Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!

Introduction

The last time I taught, it was from the Book of Jonah. I really enjoyed studying it, there is a plot, a life lesson, historical significance, miracles, and fishing lessons.

But Psalms is usually hard for me. I read today’s scripture and thought, “It’s a book about praise.  How am I going to find a complete lesson here?  There’s no plot, no life lesson, just praise.”

As usual, though, when I sit down to truly study the Word, I find out it’s not all about me.  I have to learn that lesson almost every week, and you’d think I’d catch on.  It’s never about me. It’s always about the Lord.

Today’s scripture is only 6 verses long. Not a single person is mentioned, no historical cities, no leaders or kings, no narrative, no character conflict. Let’s begin with a simple reading, and then, during our study today, we will see where we are led. Psalm 150, and let’s read it together:

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
   praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
   praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
   praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
   praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

This Psalm is the final Psalm in the book of Psalms. Psalms addresses our joys and our sorrows, our tears and our trials, our pains and our pleasures. Our life is full of difficulties that our Lord knows full well. Just like in the book of Revelation that tells us at the end of time we will all be praising the Lord, the book of Psalms ends with praise, because of and despite our joys and sorrows. Psalm 150 is the final Psalm, full of praise and hallelujahs, and inspires to mobilizes us and all of creation to praise the Lord God. It’s a crescendo, a peak, the final Psalm that implores us to give unreserved adoration, praise, gratitude, and awe.   There are no reasons given.   There are no reasons needed.

We have some luxury of time to spend in our chapter today since it’s only 6 verses, so we’re going to study each verse one by one, because I believe we have much to learn about praise from Psalm 150.

Psalm 150:1a, Praise the Lord

Let’s start with the verse 1, “Praise the Lord,” but let’s switch to Hebrew for a moment, because oddly enough we’re going to spend a lot of time just on the first word of this Psalm. The first word is “הַלְלוּ יָהּ”and I understand if you don’t recognize it at first, but you will. It’s made up of two parts –

      • הָלַל, pronounced “halal.” This is a verb which means “praise”, but it has several other meanings that illustrate what praise is. It also means to shine, to flash forth light, to be boastful, and to act madly like a fool. In other words, go all out, give it everything you have.
      • יָהּ, pronounced “Yahh.”       This is a contraction, a shortened version of “Jehovah,” the proper name of the one true God, the name revealed to Moses at the burning bush.

If we put these two words together, it means “praise the Lord,” just like we read from Psalm 150:1.   But let’s pronounce the Hebrew words and see if you recognize it. “Halal Yahh”. That’s right, the word is Halleluiah.

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Halleluiah, praise the Lord madly with all abandon, with everything we have. Halleluiah, for the Lord God is on His throne.   Halleluiah, for the Lord God reigns forever and ever. This phrase “Halleluiah” is used only 24 times in the Old Testament and they are all in the book of Psalms 104-150, and two of those Halleluiahs are in our study verses for today. And “halleluiah” is used three times in the New Testament, all in Revelation 19, and we’ll get to that in a little while. And “halleluiah” is used 145 times in Handel’s Messiah.

One of those translations of “halal” was to shine, to flash forth light. When Diane and I were first married, we took a honeymoon trip that included a day trip to an unusual place. My outfit that day was a swimsuit, hiking boots, a hardhat, an inner tube, and a flashlight. Sadly, I have no pictures of that outfit.

We put the hiking boots and flashlight in a plastic bag, then sat in the innertube and floated down a river that entered the mouth of a cave. We exited the river, put on our hiking boots, hardhat and flashlight, and hiked into the cave.

Deep in the cave, we entered a large cavern, and the guide had all of us turn our flashlights off.   I’ve never been in such pitch-black darkness. The phrase “can’t see my hand in front of my face” was literally true. There was nothing.

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Genesis 1, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”. The guide turned on his flashlight and it was blinding. And wherever the flashlight shone, that’s where you looked, because you could not see if you looked anywhere else.

Halleluiah, shine a light on the Lord, fix our eyes on our Creator, for He alone is worthy.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.   Even if our circumstances are pitch-black, praise the Lord and shine our light on Him. Shine a light on the One who created light. Shine a light on the One who will never leave you or forsake you. Shine a light on the One who knew you in your mother’s womb. Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

So here I am, thinking I’m going to have trouble putting together a lesson from the book of Psalms, and 10 minutes into the lesson and we’re not even past the first word.   Halleluiah, the Lord God provides according to His mercies. Let us move on to the second word because at this rate this is a 2 hour lesson.

Psalm 150:1b, Praise Him in His Sanctuary

Verse 1,

Praise God in his sanctuary;

   praise him in his mighty heavens.

After the “Halleluiah,” each verse begins with a command, an imperative, to “Praise Him” for very specific things, beginning with His sanctuary and His mighty heavens.

His sanctuary then (and now!) was a specific place of worship that people could go to praise the LORD with other people. It was a corporate place of worship. They would hear scripture read from the scrolls, they would offer sacrifices and offerings. They would sing songs and pray. They came together as a community of believers to worship and praise God, not unlike what we do today in churches around the world.

The church is a place where we shine a light on the LORD. Sometimes I hear people might complain about a church, “Oh, I didn’t get anything from that sermon,” and we’re missing the point. It’s not about us. We gather to shine our light on the Lord.

We do it through bible study classes, we do it through worship services with choirs and orchestras and praise teams leading us in songs. We do it through the preaching of the bible. We do it through the giving of tithes and offerings.   We do it through baptism. We do it through prayer. We do it through coming forward to join the church to be part of this particular community of believers at this church. Each weekend when we come to this place for worship and bible study, we are living out Psalm 150:1.

But the next verse says to Praise the LORD in “His mighty heavens.” Other translations say “mighty expanse” or “mighty firmament.”   When we started this journey this year of studying the bible chronologically, we started with Genesis 1:1,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God created everything we see when you look up into the sky. The sun, the moon, the stars; the vastness of the universe. God also created what you see when you look around and down at the earth. The mountains, the trees, the flowers, the plants, the animals, the oceans, the ground, the vastness of planet earth.   We are to shine a light on the LORD both in His sanctuary and in the vastness of creation.

David said it best in Psalm 8:1-3,

Lord, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
   in the heavens.

When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place.

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I love the ocean and the beach, it is spectacular. The vastness of the water, the unrelenting waves, the movement of ocean as it comes up to the sand on the beach and then recedes.

I also love the mountains, how they reach up to the heavens as far as I can see.

I love the plains of Texas, the flatness merging into the hill country. I love summer nights in west Texas where the sky is so black and you can see the milky way and the billions of stars and the moon and even some planets that can be seen with the naked eye. David knew this was a great opportunity for us to consider the Heavens of God, the work of His fingers that He has set in place.

Psalm 150:2, Praise Him for His Power

The first verse of Psalm 150 tells us where to Praise Him – in church and everywhere – and then the second verse tells us what to praise Him for.

Praise him for his acts of power;

   praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise Him for His mighty acts, which we saw over and over in the Old Testament. His mighty acts go far beyond just speaking the world into existence.

The mighty acts of God are not based on size or spectacular grandeur. The flood was definitely a mighty act. But the mighty act of the water receding and a rainbow in the sky to mark a covenant never to flood the earth again was a mighty act greater than the flood itself.

Taking a man named Abram who could not have a child with his wife Sara and making a covenant with him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars was the beginning of a mighty act. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham and He became not only a Father of a Nation, but the Patriarch of all Patriarchs. God would forever be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; 3 generations that began with a mighty act of God.

The 10 plagues of the Exodus Era were mighty acts of God that even Pharaoh couldn’t deny.   The parting of the Red Sea was a mighty act. The Lord broke down the walls of Jericho, gave water from the rock through Moses, delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, brought down fire on Elijah’s sacrifice, and sent chariots of fire to protect Elisha. And God provides rain from heaven and our daily bread and even the very air we breathe.

But we know the mightiest act of all was God sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to live a perfect, sinless life on this earth as a human being. Jesus gave His life on the cross, crucified to death for our sin, buried in a tomb. And then three days later Jesus rises from the dead, conquering sin and death. And He did this so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the mighty act of God based on His love for us. It is a mighty act when God takes sinful, rebellious, complacent people and saves them unto Himself.

Beyond the mighty acts of what God has done, we are to Praise Him for His “excellent greatness.”

Sometimes we can be so focused on the acts of God, we forget about the character of God.

The excellent greatness of God is unsurpassed. We Praise Him for His sovereignty, His unchanging nature, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His power, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His kindness, His holiness, His faithfulness, His justice, His wisdom, and on and on and on.

He is great because He rules as sovereign over the universe. He is so sovereign that He can give people free choices and still retain full sovereignty. He is good; in fact, He is the good of the universe.   He is wise; His wisdom is so high that no one can even grasp His thoughts. He is merciful and just, kind and loving, gracious and tender, yet at the same time holy, just, and the judge of all humanity. His “excellent greatness” deserves praise from all His creation. There is nothing and no one that compares to God’s greatness.   David summed it up this way in Psalm 40:5 –

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

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Sometimes in our lives, our prayers, our thoughts we tend to focus on what God wants us to do and what we want God to do. Psalm 150 calls us to praise Him regardless, just because of who He is.

We have looked at where to praise, what to Praise, and now let’s look at how to praise in verse 3.

Psalm 150:3-5, Praise Him with Music

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

   praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

   praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

   praise him with resounding cymbals.

Throughout scripture, music is an integral part of praise and worship. When Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the first thing that they did was sing a song, Exodus 15:1-2 –

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

 

Slide15.JPGMany times, in the Psalms it says to sing to the Lord, though in Psalm 150 it is all about the instruments. Trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals. I like to think the euphonium would be included.

The musical instruments listed also had historical significance and carried memories, devotion and purpose. For instance, trumpets announced sacrifices in Jerusalem. Trumpets called people to worship. Trumpets announced the entrance of a King.

The tambourine and dance were a celebration of joy. Dancing to the tambourine was a way to celebrate the freedom, joy and happiness of who the Lord is and what He has done.

The cymbals are a sign of exaltation. It is like an exclamation point. The cymbals are even listed twice in verse 5.

Ultimately, praise is not about the instruments, it is about the heart. It is an expression of what is going on in your heart, mind, soul and spirit. Some people praise the Lord through song, through instruments, through writing, through artwork, through serving others, through prayer; there are countless ways to Praise the LORD.

Psalm 150:6, Let Everyone Praise Him

So far, we have seen where to Praise, what to Praise, how to Praise and finally, now we are going to see who does the praising in verse 6.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

If you are breathing, praise the LORD.

Regardless of circumstances, relationships, achievements, bank accounts, or anything else that would be temporary, praise the Lord.

Praise is the attribute of God’s people, but praise is the responsibility of every created being in the universe. God is seeking worshipers who will “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” God calls all nations to praise Him and to look to Him for their salvation. He is worthy of the praises of all people everywhere. When the apostle Paul defends his missionary ministry to the Gentiles in Romans 15:11, he quotes Psalm 117:1 to demonstrate that God is seeking praise from all nations.

“And again: ‘Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles Laud Him, all you peoples,’”

One motive for missionary trips is to bring praise to God from all the nations. Praise from every nation will come to pass; John’s vision in the book of the Revelation 5:9 reveals a song sung by people redeemed “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They join with the angels and the elders in Revelation 5:12 to sing heaven’s sweetest song:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

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God created everything to bring Him praise and commands everything that has breath to praise Him. One day Balaam’s donkey will praise the LORD; one day the great fish who swallowed Jonah will praise the LORD; one day the lions who refused to eat Daniel will praise the LORD. In fact, in Revelation 5:13, John writes,

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever’.”

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Conclusion

Psalm 150 ends just as it began: “Hallelujah.” Praise the Lord. Ten times we are commanded to praise Him who sits upon the throne. Praise Him all the time and everywhere and with all we have.   God alone is worthy of this praise.

I learned a lot from Psalm 150 today. I’ve learned to embrace the beauty and the imperative of praising my Creator.   There is beauty found in this simplicity. This Psalm is absolutely timeless and a great reminder that whatever we are going through today, this Psalm comes at the right time. Whatever challenges we might have personally or with a family member, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are having difficulty at work or perhaps finding a job, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are one of the few where everything is going exactly right in your life on every level without a care in the world, this Psalm comes at the right time.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

We end today’s study in Revelation 19:6-7a, the only place in the New Testament that uses the word Halleluiah:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
   and give him glory!

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Amen and Halleluiah, praise the Lord almighty.

To God be the glory.

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Blessings for Those Who Fear the Lord

I. Introduction
I want you to think back, remember yourself at a young age.

Who or what did you want to be when you grew up?

What qualities of that person or job did you like that attracted you?

Do you still sometimes think of what it would be like to be that person?

Our lesson today is from Psalm 128, and we’re going to study about growing up in the Lord.

II. Psalm 128
First, let’s take apart our scripture. When I study scripture, I heard a simple three step process that really helps me understand life applications from the bible.

First, what does the bible say? Word for word, understand what the bible stays, who it’s being said to, why it’s being said, basically, read it and understand the context.

Second, what does the text mean? Sometimes, like in the parables, it’s very easy to see that the verse says one thing but means something different. The scripture on sowing seed on rocky soil is not necessarily instruction on agriculture and how to manage a successful farm. The scripture on the adulterous woman is not instruction on how to throw rocks. The verse says one thing and means something more.

Third, what the text mean to me? God placed these words in the bible and now I’m reading them. What does God want me to understand? How should it affect me? How should this scripture change me?

Psalm 128 is only 6 verses, so let’s see first what it says.

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.

4 Thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.

5 May the LORD bless you from Zion
all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,

6 and may you live to see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that this Psalm is often taught during Father’s Day. Most of the commentaries I read on this Psalm focus on the obvious, what it means to be a family man, a father, and how to raise a family that pleases God.

Our class has a couple of fathers, but there’s a bigger picture here that applies to all of us. First, let’s talk about what the scripture says, and we’ll spend most of the lesson on just the first 2 verses, so don’t panic if we’re still on verse 2 when 12 o’clock rolls around.

III. Blessed are all who fear the Lord
Blessed. The Hebrew word for this can be translated as “happy,” and it’s not as easy to understand as we might think. Does God want us to be happy? Of course He does, who wants to see their children unhappy? But it’s not the same happiness that the world might teach us. The world teaches us that it’s our happiness that’s most important, and we should seek happiness. Buy this and it will make you happy. Drink that and it will make you happy. If your spouse or your family or your friend makes you unhappy, you should leave them, because it’s your happiness that’s most important.

But God doesn’t tell us to do that. God doesn’t tell us to seek our own happiness as a goal. Rather, happiness is a reward for living His way. I can tell you this – the times in my life I spent seeking happiness, I didn’t find it. I found a whole range of other emotions – shame, depression, unhappiness. Many years ago I divorced my wife; I was unhappy at the time and I believed divorcing her would make me happy, or at least happier. I found no happiness there, nor have I found happiness in any place other than living righteously by the word of God. And believe me, I’ve looked in enough other places to know that happiness isn’t something you can seek.

This verse says this happiness is available to all who fear the Lord. Are you happy? If a follower of Christ says there is no happiness in their life, what advice could you offer?

James 4:9 says “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” And Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Is it wrong to mourn and weep?

Weeping, mourning, sadness are an integral part of our lives, and it’s healthy to weep and cry. The shortest verse in the bible is John 11:35, after Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazaras, “Jesus wept.” But we find ultimate happiness in the Good News of Christ, that our sins have been paid in full. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

This blessing of happiness isn’t reserved for a select few, but it is available to everybody. I don’t know about you, but I’m comforted by the fact that others struggle with life just as I do, that I haven’t been singled out somehow for mistreatment. As people, there are very few statements we can make that apply to everyone. Sometimes I hear, “Take all things in moderation,” and I always think, “whoa, *all* things? Let’s not go overboard here.” Romans 3:23 was an integral part of my Christian walk because I once felt that I had made so many mistakes that somehow I was damaged goods, that I understood if God no longer wanted me. But Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I realized that my feelings were not unique and recognizing that I’m a sinner was important to understanding God’s grace.

Same thing here; God says that all those who fear Him are happy. Fear and happiness aren’t usually two things that go together in my head. “Hey I saw Friday the 13th Part 30 last night and scared me so bad I’m happy.” So even though scripture says “fear,” what does scripture mean by “fear?” We’ve talked about this a lot the last several weeks about the fear of the Lord.

There’s a passage in the book, The Chronicles of Narnia, that illustrates this very well. Mrs. Beaver is describing Aslan, the Christ figure in the book.

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly,” said Mrs. Beaver.

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

A healthy respect of fear for the Lord recognizes the awesome power of the Lord. But the Bible is clear, though, that we can approach God in His love and mercy. The fear of the Lord is the recognition that God has the ability and the right to punish us for our transgressions. Fortunately for us, the mercy of the Lord saves those who place their faith in Him; in Luke 1:50, Mary says, “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” But we should never forget that God’s mercy, God’s blessings, are extended to those who acknowledge the sovereignty and holiness of the Lord God almighty.

So we’ve read, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.” We’ve understand it to mean that the Lord grants happiness to those who acknowledge Him in all they do. Let’s bring it to a very personal level. What does it mean to me? What does God want specifically from you and from me?

That’s something only you and I can answer to God. G.K. Chesterton, the English author, once wrote, “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.” Psalm 128 reminds me that my fear of God should extend to all areas of my life, not just to bible study or church, but to my family and my office and anywhere I may go. G.K. Chesterton also once wrote, “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

IV. You will eat the fruit of your labor
Verse 2 of Psalm 128 describes this happiness that God provides. “You will eat the fruit of your labor.” How many think this is instruction to eat organic food?

The Psalmist is explaining the reason for the happiness in verse 1. It’s a positive reinforcement of Galatians 6:7-8 –

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

I wish we had time to study all the nuances of reaping and sowing. I found a great article called The Seven Laws of the Harvest that discusses reaping and sowing from a biblical view. Here’s the list of the Seven Laws:

  • Law #1, we reap only what has been sown. The sower may be us, it may be others before us, it may be God who has sown on our behalf. We reap the good that others have sown, we reap the bad, too.
  • Law #2, We reap the same in kind as we sow. If you sow watermelon seeds, you reep watermelon seeds. If you sow selfishness, you reap selfishness. If you sow anger, you reap anger.
  • Law #3, we reap in a different season than we sow. Many believers sow wild oats all week and then on Sunday pray for crop failure. What we sow, we reap in the future.
  • Law #4, we reap more than we sow. Seeds bring forth entire crops.
  • Law #5, we reap in proportion to what we sow. If we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. Abundant seed grows abundant crops.
  • Law #6, we reap the full harvest of good only if we persevere. Evil comes to harvest on it’s own.
  • Law #7, we can’t do anything about last year’s harvest, but we can about this year’s.

We usually think of reaping and sowing from a negative sense, but Psalm 128:2 says our happiness comes from what we sow.

Ephesians 5:15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We reap only what has been sown; either from what we have sown or what those before us have sown. The biggest positive is that we are reaping what God has sown on our behalf, the blessings of salvation and grace and Jesus Christ and all the believers in this world that have passed the message of the gospel to us over the ages. Likewise, the choices we make today will have far reaching consequences. If we are sowing good seed of sharing the Word and loving our neighbors, we will reap the benefits of those choices.

It’s important to realize there is no middle ground. Our time is a gift given to us by the Lord, and we sow with every minute. Are we using those minutes wisely? With every passing minute we are sowing. And if we choose to ignore the world around us, focus on our own pleasures, our own hobbies, our own entertainment, those are minutes not sown productively. In my own life, I’ve learned something of this principle. I like time alone occasionally. But time alone is not sowing seeds. Psalm 128 specifically talks to fathers and husbands to spend appropriate time with family. By myself, I enjoy reading the news, financial websites, and playing games. But I must always be mindful that the most productive seed I personally can sow revolves around my wife, around my family, around my church, around my job. Watching a funny video on Youtube sows no productive seeds. We are either sowing, or we’re letting the seeds go unsown.

And reaping productive seeds in accordance with God’s will brings blessings and happiness, happiness that eludes us if we’re seeking it for our own pleasure. I can read a book; I am entertained. I can read a Christian book, I grow. I can read the bible, and God will speak to me. Which sows the better seed?

I can play a video game, I am entertained. I can play a board game with my spouse, we grow together. Which sows the better seed?

We always have the option of choosing the better choice. What are you reaping now, what is the biggest joy in your life, and what was sown to make that happen?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8,

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

V. Conclusion
So, now we’re all adults, it doesn’t mean we’re done growing. Now who do you want to be when you grow up? And what sort of seed should you be sowing?

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Trust in the Lord

I. Introduction

Do you ever get discouraged? What situation have you been in that discouraged you? (Job loss, health issues, family matters). I’ve told you that I’ve been saying goodbye to co-workers lately. They stop by my office, shake my hand, say it’s been nice working together, and do I know anybody that’s hiring. As hard as it is to say goodbye, it pales next to being the person that’s leaving the company. I know, I’ve been there.

How do you manage during difficult times? As a church and as a class, we teach reliance on the Lord through good times and bad, but how do you do that when you’re wondering where God is in your life. He made promises to his people, didn’t He? Well, where is He?

We’re going to study Psalm 125 today and see how the Lord provides strength in troubled times. Psalm 125 addresses the discouragement God’s people have when wicked people are in charge over righteous people and it seems like God is not at work.

II. Trust in the Lord

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forevermore.

The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.

But those who turn to crooked ways the LORD will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel.

Let’s put aside our own discouragements for a while and see who is making this lament. Most commentators believe this Psalm was written in the time of Nehemiah, between 445 and 420 BC. The Babylonians occupied Jerusalem, and the evil rulers allied themselves with influential Jewish leaders. The righteous people, therefore, were rules by both corrupt leaders from both outside and inside their faith.

Psalm 125 helps us to put ourselves in perspective to God’s plan and helps us understand how God deals with both righteous and unrighteous people at the same time.

Verse 1 begins, “Those who trust in the Lord.” The Old Testament describes several ways we can relate to the Lord. We are to fear Him, to acknowledge God has the ability and the justification to punish us for our sins. We are to love Him, to understand His mercy and grace saves us, and we become His children. We are to know Him, to become personally intimate with the Lord and all He will teach us if we seek Him. And we are to trust Him, to understand that whatever our circumstances, He is in control.

Scripture has a lot to say about trusting in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” What does it mean to trust God?

Do we trust the Lord only in good times? If we are struggling with circumstances, is that reason to stop trusting in Him?

Louisa Stead, in the late 1800’s, along with her husband and daughter were enjoying the beach at Long Island, New York, when they heard a young boy calling for help. Louisa’s husband tried to rescue the boy, but the panicked boy dragged Mr. Stead under water. Both drowned. Louisa and her daughter were left without a husband or a father. In her grief, she penned the words,

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Louisa Stead and her daughter became missionaries to South Africa and died in 1917. Out of a early tragedy in her life, Louisa Stead learned to put all her trust in the Lord, no matter what happens.

It is the Lord’s will that we place our trust in Him. John 14:1-3, Jesus says,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

In the book The Peacemaker, a Christian guide to resolving personal conflict, there is this wonderful instruction regarding trusting in the Lord:

“Trusting God does not mean that we will never have questions, doubts, or fears. We cannot simply turn off the natural thoughts and feelings that arise when we face difficult circumstances. Trusting God means that in spite of our questions, doubts, and fears we draw on his grace and continue to believe that he is loving, that he is in control, and that he is always working for our good. Such trust helps us to continue doing what is good and right, even in difficult times.”

III. The Lord Protects

Psalm 125:1-2 says that God’s people, those that place their trust in Him, are like Mount Zion, and God is like the mountains that surround it. Mount Zion is a relatively small hill in Jerusalem and it is surrounded by much higher mountains. Travelers that approach Jerusalem must pass through mountains, and until they cross the mountains, they cannot even see Mount Zion.

Just like the Lord surrounds us. We are not in a prison; we can easily leave the protection of the Lord. But when we are in His will, we are protected by the same mountains, and the troubles that come into our lives are only those troubles permitted by the Lord.

Why is this important to us? It means that whatever is going on in our lives, God has allowed it, God remains our protector, and even in our current difficulties, God is still protecting us from troubles we are not even aware of. He surrounds us and protects us.

In the time of Nehemiah when this Psalm was written, the Lord permitted Jerusalem to be overrun by the Babylonians. Why? Jerusalem had given in to sinful ways; the Lord desired something better for them. I’m always reminded of the prophet Habakkuk. Read chapter 1 sometime – Habakkuk cries out to the Lord, “why do I have to look at all this injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? The wicked rule the righteous.” And the Lord answers, “I’m going to do something amazing – I’m raising up the wicked Babylonians to crush Jerusalem.” And Habakkuk is like, “Wait… what?”

The Old Testament shows Israel’s relationship to the Lord, and it mirrors our own relationship to God. Israel repeatedly sinned against the Lord, through pride, stubbornness, disobedience, and ungratefulness. Sin must be defeated; defeat leads to repentance. Repentance leads to deliverance. But deliverance makes us lazy and take our God for granted, and we return to sin.

Sin –> Defeat –> Repentance –> Deliverance –> Sin

What the Old Testament makes clear is that the Lord uses evil to crush evil. The Babylonians overran Jerusalem, but God will not allow evil to triumph. Look at verse 3; “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.” The “scepter of the wicked” is the rule of evil over the land of righteous; the Lord is aware that this must be temporary, lest the righteous be either tempted or forced to do evil.

In the Lord’s perfect timing, He will judge perfectly. Verse 4 says that the Lord will do good to the upright in heart, verse 5 says that the Lord will banish the evil. This may happen in our lives; this may happen in the end of time. Either way, the Lord is in control.

IV. Conclusion

So, how do we apply this to our lives? When evil people seem to be in control, should we be discouraged? No, remember that our trials are given to us for a purpose. The Lord allows trials in our lives. Sometimes the trials are small – I have a leaky refrigerator this week. Sometimes they are big, like the loss of a job. And sometimes they seem overwhelming, like the loss of a child or a parent.

God is in control, but He allows us to experience trials because He is far more concerned with our character than he is about our job. The trials, whether we understand them or not, are designed by God to mold us into the person He wants us to be. We have the choice to struggle, or we can learn to trust the One who molds us.

What do we learn from trials?

• Faith. Trials purify and strengthen our faith for His glory. 1 Peter 1:6-7 –

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

• Patience. Trials develop our patience. James 1:2-4 –

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

• Trials teach us obedience to God’s Word. Psalm 119:71-72 –

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

• Trials teach us discipline. Hebrews 12:5-6 –

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

• Trials sanctify us. Hebrews 12:10-11 –

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

• Trials teach us important lessons. Deuteronomy 8:2-5 –

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

• Trials teach us humility, especially if we don’t know why we have trials. It makes us realize who we are before God. Romans 11:33-36 –

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

• And it teaches us to trust on God. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 –

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Yes, that’s right. We trust God to protect us, and He allows trials to strengthen that trust.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give thanks to God for trials in my life. Trials are unpleasant, serious, traumatic, life-changing. But we can learn to give thanks to God for the character He is developing in us through the trials He brings. For the Lord is our protection and He wants us to learn to place our trust in Him.

Security in God

I. Introduction

I visited a coworker in the hospital this weekend. He told me he was at home watching tv when the doorbell rang. When he opened the door, there was a 6 foot cockroach standing there. Before he could say anything, the cockroach punched in the stomach and ran off.

The next night, he was sitting at home again. The doorbell rang. There was the 6 foot cockroach again. This time it punched him in the stomach and the karate-kicked him before running off.

The third night when the doorbell rang, my friend was a little more cautious. He cracked the door to peek out, and there was the six foot cockroach again. The cockroach kicked the door into his face so hard he saw stars. Then the cockroach came in and jumped on him and kicked several times so hard he nearly lost consciousness. He dragged himself over to the phone and called 9-1-1.

The 9-1-1 operator asked him what the emergency was. In a weak voice, my friend answered, “there’s a nasty bug going around…”

There are a lot of nasty bugs going around, from the H1N1 swine flu to job losses to the price of gas. It shouldn’t surprise you that “nasty bugs” have been part of our existence for thousands of years. Today, we’re going to look at Psalm 62 and see how David deals with one of life’s turn of events.

II. Psalm 62:1-2, Security in God Alone

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Let me give you some background on what is going on in David’s life at this point in time. David is much older now; his affair with Bathsheba is long in the past, and David has long since confessed his sins and placed his trust in the Lord. But if you recall during our studies the last few weeks, confessing your sins to Lord frees you from sin and gives you reason to rejoice. It does not, however, free you from the repercussions of your sins. When Nathan said, “You are that man,” in 2 Samuel 12, David finally ceased his self-deception and acknowledged his sin against the Lord. The Lord offers mercy and grace, but also tells David “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you.”

David has several more children over the years, but the sword never leaves his house. As his children grow, David has to deal with children that are disrespectful to him. His son, Absalom, claims the throne for himself. David, not willing to fight his own son for the throne, flees to the desert. A very stressful time in David’s life, losing your job to your son who’s trying to killing you. My day doesn’t seem so bad.

And it is this time in David’s life that he pens Psalm 62 and gives us instruction for how to deal with life’s nasty bugs. David’s strength comes not from his position as king or from wealth or from power, but in the Lord.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

We should have a single source of security, in God and God alone. David gives us three pictures of security in God –

• God is my rock. What images does this bring to mind? What qualities of a rock provide security?
o Steadfastness
o Stable
o Unmoving
• God is my salvation. If God is our salvation, why does that give us security?
• God is my fortress. What images of security does a fortress bring?
o Protection.

III. Psalm 62:3-4, Security that Withstands Attacks

How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Selah

Our security is attacked many ways. Job loss, personal conflicts with others, sometimes with many others. Satan does not want you to have security and will deceive you that your security is misplaced. He wants to topple you. And he will keep this up for an unfairly long time – “How long” will he assault a man.

• What sort of things threaten our security and make us feel unsafe?

If our security is based on our circumstances, in people, in ourselves, in wealth or relationship, our security is fragile. But David repeats himself – we do not find security in anything but God and God alone. Verse 5-8 –

IV. Psalm 62:5-8, Security in God Alone, Still

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God [a] ;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Selah

The Lord God is still our rock, our salvation, and fortress. The Lord is also described as a refuge. Like a fortress, we can run to the Lord for safety when we feel threatened.

David reminds the people of Israel that the Lord is not just a fortress of safety for him, but for all people. We can trust in Him. More than that, verse 8 says that I can also pour out my heart to God. God knows our thoughts and feelings, he knows our pain, our hopes and desires. When we are in need, in trouble, in fear, trust in Him at all times and pour out your fears to Him.

I change my wallpaper on my laptop monthly with various Christian wallpaper, usually with a calendar on it, always with a Christian saying or a piece of scripture. One of them by Charles Spurgeon a few months back was very thought-provoking. “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”

We have security in God because He tells us so. And if God is for us, who can be against us?

V. Psalm 62:8-10, Security Nowhere Else

Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.

Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

Where else can we possibly put our faith, we else can we find security but in the Lord? David lists several places where we look for false security –

• In relationships. What sort of relationships do we try to find security in?
o Parents
o Children
o Friends
o Spouses
o Politicians
o Government
o Church
o Ourselves
• In what ways can these relationships fail us?
• David also cautions us against placing our faith in things, especially ill-gotten gains. What sort of things do we use to seek security?
o Money
o Property
o Jobs
o Insurance
• In what ways can things fail us?
• Why are we tempted to add other forms of security like wealth or relationships, rather than rely on Christ alone?

In Psalm 44:6, “For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.” Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” And in the exact middle of the bible is Psalm 118:8, “It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man.”

Jesus, of course, knew all this. There is no security anywhere but God. Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal.” Instead, we can trust in God because of who He is. He is unique, one of a kind. Let’s look at the final two verses of Psalm 62.

VI. Psalm 62:11-12, Security in God Because He is Unique

One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.

• What are some of the attributes of God that give us security in Him?
o His Power
o His Love
o His Goodness
o His Mercy
o His Justice
o Fulfilled prophecy

VII. Conclusion

God knows we have fears and concerns about our security. He is training us for something better, something that requires us to learn to trust in Him. If God is so powerful, why is it that we are scared? Is God really in control? That’s what we ask ourselves, and what God wants us to know, even when we don’t see Him at work. It’s precisely at those times God is at work in us.

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Forgiveness

I. Introduction

Opening discussion: Think of a time when a friend offered you forgiveness. How did you feel?

When we put our trust in Jesus, God offers His forgiveness to us, and we should feel the same way. Today we’re going to study Psalm 32 and experience God’s forgiveness toward us.

Charles Roberts was a troubled man. On the morning of October 2, 2006, at 8:45am, Charles and his wife walked their three children to the school bus stop. When Mrs. Roberts returned home a little before 11:00am, she discovered four suicide notes, one each for her and their three children.

Charles continued to his job as a milk truck driver. At 10:25am, Charles entered the West Nickel Mines School, a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Charles ordered a pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and all the male students to leave. The female students, young girls aged 6-13, were lined up against a chalkboard. Charles barricaded the front door, and then bound the arms and legs of the girls with plastic ties.

At 11:07am, Charles began shooting the schoolgirls. Charles Roberts shot and killed five girls aged 6-13 and seriously wounded 5 others before killing himself. Of those 5 wounded, 4 have made significant recovery, though the youngest, 6 year old Rosanna King, has serious brain injuries. She does not walk or talk and is confined to a wheelchair, although family members say she recognizes them and frequently smiles.

What motivated Charles Roberts that morning will never be fully known, but clues may be found in his suicide letters. He confessed in his letter to his wife that he had molested two young female relatives, aged 3 and 5, twenty years prior. He had been having dreams of molesting again. He also indicated despondency over the death of a daughter nine years ealier who had died twenty minutes after childbirth.

You might remember this news story three years ago. The Amish community, struck by this horrific tragedy, were quick and ample with their forgiveness. An Amish neighbor visited Mrs. Roberts within hours of the shooting to comfort and extend forgiveness. On the day of the shooting, the Amish grandfather of one of the victims was reminding Amish leaders not to think evil of the shooter, and one father said, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul, and now he’s standing before a just God.” Many Amish community members visited Charles Roberts family, his parents, and his parents-in-law. Charles Roberts father broke down in tears at his son’s death, and an Amish man held him in his arms for an hour to offer comfort. Thirty members of the Amish community attended the funeral of Charles Roberts and setup a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. Charles Roberts so desparately needed forgiveness; the Amish community so beautifully demonstrated what forgiveness is.

So, what is forgiveness? It’s important to clarify what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not ignorance, saying that something is ok when it’s clearly not, like an abusive situation. Forgiveness is not covering something up, saying, “that’s ok, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Forgiveness is not denial, pretending that you’re not hurt. And forgiveness definitely doesn’t mean acceptance, that it’s ok to continue doing the same behavior that hurt you in the first place.

So, I ask again, what is forgiveness? A Christian definition could be that I give up my right to hurt you for hurting me. After forgiveness, we do not use the hurt to hurt them back. The Amish made headlines for portraying forgiveness no only for how thorough they were, going out of their way to bless those involved in their hurt, but also for how instantaneous it was.

We know, as Christians, that we are to forgive others, but we want to nurture the pain a little bit, perhaps hold a grudge for a while. A mean word means we stay mad at them for a day before we forgive them. A serious breach may take years before we’re ready to forgive. But forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. And while we may struggle to forgive others, sometimes it’s harder to forgive ourselves. Charles Roberts was a man in need of forgiveness from his past sins. Today’s lesson comes from Psalm 32 and tells us about God’s forgiveness.

II. Psalm 32:1-4, Blessed by Forgiveness

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Selah

Psalm 19 begins by reminding us how blessed we are by the forgiveness from God. One of the things we must come to grips with as believers in Christ is that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. We do not put God as a priority in our life as we should, we put ourselves first in front of God and others, we are judgmental of others, we hold grudges, we lie to protect ourselves, we have many, many ways we sin. If God forgave us as we forgive, first God would punish us. He’d say, “I’m not speaking to you. I need time before I’m ready to forgive you.” But thankfully, he doesn’t do that. Romans 5:8 says, ” God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Imagine the difficulty of experiencing Christ’s love if that we had to be perfect first.

As Christians, we experience Christ’s love long before we deserve it. What God asks us to do is confess our sins to Him. Do you think God is unaware of our sins? Why, then, does God ask us to confess them to Him?

I think it is to make *us* aware of our sins. In Psalm 139, David says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Confession to God, a true confession, let’s the Holy Spirit work within us to reveal our own hypocrisies and evil, especially when we try our best to remain ignorant of our own follies.

Who here thinks they are perfect and upholding God’s will in their life with no missteps? None of us do, we know that. (Discussion questions: Why do you think people try to hide their sins from God? What happens when people try to hide their sins from God? How can people find relief from guilt?)

Keeping that knowledge to ourselves weighs heavily on us, Psalms says the weight of God’s hand is heavy on us. So how do we lift His heavy hand and receive God’s blessing? The answer is verse 5.

III. Psalm 32:5, Confession to the Forgiver

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Selah

Being honest with God yields a huge benefit for us. God forgives us! And God, being a perfect and holy God, is also perfect with His forgiveness. The punishment we so deserve – which, frankly, is exclusion from His Holy presence for all eternity – is waived. God forgives perfectly. Psalm 103:12 says, ” As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

So does God forget our sins? The idea that a perfect God could have amnesia disturbs me. I have memory problems – I remember all sorts of stupid stuff. I have goofy jokes in my head, I can remember every word to the theme song from Gilligans’s Island, both versions. The version where instead of naming the Professor and Mary Ann they say “And the rest are here on Gilligan’s Isle!” bothers me, and I wonder if the Professor and Mary Ann ever had their feelings hurt by just being called “and the rest.” But I digress. I remember stuff like that, and then I forget stupid stuff, too.

One of my common forgetfulness happens nearly every morning in the shower. Did I shampoo my hair today? I remember shampooing my hair, but I can’t remember if that was this morning or some other morning I remember. I almost always play it safe, and as soon as I start the second shampoo, I can tell immediately if my hair was already clean. But every once in a while, I convince myself that I should *not* shampoo my hair a second time. And several hours later, I can tell. I didn’t shampoo my hair today. And the whole time I’m telling this story, stupid jokes pop into my head that I suddenly remember. “Why use shampoo when real poo is free?”

God does not forget our sins. He is perfect, and my forgetfulness is demonstration of imperfection. Hebrews 10:17 says “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” It’s not a matter of forgetfulness. It is an intentional decision not to bring the matter us to punish us. If we want to follow God’s example, we should be quick to forgive others, and remember no more those actions that hurt us. And perhaps just as important, we should also experience God’s forgiveness. If we have confessed our transgressions to God, He remembers no more and will not bring it up to punish us. So, too, we should also take those confessed sins and stop using them to punish ourselves. Let’s look at the benefits of confession in verses 6& 7.

IV. Psalm 32:6-7, Benefits of Confession

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Selah

Discussion: How does God respond to those who repent? And how does God want us to respond to his correction?

We find favor with God when we allow Him to search us. Knowing we are in God’s favor gives us comfort that we are His loved children and that our protective Father is watching out for us. Confessing our sins gives us strength to resist or flee from sins, and therefore we are protected by God from the repercussions of our sins. Unconfessed sins allows us to lie to ourselves that perhaps they aren’t sins, or that our sins aren’t too bad or perhaps we deserve to sins because we are so good or somebody else is bad. Psalm 32 tells us that confessed sins enabled us to hid in God and be protected, while unconfessed sins, too, cause God to work in our lives in ways that are uncomfortable. Look at the rest of this Psalm.

V. Psalm 32:8-11, The Rejoicing of the Righteous

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

When we do no confess our sins, we are doomed to repeat our sin. Eventually, we will be taught by our sins. God can either teach us through our obedience, or He will teach us as a mule is taught. He will put the bit and bridle on us and lead us until we understand. That way leads to unhappiness, as the wicked are unhappy being outside of the will of God. But those who confess their sins to the Lord are free of the bondage of sins and have reason to rejoice.

Discussion: What keeps people from accepting God’s forgiveness?

VI. Conclusion

There are many reasons for us to forgive others and for us to experience forgiveness. We forgive others in obedience; in Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, ” For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We also forgive others to gain control over our own hurt emotions; In Genesis 4, Cain was so hurt that he let his emotions lead him into killing his brother Abel. And forgiveness also keeps us from becoming bitter and defiling others around us; in Hebrews 12:14-15 says ” Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

But most of all, we practice forgiveness to experience God’s forgiveness. We ask God to search us so we can confess our big sins and our little sins so that our sins do not hold us hostage. In Christ, we are free, and we experience joy in being free.

Does God Exist?

I. Introduction

“God is Dead.” -Nietzsche, 1882.
“Nietzsche is Dead.” -God, eternal.

We’re working through various aspects of the Psalms, and this week we’ll explore how God reveals Himself to us. In other words, How do I know God exists, and how does that affect me? Does God Exist?

Two weeks ago on September 7, journalist John T. Elson died. John Elson made a name for himself in 1966 by writing a cover story for Time Magazine called, “Is God Dead?” The article began, “Is God dead? It is a question that tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no.” At the time it was written, it caused an uproar.

Do you know what struck me as common between Nietzsche and John Elson? They both now have their answer.

How do you know God exists?

II. Psalm 19:1-6, Natural Revelation

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19 begins by telling us that God’s creation itself is evident of God. Philosophers call this the Cosmological Argument. The argument goes like this: Did the universe have a beginning, yes or no? Scientists have generally accepted a Big Bang theory or some equivalent; by looking at the path the stars in the heavens are taking, they can be traced back to a single point. Another piece of evidence is the Second Law of Thermodynamics that essentially says everything, including energy, is eventually used us and decays. If the universe age was infinite, then all the energy would have been used up and arrived at a temperature of absolute zero. I know it feels that way in church sometimes, the air conditioner is set so low, but there’s actually quite a lot of useful energy in our universe.

So the universe had a beginning, so what? Well, then the next question is whether the beginning of the universe is caused or uncaused. In other words, did someone or something cause it to happen? Trying to argue that it simply started all by itself is challenging. Name one other thing or event that just came into existence by itself. Poof. Everything we know about has a cause, so it’s reasonable that the universe was caused.

So if it was caused, who or what caused it? When the universe was created, all time, space, and material was created. What created time? Must have been something timeless. What created space and matter? Something more powerful than all space and matter. Why would the universe without time or space or matter suddenly pop into existence? Could it do it on it’s own? The only conclusion that makes sense is that something created it, decided using free will that it should exist, and free will requires a personal Creator.

That’s the 50 cent summary, you can spend a lot of time studying the Cosmological argument. Usually the argument takes the form of, say, you’re walking along a path, and on the path, you find a pocketwatch. It’s run by intricate little gears inside and it keeps perfect time. Did the watch spontaneously appear there? Did it create itself? Or is a pocketwatch complex enough to give evidence that somebody must have created it? If a pocketwatch is a complex indication of a creator, have you ever really studied how our universe is put together? Our earth just the right distance from the sun to support life, plants that can convert sunlight into energy, animals that eat the plants and have complex circulatory systems with blood that takes oxygen from the air and delivers it to muscles and take carbon dioxide back to the lungs to exhale. Perhaps people just spontaneously popped into existence by themselves. Perhaps simple little microbes somehow decided they’d be better off organizing themselves into a person. Or perhaps we too, are evidence of a Creator.

What evidence have you observed that indicates that we have a Creator?

The evidence is all around us, and all it takes is observation. Many people, though, remind me of the story of a college philosophy professor that asked one question on the final exam. He picked up a chair, he put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get a kick out of that sort of thinking. The students opened their notebooks and wrote and wrote and wrote for the entire hour, churning out pages and pages of deep thoughts and philosophical logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an A. All he wrote was, “What chair?”

We can ignore the Creation that God placed before us if we wish, but it makes no sense to say, “What creation?”

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

The Psalms declare that this evidence reaches every person, every where, so that no one may have an excuse. David says in Psalm 51 that “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.” It takes a fool to not notice the evidence God has given us.

But besides external evidence of the existence of God, we also have internal evidence, the effect of God’s Word on our lives.

III. Psalm 19:7-14, Personal Revelation

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

God declares His Word is perfect. The bible is an incredible creation. It was written over a period of 1600 years over 3 continents by 40 different people such as kings and doctors and farmers and shepherds, 1189 chapters and 31,173 verses, yet contains a single, unifying, non-contradictory message of God’s justice, mercy, and sacrifice.

It’s inspired, 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

It’s useful, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And it changes lives, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”

The bible has the power to change lives, pick drunks up out of the gutter, make saints out of infidels, restore broken marriages, and gives hope to the murderer on death row. There is no other book that has this power.

Think on your own life for a moment. Can you think of a particular time that the Word of God had an impact on your life? A word that challenged or comforted you?

Skeptics can challenge the evidence of Creation and foolishly deny that God exists, but the power of a personal testimony is powerful and cannot be argued. I know what happened to me. I’ve been comforted, I’ve been challenged, meaning has been illuminated in my life to give me purpose, relationships have healed. I am a better man, not because of my own efforts but because of the Holy Spirit working in my life, backed by the power of the Word of God.

Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher, was once asked to defend the Word of God. His response, “Defend it? I would as soon try to defend a lion. God’s Word does not need defending. Just preach it. Let it out of its cage and it will defend itself.”

Look back at Psalm 19 again, verses 7 to the end. How is the teaching of God described? (Perfect, reviving, trustworthy, simple and wise, right, joy, radiant, pure, enduring, sure, righteous, precious, sweet, warning, rewarding, discerning, forgiving.) God’s Word is powerful. One of my recent favorite verses is Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” I get comfort from this, as it tells me that God’s word is true. He has not only a purpose for me, but for everybody. We will find His purpose in His Word.

In what ways can the bible change your life?

How can sin rule over people?

What results from obeying God’s commands?
How does God’s word demonstrate God’s love for us?

How can we show our love for God’s Word?

God’s Word will absolutely clean up lives. Verse 11 reminds us that God’s command is not to limit our freedom but to free us from sin and it’s repercussions. When we are obedient to the Word, there is great reward. And by reward, I mean rewarding lives that impact others and display the power of God in our lives

One of my pet peeves that I believe distorts the power of God is the prosperity teaching, that we can have material rewards, money, fame and power, if we just call on God to provide it. Or a feel-good message that promises a peaceful and joyful life. Both of these are incomplete messages that do not address God’s plan to Refine us, through sacrifice and suffering. I believe the entirety of the bible must be taught to understand God’s will. Likewise, I think it’s important that each and every one of us study God’s Word from beginning to end, for that is the only way we can truly understand God’s plan for us.

Without reading the bible, we’ll never come to an understanding of sin in our lives. Sin is not just doing bad things; sin is missing the mark, missing out of God’s plan for our lives. The problem with prosperity teaching is that as long as things are going well, you feel you have faith and that God loves you. When things don’t go well, then you feel like your faith is weak and that God doesn’t care. In these economic times, I would not be surprised that people that attend a prosperity church fall away, convinced that God isn’t at work after all. But deeper understanding teaches us God is at work, even when we don’t see Him, and that the struggles we endure strengthen us.

Verse 7 says that God’s Word is perfect, converting the soul. Here’s a couple of examples. Imagine I just told you that someone just paid a $50,000 speeding ticket on your behalf. You’d probably look at me like I wasn’t making sense. My good news isn’t good news to you. You’d think, what speeding ticket? You might even be offended because I’ve accused you of breaking the law.

But what if I told you that this morning on the way to church, you were clocked going 55 mph through a school zone for blind and deaf children, the maximum speed limit was 10 mph, and you sped through 10 warning signs. Police clocked you and were coming to arrest and fine you, but somebody stepped in and paid the fine. You’re free.

The difference is the amount of knowledge you have. If you don’t know the law, the good news seems stupid or silly. If you know the law and understand how you’ve broken it, the good news is good news.
Just like the gospel, literally, the good news of Jesus Christ. Just walking up to a nonbeliever and telling them, Jesus died for your sins, makes no sense. What sin? I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a pretty good person. Lots of people or worse than me.

Likewise, a prosperity message falls on thin soil. Imagine getting on an airplane and somebody hands you a parachute. “Here, put this on, it will improve your fyling experience.” After a while, you feel the weight on your shoulders. The ride still seems bumpy, and the parachute doesn’t seem to do anything for you. So you take it off.

But instead of “this will improve your flying experience,” they hand you a parachute and say, “Here put this on. The plane’s going to crash and you’ll need them when it’s time to jump out.” All of a sudden, that parachute feels pretty comfortable.

Likewise, the man that is told that going to church will bring prosperity and improve his life experience will be unprepared for the troubles that will come. Understanding the entirety of God’s Word and that it will save your life makes the troubles light and momentary in this world.

But the Word of God is perfect and converts the soul. The Word of God trains us in all righteousness. The Word of God saves.

IV. Conclusion

God has provided everything we need to understand He exists, He has a plan for us, and how to live righteous lives with purpose. His Creation calls out His glory; His Word transforms lives. Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be open.” Jesus promises we will find, but only if we seek. God has given us 31,173 verses, but we’ll only find if we seek. Ask God to open our hearts, and let us show Him our love by opening His book.