This weeks Sermon


Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C.

                                                                                                                                                      October 8, 2017

 

 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness: Today”

Hebrews 13:8; Eph. 1:17, 19

 

               I believe that I posed a question to you several weeks ago, “What IS ‘church’?” And given that you are HERE today, I’d say that you’d probably answer that with some pretty positive responses:  ‘a place of encouragement and joy’… ‘a people that I enjoy being with’… a ‘family.’  But for those ‘outside’ our church family, the responses might not be so favorable.  Some might describe the church as ‘exclusionary’… ‘judgmental’… OR, perhaps like some sort of secret ‘club’, where you have to know the secret handshake to gain admittance.  J

               While you might find this last attitude surprising, think about some of the ‘code words’ that we use in the life of the church.  Words that you might not think twice about.  When you came in the front door of the church, you entered the… narthex.  Say what?  Oh yeah… the ‘foyer.’  And what were you given as you entered the sanctuary?  Bulletin.  What the world knows as a ‘program.’  In the announcements we spoke of the need for nominations for the office of… Elder.  Does that mean we are seeking to fill the ‘office’ of ‘old person’?  (I know… some of US might ‘resemble that remark!’)

               In those same announcements mention was made of next week being “Dedication Sunday.”  Dedication of what?  We dedicate our ‘pledges.’  ‘Pledges?’ What, is this a fraternity/sorority?  (Remember that ‘handshake?’)  No, dummy pastor, we share in the results of our ‘Stewardship campaign!’  Say what?  Is that like a ‘MILITARY’ campaign?  (Well, some might see it as such!)  ‘Stewardship?’  Is that like a ‘steward’ on a cruise ship?  Where we learn to serve others’ needs.  Well… not that’s not too far off…

               Now for the ‘bulletin’ and ‘elder’ parts, I’m probably ‘dumbing down’ a little bit.  Those are probably pretty obvious.  Yet even with those who have been a part of the church for a while, there can be some question about why there needs to be this annual military… er, stewardship… campaign each year.  J ‘Why is it important to make a written pledge to the church about what I plan on giving.  After all, isn’t that really between ME and GOD?’

               Well, in answer to that last question, YES, it is!  That being said, if this church is to be an effective ‘steward’ of its resources for the coming year… if we are striving to make the best use of those resources to ‘serve others needs’… the leaders of this body need to have some idea of what LEVEL of resources we may have.  I am particularly talking about financial, but in truth the most important ‘resource’ we have is of a physical nature:  of how we you & I are best using, to the Glory of God, both our ‘physical’ human bodies, and  our ‘physical’ resources of buildings, equipment, supplies, curriculums, etc…  ANY effective organization, spiritual or secular, has to learn how to operate within the confines of its budget… that’s why our government institutions struggle so much…  And particularly as the ‘institution’ of F.P.C., we need to be concerned with how we are going to attain both our present-day goals, as well as our future goals…   

               And so, for this Sunday and next, we will be exploring what the God we serve might have to say about our attaining those goals.  Goals which should be HIS, not OURS.  TODAY we will consider what we are giving of ourselves in preparing in the present for what the future will bring.  Our ‘centerpiece’ for this consideration will be a historic hymn of the church, whose timeless words hold just as much value for us today as they did in the 1920’s when it was written.  So let us both celebrate and ponder the TRUTH about God’s gifts to us:  “Great is Thy Faithfulness:  TODAY.” 

               The closing verse of that powerful hymn assures us that our faithful God, in His bounteous blessings upon us, will give us strength for today.”   You have heard of some of the ways that our sister Dorothy has been ‘strengthened’ for her living out her faith ‘today’… in worship, in study, in fellowship and special events.  Her testimony is REALLY what is important… the result of how a particular LIFE has been impacted in fulfilling the Great Commission Christ has given us ALL.  But I would like to add a few words from God… our too often ‘commercialized sponsor’… through His WORD, that also remind us of the manner in which we can ALL gain the same types of benefit that our sister Dorothy has.  We too can  receive more ‘strength’ for living out our Christian faith that is handed down to us from generations past to the here and now.  I would lift before you some of the ways that God is speaking to you and me in the Scriptures as to how we are grow in our faith right here… right now… TODAY!  (And just in case you’ve never noticed, this might be one occasion you could make use of that little space called “sermon notes” on the back of your bulletin…

               First, from the O.T., in 1 Kings 18:15: Elijah said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today."  (1 Kings 18:15)  When you decided to roll out of bed this morning… no matter how ‘tempting’ it was to just roll back over and go back to sleep… God laid on your heart the importance of coming to church.  The same God who convicted you to come is the One ‘before whom you stand’ (or, sit…)  You have ‘shown yourself to him TODAY’… you have made yourself ‘available’ to be used, in St. Francis’ words, as ‘an instrument of God’s peace.’  In order to be used as that instrument’ of God’s peace, we need to ‘practice’ being ‘played,’ used.  In the words of that prophet Elijah, just as surely as God lives, when you enter into holy times of worship, you too shall LIVE.

               And even despite the fact that you and I have been called into God’s presence here this morning… yes, believe it or not, even for ME there’s days I’d like to roll back over and drift back into a comfortable bliss of slumber… we can often feel unworthy to do so.  Remembering how we have failed our Heavenly Father during the week, we can easily question our worthiness to come before Him in His house.  We can feel not too dissimilar from that repentant criminal who hung on a cross next to our crucified Lord, begging the Christ to “remember me when you enter your kingdom.”  And I hope that you recall what our loving Lord Jesus, even in the midst of his suffering and agony, said to that common thief: "Truly I say to you, TODAY you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

               In his humble confession before ‘God made flesh,’ that lowly law-breaker was assured of God’s mercy and grace.  In one simple moment of acceptance, that man was convinced that he would not be judged by his past, BUT by turning away from it to a NEW LIFE in Christ he was promised a bright future.  Right then.  Right there.  In the same way that we, ‘lowly law-breakers’ that we be, by our simple, but honest confession, are assured of not being ‘judged by our past,’ but ‘promised new life,’ and a ‘bright future.’  Now did you KNOW that THAT was what you were doing a little earlier in the service…at our time of ‘honest confession?’

               As we come together in our worship TODAY, we must also remember that this ‘promise of new life,’ this ‘bright future’ that Jesus has assured His brothers and sisters is NOT to be lived in isolation.  As we suffer the trials and tribulations of life, we are NOT to do so alone!  In the words of Hebrews, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts … as on the day of testing in the wilderness… But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3:7-8, 13-14)

               TODAY… listen for God’s voice.  TODAY… do not let your hearts be hardened by ‘days of testing.’  TODAY… exhort, encourage, one another every day.  Be reminded, TODAY, that we are “partners of Christ”… BUT “if only we hold our confidence firm to the end.”   For those of you who might find this passage from Hebrews a little long to hold in that personal ‘quiver’ of Scriptures, here’s one that might ‘fit’ easier: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  In essence, what you promised earlier to the Duffel family… to ‘encourage’ them, and to ‘build them up.’

               And finally, I would leave you with the words from Ephesians that I read earlier:  “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:17, 19)

               When you may question, ‘Now just WHY am I leaving my comfortable house this morning?’  Or when you do get here, ‘Now just WHY am I putting my hard-earned money into this big wooden bowl?’  Remember these words of Paul to another church that struggled with the same issues.  You have come here to ‘PRAY’ to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” You have come to RECEIVE God’s “spirit of wisdom and revelation.”  HOW?  “As you come to know him.”  You have come to EXPERIENCE the “immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe.”  HOW?  “According to the working of His great power”… IN YOU!  YES!  God’s ‘great power’ is working in EACH ONE of YOU… at this very moment.  Right here. Right now.   BELIEVE IT!  For indeed, “GREAT IS GOD’S FAITHFULNESS!” TODAY! And may ALL God’s children say, AMEN!

              

 

CHARGE

How many of you noticed the image at the top-left corner of 1st page of bulletin (program)? No peeking!  [pic of present]  Wonder WHY?  As I considered the importance of ‘TODAY’ in living out our faith … and how each day we have is a GIFT… that image of a gift-wrapped package came to mind.  As well as a saying that I’m sure many of you are familiar with… “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God…which is why we call it the ‘present.’” –Bil Keane, American cartoonist, “Family Circus.”  (Attributed to a Host of authors, including Eleanor Roosevelt)  As we seek to make the best of the ‘gift of God’ called ‘TODAY,’ may we do so by honoring the absolute greatest ‘gift of God,’ Jesus Christ…Who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.