Books of the Bible
Lord’s God given destiny for your life and mine.
continues a series of summer sermons on Romans.
sermon for today continues the sermon from last week. The sermon for
today does not work unless you comprehend the ending of last
week’s sermon. God is so big and powerful and beyond human
comprehension. God can do anything that God wants to do and God does
not need to ask for your permission, your understanding or your
comprehension. If you were here last week, I took
a piece of clay, of play dough, such as is in my hand.
I gave the illustration about the potter and the clay from
the book of Romans. I said that there was no way that the clay could
comprehend the mind of the potter. Similarly, there is no way that
we human beings can comprehend the mind of God. There is no way that
we can comprehend the mystery, the majesty, and the size of God.
Just as the potter can do anything that it wants with the clay, God
can use your life and my life in any way that God chooses to. God is
all powerful; God can
do what God wants to do. God does not have to ask for your blessing,
your comprehension, your agreement. God can do anything that God
wants to do. This is part of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.
is the potter and God can make you any color of skin that God wants
to make you. God can make you black or red or yellow or white or any
color that God wants and God does not have to ask you permission to
make you that color. God can put you in any century that God wants
to put you: the first century, the tenth, the fifteenth, the
twentieth century. And God does not need to ask you for your
permission to do this. Likewise, God can place you in any nation
here on this earth. God does not ask for your blessing, for your
permission, for your agreement. God does not ask for anything. God
can give you any intelligence quotient that God wants to. God can
give you an IQ of 150 or 100 or 50, and God does not need to ask for
your blessing, your approval, your agreement. God can have some of
you live 120 years, some 80 years, some 60 years, some 40 years,
some 10 years. God can do with you life what God wants to do. God is
sovereign, all powerful and can do anything that God wants to do.
I ask you a question: do you believe that God is all powerful, that
God is sovereign? That God can do anything with your life and does
not have to ask for your permission, your agreement, your blessing?
Do you believe that about God? The sovereignty of God is at
the heart of the Bible. God is all powerful, all knowing, and can do
anything that God wants to do.
if God wants to chose Jacob and not Esau, God can do that. Esau was
born first and according to tradition, Esau should have been chosen
first, but God chose Jacob, the younger, Jacob the second. God can
do that if God wants. God can use Moses to get the Ten Commandments
off the mountain and God can harden Pharaoh’s heart, if that is
what God chooses to do.
is both omnipotent and omniscient. That is, God is all powerful and
God is all knowing. Before we proceed with the rest of the sermon,
there needs to be agreement about the sovereignty, that God is all
powerful and that God is all knowing. Then, the rest of the sermon
is more intelligible to you.
we focus on a doctrine that I hinted at last week, the doctrine of
predestination, that God is all knowing, that God knew our name was
written into the book of life even before the world began. We find
the doctrine of predestination written throughout the whole
Bible. For example, last week, from Romans 9, we heard that before
the Jacob and Esau were born, God knew that Esau would serve Jacob,
that the older would serve the younger. God knew this before they
were born. We find the same thoughts about predestination in Romans
8:29, “For God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his
Son.” In Ephesians 1:4 and 11:
“God chose us from the foundation of the world that we
should be holy and blameless. God predestined us to be his children
through Jesus Christ.”, “We have been predestined to live for
the praise of his glory.” From II Thessalonians 2:13 “that God
chose you from the beginning to be saved.” God We find that our
names were written in the book of life in Revelation 13:8; 17:8;
20:12, 15; 21:27. and Philippians 4:3.
Bible passages that illustrate this today are: from the Old
Testament, “Before the world began, I chose you to be my
servant, my prophet.” God said that to Isaiah and to Ezekiel and
other prophets. “Before the world began, I chose you to be
my servant.” Isaiah 49. Applying that same theme today, before the
world began, I chose you…and you…and you…and you…and you…
to be my servant. Even before the world began, God chose you
personally to be God’s servant. Then there is the passage from
King David that I recite every morning as part of my morning mantra.
It is Psalm 139 which says, “All the days of my life are recorded
in your book even before any one of them ever began. O Lord,
how deep are your thoughts for me. How many of them there are. If I
could count your thoughts they would be as numerous as the sands of
you add up all these passages from the Bible, you come to the
conclusion about the sovereignty of God, that God is all powerful
and all knowing. Predestination is emphasized in the Bible.
in the Bible, free will is not emphasized. Here in our intellectual
culture of freedom, free will is accentuated, but not in Biblical
times and not in the culture of that era of history. Yes, we humans
have free will. We have the freedom of choice as to what to wear,
what to eat, who to vote for, who to marry, where to work and live.
Our lives are filled with freedom of the will. But we humans do not
have freedom of will in several important respects: the color of
your skin, the color of your eyes, the century in which you were
born, the nation in what you were born. So also, you do not have
freedom of will in regard to your salvation. The Gospel of John, and
the rest of the Bible is clear, that our salvation is a pure gift,
and not dependent upon human decision, human will, or human
determination. That “you are saved and your names are written in
the book of life” was known by God before the world began. So the
Bible and Biblical times do not know of the freedom of the will in
regards to our salvation which is a pure gift from God, not
dependent on human will nor human decision.
to begin the sermon for today, we need to have a sermon illustration
and I need to select someone from the congregation to receive this
gift that I have wrapped here on the altar. Sam. Sam, would you
please come forward to help me with this sermon illustration. Sam,
why did I chose you to come up front here today? Why did I chose you
of all the people who are here today for worship? Is it because we
hang out together, we’re best buddies, we spend a lot of time
together? Is that why I chose you? “No.” That’s true. O, I
know why I chose you? You are the most religious person here in this
room? You pray all the time and you read your Bible every day. You
are the perfect father. You are the perfect husband. That is why I
have chosen you to receive this present today, is it not? “You are
sadly mistaken.” Why did I choose you? Because you are more
intelligent? More competent? More resourceful than your wife? “Noope.”
Did I chose you because you are Norwegian? Are you Norwegian?
“No.” So the, why did I chose you? “I don’t know.” Good,
he doesn’t know. Here I have this beautifully wrapped present just
for you which I am giving you spontaneously. Here it is. But before
you open it, do you know what it is? “No.” This is really
valuable. Do you think that it is a thousand dollar bill? Do you
think there is a thousand dollar bill in this package? “No.” Do
you think there is a diamond studded watch in this gift? “No.” I
want you to know that the contents of this package are worth more
than a thousand dollar bill and a diamond watch. Here it is. Would
you tear it open? Don’t worry about the paper. It is some kind of
a red box but there are no chocolates in there. O, this is special.
What it the gift? A pair of work gloves. This is wonderful. I have
chosen you to be my servant and Robin McFarland in our church has
had surgery this past week, and the gutters on her home are in bad
repair, and she needs her house repaired. I have chosen you to do
it. Aren’t you glad you came to church today. Aren’t you glad
that out of all these people, I have chosen you. Let us give Sam a
round of applause.
saw the Scriptures today. Before the world began, God chose Sam to
be his servant. Sam was chosen, not because he was good. Not because
he was the most pious person. Not because we hung out together and
were buddies. Not because he was Norwegian. No. One second before I
chose him this morning, I saw Sam in my focal point. I, God, can
chose anyone I want.
then I, God, can chose to give Sam the best gift I could ever give
him. To give the best to Sam would not be to give him something
material such as diamonds or thousand dollar bills. I do not chose
to give him something that will not bring happiness. Diamonds and
thousand dollar bills will not bring happiness nor satisfaction. I
have chosen to give Sam something which will give him enormous
satisfaction and happiness. The understanding that I am to be a
servant of other people. When you have that understanding inside of
you, when you have that understanding in your heart, that you are
called to be a servant to other people in need, you find
satisfaction and happiness. Satisfaction and happiness do not come
from the accumulation of wealth. A happy life is an accumulation of
relationships given in service to others. I guarantee you that you
will be a happy person if you discover what it means to give
yourselves to others in love.
is what predestination is all about: that before the world began,
your name was written into the book of life. God chose you … and
you… and you…and you…and you… to be his servant.
take it a step further. I do not like the word, predestination, as
much as I prefer the phrase, God given destiny. Each of our lives
have a God given destiny. Before the world began, God gave each one
of us a God given destiny. So many things that seem to happen to us
in life seem to be beyond our decisions, beyond our will, beyond the
way we try to make things happen. …
me give you some personal examples: I was finishing the seminary,
and my wife and I had carefully calculated our future, that I was
going to graduate school at Boston University on the east coast, and
I was going to work on my degree in counseling. We had our future
figured out. What a joke. We had our future all figured out. We
ended up going the opposite direction, to the west coast and Eugene,
Oregon. How did that
happen? In our plans and dreams, we were going to the east coast.
The west coast was not even remotely part of our thinking, and a
month later, we were going to the west coast. How did that happen?
What I would like to suggest to you today is that there is a hand in
my life and yours that shapes and determines our God given destiny.
We do all our thinking and planning and plotting for our futures,
but there is something bigger than our planning and plotting and
this bigger design gives purpose to our lives. …
let me give you another personal illustration. It is easier to give
a personal illustration at this point.
Ten years ago, I received an invitation to interview for a
call to be a pastor of a church near the seminary in St. Paul. I
personally wanted that position, thinking that I could both teach
preaching at the seminary and work as a pastor in that congregation.
I really bombed the interview; that is, when the conversation with
them was over, both of us knew that we were not right for each
other. So I came back to Des Moines, planted my roots deeper, saw
our two children married, our grandchildren born, this sanctuary
built, the Russian church move into this sanctuary along with us,
plus thousands and thousands of little ministries that have occurred
during the past ten years. I feel as if God had a hand in my God
given destiny, that God wanted me here rather than in St. Paul for
the past ten years.
Let me give you another example. Steve Underwood, a Des Moines
policeman, was shot up here on Highway 99, and it was terribly
upsetting for all of us. I was standing quietly and inconspicuously
at the spot where he was killed, with the hundreds and thousands of
flower bouquets that had suddenly appeared there. I was talking
quietly with one person. He left, and another person asked if I was
Pastor Markquart. I said, “Yes.”. She said, “You are in
conversation with my brother who is in prison.” Yes. We quietly
laughed at our strange meeting, and she has been in church with her
children almost every Sunday since. Her brother, still in prison and
hearing of this encounter, wrote me that our meeting was not a
chance, that God’s hand was somehow mysteriously connected with
our conversation. I agree.
Thursday at 6:30 in the early evening. My kids were skiing at Lake
Alder up near Mount Rainier and I was supposed to meet them there. I
got there early, went out to the dock, took off my shoes, and
dangled my feet in the water while I waited for my kids. Nobody was
there. It was so nice. About that time, an Asian couple came down
past me and sat on the end of the dock. I sat there, dangling my
feet in the water, ignoring them. Pretty soon, the Asian woman, with
her accent, asked, “How old are you?” I groaned inwardly and
said, “Pretty old.” She asked another question, “Are you
married?” Was I puzzled. What a question. “Yes, for nearly forty
years.” Then she said, “Then you know about marriage.” “Yes,
I know about marriage.” She said, “My friend here has been
married for twenty years and has two children, eighteen and twenty
years old, and I am his girl friend. We have been having an affair
for a year. He is going to the lawyer tomorrow and file for a
divorce from his wife. And we would like to talk with you about our
relationship.” I nodded my head and splashed my feet nervously in
the water. “I said to them, ‘You came to the right place, with
my white hair and all.” So we started to talk about their
relationship. I was a stranger with white hair and married a long
time and they knew they would never see me again, and so the
conversation got very personal. My kid was late to the dock and we
had this incredible conversation for a long time.
and Jan Eldridge, along with their senior in high school son, were
down in Mexico working with our Mexico Mission Team at an orphanage.
Jan told a friend how perfect their life was except they would have
wished for more children. Within two weeks, Keith read an
advertisement about Russian orphan adoptions, telephoned, and within
one week, two Russian children were on their door step. On the way
over with a plane load of Russian orphans,
this Russian girl discovered a half brother with whom she had
been separated years ago. When the plane landed, the Eldridges were
destined to have three children immediately, not two which in and of
itself was a shock for them. The Eldridges, age fifty, will tell
you. “It was and is a God thing. We were going to prepare for
retirement, buy a home down south, travel, enjoy our new found
freedom with our son graduating from high school. Suddenly and
miraculously, we have three new children. We know for sure it is a
I am suggesting to you is that there are some things which seem are
part of God given destinies. Your visions, your plans, your
calculations. You go about planning and plotting your lives and all
of a sudden something happens and you sense that you are a small
part of a larger plan, a larger destiny. God uses your lives in ways
that you never comprehended. Sometimes as such moments of these, we
think of the historic figures of life like Winston Churchill or
Franklin Roosevelt and that God has a God given destiny for such
grand historic figures as these. But I am here to tell you today
that God has a God given destiny for your life and mine as well.
like the word, God given destiny, more than the word,
predestination. God given destiny does not sound so fixed as the
word, predestination, does. There is a bigger purpose to your life
than you think there is. God uses your life in ways that you have no
idea about, in ways that are beyond your comprehension. That is what
the doctrine of predestination is all about. Your life is much
bigger than you understand.
there is more. The Bible says that our names were written in the
book of life before life ever began. I believe that. …Then you ask
another question: whose name is written in the book of life.
Such thoughts often rumble around our heads in the middle of the
night or when walking: who is saved? Whose name is written in the
book of life. We ask another question:
why am I a Christian and my cousin Paul does not profess to
be. Paul is an incredible guy, a dentist, a consummate bird watcher,
a good family man with good values. How come I ended up being a
Christian and he ended up with Tai Chi or some similar values. How
come my name is written in the book of life and his isn’t. … Whoops.
WHOOPS!!! Who says that my cousin’s name is not written in
the book of life? One thing we must be careful of: we must let God
write the names in the book of life.
We don’t write anybody’s names in the book of life, nor
do we know whose names are in that book nor whose names are not.
Like in the book of Job, God asked: “Where were you when I created
the world and set the foundations of the universe? Were you there?
Were you my counselor? My advisor?” Nor do you know whose names
are written and not written in the book of life.
like that story about the potter and the clay. I can see that potter
working with that clay. I like the idea that the clay can in no way
comprehend the mind of the potter. I like the idea that my mind can
never comprehend the mystery of my God given destiny. Nor can you
comprehend your God given destiny.
For God is all knowing, all powerful, and beyond human
SERMON. All the children come up front. I, the pastor, pick up
the sanctuary Bible which is very large and hold it up for all of
them to see it. I ask the children some questions such as, What is
the name of this book? The Bible. Now, I would like you children to
imagine a long, long time ago, before there was earth, before there
was a sun or a moon, before there were stars. Would you all use your
imaginations and try to imagine a time before there was time, the
sun, the moon and the stars. Can you try to imagine way back then?
The Bible teaches that you were known to the mind and heart of God
even before the world began. That being, that God is all powerful
and all knowing. Does that mean that God knew you even before you
were born? The kids will stumble around and finally say yes. Another
question: Did God know the color of eyes you had even before the
world ever began? Yes. Another question: Did God know that you were
going to heaven even before the world began? Yes. That’s good. Do
you understand all this stuff that I have just been talking about? I
don’t either. Thanks.