01/21/2018 = I John 4:7-18 = “Here Comes the Love, Here Comes the Love”

Conquer your fear and CLICK to hear!

Mark Wheeler

I John 4:7-18

“Here Comes the Love, Here Comes the Love”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:

Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.

Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.


Let’s start today’s message with an informal and very unscientific survey. It’s just a one-question survey that everyone in this room is able to participate in – so I might call on you if answers don’t start flying at me. Are you ready?

Name something that causes you to fear: [tax audits, annual physicals, new lumps, getting laid-off, getting pregnant, when I see someone texting while they’re driving, etc, etc, etc.]

Those are all real fears, aren’t they? Fears that maybe we can all relate to. Thank you for your participation.


Y’wanna hear something this official surveyor noticed? We are in the middle of a sermon series on what it means to “fear God” – and no one in this room said, “God!”!

Frankly, I’m not surprised by that. I don’t think that’s what I woulda shouted out either. And if we took this survey out on the street, nobody out there would have answered that they were afraid of God either.


That’s a bit of a change over the last 500 years. Before Martin Luther and before the enlightenment and before Charles Darwin, someone would have boldly proclaimed their fear of the Lord. But that is not the world we live in anymore. This is not an entirely new phenomenon – (in the plagues sent to Egypt when Moses was called by God to deliver the Israelites, we read this passage: Exodus 9 20 He that dreaded the word of the Lord (He who feared the word of the Lord), made his servants and (his) work beasts (to) hide into (their) houses; 21 similarly he that despised the Lord’s word, left his servants and his work beasts in the fields – and they were killed by the plague of hail) – but what’s new is how prolific that lack of fear is.

After the Israelites escaped through the Red Sea, Exodus 14 31 and they saw the great hand, or power/or might, which the Lord had used against the Egyptians; and the people dreaded the Lord, and they believed to the Lord, and to Moses his servant.


We began this series reading Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Last week we read Psalm 112:1 which tells us, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, those who find great delight in His Commandments.”  Fear the Lord? Be terrified of a loving God? What about “God is love”?


Listen to these words from I John. I John 4:7-18 …. —-

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (NIV)


Yesterday we held our annual Church Officer Training class, and while we were each giving our personal faith journeys and the stories that led to our becoming Christians, one of our members shared that she was brought up by a very strict Catholic mom, who raised her witha real fear of the Lord … so I was a good kid growing up…

Historically, cultivating a healthy fear of God was a prime means of restraining criminal activity in social networks. This seemed necessary because since the days of Adam and Eveeveryone does what is right in his own eyes”.

But in recent decades, even within the walls of Christendom, talk of “fear of the Lord” sounds archaic and old-fashioned. We, rather, emphasize the “love of the Lord”. We have an overarching theme that teaches that the love of God is such an overwhelming biblical thesis that “fearing God” is seen as a sign of immature faith, a faith that lacks security, even a faith that misses the point of the Cross. Who here hasn’t heard someone teach that God loves everyone so much that “all dogs go to heaven”; that it really doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you haven’t done any real evil, you’re good to go.


But is that what the Bible teaches? Is that what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount when He teaches that “even if you hold a grudge against someone you have committed murder in your heart even if you lust you have committed adultery in your heart; even if you don’t forgive someone their sins against you God will not forgive you your sins”?

Right? It seems like it really does matter! And that, yes, “God is love”, but that does not mean He hasn’t earned our dread! In fact, a healthy and properly understood fear of God is not only endorsed by Scripture, it is beautiful, and leads to a Christian life that is full of joyful obedience and service!


I hear some people argue that “fear of God” is an Old Testament thing, that the New Testament reveals a loving God. But a quick look at Jeremiah 32:40 (that’s an Old Testament prophet) shows us a New Testament promise about putting the “fear of [God] into the hearts of God’s people”. Did you catch that? In the New Testament, the fear of God will fill the hearts of God’s chosen people, not just God’s enemies, but His Church! The full quote contains both love and fear: “40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them (that’s the love), and I will inspire them to fear me (that’s the fear), so that they will never turn away from me (here comes the love, here comes the love).”

And this Old Testament promise is fulfilled in the New Testament person of Jesus Christ and the New Testament gift of the Holy Spirit!


So, take a look at today’s reading from The Apostle John’s First Epistle, written to people struggling to understand the Gospel Good News of Jesus Christ. In today’s paragraph the point the author is making is that without Christ we have no hope whatsoever! Without Christ, we should be afraid, very afraid! God’s judgment is righteous and final! But, he says,

There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.” That does not mean that there is no reason to fear God; but that when we belong to God He will see us through everything, every evil, every blight, every enemy we might face!

Listen to the context: “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (I John 4:17-18)

The fear John is talking about has to do with punishment on the day of judgment awaiting those who do not have the love of God in them! But for those who belong to Christ, in whom the love of God abides there is no fear of the day of judgment because Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to be the “propitiation for our sins” (4:10)


Did anyone here grow up with a “wait till your father gets homemantra? I don’t recall my mom ever using those words, but I have a deep-seated memory of that being the rhythm of my rearing. Did I fear my father’s punishment? Yes. The belt on my bare behind was nothing to be trifled with. Did that sense of fear mean that I thought Dad didn’t love me? Never was that my experience! I knew Dad loved us with everything he had!


My own children occasionally earned their just rewards – errr, their just punishments. But that never meant I, or Jennifer, didn’t love them with our whole hearts! Nor, I believe, did they ever question our love for them.


Love and fear, properly understood, are not antithetical ideals; they are complimentary. There is no true love of God without a proper fear of God; and our fear of God is only fulfilled when we know His love through His Son’s life, death, and resurrection, offered for us!

God is the perfect Fatherfull of love and full of justice. His justice does not overwhelm His love, it requires it. And His love does not suppress His justice, it fulfills it!


To love God as our heavenly Father includes a healthy fear of Him that keeps us humble (we are not God, only God is God) and encourages us to strive to live our lives worthy of His love (because as God, He can do as He wishes!).


Do you know this Almighty God who loves you?

Whom have you shared thistoo-good-to-keep-to-ourselves” news with this month? Whom will you share it with this week?


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.



Watkins, Eric B.; “Putting the Fear of God into Practice”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 24-29.



01/14/2018 = Psalm 112 = “Where’s the Bless?”

Click HERE to HEAR this MESSAGE.

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 112:1-10

“Where’s the Bless?”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:

Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.

Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.


Last Thursday, I was stunned, by what I read on Social Media – and I couldn’t believe it. The President of the United States of America resorted to expletives to describe a whole continent of people.

Now, I’m not a complete idiot, I know that people in power might have a “dark” side, and a mouth that would be embarrassing if accidentally used in the wrong place. Right? Every father learns to watch his language when they hear their children cuss. Those who are old enough have heard the tapes kept by President Nixon 45 years ago have heard a man in Office say things that deserved a severe bar of soap!

But what our current president said on Thursday was shocking. And the Spokesman-Review, surprisingly, printed every word of it! And it wasn’t just the “filthy language”; it was the filthy opinion of the people!

I was forced, in wonder, to ask: Where’s the human dignity? Where’s the presidential poise? Where’s the self-respect? Where’s the respect for humanity?


I do not want that to be the topic of our worship experience … but neither can it simply be ignored. Sometimes we are caught off guard by the way things start … but we expect something by the end, right?

Remember that 1980s Wendy’s TV commercial with the three old ladies lifting the top bun of a hamburger, and the littlest old lady shouts, “Where’s the beef?”? It started with a big bun, and ended with a tiny burger. Wendy’s promised that that would never be the way their hamburger story ended!


Last week we read from Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…Fear the Lord? Be terrified of a loving God? That is the start of the story: The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of knowledge.” But fear is not what we usually think of when we think of knowing God! So, today’s Sermon: “Where’s the Bless?


We just sang these wordsdo they not fill us with fear? We sang:

He knows my name. (yeah, but I just wanna be anonymous)

He knows my every thought. (even the thought I had this morning when I was cut off in traffic? Even the

thought I had when I read the transcript of President Trump’s undenied words? That scares me, a


But the song continues: He sees each tear that falls, and He hears me when I call! (There’s the Bless!)


Listen to these words from Psalm 112. Psalm 112:1-10 ….—-

Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord,     who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;     the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,          and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,         for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,    who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;     they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,    their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,    they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.


Fear of the Lord is where we start! He is Almighty God, Creator of the universe! Fear is the only reasonable response to hearing His voice, to knowing His perfectly holy character, power, authority, and expectations of those who follow Him!


But fear is not where the story ends! The Psalmist here writes: Blessed are those who fear the Lord! And then, in a one phrase word-picture, he tells what it means to fear the Lord:those who find great delight in His commandments!

If I don’t fear the Lord, then I don’t even have the beginning of what I need to have to know God. And if I claim Christianity as my source of my strength, the hope of my faith, but I don’t delight in His commandments, then what right do I have to pray, what right do I have to expect God to hear me, to listen, what right do I have to hope for a blessing?

We are, therefore, forced to ask ourselves whether or not I fear the Lord, whether or not I delight in His Word, in His expectations, in His beatitudes of Matthew 5’s Sermon on the Mount. Do we? Do you?


The Psalmist says that we will be blessed. Those who fear God (who know Him, who acknowledge that He is all-powerful, holy, sovereign) and who also believe His promise to deliver them from God’s righteous wrath and judgment will be blessed. That is what God has promised!


After the promise comes a list of the blessings we might expect. But the promise of blessings is conditional on our “fearing God”. This is not the same as having to earn the blessings – the blessings are a free gift from God, to all who receive His Son and believe in His name. But the condition is that we do that!

It’s like when your best friend gives you a gift – it’s yours for free. You need do nothing to deserve it. Your friend loves you and wants you to have the gift. But … if you do not accept it, if you do not receive the gift, you can’t have it. God’s blessings are completely unearned, but they are not ours just because God gives them. Do we delight in His commandments? Do we fear the Lord? Have we received His Son, do we believe in His name?

Blessings are ours.

But look at those blessings:

  • Wealth and riches
  • Hope and joy
  • Goodness and confidence
  • And afraid of nothing this world might bring uspoverty, sickness, lonelinessafraid of nothing from this world!


Our lives of faith, of delighting in God’s commandments reveal themselves with our generosity for those around us who are in need – including people from countries like Haiti and “those countries from Africa! Including the homeless and downtrodden, including the drug-addicted and even the drug-dealers. Steadfast in trusting the Lord!


God’s commandments reflect His perfect intrinsic holiness; and our inability to keep them reminds us why this holy God is to be feared!  But perfect obedience is not what required! “Delight in His commandments” is what is required – and that simply means that we receive the gift of salvation through Christ’s work on the cross!


We fear God because of who He is! But we need never fear His presence or His power because His wrath and judgment has been turned aside at Calvary!

The fear of the Lord then remains a great blessing. Knowing that Jesus died for my sins, in my place, reminds me that God is, indeed to be feared (He takes sin seriously), and yet He is absolute love (of which the cross is our constant sign).

And now that my sins are washed away, I can actually obey God, knowing that He is pleased with my pitiful efforts because I am accepted in the person and work of His Son.


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.



Riddlebarger, Kim; “The Blessings of Fearing God”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 20-23.


01/07/2018 = Proverbs 1:1-7 = Why Be Afraid?

Click HERE to hear….

Mark Wheeler

Proverbs 1:1-7

“Why Be Afraid?”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:

Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.

Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.


An elderly woman had just returned to her home from an evening of church services when she was startled by an intruder. She caught the man in the act of robbing her home of its valuables and yelled, “Stop! Acts 2:38!” (Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.)

The burglar stopped in his tracks. The woman calmly called the police and explained what she had done. As the officer cuffed the man to take him in, he asked the burglar, “Why did you just stand there? All the old lady did was yell a scripture to you.”

“Scripture?” replied the burglar. “She said she had an ax and two 38’s!”


This burglar was afraid of this “crazy old lady with guns”. Would he have been afraid of the Scripture quote? Probably not, right?

And why should he be? That’s the title of today’s sermon, “Why Be Afraid?” We’re going to invest the beginning of 2018 in an exploration of fear, proper fear and improper fear.

And we are starting with a look at what it means to “fear God”. (I thought about titling this sermon, “Whose Afraid of the Virgin’s Womb?” – and since today is Christmas Day for Eastern Orthodox Churches, that would seem appropriate – but I was afraid of how many of you would simply stop listening and start humming the “Whose afraid of Virginia Woolf?” song – Hmm-Hmm-Hmm-Hm-Hm-Hm-Hm-Hm, Hm-Hm-Hm-Hm, Hm-Hm-Hm-Hm….)


So … “fear God”? Why? What does that mean? I’m gonna guess that almost everyone in the room today, everyone who has been in the Church for more than a decade, has heard a preacher or a Bible teacher say something like, “When the Bible speaks of the fear of the Lord, it does not mean to be afraid of God, but to (what?) … respect Him.” Am I right? There might have been a follow-up with something like, “We must never be afraid of God, because He loves us!

And that teaching has a real point! It carries with it some real truth.


But it’s not the whole truth…. The most common Old Testament word for “fear”, and the word used in today’s Bible reading, the most well-known Old Testament declaration about fearing God, is the Hebrew word “yireh”, which means … are you ready? … “be afraid!”, “terrified, even”! The New Testament word is the Greek word “fobos” (phobiafear)!


So, with that as a back-story to the word “fear”, listen with me to these opening words of the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:1-7 ….—-

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:        for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;       for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,     knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,                and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,                   the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,      but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (NIV)


Verse 1: an introduction of the authorSolomon, son of David, king of Israel.

Verses 2-4: the purpose of this collection of Proverbs (for becoming better at following God).

Verses 5-6: instruction for how to read this collection (be wise and just pay attention here).

Verse 7: the first, and probably most important, proverb (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction).


So … let me ask again. “Why Be Afraid?Respect for God – that’s easy, right? He’s Almighty! Ya gotta respect that! He’s always everywhere! Ya gotta respect that! He knows everything about everyone! Ya gotta respect that! And maybe now, I’m a little afraid of what He knows…. Right?


The word “fear” appears frequently in the Old Testament and it’s often connected to “wisdom” as its source. Wisdom, in turn, is found in knowing who God iswitnessing His awesome power, coming to grips with His holy and righteous judgment.

So, Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”, (that’s not quite the same as “wisdom” – what’s the difference? Knowledge is cognizant, wisdom involves behaviorI know that ice is slippery [knowledge], but I decide to try my motorcycle on an icy day anyway [wisdom?]! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge – it’s about knowing God! It’s about understanding who God is!

So, Solomon continues with something like, “Fools, on the other hand, just ignore the God who reveals Himself as the ‘consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).”

If knowledge, which has the potential of leading to wisdom, arises from fear of the Lord, then the height of foolishness is to pretend that God, who is all-powerful, holy, and sovereign, does not exist, or that what His written Word says does not matter.


In the Bible, fear of God is not simply an abstract theological speculation resulting from our observation of natural phenomena, like earthquakes and lightning (although Paul suggests that these observations ought to point us in that direction in Romans 2:14-16). In the Bible, Adam and Eve hid from God (terrified) because of what they had done; from Abraham through Moses, God’s people repeatedly witnessed God’s supernatural power over nature – look at the Red Sea story as an example, not just the parting of the Sea for the Israelites’ escape, but the judgment of the Sea which engulfed and drowned the Egyptian armies; look at the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night that led the Israelites through the wilderness; once Joshua took over after Moses’ death, the people of Jericho were “terrified once they realized it was the Lord” who led these people in their direction (Joshua 2:10-11).

What the Bible teaches is that God is to be feared simply because of who He is!


But, what we’ve all learned over the years is also correct. I John 4:8 tells us that “God is love”! How do we reconcile this apparent discrepancy between the God who is to be feared and the God who is love? Are “fear of God” and “love of Godmutually exclusive ideas?

Let me interject the answer: no they are not. Friday night Jennifer took me out to see the movie “Wonder (a movie, by the way, which I highly recommend). In one scene, the father of a boy with some pretty major facial deformities whispers a plan to his children, and when they ask him why he is whispering he whispers back, “Because I’m afraid of Mom.” But he also deeply loves his wife, their mom.

With God, it goes back to some of what we looked at when we studied Reformation stuff last Fall.

God is to be feared because we have all rebelled against Him. Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of that sin, what we deserve, of course, is His wrath, His judgment. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were terrified when they heard the Lord approach thembecause God is perfectly holy, and Adam and Eve are definitely not – and so they were cast out of paradise. Therefore, “fear of God” is always the right response.

Yet, the Bible also teaches that God also leftparadise and never left His people! God stayed with Adam and Eve. God called Abram and Sarai. God led Moses and Joshua, and David and Solomon. God, at Christmas, became incarnate, born in Bethlehem as a baby, lived to lead all of us back to God, and died to be our redemption! Paul continues his Romans 3:23 line about our sin and deserved sentence by adding, “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (love).  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (love). He did this to demonstrate his righteousness (fear), because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (love) he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just (fear) and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (love).” (Romans 3:24-26)


Last week we looked at the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), and we saw that it’s really all about knowing and trusting God as our Savior through His Son Jesus Christ. Next week we will continue this exploration of “fear of God” in Psalm 112 and see how even the Old Testament teaches us that God loves us because He is holy, and how that holy love deserves more than mere respect.


So, as we move into 2018, and perhaps more fear of the unknown, let’s continue to lift our eyes from our physical and material circumstances (good or bad), and gauge our blessings by taking a spiritual measure of our soul: Are you in Christ? Does the Holy Spirit of the living God live in your heart, in your faith, in your every day life?

Fear God? Yes, because of Who He is! And know that you are loved by this fearful God more than words can ever say. Amen.


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.



Riddlebarger, Kim; “The Blessings of Fearing God”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 20-23.

12/31/2017 = Matthew 5:1-12 = “Bless Your Little Heart”

Clicking HERE will bring you to an AUDIO file of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:1-12

Happy to Be Blessed: “Bless Your Little Heart”

12/31/2017, Flannel Sunday (edited from 05/21)

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.


May you come home from a hard day at the track and find that your wife has shoveled the driveway.  – a blessing edited from a Red Green quote.


When do we normally hear someone say “God bless you”? [sneeze] Yup, and that’s fine. I’ll take any excuse for someone to give me a blessing from God. Even Atheists will say “God bless you” after a sneeze. And I really do not want to insinuate that any of my friends might be insincere with their wishes of blessing – but I wonder if the word has been used so much, so often, by so many people, that it has lost some of the power behind it….


Last Spring we did a series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have witnessed, shared, and talked about over the last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

So, since I have been studying this passage more intently, I have become more aware of the numbers and ways people (including myself) use the “blessing” word, probably wrongly:

Bless your heart;” “have a blessed day;” “I feel so blessed today;” “God bless this mess;” even as a substitute curse on someone, “God ‘bless’ you!” (notice the air quotes around “bless”…). Again, these may be sincere wishes of blessings, but I wonder how often they are simply sayings we toss around without thinking….


Listen with me to these opening words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-12 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you….”         (NIV)


These are the Beatitudes of Jesus. Do they seem out of reach? Are they impossible goals set before us?

Another word often used to translate the word “blessed” is HAPPY.Happy are the poor in spirit; happy are those who mourn; happy are the meek; etc”. I believe the word is sometimes translated “happy” because it seems easier than to understand it asblessed”. But I’m not sure it really makes more sense. And, frankly, it’s the wrong translation.

Here’s a little Greek lesson: the word Jesus uses is Makarios. There are other words that mean “happy”; Jesus does not use them here. He uses Makarios. The Greek word’s meaning becomes clear showing us that it refers to the believer in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE in the midst of life’s hardships because of the indwelling fullness of the HOLY SPIRIT.

So the biblical background to the word for bless has to do with the fullness of our relationship with Almighty God. If we were to look at the very first Psalm, and the very first few lines in Psalm 1, we might get a better understanding of what Jesus is getting at. Listen with me to these words. Psalm 1:1-3 ….—-

Blessed is the one    who does not walk in step with the wicked    or stand in the way that sinners take     or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,    which yields its fruit in season    and whose leaf does not wither—    whatever he does prospers.


These Beatitudes are completely consistent with the Old Testament emphasis on the priority of God’s action in redemption before our responsive compliance. God creates and calls Adam and Eve His children (God’s act of love), then God gives them instructions regarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil (our compliance). God calls Noah and his family into relationship and rescues them from the flood (God’s act of love), then God tells them how to be prepared (our compliance). God liberates the Israelites, whom He calls His first born Son, from bondage in Egypt (God’s act of love), then God gives them the Ten Commandments (our compliance).

In Psalm 1 God gives us His written Word and His Holy Spirit (God’s act of love), then God expects us to live by that Word, to walk in His Way, to hear and obey (our compliance).

In the Beatitudes, Jesus has already called some of His disciples, and now had hundreds of followers; He is inviting us into relationship with Him (God’s acts of love). Then He starts this three-chapter Sermon on the Mount that begins with some expectations (our responsive compliance)!


But, please notice, these expectations are more like descriptive observations then they are required actions. The Beatitudes do not teach us what we must do in order to earn the Kingdom of God; the Beatitudes speak of the blessings of those who have already been redeemed! They describe what we already are in Christblessed, Makarios!


This is why the word “happydoesn’t quite work. Happiness is a condition that is dependent on circumstancesMerriam-Webster Dictionary says that happiness is feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc. : pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc – in other words, we are happy when good things happen.

But blessedness is a position reliant on, not a happenstance but, a person, a relationship. Therefore, even when things are difficult, we can be blessed; even when life confounds us, when health ebbs away, when finances vanish, when loved ones either walk away or pass away, we can know we are blessed.


Maybe this is how “blessed” and “happy” are connected: When our relationship with God through faith in Christ is real/growing/incepted, we can know joy despite our life’s circumstances! We find we can be “happy” even whilst suffering. Maybe we can look back and discover God has been with us the whole time.

Michael J. Fox, TV and movie star from the 1980s and ’90s, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, is quoted as saying, “My life is so filled with positives and blessings, and so filled with things I wouldn’t trade for the world. I refer to having Parkinson’s as a gift. People are dubious about this, but it’s a gift that keeps taking, because it’s really opened me up to more compassion.” And then he said something like, “If I was told I could go back 10 years, and live it over again without the Parkinson’s, I’d say to that offer, ‘Take a hike.’” Even our worst medical diagnoses might be seen as Blessings, when we are in a right relationship with God.


Ultimately, what these Blessings do is ask us to live in a manner reflected by what/who we already are. The technical language calls this an indicative-imperative clause. Jesus indicates that we are poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, etc., so He then commands us to act as if that were true. God did this throughout the Old Testament. And He continues in the New Testament. When He says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” that, too is an indicative-imperative. We are holy. So act holy.

Peter says, in I Peter 4:14, “If you are being reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed; because the Spirit of God is resting on you.”

Jesus says, in today’s passage, “Blessed are you, whenever they should reproach you and persecute you and say evil things about you on account of me; be rejoicing and celebrating, because your reward is great in the heavens…


As we move into 2018, and perhaps more fear of the unknown, let’s continue to lift our eyes from our physical and material circumstances (good or bad), and gauge our blessings by taking a spiritual measure of our soul: Are you in Christ? Does the Holy Spirit of the living God live in your heart, in your faith, in your every day life? If so, understand that God has already blessed you (that’s the indicative). Find your satisfaction and security in the Lord (that’s the imperative). Celebrate and rejoice! Amen.


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.



Crowe, Brandon D.; “To be Blessed”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp7-10.


Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.


12/10/2017 = Mark 1:1-8 = “… One More Powerful …”

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Mark Wheeler

Mark 1:1-8

“… One More Powerful …”

12/10/2017, Second Sunday of Advent

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


God of peace, be with us in our Advent journey, to the stable and beyond;
be with us in our meeting, and in our travelling together;
be with us in our worship, and our praying together;
be with us in our Advent journey, to the manger and beyond;
our God of peace, be with us. Amen.


On this Second Sunday of Advent, the traditional theme is Peace. The Hebrew word for this Peace is “Shalom”, which we find in words like JeruSalem (which, as always, is in deep need of peace).


Last week we read from the Gospel According to John, which has no Birthday-of-Jesus story; the closest John’s Gospel has is when he says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And this week we read from the Gospel According to Mark, which doesn’t even come that close! No star; no manger; no shepherds; no angels; no magi; nolittle Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”.


Today’s Advent reading offers such peace, perfect peace, peace that passes understanding. And today’s Advent reading offers us an opportunity to experience that peace through “One More Powerful” than all the chaos and fear we experience every day.


Hear the Word of God from one of Jesus’ first followers, as we read Mark 1:1-8 …. —-

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,     make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”     (NIV)


The Gospel According to Mark is both the shortest of the four Gospels and the oldest. Scholars think that probably Matthew and Luke used Mark as a general Gospel-writing guide and as a primary source document, and then John came along and wrote his Gospel in an entirely different manner. But Mark does something different from all of the other the other Gospel-writers.

Ancient writings, generally, started in one of two ways: either they declare the purpose of the book (look at Luke as a prime example – “an accurate account of the work and teaching of Jesus Christ”), or they jump straight into the main subject of the book (Matthew’s “The genealogy of Jesus Christ”). Mark does both! (“The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”)

Verse 1 is almost a Title of the Gospel. Let’s invest some time there, and then we’ll take that opening verse through the rest of this opening paragraph.


Just like John, and Genesis for that matter, Mark starts off withthe beginning”. Is he reminding us of God’s active role in history? God created the heavens and the earth, and now in the age when the Gospel is made manifest, the Son of God becomes human. The Greek word used here, arch, suggests that not only is this the start of the story, it’s also the origin, the cause of the whole thing. This is the “beginning” of the fulfillment of God’s everlasting Word!


The beginning of the Gospel.” The NIV says, “The beginning of the Good News.” That’s what “Gospel” means. Eu-aggelion. But this is not good news like, “It’s a snow day, no school tomorrow!Not like, “Good news, we get out of worship early enough to beat the Baptists to the restaurant!This is Good News beside which there is no comparison. Let’s come back to this “GospelGood News” in just a minute.


The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus.” This is not a new religion, with a whole new set of truths to be taught or a set of doctrines to be believed. This Good News is a bout a person! His name is Jesus. He was born, we learn elsewhere, in Bethlehem in the days of Quirinius and Herod the Great.


The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ.” The Messiah. The Old Testament promised-Savior.


The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Not just any person. Not just another prophet. Not even “the” prophet! No! This is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God! The ultimate Savior! Matthew and Luke both give genealogies detailing Jesus’ lineage, and they both tell us that Mary His mother was a virgin, and that God Himself is the Father. And John tells us that this One who iswith God and who is God … dwelt among us, and to all who believe Him and receive Him, He gives the right to be called children of God!


Now let’s go back to that word “euaggelion”, “Gospel”, “Good News”.

Mark continues, “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah ….” The phrase, “it is written” carries with it the weight of full authority. “It is written” designates the authority of a king or magistrate. “It is written in the Prophet Isaiah” designates the authority of God, for Isaiah is thought of as the Prophet among prophets. The fact is that what Mark quotes only partially comes from Isaiah. It also comes from Moses and Malachi! But putting it under the words of Isaiah signifies that it is God’s authoritative Word of truth (and, frankly, all four Gospels quote from Isaiah 40:3 here, including Mark).

Have you ever read a sign or a note that had misplaced a comma or a semi-colon? “Motorcycles Take Caution”. Well, do they really? That road sign needs a comma in order for it to be the command it is meant to be: “Motorcycles, (comma) Take Caution!” The more famous one says, “Let’s eat Gramma.” Right? It needs a comma!

Isaiah writes: “A voice of one calling, (comma) ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…’

Mark writes: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, (notice how the comma moved) ‘Prepare the way of the Lord….’

Is the voice calling in the wilderness? Or is the voice telling us to go to the wilderness?

And who is this voice? Is it the Elijah that Malachi tells us about? And notice what the voice says (I have, personally, always gotten this wrong until this year). It does not say, “Prepare a way for the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior.” It says, “Prepare the way for the Lord! For YHWH! For God!

Remember that this is about the “Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!” Just like John so poetically says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!” So Mark prosaically says, “The beginning of the Gospel of (the person) Jesus (who is the) Christ, (who is) the Son of God.” He now claims that He is, indeed, God Himself! The content of the Good News, the Gospel, is Jesus! And Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us!


Three times Mark uses the image of “the Way. John the Baptist comes as the forerunner who proclaims the Gospel-Good News that Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel, is the Way of Salvation; He is the Way of Eternal peace, Shalom with God, Shalom with neighbors, Shalom with self.


And he says that he is declaring the Presence of … One More powerful … than I! This one will baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit! – that is a right, and an ability, that belongs exclusively to God!


All of this is to state that this Christ-event, Christmas, the incarnation, the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God, Emmanuel, is not a random arbitrary last-resort occurrence! It has been in the works since the dawn of Salvation history, since Moses and the Exodus, since Abraham and the covenant, since Adam and Eve and the Creation of all that is. This is the consummation of a purpose-driven history of revelation from God Almighty.

Therefore, God has been preparing for this new beginning in Jesus Christ from the time of Moses and the Prophets!


The Advent application for us is simply to become aware of the “Wildernesswe are in.

In this desert-place, can we hear the voice of one calling?

Is it time for our new beginning, in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, Emmanuel?

If you need that kind of Peace today, it is yours for the taking, regardless of the wildness of your desert storm. God with us, revealed in us, Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Amen.



Edwards, James R.; The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark; Eerdmans; Grand Rapids, MI; 2002; Pp. 23-33.

12/03/2017 = John 1:6-9, 19-28 = “What Is Our Reflection?”

CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, to hear this Advent Message number One.

Mark Wheeler

John 1:6-9, 19-28

“What Is Our Reflection?”

12/03/2017, First Sunday of Advent

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


God of hope and promise, be with us throughout this Advent season and d raw us ever closer as we journey together toward the stable and the birth of your Son, our Savior. Amen.


On this First Sunday of Advent, the traditional theme is Hope. And this year, it seems, we are in need of more hope than in recent years.

Hope for peace in the Middle East.

Hope for safety for female co-workers.

Hope for health and resources and peace of mind.

Hope for political bipartisanship.

Hope for fewer Tweets, and hope for better interpersonal relationships.


But we can approach our seasons of despair with faith and hope in God’s presence and power, or with empty hopelessness and darkness.


It’s like the story of the two children who were each taken to their respective storage rooms. One room was full of brand new toys, and the other was filled with hay and horse manure.

The first child looked at the first room and cried because all of those wonderful toys would probably soon be broken. The other child was in the other room shoveling like crazy, “I know there has to be a horse in here somewhere!” she said.


Today’s Advent reading offers such hope, perfect hope, hope that shines light in darkness. And today’s Advent reading offers us an opportunity to bring that hope to a world that desperately needs it.


Hear the Word of God from one of Jesus’ first followers, as we read John 1:6-9, 19-28…. —-

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world….

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


John, the Gospel-writer, the Apostle, begins his version of the story of Jesus, not with a manger scene or a virgin or shepherds or magi; he starts with those almost-magical, certainly mystical, words, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And then he tells how this Word is responsible for all of creation, and that He (notice that John the Gospel-writer makes sure that we understand that this “Word” is personal) is the light of that light of the world; the John he writes of is not that Word which is God; instead he is a witness to testify concerning that lighted-Word!


John goes back to the story about this Word stepping into this world He had made, and living with the people He had called His own. The Christmas message here is that He came and “dwelt among us” (KJV), and all who receive Him and believe Him have the right to be called children of God!


But the Advent message continues again with more about John the Baptist. There must have been some confusion about John the Baptist’s role in salvation history, because John the Gospel-writer goes into some detail about John the Baptist’s self-identification.

20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “So then, who the heck are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

Scuttle-butt and rumors had apparently spread that this one who was baptizing a baptism of repentance in the Jordan River must be the Messiah, the Christ, the one anointed by God as the King of kings, who would rescue the Israelites from the Roman oppression. People thought that John the Baptist (which was not his name, by the way – people would have called him John the son of Zechariah), people thought that he was their Savior! “I am not the Messiah.”

So the investigation continued. From the Old Testament prophet Malachi who promised that God would send the even Older Testament prophet Elijah to come before “the day of the Lord”, they interrogated him, “Are you Elijah?“I am not.”

In frustration now, they keep digging: “Are you the prophet?” Scholars argue over which “the Prophet” they may have had in mind, but I think the reference is related to a Deuteronomy 18 prophecy, and that it refers to Moses, the one who saved them, rescued them, delivered them from bondage in Egypt. John’s answer: “No.” (I often wonder what his tone of voice was at this point: “Nope”? [like, non-chalant, just keep guessing], “NO!”? [like, “leave me alone!”], or something in between.)

But I don’t wonder about the tone of voice of the questioners. They were exasperated! “Who ARE you?! Give us an answer! What have you to say for yourself?!23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”


I believe these inquirers had hopes that were being dashed! They hoped John was the guy! But John kept pointing them to a Bigger Hope!

That’s our Advent message this morningpoint people to the Bigger Hope! Point our children and our husbands to Hope Bigger than the presents underneath the tree. Point each other to an even Bigger Hope than family getting together for Christmas dinner. Point friends and family to Bigger Hope than good health (which lasts, at best, for only a lifetime). Point political foes to a Bigger Hope than even peace between oppositions…. There’s something Bigger – and I’m not just talking about Pie-in-the-sky Eternity-Hope….


After all the exhausting questions asked of John, with no satisfying answers, they finally ask what he’s doing baptizing people in the Jordan! This baptism thing wasn’t like a brand new phenomenon, but it certainly was not Jewish religious business as usual. This was something significant, and they wanted to know who gave John the authority to do such a thing! A baptism of repentance for the sake of the Kingdom of God?! What is this about?!

Here’s where John’s answer shocked every one. 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

John’s authority comes from God. He is preparing the way for the Messiah to come. And, just to be clear, this did not happen on Christmas morn. This was 30 years later, as full adults. And the Advent message is that John was still Reflecting the Light of Christ for the world around him.


And that’s our Advent message, too. By pointing out the Bigger Hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we too can reflect the light of Christ for our family and friends, our neighbors and associates, our classmates and coworkers. Reflect the light of Christ and point people beyond their despair and darkness to the Hope of the Gospel, for today as well as into eternity. Amen.



Beasley-Murray, George R.; Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 36: John; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1987; Pp. 11-24.

11/26/2017 = Christ the King Sunday = Haggai 2:20-23 = Haggai the Honorable: “Contest of Sovereignties”

You wanna HEAR Haggai’s words? Click HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Haggai 2:20-23

Haggai the Honorable: “Contest of Sovereignties”

11/26/2017, Christ the King Sunday

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Holy God, You spoke the world into being. And we have sinned against You in countless ways. Pour Your Spirit to the ends of the earth, that Your children may return from exile as citizens of Your true Kingdom, and our divisions may be healed by Your Word of love and righteousness through Christ our Lord. Amen.


One week has the Seattle Seahawks playing the AZ Cardinals, and even with their main defensive player sidelined with a torn Achilles’ tendon, the Seahawks beat the Cardinals severely.

Another week, those same Seahawks play Atlanta Falcons, and lose by a missed field goal.

Admittedly, Cardinals are no Falcons, but we wonder if Seattle will ever be consistent enough to win the Super Bowl…..

The NFL is a Game of (Touchdown) Throws.


That, and our Sermon Title, is my play on words. To avoid any copyright infringements or apparent endorsements, I am avoiding the Game of Thrones phrase as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, and as we experience His role in this Contest of Sovereignties!


Today we finish reading the four prophecies­ in the book of Haggai, all of which take place between the months of August and December of 520bc.

Haggai lived during a time when the Jewish people were starting to return to their motherland after being in Exile in Babylon and Persia for several generations, and they were being challenged to rebuild their lives, their homes, their beloved city walls, and their Holy Temple in Jerusalem!


Hear the Word of God. Haggai 2:20-23…. —-

     20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

23 “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”     (NIV)


To bring us all up to speed, and to get us all on the same page, here’s a quick refresher on where we are:

Haggai’s first prophetic word of the Lord is to “these people” is about reprioritizing our lives back to a rightful place of knowing God as our heavenly Father who loves us.

The second prophetic word of the Lord to “these peoplechallenges us to gain a more godly, more divine perspective on our lives’ situations.

The third prophetic word of the Lord is addressed, first, to the priests, and then to “these people”. Using the object lesson of clean and unclean, Haggai reminds us that John Calvin’s teaching about Total Depravity is absolutely correct! “Everything they touch is defiled!” he says. This is about purity of heart; it’s about preparing ourselves to receive God’s blessings by obedience to His Word.

And today’s concluding prophetic word of the Lord is addressed specifically to the political leader, the governor of Judah, about discovering God’s perfect presence and power and purpose.

From proper priority-setting and proper perspective and purity of heart and spirit leading to understanding God’s perfect presence and power and purpose, and our place in that.


Remember the context of today’s prophecy: it is spoken to Zerubbabel the governor of Judah. I wonder if Zerubbabel questioned his own role in Israel’s future as the Israelites were moving back into their “own country”. At this point in history Judah was a small, insignificant little territory, under control of the Persian Empire. Would Zerubbabel ever amount to anything more than just the governor of Judah? Did he wish he was more? He was in the family tree of, the bloodline of, King David! Did he expect, hope for, something bigger than a mere governor-ship of this small province?

And the word of the Lord comes through the messenger-prophet  Haggai to Zerubbabel, telling him, “There is a big difference between things as they currently are and as they one-day will be: things now are small, difficult, discouraging; the Temple is being restored, but so very slowly; the new building is no match to the old splendor; the harvests are small, not enough; drought and mildew plague the workers; and Zerubbabel, you are in the line of King David, but you are a mere governor of a tiny community. But it will not always be this way!


And here’s the thing. When we read this story, can we relate to anything Zerubbabel is experiencing? Is my life less than I hoped for, less than I worked for? Is it more difficult, discouraging, expensive, lonely, fear-filled than I feel like I deserve? Maybe there’s progress happening, but it is so slow that it feels like it will never get finished in my life-time? (Anybody here who has hoped for the North-South Freeway since the 1950s can relate….) What’s around the next corner? When will the other shoe drop?

But, Haggai says, “It will not always be this way!


Ready for the disappointing part of this Good News? Who remembers when Haggai lived? [520bc] Do you think Zerubbabel ever experienced being a king? Or an expansive economy? Or a finished Temple? [He did not.]


Two or three generations earlier the prophet Jeremiah spoke of Israel’s King Jehoiachin resigning his reign over to Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. When we Google or Bible Gateway searchsignet ring”, we find Jeremiah’s words to Jehoiachin, and then we find Haggai’s words to Zerubbabel which directly reverse Jeremiah’s words in verse 23: “On that day, I will take you, Zerubbabel my servant, oracle of Yahweh, and I will set you as a signet ring, because I have chosen you.”


But these words were spoken in 520bc!

This prophecy is what scholars call, both, Messianic (they foretell about the coming Messiah) and Eschatological (they talk about End Times).


Haggai tells us that Yahweh is going to shake the nations; their power will be broken; their resources will be brought to restore the Kingdom of God. He says that the future glory of the Temple will be greater than the former glory. And Haggai says that God’s servant will become God’s representative on earth (salt of the earth, light of the world!)

We know that none of these things happened in Zerubbabel’s lifetime! Zerubbabel drops completely out of site with no explanation. The Temple was finished just a few years later (Ezra 6:15 tells us that the Temple was completed in 516bc), and then destroyed again in 70ad. And Israel has yet to be its own nation with a King and no outside power control (yes, in 1948 the UN declared Palestine to be the self-governed nation of Israel, and they have their own president and prime minister, but even today, 2,500 later, it is a nation that struggles to be recognized as sovereign).


Next Sunday is the beginning of the liturgical year, the church calendar, as we celebrate the 1st Sunday of Advent in preparation for the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. What did the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel follow the star to find? [The new-born King of the Jews!] What did Pilate ask Jesus at His trial 33 years later? [“Are you the King of the Jews?”] By the time the Book of Acts rolls around, why are the Roman Emperors feeding Christians to the lions? [Claiming that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, when, according to Roman rule, only the Emperor claimed those titles.]

You see how this is Messianic? Yeah, it was first spoken 520 years before Christ, and it was fulfilled by/through/in Jesus Christ, Yeshua Meshiach. With the coming of Christ, Haggai’s hopes for the Temple and for the King were fulfilled – and fulfilled far beyond what the people couple have ever expected.


And, while you and I live in that liminal time between Christ’s coming and culminating consummation, final fulfillment is yet to arrive.


How do you and I survive another news bulletin? How do we cope with another medical announcement? How do we handle another financial set-back, or loss of a loved one, or uncertain tomorrows, or very certain tomorrows?

We cling to the One who wore the Crown of Thorns who sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, who while we were yet sinners died for us, who is the hope of salvation.

Today is Christ the King Sunday, but every day Christ is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. There is no ultimate Contest of Sovereignties because at the name of Jesus Christ every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.


Haggai invites us all to believe this Good News! When we find ourselves in darkness, to reach for Jesus who is the Light of the world. And to, then, be that Light of the world for those around us to see Christ in us.



Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 32: Micah-Malachi; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 146-165.