We join with Paul in praising God for including us in His plan of salvation by choosing us in Christ by His glorious grace.
Some of you may remember the action TV series back in the mid-80s called The A-Team. It was a show about a fictional group of ex-US Army Special Forces who now had become soldiers of fortune while on the run after being labeled as war criminals for a “crime they did not commit”. The 5-man team had names like Hannibal and Murdock and B.A. and Faceman, and, of course, Mr. T. Hannibal was the leader of the team and he always seemed to have the perfect plan for getting them out of any situation they got into. His favorite catch phrase, if you remember, was "I love it when a plan comes together".
I was reminded of that show while I was working on these words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. You are I were once members of a team of war criminals. We were guilty as charged of rebelling against our holy God – not only because of what we were by nature but also because of the many times we still violate His holy will in our lives by our sinful words and actions.
But God be praised that He had a plan. In love His plan included rescuing you and me from the team of the enemy and making us members of His team. And like the A-Team, the Lord’s plan came together to get you and me out of a terrible mess.
Today, then, let us see that we have good reason to “PRAISE GOD FOR HIS AMAZING GRACE”
First of all, we praise God that already in eternity He included you and me in His amazing plan.
Our text here is one of the major sections in the Bible from which we get the doctrine of “election” or “predestination”. This teaching is found in several other places in the Bible, but this is the longest and most thorough presentation of this teaching.
If we could sum up the teaching on election in a few sentences, it might go something like this: election is the teaching that God already before the creation of the world chose certain people to be saved. He chose them, not because of anything He saw in them, but because of His grace and mercy alone and in view of what Jesus would do for all people.
We can see this very clearly here in our lesson. Paul begins by praising God for blessing us with every spiritual blessing that He sends down to us from “the heavenly realms”. Day after day He literally showers us with His many good things.
And then Paul tells us the reason why: “For He chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”. In a little more than three months the people of our country will be choosing the person they want to serve as our president the next four years from two or more candidates on the ballot. Only one of them, of course, is going to be elected. That’s the purpose of an election – only certain ones are chosen.
What Paul is saying, then, is that God has elected you and me out of all the people in this world to be His chosen ones. And then he adds: “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons 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.”
Can you imagine that? God chose you! God chose me! Why would He do that? Was it because He saw there would be something good about us that He liked? Did He see that we would be better than most other people? Did He see that we would be more like the kind of the people He was looking for? No, no, and no – absolutely not! We are no different and no better than anyone else. What David said about himself in Psalm 51 also applies to all of us: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” And it is still true of us what Paul once wrote about all people: “There is no one who does good, not even one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
You see, there is only one reason God chose you and me. And Paul tells us what that is: because of “His pleasure and will”. What that simply means is that God chose you and me for no other reason than the fact that He wanted to. And the only thing that prompted God to want to choose us was His great love for us. That’s it. God chose us to be saved so that we might be “holy and blameless in His sight”. It’s not that you and I were “holy and blameless” by nature, but that’s what God Himself would declare us to be “in His sight”.
Likewise God chose us so that we might adopt us as His sons. Only sons received the inheritance of the father. So you and I are in line to receive an inheritance that is beyond our fondest imagination. Yes, how truly blessed we are that God included us in His amazing plan.
But God’s plan for us could only come together because of Jesus.
Does God simply overlook who we are and what we are like? Does He simply ignore and disregard the seriousness of our sin and pre-tend it doesn’t exist? No again. God cannot and will not do that. God is holy and He hates sin with a passion. All sin must be punished.
But you see, that is exactly what God did - He punished all sin – our sins and the sins of all people of all time. Only He did not take out His anger over our sin on us. No, in love He punished His own dear Son in our place. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? And it wasn’t fair. Jesus did not deserve to be punished. Jesus was holy and blameless, without sin. Even His own Father testified to that when He said: “This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”.
But you see, punishing Jesus was all a part of God’s amazing plan to save us. God’s plan could only come together “in Christ Jesus”. No one can be or ever will be saved without Jesus. Ten times here in these 12 verses of our lesson Paul uses the expression “in Christ” or “in Him” or the equivalent.
We have already mentioned two of the greatest blessings God has given us. One is that He has declared us to be “holy and blameless in His sight”. And the other is that He has “adopted us” to receive a glorious inheritance. But where do these blessings come from? And again Paul here gives us the answer: “In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” That says it all, doesn’t it? In Jesus we have redemption. “Redemption” means that a ransom payment was made to set us free from the guilt of our sin and from a well-deserved eternity in hell. And the ransom He had to pay? “His blood”, Paul says. Yes, Jesus shed His holy and precious blood on Calvary’s terrible cross as the sacrificial payment for all our sins.
And now, Paul adds, we have “the forgiveness of sins”. The word “forgiveness” basically means that all our sins which have offended our holy God have all been removed – they have been taken away forever. And in their place God has given us the “righteousness” or perfection of Jesus. His perfect life is now our perfect life so that you and I are “holy and blameless in His sight”. All of this is only because of “the riches of God’s grace”. Yes, how truly blessed you and I are - but only because of Jesus, our Savior.
But Paul also shows us here that God’s amazing plan had a purpose for our lives here and now.
The good news about Jesus is called the gospel. Paul here also calls it “a mystery”. The gospel is a mystery in the sense that God’s plan to save us would be hidden or unknown if God Himself had not revealed it to us in His Word. Paul speaks about God pouring out “the riches of His grace on us with all wisdom and understanding”.
A part of the teaching on election is the fact that all those God has chosen from eternity are the same ones He has called by the gospel to believe here in time. God has seen to it that you and I, in our lifetimes, have heard the good news about Jesus and now believe it with all our hearts. And yet, even that is not our doing, is it? That is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. God saw to it that we heard about Jesus and what He did for us. And the Holy Spirit used that gospel message to bring us to faith in Jesus as our Savior. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as a “seal” of ownership, showing that we now belong to God. The Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit” or down payment that guarantees us that there is a lot more to come when this life is over.
And all this is “to the praise of His glory”. You see, God chose you and me to be His own so that we might live for Him. “We love because He first loved us”. We thank and praise God for His great love toward us by the love we show toward others, especially those who are members of our own family and our church family. We thank and praise God as we produce the fruits of our faith in our daily lives and as we carry out our Savior’s mission by sharing His saving gospel with others through our personal witness, our invitation to the unchurched, and our generous gifts and offerings.
You and I don’t know all those people out there in the world whom God has chosen from eternity to be His elect. That is why Jesus said that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”. Until the end of time comes when the last of God’s elect have heard about Jesus and been saved, you and I are God’s chosen ones – chosen and called to be His witnesses in this sinful and corrupt generation. That, too, is truly a great honor and privilege if we realize just how blessed we really are to be a part of God’s amazing plan – a plan that has all come together in Jesus for our eternal salvation. Amen
Let’s play a game called opposites. It’s a simple word game, but it is sometimes associated with psychological testing. Here is how it works. One person says a word. Then the other person responds as quickly as possible with a word that has the opposite meaning.
For example, if I said "fast," most likely the first word that comes to mind is "slow." If I said "open," most people would quickly respond with "closed."
Now, to yourself: White… Short…. Amos… Amaziah.
There are two very different people in our text. They’re not as obvious as black and white and short and tall. And most people don’t know much about Amos, and even less about Amaziah. On the surface these two men appear similar. Both are Jews. Both claim to men of God. Amaziah was the priest at Bethel, and Amos was a prophet of the Lord. Their names even sound alike. Amos and Amaziah.
But a closer look reveals that Amos and Amaziah are not so similar. They are from different countries. They have different agendas. They serve different masters. It is not a stretch to say that they are opposites. By the way, even though they has similar sounding names, Amos means “burden bearer” and Amaziah means “Yahweh is Almighty.” These opposites do not attract. They don’t get along. These two men are enemies. Our text is a conversation between these two men, a war of words between Amos and Amaziah. These six verses are the battleground, and the truth of God is at stake. These words, this battle remind us that the Battle For Truth at the House of God Rages On. Let’s talk about the accusations of Amaziah and the authority of Amos.
1. Again, Amaziah was a priest at Bethel. That’s a little confusing because we know that God established his temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place where Solomon built God’s temple. The temple was the place where the priests offered sacrifices on the altar. So, why did Amaziah serve as a priest at Bethel, some ten miles to the north?
After King Solomon died, Israel was divided in two. The northern ten tribes rebelled against the house of David and formed their own government. The problem was that Jerusalem and the temple were in the southern territory. The rebel king in the north, a man by the name of Jereboam, didn’t want his people going to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, so he set up an alternative worship site for them at Bethel.
The Hebrew word, "Bethel," means "house of God," but what went on at Bethel was anything but God-pleasing. Jereboam set up a golden calf at Bethel to blend the worship of the true God with the idolatry of Israel’s neighbors.
250 years later when Amos arrived on the scene things had not changed. Or we could say that things had gotten worse. God’s assessment of his people in Amos 2:6,7: "They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name" Israel enjoyed a wonderful time of peace and prosperity, but beneath the surface the nation was in spiritual and moral decay. God’s patience with Israel was wearing thin, and he sent Amos to Bethel to warn the people of the Lord’s impending wrath.
Because life was good for the people of Israel, life was also good for Amaziah, the priest at Bethel. The one thing Amaziah did not need was Amos making trouble in his own backyard, so he attacked Amos. He sent word to the king, saying: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words"
Amaziah claimed that Amos was inciting a rebellion against Jereboam II ( the king who shared his name with the first king of Israel, the one who set up the golden calf at Bethel). Amaziah’s charge was a half-truth. Amos did predict that Israel would be destroyed, but he was not a part of any conspiracy against the king himself.
Amaziah, however, was not interested in the truth. He wasn’t afraid to twist the facts to get rid of Amos, and his next attack shows that he was willing to get personal. He told Amos: "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there" (12).
Amaziah assumed that Amos was a prophet for hire, not a prophet from God. He assumed that Amos prophesied to feed his own belly, not to feed other people’s souls. Did Amaziah make these assumptions because this was the kind of spiritual leader he was? In one way Amaziah was right: If Amos wanted to preach about the destruction of Israel, he would probably receive a much warmer reception (and a better a pay-day) in Judah, Israel’s rival to the south.
Amaziah’s third and final accusation allows us to look inside his heart. He told Amos: "Do not prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom" (13). "Amos, Bethel is Israel’s most sacred place. Bethel is the seat of the kingdom. Don’t preach here anymore…or else." Amaziah did not serve God. He served the king, and anyone who opposed the king or the kingdom had to be destroyed.
God’s Word and God’s people are attacked just as viciously today as Amaziah attacked Amos. God’s Word is dismissed as irrelevant. Negative labels are put on God’s people: Simplistic, naïve, intolerant, unloving. Jesus told us that we should actually expect this kind of treatment because people are by nature hostile to God and his Word.
What’s very disturbing for us Christians is that this battle rages within the house of God. Pastors proclaim that the Bible is filled with errors. Churches believe that the mission of the church is to feed stomachs, not souls.
How do we feel when on the receiving end of these attacks? Discouraged, distressed, depressed? How about encouraged? How about excited? How about blessed? That might sound strange, but Jesus says that very thing in Matthew 5: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me" (11).
Christians don’t rejoice because they have to suffer. Christians don’t get excited when their convictions put them in an unpopular minority. But when we are persecuted, when the truth of God’s Word comes under attack, these attacks are evidence that God’s Word is at work. And that does give us a reason to rejoice. The same assurance of God’s presence gave Amos the strength to stand up to Amaziah, to stand up for the truth of God, and to speak with authority.
2. Amos had a difficult call from God. Amos was from Tekoa, a small village in Judah, but he prophesied at Bethel in the north. Judah and Israel were not on good terms. But the greatest challenge Amos had to face was that his message was pure law. He condemned Israel’s leaders for their wickedness. He predicted that Israel’s cities would be destroyed. He prophesied that Israel’s people would be carried into captivity.
It would be like a Confederate preacher on tour in the North during the Civil War. Picture him proclaiming with a southern drawl: "New York & Boston will be burned. Washington D.C. will fall. Your sons will die in battle. And the Union will be destroyed." If a Southerner ever tried to talk like that in the North during the Civil War, how popular would he have been? How long do you think he would have survived?
On top of this, Amos had been a sycamore fig farmer. To aid the ripening process, Amos would take a sharp point in put a hole in the bottom of the fig. Red juice would run out of the bottom of the fig and that red juice would stain his hands. Everyone knew Amos was a fig farmer, a poor occupation, just by looking at his hands. And he was ministering to a group of rich people who would not want to humble themselves before a poor fig farmer. A tough call from God, indeed. How would Amos survive?
That might sound unrealistic. But that is exactly what Amos did. Amos was able to stand up to Amaziah. How was he able to do this? He was able to stand up to Amaziah because he had a greater authority standing behind him.
Amos said to Amaziah: "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees" Amos was the first to admit he wasn’t anything special. He was a shepherd/farmer. He was much like Jesus’ disciples, all ordinary men. Ordinary men called to do great things.
Amos went on: "But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’" Amos was able to speak with authority because of his calling. He wasn’t a prophet by trade. He wasn’t a prophet for hire. He was a prophet of God because he had been called by God.
The same God who called Amos also commissioned him. The Lord said to Amos: "Go, prophesy to my people Israel." Amos didn’t work close to home where his life would be most comfortable. Amos did not go where his ministry would be the easiest. He went where God led him. Wherever God led Amos, he could speak with authority because he knew he was where God wanted him to be.
God called Amos. He told him what to do. God commissioned Amos. He told him where to go. Finally, God guided the content of his message. He told him what to say. When Amos prophesied, he did not say to Israel: "You wicked people! Listen to what I have to say." Because God was speaking through him, Amos could look Amaziah right in the eye and say: "This is what the Lord says."
It is clear that the battle still rages on for truth in the house of God. We are reminded today that we have been entrusted with that word today. “You are a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
There will be judgment. It’s called hell. In love we warn of the dangers of sin. In love we follow every word of the Lord. Jesus once prayed to his Father, “Your word is truth.” When we keep the truth to ourselves, are we not like Amaziah? When we don’t stand for every teaching in the Bible, are we not like Amaziah? When we decide we don’t like something the Bible teaches, and put up with those teachings because, for the most part we like the church, aren’t we putting ourselves above God? How serious is God about the battle over the truth? “I will destroy this kingdom from the earth,” he said about Israel, the Northern Kingdom. And to reject his invitation to seek him and live, “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem.”
But just as serious is the Lord about his mercy, even in judgment. There will be a remnant, “I will destroy this kingdom from the earth—yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord. (9:8) The Messiah will come and his kingdom will extend to the ends of the earth. His rule is one of peace, joy, and contentment in the hearts of his people because the Messiah came to pay for all sin. His Father thundered his anger against Jesus. The enemies against Jesus and his church are great. Yet, the people of God enjoy forgiveness of sins in Jesus. God’s people enjoy the status of being sons and daughters in the kingdom. The people of God have the comfort of knowing his help in every trouble, the confidence to pray, the joy of worship, the privilege of serving him, assurance he will help us keep the faith, help against every temptation, victory over death and eternal life.
Then use that knowledge to speak with the same authority as Amos. We can speak with confidence because that is what God has called us to do. We can speak with boldness because God has placed us where he wants us to be. We can speak with authority because God’s Word reveals what we are to say. And when we do that, we can stand up next to Amos and say: "This is what the Lord says." Amen.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our text is a very sobering message for us and yet it is a very comforting one too. Sobering, because it tells us what things will be like for us. Comforting because of God’s precious promises.
Our text reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy says to Charlie Brown: “Sometimes I get discouraged.” And Charlie Brown responds: “Well, Lucy, life does have its ups and downs, you know…” Lucy shoots back: “But why? Why should it? Why can’t life just move from one up to another up? I don’t want any downs! I just want ups and ups and ups!”
Truth be told, I’m with Lucy. I would imagine, you think that way too. But here’s the sobering part of our text: God wants us to be weak. We will be weak. God wants us to be weak so we can know his power. When there seems to be no way out; when there seems to be only trouble; when it seems we are completely overtaken by wants, right there is Jesus, and he promises. He promises his grace. He promises: “My Grace is Sufficient for You.”
Paul had been talking about an intensely personal struggle. He speaks of it as a “thorn in his flesh.” Some people think it was some chronic physical problem, like malaria. It would make sense because one day he had to leave a low level city called Perga and move up to a higher elevated Antioch. Others believe Paul had a problem with his eyes. In Gal. 4 and 6 he hints about having eye troubles. Still others think it may have been a speech impediment, which the Paul’s opponents would have contrasted with their great speaking skills.
You can find out in heaven what his thorn in the flesh was, but on this side of heaven we’ll never know. But what we can say is that it was some sort of physical problem. A painful one. A “thorn in his flesh.” But it was more than a physical problem. Paul calls it “a messenger of Satan to torment me.” And the original language tells us that Satan kept on tormenting Paul. So this problem troubled Paul physically, emotionally and spiritually. And Satan used it to bring evil upon Paul.
But Paul’s body didn’t just deteriorate to the point that he now had a physical trouble. He wasn’t just getting older. “There was given me a thorn in my flesh.” God gave him his thorn. Satan used it to torment him. It was not an accident or a result of old age. The Lord wanted Paul to be weak. Satan wanted Paul to give up hope. But God used the thorn to bless him.
Paul didn’t despair. He fell to his knees. Three times he called out the Lord for help. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take the problem away from Paul. And the Lord always answers every prayer of the believer.
But he answered it in a way Paul did not expect. He wanted Paul to be weak. Instead of taking the thorn away, and Almighty God could have certainly done that, Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
It was as if Jesus said, “No, I’m going to let you go on being weak, not because I want you to be tormented, but because I want you to have a better gift, something far better than a temporary fix for trouble. My grace is enough for you. You know the power of my love, Paul. Through my forgiving grace, my willingness to go to the cross for you, you have come to know the power of my unquenchable love. And that power of grace reaches its full strength in you only when you are conscience of nothing but your own personal weakness and my almighty strength.”
God has this wonderful ability to make something out of nothing. Luther once said that if you think you are something, there’s not much God can do with you.
Look at your big fat ego. How smart and strong you are. How dumb others are in comparison. Look at how often you rely on yourself, only when God gets you really far down on your knees do you look up. Look at your plans: is the Lord a part of them? If the Lord didn’t love us he’d let us go on thinking we didn’t need him. He’d let us think we were strong.
But, again, God wants us to be weak. Weakness strips us of our egos. Weakness teaches us to give up on ourselves. It is true to say that sometimes God gives us the best of his gifts when it looks like he is not giving us anything at all.
In weakness then, “My grace is sufficient for you.” My undeserved love is enough for you. This isn’t some generic grace, some generalized feeling of mercy that floats down from some sunny sky when all the warm summer breezes blow. This is located grace: It is located in Jesus and in him alone. It’s is the sufficient grace of our strong Savior who walked the darkness of sin and death. It’s the sufficient grace of a Savior who himself was willing to be weak for us our sakes. It’s the grace of a Savior who surrendered his will to die for love of his Father and for us. It’s the grace located on the tree where Jesus became a curse for our sin. It’s the grace of the empty tomb where God gives the heart to believe that we are now God’s children, forgiven and dearly loved.
I pray that as we minister to one another at Crown of Life, that we don’t feel like we can’t talk about our troubles with one another. I also pray that we won’t feel like all we want to point to is our successes. Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness. He wants us weak and we are. Jesus’ power is made perfect in our weakness.
Paul had the ability to “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” A sinful world says, or an unbeliever says, “Only when I am strong, when I have status, money, or influence am I strong.” God’s Word, and the believer, says, “Only when I’m weak, only when I realize that the world’s symbols of strength are nothing, only then am I strong.”
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.” “He said to me.” In the Greek language it emphasizes how Jesus spoke this to him in the past and it stayed with him. “My grace is sufficient for you.” It continues to be enough. Let that play over and over in your minds. ‘The Lord said it to me and it still remains: His grace is enough for me.’
Paul’s thorn was much like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. Jesus prayed for his cup of suffering to be removed. His Father’s will was not that the cup be removed, but that angels would go and strengthen Jesus to drink the cup.
Just as the Lord brought good out of Paul’s thorn, good resulted from Jesus drinking his cup of suffering. By drinking the cup Jesus paid the ransom price of death to win forgiveness for the world.
I haven’t talked much about the good that came as a result of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. I’ve talked about him being weak, but there’s more to it. The first verse of our text says, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.” Paul could have become proud because of the number of revelations the Lord gave him, so our text says not once, but twice (in the original language Paul says this twice, in the English just once): “To keep me from becoming conceited there was given me a thorn in my flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.”
So, life will be up and down. But the Lord wants us weak. When we’re weak, then we are strong. Remember what this is all about. Paul is a missionary for Christ. Could Paul have moved about the world better without the thorn in his flesh. Ever see a map of Paul’s travels? Three missionary journeys caused him to travel thousands of mile to witness Christ, without an automobile. Could he have served his Lord better without his thorn in the flesh, obviously not! Life isn’t about us. It’s about God and his strength and salvation and that strength is made perfect in our weakness. And may this remain in your hearts and minds: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Amen.
This is wonderful day on a number of levels. The Lord invites us into his presence where
he serves us with his Word. We respond with prayers and praises. The installation of our new
Kindergarten in our worship service, follow by fellowship with cake and ice-cream in the
You can tell it’s a special day: we normally don’t have someone sitting in the front row.
And we don’t normally cancel Bible Study for fellowship. It is a different day. It is a special day.
The man who writes this psalm, speaks as a father. “O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.” The psalmist, the pastor, the teacher, the witness, the father,
the mother has a privilege to speak and be heard. But when he says “Listen to the words of my
mouth,” Asaph isn’t on his little soap box. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter
hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have
And since he is sharing God’s Word this is how he wants us to listen. “Hear my
teaching,” yes, the NIV translates, but literally, “Incline your ears.” Lean forward, turn your
neck and listen closely, so that not one word from God’s mouth falls to the ground. Study the
words deeply, explore their meaning, and practice his teachings.
So, children of God, and especially you, Melissa Thrams, listen to the Word of God.
Asaph is going to share what God’s people have always known and heard. And take to heart
especially these words in our text: “We Will Tell the Next Generation.”
“He decreed statutes…which he commanded our forefathers to teacher their
children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and
they in turn would tell their children.” Which is why we started a preschool and now are
adding Kindergarten. We join in with Asaph. We Will Tell the Next Generation.
“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” “…so the
next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would
tell their children.”
What praiseworthy deeds will we teach? Obviously, you have a curriculum you will be
implementing and teaching little children. But every subject matter can be taught through the
lens of Jesus, and ever every subject learned through that same lens. What makes our school
different is that Crown of Life wants to know Christ and makes Christ known.
Israelite parents were not at a loss when it came to relating praiseworthy. Their watched
as God piled the water into high walls in the Red Sea and walked through on dry land. Then the
water unleashed like a tsunami on the enemies who were trying to attack. Not long after that,
God’s people were thirsty and God allowed water to rush out of rocky crags like a river. He split
rocks on the earth and gave them water as abundance as the seas. He guided them with a pillar of
cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He rained down manna, “the bread of the angels,” and
he rained down meat from heaven, flying birds like sand on the seashore. He led them safely
through the desert; he guided them safely so that they were unafraid. He drove out nations
before them. All this is from Psalm 78.
How did God’s people respond? They forgot what he had done. They continued to sin
against him. They willfully put God to the test. The kept on sinning. They would flatter him with
their mouths but lie with their tongues. Again and again they put the Lord their God the test.
They did not remember his power. They rebelled against the most High. They did not keep his
statutes. All this is from Psalm 78.
And talk about praiseworthy deeds! God kept forgiving them. He would slay them, afflict them, and they would return to him and everything was fine again. He was merciful; he forgave
their iniquities and did not destroy them. He restrained his anger and did not stir up his wrath.
It would have been easier to herd cats than lead sinners through the wilderness. How did
God not completely destroy them? All their rebellion was paid for, by their Redeemer. Their
redeemer, the one who led them into the promised land, would be the one who would shed his
blood to redeem them once they were established in the Promised Land. How could he forgive
again and again? Every sin would be washed in the blood of the Messiah and even though the
Messiah’s blood had not yet been shed, his coming was certain and his work of redemption was
certain. So completely would the Messiah deliver from sin that they were even delivered from
the guilt of their sins and the fear of death.
One generation saw deliverance by Jacob’s family going to live in Egypt because of a
famine. Another generation saw God’s deliverance by God releasing Israel from slavery in
Egypt. Another generation saw God deliver his people in the land of Canaan. Another generation
saw God’s might acts of deliverance from the Philistines, then the Arameans. One generation
saw God’s delieverance from captivity in Babylon. Simeon and Anna, another generation saw
the deliverer come to the temple as an eight day old boy. Another generation got to see the risen
Christ. And each generation of believers was to tell the story the deliverances of their
forefathers, and then add their own. No wonder they wanted to tell the next generation.
We are so much like the Israelites. We forget his mercy. How many times a day we tempt
him to just leave us with our sin and rebellion? How many times we forget God’s power? How
many times we forget that God is greater than our latest problem, or latest bill. And how often
we live as though the biggest, most important thing in our lives is not the Lord. We make him
jealous by putting other things ahead of him. We flatter with our mouths, but the praise doesn’t
always come from the heart. Why he doesn’t just torch us with the flames of hell is because…
Of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. On top of all the praiseworthy things recorded in
Psalm 78, we take our heads hung in shame to visit an animal feedbox in Bethlehem and see God
who became a tiny baby. We open up the gospels and walk the dusty paths of Palestine with a
teacher from Nazareth who performed miracle after miracle. We crane our necks to look up at
the blood stained wood on a hill outside of Jerusalem. We run along with Peter and John to the
tomb were Jesus once lay and see that he rose again.
Let these children learn their numbers and colors and letters and words, pretty big words
at that. But what makes your ministry different, Melissa, is the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.
Crown of Life wants to tell the next generation. You teaching a number of God’s children in our
I see five generations spoken of this text. 1. Fathers. 2. Their children. 3. The generation
to come. 4. Their children. 5. And then their children.
I never met my great grandfather. But I heard he was a neat guy. He was town president
in McMillan, and the family history says he hated politics. He had a great sense of humor and he
was a devout child of God. He’s the one who donated the land upon which sits St. Peter’s
Lutheran Church in McMillan, WI.
He raised my grandfather Ruben. I don’t think I ever saw him frown. He was always
smiling, always giving thanks to God for his blessings, always encouraging. He would always
say “If it is the Lord’s will, we’ll see you at Christmas.” “Lord-willing, we’ll see you at Easter.”
He would always ask me about Jesus, and tell me about Jesus. Ruben got himself taken out of a
rich uncles will because he wouldn’t stop talking to him about Jesus. At his funeral, the pastor
who buried him said he never known anyone to be such a wonderful leader in the church.
He raised my father, who has been in the public ministry for over 40 years. My father has
been in the public ministry for over 40 years. Read any verse in the New Testament and he’ll
give you chapter and verse. Read any verse in the O.T. and you’ll get book and chapter. Our
publishing house loves him because they don’t do any revising on his writing. I’m proud of what
God made him to be.
My father raised me, which I won’t talk much about. But So I’ll move on to my boys.
Rotten sinners though they may be, if you talk to them about spiritual things, they have a lot of
substance. I’m amazed what God can do with some Sunday School teaching, faithful attendance,
and lots of Christ centered talk in the home and a lot of boring preaching and teaching from their
pastor dad. I’m proud of what God has done and I’m and grateful to God. I’m proud of my
Christian heritage. I’ve got my own five generations and as far as I can tell, it all started with a
good-natured, great-grandfather, farmer John. We Will Tell the Next Generation.
Each of the five generations in my family valued Christian education, and it shows.
Which is why we called you Melissa to be our Kindergarten teacher. Will God be working with
the first generation believer in some of your children, or the second generation believers? And
how many generations of believers will benefit from the Word of God you will share with your
Martin Luther wrote of the importance of Christian education, “Nothing can more easily
earn hell for a man than the improper training of his own children; and parents can perform no
more damaging bit of work than to neglect their own offspring.” We will tell the next generation.
Asaph had good insight into human behavior. He knew what happens when one
generation failed to tell the next. The result is disastrous. The history of the nation of Israel
is a sad tale of slipping away from the Lord. And why? Because they didn’t focus on the
praiseworthy deeds of the Lord and share those with the next generation. We want to tell the
next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord so that they in turn will tell their children.
Persistent proclamation of Jesus leads to perpetual praise of Jesus.
To know Christ and to make Christ known. You’ve heard of our mission statement
already. As you prepare your lessons and teach your lessons you are getting an opportunity t
o know Christ even more deeply. And as you teach your lessons you have the opportunity to
make him known. Melissa, you are blessed with the opportunity before you. Asaph would have
wholeheartedly agreed with our mission statement. Asaph’s commitment is our commitment. We
say to God and to one another this morning, “We will not hide (what God as done); we will tell
the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD.” Amen.
When I think about the storms of life, when I think about the times I’ve been afraid, and I mean really afraid, I flash back to a number of things. When I was 10 I was picking blackberries when I realized that a black bear was picking blackberries about 10 feet away. He didn’t know I was there. I ran like the wind to find my dad and never left his side.
When I was fifteen our family had a cancer scare. My mother had a lump. My mother was, to me, the glue that held our family together. In all my life I don’t ever remember praying so boldly and telling the Lord what my will was.
Eight years ago, I lost my way in the mountains. Ever been on a mountain ridge in a blizzard, lost, trying to figure out which way to go? Before you get a fire going, that’s not a good feeling.
What are your storm stories? When has life-threatening fear set in, or life-altering fear, set in for you? Maybe you are living through one of those storms right now.
Fear is one of the basic emotions of human life. Sometimes fear is good.
A healthy fear will keep you out of a lot of trouble. A fear of breaking the commandments will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
But there is a fear that is not healthy. Jesus calls this fear a weakness in faith. And not just a weakness of faith, but Jesus calls this fear a sin against the first commandment that denies God’s power.
When we don’t have control over what’s happening, the result can be fear. We fear failure, poverty, the breakup of a marriage. We fear losing our health or our lives.
We can’t sleep at night. We might lose our appetite. We feel helpless. We don’t laugh like we used to. You can see worry, and depression, in peoples’ faces.
“It is a mother’s prerogative to worry,” I’m told. It is a mothers prerogative to stop fearing, loving and trusting in the Lord above all things. Worry, like outright fear, is contrary to faith. Worry is opposite of faith. It is unbelief. Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?; or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31).
It’s one thing when the unbeliever trembles in fear. And understandable because they have no one to but helpless human beings to turn to when the storms of life hit.
But, and I say this not with a shaking finger, but with heaviness of heart. How sad, how pitiful, when God’s people fear.
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We say the same thing, don’t we? “Lord, don’t you care that this is happening to me?” “Don’t you care that I am in the struggle for my life?” Don’t you care that I am afraid of what might happen?”
At least the disciples didn’t say, “Don’t bother waking Jesus, he can’t do anything about it.” No, they believed he could. But they also believed that Jesus stopped caring for them, stopped loving them. What led to their fear was that they believed Jesus stopped loving them. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Is there anything that can separate us from the love of God? “Shall trouble, or hardship…” Paul says “No.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” If God stopped loving he would cease to exist because he is love.
For the child of God, there is never a cause for fear. Paul wrote to the Romans, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:5). In the midst of temptation to fear we can call upon the Holy Spirit to remind us that we have a Father in heaven who loves us with an infinite love. Knowing our Father and knowing his love drives out all fear because as John writes in his first epistle, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The ultimate cause of all fear is God’s punishment. But God’s perfect love for us, his grace, removes any idea of punishment. And if the punishment is removed then the fear is removed. John had written earlier, 1 John 4:7-10. “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The reason there is no punishment, and the reason we have no fear, is that God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. Yes, to live without fear of punishment, without worry, without anxiety. Yes, to live in peace and joy and hope. We don’t love God the way he demands, but God loves us in Christ and that perfect love is all we need to know to drive out any fear.
Think about this for a moment. In this crisis situation the disciples come to their Lord not with prayer, not with a respectful request, but with an accusation. What were they thinking? “Here we are almost dead, working our tails off to keep this boat afloat and you’re just sleeping away as if we don’t mean anything to you! Perhaps, if it does not interfere with your nap, we could use a little help, thank you please.”
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Of course Jesus cared. And Jesus knew the Father cared. With perfect trust in His Father, Jesus could sleep. With that perfect trust in His Father, with his perfect life, with His dual nature of God and Man, he became the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus proves the Father’s love. Jesus knew he wasn’t going to drown, he knew he was going to die on a cross for all sinners. Jesus knew the Sea of Galilee and wind weren’t in charge, he knew His Father was in charge.
Another truth that removes fear is that Jesus is control of all things. “He (Jesus) got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still.’” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” What we forget sometimes in the storms of life is that there is one who controls the wind and waves and earthquakes and tsunamis. There is one who is the master over all of disease and draught and economies and wars. He is the one who created this world using only His Word and someday will bring it to an end when the last believer comes to faith. The wind and waves obey the Lord Jesus, ruler over heaven and earth.
I think the key to this text lies in these words, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Why were they afraid? Simple. Because they didn’t understand the nature of Jesus, and they didn’t understand his mission. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die drowning in the Sea of Galilee, he was supposed to be the cursed one on the tree. The sleeping Jesus didn’t have a human father.
When he asks “Do you still have no faith?” he specifically means faith in him as the Old Testament Messiah, the Savior of Israel and the world. Trust in Jesus’ work of redemption takes away fear, no matter what the circumstance may be.
So here’s what out text boils down to: If Christ took away sin and is the Savior of the world—we have no reason to fear dying. If Christ is in control of all things, then there is no reason to fear what happens before we die. If God loves us in Christ, and if “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” then again, there is no need to ever fear.
The clouds are always gathering. Personal tragedy. Nagging problems which defy human solution. A burden placed on the family. Finances. Each one of us sees the storm clouds gather.
And sometimes the clouds just blow over. But sometimes it rains. Then the waves get bigger and the boat starts to take on water. The remedy: Know his love. Trust he’s in control. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
People of faith wrote these words for you, people of faith to find calm during storms: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4). “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1). “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man to do me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 118:6,7).
The storms of life serve a very useful purpose. They show we are not in control. Storms move us to ask God to intervene on our behalf. Storms show us how much we need God. Storms remind us of how much he loves us in Christ.
Which means we can sing with conviction the hymn verse we just sang:
Be still my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.