Author and Giver of All Good Things: Love, Increase, Nourish, and Fruit

All-good-things-slider

Author and Giver of All Good Things:  Love, Increase, Nourish, and Fruit

By Dr. Ted Baehr

The prayer being said all around the world for the day of this message reveals the good news for each of us in all the scripture readings:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:  Graft in our hearts the love of Your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

As you will see, the readings today, especially the reading about Moses, speak to you, specifically. God was not just calling Moses but is calling you and telling you that even if you don’t think you have all the skills and abilities that you need, God provides everything you need to flourish. He says, “You’re going to do this.”

You know I grew up as a pagan. My parents were actors, and they were nice people, but my mother died when I was young, and I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I put together the legal work to help a friend start a movie company. As is the case often in the Entertainment Industry, they didn’t have the money to pay me after I did the legal work, so I had to find the investor in their five-picture deal so they could pay me for my work.

In the midst of that, some wonderful, older woman gave me a Bible and said, “Show me the errors in the Bible.” As I tried to find fault with His Word written, God showed me what I needed and turned my life around.

Of all the readings we’ve had at our graduations, today is the most spectacular. Because it says right at the beginning in the prayer that God is the author and giver of all good things. This echoes a passage that wasn’t used today, which is John 10:10, where Jesus says:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

So, we’re not turning back to the past, but we’re turning forward towards the only One who can set us free and give us an abundant future.

The day I came to Christ, the drugs stopped, the philandering stopped, looking for love in all the wrong places stopped. Jesus set me free, and He gave me a more abundant life.

How much more abundant life? Well, let’s see:  I don’t think you could want anything more than my four children except maybe my grandchildren. So God is the author and the creator.

What does God say that He wants to give you:  all good things.

He first wants to give us love. Is there anybody here who doesn’t want love? Is there anybody here who doesn’t want to be loved?

He’s going to give you increase. Don’t you want to increase?

He wants to bless you with nourishment, including feeding on His Word. Don’t we all want to be satisfied?

He wants to bring forth fruit. He wants to give you good works. Don’t we all want our efforts and work to bear fruit?

He wants to give us good things:  love, prosperity, nourishment, and fruit.

Well the collect of the day says He has all power and might, which means He can do it, and He wants to do it for you. When you ask for love, He wants to graft in your heart love, even when we have no love. He wants to increase your relationship with Him. Well, that’s the prosperity. He wants to nourish you with goodness. He wants to bring forth the fruit of good works.

As you listen to this passage from Exodus 3:1-15, God is calling Moses, but He is also calling you, and He’s talking about Jesus:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will sent you to Pharaoh to being my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who went you:  when you have brought the people our of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:  

This is my name forever, and this is my title for all generations.”

He’s talking about Jesus in two ways:  Moses foreshadows Jesus; and, Jesus is the only visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:9). When you see God, when there’s a theophany, you don’t see some strange thing, you see Jesus. When you see Him on the throne, you see Jesus. When you call His name, you see Jesus. His is the name above every name.

Moreover, Moses foreshadows Jesus in many ways. Like Jesus, Moses identifies with those who rejected Him, because they wanted to make God in their own image or in somebody else’s image, or they wanted to make a golden calf or a bull, and Moses still loved them. Like Moses, Jesus shepherds you to the Promised Land. That’s good news. Like Moses, Jesus cares for you and gives you signs to know Him. The Scripture actually says He gives you miracles, but the word “miracle” is just the Latin word for signs. So, the reason that there is manna in the desert is that it points to God.

Unlike Jesus, why did Moses never enter the Promised Land? Because he was given all these signs:  the parting of the Red Sea, the Passover, the quail, the manna, but he got there at the end of the long road and God said, “Do what I say, talk to the rock,” and, instead, Moses hit it. He thought that he had to split the rock to find water. But, it’s never us. It’s always God.

So God gives us signs, and He speaks to us the truth. Every one of those signs that you see today that Marshall discusses are alarms from God. Those are little signals from God, saying:  “This isn’t working. You are going in the wrong direction. Watch out.”

I’m studying a video course in quantum physics in the morning, because I used to work as a research engineer for a company that did research for NASA many, many years ago in the 1960s. The UC Berkeley professor is great at explaining quantum physics, but he misses the connections, the signs that point clearly to God’s design. It’s not about how smart you are; it’s about how good God is. God speaks to us the truth, we need to hear the Truth who is Jesus Christ. Jesus intercedes for us. He’s our priest.

There are 60 further parallels between Moses and Jesus that you might want to examine, but let’s move to the next revelation from these verses.

Now since Jesus is the only visible image of the invisible God, when Moses says “My God,” he’s talking to Jesus. More than that Jesus says, “I see your trials and tribulations. I see the pain that you went through, each and every one of you.” He says, “I hear your prayers, and I’m going to answer your prayers, and I’m going to bring you into a land flowing with milk and honey.” That is His desire for us.

To guarantee it, He gives you His name:  I AM who I AM.

What does that mean? Well that means that He was before time and space, that He created time and space, that He can recreate the broken and the infirm. He can recreate us in a second. That He’s in charge of our life, that he loves us dearly, and that He is the one who can shape the world. He’s the creator of everything. He’s immutable:  He’s unchangeable. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He’s infallible. He’s trustworthy, so we can come before Him, and do what? Rejoice!

We can stand before Him and rejoice:

 

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

Make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

And speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

Continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done,

His wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

Israel came into Egypt,

And Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

He made them stronger than their enemies;

Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

And dealt unjustly with his servants.

He sent Moses his servant,

And Aaron whom he had chosen

– Psalm 105:1-6 and 105:23-26

 

Psalm 105 tells you and me how to do this:  search for Him; desire His will and His ways; study His Word every day to know Him better; pray for guidance; turn toward Him to get a deeper relationship; and, remember His signs – His miracles.

I’ve been meeting people in the entertainment industry, and they tell me about their parents, who knew God and fell away. Why do they fall away? They fall away because they don’t remember.

The Israelites fell away constantly. You’d think that if you got manna in the desert, and you’d think that if you walked through a wall of water, you’d at least get the point. How you could go into the desert the next day and forget is incredible.

So, God tells you in every book of the Bible to “fear not” and to remember:  “Remember when I took you out of Egypt; Remember when I gave you manna.” When you remember, you can rejoice. When you can remember, you can worship Him. When you remember, you can trust Him. If you just come to that point, you can experience the love of the Lord, so He can do what He wants to do:  give you all good things.

The reading from Romans helps us understand the love God wants to give us:

 

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

– Romans 12:9-21

 

Now Romans tells us what the love of the Lord is. It says be genuine, truthful. Don’t we want everybody in our life to be truthful? We want truth. We want our children to be truthful. We want our friends to be truthful. It breaks our heart when they’re not.

We hate the evil that steals, kills and destroys. You know if you love your children you don’t tolerate them doing drugs. If you love your children, you don’t tolerate them joining gangs. If you love your children, you don’t tolerate them beating up on people. Love hates sin. It hates having your children take drugs. Love takes work.

So this whole passage challenges us.

He says, “Hate evil. Hold onto what is good. Love one another with affection.” Well that’s pretty easy, especially when I’ve got the most beautiful wife in the world.

He continues, “Outdo showing honor, do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve Jesus the Lord, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, contribute to the needs of Christians. Extend hospitality to the stranger. Bless those who persecute you. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony, do not be haughty, do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay evil for evil, only think about what is noble and good ant true, live peaceably, never avenge yourselves, care for your enemies, overcome evil with good.”

This is what love is. This is what Jesus is, because Jesus is love, as the reading from Matthew shows:

 

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

– Matthew 16:21-28

 

It’s a very challenging passage. It’s so easy to get angry. It’s so easy to be self-righteous. It’s so hard to love. So, all of these Scriptures which are read all around the world in every church that uses the lectionary today, whether it’s the Christians who are suffering in Syria or anywhere else, come to this culmination point:  Matthew 16. Jesus is that love. Jesus is the only one who can love like that. He loved like that.

The people of Israel expected a Messiah who was going to be like Saul killed his thousands and David who killed his tens of thousands. They were upset, because Jesus died for His enemies. How could he do that? How could we give up His life so that you and I would get the crown, so that we would get all good things?

The victory is here! The psalm says He would come with His angels; He came with His angels. There were two angels at the tomb; there were two angels at the ascension.

He fulfilled every jot and dot of the Scripture. He was love, and He did it for you because He wanted to give you all good things. He wants to give you love, increase, nourishment, and He wants everything you do, to bear fruit. He wants you to be blessed.

So, let’s go back to John 10:10. Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” If you remember last time we were here, our friend from the Ukraine who had been in two concentration camps during the mass killings in the Ukraine by Stalin. Three million children in one year died because of Stalin. Why did they die? Because he sent his troops in to steal their food, to kill them, the little children. . . even to behead them. . . and to destroy whole villages. They destroyed whole villages in the Ukraine.

But, Jesus said, “I didn’t come to do that. I came to set you free and to give you life more abundantly.” So that you could live peacefully in your city, so that you could love your child. This is the future.

Do we want a future where we choose to steal, kill, and destroy? People do. I did for a long time.

Or, do we want a future where we chose to be set free, and to have life more abundantly, and to have all of you here, and to have people come to this class, who we love so dearly?

Jesus gives you life more abundantly to help you to prosper, to feel loved, and to be nourished, and to have good works.

Why would somebody choose the way of the world when Jesus gives you abundant life and all good things?

So, choose this day what you would have. If you’ve chosen, surrender all. What do you surrender? I surrendered philandering, I surrendered drugs, I surrendered cursing. I surrendered all that stuff. And, I was set free from the prison and the chains of all I surrendered! In return, I got all. And, I am so grateful.

What are we going to do now? We’re going to come before Him like Psalm 105 says and rejoice. This is the great thanksgiving. When we partake of the great thanksgiving, we’re partaking of the Eucharist, the Eucharist means thanksgiving. At the heart of it, is “charis,” a gift. It’s just like charisma, it’s just like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That’s what it means. Calvin said we should do it frequently, at least once a week, because all we’re doing is thanking God. At the heart of charis is “char” which means joy. The joy of the Lord is in giving Him thanks because we recognize that He wants to give us an abundant life and all the desires of our heart.

So, God bless you and thank you. Let us praise God together.

(c) baehr, 2014

 

Linda Evan Shepherd’s Testimony

August 2014 Script Class Celebration

I think probably the very first movie I ever saw was Pinocchio, in the back of my parents’ car in the drive-in theater. As I watched the movie, and Pinocchio went from a wooden marionette to a real boy, I began to sob, and I wouldn’t stop. My mom told me, “Linda, Pinocchio is alive, he’s not dead.” And, I said, “But Mom, I liked him the way he was.”

I was a quiet little girl. One day, when I was 10-years-old, I went to girls’ camp with the girls at church. My mom was one of the counselors.

Now, I grew up Southern Baptist, back in Beaumont, Texas, and every Sunday morning, evening, Wednesday night, we would sing “I Surrender All.” Every time, the pastor would beg people to come forward and surrender everything, I would hold back.

At camp, I thought this might be a chance that I could go and surrender everything. The older girls, the 13-year-olds, came to me and said, “Linda, your mother told us that you are not saved, and we think you need to know Jesus.” I said, “Well, I’m thinking about it. I’m thinking maybe I will go forward. But you cannot tell my mother!” They said, “Oh, no, we won’t tell your mom.”

So, Friday night came, it was my birthday, and I was going to surrender everything to Jesus, and my mom leaned over and touched my shoulder and said, “I am so proud of you, that you are going to be saved today.”

Well, after two hundred choruses of “I Surrender All,” I surrendered nothing. For the first time in my life, I began to really feel the weight of my sin, and I continued to hold out every Sunday, every Wednesday night, until finally they announced that we were going to be having a vacation bible school in the evening. When I went to my class, they had note cards, which said, “Are you a Christian? Check yes, or no.” I checked “No.” It said, “Would you like to be a Christian?” I checked “Yes!”

I wanted it, but I couldn’t go through my mom, so maybe, I thought, this would be an opportunity for me to talk to the teacher, and I could come to faith, on my own. So I said, “Yes.”

Of course, the first thing the teacher did was she called my mother. So, the next night, there was the pastor, the visiting evangelist, under the watchful eye of my mother. As I said the prayer, the one I had said every Sunday, since I was six years old quietly in my heart, and I have to tell you, I was really disappointed.

But that night, when I am standing there with my class, and the visiting evangelist said, “I saw a little girl give her heart to Jesus this afternoon,” I thought, “He is talking about me!” I thought when we begin to sing “I Surrender All,” there was one thing I had yet to do:  I had yet to surrender all. I pushed through my row of children, and as I did, it was like God’s Holy Spirit rushed into my soul, and this little 10-year-old girl began to weep. I wept for the next two hours. Even after all the people in the church had come by and welcomed me into the family of God, I wept all the way home.

I didn’t know that really what had happened was that I had become real, but my problem with accepting change continued, and, in 1987, I want you to picture my family:  I was married to my college sweetheart, Paul, who has a masters in physics, and then we had our beautiful baby daughter, Laura. She looked just like the Gerber baby. Here we are, just a very happy family; I felt so blessed, and one day, as my daughter and I were coming back from the mall, the car unexpectedly went out of control. A few moments later, I found my beautiful baby in the middle of the freeway. I could tell when I looked at her that she had been changed. She had been changed forever.

My daughter would not wake up from coma. The doctors said she wasn’t in coma; she was in vegetative state. But, I continued to pray, and when they said I should pull the plug, I said, “I am going to wait because my daughter’s not brain-dead, and God is big enough.” They sent the psychiatrist – they even sent the chaplain in – to talk to me, and the chaplain asked, “Why do you believe your daughter can get better?” I said, “Well, have you seen her? She can’t get much worse.”

I want you to know they sent her home with us, and it was the moment that we put her newborn baby brother in her arms – that was the moment she came back to us. She came out of coma, and back into the land of the living. My daughter is now 28 years old, and you might say, “Is she real?”

No. She’s more than real. She is a beautiful disabled person. People ask if that bothers me, that my daughter is disabled, and I say, “No. She’s my daughter, and I love her.”

She is a person that has spent a year with our Lord; she has been able to express to us that she has spent that time with Him, and she brings so much life and joy and laughter into our home. And I take it back:  my daughter is now real.

One of the things I learned in class is that we can all, each one of us, can be real in what God has called us to do. Back in Colorado where I live, I was afraid to tell people I wanted to produce and write movies. I was afraid of their laughter. Did I ever hear it? Yes, but Ted has given me courage, and this class has given me the courage, and Susan and my classmates – I just want you to know that I feel that my call is real, and I now have the courage to step into it. I want to thank you all.

 

Just Two Cities

By Marshall Foster

Well I’d like to give you a little bit of a context on our troubles, because I think one of our problems is that we are myopically directed to our own trials in this very moment, thinking these are the worst of times, and there’s no hope for America. Look at our cities, look at what’s going on with our economy, look at what’s going on internationally.

Yet in the midst of it, if we would step back and look at just two cities – I call it the tale of two cities. It might give us a perspective on where we could go if we want to trust God.

The two cities I’m talking about, one is Paris, France, everybody’s favorite city. The most wealthy city in all of Europe, the most productive city in all the world for almost 300 years. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, they made a direct shift away from God and into the Enlightenment and into faith in themselves and turned their back on God. To the extent that in the late 18th Century, they were taking thousands of priests and tying them together face-to-face and having them claw their eyes out in the French Revolution. They enshrined a whore to be the queen of France. They killed 40,000 people by cutting their heads off in 1793 during the French Revolution. They moved from there on to Napoleon where tens of millions of men died for over 20 years throughout Europe in the great wars of Napoleon. They have been in chaos ever since.

There’s another city. This city is New York City. New York City was founded by some Dutch immigrants who loved Jesus. They used to trade in a place called Wall Street with the Native Americans. That city began to grow and develop as a Christian community would, and over the next 150 years it developed into a metropolis of the West. As it was developing, though, it developed the same old plagues of cities when they turned their back on God, because now all the men were juiced up every day in the bar, and the women were fighting duels with swords and pistols in the street. New York had lost its faith.

By 1700 the people of New York were crying out to the English, thinking the English would help them. They said, “Send us a governor who will be godly, who can bring order back to our city!” They said, “Please give us a good godly man.” So sure enough they sent Lord Cornbury. Now, this guy was wonderful. He was a transvestite who dressed as a woman as he paraded in front of his troops. For 20 years, he led New York City into the weirdest, most debauched time of its history. New York was in chaos by 1720. To beat that, the entire English empire dove into a deep depression based upon a real estate collapse and the collapse of the English stock market in 1720. It went on for over 20 years, death and despair in the city.

In 1736, though, the greatest preacher in all of England came to start an orphanage to former black slaves and to Scottish slaves in a place called Savannah, Georgia. Someone heard he could preach – probably the greatest preacher in the history of mankind – but he had come to work on an orphanage; he had given it all up. He said, “Well, yeah, I can hold a tune.” He started up the coast in the spring of 1736, and for the next 30 years, he preached 8,000 sermons. He led half of New England to Christ and one third of the South to Christ. His name was George Whitfield. A great awakening he began in his country that swept through New York City and brought a revival that swept most of the people in the city because they turned back to the God who had created them.

The hope for America, the only hope for America, or for any nation, but especially us at this time – the nation, probably the greatest Christian nation the world has ever known – is to turn back to the God who created us, who loves us, who gave us all that we have. Is that not our time? Is that not what’s going on right now, when the wine is being spilled in Napa? Is this not the time when we should get the idea that maybe God is speaking to us? In California? Get right with God.

I’ve been privileged to head up something this year. I don’t know why I was chosen, but it’s called Pray 31. This booklet, a new revised version of this with my writing in it and my letter at the front, is going out to half the churches of America. Over half a million dollars just in printing costs alone. These booklets are going to then be handed out to the congregations. We’re expecting over a million people to sign up to pray for America for 31 days, from October 1 to October 31 and to pray for the election and not pray as partisans, but to pray to God and say, “God, what do you want for our country?” This isn’t a partisan effort, “Oh, get my candidate!” This says, “Get God’s candidate.” Get what God would have for America. Get the churches back in prayer. So this is the plan and the pastors head it up. It’s all church-oriented. The church pastors then bring the people together or they do it in their home, 15 minutes a day, seven days a week, for 31 days.

If you’re interested, go to Pray 31 and get this to your pastor, get this to your church. They will send the material to you, and we can literally see – I believe we will see. This was done in 2012, and they had a half-million people praying every day. They’re expecting well over a million this time. Then, we’re going to go on to pray for the world and pray for America on an ongoing basis. This is the campaign for the election this fall. So let me just encourage you with that. Just call Pray 31 and get one of these, if nothing else, and stay in touch with us about this.

Let’s believe God that what’s going on in America is not the end, but just the beginning. So that Hollywood and all of America can come back to God. That’s our hope.

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