Weekly sermons by Pastor Keith Miller at Meadowbrooke Church in Cheyenne, WY
A Hunger for God
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Weighed in the Balance and Found Wanting
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The Unfettered God
Can I tell you a story about how the chief god of the Babylonians rose to power? Long ago existed Tiamat and her mate, Apsu, who were locked in an embrace since the beginning of time. Tiamat was the goddess of saltwater and the mother of all things while Apsu was the god of freshwater. The two gods kept order over all things and eventually produced lesser gods who disrupted the peace and order that Tiamat and Apsu enjoyed, so Apsu decided the only way to regain the peace that he and his mate enjoyed, that he would need to kill the younger gods. Before Apsu could carry out his plan, one of his descendants by the name of Ea killed Apsu and took his place.
Well, as you can imagine, this enraged Tiamat because her children were responsible for creating chaos by killing Apsu, so she raised an army of dragons and monsters and placed Kingu, the very worst of the monsters, at the head to lead Tiamat’s army (he was a type of Satan figure in the story). However, Ea had a son by the name of Marduk, who was a new god Tiamat did not take into account. Marduk was asked by the younger gods to defend them as their champion and offered to submit to his rule as king if he was successful in defeating Tiamat and her army.
Marduk defeated Tiamat and her army of dragons and monsters by commanding the wind to enter Tiamat’s mouth and puff up her body like a balloon. Marduk then pulled back his bow and shot an arrow that split her into two halves; with one half of Tiamat’s body, he created the heavens, and with the other, he created Earth. Marduk reinstituted order in the universe and ordered the gods to build the city of Babylon. Marduk also killed Kingu and used that evil deity’s blood to create human beings as servants of the gods. Marduk not only was attributed with creation after successfully defeating Tiamat and her army of dragons and monsters, but also was hailed as the Great lord over the gods and the “lord of heaven and earth.”
Marduk was the chief god that all of Babylon worshiped, so for Nebuchadnezzar to refer to Daniel’s God in the following way is no small thing:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35)
As I stated last week, the God of Daniel is referred to as the “Most High” six times in this chapter. In Daniel 4:17, God is referred to as the Most High who, “rules the kingdom of men and give it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” In Daniel 4:23 and 25, Nebuchadnezzar is warned that he will behave like a wild Ox until he recognizes God as the Most High who, “rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Then when Nebuchadnezzar came to his senses after seven years of insanity, his reason returned to him and he, “blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…” and whose, “dominion, and kingdom endures from generation to generation” (v. 34).
This significance of the king’s epiphany is that Nebuchadnezzar praised Daniel’s God as being more powerful with more authority than the god the Babylonians worshiped. This was not just a personal experience for the king, he made sure that, “all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth…” that the kingdom of the God of the Hebrews, “is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (v. 3).
Nebuchadnezzar Was Unhing
The Good News of a Sovereign God
This has been a crazy couple of weeks for our family. The last time I preached was on Easter Sunday, and in my sermon, I talked about one of the many promises of the empty tomb which is the reality that because the tomb is empty, we know that suffering, disease, and death have a shelf life. I also mentioned that since my mother received back surgery to correct a disk that was pinching one of her nerves about two months ago, that she had been battling a bacterial infection and was recently hospitalized to clean out the infection that had potentially spread to her spinal column. Two days after our Easter service, I received a call from my aunt shortly after I walked into my office at the church; I could tell that she was very emotional. I asked her what was wrong, she proceeded to tell me that my mother was unresponsive, and her kidneys were failing. It appeared that my mother’s life was hanging in the balance.
To give you a sense for how fast my mother’s health was deteriorating let me give you a brief timeline: On April 5th, her kidneys were shutting down. By April 6th, she was completely unresponsive. I got on the very first flight I could on April 7th to Fort Myers, FL. On April 9th, we learned that she had suffered a stroke. Later in the day, my mother was put on dialysis, and upon learning that I was not only my mother’s firstborn son, but also a pastor, I was told by her nurse who is also a Christian: “I believe that you are able to hear what I am about to tell you, so I am going to just say it: Your mother is in very, very critical condition and I am not sure she will pull through this.” My mother is only 63 years old; to have a bacterial infection in your body is very serious, to have suffered a stroke is a very serious, to experience kidney failure to the point of needing to be put on dialysis is very serious, but to suffer all three at the same time is dire.
Now, I need to be honest with you. My preparation for this sermon has been reduced to an ongoing meditation over these verses in multiple flights, in multiple airports, between tears, with tears, inside the hospital, outside the hospital in the parking lot, on long walks, and in the local YMCA where I workout every time I visit with my mother and stepfather. All the while I have not doubted the goodness of a sovereign God who loves me, but have instead clung to that truth while pleading for my mother’s life to be spared. How does Nebuchadnezzar’s epiphany of the reality of who God is after experiencing seven years of insanity inflicted upon him by a God who loves him (too much to leave him to his idols), speak into our broken world full of suffering and death? What was the epiphany? Look with me at Daniel 4:34-35,
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:34–35)
For the sake of time, I will reserve a fuller treatment of Daniel 4 next week. What I want to do with the time that we have today is answer how the truth of verses 34-35 is good news for the people of God. So let me state what it is that these verses are saying then unpack my statement. According to Daniel 4:34-35, God is eternally, paternally, and benevolently sovereign.
God is Eternally Sovereign (34b)
We are told that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. Some scholars believe that this is the same king described in the first three chapters, others think it is Nab
The Great Commission
Good morning! I’m so thankful to have you all here with us this morning. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Justin Kennett and I am an elder here at the church.
I know many of you know this already, but sadly today is my last Sunday at Meadowbrooke because God has called my wife and I back to California where Alyssa has started a wonderful job and God is using me for full-time ministry.
So if you just met me, sorry. I wish I had the chance to get to know you better. I wish I could’ve gotten time to get to know you better, but for those of you who have spent time investing in me, praying with me, praying for me, encouraging me and teaching me, I just want you to know how truly grateful I am. I couldn’t have picked a better church to have grown in ministry with, and Meadowbrooke will forever play a huge role in my testimony.
When I share the story of what God has done in my life, this church will be one of those foundational chapters that sets the tone for the rest of the story. And for my own benefit, Meadowbrooke will forever be a chapter of my life that I leave bookmarked.
So when Keith asked me to preach today so he could head off to his conference, I couldn’t have picked a more fitting way to say thank you than by standing up here for perhaps the last time to preach God’s Word.
Now with that being said, lets open up with some prayer so we can set our hearts and eyes on God where they belong.
As we look to the text this week, we are going to be opening up our Bibles to the end of the book of Luke, Chapter 24 to be exact.
And as we are flipping through Luke, I want to reflect on last week because although it sounds obvious, Easter is the greatest holiday we get to celebrate and it’s my personal favorite holiday. It is so much more than Easter egg hunts and chocolate. It’s when we get to reflect and celebrate the greatest gift mankind has ever received: grace. Grace that is nothing short of amazing. It’s the reason John Newton wrote the famous hymn amazing grace. Pastor Keith has talked about him several times before, but if you don’t know John Newton’s story, I highly encourage you to go and learn more about him.
But his words are worth reading and reflecting on this morning:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see
Just the sound of the word “grace” is sweet to my ears. And to be completely honest, if there is only one thing that anyone takes away from the message this morning, I truly hope it is the word “grace,” because grace is what saved a wretch like me.
‘I once was lost, but now I am found.’ And maybe you are feeling lost, but I want to highlight the fact that Jesus is who does the finding. You do not need to be good enough, He finds us while we are lost.
He didn’t say “lost but then I found my way”, no, you see John Newton understood that the Bible tells us grace alone saves us.
We see this directly from the Bible in Ephesians 2:8-9.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a results of works, so that no one may boast.”
So I say again
‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.’
If you have never seen, or heard, or felt grace, today is the day to accept the free gift of grace.
You see, this season is all about remembering that:
God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to earth to die for our sins so that if we place our faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him.
Jesus lived the life we could never live and died the death we deserved in order that we may have the opportunity to be reconciled with our Fathe
The Day Death Died
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is said to have been founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004, although it did not go by that name until 2013. At its height, ISIS was able to take control and hold about a third of Syria and nearly half of Iraq. The goal of ISIS was to establish Sharīʿah, which is the law of Islam for Muslims. Because Islam believes Jesus was only a prophet and Mohammad their greatest prophet, the worship of Jesus as the Son of God is viewed as blasphemous. So as ISIS spread through Iraq, they spray-painted the Arabic letter ن, or “N,” on the homes and businesses of Christians and issued an ultimatum, to convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face death by the sword. The letter ن stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, which is a derogatory Arabic word for Christians.
Many Christians who were identified with the letter ن were shot, beheaded, or even crucified by ISIS. These Christians were promised life if they would only convert to Islam; for some, it was crazy to choose death by refusing to reject Jesus as the Son of God by converting to Islam.
The apostle Paul said of the resurrection of Jesus: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith in in vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:12-14, 17, 19).
I want to use our time today to reflect on three crazy things associated with the resurrection of Jesus in the form of three questions: What is the craziest thing Jesus did? What is the craziest thing Jesus said? What is craziest thing you can do?
What is the Craziest Thing Jesus Did?
Jesus died on a Friday. What you need to know is that according to the Jewish calendar, the last day of the workweek is Friday. Saturday is the Sabbath (day of rest), and the first day of the week is Sunday. Jesus died on a cross the last day of the workweek, was in the tomb on the Sabbath, and on the first day of the week… he defeated death by walking out of the grave.
While on the cross dying, we are told that He cried out “It is Finished” then took one final breath, and died. To make sure He was dead, one of the Roman soldiers thrust a spear into His side and into His heart to make sure he was not faking it or unconscious. Jesus was dead. His body was wrapped and then buried in a tomb where a great stone was rolled in front of the entrance to seal the tomb shut. The religious leaders were paranoid that Jesus’ disciples might steal the body and concoct an elaborate scheme that He rose from the grave just like He said He would over and over again during His life.
On the first day of the week (Sunday), Mary Magdalene and two of her friends visited the tomb and found it not only open, but empty. Jesus rose from the grave. Because people do not just rise from the dead, some theories have been offered to explain why the tomb was empty of which none make any sense. Jesus’ body could not have been stolen because there were guards standing watch to make sure it wouldn’t happen, Jesus was not unconscious and then later revived by the dampness of the tomb, Jesus didn’t have a twin brother, and too many people witnessed the resurrection for Him to have been a vision. Besides, do you think that every single one of the disciples would have been willing to die violent deaths or suffer greatly if Jesus’ resurrection was made up?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ affirms everything he did and claimed to be. This is why the apostle Paul wrote, “if