Most mornings I begin my day with a walk. After a steaming mug of coffee Sue and I briskly walk the streets and cul de sacs of our hilly neighborhood?and as we walk, we pray. We pray for our children; we pray for our nation; we pray for the completion of the ROC; we pray for you; we pray for our parents; we pray for each other. In short, we do what I consider to be the most intimate thing two spouses can do?we talk honestly and openly together with God.
One morning as we walked and prayed a couple weeks back we noticed a special bite in the air. We also saw that the leaves on the trees in our neighborhood were starting to change. In fact there were already yellows, oranges, and reds in many of the trees. And?as I took in these annual indications that FALL has arrived, I felt a familiar sense of peace deep in my soul. I say ?familiar? because I feel the same thing every fall and in late December or early January when I first smell snow in the air and every April when I see the trees beginning to bud…and every July when I realize its time to turn the air conditioner on. That sensation of peace is comes from the fact that to me the faithfulness of the seasons is an indication of the faithfulness of God.
How many of you have ever felt that same sense of peace as the change of the seasons reminds you of the FAITHFULNESS of God?
Now?we use this word, ?FAITHFULNESS? to describe God all the time?and unfortunately, whenever we use a word over and over again, well, often tend to forget what it means?so here?s a quick reminder of the true meaning of the word, ?FAITHFULNESS,? when it is used to describe our Heavenly Father. When we say that God is faithful we are saying that everything He says and does is certain. We?re saying He is 100% reliable, 100% of the time….that He SAYS what He means and MEANS what He says?and therefore DOES everything He says He will do. We are saying that God does not fail, forget, falter, or disappoint?EVER. In short, we are saying that we can count on God in the same way that we can count on the seasons.
And?I want you to understand?bound up in the inherent meaning of this word is the fact that all this NEVER CHANGES. I mean, God never ceases to be faithful. I don?t know about you, but to me this is indeed a comforting fact because in this world of ours it seems as if everything else DOES change. Think about it. The ECONOMY changes! These days that change seems to be always in the downward direction?which is a scary thing for people my age who worry about their retirement accounts. GOVERNMENTS change especially in democracies like ours. Is it just me or do you feel as if Virginia is always electing some one to some office?! COUNTRIES change?borders are reconfigured; nations are re-named?world atlases and globes are out-dated almost before we get them home. CITIES and NEIGHBORHOODS change?especially if you live in one like mine where the ICC has plowed a small version of the Grand Canyon not too far from your front yard. CHURCHES change?we?re very familiar with that here at Redland as Uncle Sam moves people in and out of our area every couple years. PARENTING changes?just as soon as you figure out how to change diapers your babies turn into toddlers?and as soon as you figure out the best way to discipline toddlers…they turn into pre-adolescents…then when you get good at pre-adolescents these strange creatures called teenagers suddenly show up…and you run to experts like Kevin for help. And?one of the things that makes parenting so hard is the fact that our BODIES change such that we don?t have the energy to keep up with our kids. Over the years our muscles turn to flab. Our hair turns gray or it turns loose. Our faces sag and wrinkle. Aches and pains become common place. Before you know it your once healthy body becomes plagued with the ailments that come with aging and you begin to see more and more doctor?s appointments popping up on your day-timer.
Well, all this goes to show that what I said a moment ago is true: the only thing that is CONSTANT in our world is CHANGE. And as I said, in the midst all this turmoil, the fact that God?s FAITHFULNESS is constant…the fact that He does NOT change is an anchor. His faithfulness is something to hold on to. Wouldn?t you agree? I mean, isn?t it good to know that God does not change?! Isn?t it re-assuring to know that, as Spurgeon once wrote, ?There are no furrows on God?s eternal brow. No age has palsied Him; no years have marked Him with mementos of their flight…?
God is the same! He is changeless. In fact, since He is perfect, any change would have to be for the worse! God?s perfection is like standing on the North Pole. The only direction you can walk is south! I mean, any change would make God less than faithful?less than perfect. So it is INDEED a wonderful comforting truth?that…yesterday, today, and tomorrow He is the same. He is always absolutely consistent to His character and personhood.
Think of it?this means God?s STRENGTH never wanes. I mean God never says, ?I?m feeling strong today? because He is faithful to ALWAYS have UNLIMITED power. I love this fact because it tells me that if I ever need a strong hand to hold I can know that I?ll ALWAYS find one in God. Max Lucado writes. ?Think of it. God never pauses to EAT or asks the angels to cover for Him while He NAPS. He never signals a time-out or puts the prayer requests from Russia on hold while He handles those from South Africa. Catch God in a bad mood? Won?t happen. Fear exhausting His amazing grace? A sardine will swallow the Atlantic first. Think He?s given up on you? Never. Ever worry that if you go to Him you?ll find Him in a non-receptive mood? Not God. Lovers call you one today and scorn you tomorrow. Companies follow pay raises with pink slips. Friends applaud you when you drive a classic and dismiss you when you drive a dud. Not God. He is always the same. As James 1:17 says, ?There is not even a shadow of a change in God.??
Even the NAME for Himself that He gave to Moses proclaims this fact. God is ?I AM? not ?I will be? or ?I was? but ?I AM? ?a declaration to both God?s self-existence and eternal CHANGELESSNESS. But you know, as I inferred a moment ago this fact that God?s great faithfulness never changes is something that we tend to take for granted. In his book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan writes,
?Faithfulness is by definition, the predictable, the habitual, the sturdy, the routine. It is the evidence of things SEEN, but seen so often we?ve grown BLIND to them. It?s the substance of things EXPECTED, expected so unthinkingly that we now TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED. [Frankly] faithfulness BORES us. [Think of it] Who among us leapt up this morning as the sun rose, exclaiming, ?Look! Look, everybody, look! The sun! Here it comes! Wow! Or who ran through the house shouting, ?Ha! AIR! Behold! AIR! Clean air, fresh air, air to fill my lungs, air to shape my words, air to move the clouds, air to lift the birds! [Who does this?] Not me?[This morning] I woke up [like I usually do,] groaning.?
I don?t know about you?but Buchanan?s insights convict me of the sin of ignoring God?s faithfulness?a faithfulness that I depend on being all around me every day. I mean, I?m not near as thankful as I should be. I should be in AWE of God?s faithfulness but most of the time I?m not. Are you? Buchanan illustrates this sad truth by comparing God?s unchanging faithfulness to the common LEAF. Listen to this excerpt from his book:
?Behold a single leaf. So fragile, it tears like paper, crushes in your hand to a moist stain, sharply fragrant. Dry, it burns swift and crackling as newsprint, pungent as gunpowder. Yet a leaf may withstand hurricanes, stubbornly clinging to its limb. Hold it open in your palm. It is perfect as a newborn?s smile. Pinch its stem between thumb and forefinger and hold it to the light. Eden bleeds through. It?s veins are like bone work in silhouette. This single leaf, joined to the tree, drinks poison [carbon dioxide] from the air, drinks it serenely as Socrates downing his cup of hemlock, and refuses to return in kind, instead spilling out life-giving oxygen. This leaf tilts to catch the sun, its warmth and radiance, to distill the heat and light down to the shadows, down to the roots, back up to limbs…to shade the earth…to feed you and me. A leaf. God makes these season after season, one after the other, billions upon billions, from the Garden to the New Jerusalem, most for no eye but His own. He does it faithfully, or else I would not live to tell about it , or you to hear.?
Wouldn?t you agree that Buchanan does a great job here in reminding us that even in a common every day leaf we can see the faithfulness of God!?
I bring up this aspect of God?s character because whenever we celebrate communion as we do this morning we are celebrating this aspect of God?s character. You see, the coming of Jesus was not some last minute plan of God to save the human race. No?this was the plan all along. In the Garden of Eden immediately after sin entered the world, God promised that satan?s power would be broken by Someone Who would be virgin born?the ?seed? of a woman. Then over and over the Bible records the fact that down through the millennia God repeated His promise to send a Redeemer/Messiah. Through His prophets?prophets like Daniel?He told where the Child would be born…what He would do…how He would die for our sins…and even that He would rise, conquering death on our behalf. So, one of the main truths communion was intended to convey is that God is completely faithful. It shows us that as I said earlier, ?God SAYS what He means and MEANS what He says?and therefore DOES everything He says He will do.? Communion proclaims the fact that, as Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians 1:20:?Jesus is the ?YES? to every promise of God.? These elements remind us that from the beginning of time God has been faithfully working out His plan to RESCUE us from sin.
If you are our guest this morning and are a Christian we invite you to join us at this table. Even if you are not a member of this church, if you are His, this is yours.
THE ORDINANCE OF COMMUNION
This morning as we sing our closing song I would like us all to make it into a song of praise to God?praise for His great faithfulness to us as individuals and as a church. You may even want to come to the altar offering a prayer of thankfulness to God for His faithfulness to you. If you?d like to, please feel free to do so! And if you?re here and you aren?t a Christian then I would ask, Would you like a relationship that you could cling to?one that can give you strength and hope?no matter what? Then decide today to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. God has promised that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Claim that promise today. God may be leading you to join our church….but come now as He leads.
Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Let the WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly
and whatever you do…in word or in deed
Do it all in the NAME OF CHRIST giving thanks to God the Father