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Steve Mickel: Wonderful Counselor, Hebrews 4:14-16

December 12, 2022

Audio Recording

Jesus sees us and listens to us. This seems like a simple thing, but in a world where loneliness runs rampant, being seen and known can be the first step to living a life of hope, peace, love and joy. Accepting the love of Jesus changes everything. It gives us a new perspective on ourselves and our fellow humans. When we accept the love of our Wonderful Counselor is makes space for working toward and caring about others and that leads to living in peace and working towards the flourishing of all creation.

Advent
Advent
Steve Mickel: Wonderful Counselor, Hebrews 4:14-16
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Sermon Transcript:

00:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 Isaiah chapter nine, verse six. In the voice translation says, hope of all hopes. Dream of our dreams. A child is born sweet breathe. The sun is given to us a living gift. And even now with tiny features and Dewey hair, he is great. The power of leadership and the weight of authority will rest on his shoulders. His name, his name will know in many ways, he will be called Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Dear Father, everlasting, ever present, never failing. Master of Wholeness, prince of Peace. We've been in this, series for the last couple of weeks on Advent, really welcoming, this season with open arms, anticipating the coming of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, inviting his peace to, envelop our lives, his his hope, the hope that Jesus is here and will be with us. and today I wanna talk about love The wonderful Counselor.

01:17 when you, you know, when you hear that word, wonderful, you might just be thinking like the normal English word. Wonderful. Like, oh, I, he is a pretty good counselor. I mean, what is it? You know, he's an all right counselor. But this word wonderful, is the Hebrew word. And I think it's appropriate that today it, it actually shows up today. Cuz the Hebrew word for wonderful is any World Cup fans. No, I'm the only one thought that would just like land right off the bat, you know what I'm saying? But it didn't pay. That's the Hebrew word for wonderful. And what it actually means. This word pay is, it means marvelous, miraculous, unusual, extraordinary, surpassing all others, just like the soccer, great pay. See, Christ, Christ Council to us is more than just good ideas. It's more than just helpful. His wisdom is extraordinary.

02:13 It's unusual, it's marvelous, it's miraculous. And how of, you know, I mean, I've experienced this even in these last two weeks of advent, hearing things about God that I didn't know were actually about God. I didn't, I didn't know that he was actually for us, right? The Prince of Peace, or you might come, might be thinking, man, I thought of God so differently, my expectations of God, and, and the way he looks and the way that he acts and the way that he relates to me was so different. And here we are again. And it's like he's our wonderful counselor. Good news. Extraordinary, unusual. It's the kind of counsel we need in the most desperate of times. Think about pa apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans chapter 11, oh, how great our god's riches and wisdom and knowledge, how impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways.

03:10 It's unusual, extraordinary. So when we pray, God's, your kingdom come, your will be done. We're praying that his extraordinary, unusual, magnificent, miraculous way would be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Our expectations should be, loftier than they often are. For God to intervene, to come on our behalf, to be with us, to, to, to counsel us, to give us wisdom and direction. We should plan on it. Expect it. You know, I've been to, therapy. I was gonna ask you, how many of you been to therapy? But I don't, I'm not going to. That's a personal question, . That's what I had my notes. How many of you been to therapy? ? Sorry, don't answer that question. I've been to therapy. That's all you need to know today. and and I found that good therapists have empathy. Imagine a therapist who doesn't, and you come in and they really don't care and they don't feel your pain at all. And it made me think of, this is, this is gonna date me. So anybody younger than me, you probably won't remember this. anybody older than me, you will. There's a guy named Bob Newhart, and he did this counseling session. It's just this little spoof thing with a lady who is dreadfully afraid of being buried alive in a box, .

04:30 And you know, his advice, it's like, it goes like this. She tells him, and like, she's like, she's terrified. And she's like, and he's like, I got, and this is a therapist. I got two words for you and, gonna fix it and I'll show you the video clip. But we, we, we don't have it, so I'm just gonna mimic it right now in this moment, . And, and she says, well, should I, should I write, should I write it down? And he's like, well, if it makes you feel more comfortable, they are just two words. Most people can remember it. And then he leans in, he says, stop it. Just like that stop. Anyway, goes on and on. it's a six minute clip. And I, and I thought, we don't need that kind of therapist . We need, we need a therapist who has empathy, who can understand our dilemma, who enters into our story, who listens, asks questions, and, and, and, and creates a, a space where we can, be even more honest, right?

05:23 That's the, that that's a good therapist. And as I was thinking about this, and Jesus being a wonderful counselor, how, how often do we miss that part of God where he's a safe space that we can come and confess to, that we can come and be honest with that we, that we, that we have this space where that can happen. I, I, I love Hebrews the book, in the Bible. It's, it's so fascinating to me. It describes, kind of describes Jesus in ways that much of the rest of the New Testament doesn't describe him. And in Hebrews chapter two, the author wrote this, because God's children are human beings made of flesh and blood, the son also became flesh and blood for only as a human being could he die. And only by dying could he break the power of the devil who had the power of death.

06:10 And only in this way could he set free all of us who have lived their lives of sleigh as slaves to the fear of dying. And what is, what the author is saying is like he embodied us in the flesh and that, and so he understands us, chapter five, verse two. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. See, God come in the flesh as our wonderful counselor reminds us that he gets us. He understands our dilemma. He understands our pain, he understands our temptation. There is nothing that you can think or do that would surprise a holy God. He gets us. See, so often, for years, I thought of God as kind of this, this, isolated just kind of, he's, he's on his own. He's holy, he's untouchable. I can't have anything to do with him because I'm not holy.

07:11 And, and I'm, and I got a lot of stuff in my life. And, and so I always thought there was this distance. And that's the, the book Hebrew was all about how Jesus intersects this, this, this distance as our high priest and says, and he makes a way. And he says, I'm gonna come as you take on your flesh, live a sinless life. But I, but I'm gonna get you. And and nothing's gonna surprise my father in heaven. Nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing can separate you from God's love. Nothing, nothing. You've done nothing You will do nothing that you're thinking about doing there. There is nothing that can separate you from the love that God has for us. And he deals gently with us. , aren't you thankful for that? He deals gently with us like a good therapist. He values us.

08:10 He creates a climate of where, where we can actually be ourselves and we end up finding ourselves in this space of love, more connected, more willing to share, willing to allow God into those places in our lives. That, that we need counsel because of his great love for us. in Scott Erickson's book, honest Advent, he wrote, Jesus became human so we would know He had nothing to hide. He lived in a complicated world. So he could relate to the complexity of being in our world. His name is God with us. So we would know we are prized. Do you know that you are loved by God?

09:00 Do you know, do you know that he loves you? That he is for you, that he is with you? Do you know that God loves you so much that he was willing to take on flesh and become like us because of his love for us? Hello, Hebrews four. So then, so then because of this, that Jesus came in the flesh since we have a great high priest who has entered heaven, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe this high priest of ours understands our weaknesses. For he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

09:58 You know, when I was younger, growing up in the church, I, if I ascend, when I send , if I send how many times a day, I, I didn't come to God right away. And maybe you've experienced this. I felt, I felt shamed. I felt judged. I felt condemned. I felt based on what people had kind of told me about God, I I didn't feel like he was a safe place to come to in my stuff, in my mess, you know? And so he was like the last one I came to. And it took a long time for me to finally get up the guts to go to him. And I'm like, what's wrong with us? That we think that, that that's who he is. When everywhere in the pages of the New Testament especially, it just keeps describing to us this God of love, this wonderful counselor who is for us and has made a way for us to enter in.

11:03 So you know what I do now? And when I mess up, I'm like, like I go boldly. He's the first person I go to and I go boldly. I go like, oh God, man, thank you for your love. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercies. Thank you. He's not the last one. He's the first one. He's my wonderful counselor. And it's an invitation to sit with Jesus because he loves us. This open space, this safe space to come and sit with Jesus, to know what he knows, to hear what he has to say to become who he is. But we won't do that unless we are convinced that we are loved by him.

11:51 One of the metaphors that, often describe Jesus in the New Testament as shepherd and, in Revelation chapter seven, it describes what life looks like in God's presence. today, in one day, and in the presence of this shepherd in Revelation seven, it says, they will never again be hungry or thirsty. They will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the lamb is on the throne. He will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. I'm not closing, so don't think I am, but would you close your eyes for a moment? whenever preachers say, let's close our eyes, we're like, oh man, this is great. It's almost over

12:38 .

12:40 If you close your eyes for a minute. I wanna, I want, I want you to do something with me that I've been doing for the last month or so is I've been, putting myself into Psalm 23. It's the, the Lord is my shepherd Psalm. I'm gonna read it in just a moment, but I want you to put your, I want as I read this, as I, as I say this, I want you to put yourself into the Psalm. I want you to put yours. I want you to see yourself in the, the, the, the place that it describes.

13:07 And let your imagination kind of awaken. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his namesake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. You are Rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, , you anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

14:20 He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to my Lord, my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust that Psalm 1 0 3, I think, or 91, do you know you are loved? Charles Mor Martin, wrote a story you can look up. he wrote a story entitled, through the in Keeper's eyes. And you can Google it and get the whole story. It's a short story. It's beautiful. And, and he wrote this, and it describes the birth of Jesus. And in the right in the middle of this story, he kind of takes us up to heaven, right before Jesus is born here on Earth. And, and he and he lets us end on a conversation that the father and son might have had right before the coming of Jesus to earth.

15:20 This is what he wrote Elsewhere in the throne room of heaven, the Son of God rises from his throne and takes off his robe and the golden band about his chest. He unbuckles his sword and leans it in the corner of his throne, along with his dia dim. And then he removes his priestly and kingly garb where it is folded by attending angels each having three sets of wings. When finished, he stands naked, save a loin cloth. His hair is white wool as white as snow. His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet are like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace.

16:01 And his voice is the sound of many waters like Niagara or the breakup pipeline. Finally, he takes off his crown and places it on the seat. The heavenly host, millions upon millions bow at his feet. And yet it is pen drop. Quiet God the Father rises. As his son crosses the fiery stones. The father hugs. The son, buries his face on his son's cheek and kisses him. The time has come on earth. The sons of Adam have lost their way. Each gone their own way astray. Things are bad. The entire human race has been taken captive, and the enemy is torturing them. Not one of them will survive. The night son has volunteered for a rescue mission, but it's a prisoner exchange. Their freedom will cost the son everything, his life for theirs. The Father holds his son's hand in his and tenderly touches the center of his palm. He knows what's coming. A tear rolls down the fa the face of the ancient of days, the sun thumbs it away. I'll miss you.

17:27 He glances at the earth below and hell in between billions of faces shine across the timeline of history. He knows each by name. They are the joy set before him. He turns to his father, I will give them your word and declare to them your great name. The son looks with longing at his home. And as he turns to leave, he says, and we're gonna need more rooms in this house. Because when I come back and he waves his hand across the timeline, I'm bringing them with me. The sun who's countenance is like the sun shining in all its strength, exits heaven blanketed in the singing of more than 100 million angels and bathed in the tears of the Father. The love of God is seen in his coming to earth. The incarnation is a love move. He's desperate for us to have relationship with him and his father.

18:37 So he can't you bow your heads for a moment and close your eyes. And I wanna invite every single one of us to receive the love of God in Christ Jesus. For some of you, it might be the first time that you're welcoming the love of God into your life for others. Maybe this is a daily routine for you, but it's an important one to remind ourselves that the God who created all things is for us and he loves us. So would you just whisper to God the Father? I receive your love given to me by Jesus Christ. I receive your forgiveness. I receive your mercy. I boldly come to you and ask for your love.

19:48 Jesus, I pray that every single one of us would experience your love in a tangible way this week that we wouldn't know we are loved without a shadow of a doubt. There's one last story I want to tell you and finish with this. It's in Luke chapter 15. And it is, I've just been thinking about it a lot lately and, and, and just describes, you might be familiar with it. It describes, it's called the Parable of the Lost sheep. And and it says that in Luke 15, tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. Isn't that beautiful ? I mean, I'm not sure that's what happens today. Wish it was. I wish it were. But, but the, the notorious sinners, like, like everybody knew, everybody knew. Well, George is here. Wow. ,

20:45 You know, and they often came to listen to Jesus teach, I think about our churches. And I wonder like, is that what we're know? I mean, are people like cra? Like I gotta listen to what Jesus is saying. I maybe Jesus isn't speaking in churches, I don't know. But he was compelling to the lost and the least, and the marginalized and and the notorious ones, right? He was, he was compelling. They were like, there was safe space for them to come to him. And I want our churches and to be like that. I want our church to be like that. And so these often, they often came to listen to Jesus teach. But verse two, this made the Pharisees, the kind of the religious people and the teachers of religious law complain, , that he was associating with such sinful people, even eating with them. It says, God forbid,

21:39 Okay, I'm confused. I thought, I thought that the religious people wanted other people to become religious people. I thought the whole point of, of being religious was that, that you could share who, what your religion is so that other people could, and, but they're re they're, they're like turning their backs on them. They're like rejecting them. They're like, they're, it's uncomfortable. These n notorious ones. It's uncomfortable. I don't, what are they doing here? And it was in this context that Jesus told them this story. If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won't he leave the 99 others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. And when he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors saying, rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.

22:33 And in the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over 99 others who are righteous and haven't strayed away. Let me ask you, who do you relate to in this story? Most? Because I grew up in the church. I always see myself in the 99. And, and you know, when I kind of, when I just let myself for a minute, I realize, oh, I'm the , I'm the lost sheep. But I, but put yourself in the pen with the 99. And I always, I was say, because this, I, I saw something I've never seen before. And I've read the Bible a lot. I've never seen this before. And I'm thinking about the sheep and the pen and, and we're all saved and got, got faith, and we got religion. And then our shepherd, our shepherd, the good shepherd starts to walk out and walk away from the, the herd. I'm like, where's, where's he going? He's going to find the one last sheet. But I'm thinking, and I've never seen this before, I'm like, nobody, nobody told me I had to stay, to be honest, sometimes I don't even like the other 98.

23:42 Nobody,

23:43 Nobody told me I had to stay the sheep know his voice, the Bible says, and I, after reading this story, I'm like, I'm not the 99. I'm one of the sheep that decided to follow my shepherd wherever he was going, whatever he was gonna do, whoever he was going to look for, I'm going with him. I wanna, I want to be with him. As uncomfortable as it might be, I, I'm not sure I should say this story. I think I will. I think I will. But , Suzanne, are you terrified right now is what she said? She's terrified whenever it's not in my notes. we have a group of, of, transgendered people who watch our services online. girl in our church, opened her life to them and has a relationship with them. And, and it's actually the drag community. And and I was like, they don't have to watch online, do they?

25:02 Maybe

25:02 We could be a people, a place that, that would welcome those that maybe are very uncomfortable in this space,

25:12 But just because of historical reasons, not because of reality. Because we could be a people who open our arms to the least, to the loss, to the wandering, to the hurting, to the broken, to the people who are searching to the ones that want, that are looking for answers. Maybe we could be the people who do that. And I talked to Ken Johnson, my mentor and, and asked him like, what should I do? And I feel like I should go visit them, feel like I should go meet them and introduce myself and I, what should I do? And he was like, well, that's where Jesus would be. Just like that, just so fast. That's where Jesus would be. And I, I want us to be a church like that.

25:51 People who are willing to leave the pen, to follow the shepherd wherever he leads us. And I've seen sheep like this leaving the pen all the time. People that came to my father's funeral four years ago and they like, I was like, why are you here? You live like hours away, but you came. People who show up to wrap presents people they probably will never meet. People who step, who stop on the side of the road to, to help a stranger, people who stop what they're doing and reach out to an old friend that they haven't heard from in years. And it's just the simplest of ways to say to people, I love you. We love you. And unfortunately, it's not what people expect of Christians. And we could this next two weeks, we could surprise people with love. We could, could, we could just as we've been surprised by love, that God loves us, we could surprise others in an angry, tribal polarized society. We can respond with the wisdom of God revealed in the love of Jesus Christ. See the wisdom of God, the wonder of God, the wonderful counselor of God is displayed every time one of us, his kids reach out to someone else in love. May we be that kind of sheep.