Has It Not Been Told to You from the Beginning?!

Sermon by Claude McRoberts on Apr 3, 2016

Isaiah 40

As you turn in your Bibles to the book of Isaiah, I do want to express appreciation to David Strain and the Session for this incredible opportunity that’s mine and then an invitation from Gary and the Board, a much undeserved invitation as many of you know. I want to make that clear as we make our way through; I think God will make that clear to us all. Isaiah chapter 40 is on page 599 in the pew Bible, so really, if you do not have your own copy, there’s one available for you. I would just encourage you to take that. It’s the means of grace, to have the Word of God read and then preached. We’ll refer back to it often, so it behooves you to have that text open before you. Let’s pray and we’ll ask for the help of the Holy Spirit as we begin!

Father, we have nothing to offer. We are ignorant in and of ourselves, and our only hope of any understanding, not only cognitive, but just spiritual understanding, deep within the recesses of our heart, rests solely in You. And that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes that we might behold wonderful things here, that we might leave not only the sanctuary but the campus today filled with hope and joy and with a renewed thanksgiving for our God and His rich salvation. How undeserving we are! And we ask You now to bless us. And we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

I think I’ll just read portions of Isaiah 40. It’s a rather long chapter. I encourage you to go back this week and read the entire chapter, read it slowly, read it out loud, and pray it. Listen to Him as He talks to you from what is really His love letter to you. Isaiah writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in verse 1:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.”

Down in verse 9 it says:

“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

And then at verse 21:

“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”

And then down to 27. These are such encouraging words; familiar to many:

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

And thus ends our reading this morning.

It’s an undeserved privilege in more ways than one. I was quite mischievous as a child, but I was also, at the same time and perhaps this goes with our own insecurities, is that I was quite a fearful child. I had – I’m going to go back and forth between the fear and mischievous behavior – but I think I probably still hold the record for the most spankings in second grade. I haven’t heard anyone get more than eleven by Mrs. Earls in the back room. Some of you will appreciate that. Eleven spankings! I told my mom one day that I had gotten a spanking, and when we got in the carpool the next day I said I had gotten a spanking and she said, “I know, you got one yesterday.” And I said, “I got one today as well.” And so when I thought about – I don’t know if you were here, for those of you who might remember the mid-late 80s when Dr. Baird did a series of first person sermons and he would speak as the person who had written the book. And I wrote down, when I first sat down to write this sermon I wrote, “I was a fearful child.” That was the first thing I wrote down. “I was a fearful child.” And yesterday when I was going over my notes, I was reminded of – I don’t know who coined the phrase; Joe Novenson was the first I’d heard say the acrostic for FINE. If you ever say, “Well how are you?” and a lot of times we say, “I’m fine.” It’s a real quick, southern answer. And Joe says that it’s an acrostic for “Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic, and Exhausted.” And therein lies my childhood! So my great thanks to the Day School for taking me under their wing.

I was a preschool dropout! My sweet mother would not allow her little boy with a stomach ache longer than two weeks in preschool, and so I started school in kindergarten here. Mrs. Swayze and Irene were prefect for me. I saw Mrs. Sue Ann on Friday night at the faculty and board gathering they had and just couldn’t believe it. That was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Sue Ann Treloar Stewart. And of course we all had a crush on her as well. That’s your first grade teacher crush! But as sweet as she was, I’ll tell you, when we turned down Riverside Drive my stomach would start turning, and by Belhaven Street I had tears in my eyes. And I’m sure my older sisters and whoever was in the carpool, I’d wait, and my dad knew I’d wait, and with tears I’d say, “Pray for me! Pray for me!” And so he would pray and he would walk me halfway. And I can just image turning back with these big tears in my eyes and whispering back to him, “Pray for me!” And you know, in God’s providence, we have a family group text and I think two or three times a week – I’m fifty-two years old now – and they all begin, “Pray for me!” to my children who are at Ole Miss now. I’ll say, “Pray for me, I’ve got a Session meeting tonight! Pray for me, I’ve got to meet with the elders! Pray for me, I’ve got lunch today with somebody!”

When I was in seminary we had a senior dinner and one of our classmates did really good impressions and so he got up and did a number of professors, and then he started saying, “Oh, I’ve got so much to do! I’ve got a paper due and I haven’t read the book yet!” And everybody was laughing and looking at me. And I said, “Who is it? Who is it?” you know! And they all said, “That’s you!” Really, and I’m not exaggerating the story, it was a turning point in my life. I was twenty-six and I distinctly remember thinking, “I’ve been that way my whole life!” I took Mrs. Mangum out in the hallway in fourth grade and I said, “It’s too much work!” I was representing the fourth grade, you know! I wrote in fourth grade, when we passed around the, “What do you want for Christmas?” and so I wrote that I wanted a BB gun and then I wrote, “to shoot B. Lovelace,” and B. Lovelace was sitting two seats in front of me and I thought that would be funny because she was sitting two seats in front of me and she’d see that Claude wanted a BB gun to shoot her. This would be against the law today. And sure enough, she burst out in tears and I got a spanking for that! When we were singing the hymns, and I don’t know if David Marchetti caught eyes with me or not, but I kept looking at you and thinking, “Please tell your parents I’m sorry for lighting that fire in your room!” In the garbage can! It was contained! I tried to tell your dad it was contained! But this may be a sermon on grace because to tell all the children that this is what you can do and you can stand here one day and preach!

But when I saw Mrs. Ware, and this just proves the point, that I saw Mrs. Ware on Friday night at the faculty dinner and I walked up and she said, “Oh I was just telling the story about fourth grade when I handed out the Bible curriculum and you were in the back and you were crying,” and she said, “What’s wrong?” and I told her, “It’s too much material!” And what was so embarrassing is that Ann Lowry was sitting to her right, which was right to my right, who I had in eighth grade at Prep for math, and there was a day when they said, “Where’s Claude?” and somebody said, “He’s in the bathroom. I think he’s crying!” Which was true! And at that point, honestly, my mom was very sick and Mr. Howell from Prep came and gave me some tough love at that point. And so I was thankful for that. And this church has been that way, though, and the Day School as well. It was a lot of truth in love.

And I think, in fifth grade I had Mrs. Davis, and that’s my first recollection of hearing Pilgrim’s Progress read to me. I talked to Bill Moore on Friday and he said, “Can you imagine that we were at that age exposed to C.S. Lewis and having The Chronicles of Narnia read to us as we were growing up?” It’s just crazy memories that we have! And some of them we want to remember and some we don’t and some we choose not to, some we hold dear. We had a group email going around. I was asking for stories about the Day School and remembrances and some of us would email back and say, “You don’t remember that?” and others would quote entire hymns that they remember from the Christmas program and things like that.

We had an unusual, and I say this all to the glory of God, but an unusual moving of the Spirit. It was like this, in a funnel in the sense that there was, for some of us it was cradle roll here at the church, but to be then at the Day School and see the core group expand a little bit and then at that time most went to Prep. There was Woodland Hills and Manhattan, those were the only options. JA had not advanced yet in grades. And so, you know, it was because of the influence of this church who had men like Jimmy Turner, Ron Musselman, and Ed Norton that it just funneled out to most – again, not everyone went to Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but most went there to Ford Williams RUF at Mississippi State or Jimmy Turner at Ole Miss. And we counted up at one point, between 1981 and 1987, some fifty friends that went into the ministry in some way, form or fashion. Dr. Baird had come when we were sophomores in college and there was a similar revival of sorts in Gadsden when he was the minister there; a little bit more concentrated there but fifty ministers of the Gospel actually came out of Gadsden during that time. It was a prayer of Dr. Baird early in his ministry that people would be sent out in the ministry from the churches that he served.

But when we think about these seeds being cast seven hours a day, five days a week, the memories of walking down the hall to go say the 23rd Psalm to Mrs. Caviness. And that was her desk. Her office was a desk in the hallway. And how nervous I would be there too, going down to recite Scripture to her. There was Coach Sullivan and we saw him Friday night. And Billy Joseph! He was a Y football coach for us. And Joe Creech and Buddy Bartling drove Sweet Chariot. And sweet, sweet Mrs. Varner who, Katie Varner – where’s Mary, I thought I’d seen you earlier – and Katie who would drive me home after substituting and then in the later years became this mentor to me and friend, who befriended someone like me. And Mrs. May had come out of retirement to be a substitute as well. I had Mr. Bailey. I was here for those early years with Mr. Bailey and Mr. Treloar. And so okay, those were the administration, the faculty, but names like Irene and Murt and Myra and Ollie and Robert. I mean, all of this had to do with seeds of good news that were being planted in our lives. And a fearful little boy, who became a world class worrier, I can tell you that – when my mom got cancer in 1977 and some of my closest friends who, I see their faces right now, may not even know, I cried myself to sleep every night of eight grade. And that was a year out, a year and two or three months when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, from graduating from the Day School. I think to myself, in my bed, in my home at night, and I would wake up at five in the morning and be sick, physically ill, and my dad taking care of me. And I was thinking to myself in preparation for this, at least I knew to whom to turn. At least I knew that’s what was required of me – to cry out to Him.

And I’d love, tonight – I want to use the text and I want to be true to an exposition of Philippians, but I want to share a personal testimony tonight, just even about seeking peace in our lives. But for me, it started, obviously a covenant child, but then in 1969 with this Christian education that provided, unbeknownst to me – I mean, who would have thought that a twelve-year-old would understand the terminology of a Biblical world and life view – and yet as much as a twelve year old could understand, that’s what I left this corner, this lot, this property and went out into a different situation. It’s eternal benefit. I mean, Cal mentioned there’s not a price that you can put on that. When you think of reading Dick and Jane with Mrs. Sue Ann or cursive with Mrs. Smith or fractions with Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Murphy, that generation, you know the thought that I’m being taught that all truth is God’s truth is incalculable. I mean really! And then teach that this God of Isaiah 40 is my God. That’s what I needed then and that’s what I need today. As a frightened youth and as a frightened adult in a frightened world, a broken world, I need to know this God in Isaiah 40. I need to know my God reigns!

And in 52:7 in Isaiah when it talks about “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” I would not be standing here – and I’m not talking about in the pulpit – I mean I wouldn’t be in this sanctuary worshipping God had I not been taught that truth. I mean, I have to know that! I have to believe it every morning I wake up. My God reigns! And Paul quotes that in Romans chapter 10 and the same in Isaiah 52:7. Whether ministers of the Gospel or missionaries, a Christian mom or dad, businessmen, businesswomen, stay at home mom, it doesn’t matter! It is beautiful feet of those who “bring good news of happiness, who publish salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

I would be presumptuous to think that every person understands the Gospel. In Montgomery about three weeks ago, one of our adult ladies in the church had gone to visit her neighbor who’d just moved in. She asked her what church she went to and she was unchurched. She asked about her relationship with Jesus and the woman (this is in the heart of the South, Montgomery, Alabama) and she said, “I’ve heard of Him.” Of Jesus! I don’t want to be presumptuous that everyone in this room understands or knows what the Gospel is. But in a nutshell, but I understand that this is one of our vows for joining the church is that I understand that I’m a sinner in the sight of God, that I sin every day, and I’m in need of His mercy. I’m without hope, save in His sovereign mercy. And the only reason that He is not displeased, in the sense of ultimate punishment, is that He sent His Son to take that punishment for me and I trust in Him alone. That’s the key word! It’s not me plus something else; me plus my works! It’s Jesus Christ alone! Okay, and it’s beautiful. That’s good news! The larger, the grander picture, begins with this Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in all eternity in the Godhead who chooses a people who He is going to set His love upon. And that this God reigns. And therein lies my protection and my security and my sense of peace and joy in this life is not in me, thankfully, this fearful person. Where would I be without Christ? Where would I be without a personal relationship with God’s Son?

And in those three words, actually in 52:7, “Your God reigns,” it’s just flying off the page in every verse of chapter 40 when he says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Comfort my family, my children, those for whom Christ will die.” Console them is the word. “Console them for me. Tell them, speak tenderly, so much about God’s character.” The God to be described in the verses that follow, and He says to Isaiah, “Speak tenderly now, speak tenderly to them. Be encouraging! Be,” in New Testament language, “be a Barnabas. Come alongside the covenant children and tell them. And he asks a few times, “What do I say?” It’s an allusion soon to John the Baptist, fulfilled in Christ of course. But Isaiah, “What shall I cry?” And God says, “Tell her that her warfare has ended. Tell her that her sin has been pardoned.” As you’ll see in verse 2, “Tell her that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” This was a horrible time in the life of Israel. God’s people had been taken captive. They were exiled for hundreds of years.

And you think about what we see today on the television. This is the same culture. This is thousands of years before. You think about what we know today and decapitation and drowning and fire and we just see it. This is thousands and thousands of years ago and God’s people being taken captive by the same kind of radicalism, and the children were being killed and the women were being killed. The men were being killed. We don’t know that in our land; I pray we never do! As Christians, we’re just so different. Our citizenship is in another place. We know that! This is temporary and we praise God for it. We’ve been brought out of exile, we’re brought out of Egypt, we’re brought out of sin, brought out of misery. We’re still exiled people. We’re waiting for Jesus to return. We want the new heaven and the new earth. We’re waiting on Canaan. But the United States of America, our physical country, we don’t know what it is to be taken away in captivity. These children in the Day School, this generation, they weren’t born on 9/11. When I walked these halls, the former Soviet Union was everything anti-Christian. They were the most evil; they were the evil empire. There was nothing religious about Russia, nothing! And today, the former Soviet Union has what would be regarded as, dare I say, more Christian view of marriage than does our own United States of America, birthed, arguably, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

These children that are attending the Day School now are called Generation Z. I don’t know why! I do know they’re obviously going to be very tech-savvy, social media will be everything for them in their world. But they’re predicted to be quite insecure. There’s something to be said about having been born and reared in an early age during the recession of ’08, ’09, and ’10, but also very worried parents about the future, scared about what is ahead. Lest you think I’m using the pulpit as a bully, the Millennials, I do have something to say to you, but I’m not; that’s not my intent at all, far from my purpose. But it is to make a point that the Generation Z that are walking these halls now, the generation they follow are these Millennials, ages 15 to 35. But lest you think I’m beating up on the Millennials, we only have twelve left in our church of the Greatest Generation, and one, Raymond Boykin who was actually the head of our school for some years, said to me in the hospital – he’s 98 years old now – but about four or five years ago in the hospital he said, “I’ll tell ya! For the Greatest Generation we sure did raise a lousy one!” Now he would be referring to the Silent Generation. There are these names; it’s interesting that generations are named, I found out that part of the study is to find out why it is that generations tend to repeat the same mistakes. What is it that makes them different, but what is it that makes them so much like all the other generations? So you’ve got the Lost Generation, which produced the Greatest Generation which produced the Silent Generation. They’re more Korea; some Vietnam. You’ve got the Baby Boomers, you know, the vast, mass, Baby Boomers. And then Generation X. And then to follow are these Millennials.

Evangelical Millennials, statistics, 60% of them, which would be in the median. So you’re talking higher numbers for men; lower numbers for women, but still it’s men and women. Sixty percent regularly view pornographic websites. Did you hear me to mention, these are statistics of evangelical Millennials? Eighty percent have engaged in pre-marital sex. One in five evangelical Millennial women have had an abortion. It’s very, very trendy among the Millennials not to believe in absolute truth. We saw that coming a long time ago with relativism – What’s true for you may not be true for me and this, that, and the other. But now, “It’s okay for you to believe that, just keep it to yourself. Don’t offend me. Tolerate me.” So it’s very, very trendy among Millennials not to believe in the inspiration of God’s Word or that this is God’s mind in print before us; the infallibility of God’s Word. Many, many as you have seen of late, have vowed to vote for a socialist in November. Most would not give it a second thought to vote for a candidate who was pro-abortion or pro-homosexual marriage. Statistically, they do not pray; they do not evangelize; they do not tithe. They get drunk and use profanity without shame. This is what’s been written about the Millennials, evangelical Millennials. I think saddest of all is that this large portion of very talented people – by the way, Millennials are very perceptive; they’re very talented – is that they really believe they’re following Jesus of Nazareth. They honestly believe in their blindness that they’re following one who said, “If you love me, you’ll do what I command,” holy, holy, holy King Jesus who is the God of Isaiah 40, who is the God who we are to say, “with beautiful feet behold your God. Your God reigns,” which by the way, Boomers and Xers and Millennials with children can’t say to your children, “Our God reigns” and then not live like it. That’s another thing about Millennials. They see right through you! Millennials can smell a hypocrite a mile away. They know when it’s not genuine. You can’t say in your home, “Our God reigns,” and then act as if you’re a practical atheist when it comes to making money, business, marriage, priorities, benevolence, football, whatever it is that takes the priority. You can’t say, “Our God reigns,” and not believe it.

Well you know as well as I do, it’s not going to be found in a presidential candidate. Politicians aren’t going to fix our injustice or violence or poverty. There’s only one and that’s the message. That’s why the feet of those who say such things, that’s why their feet are beautiful because they’re telling you there’s only one way to heal your broken heart. There’s only one who’s going to make all those broken places, all those rough places smooth. There’s only one; there’s not another. That’s the beauty! That’s not the shame of it or being too closed minded. That’s the hope found in God’s Word. There’s only one who makes the crooked places straight. And we all struggle. We see our children on crooked – we long for them to have the straight places and the straight paths. You know Josh McDowell who’s an apologist and lots with statistics and Barna actually teamed up with this stat. You may have heard Josh McDowell say this year ago! And we’re a little bit careful in the Reformed tradition because we don’t want to talk about necessarily what’s the chance of somebody becoming a Christian, but the stat remains the same. Twenty years ago, if you didn’t reach a child by twelve years of age there was a 34% chance the child would come to Christ. And what the stat is saying is, after twelve years old, only those who come to know Christ as personal Lord and Savior, only 34% of them will give their lives to Jesus. Do you know what the stat is today? Four; 4%. That’s it! If you don’t reach a child by the age of 12, only 4% thereafter in that Generation Z will actually come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. And we have the answer. The church is the church. The church must remain the church. The church holds the Gospel. The church’s calling is, “Comfort my people with these words. Comfort them, console them, tell them the war is over. Tell them that their iniquity has been pardoned. Tell them that I’ve already dealt with their sins double for what their sins deserve.”

The Christian school, the church too, we take the hands of these parents and we’re saying, “Be a herald of good news.” We’re telling them, “Behold, your God.” Verse 10, “The Lord God comes in might. His arm rules for him. His reward is with him, his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd.” That’s the difference – well there’s ten and eleven are hand in hand. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms. He will carry them in his bosom. He will gently lead them that have young.” I have this God, this God that I needed in 1969, I needed to know He was the mighty, triumphant, ruling, domineering God – what’s the word I’m looking for? Dominant God! And, and my shepherd. My friend who carries me and holds me to His breast, who says, “It’s going to be okay. I have this.” I needed that! Six hundred children at the Day School need to hear, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. I am gentle; I am lowly in heart. You will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So it’s a matter of comprehending it and grasping that and clutching what are Gospel truths.

I’ll tell you who comprehended it. It was the Apostle Paul. And he says in Ephesians 3 that you, beginning in verse 17, “That you who, being rooted and grounded and love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that” – what? “That you may be filled with the fullness of,” I want to say, “this God of Isaiah chapter 40. That you could be filled up with Him. No matter the pundits! You know, calling good evil and evil good, or the radicals who are doing their thing in the Middle East, or even our judges who seem not to have a moral compass in our own land. It seems if the election were tomorrow – and this is not a political statement by the way – if the election were tomorrow, Democrat or Republican, we’re going to have the leader of the free world that’s going to have the maturity of a fifth grader. I mean think about it! Down to your own problems in the pews of this church, all your brokenness and pain and struggle and depression and prodigals and fears and problems at First Pres and at Trinity in Montgomery and Mississippi and Alabama and the Middle East and Africa, He wants you to hear Him say from Isaiah 40 to you this morning, out of His love letter, He’s saying, “I’ve got this.” Whatever you bring to the table this morning it’s as if God is saying, “We’re going to take that off the table. I’ve got this. I reign. I’m in control.”

In verse 21, “Do you not know this? Do you not hear? Have you not been told this from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundation of the earth?” He goes on to describe this God and then it’s like, “Why?” in verse 27, “Why do you say that my way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God? Why do you say that? Have you not heard? Do you not know how much He loves you? Have you forgotten that it says of Jesus that He would never break a bruised reed? He’s not going to step on or break a smoldering wick.” That’s where I find myself. And how comforted I am. Do you not know that He actually confides in you? He tells you secrets doesn’t He? He tells me secrets. That sounds charismatic doesn’t it? Has that ever been said from this pulpit? God tells me secrets. Psalm 25:14, “He confides in those who fear Him,” commune with Him, love Him. He tells you things. He comforts you by His Holy Spirit. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises, this God of Isaiah 40 actually rises to show you compassion. Isaiah 30 verse 18, “Have you not heard that he created the stars, he named them, he put them there, not one is lost? Do you think he can’t take care of your problem?” Whatever you brought to the table, whatever you brought to the worship service, you think He can’t take care of that? Do you not know? Have you not heard? That “neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This school has been doing that for seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year for fifty years. Twenty-five thousand students, ten thousand families, hundreds of faculty – I had written in my notes. I was just trying to get my calculator. I was just trying to figure out what would that mean. How much prayer would that be? I came up with twenty-two hundred and after I listened to Brian Sorgenfrei on Friday night I was thinking to myself, “I would think it would be triple that.” Some five, six thousand hours of prayer that have been poured into the ministry of this church. And six hundred children walking the halls every day. And when this understanding of this God who is the Creator-Shepherd, when that takes root, when you comprehend, when it moves – and that’s what we’re going to talk about tonight Lord willing – when it moves from head to heart and you really understand that that which is inside of me is the kingdom of God, you begin to see my hope is not in politics, it’s not in the next president, it’s not in what the people of Jackson, Mississippi think about me. It’s what Jesus thinks about me! It’s whether He loved me. It’s whether I’m His. This one who has secured this reconciliation with the God of Isaiah 40 through His death and resurrection and ascension and prays for me even now.

Talk about praying for me – I’ll use, I know we’re after the hour – I’ll use the third point as a closure. But I needed this on Belhaven Street in 1970. I needed it when my dad sat down with us in 1977 at our breakfast table and said, “Your mom’s got non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and they’ve given her a year to live.” And that was the first time I’d ever seen my father break down and ball and cry. I needed it then and I needed it this morning before I stood here before you. That this everlasting God, the Creator, has said to me, “I like when you call me, ‘Abba.’ I really like to hear you say on your lips, ‘Abba.’” It means “Daddy.” “And I’ve made it possible for you to say, ‘Daddy,’” He’s saying to you, “I’ve made it possible for you to be reconciled to Me through My Son who is so powerful and yet so gentle, who’s got the whole world in His hands, and He’s got you and your children and your lives.” And you want to talk about crying? Here’s a description of Jesus’ prayer life in Hebrews 5:7. Some of you are going to say, “I didn’t even know that was in the Bible.” This is Jesus’ prayer life, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his reverence.” Jesus Christ.

We grow up and our lives take twists and turns, don’t they, and things are not like we thought. I grew up on Honeysuckle Lane. How apple pie American is that? And I say to my sister Maury, we talk two or three times a week, and I say, “We’re not on Honeysuckle Lane anymore, are we?” Do you ever feel that way? “Boy, I’m just not on Honeysuckle Lane.” Whatever your Honeysuckle Lane is. Well, He gives power to the faint and those He increases strength. Youths faint and grow weary. Young men fall exhausted. Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They’ll mount up with wings like eagles. They’ll run and not be weary. They’ll walk and not faint. As we pray together.

Our God, our Father, we bow down to You, the God of the Word, the Word today even from this very chapter that we ask would first melt our hearts and then embolden us and strengthen us for another day when we wake up and the alarm goes off in the morning and we walk out into tribulation and trouble and hardship. We need You. We need the triune God. We need a Savior. We need a Friend. We need an Advocate. Come, Lord Jesus, in all Your grace. Let it flow down on our heads, across our shoulders, and drip, drip on our feet this grace upon grace upon grace. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

©2016 First Presbyterian Church.

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