? 

Since the mid-1980s, this “attractional” mode of church growth has started to fail. It still works at one level – something like 75% of all American Church-goers attend Mega-churches, but something like 80% of those people have little more to their Christian faith than attending church services. The divorce rate, cheat-on-your-taxes rate, and relative-morality rate is the same as those who do not go to church at all.

And churches like ours try to be attractive – but we just do not have the resources to compete with the world around us – we can’t do better childcare, we can’t bring in big-name speakers or performers, we can’t even afford building upgrades so that we look like we’re leading the 21st Century.

Fortunately, God wants our best, and He gives us everything we need to offer it. One of the main American Church dilemmas is that we have tried to attract new people without making lasting connections with the people around us. In the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s – all you had to do was build a church and people would flock to it. That is no longer true!

“Attraction” without “connection” will not bear the fruit we hope to grow.

In this 21st Century, because we are no longer the center of all civic activities, we need to put more emphasis in being a “Connectional” Church – one that tries to CONNECT to the people in our neighborhoods, and CONNECT them to Christ.

Why is it so difficult for followers of Jesus, you and I, to focus on the things of God as compared to earthly things? It is part of our fallen nature. Adultery, murder, theft, lying, envy are all in the Big Ten Commandments because, by nature, we want what makes us look better to others and feel more worthy to ourselves – sparkly, jingly, shiny, loud stuff draws attention to us. The world seems to have drawn us into its deceptive stories of false values.

I want the bigger, badder, louder, motorbike. I also want the bigger truck, without dents and rust and leaks, and that I know will start every time I turn the ignition. But, is that the right thing to want?

Paul says to not be conformed to the world, butbe TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind”.

Today is Pentecost Sunday – this is the day we celebrate God’s Holy Spirit filling each of Jesus’ followers – the first time was 50 days after the Passover celebration in the year that Jesus was crucified, killed and buried – but that Pentecost was not a one-time event. Pentecost (the name merely refers to those 50 days, on the Jewish calendar it was 50 days after Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea that God gave him the 10 Commandments), reminds us that the Holy Spirit of God fills each and every one of God’s children when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, when we are baptized – but it also reminds us that God always desires a deeper connection with His people. He wants to live in us, and empower us with His Gospel Truth.

To be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds means to repent from whatever drags us away from our connection to God and to allow the Holy Spirit to take command.

What that looks like in your personal life will probably be different from what it looks like in my personal life – my sins may not be your sins.But before we’re done today, we will ask for a refilling of Holy SpiritI wonder what being “TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our collective minds” might look like in the life of LPC. Would we figure out new experiments to CONNECT with our neighbors? Would we be more deeply CONNECTED to each other? What would the world around us see and how would that ATTRACT them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

In just a few minutes we are going to pray and then receive the offering for God’s Kingdom connections. Let me invite you to rip off a piece of your bulletin – I expect to hear a holy tear – and write down one concrete way LPC might demonstrate the Kingdom of God in northeast Spokane this year – you can then put your ripped-off ideas in the offering plates along with your tithes to God’s purposes.

Let’s pray:“O 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:

Detterman, Paul; Following Jesus Today: Challenges and Opportunities (Participant’s Book); Presbyterian Mission Agency; Louisville, KY; 2014; Pp. 36-43.

05/17/2015 – I Peter 3:15 – “Following Jesus Today: Show and Tell”

Mark Wheeler

I Peter 3:15

“Following Jesus Today: Show and Tell”

May 17, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

You are our refuge and our strength, O Lord. We pour our lives into Your hands that we may discover all the benefits of Your grace and all the power of Your presence. Amen.

Does everybody here remember grade school “Show and Tell” time? When I was in kindergarten this happened every Wednesday. Every kid in the class had the chance of bringing something from home that we could show our classmates and tell about. One time I “borrowed” my brother’s favorite rock, and hid it in the coatroom so I could surprise my class with how cool I was. When “Show and Tell” time came all the kids who brought something went to get their items – but “my” rock wasn’t there. I was devastated – and scared, because my brother didn’t know I had “borrowed” it…. (I later learned that the custodian thought it was “just a rock” [which, in reality, it was], and threw it out into the yard somewhere. Oh, and my brother, never missed it; it wasn’t really his favorite, or anything special at all.)

Our three graduates just finished (or are about to finish) their grown-up versions of “Show and Tell”. Final Projects, theses, term papers, Final Exams, etc – those are just “college-ageShow and Tell’” items.

During these weeks between Easter and Pentecost (that’s next week), we are learning how to Follow Jesus Today. We have examined how our words and actions impact the world around us, how we experience both the absence of God and the embrace of God in our daily walk with Him (and how to invite others to experience God’s perfect grace), what it means to love God and to love our neighbors, and how to know Truth from falsehood.

Today we go to the general epistle of the APOSTLE Peter, in fact this Apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ three key LEADERS (James, John and Peter got to spend a lot of “alone time” with Jesus), and listen for what he says about Following Jesus Today. Obviously, he wrote this letter almost 2,000 years ago – but his original recipients were groups of people who lived under constant THREAT because of their faith in JESUS; the minor threats we might live under here in America make this letter very apropos for us 21st century followers of Jesus, too, especially when we see followers of Jesus in Africa and the Middle East being killed nearly every week. Listen to the Word of God, from I Peter 3:15…. —-

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. Did you hear Peter? He just gave us “Show and Tellinstructions! He said, “Your chance to share this most valuable item with the rest of us is coming – here’s how you show us and tell us about that valued thing.” The first thing Peter tells us is what this “favorite rock” we are bringing for Show and Tell is. He writes, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.That is what this “favorite rock” is really all about. Remember when Jesus took His disciples away to a private place so He could talk with them about who He really was? He asked them to tell Him who people, both His critics and His cronies, His foes and His friends, those who wanted to behead Him and those who wanted to BFF Him, who do these people think He is? And these Apostles started spouting off all the stuff they had heard from all the gossip columns and talk shows. Then Jesus turned straight to them and asked, “OK, so who do you think I am?” And Peter, this same Peter said, “You are the Christ, the promised Messiah. You’re the Son of the living God!Jesus told Peter, “That’s my favorite rock! I’m going to build my Church on that rock! And this Church will knock down every stronghold of Satan that exists!

Now, in this letter, Peter says, “Revere this Christ as Lord! This is that rock we’re bringing to Show and Tell!”  There are four key words in this verse – four words of instruction for every follower of Jesus – four words about how and when it is our turn for Show and Tell.

1)   ALWAYS be prepared…. When is my turn? ALWAYS! When should I be ready to Show someone the reason for my hope? ALWAYS! But really, do I have a specific time and place? Yes,,, ALWAYS! This means that it is never just a projectevangelism isn’t something I go out and do; ALWAYS be prepared is just the way we live – at work, at play, at the desk, in the field, on the lot, in the gym, behind the wheel, in front of the TV. ALWAYS be prepared!

So does that mean I never get to have fun? Of course that’s not what it means – what it does mean, however, is that our fun always glorifies God! Question and Answer #1 of the Westminster Catechism: What is the chief end of man (what are we here for)? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!This week I heard a message on KMBI radio about how obedience to God means complete obedience to God. We can’t obey Him part way and wonder why things worked out the way they did. The illustration used was the Joshua and the battle of Jericho story. The plan to defeat Jericho by marching around it several times seemed silly, but that’s what God said to do. After marching around once on the first day, nothing happenedno cracks in the wall, no evidence of victory or surrender at all. The same on day 2, and day 3, and so on. I imagine Joshua thinking, “C’mon God? Isn’t this what you said to do?” Not until 7 days of marching, and finally blowing those horns and shouting, did they see anything. And then – the whole city came a tumblin’ down, down, down, down.

ALWAYS be prepared … means to always obey and be ready. ALWAYS.

2)   Give the reason for the HOPE you have …. This is not an order to go to seminary and earn a degree in theology and biblical apologetics. It simply says, Always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE you have…. If you cannot explain why you have any HOPE in God through Jesus, if the Holy Spirit does not inspire a word of explanation for your HOPE … maybe you need to examine if you really have any HOPE. Is Jesus in your life? Do you trust Him in this life?

3)   Do this with GENTLENESS …. Have ever heard someone share their faith in such a way that totally embarrassed the other person, and maybe even the one sharing his faith? There probably is a proper time and place for the “Turn or Burn” signs on the street corners – but those signs win few converts unless the person reading it is literally headed straight into a fire!

Gentle loving kindness wins people into the Christian faith with more real authenticity and truer longevity than Bible thumping or haranguing.

4)   Do this with RESPECT! Respecting the place the other person is coming from; respecting cultural differences; respecting possible life-difficulties; respecting different ideologies, political perspectives, backgrounds; does not mean agreeing with them – or even regarding them as equally valid or true. It does mean holding the other person in a place of honor. She’s probably really trying her best in this life! He’s probably dealing with a whole set of life circumstances we can’t understand.

But always being ready to give the reason for the hope you have, and doing that with gentleness and respect will win your respect. Listening with ears that love will win the accessibility to share why we have hope!

Today I am giving you a little homework assignment. We are just about to honor our graduates, but these grads need to know that just because you wear a cap and gown does not mean homework is done – in fact, in some ways, it is just beginning.

Your Sermon Notes page lists, at the bottom, two… Spiritual Practices for all who are serious about your faith: These are by no means meant to be exclusive. There are countless spiritual practices one might do to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ – but here are two things that apply to today’s Scripture reading:

  • Talk to a youth/young adult, asking about any time they may have experienced God outside a church setting (and listen to their answer); and ask if they could send a photo of such an experience.
  • Pray the following prayer each day for the next week: “O God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Alright. It’s time to invite our grads to come forward for a little commissioning ceremony, and to honor them for their hard work. And to pray for them as they continue to venture forthalways being prepared to share the reason for their hope, revering Christ as Lord, with gentleness and respectNikolay Bulakh – was the first person who said TODAY was the best day for this to happen – and then he called me Friday to say he had just entered into a Chess Tournament and would not be able to be here. Anyway, Nikolay’s mom, Vera, is here. Vera, please come forward.

Nikolay graduated from Gonzaga University last Sunday, with a Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering.

Andrew Wheeler – and mom and Brianna, come on up with him. Andrew graduates this afternoon, from Whitworth University, with three degrees, Bachelor of Arts, Cross-cultural Studies, International Studies, and Peace Studies.

Caitlin Wheeler – whose whole family is already up here. Caitlin will earn her Masters degree in Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University.

Vera please give our love and deepest respect to Nikolay; Andrew and Caitlin – your Church could not be more proud of your accomplishments, and we pray for how you continue to grow in your fields, and make this world a better place! These gifts are for you.

Let’s pray:Our heavenly Father, as we stand with these graduates and their families, we stand in awe of their fidelity and hard work and integrity of spirit and heart and mind. Today, we stand together, and peer into their future with them, wondering how You will use their passions and skills to help build Your Kingdom purposes. Today, dear Lord, we commission Nikolay and Andrew and Caitlin into Your service, in the fields they have studied and prepared themselves, to represent your purposes of peace and love and justice, in all the ways You have crafted their hearts and minds into Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Resources:

Detterman, Paul; Following Jesus Today: Challenges and Opportunities (Participant’s Book); Presbyterian Mission Agency; Louisville, KY; 2014; Pp. 31-36.

Micah 7 – Who Is a god Like Yahweh?

Mark Wheeler

Reformation Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Micah 7

Who Is a God Like Yahweh?

Pour out Your Spirit’s power upon Your people, O God, until we humble ourselves, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Revive Your Church and heal our land. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Have you ever gone up to Green Bluff to find the perfect pumpkin for your jack-o-lantern carving contest on the day before Halloween? Or to the costume shop on Halloween? Or even to the grocery store to buy your favorite bag of candy after 4:30 on Halloween? What do you find? Nothing! There are no round-enough pumpkins, nothing the right size, and the only bags of candy left are those peanut-flavored marshmallow things!

That is the image we find when we open the last chapter of the Old Testament prophet Micah. Only Micah isn’t looking for a gourd or a costume or some candy – he’s looking for just one righteous person left – and he can find none!

We are now in our seventh and final week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!

But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE who demands righteousness, which authorizes His JUDGMENT against us and provides a means for His GRACE.

So with that backdrop in place, on this Reformation Sunday when Protestant Churches commemorate our beginnings by reflecting on how much the Church needs to always keep looking to Jesus, let’s open this seventh chapter of Micah, & see what it says about who we are, and who is a god like Yahweh. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 7:1-20…. —-

What misery is mine! …. Many translations say, “Woe is me!” And then Micah starts listing off the ways his world – the people of Jerusalem and Judah – mistreat each other, how we take advantage of those who have less, and even how the family-system has broken down, and our best friends, even our spouses, cannot be trusted.

Micah lives in a time and place where the government did not care about God’s Word, and his neighbors just did whatever was right in their own eyes. He lived in a world where city mayors could subpoena church pastors for their sermon notes, because God forbid the preachers might actually preach what the Bible teaches (are you aware of this exact thing happening in our own country less than two weeks ago?).

Like Abraham before him (Genesis 18:23-33) and Jeremiah (5:1-5) and Ezekiel (22:30) after him, Micah is on the hunt for one righteous person! But like the poor family looking for a decent pumpkin on October 30 – there just aren’t any!

The next 6 verses are filled with all the ways people act un-justly, hate mercilessly, and walk boldly without their God anywhere in their lives! But even in the darkness of this seemingly endless cave of evil, Micah holds out for salvation, But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,    I wait for God my Savior;     my God will hear me.

 In technical terms, Bible scholars write that Micah 7 begins with a giant-sized LAMENT. OK, the scholars don’t really talk like that, but that’s what they mean. He writes on behalf of his people who are grieving about their HUMAN condition.

Micah confesses the sins of his people, and he proclaims their desperate need for a Savior.

That is our human condition, too. The next 10 verses describe how hopeless we are without our God to save us. We might think we’re doing alright – and compared to the guy next door, maybe we really are! But when we honestly evaluate our values and life choices against what the Bible teaches, no one can claim “good enough”. We just aren’t … good enough.

I get angry over the silliest stuff. And then I plot revenge. Caitlin shows me, regularly, the grace of doing dishes that she did not dirty, and she washes them without complaint – I complain, and plan payback. I never follow through with those schemes – but I think about them! Not good enough.

Paul writes, quoting from the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes (7:20), “There is no one righteous. No, not even one!” (Romans 3:10).

If you came with your spouse today, look at each other and confess some way you have acted unworthy of the love you still expect to get. If you came alone, look up to God, and just apologize for an attitude or a thought you have had with you this morning, maybe even while sitting here in worship.

Because while this chapter starts with lament – the whole middle section clings to the promise of God’s SALVATION!

And then the closing lines simply praise Yahweh because even in the midst of their terrible hardship – even when my job is on the line, even when the mortgage is beyond what we can afford, even when we are separated from loved ones, even when sickness and disease afflict our bodies and drain our resources, even when we are hurt by someone we trusted – Micah reminds us that God is TRUSTWORTHY!

He sings out: 18 Who is a God like you,    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors    in days long ago.

 Yes, calamity had come – we experience some sense of scary stuff every day – but Yahweh will be a light in our dark places! Micah cries out for God’s protection, and then he recalls how God had led His people out of slavery and bondage in Egypt; and he prays for his people to see God’s works of wonder again! May our enemies see God’s mighty acts of wonder – and praise God!

Paul tells us that one day “every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Philippians 2:10, compare Romans 14:11)

Who is a god like Yahweh? No one!

Who pardons sin and forgives the offenses of our ill-fated attempts to be good enough? Only Yahweh!

Only the only God, the creator if the heavens and the earth, who so loves the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Who is a god like Yahweh? No one!

Our God is greater; our God is stronger; our God is higher than any other!

Our God is healer, awesome in power; that’s our God! There’s none like Him; there’s none like Him!

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

Micah closes this chapter, he finishes his whole book, singing about how unique our God is – completely incomparable! He is victorious over our sins and He buries them in the depths of the sea.

700 years after Micah wrote these lines, Mark tells us about Jesus Christ the Son of God; John tells us how Jesus came to take away the sins of the world; and Matthew and Luke refer us directly to Micah’s prophecies and how Jesus fulfilled them to the “T”!

Are you in a funk today? Is there darkness in your life, or the lives of loved ones? Are you grieving the state of our nation? Are you mourning over your church’s denomination? Are you afraid or worried about what might be around the corner?

Are you like the disappointed family in the pumpkin patch looking for just one last relatively OK pumpkin?

Remember who your God is! He turned water into wine. He opened the eyes of the blind. There really is no one like Him – none like Him. Into the darkness He shines – so that out of the ashes we might rise!

Who is a god like Yahweh? There’s none like Him!

He loves you! And He sent His only Son to die – for you. Trust Him today. Do you? Amen.

Pour out Your Spirit’s power upon Your people, O God, until we humble ourselves, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Revive Your Church and heal our land. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resources:

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 496.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 54-60.

Tomlin, Chris; “Our God”; 2010.

 

Micah 3 – Packed with Power, Pneuma, and Uprightness

Mark Wheeler
September 28, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 3
Packed with Power, Pneuma, and Uprightness

O God, Beginning and Completion, in Jesus Christ You confirmed Your covenant with us and sealed every promise in His blood. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to teach all You have commanded, tell all You have done, and live as those who are deeply and eternally loved, for the glory and praise of Your name. Amen.

Have you ever tried to tackle a job you were sure was going to be simple, with a quick fix, only to discover that this problem was way more complex than you imagined and way beyond your capabilities, and the more you worked to correct the problem the more you learned was really wrong? This happens to me way more than my manliness wants me to admit.
What I walk away with, though, is a new, humble understanding that I am not God.
There are powerful people in this world – political leaders from benevolent royals to tyrannical dictators; local civic leaders to mafia dons; economic giants to auto-mechanics and street sweepers; sweet long-time church people to ecclesiastical bullies.
But none of them is God. And, eventually, everyone learns that truth.

This Fall we are looking together at a couple of pieces of Scripture that many might choose to ignore if they didn’t have others to read with. So this Fall, our Sunday mornings will explore God’s Word from a couple Old Testament prophets. This month and next we listen to Micah and we hear this Old Testament man of God warn his people of God’s impending judgment – and we notice how well his warning for Judah and Israel also applies to us in America today!
And while this short book is filled with gloom and doom, Micah is mostly a book of WORSHIP—even the prophet’s name suggests worship. The name “Micah” means “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. And in the whole book, every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
But the most obvious characteristic of this book is its claim that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE, JUDGMENT, and GRACE.
And these judgments are for the RULERS, the RELIGIOUS, and the REGULARS.

So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the third chapter of Micah, & see what it says about finding the power we need when we are weak. Listen to God’s Word from Micah 3:1-12…. —-
1 Then I said, “Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice …? …
… 5 This is what the LORD says: “As for the prophets
who lead my people astray, they proclaim ‘peace’
if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them….
…8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice and distort all that is right… 11 Yet they look for the LORD’s support and say,
“Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

Micah – the Prophet of Almighty God – condemns Israel’s civic and religious leaders; then, reveals the future exaltation of Zion and the Messianic Hope! This second message from Micah follows a similar theme as his first message – it announces God’s condemnation of Israel and gives a glimpse of the future Hope! Micah has much more to say about the Messiah in this second message!

In Micah 3 through Micah 5, we find God’s condemnation of Israel’s leaders!
In 3:1-3, we find the indictment of Israel’s civic leaders, the RULERS, – they hate good and love evil – they consume the people; that is to say, they oppress them! The unjust leaders showed about as much consideration for the people as butchers do for carcasses!
In verse 4, we see the Judgment that is to come upon them – they will cry to the Lord; but, He will not hear them – He will hide His face from them!

In 3:5-7, we find the indictment of Israel’s RELIGIOUS leaders – they are false prophets – they lead God’s people astray! When the false prophets had plenty to eat, they predicted Peace; but if they went hungry, they brought down curses! Because of their actions, they will have no vision – they shall be made ashamed.
In verse 8, we see the contrast between Micah’s own ministry and that of the false prophets: Micah will be full of the Power of the Holy Spirit and of Justice and of Might! What my sermon title calls Packed with Power, Pnuema, and Uprightness! He will declare the transgression and sin of Israel!

In verses 9-11, we find Micah addressing the REGULARS (the rest of us) of Israel and categorizing their sin – they abhor justice and pervert equity (or, fairness) – they build up Jerusalem with bloodshed and iniquity – whether they are judges, priests, or prophets, they do it only for the money, giving the lie to their claim to trust in the Lord God Almighty! Everyone had his price for mammon, his god – much like today, isn’t it?
In verse 12, we see the Judgment that is to come upon Israel for their actions – Zion shall be plowed like a field – Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins!

So who was Micah? A small town follower of God who did what God called him to do. He was a spokes-person for this God who is too awesome to even be described – but he is a REGULAR Joe who speaks what God tells him; he was not a civic leader and he was not one of the religious leaders, he was like any one of you – sort of. What made him different? Verse 8. So let’s look a little closer at verse 8!
8 But as for me, I am filled with POWER, with the SPIRIT of the LORD, and with JUSTICE and MIGHT,
to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.

Micah was packed with Power, with Pnuema (that’s the Greek word for “spirit”, we get words like pneumonia from this word) and Uprightness. And with this equipment, he can tackle even the hardest job of declaring his people’s transgressions!

The Holy Spirit convicts, regenerates, baptizes, infills, seals, and comforts us! He leads us into the Almighty Truths of God’s Word! It’s time for true Christian believers to get this same “Power Transfer!” We need the Holy Spirit!

The problem with the effectiveness of many of today’s churches is that we have no Power – the Holy Spirit has been relegated as a thing of the past – in fact, many believe that His Power died out with the deaths of the Apostles! However, nothing can be further from the Truth! The Holy Spirit is Almighty God Himself – and, as such, He does not change and He will never leave or forsake us!
And, in my experience, this is also a major weakness in our personal walks of faith. We forget to rely on the Holy Spirit! In Mark 13:11, Jesus says to His disciples, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
When it comes to communication, our world is rapidly becoming increasingly “high-tech!” The popularity of social networks Such as twitter and Facebook, might cause some people to think that the Holy Bible – the written Word of God – is too “old-school” – too “old-fashioned!” The “tech-savvy” people of our current society might feel put off from reading the Holy Bible because there are no sound effects or ingenious graphics between these pages; however, the Truth is this: There is more “High-tech Power” in God’s Word than in any cutting-edge technology or communication tool that our world will ever know!
If you have ever read the Holy Bible – and, if not, I invite you to start today – you surely have sensed the Lord speaking directly to you – there’s a tailor-made message for every one of us there – as God speaks into our lives! He has hard-wired us with His Holy Spirit – Who literally illumines believers’ minds to understand His Word!
Just imagine, if you will, getting a “text-message” directly from the Creator of the entire Universe, telling you exactly what you need at exactly the right moment! No matter how “high-tech” this world may get, we will never experience a more powerful mode of communication than the Word of God and the Holy Spirit!

Finally, know that the Power of God – Holy Spirit Power – is visible in God’s works of Grace – His unmerited favor! When the Word of God is preached or shown to the world by Spirit-filled Christian believers, the Holy Spirit moves the people to repentance and Salvation! So, friends, let the Gospel be preached – let the Holy Spirit be poured out – and, the world will see such Power as to change the social conscience – such Power as to improve social conduct – such Power as to raise the depraved – such Power as to chastise and curb the iniquity of the human race – that we as true Christian believers may revel in it! There is nothing like the Holy Spirit Power to help us experience God’s righteousness – so let Him come; and, indeed, everything will be accomplished for the glory of God!

When our simple little fix-it jobs have got us by the throat, just remember Psalm 121: “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

May God Almighty richly and abundantly bless each and every one of you with His Power, His Holy Pnuema, and His Upright living! Amen.

Resources:
Dillahunty, George R.; “Micah – the Condemnation and Future Hope”; Freedom Fellowship Church of God; Virginia Beach, VA; March 16, 2009.

Dillahunty, George R.; “Power Up with Holy Ghost Power”; Freedom Fellowship Church of God; Virginia Beach, VA; May 19, 2010.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 479.