Genesis 1 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Chaos to Creation

Genesis 1:1-2:3

INTRO

-Why are we studying Genesis? 

-Serves as the foundation for the rest of the Bible and our lives. If we understand the purpose/reasons/rational behind the beginning of the book, the rest of the book will start to make sense

-Imagery/ideas that are begun in the Genesis will see fully fleshed out in Revelation

-There has been a lot of ink spilled on how to interpret Genesis, fun stuff worth discussing, but not what we’re going to be focusing on through our study

-These chapters deal with so many of the issues we’re facing today: what does it mean to be human? Who is God? Why do bad things happen? Where did things go wrong? How did we get here? How are the 2 sexes supposed to interact with each other?

-What I would like to propose to you as the purpose of the Bible from beginning to end is: worship. Genesis 1 is meant to demonstrate why God is superior to all the other false gods people have created, we’ll see that explicitly on day 4, thus God alone is worthy to be worshipped, praised, and glorified.

READ/PRAY

-We are storied beings. All of us have a story we use to frame everything that takes place around us.

-How do you think of yourself? You are a product of your story! You’re the athletic one, you’re the smart one, you’re the musician, you’re the finance guy, the boss mom, whatever it is, all of us have built up some kind of narrative in our minds about who we are why we’re the way we are.

-I think the most obvious example of this is spending time with your family! Don’t you have a tendency to revert back to how you were in high school? Same issues come up, same jokes are told, same stories are brought back to life

-That’s just a little example, think of how stories have affected cultures: George Washington chopped down a cherry try “I cannot tell a lie.” Columbus: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Who “discovered” America? Weren’t there already people here?

-Founding of the city of Rome: Romulus and twin brother Remus founded Rome on the site where they were suckled by a wolf as orphans.

-Out of the competing stories that were enacting and affecting the cultures around them comes the one true story.

-By referring to the Bible and this narrative as a story, does not mean it’s untrue! I wholeheartedly believe the events recorded here actually happened! Just as much as I believe the story that I was born on October 12, 1988 in Lake Forest hospital, just outside of Chicago-land. I don’t remember it, I know I’m here, I know that’s my story, I believe it to be true, just as I believe the events written down by Moses here in Genesis 1 are a true account of what happened.

-With that said, nothing explicit in this text to tell us who the author of Genesis is: tradition tells us Moses wrote the first 5 books of the OT (Pentateuch) and I haven’t seen an argument to convince me otherwise! As Heb. 1:1 reminds us “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” One of those prophets was Moses!

-Over these next 3 weeks as we look at the beginning, I want to remind us what we in the EFCA believe regarding the beginning. We’ll come back to it again, so you don’t need to memorize this, but this is what our SOF says.

  1. In the Beginning (1-2)

-Verse 1 serves as the title to this whole book (Genesis is the Greek transliteration of “beginning”), verse 2 tells the background of what’s going on, and when we get to verse 3 that begins the narrative telling what God did.

-It’s important to note how carefully crafted this first section is. Verse 1 has 7 words, verse 2 has 7×2 words. God is mentioned 7×5 times. In this context, 7 refers to completion/perfection.

-This verse has some profound theological truths that I want us to realize:

-In the beginning. There was a time when there wasn’t anything. God has no beginning or end, that just blows my mind, because all of us have a beginning, but no end. It almost feels like “once upon a time,” but this one is telling us how everything came to be.

-God. The subject, the main part, the focus of these first 7 words (in Hebrew) is Elohim-God. What is the first thing we learn about God?

-created. This Hebrew word means “making something new.” New City Catechism Question 2: What is God? God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

-All these things are deep, rich theological truths from just the first verse!

-Need to talk about the first rule of hermeneutics: the text cannot mean today what it didn’t mean when it was originally written. There is meaning, purpose, and intent to the words of the text. Always, always, always begin with the meaning to the original audience.

-Space travel wasn’t a “thing,” very limited in their scope of planet earth, so when we come across words like “heavens and earth.” We generally think of the 8 planets (RIP Pluto), stars, galaxies, and a big blue ball spinning around the sun. When the original audience heard these 2 words they thought: sky and land. Sky is everything above, land is everything below. They weren’t dumb, they just didn’t have the same grasp of some of these things we’re blessed to witness today.

-Similarly, vs. 2 uses some words they would understand differently than we do: without form, void, darkness, deep all refer to nothingness. Similarly the “waters” is the primordial state before anything came about.

-“Spirit of God” this word translated spirit is fascinating throughout the Bible: breath, wind, spirit. Remember this idea when we get to the flood which is going to serve as a new creation, God causes a ruach to blow over the earth and blow away the waters. This finds its ultimate fulfillment at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:2 the sound of a mighty rushing wind. God’s final act of recreation was finally here! 

  • God Said (3-31)

-“God said” is repeated 10 times in this section, pointing to another 10 times God would lay the rules by which His people are meant to operate in the 10 commandments. 

-The theme of “separating”: light from dark, water from water, water from land

-Repeated phrasing, “God said” begins each day, “And there was evening and there was morning” ends each day.

-Days 1-3 are creation of the different areas, days 4-6 are the filling of those same domains (we’ll see that as we walk through)

Day 1 – Light

-Light is created to contrast to the darkness that pervaded this primordial world

-This begins a theme throughout the whole rest of the Bible: light is good, darkness is bad. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

-Notice how easy this is. God says something, it automatically happens. Contrast that with some other competing stories of how the world came to be:

-Babylonian account of creation: Marduk kills the goddess Tiamat (the salty sea) and uses her carcass to fashion heaven and earth

-Other ANE accounts talk about the gods being stressed by work, so humans are created to bear the weight of their working.

-In contrast to these oppressive, mean, and chaotic ways of the world coming into being comes this story of a speaking God.

-That tells us another theological truth about God: God speaks and is thus relational. He’s not far off removed from ever interacting with His creation, instead He is a speaking God who cares about His creation.

-Some astute observers may note that light/darkness comes before the sun and the moon. I’ve known some people who refused to become Christians because of that fact! 

-First things first, Hebrew people didn’t necessarily see a contradiction with this, dawn/dusk are light without the sun. 

-Second, did you know astronomers recently found light spread throughout the galaxy that has no known source? “They’re saying that there’s as much light outside of galaxies as there is inside of galaxies” I love seeing science catch up to what God has revealed to be true!

Day 2 – waters 

-The dome above and the waters below. Heaven/the skies were viewed as a big bubble of water (makes sense as water comes from above and below!) Separation once again between the 2 waters

-“And it was so.” 

-This leads to it now having sky, air, etc. 

-Seas were often seen as gods in ANE, but this says it’s something God made

Day 3 – land 

-Begins by separating the water from the land. Almost looks as if the water is drawn away to expose that which is underneath it.

-Notice God naming things. In ANE thought naming was equated with ruling/governing/creating. Points, again, to God being a relational God 

-This separation is good. But he doesn’t stop with just creating land, the land becomes hospitable for the subsequent creatures: vegetation, seeds, fruit

-“According to their kind.” God orders all of these things, creates boundaries for them, allows them to flourish.

-Boundaries bring about creativity, unstructured freedom is chaos!

Day 4 – sun and moon

-First 3 days are creating the environment, these next 3 correlate to the first 3 and fill them out

-Day 1 is light, day 4 is the where the light comes from: sun and moon. 

-First, notice that they’re not named anywhere? Other religions viewed them as gods, here God won’t even refer to them by name! They’re called “the greater light” and “the lesser light.” God doesn’t play by everyone else’s rules, He is the one true God, no other god can compare to Him so He isn’t even willing to mention their names.

-Notice as well, the purpose of these lights: separating again the day from night, signs and seasons and days and years. Their purpose is to keep seasons and reminders of God’s continued faithfulness.

-These lights, these signs and seasons are good.

Day 5  – the waters/spaces are now hospitable and filled with creatures

-The space created by the separating waters are now filled with birds, the waters below are filled with all sorts of sea creatures! 

-They are created by “kinds,” God’s limitless creativity is bounded by His creation.

-This creation is “good.” Unique in that they are the first ones blessed by God, and given a mandate: Be fruitful, multiply, fill the sea and the land.

Day 6 – land creatures and humans

-“Let the earth bring forth.” Where the previous creation was out of nothing, this day the creation is refined.

-It also is a much longer section than any of the previous days, where the previous ones were in double speed, day 6 comes to a screeching halt and emphasizes everything that happens.

-Land animals are all created “according to their kind.” And they’re good.

-Then the pinnacle of creation: humans. The only thing in the entire created order that represents God – other things point to him, humans are made to image/represent Him.

-This “image of God” idea is worth studying further, I don’t have time today, but what this refers to is being his representatives/serving at His bidding. At the time, kings would have statues made and then distributed throughout their kingdom to bring their “image” to rule/reign over their entire domain. So when God creates humans in his image, they are meant to be distributed throughout his kingdom to bring his “image” to rule/reign over His entire domain.

-Then these humans are blessed by God, in what is known as the “creation mandate.”

-Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, have dominion over fish, birds, animals. Part of this creation mandate is the command to work in subduing the earth. The Garden of Eden wasn’t like an all-inclusive resort where you sit back sipping Mai Tais and watch the world go by, Adam and Eve are given jobs to do in ruling with God over the created order. We’ll look at that a little more fully next week.

-This section ends with everything being tov maod – very good. Only reason I remember that is my Hebrew prof would speak Hebrew in class, if you answered right you’d get tov maod, and my motto for the class was: lo tov – no good!

-One last thing to remember, before we get to the last day: Keep everything in its’ proper order/kind! Humans are not animals and should not be treated as animals. Animals are not plants and should not be treated as plants. Seems like an obvious point, but our world is confusing these things! Even down to being gendered beings: male and female TOGETHER image God into the world! Male in and of itself cannot adequately image God, and female in and of itself cannot adequately image God. We’ll look more fully at this next week, again.

-These 6 days serve as the foundation for the rest of creation, and then God finishes His work. 

  • God Rested (2:1-3)

-Look at the wording of this finishing: where else does God say He’s finished? When Jesus dies on the cross, bearing the penalty for all of the sin that came about when creation was thrust back into chaos – just as God finished his work in creation, there His work is finished in redemption.

-Then this day is unlike the previous days because God blesses this 7th day. Up until this point it’s the creation that’s blessed, this time God blesses a day and sanctifies it.

-Just as God rested, so He commands his people to rest. In Ex. 31:13 God tells His people: “‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.” This pattern of 6 days on/one day off actually sets God’s people off as unique from everyone else. It demonstrates to everyone our trust in God. Prevents work from becoming an idol. Ultimately, the sabbath rest reminds us that we are not God! We can’t work 24/7 and thrive, we need rest.

-Now – notice this 7th day has no end. All 6 previous days said “evening/morning the ___ day” This is a way of saying everything was as God intended it to be.

-Just as God rested, so we’re to find our ultimate rest in Him. Augustine: “Our hearts our restless until they find their rest in Thee.” 

-This story gives us a glimpse of God’s heart toward his creation, His desire to live in perfect relationship with Him, and our job of joining with God in bringing order from the chaos of the world around us. Do you see that as your aim, as your story, as your reason for living? Where do you fit within this storyline that God has used to reveal to us? 

Philippians 4:2-9 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Gentle and Lowly

Philippians 4:2-9 (571)

Intro:

-It’s hard to believe 9/11 was 20 years ago. I still remember the clothes I was wearing that day! I saw a couple FB posts yesterday that talked about wishing we could go back to how unifying September 12, 2001 was.

-The reality is, we’re in a VERY different cultural moment than we were in 2001. (not just in the clothes people are wearing!) We, as Christians, need to take some to evaluate where we’re putting our stock, because there’s some things that we need to be ALL IN on, and others that we need to let go of completely.

-Listening to a podcast on Monday that struck me like a load of bricks: we as Christians are called to be gentle.  

READ/PRAY

-Theme of the letter in 1:25-26 “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,”

-Today, we would call this a “missionary letter,” Paul helped plant the church, they sent him to continue planting churches, he writes to inform them how he’s doing, how he’s still praying for them, and remind them of the truth of the gospel and the implications of that Good News.

-Quick primer if you haven’t been here, the gospel is what compels everything we do. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul calls the gospel that which is of “first importance,” but the gospel also compels us to live in certain ways. The gospel is the means by which we are saved, and the means by which we are sanctified (DEFINE)

-If you’ve here and you’ve never heard the gospel before, 4 words: God, man, Christ, response.

2 Cor. 5:14 says it this way “the love of Christ controls/compels us.” The gospel, as demonstrated in Christ’s love, compels us to live in some specific ways that are contrary to our human/sinful nature.

2 Cor. 5 is also one of Pastor Bruce’s favorite passages to talk about growing like Christ – it goes on to talk about the need for reconciliation. 

-One of the implications of that reconciliation to God is it compels us to reconciliation with each other, which is exactly what Paul talks about in the first 2 verses of this section.

  1. Reconciliation (2-3)

-One quick note before we dig in:

-First, these letters were read in the corporate gathering of the church! And Paul had the audacity to call out 2 people by name! How would you feel if in the middle of the church service, I get up and start talking about a conflict you’re having with someone else?

-First thing to note is how little information Paul gives us. Apparently this conflict was a big enough deal that everyone knew what he was talking about.

-Can’t be doctrinal (look at the end of vs. 3)

-Notice how gently Paul asks: doesn’t shame them (apart from having their names read in the whole church), doesn’t call down his apostolic authority, doesn’t demean them “entreats” them. Think of Proverbs 15:1 “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” We’ll look at that a little more in the next section.

-Paul doesn’t even give much help, just “agree in the Lord.” Isn’t that overly simplistic? But sometimes, just an urge to “agree in the Lord” isn’t enough.

-Look at vs. 3

-When, in the midst of conflict, it can be nearly impossible to push through it on your own. That’s where bringing a 3rd party in can help both sides start to see/hear the other sides’ perspective. 

-It often seems that, in conflict/disagreements, we neglect the Bible’s command: be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry (James 1:19). 

-This is also a time where we need to remember Jesus’ commands in Matt. 18 – if you’re brother/sister in Christ has sinned against you, GO TO THEM! Then, if after going to them, bring someone else along, then if that doesn’t work, bring 1 or 2 other people along, then if that doesn’t work, go to the leadership of the church, but it BEGINS with 1 on 1, not quitting, not giving up, not gossiping or getting other people involved. GO TO THEM.

-This is true in churches too. There are legitimate reasons to leave a church, I’ve heard some doozie! But most of the time it’s because we’re not being obedient to the biblical command to “live at peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18)

-A couple other notes about this: 

-Reconciliation is not just “get over it” and pretend as if nothing happened. It’s talking, sharing your hurts and difficulties and doing your best to understand where the other person is coming from. It’s not jumping to conclusions based on what you heard! A pastor friend who works for a peace making ministry said we need to “listen to understand.” 

-Reconciliation is not done at the expense of the truth. There are legitimate times to divide from people who are preaching/living in ways that run contrary to the gospel. But notice the orientation of this agreeing: IN THE LORD. So important to have a theological triage. CS Lewis had a great analogy about this in Mere Christianity: orthodox Christianity brings you into a Great Hall which has various side rooms for the differing denominations/theological traditions, fun places to go sit in for a bit, have a chat, then come back to the feast in the great hall! When we come back to the Lord as the foundation for everything else, all these other issues seem trivial. He who has been forgiven much forgives much. 

-Lastly, the verb Paul uses here “agree” appears back in Philippians 2:5. Paul is pointing Euodia and Syntyche to “agree” about the mind of Christ.

-Because of that we are to:

-Not look at ourselves as having a high station

-Empty/humble ourselves

-We don’t get exaltation without humiliation

-Carson, “Personal differences should never become an occasion for advancing your party, for stroking bruised egos, for resorting to cheap triumphalism, for trimming the gospel by appealing to pragmatics. Focus on what unites you: the gospel, the gospel, the gospel.” (129)

-When we have reconciliation, it is going to look like us living/operating in some specific ways:

  • The Heart of Christ (4-7)

-This section is a list of characteristics that should be true in the life of every believer.

  1. Rejoice

-Because of the reconciliation that is found in Christ, we can rejoice, when? ALWAYS. So important that he says it twice! Again, doesn’t that feel kind of naïve? 

-Feels like he’s asking us to be Pollyana, running around acting as if everything is always 100%, no issues, no problems, I’m just happy all the time. Like the Pharrell Williams song “Because I’m happy: Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” No matter what I’ll be happy and clappy with a smile 24/7. You almost want to say that’s cute Paul, but have you seen my life?
-But Paul doesn’t just say “rejoice” and then leave us to figure it out – our rejoicing has an orientation: IN THE LORD. Church, you and I are blood bought precious saints in the sight of the Lord. God brought us from death to life, God has seated us in the heavenlies with Him! If you can’t hear those truths and rejoice somethings wrong!

-D.A. Carson Basics for Believers: “If we fail to respond with joy and gratitude when we are reminded of these things, it is either because we have not properly grasped the depth of the abyss of our own sinful natures and of the curse from which we have been freed by Jesus or because we have not adequately surveyed the splendor of the heights to which we have been raised.” (130)

-When Paul came to Philippi to plant the church, do you remember what happened? He and Silas are jailed, chained to the wall, and they SING! That’s someone who is filled with joy! 

-That’s where Paul can say “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” When he’s thrown in prison he sings and then leads the jailer to the Lord! How frustrating was Paul to the works of Satan? How frustrating to Satan is your joy?

  • Gentleness

-I have no clue why, but this verse had never stuck out to me before! This is where I love reading the Bible over and over again, it will always meet you where you’re at and then work to conform/change you to become more like Christ.

-This word translated “reasonableness” is somewhat difficult to translate, includes things such as: non-insistence, yielding, kind, courteous, tolerant, clemency. This difficulty can be seen in the way the various translations state this phrase.

-One quick note: we NEVER tolerate/are gently with sin! What we are to tolerate is people who are “working out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) John Owen: “be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

-What are you known for? Your position at work? The car you drive? Your kids? What are people’s first description when they hear your name? In Acts 4:36, there’s a guy named Joseph, who was so encouraging, he was given the nickname Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” What we as Christians, and as a whole church are meant to be known as is: gentle. When you are wronged, respond with gentleness. When you are frustrated, respond with gentleness. When you are angry, respond with gentleness. When you are happy (or joyful), respond with gentleness. 

-Do you think when the world looks at the church their first thought is gentleness? Google search: “what is the most judgmental religion.” 

-I’ll confess, the world seems to be getting crazier and crazier. Saw a post this week that said “do you like post-apocalyptic movies? Well you’re in one now!” Talked to someone this week who said they felt like it the world was coming to an end, and how should we as Christians respond? With gentleness. 

-I’m not saying don’t have convictions, but keep them in their proper order. Politics is dominating so many conversations today, and I’ll be honest, it feels like both the Right and the Left are going crazy! There are people in this room that vote differently than me, every election cycle I pray their candidate loses! But those are issues for outside of here, here inside the church we need to leave the crazy at the door, and come in here to be reminded to be gentle toward each other. The gospel means I need to move toward, not away from, someone who disagrees with me. That’s what Jesus did! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ list of disciples? This astonishes me! In the same group of 12 he had: Simon the zealot, and Matthew the tax collector. The zealots viewed it as their job to kill anyone who was colluding with the enemy, AKA a tax collector! Now I don’t think most people on either side of the political aisle today have gone THAT far! But when the love of Christ compels us, political ideologies fall away compared the beauty of the gospel! Have those conversations and LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND with GENTLENESS.

-Screwtape Letters, #7: “I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all  the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.”

-Extremism to anything other than Christ is a lie from the pit of hell that we need to repent of in order to pursue Jesus’ heart towards us: gently and lowly.

-I LOVE theology, a love a good theological debate/discussion, I have at times made my theology my god, and it makes a bad god: let’s go back to God, how He’s revealed Himself in His Word, and live in the community he’s called us to. We do not fight against flesh and blood.

-1 person I was listening to about this idea this week said “The news feed of heaven is very different from the news feed of earth.” What makes the headlines of heaven? When someone moves from death into life, when you grow in gentleness.

-What would it look like for us to take this command seriously and work to grow in gentleness in every one of our responses? Paul actually tells us how we can do that!

-It begins by this throwaway comment: the Lord is at hand. God is near! That’s why we let our gentleness be seen by everyone, it’s not our gentleness, it’s God’s gentleness being demonstrated THROUGH us. “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

  • Do not be anxious

-Do you ever get anxious about what’s going on around us? I was at a conference Indianapolis in April when most Twin City suburbs were put under a curfew. I couldn’t head home to make sure my family was safe, I was anxious! Goodness, just scrolling through FB or a news feed is enough these days to make me anxious! Once again, it feels like Paul is being unreasonable. Have you seen the world? Is this even possible?

  • Pray to God

-This is how we’re not anxious, when we start to worry/fret/become despondent, we bring it all to God.

-I’ve shared this before, but your knee jerk reaction as a Christian is supposed to be to pray! This is especially true when you start to feel anxious. 

-It’s not just suck it up, it’s not pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s not squelch your emotions, it’s casting them on the Lord, because He cares for you. Martin Luther: “pray and let God worry.”

-This means of dealing with anxiety leads us to:

  • Eternal peace

-I’ve often heard this verse used without the context to tell people to just chill out. You’ll have the peace of God, so you don’t need to worry! But the only way we get to this peace is by crying out to God, because He cares for us! 

-This peace comes only by living out and believing the truths from the rest of this section. We rejoice all the time, we always respond in gentleness, when we start to feel anxious/worried we cry out to God, then we will be peace filled people.

-I want you to notice 1 thing about this list: compare it to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Joy, peace, gentleness, kindness between Euodia and Syntyche 

-These fruit are not meant to be understood in isolation from each other. Fruit is singular: we are supposed to demonstrate each one of these characteristics. None are optional!

-The last thing about this peace is that it’s what guards our hearts and minds. Even the way we think is meant to be gentle.

  • Dwell on This (8-9)

-Look at this laundry list: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, worthy of praise. Are those the things you are thinking about/dwelling on daily?

-Let’s flip it, do you instead dwell on things that are untrue, dishonoring, unjust, impure, unlovely, not commendable, wallowing in mediocrity, worthy of criticism.

-When you have nothing else to do/focus on, where does your mind go?

-God loves you so much, he even cares about your thought life. I think of Col. 3:16 “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” There is nothing better than dwelling on the Word of Christ! I gave the overseers some new homework this week: Bible memorization, next month we’re going to be reciting Phil. 4:4-7 to each other. Ask us how we’re doing with it! Join us in soaking/meditating/dwelling on these words!

-That’s actually what Paul says in vs. 9. You have people in leadership here to set an example for you. What you have learned from us, received from us, and then heard and seen, practice them. Get busy rejoicing, being gently, praying, and dwelling on the things of Christ.

-This is the kind of church I want to be a part of! Because we are commanded to be gentle, one person described the church as shock absorbers. As new people/unbelievers come in here who are stirred up/agitated about the state of our world, can you be gentle enough to absorb them into our midst and help them grow in gentleness? This is what Christ calls us to as a church! Putting on the mind of Christ, and responding with gentleness and lowliness. Today is September 12, but it’s 2021, not 2001, and the only way for us to see the same sense of comradery that we want to see again is by growing in gentleness. This is what Christ died for us to do: to demonstrate Him to everyone around us. Let’s roll towards that goal in all of our lives!

Psalm 10 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Where Did You Go?

Psalm 10

Intro:

-Major theme we’ve seen through these first 10 Psalms is there’s 2 ways to live: for/against the Lord.

-Way of the wicked/way of the blessed – Psalm 1

-way of the world/the way of the Lord – Psalm 2

-Today we’re going to be looking at that exact same theme: the way of the wicked or the way of those who are blessed/following God

READ

PRAY

  1. The Distance of God (1)

-Anyone who has been a Christian for a decent amount of time has gone through a season of questioning where God is.

-Pastor Bruce (and now Micah!) and I have been talking a lot recently about this “deconstruction” idea that seems to be running rampant in the church right now.

-Each generation, it seems, has a time period in which people start leaving the faith claiming that God isn’t real, that God doesn’t work in their lives, that they “tried” God out and he didn’t come through

-Augustine/Anselm of Centerbury “believe so that you may understand.” 

-What can the unbeliever know about God? Some things (common grace, the created order) but what I want to keep saying to those I read who are “deconstructing” is: have you actually been trusting in the one true God, or have you been looking at him as a way to get what you want? 

-Think of the parable of the sower that Jesus tells in Matt. 13, seed scattered on: path, rocky ground, thorns, good soil. Rocky ground is described as “this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” So why are we surprised when we see things taking place around us that Jesus told us would happen?

-This distance idea is a real thing! God at times will feel far away, even David, the man after God’s own heart struggled with feelings of isolation. 

-Brother/sister: when you feel like God has abandoned you, the first thing to remember is that is normal! Every relationship has ups/downs, seasons of closeness/intimacy and seasons of distance/indifference.

-One big difference though is in our relationship with God, one of those 2 people is perfect, which is why one of the things I first learned about God as a kid is God will never leave you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6) or what we’re trying to teach our kids: when I am afraid I will trust in God. (Psalm 56:3)

-We also need to remember: theologically, one of the first things we learn, God is omnipresent (omnis are some of the basic ways to remember the incommunicable attributes of God, we are all finite, God is infinite)

-Grudem “The doctrine that God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.”

-God’s manifest presence vs. omnipresence

-Distance is acutely felt in the “valley of the shadow of death” or “dark night of the soul” but in those seasons we need to think back to what we know to be true about God. 

-Reading a book about discipleship this week, “We shout doctrine in the light so that we can whisper it in the dark.”

-This is getting to what I talked about last week on the need for discipleship: 2 tracks of our “train” in growing as a Christian: life and doctrine. Need both! 

-Think back to what I’ve shared about a see-saw in relation to doctrine. If you emphasize only life you end up with a bunch of Christians who love their neighbor but don’t love God, if you emphasize only doctrine you end up with a bunch of people who love God but neglect to love their neighbor. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Need doctrine to preach to ourselves, but we need to live out the doctrine we believe so the world can see that we’re different! 

-That’s the only way we will survive when the difficulties/struggles of life come our way, and they are guaranteed to come! I’ve shared this quote a couple times, but I still think it bears repeating: D.A. Carson How Long, O Lord? “The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough, and we will suffer.” In those times/seasons, push into your family, the church, come and be reminded that Jesus comes to walk with us in the midst of those difficulties, that Jesus came to bear our sorrows, lay them at HIS feet, because He cares for you.

-Think about this truth from Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heave laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

-Only place in all 4 Gospels where Jesus reveals his heart, his innermost self, and we could spend, we WILL spend eternity plumbing the depths of that idea!

-Brother/sister WHEN you are struggling, WHEN you are heavy laden, WHEN you world feels like it is falling apart, come to Jesus, he’ll take the burden and give you a light one because he is gentle and lowly in heart.

-But what do we do when it seems like those not following Jesus are flourishing?

  • The Depravity of the Wicked (2-11)

-There are 5 characteristics David gives us on the depravity of the wicked: arrogance, wealth, longevity, sinful speech, and violence. We’ll work through them one by one.

-It’s important to remember that these descriptions are from an earthly/human perspective, but that doesn’t always reflect the greater spiritual reality. Often a tendency for us to focus exclusively on how it affects the physical reality, and neglect to remember there’s a greater reality going on around us.

-Think of a passage like Eph. 6:12 “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So as we read these items, this is how it appears to us in our natural human state. 

-First, arrogance (2-4)

-Notice who is the object of this arrogant spirit: the poor. The marginalized, those who have no voice to fight for themselves. Throughout history, those who most often bear the brunt of the sin of a culture, people group are the poor. 

-Lady at my first church (Cheyenne) who is now with the Lord, who was on welfare. Worked at a gas station making minimum wage, ministry of sending cards. One Christmas season she found some supplemental income doing seasonal work, showed up on her taxes and she lost her low-income housing, only house she could afford. Someone at church bought her a little house and rented it to her for the same price she was paying for her low income house, but she’d never have to move or worry about how much money she was bringing in. That was really eye opening to me! Yes, always people who are scamming the system, but there’s also those that are dependent on “the system” to survive, and for those of us who are in Christ, we’re called to love and care for those people who are in our midst. Acts 2 reminds us that in the early church there were no needy people. None. I get to see some of the ways this happens in our church! Benevolence fund, rides for people who need it, sharing medical equipment with others who can’t buy it. That’s a marker of someone who is not arrogant! 

-Now, notice the implication of how this arrogant, wicked person lives in vs. 3 by pursuing this sinful way of life, he renounces the Lord, he lives as an atheist proclaiming “there is no God.”

-That’s just the first marker! 

-Second, wealth (5)

-Again, remember this is merely from a humanistic perspective. From all external appearances, everything he does is prospering.

-Compare this with Psalm 1, describing the blessed man who obeys God. So which is it? Is the wicked prospering at all times, or is the blessed one who is obeying God? Spiritually, the blessed one is prospering all the time. 

-The underground church is Kabul was martyred last week. From all earthly/worldly appearances the blessed ones are not prospering and the wicked seem to have the upper hand.

-In the midst of this complaint, David remembered that God is the one true judge. God’s judgments are on a completely different level than the wicked, the wicked can’t even begin to grasp it! That gives us comfort, even in the midst of persecution/suffering! God and the wicked aren’t even playing the same game! God’s playing chess while the wicked think they’re winning by playing checkers

-As if that’s not enough, while he’s stuck playing checkers, he says that he has:

-Third, Longevity (6)

-Let’s be honest here, how many generations does it often take for people to forget your name? 2? Now maybe there are some people that change the course of human history (Jesus, Nero, Napoleon, Hitler come to mind) but for most of us, our life is a vapor and we’re forgotten shortly after we die. And even those names that I mentioned, how many of them built a kingdom that is still lasting? 1. So we know that’s not true! 

-Fourth, Sinful speech (7)

-Look at all these things that come out from him! This language demonstrates what is in his heart (“out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” Matt. 12:34) we also know from James 3 that the tongue is powerful. How many of you have lasting wounds because of a single sentence someone said to you?

-Paul even picks up this language in Rom. 3 to talk about the evidences for no one being righteous. Do your words reveal you to be the blessed one, or the wicked one?

-Last, violence (8-11)

-Look at all the ways he looks to pursue violence. He intentionally targets the poor and helpless. This is the antithesis of God who intentionally seeks to raise the poor/helpless. Think of that video I showed a few weeks back on the biblical concept of “justice.” What we seek to do with our positions of influence is lower ourselves to someone else, so that we can then build them back in Christ. 

-This is where the gospel intersects with these ideas. Jesus condescended to our level. Jesus came from the highest level possible (heaven/perfection) and lowered himself to our level so that we could be raised with him to the highest level possible. 

-Look at how this section ends in vs. 11 “He will never see it.” God sees everything. Every pain you feel, every misspoken word against you, every time you’re mistreated, God sees every single moment of every single day, and his heart toward you is gently and lowly. 

-That’s where this Psalm doesn’t end with the focus on the wicked, no, the wicked are nothing compared to God!

  • The Response of God (12-18)

-Because God sees everything, David (and we too!) can call on God to arise and deal with the injustice and brokenness we see around us. 

-David calls on God to bring about in the physical realm the spiritual realities that are happening around us. (14) God sees it so that he can take matters into his own hands, the helpless are to commit themselves to God (14), God will help the fatherless, and ultimately break the arm of the wicked (that is to take away their power)

-We today can pray that the wicked and evildoers come to an end. Even if we don’t see the implications of their wickedness on earth, we know that they will be punished for their sins.

-David ends on a high note here: where the wicked think they will have an everlasting reign, God really does reign as king forever and ever. Everyone else will perish, but God won’t.

-Because God is a sovereign (and perfect) king, he’ll hear and strengthen the afflicted, he will enact lasting, perfect justice as opposed to the “mere people” of earth

-What are we supposed to do when we’re in exile as the people of God? When it seems like the wicked are thriving and we’re not?

Jeremiah 29:4-9 

-Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce.

-You’re going to be there for a while (how long does it take to build a house?) 

-Gardens take at least 4 months to bear produce, and then to do that annually means it’s something to dig into and look for ways to flourish where you are.

-Seek to grow your families. One of the easiest ways for a community to grow is to have kids. Spend time with your family! I’ve been thinking a lot recently on the fact that my kids will have various teachers, friends, influencers in their lives, but I’m the only dad they’ve got. Parents: we have a job to do! But even if you’re not a parent, the other parents here need your help! We can’t do it alone!

-Seek the welfare of the city where I HAVE SENT YOU.

-Do you view your vocation as a place God has sent you? Do you view your house as a place God has sent you? Do you view your recreation as a place God has sent you? Schooling, shopping, eating, walking, working out. Every place you go you’re there for a reason. Salt and light.

-This is one of the primary ways we can stand strong against injustice and the feeling that God has abandoned us, by crying out to God, pushing into our church family that God has called us to, and working to see the flourishing where God has sent us. We know that the wicked won’t last forever!

-But until the wicked are dealt with, we still live on this earth. Until the wicked have their arms broken, we will still face difficulties, struggles, and maybe even persecution.

-There’s times in all of our lives where we are the wicked ones! So how do we respond when we realize that? Repent, cry out to God for help, push back into the church family God has given you, and get to work! 

-All of this serves as a picture of communion, because all of us are at times the wicked ones. We’re slow to seek God, we’re slow to seek justice, and we often act as if there is no God. But God doesn’t give up on any of us! He relentlessly pursues, continually loves, and continues working in our lives to draw us to Himself. That’s why we take communion – to remember that this world is not our home, that God dwells in all of us who are walking with the Lord.

Psalm 9 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Give Thanks

Psalm 9

-Wizard of Oz – the man behind the curtain. Looks impressive until you see what’s really back there.

-2 sections in this Psalm: one looks back, one asks for present help

-History of combining these 2 into 2 long Psalm (if you look at Psalm 10, no header) we’ll see the second reason in a bit

READ

PRAY

  1. Prayer for Past Deliverance (1-12)

-Begins with another musical note no one knows what this means (some translated it as “The death of the son”) 

-Again, we have no clue the bigger context, David wrote it, that’s all we’ve got

-We do know that it all these Psalms served as the corporate songs of the Jewish people throughout history, meaning the singers/writers have a vital part to play in the life of the church

-Have you ever thought about how music has a universalizing reach? Songs are written by 1 person or a small group of people sharing their thoughts/experiences, but when those thoughts/experiences get released out into the world, it becomes the mantra of a generation. 

-I love music. I collected CDs as I was growing up (mowed a lawn, got $20/week, bought me 1 new CD/week!)

-My favorite band toured on the 10th anniversary of their best album, the entire room sang along with every single song

-Music moves us, shapes us, fashions us, imbeds ideas into our hearts & minds – so be careful with music! It’s a gift/tool to help stir our affections toward the things of God – Gods loves beauty.

-Spurgeon: “Singing and preaching, as means of glorifying God, are here joined together, and it is remarkable that, connected with all revivals of gospel ministry, there has been a sudden outburst of the spirit of song.”

-Theological idea: New City Catechism question #2 Who is God? God is the creator of everyone and everything. God created beauty, God designed beauty, that’s part of the main idea from Psalm 8 – “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers” we are stirred/moved to worship.

-Someone in the church just got married, went to one of my favorite places in the world for their anniversary: Estes Park, CO. The reason places like Estes Park exist is to remind us of our finitude. You don’t look at mountains like that and go “wanna know how much money I have in my bank account?” 

-Secondly, if Estes Park is THAT beautiful now, what do you think it’ll look like when sin is no longer wreaking havoc on it?

-Similarly to places like Estes Park, which as beautiful, even art is/can be used to bring honor/glory to God. Music can be used to bring honor and glory to God. Writing. Working. Sleeping. Eating. Reading. Singing. Thinking.

-The reality is, God wants us to do things excellently, not as a form of pride, but to use our unique gifts/talents to be a blessing. Why am I talking about all this?

-This Psalm, combined with Psalm 10 are an acrostic. This wasn’t just written off the cuff, this took time and effort to create a beautiful poem that uses each letter of the Hebrew alphabet as a prayer point. 

-Ever thought of doing the same? Going through the alphabet as a prayer list. A – my sister Anna, B – thankful for the bread I ate this morning, C – God’s greatest gift of all COFFEE!

-Realize that we live our whole lives coram deo before the face of God. So even something as seemingly trivial as writing a song/poem can/should be an act of worship. God cares about beauty, He designed it, and inspired others’ skills/talents to write down thoughts/ideas that are beautiful works of art. The building of the temple in 2 Chronicles was done by skilled craftsmen.

  1. Thanksgiving (1-2, 11-12)

-David approaches God by giving thanks, with what? His whole heart.

-3 ways to approach God: no heart (shaking your fist at him), half-heartedly (what has He ever done for me?) whole heartedly (with all you’ve got!)

-God doesn’t want a little bit of you, He’s not asking to be your co-pilot, he’s looking to take over and redirect, refocus, re-shape everything you do!

-How are we to give thanks? By recounting ALL his wonderful deeds

-Maybe that’s why David uses every letter of the alphabet, it keeps his thoughts on track to continue recounting all the deeds God has done, A-Z! Maybe instead of the alphabet you need to use numbers: 1 – God, 2 – daughters, 3 – churches that loved me and my family and let me serve them.

-We, as the church, are commanded to be a thankful people, giving thanks with our whole hearts by remembering and celebrating all the things God has done, is doing, and will do in all our lives. How many blessings do we miss/neglect because we’re not taking time to be thankful for how God is working?

-As you read through the OT, does it ever strike you just how much time Israel is given to festivals and parties? Even Jesus when he comes is described as “eating and drinking.” Church, God has created us to be party people! Not saying we eat/drink in excess, but we even eat and drink to God’s glory, so I can eat my pellet smoked medium steak and really and truly enjoy it as God’s good gift, and we can invite our friend, neighbors, and even our enemies to come participate in a taste of the feast that will be waiting for us when Christ returns. Do you ever notice that one of the things Jesus does when He returns is feast, throw a big party? Where we’ll have the best family reunion in the world! But we’re not there yet.

-Notice in vs. 11 where we’re supposed to tell his deeds: the peoples. Share with all!

  • The Enemies (3-6)

-Just as David had enemies who were trying to subvert/destroy Him, we have an enemy who is doing his best to undermine the mission of the King, to distract us, to tempt us and to take us away from pursuing everything God has commanded us to do

-Remember what I said about a place like Estes Park, or even beauty, they’re meant to make us feel the need for transcendence, but what about those who don’t “give thanks with their whole hearts”, those who shake their fists at God?

-Almost like God vs. the world. The enemies will do their best to fight against him, to push against him, but who ultimately rules and judges? We’ll see this more fully fleshed out in vs. 7.

-Notice that these enemies stumble and perish. They can’t even keep themselves together. And when these enemies are compared to someone walking/living in holiness, God will bring about perfect justice.

-Not sure if you’ve been following what’s been happening in Afghanistan, but it is a humanitarian crisis. Read an article this week that contained some quotes from our brothers and sisters there “One brother described these days as “dark” and said they feel like a “storm.” Then he asked that we pray for “revival.”” Listened to a podcast that talked about Afghan Christians, for the first time, putting “Christian” on their identification card to set a new trajectory for their families, those people are now being singled out. A reported tweeted, “A person who works with house church networks in Afghanistan reports its leaders received letters last night from the #Taliban warning them that they know where they are and what they are doing. The leaders say they aren’t going anywhere. So it begins.”

-See, God has rebuked the nations, God will blot out their name forever, those in the Taliban serving Satan and his minions will face everlasting judgment for their sins, but it can be hard to keep that perspective when it seems like evil has the upper hand! 

-The word used to describe “wicked” in vs. 5 refers to those who are practical atheists, they hate God’s commands, commit sinful deeds, and speak lies and slander. 

Romans 1 describes these wicked people as “suppressing the truth.”

-Church, we need to remember not to suppress the truth, not to live for this world, this world is not our home! We are sojourner, aliens, and strangers. We need not fear any trial/tribulation here because what can they do, kill us? Then we see Jesus! What these enemies don’t realize is that they have an expiration date.

  • The Lord (7-10)

-But the Lord sits enthroned FOREVER. 

-Have you ever thought about the fact or reality that God has ensured that the church will never end, that His Words would be perfectly contained for millennia? 

-Multiple groups, civilizations, countries, rulers, laws, tribes, tongues, nations have done their best to eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth. Even “intellectuals” have declared “God is dead” since Nietzsche wrote that in 1882. But who is enthroned forever? And what is the purpose of His throne? JUSTICE. There’s that idea that we saw a couple weeks ago again.

-This idea ties us back to vs. 4. “You have maintained my just cause” 

-All of us want justice for ourselves, but what about when we’re the one deserving of the penalty for justice? 

-God is the one who judges with righteousness, and that righteousness, as we’ve seen throughout all these Psalms only comes by and through God Himself bearing the weight and penalty of these enemies who are opposed to God and His ways. Notice how those enemies are described in vs. 8

-world – people. The world is comprised of people, so people aren’t off the hook for the way the world is operating. That’s where we as the church have to be the city on a hill, light shining into the darkness, salt in the world who proclaim and demonstrate what justice looks like, because our world will keep fumbling around in the dark trying to come up with broken/inadequate solutions for a cross shaped problem.

-That’s what David says here in vs. 10 – “those who know your name” someone’s name in the OT meant something significant. Until my generation came along and started giving their kids names like “Apple” and “North West” names carried connotations. When God commands Moses to lead His people, He gives Moses His name, that is his character, his way of operating, his resume. So when you read in 1 John something like “God is love” that’s God using His name to remind us of truths about Him.

-What is the first thing you learn about someone? Their name! You have to teach that to kids – Calvin.

-‘It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.’ James 1:27 reminds us “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

-Religion is just a way of referring to a system of beliefs, your operating principle. What’s crazy about our religion, is it contains a relationship with God.

-After David has reminded himself of how God has worked in the past, he then turns to the present:

  • Prayer for Present Deliverance (13-20)
    • Deliverance to Praise (13-14)

-The theme of whining comes up again. David is in a tough spot and needs God to intervene on his behalf. He asks for God to be gracious, and to see/pay attention to his affliction. Why?

-So that he can return to praising God. Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We are all created as worshipping beings, we’re created to worship God, but we don’t always do that! Because of the salvation freely given through belief in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, we get to praise Him together. 

-Everything you do, say, and are, is meant to be used to praise Him. Even our sufferings, trials, difficulties are an opportunity to rely more fully one Him than we did before! He won’t let anything go to waste!

-It’s one thing for s child of God to suffer, because we know the outcome, but what about those who are opposed to God, the enemies that were brought up in vs. 3-6?

  • The Nations (15-18)

-Remember the Wil E Coyote gifs I showed you 2 weeks ago? That’s how God views the nations. Pit they made, foot caught in their own trap

-The Bible calls those who are opposed to God foolish, and even the nations that are opposed to God and nothing compared to Him. Have you ever thought about the reality that no nation has existed forever? There was a time that the good old US of A didn’t exist. There may even come a time when the USA is a footnote in a history book somewhere. Every major nation has been defeated at some point. Egypt, Babylon, Rome, England. The ruins of the Roman Empire are tourist attractions today! The empire that tried to wipe out a flourishing Jewish sect called Christianity in the 1st Century. Who’s still standing today?

-So in response, God reveals himself (might only be after they die) but ultimately God will reveal Himself to everyone! Yet the wicked are still defeated by their own attempts to grab at power.

-C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.”

Selah

-It says the wicked shall RETURN to Sheol. 2 notes:

-Return signifies where they came from

-The biblical idea of repentance is the idea of returning. So everyone will return to something, either Sheol or the Father’s arms.

-Those are the ones whom forgot God, they will in turn be forgotten by God. What a terrible place to be!

-Lastly, see how evil these nations are: they neglect the poor and the needy. That’s exactly where we, as representatives of God are to care for those that our society deems as “poor and needy.” (James 1:27) Those who are evil don’t/won’t care for them, but they’re the very people God cares for. His Son was one of those poor/needy people! 

-In response to the way the poor and needy are treated:

  • The Lord Judges (19-20)

-No man can stand before God, we see in Psalm 2 that when the nations rage and the peoples plot IN VAIN, that God laughs at them! Everyone will have to face God someday and be judged for how they live.

-This idea goes completely contrary to the expressive individualism we see rampant around us. Talking with someone this week about our current education system. Did you know that originally public education was implement to help civilize people and train them to become good citizens? The purpose of education is to train people how to conform to the group/culture at large. Today, though, you’re not allowed to be conformed to some standard, the standard is supposed to be conformed to the individual.

-For we who are in Christ, we are to be conformed as a group into an individual – Christ. Our education in our faith is to be like Christ, and we all need to work to become more like him and help each other become more like Him “imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

-At the end of the day, all societies, nations, they’re just people, they’re not God! So why do we fear puny little men? God is giving his people (us) a peek behind the curtain here. Even if persecution comes for us, what are we afraid of, we’ve seen the little man hiding behind a curtain! Why do we worry/fret about our society decaying? We’re a part of a different society and we have a job to do! To reveal the little man behind the curtain for every other religion/ideology/thought that doesn’t have God as its’ foundation/author. One of the best ways we can do that is by giving thanks. This week, use the alphabet to give thanks! Come up with 10 ways God has blessed you. Every night Cara and I ask each other “what are you thankful for today?”

Psalm 5 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Listen To My Prayer

Psalm 5 (pg. 255)

-Chronicles of Narnia: “Is he safe? Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

-Some people who use Exclusive Psalmnody argue for accapela only singing in church, what do you do with this prescript? Or last week “with stringed instruments”

  1. Plea to God (1-6)

-Sounds very similar to the beginning of Psalm 4

-For some reason, we have these repeated examples of the need to remind God to listen to us, to pay attention to us, to answer us when we come before Him

-We know that God already knows all these things, but we can still plead with Him 

-Remember from last week, we need to approach God honestly in our prayers. Since God already knows everything about us, we can’t keep things hidden from Him.

Preach the Word “People who don’t know God well think they have to pray with special words. Their prayers sound like a formula with set words and phrases.”

-Think of how other religions form their prayers. You’re trained in what you say, how you say it, sometimes you have to face a VERY specific direction and if you miss by a degree it’s heresy. God invites us to come with all that we are, with all that we’ve got, and to be bold in our approach to Him.

-These first verses could be considered the prelude to prayer

  1. Preparation to Pray (1-3)

-I onetime read that someone said “The most difficult thing in the world to do is to pray. The second most difficult thing in the world to do is to stop praying.”

George Muller “after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray.” He kept a prayer journal, contained 50,000 answered prayers, 30,000 were answered within the first day, some within an hour. Ran an orphanage where he cared for more than 10,000 children during his life

-If someone like Muller, who had a prayer book of 50K answered prayers can struggle to actually pray, so can David, and so can you

-St Anthony of Egypt “If you know that you’re praying, you’re really not.”

-Look at how David begins: give ear, consider, give attention.

-Again, remember that God already sees, knows, is aware of everything that is going on. God doesn’t need the reminder because God doesn’t change. He can only be true to Himself. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here! We’ll pick up that idea in vs. 4

-Asks God to listen to his words, his groanings, and his cries

-Once again, it sounds like David’s in a rough spot! 

-Ever have one of those nerve tests on your knee? Part of what we’re seeing here is: what is your knee-jerk reaction when situations arise in your life? When you’re struggling, what do you do? When you’re thrilled over some exciting news, what do you do? When you’ve had a totally normal/average day, what do you do? I’ve got a proposal: you pray! THAT is how you “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:16)

-Because this is in the midst of struggling, what does it look like when you don’t even have any words to say? Have you ever found yourself in a moment like that? It’s guaranteed that at SOME point in your life, you will suffer. It may be vicariously through someone else’s struggle, it may affect you, but you will suffer. Where do you/have you turned in those times of your life?

-I think of some of my friends who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death – one friend whose first wife faced cancer head on within a year of getting married and lost. Do you think that’s what they were planning on when they celebrated their marriage? Or another friend whose wife carried their first daughter to full term, only to have her die in the womb at 9 months and one day. How did they process delivering a baby whose cry they would never hear? 

-It’s one thing to deal with the philosophical “problem of evil” in the theoretical, it’s an entirely different game when the problem of evil decides to plant its’ roots within your life. What do you do when your prayers are nothing more than groans? Do you know that’s enough for God?

-Charles Spurgeon – battled crippling depression much of his life “Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer.”

-This theme is picked up again in Rom. 8 where we finally see any answer to the “problem of evil.” 

-Vs. 18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

-Vs. 22 “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

-Vs. 23 “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

-Vs. 26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

-God Himself, through the indwelling Holy Spirit prays on our behalf. When you don’t have the words, when your world is falling apart, when you don’t know which end is up, you’re not alone.

-There’s a second piece to this from this first section: in the morning I watch

-Some have argued (even Spurgeon) that an hour in prayer in the morning is better than 2 hours in prayer at night. Really??? 

-Better way to think about this is calling out to God first thing when you wake up! That’s a wonderful habit to have and get into. It reminds us of our complete dependence on Him, our need for Him to lead us and guide us, and (as Jesus commanded us) the reminder to daily take up our cross and follow Him.

Watch: do you expect an answer to your prayers? Or do you act as if they hit the ceiling? The word “watch” has a connotation of eagerly anticipating. I had a couple people tell me last week the quote “When I stop praying, coincidences stop happening” really impacted them last week, and this is a similar idea. When you finish your prayer, do you start watching, or do just go back to how you were before, and act as if nothing has changed? 

-One author “If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, God will answer your prayer because he cannot deny himself.”

-This is where we can then get into the prayer itself. Because the answering is dependent on the character of God, it leads David to pray:

  • The Prayer (4-6)

-This feels like a weird place to go when you’re crying out or groaning to God. After you’ve just asked God to listen to what you have to say, shouldn’t you get to what you want to say instead of reminding Him what He likes? 

-Last week I used an analogy of a coach bringing a team together and saying “listen up!” To expand that this week, imagine the next thing he says is: “You guys really like in-n-out, and you hate Whataburger because it tastes like more expensive McDonalds” 

-The reason God answers prayer is because of who He is, and specifically, the needs David has in front of him run contrary to God’s very nature of being holy.

-How do we read something like “you hate all evildoers.” How does that square with John 3:16?

-This is where theology matters greatly. “God hates sin but loves the sinner,” that’s not what this says here! 

-We have a skewed version of love today. Driving around you’ll see bumper stickers or yard signs “Love is love.” That makes absolutely no sense! What I was ALWAYS told was you can’t use the word in the definition. So how do we square the fact that God is love with the fact that God hates all evildoers? A few thoughts for us:

-First, we cannot divide God into his various attributes/characteristics. His attributes literally describe who He is. God is love, God is holy, God is wrathful toward evil. So we look at a situation and say God was acting in wrath there. God is always acting with all his attributes at the same time, not picking and choosing based on the situation.

-Second, we know that God does not want anyone to perish, but earnestly desires that everyone repent and turn to Him. (2 Peter 3:9) what’s crazy about that is God has chosen us as his emissaries to call people to turn to Him in repentance. That’s where I said last week YOU are the outreach strategy of this church.

-Third, no one wants a God who only fits within our current culture’s definition of love (being complete acceptance). What do you do with someone like Hitler? How do you handle the “cancel culture”? Every culture, country, person has an idea of who the “evildoers” are (article on adultery vs. tattoos)

-Fourth, God ultimately dealt with sin, death, and evildoers when He sent His one and only son to the cross. The cross is where the penalty for evildoers is paid in full, which leads to:
-Fifth, and finally, the reality of what the Bible says is the evildoer is me.

  • Plea for Myself (7-12)

-Because you and me, every single person who has ever lived is a sinner by nature and by choice (with the exception of 1 perfect person) we are all dependent on God’s mercy and grace. So notice how David talks about himself:

  1. I Will Worship (7-8)

-David excludes himself from the company of evildoers, BUT it’s only because God is abundant in “steadfast love.”

-This idea of “steadfast love” first appears in Ex. 34 when Moses asks God to reveal Himself, and listen to how God describes himself in vs. 6-7

-Notice the inequality between God’s steadfast love, and the iniquity. Spurgeon “God’s judgments are all numbered, but his mercies are innumerable.” Inherent to God’s very being is this abounding in steadfast love.

-Because that is who God is, we can then come before him, we can enter his house, we can worship Him, it is through obedience to Him that we can remain faithful, even as we are tempted, tried, and discouraged by enemies on every side

-David asks God to lead him in righteousness, because his enemies will not, he needs God to lead him and make the right path to take straight. 

-David’s enemies are those who refuse to worship God

  • My Enemies Will Not (9-10)

-The enemies will do everything they can to lead others away from God. Notice all the ways they work:

-Their mouth reveals that their inmost self is destruction

-They use their mouth, throat, leading to their innermost self of destruction

-A good way to think about this is like a black hole, consuming everything around it. Nothing and no one is safe from their grasp! This is why David is pleading with God to lead him on straight paths, he doesn’t want to get sucked into the ways of the evildoers.

-Paul picks up this idea and quotes this Psalm in Rom. 3 to make that point that no one is righteous. 

-That’s the natural way of all of us! We need to be born a second time to become truly righteous.

-Vs. 10 is a little difficult for us to swallow. Can we call down curses on our enemies? How do we reconcile a verse like this with Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”?

-We’re going to come across what are known as “imprecatory Psalms” which is calling down curses/condemnation on your enemies. This isn’t even as graphic as some of the Psalms in the future!

-In this in between time of Christ’s first and second comings, we don’t live in a theocracy. Things would be FAR better if we all lived under Christ’s perfect rule, but we don’t. We’re not trying to take over lands by force, or threaten to kill people who don’t convert. These Psalms need to be read in light of the era of human history we find ourselves in.

-Now, we realize that God will bring about His perfect judgment at some point in the future. That’s part of what we’re asking when we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

-So we can read these realizing that it’s a just punishment for any/everyone who has sinned against the holy, righteous and perfect creator God, which is all of us. That makes it all the more important for us to tell any/everyone about who Jesus is. The one who came to take the penalty/judgment in our place.

-NIVAC: “the psalmist’s words call us to remember that Jesus was never afraid to call evil what it was or to take a firm stance of condemnation against all its forms. We too must take evil seriously, aligning ourselves with God’s essential character of holiness.”

-That’s where the word “rebelled” is so potent! Any sinful act is an act of rebellion against God. These people are merely following their own advice, which leads them to death. They will follow their own throats to their open grave.

-But not those who realize/acknowledge their need of a Savior!

  • The Righteous Ones (11-12)

-“But” is one of the most significant words in the English language. David used in back in vs. 7. I got in a car accident, but I’m completely fine. The doctor found cancer, but it’s easily removeable. 

-Paul writes about this in Eph. 2. We were once dead, BUT GOD. Comparing is a beautiful thing when one way leads to death and the other to life.

-Our refuge is found only in Jesus. Last week He was described as a shield, this week He is a refuge.

-Scene in the Hobbit when the company is traveling the mountains, middle of a huge rainstorm, mountain giants start fighting, they find refuge.

-If/when you’re struggling, remember that God is your refuge. This is what allows David to rejoice even when your discouraged or persecuted. This is where Paul can remind us in 1 Thess. 5 not just pray without ceasing, but also to rejoice always. BECAUSE

-God blesses the righteous, because of his steadfast love. This gives us the hope we need.

-NIVAC: “Perhaps the most important lesson contemporary humans can take from this psalm is that human hope is grounded in the essential character of God—a character that is constant and does not change regardless of the ebb and flow of human circumstances. The righteous—those who take refuge in God—find hope in God’s holiness both because he is incompatible with evil and because he is relentlessly good”

-He’s not safe, but he’s good!

Amos 9 Sermon Manuscript

What’s Next?
Amos 9

Note: this are the notes I use to preach from, if you’d like to watch the sermon as I preach it, please visit South Suburban’s YouTube page.

-Big themes we’ve seen: 

-concern for the poor/marginalized must be present in our lives 

-historical events don’t determine our current standing

-all the religious practice in the world doesn’t matter 1 ounce unless it’s wedding to moral living as demonstrated by justice and righteousness.

-Pastor Jeramy covered the last 2 visions of destruction last week, how they’re tied together, this week we’ll just look at the last one and how it connects to our future hope

Norwegian rats were tested once to see how long they could keep swimming. Gave up after 15 minutes. But, if they were pulled out and given time to recover they would make it over 40 hours.

-Having hope is unbelievably important. “Deaths of despair” are on the rise (Deaths from over drinking, drug overdose, or suicide)

-As we reach the end of Amos, we need to be reminded where we place our hope, and it’s not anything here on earth! Our hope is seated in heaven, it’s as secure as the empty grave.

-This is why Paul can remind us in Rom. 5 to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

READ
PRAY

  1. The Last Destruction (1-10)

-Need some background/historical understanding to get the picture here.

1 Kings 12:25-13:1

-The first Jeroboam (who led the split of Israel) realized his people needed a place of worship to build national unity/identity. Built 2 centers at Bethel and Dan (north and the south) 

-A month after the feast of booths (looked at that in John 7 “I Am the light of the world”), Jeroboam made an alternative festival and system to replace God’s system. 

-Alex Motyer “The whole thing was a counterfeit: a counterfeit feast on a counterfeit altar to prop up a counterfeit monarchy!”

-In response to the first Jeroboam’s counterfeit claims, God sends “a man of God” to call out his sin.

-Just as the first Jeroboam set up a counterfeit claim, and a man of God is sent call out the sin, now in Amos 9, the second Jeroboam has propped up the same counterfeit claim and God sends another “man of God” to deal with his sin. But this time, it’s both Amos and the Lord.

  1. God’s Omnipresence in Destruction (1-6)

-Just as Jeroboam stood beside the altar in 1 Kings 13, here it’s the Lord

-Meaning most likely in Bethel

-This is a unique vision (7-9 are the visions God gives to Amos) other 4 begin “This is what the Lord God showed me” and God asks Amos a question. This time, there’s no exchange between God and Amos.

-All the intercession Amos has done in the past has disappeared. There’s nothing else Amos can do, God is now sharing what will finally happen to His people, the judgment/destruction that God will allow to take place.

-God has extended grace for long enough. This mockery of a worship center is finally going to be addressed!

-capitals are the top of the temple, thresholds are the bottom

merism – uses 2 extremes to refer to the whole thing (remember that, it’ll come up again in the next verse)

-This would take place during an earthquake, 1:1 “two years before the earthquake.” All these ideas we’ve seen before are coming back around!

-The destruction of the temple would fall upon all the people, and anyone who’s left will be killed “with the sword.” 

-Double emphasis “not one.”

-How comprehensive will this destruction be? How will one escape this judgment?

-Another merism in vs. 2.

-Sheol is the place of the dead (under the earth) Irony here is that they going to where they will be going anyway to try to hide! Don’t want to die? Go hide in a grave!

-Climb up to heaven can’t escape God. Does anyone know of another place where we see that idea? That God is everywhere?

Psalm 139:8 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

-Theme continues in vs. 3

-As Pastor Jeramy mentioned last week, Carmel is the site of a well-known showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Carmel is also one of the highest points in the Israel, and known for its’ thick forests and plethora of caves. 

-Then you’ve got the bottom of the sea! So where vs. 2 emphasized hiding in the spiritual realm, vs. 3 is the physical realm. 

-Again, in vs. 4

-Their captivity will also kill them. Instead of being refining, they will be slaughtered.

-Generally in the OT, God fixing his eyes on them was good! He would deal with their problems. In the Exodus, when God “hears the cries of his people in slavery” when he sends Moses. In this instance, his judgment is falling on them.

-Let’s think of a similar passage, but from the other side of this, that many of us know!

Rom. 8:38-9 “for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-We, or at least I, often go to this verse as a good reminder of my standing before God. But if it’s true of God’s love, it’s also true of God’s perfect justice/judgment 

-Just as we can’t escape God’s love, we can’t escape God’s wrath. Our sin will be dealt with, casting it as far as the east is from the west (i.e. eternal) but our sin still has to be dealt with. All sin leads to death, and thankfully someone died in our place so that our sin now has an expiration date.

-Vs. 5-6 are thought of as a doxological hymn. Begins with a militaristic title “God of hosts.” Then lists out all the ways God’s ways are beyond ours.

-Think of it like this: both my grandparents were farmers in North Dakota. Integral to farming is water. When you drive through the countryside you see random ditches filled with water, pumps, sprinklers all that. We can direct the water in various places, God can call the water out from nothing. He can build a beach and destroy with a single word. God’s power is unstoppable and uncontainable, all we can do is worship Him. 

-Which is how the hymn ends: “The Lord is his name.” We’ve seen that before! 4:135:8. All 3 instances are praise to God as the Creator of everything. We must respond in worship to this God!

-Idea then shifts to God’s people, up to this point, no escaping the judgment.

  • The Shaking of God’s People (7-10)

-One of the most striking features of God’s people throughout history has been God’s unique relationship, care, and concern for them. Israel should have been wiped out by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, the early church should never have gained any traction in the first century!

-Christians were called atheists because they “only” worshipped 1 God, a humiliated carpenter.

-This thinking has led to an elitist mindset among God’s people in Amos’ day. They thought that since God had always provided for them in the past, no matter what happened in the future the same thing would be true! 

-God always keeps His promises, He’s promised to bless His people beginning with Father Abraham all the way back in Gen. 12

-Then comes vs. 7.

-God begins by comparing Israel to the Cushites/Ethiopians. NET- “you Israelites are just like the Ethiopians in my sight.” 

-group of people that lived south of Egypt, another way of saying the ends of the known earth. Israel is really the prime plot of land in ANE, everyone had to go through Israel to get anywhere else, part of the reason the land is so treasured by so many different people groups, even today! 

-Israelites had been depending on the fact that they were God’s “chosen nation” and neglected to pursue justice and righteousness in their lives today. Because they were neglecting current moral/ethical living, God viewed them exactly the same as he viewed the people living at the ends of the earth: the Cushites.

-But he also attacks the single greatest/most memorable event in Israel’s history: the exodus.

-So many references in this book point back to the events of the Exodos, Passover, Nile. That is the moment when God’s people claimed their own rightful place, and the nasty oppressing Egyptians were plundered, both in the Passover and in the Red Sea.

-But God was also behind the exodus of other people groups: specifically the Philistines and the Syrians, 2 of Israel’s bitter enemies. 

-I listened to a really interesting podcast this week where John Walton (OT Prof at Wheaton) addresses apocalyptic literature (Revelation & Daniel) and talks about prophecy not being the best term, because God being sovereign means He’s just telling people what He’s going to do!

-And since God is sovereign, He even rules over the affairs of nations that don’t contain His “chosen people.” Even some nations that are their enemies. 

-Finally get some good news at the end of vs. 8. While previously no one escaped the incoming judgment, now God says that He will not “utterly destroy” them. That’s a relief!

-But there will still be some kind of judgment. 

-There will be some sort of shaking out taking place.

-Colander example.

-God will weed people out, think of Matt. 13, the parable of the weeds growing up with the wheat. At the end of the day the wheat will be separated from the weeds.

-This shaking out will result in the death of all the sinners of His people, those who think they will never see or taste disaster.

-Similar to John the Baptist’s ministry in Matthew 8:7-10. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

-Just as the people in Amos’ day thought they were fine because of their heritage, so people in John/Jesus’ day thought they were fine. 

-Martin Luther’s 95 Theses began “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

-It’s also true today! Growing up in America doesn’t make you a Christian. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Being baptized doesn’t make you a Christian. Instead, what we’re commanded to do is “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Are you bearing that fruit?

-Throughout this book we’ve seen the fruit of what’s coming. Because people are being used and abused, because people are not being obedient to worship God rightly, because they are presuming upon God’s mercy, they will be severely judged. But that’s not the end of the story.

-This is where we need to know about our sin before we can get to the good news of the gospel message! Most people think they’re not actually that bad, and until you realize how bad you really are, you’ll never realize your need for a Savior!

-Expressive individualism is the predominant theme today. Summed up as “you be you” or “be true to yourself.” Or “My truth.” So what do we do when our expressive individualism runs into contradiction with someone else’s expression of their individualism? Our culture today says “Cancel!” Christ says “confess.” Then when we’ve confessed our need to stop pursuing our own individualistic expressions, then we can have life, and life abundantly.

-What does that look like?

  • Everything is Restored (11-15)

-Significant shift between vs. 10-11. We go from lots of destruction to “in that day” and a long list of really good things happening, just as Amos is prone to do, it’s 5 things: the king, the nations, the earth, the people, and the land.

-First, the king. God raises up “the booth of David that is fallen.” 

-Weird phrase, generally the house of David. Could be referring to the fake “feast of booths” that Jeroboam enacted back in 1 Kings 12.

-In the feast of booths, the king acted out his mediating role between God and the people, so once again God’s people would have a king like David who perfectly mediated on their behalf. That which David overseers would be repairs, raised up, and rebuilt, that is everything will be restored! 

-Second, the nations.

-The Messianic hope is not just for Israel, but for everyone. Edom here is standing in for all peoples. The remaining remnant (after the shaking out we saw in vs. 9) will join with God’s people.

-Think of God’s promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:3 “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s plan has always been to bless the entire world! We’re not on plan B, C, D, everything that’s going on is part of God’s plan A.

-When does this happen? James (Jesus’ half-brother) actually quotes this in Acts 15:16-17 as a reminder to the early Apostles that it has been God’s plan from eternity past to bring all nations to himself! 

-Third, the earth.

-Where previously the earth has been stricken by famine, locusts, now the earth will produce in abundance.

-First the plowman will overtake the reaper. That is, those who are prepping next year’s seeds will run into the people who are still taking out last year’s crops. They’ll be so bountiful they won’t be able to harvest it all!

-Then the treader of grapes will overtake the one who seeds it. Grapes were used to make wine, people would tread, step on, the grapes to get the juice out. In this case, the time from seeding to harvesting is so small, the planters won’t be able to keep ahead of the growing grapes. Could you imagine dropping a seed in the ground, and instantly it’s producing fruit? 

-But that’s not all! The grapes will be so productive that the mountains and hills will be overrun with their wine! Those are some productive grapes!

-This is the culmination of what we see in Romans 8:20-21 that an implication of the Fall is that even the creation was broken. The planting and harvesting that was supposed to be easy now takes work! The soil that should have been easy to till is now filled with rocks and clay.

-Fourth, the people.

-This is picking up a theme we say in 5:11 where the people would build houses but NOT dwell in then, and plant vineyards but NOT drink the wine because of their transgressions.

-This time, everything they work for will bear fruit!

-Lastly, the land.

-The land from which they would be led out in exile would be returned to them. And this time they’ll possess it forever!

-These passages are in the Bible to point us to where we’re commanded to place our hope. Heb. 6:19 “we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”

-As I mentioned before, it seems that people either fixate or forget about the end times, but God has called us to do neither! God has called us to use the hope of our future home as the motivation for faithful living today. We can’t change the past or the future, but we can (and must) be faithful today.

-We also need this reminder in the midst of our suffering/difficulty. Think of some of our brothers and sisters in the faith living in a place like India right now. Or China. Or North Korea. Or Iran. When they come read a passage like this it gives them the motivation they need to remember that this world is not our home. As they face the daily threat of loss of home, of job, even of life, they can place their hope that death isn’t the end.

-But we need that reminder too, because I think we’re often too ready/willing to plant ourselves firmly here in the midst of our comforts and earthly possessions instead of living to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done right here and now, just like it’s being done in heaven.

-And that’s the tension we currently live in! God has tasked us with caring for his creation here and now, but not to put our entire hope/confidence in it. That’s where we get busy loving and caring for the people God places in our life and in our body, the church, so that we can together see God honored and glorified as we do our best to remain faithful each and every day until that day when Jesus comes back.

-Just as I read at the beginning, I’m going to end reading Rom. 5 “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

June 26 Devotional

This week’s message we’ll be backing up and covering what we didn’t cover last week! Luke 9:1-9:
 
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.
 
This is the first time we see Jesus sending out his disciples as his ambassadors, charged with both representing him to the world and carrying out his ministry of healing. Think of how the disciples would have felt! They’d been with Jesus seeing him perform these miracles for a while now, and now it was their turn! Think back to when you got your driver’s license! Did you sense the immense privilege that came with that? You suddenly had the ability to go anywhere you wanted! At least as long as your parents would let you! This is a bit like what the disciples would have felt here. The training wheels were coming up and there was a new found freedom, a slight taste of what would be coming after Jesus’ resurrection. And even in the midst of their journey, Jesus would need to continue providing for them, as the only thing they were to take was the clothes on their backs. Talk about walking by faith! As they go on their way, Luke says they preached the gospel and healed. That’s a good description of what we’re called to today! We’re called to preach the gospel, and do our best to help take care of those within our sphere of influence. 
 
After giving us the story of the disciple’s first missionary journey, Luke then focuses in on one person’s response. Herod. Well, one of the Herods! This is during the time of the “Herodian dynasty” which was a bit like a soap opera! This is the same Herod who beheaded Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist in a fit of lustful exuberance. As Jesus’ fame spread, eventually word reaches Herod’s ears that there’s something unique about this Jesus guy. Some said that he was John raised from the dead, others thought Elijah had returned to usher in the new reign, or maybe even one of the other lowly prophets had come back. Because of this notoriety, John was intrigued enough to the point that he tried to go see Jesus. Some scholars think this is part of the reason Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee in the next verse to go to Bethsaida. Either way, one thing for us to take away from this is the need for us to live lives that are different so that others will see our changed lives and ask questions about why we are the way we are (1 Peter 3:15). 
 
SONG:
We’re going to go with a throwback song today with some old school Lecrae from my high school days! This song is called ‘Send Me’ you can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.

June 24 Devotional

We’ll be continuing Hebrews today looking at Hebrews 3:7-19:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Continuing to build upon his theme here, the author is reminding us to hold fast to our hope in Christ. He begins by quoting from Psalm 95, which every Jew would have known! It served as the call to worship every Sabbath gathering the Jews met in the synagogues. This was the reminder to don’t just become numb or callous to God’s Word, instead take it in, meditate upon it, let it soak and saturate your entire life. The warning that served the nation of Israel is just as important for us today! Do not harden your hearts in response to God’s Word, do not put Him to the test, instead remember that God is perfectly just, and we should do our best to keep short accounts with Him. James picks up this idea in James 4:17 where he says “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This is another way of saying the same thing the author of Hebrews is saying.
 
The author then uses this well known call to worship to exhort his congregation to not be like the people of God in the past! This is part of the reason we need to regularly gather together as God’s people! The author here is commanded us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ’today.’” That is, we should seek to be encouraging each other on in our faith, as the author of Hebrews reminds us later “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).  This is yet another reminder that when we are called as believers, we are called into a community. There are both individual and communal aspects to our salvation, and we cannot neglect either of them! We must do our best individually to follow Christ, but we cannot do it alone, we need to look for opportunities to encourage others to be obedient in their faith.
SONG:
Today’s song is a Sovereign Grace song titled ’Not in Me’ you can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.

June 22 Devotional

Happy Monday! We’ll be looking at Psalm 10 today:
 
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
    let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
    as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
   he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
    he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down,
    and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
    forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God
    and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
    that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
    you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    call his wickedness to account till you find none.
The Lord is king forever and ever;
    the nations perish from his land.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
 
Do you find it funny that anytime a disaster strikes people begin to ask “where is God?” I distinctly remember September 12, 2001 when it seemed that every newspaper headline had that question as their lead article. This Psalm is asking that exact same question. But the author here has come to a different conclusion than The Beatles who said “When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” The Psalmist isn’t content to just “let it be” everything within him cries out for justice! He is asking God to uphold his promise to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Specifically, the Psalmist is comparing the way of the wicked. Many times it seems like they get away with their evil schemes! They seek to take advantage of the oppressed and marginalized and in the midst of that they are renouncing God. As D.A. Carson has said they have de-godded God himself, committing idolatry, putting themselves in the place of God.
 
But God doesn’t just sit back and let evildoers get away with it, and the Psalmist knows this to be true! So he begs God to arise and don’t forget those who are opposed and afflicted! God sees everything that takes place and will being people to justice. Those who have no one else to care for them can look to God as the perfect Heavenly Father to care for them in spite of the evildoers who are continually trying to take advantage of them. And that’s the hope we have in this life. The Psalmist says “The Lord is king forever and ever, the nations perish from his land.” Because God’s throne is unceasing and unfailing, we know our outcome is secure. No matter what evil is done to us on earth we know God will execute His perfect judgment at His perfect time when He returns to judge the living and the dead.
 
SONG:
Today’s song is a cover song by the band The Digital Age called ‘Break Every Chain’ you can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.

June 19 Devotional

Happy Juneteenth! We’ll be skipping ahead just a little bit in our sermon passage this week, and looking at the feeding of the 5,000 in Luke 9:10-17:
 
On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
 
This takes place right after the disciples have gone on their first missionary journey apart from Jesus. He has sent them out to preach the good news and heal people, and they have just returned, so Jesus decides they need a break. But his notoriety is spreading so that break is not to be had! As soon as they get to their vacation destination they see a crowd in front of them. Thankfully Jesus is more patient than many of us, and he welcomes them and heals many of them. Because Jesus is a preacher, he preaches a long time! And the day gets away from him, so his disciples exhort him to send everyone away to find food and lodging. But Jesus turns this in to a teaching moment. So often as we read these passages we have a tendency to jump immediately to application to our lives today, but how do you think the disciples would have interpreted everything Jesus is doing? In John’s account of this he even explicitly says that Jesus is asking his disciples about this to test them. 
 
What conclusions do the disciples come up with? They see 2 options that are solely based on what they can do. Who do they forget to ask? JESUS! The guy who has given them more fish in one cast of the net than they’d ever caught before! Yet even despite them not asking him for help, he still answers their unrequested prayer. Once again, Jesus has proven that he is Jehovah Jireh the provider. Just as God has continually provided for his people throughout the entire Bible, He continues providing for them here. The question for us is: do we really believe that God will provide everything we need? Or do we presume upon Him and refuse to acknowledge our dependance and need for Him to continue providing everything we need? This is the heart of the gospel message! God has provided an over abundance to us through the death of His one and only Son. Do we see that?
 
SONG:
Today’s song is by Citizens, one of my favorite bands writing slightly different songs for the church to sing! This song is called ‘Light of Your Grace’ and you can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.