Loving & Faithful

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God is loving & faithful
This is Sybil Carr. Sybil and her husband Larry have three grown daughters and six grandchildren. I asked Sybil to begin my message with a prayer of praise. Would you welcome her as she comes to pray! (Sybil prays!)
We give God praise for many reasons. We praise him because he’s Almighty. He created us. We praise him because he’s generous. He gave us his son. We praise God for people responding to the invitation to trust Jesus. 8-year-old Michaela Smith was baptized last Sunday morning. And then a day later, last Monday Night, June 7th, Kendall Bradley was baptized by his friend Austen Harrison. Austen, Kendall and Kendall’s friend, George all work out together. One day Austen will share how these three became friends.
In just about an hour William Dues is going to be baptized by his Mom and Dad, Bryan, Maggie & Casey Crum are going to become part of this church family at the end of 2nd service and a man in my Men’s Small Group, Henry Cauchi is going to be baptized next Sunday, June 20. People coming to Christ is one of many reasons to give praise to God. What reason do you have to give praise to God? Did you welcome home a new child – a little boy or girl, get a new job or retire from an old job - receive good news from your doctor? Were you hungry and received food from people you have never met? Watch this appreciation video from the Mushayamunda Village in Zimbabwe, Africa. (Village Video) I’m praising God because Dereck Mushayamunda will speak at WC on Sunday, August 15. Today is week #3 of a series we’re calling God is… God provides a description of himself to Moses in Exodus 34: 6&7. (Read)
According to scholar, Dr. Tim Mackie, this description of God is repeated some 27 times throughout the Old Testament. I can see why. God provides us many reasons to praise Him. He’s compassionate. God’s like a protective mother or a caring Father. God’s gracious. He sent His son to forgive our sins. God is slow to anger. He is patient with us. He wants all people to turn to him before Jesus comes back a second time. God is full of love and faithfulness. Let me provide two examples of God’s love and one example of God’s faithfulness. Let’s start with his love. The phrase “abounding in love” is a Hebrew word called “Hesed.” Hesed is not easy to explain. Michael Card wrote a book called Inexpressible. His entire book is his attempt to comprehend and explain the word “hesed!” The phrase “abounding in love” can mean loyal love or God’s lovingkindness. Those descriptions are good but Michael Card provides what he calls an ever-incomplete working definition of “hesed.” When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.[i]
This is exactly what happened to Adam. Adam is our first example of God’s “hesed.” His abounding love. God formed Adam and breathed into this body the breath of life. God provided Adam’s every need. This is Genesis 2:8. (Read 8&9) There were all kinds of trees that looked beautiful, produced fruit and were good for food. God gives Adam these instructions in Genesis 2:15. (Read 15-17) The very next verse God notices that Adam is lonely so He creates Eve from Adam. God instructs Eve just as he did Adam, but they both sin. They fall for Satan’s lie in Genesis 3:1. They bite the forbidden fruit and God gives them hesed in Genesis 3:21. God didn’t have to do that. When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.
God did the same thing for Jonah using a city named Nineveh. Jonah is God’s second example of abounding love. Jonah is one of God’s minor prophets. Minor has nothing to do with importance. It has everything to do with brevity. Jonah’s letter is short. Four chapters total. Here’s how it begins. (Read Jonah 1:1-2)
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. Assyria was Israel’s great enemy. The Assyrians were brutal and heartless to the Jews. It’s easy for me to see why Jonah did not want to go. Imagine forgiving your worse enemy. 150 former staffers at a New Hampshire state-run youth detention center were arrested last March in connection with the abuse of hundreds of children over the course of a decade, including one staff member who continued working with children for nearly 20 years after he was accused of holding a boy down while colleagues molested him.[ii] Imagine being that boy, who is now a man. God is asking you to tell the men who molested you that they can be forgiven and receive God’s grace.
Jonah refuses to go. Boards a ship instead and is heading the exactly opposite direction God told him to go. This is Jonah 1:3. (Read verse 3) God is not happy so he sends a storm in response to Jonah’s disobedience. Eventually Jonah gets tossed overboard and when he does look at what happens. Read Jonah 1:15 & 16. A storm instantly becomes calm. Jonah has to be thinking as he’s sinking – I’m good as dead. But God brings salvation to Jonah through in the most unlikely way. Read Jonah 1:17. Did you hear about this guy from Cape Cod who survived being swallowed by a humpback whale? Who’s to say Jonah’s fish was even bigger? Maybe blue whale? A blue whale is 100’ long and weighs between 100 & 150 tons. Something like this could easily swallow a human. Jesus called Jonah’s experience nothing less than a miracle.
Inside this huge fish, Jonah’s 1-star accommodations were on display. It’s got to be pretty nasty, but at least he’s alive and since he’s alive he prays to God promising that he will do what God commanded him to do. God commands this big fish to barf Jonah up in Jonah 2:10. Just picture what Jonah looked like? What he smelled like? Now that Jonah has repented, God sends him back to Nineveh again. This is Jonah 3:3. (Read verses 3-5, verse 10 to 4:2)
There’s that description again. God is trying to teach Jonah. What I gave to you, my abounding love, I want to give to others. And that is why we praise God. God cares deeply about us. God cares deeply about the people we resent & hate. The Ninevites expected nothing but God gave them everything. Just think how the world would be different if we were like God. If we extended God’s abounding love and faithfulness to those around us. Author Michael Card provided two examples. In 1996 18-year-old Keshia Thomas showed up to protest a KKK rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Keshia and her friends were in a separate fenced off space when one of the KKK members inadvertently wandered into her group. Someone shouted, “There’s a Klansman!” and protesters began to retaliate. Keshia threw herself into the fray, placing her own body between this white supremacist and the outraged protesters. Keshia’s radical act of courage gave birth to a movement that has inspired thousands to consider forgiveness and reconciliation. Think about this. A black teenage girl protecting a white supremacist man?
Tommy Pigage open his court-mandated appearance at a Trigg County High School Mothers Against Drunk Drivers meeting with these words, “I want to tell you about the night I killed Ted Morris.” Standing in the back of the gym was Elizabeth Morris, Ted’s grieving mother. In time Elizabeth would not simply forgive but to unofficially adopt the young man who had collided with her son while drunk driving. Her husband, Frank, a part-time preacher and a driver for UPS, would baptize Tommy with his own hands. Years later, Tommy still called his new parents every day between 4 and 5 pm. Though Tommy had no right to expect anything from them, Ted’s parents opened their lives to a young man who took their son’s life. In the process, everything changed.[iii]
Abounding, radical love changes the world. I cannot rightfully express God’s abounding love to you without talking about his only son Jesus. Jesus is God’s example of faithfulness. Remember these words. For God so loved the world that he gave his one & only son. God is faithful. God kept his promise. God didn’t back off or back out. Jesus is faithful. Jesus was obedient to his father. Jesus said this in Matthew 26 the night he was betrayed. Read Matthew 26:39. Jesus was faithful because he did what His father said to do.
I have one invitation and two challenges today. Here’s the one invitation. Accept God’s abounding love. His hesed. Don’t question it. Don’t resist it. Just live knowing that you are deeply loved by God. Here’s my first challenge. Give that same abounding love to people around you. Find ways to love people / to care about people. I have one final story.
It’s about Randy Long. Randy is 72 and was cleaning out his garage when he came across some practice baseballs he used to toss around with his son and grandson. Thinking a new generation of kids might get some use out of them, Randy took them to a local batting cage, where he left them with this note: Hope someone can use some of these baseballs in the batting cages. I found them cleaning my garage. I pitched them to my son and grandson for countless rounds. My son is now 46 and my grandson is 23. I am 72 and what I wouldn’t give to pitch a couple of buckets to them. They have both moved away. If you are a father cherish these times. You won’t believe how quickly they will be gone.[iv]
Ok. I get that. I feel for Randy, but maybe Randy should give this a new thought. Why not pitch a couple of buckets to kids in his neighborhood? Just because his son and grandson are not around doesn’t mean he can’t pour his life into someone else who would love to play catch. (Larry Olsen story) Here’s my second challenge. Wake up each morning and go to bed each night thanking God just like the Psalmist did in Psalm 92:2: proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night… When you go to bed tonight thank God for being faithful to you. Let’s be faithful to him. When you wake up tomorrow morning thank God for his crazy, abounding love. Let’s do that right now.
William Dues – Baptism by John and Jennifer Dues / Bryan, Maggie & Casey Crum to join WCC after 10am service.
[i] Michael Card, Inexpressible, 5 [ii] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/03/01/new-hampshire-youth-center-abuse-staffers-accused/6867521002/ [iii]Michael Card, Inexpressible, 5 [iv] https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2021/may/grandpa-leaves-free-bucket-of-baseballs-with-touching-note.html
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