TWITTERPATED!

” . . . and he brought her to the Man.” 

Genesis 2:22

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of officiating at the marriage of Aaron Nelson and Ashley Gates. Here is my sermon, a meditation on the Mystery of Marriage and the Truth about Twitterpation!

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Aaron, Ashley, I’m pretty sure you’ve both seen the Disney classic, Bambi. But just in case, let me introduce my remarks today by describing a memorable and beloved scene from that movie.

Bambi the deer, Thumper the rabbit, and Flower the skunk are assembled before Friend Owl. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two bluebirds appear, fluttering madly about in the air.

“What’s the matter with them?” asks Flower.

“Yeah, why are they acting that way?” asks Thumper.

“You don’t know?” says Friend Owl. “Why, they’re twitterpated!”

“Twitterpated!” cry the three befuddled friends.

“Yes, twitterpated. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. You’re walking along, minding your own business. You’re looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack dab into a pretty face. Wooo-hooh! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head’s in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you’re walking on air. And then you know what? You’re knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!

“Gosh,” says Thumper, “that sounds awful!”

“Appalling!” says Flower.

“Terrible!” says Bambi.

But friend owl isn’t done.

“And that ain’t all. It could happen to anyone. It could even happen to you.”

“Oh no, it’s not gonna happen to me!” says Thumper.

“Me neither!” said Flower.

“Me neither,” said Bambi.

Famous last words!

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HE’S GOT THE GOODS!

 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

(Mt. 24:47)

When we say that someone’s got the goods, we mean that he can actually deliver. He is not, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle. Instead, he is a man of true substance. He has tangible resources at his command, usually in great abundance. Therefore, what he promises, he performs. Moreover, when there’s a pressing need, he’s on everyone’s short list as the go-to guy who can get the job done. He really can help, because his wealth—whether material or spiritual—is really real.

All Christians know that in a world utterly riddled with fakeness, the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE “has the goods.” True forgiveness, true life, true strength, wisdom, protection, and material supply . . . all are his in abundance. He is the treasure, in which all treasures are found.

But here is a related question to ponder: Which of Christ’s many treasures do you think he values most? What, in all this wide world, constitutes the “goodest” of all his goods?

Our text contains the answer. And if you will consider it carefully, you will find—to your great amazement—that it is YOU: his God-given, blood-bought, spiritually re-born, believing, loving, hoping, stumbling, ever-being-picked-up, and sure-to-enter-heaven child.

Now before delving into this further, we do well to remember an unsettling but important preliminary: Once—prior to your new birth—you were Satan’s goods. And there was no possession on earth he valued more. Why? Because in and through you he could accomplish every one of his most cherished objectives: usurping God, dishonoring God, and wounding God by deceiving, manipulating, and hopefully destroying the creatures nearest to God’s nature and dearest to God’s heart.

As our Lord himself put it, “How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Mt. 12:29).

There you have it in a nutshell: Previously, the saints were Satan’s goods.  But now God has sent his Son into the world, so that—through the whole mighty apparatus of his redemptive work—he might “plunder” Satan’s goods, making them his own.

In passing, let me also say that for many of us there was a time when we were not only Satan’s goods, but also the goods of Satan’s people.

This sobering truth is highlighted in Jesus’ Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. When the heavenly Landowner saw that his vicious hirelings refused to heed his prophetic servants, he decided to send his son, saying “Surely they will respect him!”

But what did the wicked vinedressers say? “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance” (Mt. 21:38)!

Now there’s a passage to send ice through your veins. It warns us all that the world is full of smooth religious operators who want US as their goods, US as their inheritance! And so it has been for many of God’s elect, who were desperately deceived by the charismatic “strength” of wicked religious men, until One stronger than the strong man—opening prison doors (and blind eyes as well)—plundered his goods!

All of which brings me to our text. It too comes from a Holy Week parable, the Parable of the Talents. The words are those of the returning Christ, spoken to his faithful ministers, granting them servant-leadership among the flock of God in the days of the consummated Kingdom.

But my interest here lies not in the saint’s reward, but in the saints identity. Who are they? They are Christ’s “goods.” They are his special treasure. They are the only things in all the universe valuable enough, and divinely owned enough, to have passed safely through the fires of judgment, so that they might remain forever at his side—forever in his keeping—in the great treasury of the Kingdom of God.

But why, in that happy Day, WILL Christ have the goods? It is because, even now, he HAS the goods! They are absolutely his. God absolutely gave them to him before the foundation of the world. Christ absolutely bought them with his precious blood. And the Spirit absolutely calls them and keeps them, so that nothing can snatch them out of his hand.

Yes, for time and eternity, our gracious, loving, and almighty Lord Jesus Christ has the goods.

And the Spirit and the Bride delight to say, “How good it is!”

 

THE BEARABLE WORD OF GRACE

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched, and that burned with fire; nor to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, such that those who heard begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.

(Hebrews 12:18-19)

 

Let every gospel preacher take note: Some words are unbearable, and in the secret places of their hearts, the people beg you to speak them no more.

Such was the case at Mt. Sinai, when, amidst a great show of darkness, smoke, fire, and cosmic trembling, God unveiled his Law. But it was not the special effects that terrified the people. No, it was the words themselves.

The people heard them audibly, or at least they started to. Rolling down the mountain like a flood, clapping like thunder, echoing all across the wilderness, these words struck terror in their hearts: “Thou shalt, thou shalt not; thou shalt, thou shalt not.” That was all they heard, and that was precisely what they could not bear.

Why? Because they spoke a death sentence over them. Instantaneously, the dreadful truth registered in their consciousness: they had to obey them, they could not obey them, they must die for disobeying them.

“Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin,” wrote the apostle—and also of man’s condemnation before a holy, sovereign, and altogether just God. The people could not bear to hear the Law because it brought them no hope, no life, and no joy—only a consciousness of a death, hinted at in the fire, tempest, and thick darkness of Sinai.

What, then, did the people do? They did what all sinners do: They rushed to a mediator. “You go and speak to him for us,” said the Israelites, pleading with Moses. “Perhaps he will send you back to us with words we can bear.”

And Moses, prefiguring him who was yet to come, did that very thing.

As Christians, we know that our Lord Jesus Christ is Moses’ anti-type, the true Mediator between God and men. Having lived and died for his people, he has reconciled them to God and his Law. Therefore, as he comes down from Mt. Zion with unveiled face, radiant with joy, he brings us good news.

He speaks bearable words to his people: words about God’s gift of grace; words that fill their heart with hope, life, and gladness.

“The words I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life,” (John 6:63). This is why Jesus’ people can bear them, and this is why they beg to hear them over and over again.

I close as I began: Let every gospel preacher take note. Do you want the people to bear your words? Do you want them to beg you to speak them again and again?

Then let your words—even the hard ones you know you must speak from time to time—be filled with grace, filled with Christ, filled with the glorious good news that “It is finished;” that through simple faith in our Mediator we are now accepted—and infinitely loved—in the Beloved.

Said Peter to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go; you have the words of eternal life?”

Man of God, if you will speak the bearable word of grace, so shall the people speak to you.

 

 

OVERCOVER AGENTS

For over all the glory there will be a covering.

(Isaiah 4:5)

 

If ever my son asks me to define, in a single word, the essence of manhood, I think I’ll be ready. I’ll take him to Isaiah, read him this enigmatic prophecy of the coming Kingdom of God, and underline the one crucial word: covering.

But I’ll have to explain that I didn’t actually learn the lesson reading Isaiah. I learned it when an unexpected providence made me manager of our local Christian bookstore.

Suddenly, a callow young man with neither business nor administrative experience found himself responsible not only for the smooth and profitable operation of a thriving store, but also for the guidance and safety of several other dedicated employees—all of whom happened to ladies!

Looking back, it seems to me that somehow, in my day-to-day relationship with these women, God quietly but unalterably granted me a revelation of the gist of manhood: to be a man, I discovered, was to stand for the Father in his world, and to cover—that is, to protect and provide for—the creatures he entrusts to our care, especially women and children.

The revelation came, I am sure, in the little things: figuring out how to schedule lunches or days off so that the ladies wouldn’t get needlessly tired or miss events that were important to them; sending them home sick, even when they wanted to stay; lifting heavy boxes from their arms; stepping in between them and difficult customers; even coaxing the owner to give them a raise!

And what was the payoff in all these little chivalries? Well, beyond the love and respect of my staff, it was simply this: I experienced my manhood. Why? Because I experienced my God covering these women through me, his man. Having granted me a small stewardship of his authority and loving oversight, he fulfilled me as a man.

If we are Christians, the Kingdom that Isaiah foresaw is here, though we do indeed groan till it appears in fullness. Therefore, over all our assemblies —over our personal walk with Christ, our home, our place of work, our church, our chosen sphere of service in the community—a glory should be seen: an orderliness, an integrity, a beauty, a holy joy.

But it can only be seen if there is a covering over the glory.

And there can only be a covering if God can get his men.

Father, you know how difficult it is for men to be men, especially in our day when the world has turned gender roles upside down. You know how difficult it is to lead when we would rather follow; to stand and fight when we would rather run. At a time when so many have been abandoned by the men in their lives, help your sons to become “overcover agents.” Help us more and more to provide and protect, whether spiritually or physically; to cover the weaker vessels whom you are pleased to entrust to our care. In the Name of Him who showed us the way. Amen.

 

LEST ISRAEL GLORY AGAINST GOD

And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

(Judges 7:2)

 

Fantasy # 1

I have just died (hopefully it didn’t hurt too much). There is a small gathering at church, with friends and family in attendance.

The presiding pastor opens the meeting for comments. My dear friend Lawrence steps up to the podium, offers some gracious remarks, and closes with this:

“You know, whenever I would call Dean and ask how he was doing, he would say, ‘Pretty good for a guy who’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to be when he grows up.’

“Well, now he knows.”

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Don’t laugh. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve found myself in the fetal position—spiritually AND physically—groaning before God, wishing, hoping, praying that I might see a straight path—a clear life course— spreading out before me. Alas, it’s going on 40 years since I first met the Lord; and yes, by his precious grace I’ve definitely had the pleasure of doing a few things in his name. Yet somehow I still don’t feel I’ve gotten the complete picture; that I have seen, or said, or accomplished . . . enough.

Do you ever experience this malaise? If so, our text from Judges—and a few others like it—may be of some help.

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