WE HAVE IT; ARE YOU THANKFUL?
Ezekiel 34: 11-16
Selected Verses from Ephesians
JOHN 17: 11-19
November 22, 2020
“Rejoice in the Lord always … again I say rejoice!” Friends, in today’s lesson from God’s Word we heard Paul’s teaching that “when Christ came, He announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. We both have access,” Paul wrote, to the Father through Christ by one Spirit.”
Definitely reason to rejoice! And, as we conclude this sermon series, DRESSED for SUCCESS for our WALK with GOD it should not be a surprise that in Ephesians Paul completes our faith armor with the Word of God because we can’t have the rest of the elements … no belt of truth nor breastplate of justice and those shoes that bring peace and the good news of Christ into the world just won’t fit without God’s Word in our life. And, Paul wrote, “Put on the armor of God so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. Stand your ground … take the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word!” Friends, have you taken hold of that sword? Have you lifted high the Word of God … the lesson of the cross? The love of God that exceeds all human understanding? Are you thankful as we approach our specified day for Thanksgiving? Do you hold that day as a day of prayers of thanks or of turkey?
Our Bibles are the documented historical record of Jesus’ teaching and of Jesus’ miracles. Our Bibles share the lessons of our faith and of God. Our Bibles, which have been printed into every language of the planet, share how God expects us to live countering the world’s explicit goal of damaging the soul, our minds, and of breaking our hearts. We all have a Bible available to us … we all have experienced it because we are together in worship today from around the world … but the real challenge friends in this fight against the powers of evil, which are clearly manifested in this world is whether we accept and understand that we have the ability to stand up again evil and it comes down to our willingness to put on the armor of God as our means of dressing for success in a walk with God … that is if you want to walk with God during your life on earth because perhaps you enjoy being amidst the disrupters and cajolers of the world whose sole reward will be here on earth and definitely not in heaven in the days to come.
None of us were prepared to hear the news that our sister in Christ, Barbara Turner, had gone home to the Lord this week. None of us … we knew she had been ill but we all thought there was more time. But, friends I am here to tell you that our friend Barbara Turner was ready … she had chosen Scriptures that meant the world to her and gave her the peace of knowing that today, a few short days after she left this life, she would be home with God and with Jesus Christ. In fact, last week she said to me “I am ready to go home.”
When I started thinking about today’s message that would carry the reminder from Paul that we are to take “the Sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word” into the world so that we can be prepared to deal with the evils of the world … little did I know that our church family would lose someone special. Now, I knew that Barbara and Bert have been regulars at St. Paul’s since before I arrived and over time I had learned that she was a woman of faith but I didn’t know whether or not she was someone who opened up God’s Word with regularity at home or whether she knew which Scriptures would be reflective of her life but she did. Barbara Turner carried the “sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word” into her world each day … are you carrying it? We all have access to it … are you thankful for the Word of God?
When I meet with families who have lost loved ones one of the first questions I always will ask is, ‘did they have a favorite Bible verse or Scripture lesson that meant a lot to them?’ I can tell you that 90 percent of the families look at me with blank stares and then I try to help them by adding … did your loved one have a Bible story that they enjoyed sharing? The most common response back to me is ‘Pastor, why don’t you just choose something.’ In my nearly 20 years of ministry the people closest to individuals who have died … their spouses, their children, their nephews and nieces … rarely if ever have any idea whether or not the person who had died even opened their Bible much less had a favorite Bible story or verses they treasured … do you?
As we approach THANKSGIVING in all of its 2020 uniqueness will you be thanking God for God’s Word? The Word of God that is actually more available to all of us of any age than ever before in history. It is estimated that more than 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed. Last year 20 million copies of the Bible were sold and in today’s world there are 3.6 BILLION SMART phones in our pockets, purses, and in cell phone holders each of which could download a free BIBLE APP.
As most of us start to focus in on a day of Thanksgiving, when I hope and pray we are all being careful and staying away from crowded homes where just one asymptomatic person could spread the pandemic to all … will we be taking time to THANK GOD for GOD’s Word and sharing with each other our favorite Bible stories around the table or over SKYPE and FACETIME?
I have referred to Simon Sinek’s book, ‘START with WHY’ a few times during this sermon series. Simon notes that “there are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” God has chosen to provide inspiration through God’s Word, which shares the messages and grace and love of God for God’s creation. For all of humanity. God’s Word provides us with the inspiration of hope and the dissolution of the fear that so many human manipulators have obviously chosen as their weapons to gain power and wealth. Sharing the inspiration of the Holy can change lives forever! In fact, eternally!
I only have one grandchild and as of today he is not one of those 3.6 billion smartphone owners so I can’t check to see if the Bible app is on his phone. But, you and I have a responsibility if we have grandchildren or if we have younger children who have smartphones to ask them if the BIBLE app is on their phone. YouVersion has even developed a specific Bible app for children that is now available in 55 languages and has been installed on over 55 million unique devices all over the world … is it on your grandchildren’s smart phones? Is it on your children’s phones? Do you have the Bible App on yours?
If you have been paying attention this year, I have been repeating over and over and over again ad nauseam our desperate need to actually hear God’s message to us that is revealed through the words of Jesus Christ. We are being overwhelmed with social media stuff to the point that most of us cannot have a conversation with another person that does not bring up something that one or the other read or heard on FACEBOOK or TWITTER. But, wouldn’t it be awesome if those conversations were … Hey, I was reading Jesus’ prayer in John 17. I was so moved when Jesus asked God to make His followers “holy in the truth; Your Word God is truth.” Have you read that lately? Or perhaps if friends discussed what their role will be based on what Jesus said next in that prayer, “As you sent me Father into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
Those kind of discussions can’t be happening unless we are reading God’s Word. We have the WORD of GOD … we can get email devotions sent to our phones, we can read it online and we can read it in a numerous translations.. Kids in fact, can read their Bibles from their phones IN SCHOOL … yes, GOD’s WORD is in our schools every day on any child’s phone if their parent has encouraged them to have it with them. But since WE HAVE IT, ARE YOU THANKFUL?
Scripture frequently uses allegorical teachings to bring focus on God’s truths. In Ezekiel’s prophecy we are reminded that God is always looking for the lost no matter how scattered we have become. God’s love extending again to all of humanity not just a selected few. Perhaps as we approach a Thanksgiving Day of isolation after living through these dark months of 2020 we can relate to “The Lord God proclaims, “I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during times of clouds and darkness. I will gather and lead them out from the countries and peoples, and I will bring them to their own fertile land. I will feed them … I will feed them in good pasture … I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down.” This is what the Lord God says, “I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. I will tend my sheep with justice.”
The prophet Jeremiah clarifies that message perhaps as to what we will be fed, he teaches, “”You understand Lord! When Your words turned up I feasted on them! They became my joy! The delight of my heart! Because I belong to You, Lord God of heavenly forces.”
Feasting on the Word of God … God bringing us to a place of peace where our wounds and suffering can be healed through his feeding of God’s people … feed on the Word of God because friends that is our connection … that is how we can discover call for how we are to continue the journey in the walk of our life. We need to hold that sword in our hand and knock down the challenges of the world so that God’s Word is the lamp onto our feet and the Light onto our path! God’s Word … not some human’s angry tirade … God’s Word of instruction filled with love … God’s Word whose laws come down to loving the God who brought us the Word and to loving all of our neighbors.
“God destined us to be God’s adopted children through Jesus Christ because of God’s love. You too have heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. Live as people worthy of the call You received from God.”
Friends … live as people worthy of the call You received from God by picking up God’s Word not as a casual after thought but as the key element in your daily life. Thanksgiving is approaching and this year perhaps due to the pandemic we might be able to focus more on God … share your favorite verses and stories with those you love … Advent will arrive again reminding us that the gift of God is Jesus Christ and in our anticipation of what the future will be “PUT ON THE ARMOR of GOD and make a stand against the tricks of the Devil! Accept each other with love and therefore imitate God.” You will only know how to do that by reading God’s Word.
Paul wrote REJOICE ALWAYS AGAIN I SAY REJOICE! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near … Don’t be anxious about anything!” And, there was good old Jeremiah sharing “I feasted on Your Word O God! They became my joy! The delight of my heart! Because I belong to You, Lord God of heavenly forces.”
The Word of God was created for the people of God … We have it, are you thankful and are you using it?
 START WITH WHY HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION, Simon Sinek Portfolio Penguin