Sunday, December 9, 2012

God Keeps His Promises

A fresh snowfall fell gently over the countryside during the night and continued again this morning. The outdoor quiet lay in distinct contrast to the energetic practice taking place in the sanctuary in preparation for the upcoming Christmas concert. Downstairs many others were assembled for a Christmas-focused adult Sunday school gathering.

Brad welcomed us and grabbed our attention with a booming “Good morning! Thank you for braving this storm today.”

He then directed us toward the theme that he would be sharing from the pulpit this morning. "There is only one person who always keeps his promises and that is God. How does God break into our world to keep His promises even today."

Life of the Church

Tonight at 5:00 p.m. there is a men’s ministry event taking place here, Men as Peacemakers. Fire departments throughout the region will be here for a presentation on domestic abuse. There will be a meal preceding.

Christmas Around the World is our theme for this year’s Christmas program which will be next Sunday. There will be an international meal after the program which begins at 4:00 p.m. This is a reminder that the children need to be here for Wednesday and Saturday practice. (10 – noon next week.)

Regarding the Salvation Army family we have adopted, a Mom and 2 kids: bring your gifts by next Sunday.

Ed Newman played piano this morning in Darlene’s absence, beginning with an Appalachian carol, and then accompanying the congregation as we sang several Christmas hymns.

The lighting of the second Advent candle followed with Larsen family… Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation. The first candle is the Candle of Hope. The second, which was lit today, is the Candle of Preparation as Christians "prepare" to receive God.

Duayne Anderson shared with us during a Ministry Moment in response to the question, “What has God been doing in your life?”

“What I’m sharing is what God is doing in my life by being in my life.” He shared about his brother-in-law’s recent passing last month. Throughout his suffering with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, he was happy to know he was saved and repeatedly said “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Shared the challenge it is when faced with suffering in others’ lives. Duayne affirmed that whatever we go through He is there, and we can go to Him.

God Keeps His Promises

For a lot of people the Christmas season has other emotional associations. For Pastor Brad, this time of year reminds Brad of his father’s passing, and the difficult time that preceded it as Brad was involved with taking care of him as he declined. What made the experience especially difficult was that many people prayed for his father’s healing, but it never happened.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis bared his soul as he wrote about the passing of his wife, Joy Davidman. The reason he married her was to assure her that when she died of cancer he would take care of her sons, but then she survived and the formality of marriage became something more. But then, she was taken from him as her cancer returned, and he turned his skillful pen toward expressing the pain and grief of his loss. 

It was so personal that he wrote the book and published it under a pseudonym. primarily because it was so open about his anger and questioning God.It was only after he died that the book was properly attributed to this influential Christian.

In both instances, Lewis' and Pastor Shannon's, there was pain because expectations about God's intervention did not happen in the manner they assumed God should intervene.

We live in an assumptive world… all too often confused and disillusioned when things don’t happen the way we think they should and our belief structures are shaken.

Here's the passage from Isaiah 40 that Brad proceeded to read:

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who wait upon the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

How does God keep His promises? How does God work? Some strong Calvinist friends say that God controls everything. We're just going through the motions of appearing to have a say in our life choices. Others see absolutely no involvement and we’re left to muddle along on our own.

But how does God break into human affairs? There are three ways which were presented.

1. Intervention is where God actually reaches down and intervenes. An example of this is in Exodus 14. Israel left Egypt, but got stuck at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army’s rapidly approaching chariots coming on strong. As we remember, God parted the Red Sea and the fleeing Israelites cross on dry ground, a miraculous intervention of God on behalf of His people. In NT we see another example in Luke 18. A man born blind receives his sight at Jesus' word. Jesus spoke, and the man could see.

Too often, though, we think this is the way God should act, always, and we can expect that He will act when we have a need.

It’s good that we expect or desire miracles from God. Many of us can share stories like this. It’s not wrong to expect a miracle. but here is the problem. It is not God’s primary method of working and it will leave you disillusioned if you expect this kind of problem solving all the time.

2. Interaction is where God works through His people. Here is another example from Exodus, this time from chapter 2. Moses kills an Egyptian to save Israel from oppression, but flees to the backside of desert because of his fear. Moses' life can be summed up in three acts. The first 40 years he learned he was a somebody thru association with pharaoh’s courts. The second 40, he learned he was a nobody. In his third 40, he learned what God could do through a somebody who knew he was a nobody.

God says to Moses, “You go, and I’ll go with you.” They are team. He is a worker together with God.

I have friends who say they have miracles every day… before breakfast, later in the afternoon and again in the evening. My experience tell me there are some things that will not be changed unless God works and WE work together with Him.

The Great Commission is an example here. Jesus affirms His omnipotence and omniscience, but in between, God commissions his people to change the world by making disciples of all nations. Unless we do our part, it will not happen.

3. Inner Action is where God does not do a miracle, or change our situation, but through His inaction He does something beautiful inside us. An example can be found in II Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh. It is never identified, but what we know is that God did not pull the thorn. Nor could Paul remove the thorn himself. But by means of the thorn Paul's relationship with God was deepened.

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Brad then shared the story of Jim, a wheelchair-bound man whose situation was not changed, but who became an incredible man through God’s inner action.

The people of God were awaiting a Messiah for centuries. God seemed to have forsaken them. But God was not absent and had not forsaken them.

Then Brad opened the windows into his own life and shared how difficult this past 14 months had been after their home burned. " I often wondered if I could make it through the day… and many days I ended the day thankful that I had walked and had not fainted."

God's promise is that our strength will be renewed when we learn to wait on Him. God keeps His promises. Sometimes we can soar on eagle's wings or run and not be weary, but other times we will walk and not faint. You can bet your soul on that.

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