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.

07/05/2015 – Ruth 4:13-17 – “Full of Grace and Ruth”

Mark Wheeler

Ruth 4:13-17

“Full of Grace and Ruth”

July 5, 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 past month has been one of those months when we realize how difficult following Jesus can be:

Hate-filled tragedy in Charleston, terrorist attacks, global financial instability (Greece), US Supreme Court decisions, legal and political posturing from candidates and government employees, at least 7 predominantly Black churches (from several denominations) burned to the ground in the last 10 days!, social media bombardment.

Many people outside the Church, and just as many inside the Church, feel discouraged, disheartened, and disoriented.

Some are feeling hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone.

Can anyone here relate to any of that?

You are not all on your own!

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. Our scripture today comes from the Old Testament story about a woman named Ruth. How many of you have read (or heard) this story before? This Old Testament story of Ruth is in the context of despair, depression and doom.

The story starts with the news of a severe famine in southern Israel, surrounding the town of Bethlehem, a little more than 1,000 years before Jesus was born. The famine was so severe that families were packing up and moving into neighboring, semi-enemy, countries, including Naomi and her husband and two sons. But once they got settled, Naomi’s husband died; and her two sons married women from this enemy territory, and then her two sons also died! Naomi was suddenly a widowed mother with no living children!

So she decides to go back home, traveling by herself, to be with relatives who knew her customs and religion. Talk about despair and depression and doom; hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone! Have you ever wondered if you might never escape the misery you were in? Darkness, fear, abandonment, estrangement … It is a terribly lonely experiencenobody, and it feels like no God!

But then this Old Testament story of Ruth also speaks of HOPE and GRACE.

One of her widowed daughters-in-law decides to go with her. Ruth was her name. She tells Naomi, “Your people will be my people (think how huge that would be – she left her own homeland and family to be with this strange mother-in-law and her extended family!), and your God will be my God (and this is even bigger than moving into a strange community – it’s a strange community and their stranger religion!).

So these two widowed women, unrelated except by marriage, move into town with no job, no family, no means of support, no children or grandchildren, no hope ….

And God provides a job, more food than they can eat, and the attention of a handsome, wealthy, land-owner, farm-manager who falls in love with Ruth and eventually wins her to himself. From the Jewish heritage in which they lived, his title was “kinsman redeemer”. He saved her, and her mother-in-law, from destitution, and he saved them for God’s plan of Redemption for humankind.

We read in Ruth 4:13-17 (almost the end of the book) where …. —-

13 … Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

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

Some of you will remember that way back in Genesis 12, God called Abram from the land of Ur and Promised him a new Land, and a Nation, and a people, and that one of his offspring would be a Savior for the world. And before that in Genesis 6, God promised a first salvation through Noah and that there would be a second salvation for God’s people. And before that in Genesis 3, God promised Adam and Eve that one of their offspring would crush the head of Satan and be a Savior for the people.

The story of this desperate foreigner woman named Ruth invites us into God’s perfect story of His perfect grace.

Almost without any regard for how valuable and important this information is, we are told, that “they named [their son] Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Who was David? Does anyone know? Yup, the second-greatest King Israel has ever had! Who was the first-greatest King? C’mon – someone say it: Jesus!

Are you ready for some hope and grace?

1,000 years after Ruth, her ultimate descendant is JESUS, the Savior who comes full of Grace and Truth.

John’s Gospel tells us this truth with poetic beautyJohn 1: (*read with breaks at the asterisks to explain some key points) “1In the beginning* was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God*. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made*; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind*…. 14The Word became flesh* and made His dwelling among us*. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and only Son, who came from the Father*, full of Grace and Truth*…. 17For the law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ*!

I am going to close early this morning, because we are about to move into a time of prayer, where I know some of you are living with some sincere fears and worries, some anxieties about uncertainties, recovering from surgeries and preparing for treatments, and still hearing the national and local news reports about how people suffer at the hands of other people, by natural disaster, because of less-than-smart decisions – and some of those people are very close to our hearts.

We feel discouraged, disheartened, and disoriented; hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, and alone.

But follow the story of Ruth. Her story leads directly to Grace and Hope – we can live lives full of Grace and Ruth – simply by trusting in the One who is the Way and the Truth and the LifeGod’s perfect propitiation and expiation for our sins and our struggles.

Right after the prayer and our offering, we will be invited to the Lord’s Table where we might just experience God’s gift of Grace and where we might receive ruth-ful Hope.

And may we never forget 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! 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:

Fellowship Community; 8134 New LaGrange Road; Suite 227; Louisville, KY; 40222; invite to Annual Conference in August 2015.

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 66-75.

06/14/2015 – Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – “Grace Pays Our Debt”

Mark Wheeler

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

“Grace Pays Our Debt”

June 14, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, 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.

For those of us who pay quarterly estimated taxes, due date is tomorrow. The June due date is only 2 months after the April due date, so it always sneaks up on me and I occasionally miss it. So when June 16 comes around it always reminds me of how Grace works.

Grace” and “taxes”? Yup. They always go together for me. Here’s why:

In the Spring of 1990, 6 months after my ordination, I was preparing to file my first Clergy Tax Returns – oh my goodness, I could not believe how complicated this is – Clergy file as self-employed employees of the church – yup, you heard right.

So we called a woman in our church who did taxes for a living – and asked for her help. What we learned was that I should have been filing these kinds of tax returns for the previous 3 years (I worked as a “Pastor’s Assistant” while in seminary). So, I owed some $4,000 – and we had $0 in our savings account!

This sweet tax preparer, Tamara, decided to not charge us for her work (she counted it as professional training, she become the firm’s clergy tax expert) – and then she paid our $4,000! Interest free!

Talk about Grace!

Have you ever received an unexpected, undeserved, gift of grace? Maybe not $4,000 worth, but something?More recently, I asked a friend who works in the auto industry for advice on some work on Caitlin’s car – he took the car for a few days and made almost every repair – for FREE! Grace? That’s a picture of grace! This Summer we are looking at different aspects of this theologically loaded word: Grace – more than we deserve, and greater than we imagine. Listen to today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah 52 & 53…. —-

52 13 See, my servant will act wisely;    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,     and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

53 1 Who has believed our message    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain    and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,  stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,    and made intercession for the transgressors.

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

 

This passage of Isaiah was written some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem – but is there any confusion among us whom God had in mind when Isaiah wrote this?

God’s plan of having His own Son, Jesus, become a human, and suffer and die on behalf of sinners like you and me, was no after-thought; this was no last-ditch effort to try to save humankind; this had been God’s plan since the beginning. Check out Genesis 3 where God talks about the offspring of Eve crushing the head of Satan, and in Genesis 12 where God promises Abraham that his offspring will be a Savior for all the world. Both Eve’s and Abraham’s salvific offspring is Jesus! Isaiah reminds the Israelites of this truth 600 years before this Savior is born.

On Good Friday, Pontius Pilate reminded the crowd that it was their custom to release one prisoner for the Passover holiday. He offered the crowd a choice: JESUS (against whom Pilate could find no criminal offense) or BARABBAS (who was a convicted murderous rebel).

Most of you know this story. Which of these men died for the other?

Pilate tried some 4 different times to get the crowd to let Jesus off the hook. Pilate said, in so many words, “I see no reason for Jesus to be condemned. He has done nothing deserving crucifixion.” He pled a lesser punishment – “How ‘bout a severe whipping?Nope, not good enough. Finally, Pilatewashed his hands” and sent Jesus back to the local magistrate, Herod.

It seems that Paul later says plainly what Pilate was thinking: “God made Him who had no SIN [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him WE might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

That is Grace! Jesus Christ, who was sinless – not that He was unable to sin, remember the temptations in the wilderness; but that He refused to sin – took on our sin, experienced the painful effects of my sin, extreme separation from His own Father, remember His “Why have You forsaken me?”. Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him!

That is Grace!

600 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah knew who deserved what. Look at verse 6 on your Sermon Notes page: “We ALL, like sheep, have gone ASTRAY.” He goes on and says, “Each of us has turned to our own way.

And friends, we know that our ways are not God’s ways. In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life – and no one comes to the Father except through/by me.

“We ALL, like sheep, have gone ASTRAY. Each of us has turned to our own way. … and the Lord has laid on Him (who is the “Him”?), and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!

That is Grace! Say it with me, “That is Grace!” How have you “gone astray”? Is there a habit that is not God-honoring? Is there a choice you know is wrong? How about an attitude – of superiority, or disgruntledness, or worry, or pride?

How has our church “gone astray”? Are we as faithful in reaching beyond our doors as we should be? Do we feed the hungry like we might? Are there some kinds of people we just “don’t want around here”? Have we ignored God’s clear teaching and done our own thing?

How has our church “gone astray”?  

What does Isaiah 53 say Jesus did for us? Does it not say, The Grace of Jesus paid off our debt of sin?! He paid it all! We are completely free to follow Him well and serve Him wholly!

That is Grace!

Who is someone in your life who does not deserve Grace? Seriously, who deserves retribution? Who deserves their comeuppance? Who deserves to be smacked, or at least shelved? Got that face in mind? (Why is everyone looking at me?)

Now, how will you show that person God’s Grace?

Hebrews 12:15 gives us the clear challenge to “let no one fall short of the GRACE of God.” How will you do this this week?

That, my friend, is 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:

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 31-37.

Malachi 4 – Who Is this King of Glory?

Mark Wheeler
Christ the King Sunday, November 23, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Malachi 4:1-6
Who Is this King of Glory?

Provider of righteousness and peace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ You reunited heaven and earth. When sin disrupts the harmony of creation, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your waiting people so that we would trust You, love You, and become Your agents of reconciliation in a cruel and hurting world. Amen.

I read this week that while Queen Victoria lay dying, a member of the royal household mused to Edward, Prince of Wales, “I wonder if she will be happy in heaven?”
Edward matter-of-factly replied, “I don’t know. She will have to walk behind the angels–and she won’t like that!”

For those who pay attention to such things as Liturgical Calendars – today is Christ the King Sunday – the last day of the Church Year. And on this day we pay special homage to the all-time truth that Jesus Christ is King of the Universe! We call Him Lord and Savior – that’s what that means! “Lord” means that Jesus is the ultimate authority! He is the one, the only one, who walks in front of the angels in heaven!
And as King, He has righteous rule, He reigns supreme, He judges justly, he has final say. And what we know of Jesus through His written Word, the Bible, is that He is all-powerful and all-knowing and always-present and completely-loving! Therefore, He is totally trustworthy.

We have invested September and October listening to the Old Testament prophet Micah and heard him remind us that even though there are so many ways in which we fall short of meeting God’s standards, we can always count on His unconditional love. Micah kept reminding us of God’s worthiness of our worship.
In November we have been in the book of Malachi. This is the very last book in the Old Testament, and this is the very last chapter in the Old Testament! Next week we begin the brand new liturgical calendar, and we will be talking about the advent of this King we call Christ. We know almost nothing about Malachi, except that his name means “My messenger” or maybe “My angel”. Malachi continues the theme of God’s worthiness, but his emphasis is on our responsibility to worship Him well.

Hear the Word of God from Malachi 4:1-6…. —-
1 “Surely the day is coming [what day is coming? The day of the King – Judgment Day!]; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Before we get too far in today’s sermon – I have an announcement to make. Last Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of my very first Sunday as this church’s pastor – which makes today my (approximately) 1,200th sermon with you. To celebrate this milestone, I plan to preach for exactly 12 more minutes today! At minute-11, someone can wave your hand, and I’ll try to wrap it up. This is my way of honoring you for allowing me to serve with you for two decades, so far!

What do these six verses of Scripture have to do with the ecclesiastically invented holiday of Christ the King Sunday? How does this chapter answer the question, Who is this King of Glory?

Remember that most of this book has been a prophecy of condemnation about the ways we do not acknowledge God properly, how we do not worship Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, or all our strength; about how our sacrifices have been easy and mostly just left-overs. Here, he says, “Look out, the day is coming – and it will not be fun. But for you who revere my name, [listen to this] the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
He says that Thanksgiving will come! Count your many blessings, name them one by one! See what God has done!

And then this great Old Testament prophet does an amazing thing! He ties the whole Old Testament to this coming King.
Verse 4, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”
What is Malachi talking about there? [The 10 Commandments, at least.] Moses the great deliverer who freed the Israelites after 400 years of slavery in Egypt! – The Exodus, the Red Sea crossing, the 40 years n the wilderness, the manna from heaven, the water from a rock – Moses is a type of the Christ who waited another 1,600 years – Malachi ties the great deliverer Moses to the coming King!
Verse 5, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”
Elijah – thought of as the representative prophet of all prophets – Elijah was the prophet who never died , weirdly II Kings tells us that he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire without ever dying – And Elijah was expected to return before the Messiah came.
These same two, Moses and Elijah, came and appeared to Jesus and three of His apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration – Jesus told the men walking to Emmaus after the resurrection how the Scriptures from Moses and the prophets (Elijah?) explained who He was.
Malachi ties all of that together in two verses.

Verse 6 – As we approach this Christmas – families – turn your hearts to one another – if parents and children cannot do that (for which there are a variety of reasons why this might be so), then cross generations with friends and colleagues. Be community. Call Jesus King, and do that together! If we don’t, Malachi warns us of “total destruction”!

To close, I just want to draw your attention to some Presbyterian denominational stuff – maybe we can draw our hearts together with other Presbyterians even.
Look at your Sermon Notes page:

On the PC(USA) Mission Agency website ( <a href="http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/why-i-belong/ " ), they have posted an article titled “Why I Belong”. Among several theological points listed are the following. These points answer the question, “Who is this King of Glory?”

For more than 200 years, Presbyterians have remained UNWAVERING in this one conviction: Jesus is LORD (I Cor. 12:3). All power, truth, and salvation rest with God alone.
John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I Corinthians 12:3, Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY savior of the world, and the TRUE awaited Messiah. (Acts 16:31; Book of Confession, 5.077 [The Second Helvetic Confession])
Acts 16:31, They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
II Timothy 3:14-16, But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

“Jesus Christ is the only SAVIOR and LORD, and all people everywhere are called to place their faith, hope, and love in him.” (Ephesians 1:3-14; BoC 5.107-5.110)
Romans 10:9, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Ephesians 1:13-14, 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, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Who is this King of Glory? He is Immanuel, the promised of ages! Even the angels of heaven fall in line behind King Jesus. Let us, join them, and fall in line behind Him while we are still on earth.

Lord Jesus – You are the king of kings and Lord of lords – today, maybe for the very first time, some in this room this morning are confessing You as their King and Lord, as their Savior, and as their most valued Treasure. Live in our hearts and minds this morning, and draw us close to You as we are drawn close to one another. May this Thanksgiving be different. This time we want to glorify Your name in every thing we do and say, through Jesus Christ, my King. Amen!

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 519.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 335-342.

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.