01/31/2016 – Revelation 22:1-5 – “The Promise of Heaven”

 

Audio version

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 22:1-5                                                                                                                          “The Promise of Heaven”

01/31/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Mighty God who never breaks a promise; who promised Adam and Eve that there would one day be an offspring who would defeat the wiles of Satan; who promised Noah a rescue from the flood; who promised Abram and Sarai, in their old, childless life, that their offspring would number as many as the stars in the sky, and that one of their descendants would be a Savior for the world; who promised a young virgin that she would give birth to the very Son of God. We need to hear Your promises again; and we need to believe them fully. Thank You for the Promise of Heaven, through Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

18 months ago, when my father was on his death-bed, I asked him if he was afraid. His lung cancer had spread into his brain and he was unable to make a whole lot of sense anymore, but he looked over at me and started to sing,I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him until (sic) that day.”

I cannot tell you how blessed I was to hear those words.

 

I have a friend whose own father died just before Christmas. This man was not just my friend’s father, he was also his best friend; he stood alongside him as his best man at his wedding. Through tears, my friend shared how hard this has been for him; and his wife said something about how it’s not that her husband has lost his faith, he knows that his dad was a believer and was bound for heaven, but he is afraid, and therefore very sad, that he might never see his dad again.

It does beg the question what heaven will be like.

 

Caitlin, my newly Masters-degreed daughter, recommended a book to me about a pastor and his reflections on life and ministry. Let me share one brief passage:

This morning I’ve been trying to think about heaven, but without much success. I don’t know why I should expect to have any idea of heaven. I could never have imagined this world if I hadn’t spent almost eight decades walking around in it. People talk about how wonderful the world seems to children, and that’s true enough. But children think they will grow into it and understand it, and I know very well that I will not, and would not if I had a dozen lives. That’s clearer to me every day. Each morning I’m like Adam waking up in Eden, amazed at the cleverness of my hands and at the brilliance pouring into my mind through my eyes—old hands, old eyes, old mind, a very diminished Adam altogether and still it is just remarkable. What of me will I still have? Well, this old body has been a pretty good companion. Like Balaam’s ass, it’s seen the angel I haven’t seen yet, and it’s lying down in the path.

God has promised believers a future place in heaven. But what will that be like? How do we live today in anticipation for that eternity? What does the Bible Promise about Heaven?

 

Listen to the Word of God, from John 14:1-4 …. —-

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I know for a fact that many of us in this room have heard, read, these verses almost a countless number of times. When do we read these words? [At funerals.] Why do we read them at funerals? [Because they speak of JesusPromise about Heaven being a place PREPARED for us by Jesus.]

Jesus says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” He’s about to die. These words were spoken on His last day on earth before He was crucified. “It’s OK,Jesus says. “I’m leaving this earth to prepare a place for you – and then I’ll come back and to pick you up when it’s your time. I promise.

We read in John 1 that “in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God … and that through Him all things were made”. Genesis 1 tells a story of “all things [being] madein 6 days. And look how amazingly beautiful this Creation is. The Word, Jesus, then spends the rest of eternity creating Heaven. “I can only imagine,   What my eyes would see,   When your face, is before me?   I can only imagine, I can only imagine

To be surrounded by your glory   What will my heart feel?   Will I dance for you Jesus?   Or In awe of you be still?   Will I stand in your presence?   To my knees will I fall?   Will I sing hallelujah?   Will I be able to speak at all?   I can only imagine, yeah, I can only imagine

We’ll come back to this passage in a minute, but let’s look at the next thing we see Promised about Heaven.

 

Not only is Heaven a place PREPARED for us by Jesus. Heaven is a place where everything is made NEW!

Also written by the Apostle John, the Book of Revelation is John’s record of the vision he received from God while imprisoned, for being a follower of Jesus, on a small island off the coast of Turkey. Listen to these words from Revelation 21:1-5 …. —-

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Nothing will be like it is here on earth? New heaven, new earth, new Jerusalemprepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Remember that passage we just read from John 14? Those, too, are wedding promises. The groom leaves his bride to prepare a home for his new bride, attached to his father’s property; and when it is ready the groom comes back to take her with him to their new home.

The Church is described as the Bride of ChristHe is preparing everything new for His Bride, us, you and me, followers of Jesus in every age and from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Everything new? No more tears; no more death; nor more mourning or crying or pain. Is this something we can believe? Jesus tells John that “these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

What will Heaven be like? I don’t know about you but I often hear people describe Heaven in words like, “It will be an endless day of golf” – (that seems more like hell to me); or “Heaven will be sitting in a fishing boat, reeling in giant rainbow trout like nobody’s business”; or “… sitting at the beach” or “… being with my best friends in a sewing circle”….

Scripture never describes Heaven anything like that! I don’t know exactly what it will look/feel/smell like – or exactly what we’ll be doing – but according to what we just read in Revelation 21 we can know that we will be in the very visible presence of Jesus … and according to Revelation 22:1-5, everything we do will be in response to that gift.

Look with me at these words, Revelation 22:1-5 …. —-

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lambdown the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Heaven is a place PREPARED by Jesus, where everything is made NEW. And, Heaven is a place of SEEING and SERVING God.

We think of the whole Good News of Jesus thing as exemplified in Immanuel, God with us, the incarnation, Jesus’ birth and life and death and resurrection – all because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”! And that is incredible news of Amazing Grace!

But it gets even better! Not only is God present with us in this life – but we are invited to His House in the next, for all eternity.

Look at verse 3, “… and His servants will serve Him.” I assume that this word describes His Church. Yes, we are the Bride of Christ, and the Body of Christ, and the Children of God. But we are also the Servants of God – and we are privileged to occupy that role for eternityimmediately under the Creator of the universe!

Look at verse 4, “They will see His face…” We will see Him face-to-face! This is so-much-better than front row seats at a concert, or center court seats at a Gonzaga game, or 50-yard-line seats at the Super Bowl. This is face-to-face with Jesus!

Verse 4 continues, “… and His name will be on their foreheads.” Two points here: 1) in Heaven, when we look at others also in Heaven, what will we see? His name! We will even see Him when looking at each other. We will be unable to escape the presence of God – and we won’t want to! And, 2) His name on our foreheads mean we belong to Him! What an amazing grace! We will not be able to avoid knowing we are His – and so is everyone else there with Him!

 

My Dad recognized these truths when I asked him if he was afraid of what lay before him. My friend who just lost his father needs a present reminder of God’s promises about Heaven. And the author of Caitlin’s recommended book reminds us that we really have no idea how much better than our best guess Heaven will really be!

 

The future always looks bright when viewed through the windows of God’s perfect Promises. He has Promised His believers a PREPARED place, where everything is made NEW and His people will be busy SERVING Him as we have the pleasure of SEEING His radiant face!

What a glorious day that will be!

 

Dear Lord, help me today to help someone else be ready for Heaven.

 

Today, as we move into our time of prayer, we get to practice a piece of Heaven. If you know this song, please sing louder than me – if you don’t know it, learn it and sing it to God.

Heaven is a wonderful place

          Filled with glory and grace.

          I wanna see my Savior’s face.

          Heaven is a wonderful place.

          I wanna go there!

 

Resources:

Family Bible Study; “Advanced Bible Study Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 74-81.

Mann, Tamela; “I Can Only Imagine”

Robinson, Marilynne; Gilead; Picador; NY, NY; 2004; Pp. 66-67

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

Audio version

Mark Wheeler

I Corinthians 10:6-13

“The Promise of Deliverance”

01/24/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Resources:

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

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

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

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21

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

November 15, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So why are so glum?” 

“This week – nothing!”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

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

http://ppl.ug/_kx6cz4h314/

Mark Wheeler

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

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

September 20, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire … burning bush, pillar of fire·

Smoke … pillar of smoke·

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

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.

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

Mark Wheeler

I John 1:5-10

“A New GPS: Grace Placement System”

July 12, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

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

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

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

1)   Are we “at the game”?

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

3)   Is Grace being shot out of a cannon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you catch the principles of confession in this psalm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

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.