Inspiring Faith: Noah

Genesis 6:1-6

There is nothing new under the sun.

People cheat their customers. This practice has been going on for thousands of years.

People hold grudges and harass each other. This practice has been going on for a long time.

People get married and divorced like they are trying to set a record. This practice has been going on for some time.

For us to walk with God, then we are to avoid these practices. Plus there are other practices, like gluttony, drunkenness, and laziness, that we would want to avoid. Very few people are able to avoid every single practice that separates us from God.

But Noah did. Well, he mostly avoided those practices. We read that Noah found favor with God. How did this happen? Noah is described as being a “righteous man, blameless in his generation.” It is even written that “Noah walked with God.” If that was written about Noah, then what could be written about our faith in God?

Last May I asked our congregations who in the Bible inspires their faith. Over the next six weeks we will be looking at some people in the Bible who inspire our faith. Who knows how many people we can inspire with our faith? Who knows how many people over the years have been inspired by Noah?

A. What a time in which Noah lives! (Genesis 6:1-6)

  1. Wickedness was widespread
  2. It even enveloped heavenly beings (angels/sons of God)
  3. Jesus reminded the disciples, that “they were eating & drinking, marrying & giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38)
  4. God was grieving over the wickedness of the people
  5. I imagine God is grieving over the wickedness of people today. We are doing the same things, enticing heavenly beings, eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. What a time in which we live! God was saddened that he needed to cleanse the earth of such wickedness. There was one whom God instructed to show the way to live. It was Noah.

B. How did Noah avoid the wickedness of his time?

  1. God told the prophet Ezekiel that Noah was righteous (Ezekiel 14)
  2. Noah’s righteousness is demonstrated by Noah doing all that God commanded him
  3. It appears that Noah had integrity (blameless)
  4. It appears that Noah lived his relationship with God (righteous)
  5. Noah did not live alone. He made the choice to please God. Beyond that, Noah saw his relationship with the Lord as an integral part of his life. Much like his great-grandfather Enoch, Noah walked with God. His father Lamech said that Noah “would bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). How else are we to know relief from our work the toil of our hands unless we do all that God commands us?

C. How can we avoid the wickedness of our time?

  1. Righteousness is our goal – doing what is appropriate, right for the relationship
  2. Being blameless is our vision – (Read Psalm 15:2-5)
  3. Living our relationship with God is our way of living – walk before God
  4. We live with God, even during these wicked days. We make our choice to please God. Our relationship with God is the centerpiece of our lives.

100 years after Noah became a father, he entered into the ark. The rains came. The fountains of the deep burst open. The wickedness of the land was cleansed in a year long flood. But Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives, eight in all, were saved through the water. Noah was delivered because he walked with God.

For us today this means we follow Jesus. God saves us through his Son. God saves us through faith in Jesus. God cleanses us from all wickedness when we believe in Jesus.

If we want to have faith in God, then having faith like Noah would be good. Then we see how walking with God is how we live a baptized life.

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Closer to home…

We have been informed concerning a placement!

Ben will be moved to a facility with an independent living program.

We do not know when this will happen. It will be soon. For we were given the information about the facility at the beginning of the month. Ben has to wait for a bed to open up at the facility.

While Ben is waiting, we are also waiting.

We have a number of questions for the new facility. Which school will he attend during his stay at the facility? How often and for how long can Ben go off campus? What will his responsibilities be in this new facility? Can we call him at assigned times during the week? Can he call us at assigned times during the week?

We know this is a different scenario for Ben, for my wife and I, and for our family. When Ben was discharged from a psychiatric residential treatment facility in another state, there were some in-home services available for Ben and our family. Now that Ben is being discharged to a facility with a lower level of care, how will this work? If things go wrong for Ben, like he relapses or gets into trouble, then will he go back to a higher level of care or to a correctional institution?

His mother and I want him to be able to function in society. We realize it has been quite a road to get to this point. From reading Ann Streissguth’s book, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Guide for Families and Communities, we realize that if children with Fetal Alcohol exposure are able to survive through their early 20’s, they could do well in society.

God has answered many prayers for Ben through the years. God has answered many prayers of my wife and I over the years. We are going to keep on praying for Ben to successful in treatment, education, employment, and residing in society. We are going to pray that Ben will have enough grace, love, peace, and faith to get through these days and all that life holds. We also pray that those who come in contact with Ben have enough grace, love, peace, and faith towards him.

Christmas Gifts

Matthew 2:1-12

Polls can be fascinating. I created an informal poll on social media this week. I asked one question. When you receive a gift of cash for Christmas, how soon do you use the gift? There were 25 responses. 96% of the respondents indicated that they would save their Christmas cash for a rainy day. This means one person reported that they would spend their Christmas cash on December 26th!

With the visit of the Magi, or wise men, to Jesus and Mary, we see the first recorded gifts given to Jesus. Jesus received gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are gifts fit for a king! When Joseph had the dream to go to Egypt until Herod the Great died, those gifts came in handy.

Why did the Wise Men travel to Judea to see the child born king of the Jews? What was the purpose of the gifts? What happens when the Christmas cash runs out?

A. Setting 2:1

1. Time? Reign of King Herod

2. Where? Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea

Magi came from the East, in Jerusalem

B. The Question: “Where is the child born king of the Jews?” 2:2

1. Magi want to worship this child, after they observed his star rising

2. Magi – wise men, astrologers, magician, sorcerer

a. Kings comes from Psalm 72:10-11 & Isaiah 60:3

b. A priestly caste from Persian/Babylonian area; occult experts

3. The Magi wanted to pay homage to Jesus. That means they wanted to honor a person higher than themselves. Yet, Herod did not like this idea. There may be some who do not like us honoring Jesus.

C. Herod! 2:3-8

1. Not excited about this news about a newborn king

2. Neither is Jerusalem – not wanting a newborn king??

3. Chief priests (ruling class) & scribes (professional experts in the law)

4. Where is the Messiah to be born? Magi also guided by Scripture (Micah 5:2 & 2 Samuel 5:2)

5. Herod did not want to worship the newborn king, he wanted to kill the newborn king! He wouldn’t even travel the five miles to Bethlehem to see this child born king of the Jews. But the Magi traveled to Bethlehem.

D. It stopped over the house! 2:9-12

1. The Magi find Jesus – they are full of joy!

2. From its rising, the star guided the magi (Star out of Jacob, Num. 24:17)

3. Child – Jesus was 2 years old

4. Gifts – gold, frankincense, myrrh (all gifts fit for a king)

a. Gold – always fit for a king

b. Frankincense & myrrh – expensive, aromatic gum resins, not native to Israel, having many religious & medical connotations

5. Magi – warned by God in a dream, head East via another route

6. God is acting, even though we don’t see him on stage. He provides for Jesus’ safety through dreams and these gifts. But these gifts didn’t last forever. We even hear Jesus tell the disciples and the crowd that we are to give to God what is his. As disciples of Jesus we are learning that we honor Jesus by being in worship services and giving gifts to Jesus.

I have been told by preaching professionals it is a good idea to preach about the church ten percent of the year. This would include sermons on tithing, fellowship, church leadership, and such. So, there would be five sermons a year on how the church can be church.

As a preacher, I have learned there are times it is good for the preacher to be away from the church. With vacation, continuing education events, and Annual Conference preachers in the Holston Conference can be away from the pulpit at least five Sunday’s a year.

Then something interesting occurred to me. The folks in the church would be glad for the preacher to preach a sermon on giving when the preacher is away from the local church!

Christmas cash is nice. But it doesn’t last forever. As we worship Jesus throughout the year, we give gifts to Jesus. Nowadays, we may not bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Though, I’m sure the ushers wouldn’t mind carrying gold in the offering plate!

We want to honor Jesus. We worship him because he is the King of the Jews. We worship Jesus because he is the King of me. It turns out as we worship Jesus, we begin to trust him. We end up giving Jesus more than gifts, we give him our very lives.

Is this year the time we begin to trust Jesus as we worship him? Is this the year when we begin to worship Jesus with our gifts?

God is working in Greene County, Tennessee

Dear Saints,

Praise God for a new year! As we are reading this newsletter, we are able to know that even this morning God’s mercy are new. I thank God that He has enough grace for me and you.

As we ponder what God is doing with His mercy, we realize one fact. It is true to say that God is at work in our world. How can we know God is at work in this world? Let’s think about the mercy God is displaying in Greeneville and Greene County:

* The building on the Bypass that once housed a skating rink is now the home of a “Cowboy Church”

* The First Christian Church in Greeneville has begun a ministry in Afton so they can have a second campus for the community

* The Holston Home for Children is building a family life center so they can show the children and youth in their care how to worship God

I have even heard of other churches in our community that are baptizing people. There are churches for young people, like EnCompass Church. There has even been a church plant on West Main Street from a church in Morristown, Arrowhead Church! God is up to something in East Tennessee.

God’s mercy is being extended to this world, to this nation, to our community. In all of God’s mercy, how are we to live? When we see only the age of our congregation, then we are missing what God is doing in our community. Maybe God will stir up in us a remembrance of how we first knew of His mercy in our lives. For surely there are neighbors of ours, family members of ours, and strangers in this community who need the mercy God has for them. We were once like that.

We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. We know His mercy. Won’t you join me in praying for our church to see God’s mercy once again in the life of our community? Won’t you join me in praying for us to be part of the work that God is doing in Greene County?

Jesus said His Father was still at work. So, Jesus was at work. May we join Jesus in being at work in the mercy of God. May we see all the new things God is doing in our community. Christ have mercy. God have mercy. Greene County, have mercy.

In Christ’s Service,

Rev. John L. Grimm

The One of Peace

Micah 5:2-5a

We were watching one of those Hallmark Christmas movies. The high school senior was head over heels in love with the Army PFC. She met him when he came into the town next to the Army base. She was a waitress and she waited on his table. They hit it off. Just days before the PFC is to be deployed, the young lady slid across the ice in her car. That is when I realized this was no normal Hallmark Christmas movie. We were watching a movie on Hallmark’s “Movie and Mystery” channel!

As we continued to watch the movie I was given further proof that this was no normal Hallmark Christmas movie. The young lady was to sing a solo at the school’s Christmas concert. As the program is starting, the principal stands up and recognizes the fact that the nearby Army base had recently deployed soldiers to an unknown destination. Then the principal announces the names of those recently deployed who had been killed in action. As the principal reads the names, the young lady hears her PFC’s name! Already distraught about being separated from her boyfriend, this sends her over the top. She runs out of the auditorium. This was not a normal Hallmark Christmas movie.

Life is not a normal Hallmark Christmas movie. People lose their jobs around Christmas. Loved ones pass away around Christmas. Relationships crumble around Christmas. Nations are at war with each other around Christmas. Terrorists strike whenever they feel like it, even around Christmas.

How then are we to live? Do we retreat into our homes and have a marathon of Hallmark Christmas movies? Or do we have hope for something more?

A. God will have one come from an unexpected place (5:2)

  1. Bethlehem of Ephrathah?
  2. It is the village of David’s birth
  3. There will be a descendant of David who will rule in Israel
  4. The origins of this one is from ancient days
  5. From the most unlikely place comes a ruler.

B. There will be suffering before he comes (5:3)

  1. Israel knew suffering – they had turned from God
  2. During Hezekiah’s reign (715-687), Judah did return to the Lord
  3. Hezekiah had actually had the Israel refugees come to Jerusalem
    a. “Daughters of Israel” – brought into the walls of Jerusalem
    b. Many houses were torn down to expand the wall around Jerusalem so the refugees from Israel would be safe
  4. Micah prophesied during a tumultuous time for Judah. The world powers were beginning to use the territory of Israel and Judah as a battleground. Israel has been defeated. Judah was facing an uncertain future. They did not know how long the suffering was going to be. Yet, they still had hope for peace.

C. The one who is to rule will feed his flock and they shall be secure (5:4)

  1. Judah needed to know that they would be fed – food was running low
  2. Judah needed to know that they would be secure – the enemy is powerful
  3. The ruler would feed them – in the strength of the Lord
  4. The ruler keeps them secure – he will be great to the ends of the earth
  5. Food and security are essential for life. Having food means we can live for another day. Being secure means we can plan for another day. How many of our neighbors are in need of food? How many of our neighbors are in need of being secure? The ruler from Bethlehem of Ephrathah has something to say about these needs. For when we listen to him, then our neighbors and us have the two ingredients for peace.

D. The one who is to rule shall be the one of peace (5:5a)

  1. We Christians see this prophecy being about Jesus
  2. Jesus brings peace from God to us – that’s what forgiveness is
  3. Jesus brings peace between us and our neighbors – that’s what forgiveness is
  4. All the rulers of the world will submit to Jesus – he is the one of peace
  5. With Jesus’ birth we saw how forgiveness can be lived. Now as we await his 2nd coming, we will see how peace is lived.

By the way, at the end of that not a normal Hallmark Christmas movie, there was a Christmas party at the young lady’s home. She was not in the mood for the party. Her mother looked out the window and saw an unexpected guest. The injured PFC was there! It turns out his name was put on the wrong list! The young lady and her PFC were together again.

In this time we have before Jesus arrives, it will not be a normal Hallmark Christmas movie. Many families will not know peace this Christmas. Families will be in need of food this Christmas. Families will not be secure this Christmas.

What do we do between now and when Jesus returns? We forgive all people around us. We let people know that we forgive because we have been forgiven. We provide food to those who are hungry. We be the secure person when their lives are not so secure. We live the hope we have in the one of peace, Jesus Christ.

Restored!

Zephaniah 3:14-20

It is the time of year when the evening activities include the musical capabilities of our children and grandchildren. We will go to the packed parking lot and jam into the gymnasium or auditorium for their holiday presentations. There will be parents and grandparents who stand up, move to the aisle, and snap pictures and videos of their precious darlings. It is quite a festive scene.

Every once in a while these school concerts take on extra special meaning for one of the children. While the class is performing their song, someone makes an appearance. That’s right, we have the scene of a Mom or Dad who has been deployed with the US military suddenly there at the holiday concert. There are hugs given. There are tears shed. And that is just from the returning family member!

When we are away from our loved ones, there is nothing that can compare with being reunited with them. The Oh’s and Ah’s, the clapping of onlookers, and the smiles on the faces in the crowd are noteworthy. Knowing after a long absence that one person who loves you more than anything is right there with you, is so reassuring.

That is sort of the scenario which Zephaniah is telling us about. Granted, having a loved one deployed is not a time of correction for the child. But the longing of the child to be reunited with Mom or Dad compares with our wanting to have God with us. For there will be a time on the Day of the Lord when we won’t see God.

A. There is a background to the Day of the Lord

  1. The people of God had been worshiping idols (1:2-13)
  2. God’s wrath will be upon all who have sinned against the Lord (1:14-18)
  3. Those nations which have taunted Israel will be punished (2:1-15)
  4. Even Jerusalem, the place in which holy things were profaned, will be judged (3:1-7)
  5. Even the nations will start praising God on that day (3:1-13)
  6. Yet, a remnant who has remained faithful to God, will get through the Day of the Lord (2:3)
    a. The remnant will possess the seacoast & have their fortunes restored (2:7)
    b. The remnant of God’s people will possess Moab (2:9)
    c. Those from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will bring the Lord’s offering (3:10)
    d. The remnant will be humble and lowly, seeking refuge in the name of the Lord (3:12-13)
  7. Yes, we will be held to account for our sins. On that Day of the Lord, we who have been faithless to God will know his wrath. Yet, God knows that the people will turn to him. What does this mean for the remnant of Israel, for the remnant of the faithful?

B. God is going to be in our midst! (3:14-18)

  1. Because the Lord is giving the people pasture, they can sing!
  2. Showing that the enemies are not there, the Lord himself is there!
  3. We need not fear when we know the Lord is in our midst
  4. Our mighty God is going to be singing loudly over us!
  5. All the reproach for our sin will be no longer with us
  6. Do we get it? The Lord is going to be with his people. The Lord will renew us in his love. We will hear him singing, loudly, over us! To get to hear that rambunctious singing, we are to be faithful to the one who is coming for us! This rejoicing that the Lord will be doing reminds us why we prepare for Christ’s arrival. This 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudette Sunday, is the Sunday of joy. In Philippians 4:4-5 we read that we can “rejoice in the Lord always… The Lord is near.” What joy we will have when we hear the Lord singing over us! What will this be like for the people of God?

C. Our shame shall be no more (3:19-20)

  1. The Lord will deal with those who oppress his people
  2. The lame will be saved/delivered
  3. The outcast won’t have shame, but will have praise & renown in all the earth
  4. At that time, God will bring his people home
  5. Our fortunes will be restored
  6. Because of our sin against God, we lose our fortunes. We get shame when people find out about our sin. However, when we return to the Lord, he changes our future. All we have to do is believe God saves us. All we have to do is believe in Jesus. This means we repent of our ways. This means we turn to the ways of God.

The homecoming of the deployed military personnel is a good reunion. There is going to be joy. There is going to be a good time.

That gives us only a glimpse of the Lord being in our midst. There is going to be loud singing – by the Lord. There is going to be renewed lives – because of the love of the Lord. There won’t be any shame – because the Lord will make it into praise and renown.

For us to be ready for the Day of the Lord, let us repent. God is ready to forgive us. We get to be full of joy because we are forgiven. Repent, for the Lord wants to be in our midst. Will we turn to the Lord, so the Lord can have loud singing over us?

Purified and Refined

Malachi 3:1-4

There is a message from God for us. Malachi gave the message to the Israelites. John the Baptizer gave the message to the Jews. This message is good for us today.

It was after the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem that Malachi prophesied. It was a time of broken hope fueled by the lackluster situation. Things were not as they once were in Jerusalem. The goodness they once thought was being lived is not being lived. It was such that those who did evil were called good (2:17). God was going to get Israel’s attention.

This message applies to us. For we see that things in our time are not as they once were. The hope that we may have once had seems diminished. The goodness we once thought was being lived is not being lived. It is such that those who do evil are called good. God is going to get our attention.

A. There is a messenger (3:1)

  1. Messenger = angel = Malachi
  2. Prepares the way for me – for God himself!
  3. The Lord/Adon is coming to his temple/messenger of the covenant
  4. The messenger is getting us ready for the Lord! When we see what is evil being called good, then we know we have strayed from the ways of God. Because of the work of God, the people of God are able to revere God. Yet, that is not what the people of God have been doing. So, the messenger is coming to prepare the way for the Lord. What happens so that we are prepared for the Lord?

B. There is refining and purifying to be done (3:2-3)

  1. Who can be ready for the day of the Lord’s coming? (falling)
  2. Those who are refined and purified by the Lord!
    a. Refined & purified – refiner’s fire – removing impurities left after the smelting process (2,100 degrees F for gold; 1,832 degrees F for silver)
    b. Fuller’s Soap – an alkali soap used to clean new cloth, along with running water; the fuller beats the soap into the cloth, bleaching the cloth
  3. Descendants of Levi – the priests
  4. The messenger of the covenant is getting us ready for the day of the Lord. It will not be pleasant to be refined and purified. This process does not happen instantly. Where is the Lord in this process? He is with us. How can the Lord see the impurities in our lives? He is upon us. How can the Lord cleanse us? He is the one who is removing all of the unrighteousness from us. That is why John the baptizer told people to repent. We have to be willing to have the Lord refine and purify us. Why do we go through the process of being refined and purified?

C. There is a way to worship God (3:4-5)

  1. Our righteousness is as filthy rags
  2. The righteousness of the Lord is pure
  3. What makes us our righteousness so bad?
    a. 3:5 Sorcerers, adulterers, swearing falsely, oppressing workers in their wages, oppressing widows and orphans, thrusting the alien/stranger aside, not fearing the Lord
    b. These works keep us from the Lord
  4. Why do we need to be made righteous?
    a. Make offerings to the Lord – the full tithe
    b. So we can spend time with the Lord
  5. It appears that when we are impure and unrefined, then our worship of God is incomplete. We cannot spend time with God unless we become pure and refined. Since we cannot purify and refine ourselves, the Lord comes to us. He gets in our space. He meets us where we are. Through facing the unrighteousness in our lives, Jesus makes us pure and refined. Then we are able to give God the honor and glory due him. Since we have trusted Jesus to clean us up, we then can trust him with the full tithe. That is once we know Jesus is with us in making us righteous, we are able to trust him for all we need in life. We can’t keep anything back from Jesus when we are being purified and refined. Then we can’t keep anything from the Lord when we are worshiping him.

There is a message for all time. We humans are unrighteous. The righteous Lord wants us to be with him. So, the Lord comes to be with us. The Lord works so that we can be righteous. This process is not pleasant, but the Lord is with us every step through the process.

When we are purified and refined, then we still get to be with the Lord. Won’t we trust the Lord to purify and refine us? Won’t we trust the Lord with all we have? If we will trust the Lord, then we can worship God in righteousness.

The Lord is going to get into your life. He is going to make you righteous. Be ready. The end result will be much better than how we are now.