I’d like to speak with you this morning about “In The Middle”, and several people have asked, "What is this sermon about? In the middle?" “Well,” I said, "You'll just have to wait and see."
You know, January 7, there was a high wind. Remember that? And in Georgia it knocked over power lines and knocked a good many trees down and according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some power lines came down across a school bus that was filled with 30 students. And this bus didn't dare move. The driver said, “Kids, get to the middle of the bus right away, don't touch the walls, and don't touch any metal, and just stand there.” And one of the little boys, he said, Sam, "We were told to stay in the middle of the bus and not to touch the sides and that we would be safe there." They were from the Montgomery elementary school.
Eventually, the wrecker came and the police came and they couldn't do anything and eventually the power board came and they deactivated the electricity and the people got out of the Faraday cage and believed that they would have been killed had they stepped out of the bus and touched the ground. I don't know if that's true or not. I wouldn’t want to take a chance on it. But they were safe in the middle. In the middle of their crisis, the safest place was the center of the bus.
And you know, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they faced the flames and as was read by that beautiful reader of the Scripture this morning, Daniel 3:25, “He answered and said, lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire. They have no hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
And notice that they were in the middle of the flames and notice where God was. Where was God? He was in the fire with them. They were all in the middle. That's what God does. Our fantastic King, whenever you're in the middle of the furnace, He's in the middle of the furnace with you. He is. That's where God is. And many is the time that I've called somebody on the telephone and said, "Do you have a minute?" "Well, I'm right in the midst of something right now. Can you call back later?" That's never true with God. God will never answer your prayer that way. He will always say, "Speak, because I'm listening."
You know, right now America is in the midst of the largest financial crisis in my life. The largest financial crisis, probably, since the great depression that started in 1929. Whole factories and banks and major institutions are going bankrupt. They’re liquidating. Places that you know. Places that are right here in Collegedale, right here in Chattanooga, are going belly up. We’re in very serious times. People can’t sell their houses. We have almost 2 dozen people in the McDonald Road church that can’t sell their houses. And it's pretty tough when you're trying to make a payment on a house and you're trying to pay rent as well. It's hard. And so we have this big crisis. And some members are probably tempted to say, "You know, I don't know if I can pay my tithe. I don't know if I can really make a contribution this month. Things are so tight." Or maybe you're in the midst of a health crisis. Maybe you just found out from the doctor. You got your report back and it wasn't negative. Praise the Lord that Beth Scott's report was negative. Isn't that great? They got it all. That's a blessing. But you know, it's not always negative. Sometimes we're in the midst of some very, very big problems and things aren’t going very well.
Over my long life I have found that whatever situation I'm in, wherever I'm at, that God is right there in the crisis with me. Have you found that? He's in the middle with you. Daniel 3, these experienced friends experienced God's presence with them in the flame.
Look over here at Mark, chapter 6 in your Bible. Mark 6, and verse 47, 48, 49, and so forth. The disciples were experienced sailors, and yet they were out on the Sea of Galilee in a terrible storm, straining at the oars. The waves were engulfing them. And notice now, Mark 6, beginning with verse 47. "When the evening came, the boat was" where? Where was the boat? "In the middle of the lake." The middle times are the dangerous times as well. "In the middle of the lake and Jesus was alone on the land, and He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He went out to them, walking on the lake, and He came out to them and was about to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the lake they thought He was a ghost, and they cried out," and verse 50, "because they all saw Him, they were terrified, and immediately He spake to them and said take courage. It is I. Don't be afraid. And He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down, and they were completely amazed." You know, right there in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the lake, Jesus was there. That's my Jesus. That is your Jesus. Whenever you’re in a problem that's where Jesus wants to be. When the storm was at its peak, Jesus came, and you can be sure that Jesus will be with you.
Where was the safest place for this airplane to land that had both engines knocked out by the birds? The Hudson River. Where would be the safest place? Over near the shore, right? Where did the pilot land? In the middle. It's the safest place., and I want to develop this a little bit.
You know, our Lord is not a spectator God. Our God is a hands-on God. Now I don't know what storm you might be facing. You might face a major health issue. You've been diagnosed with something that's incurable. It's not going to go away. You're dealing with it every day. Your spouse is dealing with it. You’ve got a terminal disease. And by the way, I'm terminal too. How many of you are not terminal? You may be facing a problem with your kids. They're not doing right. They're not doing well. They can’t make the payments. And they say “Dad, have you got any money?" You've never had to deal with that, have you? You may be facing the loss of a job yourself. We’ve had a lot of members in the McDonald Road church that have lost their jobs. Maybe you're in the midst of a crisis in your marriage. Your home. Jesus knows what your problems are and Jesus will be with you there in the midst of your darkest hour. He'll be there. You can depend on that. At the turning points of life, you will find Jesus Christ right there at the crossroads.
You know, Jonah was in a whale of a problem. He was in the midst of a problem, and it was dark down there, and at that juncture, he prayed and it changed his whole life.
Look at First Chronicles in the Old Testament, chapter 11. The Philistines were gathering together against Israel. They were going to have this huge battle, and they met at a field full of barley. First Chronicles, chapter 11, beginning with verse 14. “They took their stand in the middle of the field.” Where? In the middle. That's where they took their stand. And notice who was there with them. They defended it. They struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory. In the middle of the field God joined them. That’s where God will be when you need Him. Our God loves to be with His people. When you're at the apex of your storm, God will be there. You may not, you say, "Well, where are you Lord?" He's there. He’s suffering with you. Sometimes the answers are tough. Sometimes they're not easy. When floods come into your home, God’ll be there. Disasters never have to be faced alone. God wants to come close. He wants to deliver you. He wants to draw you near to Himself.
The middle points of life are often the points when you have to make a tough choice. I was at college at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. And I was studying to be an accountant. I was going to be a certified public accountant. A C. P. A. I thought, that's for me. And I was three years into that program, and one day I felt a call of God on my shoulder. I thought, "This is God, asking me to be a pastor." And I prayed about that. I spent a good deal of the night praying to the Lord. "Lord, you've got to show me," and it was crystal clear. After that, I switched majors. Now when you make a decision, and when you're in the middle of the problem, I was right in the middle of my college experience, and I switched gears, and I tell you it was a hardship to switch gears. Sometimes the middle of a problem is not easy. Instead of taking 4 years, college took 5 years for me. But I did graduate, and I have never regretted making that decision. A wise decision.
Where was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? In the Garden of Eden. Where in the Garden of Eden? It was in the midst of the Garden of Eden. Right in the middle of the Garden of Eden was the tree. Why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden? Why didn’t He put it over in a dark corner somewhere behind the okra patch, or somewhere, if okra indeed does grow in heaven. Why did He put it in a central location? Why would God do that? Well, I think He chose to put it in the middle, and by the way, the tree was not alone. Where was the tree of life? Not far away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The 2 were fairly close to each other. The 2 were in the middle, and why would God do that? Because they both represented the power of choice, and the power of choice is one of the greatest gifts that God gives to us. And He wanted it to be readily available to them. When you cast your vote at the ballot box, you represent one of the greatest things, one of the best freedoms that we have here in the United States. The power of choice. The opportunity to choose. Eve chose to listen to the devil, the serpent, and turn her back on God, and because of that, now we are suffering the consequences. We were born on a battlefield instead of in a garden, and we are right in the heart of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. God wants to be in the center of your life.
Look at Numbers, chapter 2 and verse 17. And I do hope you brought your Bible with you. Numbers, chapter 2 and verse 17. Look at the Tabernacle. "Then the tabernacle of the congregations shall set forward with the camp of the Levites," where? Where did He put the tabernacle? In the midst, in the middle of the camp. What does that tell you about God? He didn't put it off to the side. He didn't put to the north, south or east or west. He put it in the middle of the camp, in the middle of the people, because God wants to be in the middle of the people.
When you Pathfinders are out there on your camporee at Oshkosh, God wants to be in the middle of your encampment. When you're out camping God wants to go along. There are no vacations from God. When you go on your vacation He wants to be there with you. He wants to be in the midst of your home, your job, your life. That's where God wants to be. And not only was the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, but God's sanctuary was in the midst of the promised land. Right in the middle. Ezekiel, chapter 48, verse 8, it says that.
And Jesus was born where. Where was Jesus born? In the Middle East. In the middle of the population of the world at that time, is where Jesus was born. He wanted to be there with His created children, and God wants to be in the middle of our land today. I believe that God wants to be in America. When I saw Obama place his hand on that Bible, I realized this is still a Christian nation, even though he misquoted the, he had to do it over, didn't he? But at least he had his hand on that Bible. I saw that. God wants to be in this nation. And I believe that a nation that puts God first is a nation that has a blessing. I want America to be a Christian land. A nation that puts God first. God promised Israel in Exodus, chapter 19 and verse 5, "If you obey Me fully, if you keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession." I'll bless you. America needs to be at the forefront of placing God in the midst of this land.
And not only does God want to be in the midst of America, God wants to be… well, let's look at Revelation. Come over here to Revelation, chapter 1. There’s another place He wants to be. Revelation 1, and I want us to look at verse 12 and 13. Revelation 1 and verse 12. "Then I turned to see who was speaking to me and I saw seven gold lampstands and standing," where? "Standing in the middle of the lampstands was," Who? "The Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest." Where was Jesus? He was in the middle of the lampstands. He was number 3 and a half. 3 and a half this way, 3... He was in the center one. Right in the center. And what are the lampstands? The church. Jesus wants to be in the middle of His church. Now that’s significant.
So that leads me as your pastor to ask you a personal question. Ok, here's the question. If God is in the middle of the church, where should you be? Where should you be on Sabbath morning? You ought to be where God is. He comes here to meet with you. You are sitting in His pew. That pew belongs to God. God is here. You ought to be a member of His church. You ought to be baptized. You ought to join His church and be a part of it. You need to be in church. We need to be here to worship God, Who is so desirous of worshiping with us. And when He comes, you should come. When you choose some option which makes you absent from church, you are choosing to be absent from the worship. Worshiping God.
And let me ask you a question about an apple. My favorite apple is Gala. I love those apples. They’re shiny. They're big. You bite into them. Oh! Such a good apple. What is an apple for? The primary purpose is not to eat. An apple is a carrier of what? Seeds. That's why the apple, the tree produces that apple, not for you especially, although that is a joy. It is a seed carrier. And where are the seeds? They're in the middle of the apple, because that's where they’re the safest.
Where should you be in the church? You need to be in the core of the church. The center of the church. Front and center. As close as you can get to where the Lord wants you to be. Where He already is. And so in this church, we must never lose sight of God. We must never be focused on anything else except God. We must make the preaching of the Word central in our church. We must uplift Jesus Christ in our church. We must worship God in this church. Not to be a social gospel. Not to come here because of the entertainment. To come here because God is here. That's why we come to church.
In first Kings, chapter 6 and verse 27, where did God place the cherubim? They were in the most holy place. Where were they in the most holy place? Well, you say, "They were over the Ark." Let me read to you. “Inside of the inner-most room of the temple with their wings spread out, the wing of one cherub touched one wall while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings in the middle touched each other in the middle of the room.” God has this thing about being in the middle. Things need to be lined up. I have a center finder at home. I think sometimes church members need a center finder, and this is the center. The church. Obviously, God wants to be in the middle. He wants to be in the heart of your soul, of your worship service, of your church, of your pulpit. This is His church, and you are here to worship Him.
And I want you to bring your little children to worship God. You know, I doubt if your little children have a driver’s license. They can't get here by themselves. It's too far to walk. It's up to you to bring your little children to Sabbath School. They won't get here without you. And this is where they need to be. You are responsible to bring them.
When poor, elderly Daniel was in the middle of that heathen land, of Babylon, God was there with him. And he was thrown into the middle of the lion's den, and where was God? Right there with him. And God says, “I change not”, Malachi 3, verse 6. Today, God wants to be in the middle of your life. In the middle of your lion's den. And when you're bush is on fire, God will speak to you from the center of that burning bush. From the middle of it. Exodus, chapter 3, verse 4.
Come over here to Daniel, chapter 9 in your Bible. Here, the exact time of Jesus’ death is predicted. The prophet Daniel says that Jesus, the Anointed One, here in Daniel, chapter 9, would be anointed and He would be cut off, and this tells when He will be cut off. Daniel, chapter 9 and verse 25. "Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem," That was in 457 B.C. "unto the Messiah the Prince shall be 7 weeks and 3 score and 2 weeks, and the streets shall be built again and the wall, even in troublesome times, and after 3 score and 2 weeks shall the Messiah be” what? "Be cut off. But not for Himself, and the people of the Prince shall come to destroy the city and the sanctuary and the end thereof will be with the flood and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And He shall confirm the covenant with many for 1 week, and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease." Jesus died, Jesus became our Redeemer in the midst of the 70th week. Right in the middle. He died on schedule. He hung there on that cross right on schedule. That was predicted by Daniel many years before.
And when Jesus hung on the cross, where was Jesus’ cross. It was in the middle between the other 2 crosses. Why was His cross in the middle? Well, you say, "It was a coincidence." Well, I don't know. Maybe God so arranged it, so that He could influence both of these prisoners. Both of these men who were wicked. They were sentenced to die, and one of them, He was successful, and you're going to meet that man, who was a Christian for maybe 24 hours. You're going to meet him when you go to heaven, because Jesus was in the middle. Between the suffering of these 2 men there was Jesus suffering with them.
When Jesus comes into the middle of your suffering, He suffers with you. He does. He tries to save you. He crashes into our parties, right in the midst of our parties. He came into Belshazzar’s party and they were eating and drinking out of the golden goblets and God came in and crashed that party and started writing on his wall, 'mene mene tekel upharsin'. “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” He comes into the middle of our life. Into the middle because He is omnipresent. He can be anywhere.
Some day soon, Jesus will come, and when will He come? The Bible tells you when He will come. He will come in the middle of the night. In the middle. In the middle of the darkest hour, Jesus will come, and He will rescue His people. In the middle of our celebrations. Matthew 24:38. People will be eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, and in the middle of all that, Jesus comes. And I believe His coming is soon.
Are you ready? Is Jesus in the middle of your life? Is He? Is He in the middle of your home? Is He in the middle of your schedule? Make Him the center of your life. And He will take up residence in the middle of your heart. God’ll take care of you.
Let’s sing our closing hymn, God Will Take Care of You.
Dear Father. We thank You that You love us so much. You want to live in the core of our hearts. The center of our life. You want to take charge of that unsold home. Of that health condition. Of that marriage. Whatever it is, Lord, come and take charge of our situation, and rescue us. Help us, and we depend on You, we ask You, to come into our lives. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #223, Crown Him With Many Crowns Scripture: Daniel 3:24,25 Hymn of Response: #99, God Will Take Care of You
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 1/28/09