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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gift of God

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight oh God.

            John Carter was the little boy's name.  He lived in a place and time when children didn't have all the modern toys that we do today.  John's grandfather taught him how to whittle.  Do you know what whittling is?  To whittle is to carve something from a plain piece of wood.  After a lot of practice John was able to craft for himself a sailboat.  He carved little people on the boat, he painted it and last of all he carved his initials in the bottom of it.  J. C.  John loved to take his boat out to the lake, tie a string to its bow and let it sail across the water.  Then he would use the string to pull it back to shore.  One day as he was playing with his boat on the water a strong gust of wind came up and snapped the string, away sailed JC's boat.

            Our Scripture reading for today is taken from the book of Isaiah.  Isaiah 49:15, 16.  (Have a gift wrapped box)  The subject that I want to share with you today is about God's gifts to us.  So while you are turning to Isaiah I'd like to find out right now, of the children ten years old and younger, whose birthday is closest to today?  (Have child come up to podium and ask them what they have to do in order to get the present, then hold it out to them.)  The answer is they just have to take it.  That's it.  That's all.  Isaiah 49:15, 16 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.  See I have carved you on the palms of my hands..."

            The story begins, well, at the beginning.  Genesis 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul."  We all know the story of how Adam and Eve sinned.  We have read Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  So let me ask you something.  What is the difference between wages and a gift?  In order to get a wage one has to do something, but a gift cannot be earned, it's free.  How many of you adults have decided to skip work for a week or two and then decided to go pick up a paycheck anyway?  Would it work?  NOPE!  Why not?  Because you didn't earn it.  When I was doing the research for this sermon I found out that 26 of the 66 books in the Bible mention the words redeem or redemption.  I would like to look at a few of those today.  So let me ask you another question.  Can God's laws change?  Turn to Malachi 3:6a (the first part of the verse) "For I am the Lord, I do not change..."  If God or His laws could change don't you think that in order to avoid the agony of the cross God might have said, "Well, I guess that the wages of sin isn't really eternal death, maybe each of you could just spend a little time suffering in hell for your own sins and then when you've learned your lesson you can get out of your little "time out" and come on up here to heaven?"  Would God be a fair and just God if He could randomly change His laws like that?  NO!  So He had to come up with a plan.  Do you think that God said to Jesus, "Look, now that they've sinned what are we going to do about it?"  For the answer to that please turn to 1 Peter 1:18-21.  "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.  (This next part is the part that I want you to hear.)  He (Jesus) indeed was fore-ordained BEFORE the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."  Before God ever created the world He know that we would sin, that we would need to be redeemed and He put a plan in place.  He told Adam and Eve of his plan in Genesis 3:15.  "And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her Seed: He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."  Let's continue our journey through the Bible by going next to Exodus 6:6. God is explaining to Moses that He (God) is in charge of redeeming the Israelites form the bondage of Egypt.  "Therefore say to the children of Israel: I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments."  Are we under bondage to anything today?  God's promises are still valid today as they were in Biblical times.  God continues to explain the theory behind redemption in Leviticus 25 where He gives them an example to follow.  You can read this chapter later, but it tells the Israelites how they are to treat each other.  The whole story of Ruth is an example of God's redemption.

            So first we learned that God made us.  Then we learned that because of sin we are in need of being redeemed.  Now I want to find out if we have a part to play in all of this.  Deuteronomy 7:8-11 "But because the Lord loves you and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  THEREFORE know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps His covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and KEEP His Commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them.  He will not be slack with those who hate Him; He will repay them to his face.  THEREFORE you shall keep the commandments, the statues, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.  Because God loves us and redeems us from the bondage of sin and death we ought to love Him enough in return to keep His commandments.  In Deuteronomy 15 God describes how we should treat our brothers because of our redemption.  So do these principles only apply to the Jews or are they still valid today?  Ephesians 1:7  "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."  And Titus 2:14 "who, (Jesus) gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."  Since God has redeemed us what manner of persons ought we to be?  2 Corinthians 5:18,19  "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."  So we are charged with showing God's love to our brothers, treating them with kindness and teaching them what it means to be reconciled to God.  We don't cast our brother aside just because he doesn't do things like we would do them or deal with a situation like we want them to.  That is not the Christ-like way to behave.  Verse 20 continues by telling us that we are Christ's ambassadors and it implores us to be reconciled to God.  Did God wait for us to do what He wants us to do before He stepped in to rescue us?  Ephesians 2:4,5,8,9,10,13 "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved)...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them... But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."  Does any of this mean that we have to work out our own salvation?  Certainly NOT!  For those of you who have ever been in a committed relationship did you do nice things for your partner because there was a list of rules that said that you had to?  I hope not!  It is the same way with our relationship with our creator/ redeemer.  In verse 13 that we just read God calls us His workmanship and that brings me back to my opening story...

            As J.C. saw his hand crafted boat sail away his heart sank.  He thought that he would never see his workmanship again.  Then one day as he was walking to school and passed by old Mr. Richard's General Store, there in the window sat his boat.  John ran inside yelling, "Mr. Richards, Mr. Richards you have my boat."  Mr. Richards said, "Slow down there John.  What are you talking about?"  So John took Mr. Richards over to the window and showed him the boat.  John said, "That's my boat 'cause I made it, and painted it, and see, my initials are carved in the bottom of it, it's my boat."  "Hold on there a minute son," said Mr. Richards. "It does have the letters J and C carved in the bottom of it but I bought this boat from a fella just this morning.  I'm afraid if you want this boat, that you are going to have to buy it back from me."  John's heart sank.  How was he ever going to get that kind of money?  Grandfather suggested that he start by doing odd jobs around the neighborhood.  All the rest of the summer and fall JC mowed people's lawns and did any other work that people would give him.  All winter long John shoveled snow.  Finally by springtime John had enough money to buy back his boat.  He took all of his hard earned cash to Mr. Richard's store and carefully counted it out on the counter.  When Mr. Richards handed him his boat he hugged it tightly to his chest and said, "Now you're twice mine because first I made you and then I bought you back."

            Today another J.C. (Jesus Christ) is saying the same thing to you and I.  He says in Isaiah 44:22 "I have blotted out like a thick cloud your sins.  Return to Me for I have redeemed you."  I have bought you back, I have paid the price.  You see first as the Bible tells us, God fashioned us with His own hands, out of the dust of the ground, and then He bought us back.

            Dear Lord,

                        I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know that my redeemer lives, and because of Your gift of eternal life I can have confidence of a home with you in heaven one day very soon.  AMEN



Q B N F C N S D S M L A P

E Y O H F E E B J R S B N

Q D I I D C C P E M H H W

W L S O C O O O C F Z Y U

D T S W W N A D D C O W V

T E A Z O T E C L L V R W

W G P N M I M G O G W I E

G R M Q A N G P H N A Q H

R O O M N U U V E I L A A

A F C R Y A K G B K L X N

V B M O W L T N Z C S G D

E Q N Z M L Z A O U L F S

N Y D J O Y S A Y S L Z W

before
hands
palms
child
son
compassion
sucking
continually
walls
forget
woman
graven
womb



Isaiah 49:15, 16

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