Sound Words, January 21, 2018

Sound Words, January 21, 2018

The Sermon Preached by the Snow
By Paul R. Blake

It dropped seven and a half inches of snow Friday evening and Saturday morning last week. I went out and shoveled the snow from the sidewalks, porch, and driveway. We had the parking lot plowed and the Rhodes family salted it. It started snowing again last Monday afternoon, and by Tuesday morning we got an additional six inches. I heaved a large sigh that morning, put on my boots, coat, and gloves and went out to do it all over again. As I stood there in the fresh fallen snow, I noticed that it was very quiet. I was outside; there was no sound of the furnace fan humming, no sound of a dog snoring, or the dishwasher running, or the cat scratching on her post. Silent. There were no outdoor sounds, either. The birds were silent, no cars were passing by, no animals moving in the woods, no voices from the neighbors yards. I listened more intently, and heard an airplane 30 miles away at the airport backing its engines as it landed. I heard the sound of a snowplow a mile and a half away on Route 168. The sky was overcast and the world around me was a landscape painting in black and white. I stood in awe and thankfulness that I was witness to a rare set of circumstances. It occurred to me that it was a blessing to see and hear a world slumbering beneath a foot thick blanket of snow. It was a beautiful and blessed experience. I forgot all about the cold temperatures and the work of shoveling snow.
Tuesday’s snow spoke volumes about the wisdom of the Divine. From the day Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and this became a fallen world, God has managed to put beauty and blessings in the most difficult of experiences. He punished Adam by cursing the ground and requiring him to labor long and hard to sustain his life and the lives of his family (Gen. 3:17-19). However, it is in working hard and enjoying the produce of his labors that a man derives great fulfillment and purpose in life (Ecc. 2:24). In the spring, the garden is covered with weeds and detritus, and the soil appears barren. He plows and plants, and his back is sore, his legs are weary, and his hands ache. In the summer, he pulls weeds and hoes around the plants in the hot sun for hours. It is hard work, it takes a toll on his body, it demands that he discipline himself to stay on task. And then one day he walks into the garden and sees rows of healthy, verdant plants hanging full with colorful vegetables. Out of toil and sweat and weariness — beauty, blessings, and abundance.
Eve was chastised with painful childbearing. She must endure great changes to her body and emotional state — profound changes that cannot be understood by anyone who hasn’t experienced it. And the process is not complete until she bears with the pain of giving birth. And yet, at the end of the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, God placed beauty, blessings, and abundance. Jesus said: “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).
The apostle Paul bore with a great deal of labor, sorrow, and pain in his work to save souls and start congregations of God’s children (2Cor. 11:24-28). But at the end of his labors the Mediterranean was dotted with congregations of heaven bound souls. Beauty, blessings, and abundance.
As the archetype of God’s wisdom and grace, Jesus came into this world and bore with great labor, greater pain, and even greater sorrow than has ever been known or experienced by humankind (Isa. 53:1-12). But at the end of His labors, God’s eternal plan to save humankind was confirmed, our ransom was paid, the Adversary suffered devastating loss, and Jesus is seated next to God in heaven (Heb. 10:12-17). Beauty, blessings, and abundance. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isa. 61:1-3).
A foot of snow brought cold and more work, but it also brought beauty and a blessed experience. A job brings labor and weariness, but it also brings fulfillment and abundance. A baby comes with labor, sorrows, and pains, but she also brings beauty, blessings, and joy. Preaching the Gospel is brings sadness, troubles, and fatigue, but it produces saved souls and great joy in heaven and on earth. With labor, sorrow, and pain comes beauty, blessings, and abundance. The snow declares the wisdom of God.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11). “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).

Learning to Pray the Garden Prayer
By Kent Heaton

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matt. 26:38-39).
Prayer can be a difficult step of faith to accept. There is a need to see tangible results mixed with an acceptance of the will of God to carry out what He desires. It is easy to be selfish in prayer to almost demand things from the Lord without actually using those words. Many give up on prayer because they seldom get what they want or see positive results of their prayers. Having a prayerful heart requires courageous faith and unlimited trust. It is not for the faint of heart. There are many reasons why prayers fail and the reasons all rest upon the misunderstanding of the heart who forgets what the nature of speaking to God must be. The Lord is not a vending machine where we can put in our quarter and expect to get what we want as if the Lord must answer us. The first lesson about prayer is there is one God and man is not God. It should come as a complete shock that the Lord God Creator would take the time to consider hearing the petitions of man. What is man that He would be mindful of him? Knowing the Father is willing to listen to the petitions of His children is an amazing and humbling experience by itself. He allows His creation to come into His presence and seek His blessings. Astonishing. Incredible. Amazing. Prayer is not requirement of God to permit man to speak to Him. Only by His grace can man approach Him and His grace allows prayer.
The question that challenges prayer is whether God answers prayer. Nothing is more basic to understanding prayer because it suggests there is a desire for an answer from the Lord as supplications are offered. Jesus is the perfect example about the nature of prayer when He found Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. He leaves His disciples and taking Peter, James and John goes a short distance to pray. Going about a stone’s throw from the three disciples, Jesus prostrates Himself and prays earnestly to His Father. He prays two things: first, He prays that if possible, the cup He is about to bear will be taken away. Second, He prays that the Father’s will be done. God answer His prayer but He answered it with two conclusions. Jesus prayed the cup be removed and the Father said no. The Son of God petitioned the Father’s will to be done and the Father said yes. God answered the prayer of Jesus but His answer contained a yes and a no. Jesus prayed the same prayer three times and the answers were always the same. The Father would not take away the cup but His will would be done.
Prayer is pleading the promises of God. How the Lord answers prayer is in His mind alone. The great leap of faith required in prayer is knowing that because God knows so much more than man, His answers are always right. There is never a time when the Lord does not answer a prayer with the best answer. Could God have allowed the Son to find another way instead of the cup or cross He was about to bear? Yes but that was not His will. The reason the Father could not take away the cup (telling Jesus no) is found in the realization the will of the Father required the Son to die on a cross (telling Jesus yes). Prayer must be approached with the courage to know that there will be times when God will say no to our petitions and supplications so that His will can be accomplished. He always answers our prayers. The answer may be no or it could be yes and it can be yes and no depending on His will. When has God ever failed to answer a prayer? He has always answered the prayers of His saints. The questions about prayer are not about prayer but how or why God answers prayer. Faith is the evidence of things we cannot see in the will of the Father.

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