Our Triple Blessing

How many times in your life have you heard this benediction of Paul spoken at the end of a worship service? Countless times, times beyond number. If you are over 50 it is safe to say you have heard it and read it thousands of times. What difference has it made in your life? What effect has it had? Are they just nice sounding words, a good thing for a pastor to pronounce before you go home? So what? Have you ever given those words a second thought, actually contemplated them. And here is a strange idea, have you ever spoken them or prayed them or wished them for someone else? Let me tell you why I was prompted to take up this text this morning. I have had a growing burden in my heart for our flock these past three months. I have had a burden for our senior saints who have been isolated from family and friends. I have had a burden for our families, and especially moms who have had to become instant teachers and homeschool kids every day. I have had a burden for our high school seniors who have missed out on all the things that make senior year special. We have come to the end of the school year, to the start of summer and I want to speak life and hope and encouragement to all of us. Then when I realized this was Trinity Sunday I thought this text is the perfect blessing we all need in the midst of the stress and craziness of life. This text is a Trinitarian blessing, a triple blessing. And what could be better if I wanted to give a blessing than to give a triple blessing. Consider this a three scoop blessing, a Neapolitan. Some is good, more is better and too much is just right. Can I get an amen? So senior saints and high school seniors, moms and stressed out parents, those of you feeling isolated, those of you bummed by all we are missing out on and all that has been canceled, those trying to do work in very different ways, those of you weary of the news, those wondering about the future, those weary of doing worship on a screen, receive God’s triple blessing.

Chuck Norris is a famous movie and television star, especially known for his show Walker, Texas Ranger. He is also a world-champion black-belt martial artist. Because of his character being unstoppable with insane near superpowers and skill there is a whole genre of Chuck Norris jokes, which are referred to as Chuck Norris facts. Chuck Norris jokes/facts. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris gets pulled over, he lets the cop off with a warning. When Chuck Norris steps on a Lego, the Lego cries. Chuck Norris counted to infinity, twice. Chuck Norris was born in a log cabin he build with his own hands. That one got me to thinking there is someone about whom statements like that are actually true. Jesus was born in a manger that He created. Jesus rode on a donkey He created. Jesus was born to parents He created. Jesus walked on an earth He created. Jesus died on a cross made from a tree He made. At the time of the incarnation, Jesus who is infinite became a day old. Jesus who has power to create galaxies is now so weak He has to be carried. Jesus who’s hands can hold the oceans, now has fingers too small to hold Mary’s finger. Jesus who’s words spoke creation into existence, how has to be taught how to say words. Jesus who never hungered or thirsted, now cries when He is hungry and thirsty. He who the universe couldn’t contain, is now contained in a manger.

Grace and Gratitude

As we are in Thanksgiving week it seemed to me appropriate to address a question about grace and tie it to gratitude and the glory of God. I will do this this evening and Thursday morning. II Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving (gratitude), to the glory of God. Let me teach you a German word. It’s one of the most important German words you need to know, especially in the up-coming election year. TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” This is a handy word to remember every time you hear a politician offer you something for free. When they say that, say back TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” There is nothing free, everything costs something. If someone offers you a free lunch, it just means someone else paid for it. If they offer free health care, someone else paid for it. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “The problem with socialism is sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

My sermon title this morning should be God’s sufficient grace for moms and everyone else, but that was too long. The sermon is for everyone, with some application at the end for moms. All of us are privileged to see into the first heavens where birds and airplanes fly. And all of us are privileged to see into the second heavens inhabited by our moon and sun and stars and galaxies. But very few are there who have ever seen into the third heavens, the habitation of God in all His glory, and lived to tell about it. The context of this passage is that 14 years before writing this letter to the church in Corinth Paul had been given by God an extraordinary vision of heaven. He heard and saw things that were too magnificent even to utter. It was an exceedingly extraordinary manifestation of God’s favor to him, a gift like no other. Because we humans have a tendency to become puffed up or full of ourselves when we are in possession of personal advantages far above others, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.

Do you know people who make promises and then don’t keep them? Most of us have experiences with people who have promised more than they can deliver. Most of us have been let down, have had expectations unmet. Parents, spouses, teachers, bosses, friends, churches, life. And it is easy to transfer those thoughts and feelings to God. Have you ever questioned whether God has kept a promise? Have you felt let down or failed? Have you ever felt God keeps His promises for other people but not for you? I think there is wisdom in living by the motto of “under promise and over deliver.” Be known as a person of your word, who follows through, does what he says. Is God guilty of over promising and under delivering? Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23) Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11) If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20) If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19) God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Sowing for the Kingdom

This is the time of year churches traditionally talk about stewardship. I have been in pastoral ministry over thirty years and I am aware stewardship type sermons, sermons that address money and finances can sometimes be received poorly and one of the reasons for that may be a lack of love. I come to this task this morning helped, encouraged and motivated by three loves. First, a love for Jesus. I love Jesus and I want to love Him more. I want to know Him and obey Him and to speak what was on His heart to you in a faithful manner. Jesus spent a huge amount of time talking about money and possessions. So my love for Jesus and my desire to be faithful to Him motivates me to not shrink from this important work this morning. Second, a love for you. I love you and I delight in being your pastor. If I love you, then I should desire the best for you. It is known from Scripture and from experience that people who give and give freely and generously are the happiest people on earth. So love for you compels me to call you to pursue your joy and gladness in generous giving. Third, a love for the blood-bought Church of Jesus Christ. I want to see the kingdom of God spread through our community and to the ends of the earth, to see a great harvest of righteousness. I would love to see an avalanche of generosity that is need-meeting, kingdom-advancing, gospel-spreading, harvest-producing.

God is Marching On

In 1858 Kimball, a Sunday School teacher, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus Christ.  that clerk, Dwight L. Moody, became the evangelist who awakened the evangelistic zeal in the heart of F.B Meyer, the pastor of a small church. o Meyer, preaching on American college campuses, at 1 time brought to Christ a student named J.Wilber Chapman. o Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player, Billy Sunday, to help with evangelistic meetings. o a group of local men were so enthusiastic about Billy Sunday's series of services in Charlotte, NC, that they planned another campaign with Mordicai F. Hamm as the preacher. o during these meetings, a young man, Billy Graham, heard the gospel and gave his life to Christ.. o & Billy Graham...well you know the rest of the story—it goes on & one & on!  well, we could ask ourselves the question: “Have I started something lately for the Lord? o “Witnessed to another person who in turn is telling another about Jesus & so on?” Now we see from that course of events God is on move in this world to save it  He continues to forge links & a procession of Christian witnesses & workers who love & serve Him.  Christians whose lives show God's saving grace. o & whose lips proclaim His good news around the globe. o from east to west, north to south, to bring people to Christ. Well, Paul is kind of talking about that in the passage we read from IICor.2.  here he praises & thanks God that He continues to move mightily through the world, defeating sin & Satan. o & establishing His Church & extending His Kingdom through the preaching & practicing of His saving Word everywhere.  & he praises Lord that He is doing that despite events & experiences that go against us & hinder God’s mission & ministry we have on earth. Th'fore, as we face another new year of service for the Lord in His work of mercy & missions & evangelism for salvation of sinners,--

God of love. “Smile, God loves you” or “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Most people today think God went through a huge makeover in the NT. In the OT God was a God of justice and judgment and wrath, but in the NT He went through a personality change and is a God of love and mercy. Others say God is just and Jesus is merciful. Either way the God of the Bible ends up looking like a schizophrenic or bi-polar. To suit our sensitivities we have made God in our image. Our culture exalts love and self-esteem and feel-good religion. We have churches and pastors preaching positive thinking and nice thoughts like Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen. We don’t want a God who is a judge, we want a God who is a loving, kind grandparent. We think that a God of justice and mercy is mutually exclusive or contradictory. God can be one or the other but not both. But we can’t be guided by the sentiments of our day, we must be grounded in God’s Word. Article 20 of the Belgic Confession focuses on two qualities or characteristics of God, the attributes of justice and mercy. God is a God of love and justice, mercy and wrath, grace and righteousness. He reveals Himself as Father and Judge, Shepherd and King, Savior and Master. Why do we insist on and maintain both God’s divine justice and divine mercy? To answer that question is to answer the question, why did God become man?