Sound Asleep!

-A Disturbing Prejudicial Response!

For anyone claiming to follow Jesus, the Old Testament story of Jonah is a disturbing one! Our posts the last few weeks have focused on Jonah’s story. And, while it’s startling to observe Jonah’s prejudicial response to the revival of the people of Ninevah, we may be more like Jonah than we know; or, than we care to admit! The church cannot hold prejudice against any other people group, nation, or religion; and, remain true to Jesus’ commission to make disciples of every tribe, nation & people group. To make us useful, in His kingdom purposes, God must awaken us to souls nearby!

-Wake Up! Call To Your God!

Just turn back to Jonah, chapter 1, with me, and pay close attention to the words of the ship’s captain. Remember, this is the ship that Jonah chose to take passage on as he ran away from God’s calling to share the gospel message with the city of Ninevah. Starting at v.4, “Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea & such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god. They threw the ship’s cargo into the sea to lighten the load. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel & had stretched out & fallen into a deep sleep. The captain approached him & said, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us & we won’t perish’” (1:4-6).

-Silencing The Call Of God!

As I studied my way through this passage, the words of the ship’s captain arrested my attention. As I read it, I just let it play out in my mind like a TV drama; except, I saw it from Jonah’s vantage point— a believer;  a prophet of God; commissioned by God to take His word to another people group! But, he ran from that call! Getting on that ship; and, finding a place deep in its belly, he was determined to silence the call of God by just “sleeping it off.” He’d just wake up in a new place where, hopefully, God would just give up on him. But, as he slept— a deep sleep it says— a violent wind & storm arose on the sea; and, all the crewmen feared for their lives! So much so, that it says they, “…each CRIED OUT to their god…”

-What Are You Doing Sound Asleep?

Then, while beginning to throw the cargo overboard to keep the ship from breaking apart, the captain stumbles onto Jonah, wakes him; and, asks him:  “What are you doing sound asleep?” And, then he rebukes him, “Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us, and we won’t perish.” What an embarrassing role reversal this was for Jonah! Who was the spiritually motivated one? The more I meditated on that picture the more it kind of morphed into an image of OUR day! Have you noticed that there’s a major storm brewing all around us with wars & rumors of wars with the constant threat of nuclear weapons? There’s fear of a worldwide economic collapse!

-Down In The Belly Of The Ship!

There’s political unrest; and, a huge racism problem. And, to personalize the drama of Jonah’s story, WE are down in the belly of the ship! Many of us, who claim to be followers of Jesus, are running away from our calling! And, just like Jonah, we’re sound asleep! Even the unbelievers around us are recognizing the grave danger we’re in. All the cargo— the stuff of this world— isn’t worth keeping. Many of the lost all around us are crying out for help; and, in my mind I see the lost discovering me down in the ship; and, they’re angry! Angry at my non-loving, non-caring attitude toward them. Why wasn’t I helping them? They cry out the same words as the ship’s captain, “What are you doing sound asleep?” If you’ve been asleep; and, God’s Spirit is rousing you, let me remind you that He is the God of 2nd chances! Even as He gave Jonah a chance, He offers you a chance to repent & jump into God’s work?

We Are Accountable!

-Spiritual Watchmen To Unbelievers!

In the last couple of posts, we’ve talked about Israel’s “watchmen” as described by the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel. We talked about how the “spiritual overtones” of the watchmen remind us of our responsibility to be spiritual watchmen to the unbelieving world! We’re called to warn the world that their sin has separated them from God; and, they’re in grave danger unless they repent & turn to Jesus! The parallels between being a watchman; and, being a disciple-maker, are unmistakable! God gave Old Testament Israel’s watchmen a precise message; and, as Jesus’ disciple-makers, we’ve also been given a precise message.

-A Precise Message!

To the watchmen, God said: “When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel: You have said this, ‘Our transgressions and our sins are heavy on us, and we are wasting away because of them! How then can we survive?’ Tell them: As I live”—the declaration of the Lord God—“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:7-11.

-The Good News!

What’s the watchman’s message? It’s “grace,” isn’t it? It’s the message of the Gospel; the Good News that God, “…takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked…”  If only Israel would “…repent of their evil ways…” God asks them, “Why will you die, house of Israel?” We’ve been given the same message to deliver everywhere we go, church! “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.  “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. That’s our message!

-God’s Ambassadors!

Paul wrote the Church of Corinth, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God’” 2 Corinthians 5:20. We’re God’s ambassadors, church! We’re His watchmen to the world! We’re commanded to plead with the world to come to Christ! To share the message that God loves them & welcomes them to repent and be saved! What a great message we have to share with loved ones, neighbors; and, co-workers! He is a good God! “He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses” Psalm 103:10 .

-A Notice Of Accountability!

Let me make one final point! In the same way that God made Israel’s watchmen accountable, He has made us accountable! In v.17 of Ezekiel’s 33rd chapter, God confronts Israel over their claim that God wasn’t “fair”! In v.20 He says, “You say, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’ I will judge each of you according to his ways, house of Israel.”  I cringe inside every time I hear someone judging God for the way He does things! What arrogance that a puny little man— one of 7 billion on this planet— would dare to call out God for anything! We don’t even know what we don’t know! “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts” Psalm 145:17. God is even willing to extend grace to us when we make rash claims against Him— “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” God says, “Why will you die?”  If you’re a follower of Christ then you have been served notice! You are accountable for making disciples! Are you doing it?

Called To Be A Watchman!

-Accountable For Their Blood!

What comes to mind as you read these words that God spoke to the Prophet Ezekiel:  “Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: Suppose I bring the sword against a land, and the people of that land select a man from among them, appointing him as their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows his trumpet to warn the people. Then, if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet but ignores the warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but ignored the warning, his blood is on his own hands. If he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. However, if the watchman sees the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that the people aren’t warned, and the sword comes and takes away their lives, then they have been taken away because of their iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 33:2-6).  Like me, I’m guessing that many of you picked up on the “spiritual overtones” as you read that.

-Watchmen To The World!

As followers, of Jesus, we are watchmen to the world! We’re called to warn the world that their sin has separated them from God; and, they’re in grave danger unless they repent & turn to Jesus! The parallels between being a watchman; and, being a disciple-maker, are unmistakable! God gave Old Testament Israel’s watchmen a specific responsibility, a precise message; and, a notice of accountability. As His disciple-makers, Jesus has also given us a specific responsibility, a precise message; and, a notice of accountability. And, God’s oracle, to Ezekiel, is that God had a part, the watchman had a part; and, the people had a part! Again, the parallels for making disciples are obvious!

-The Making Of A Disciple!

In the making of a disciple, there is the disciple’s part, there is God’s part; and, there is our part! And, like the watchman, we are only responsible for our part! I think the concept is pretty easy to follow, isn’t it? God gave the watchman a specific responsibility. He had only 1 responsibility! He was responsible for warning the people of danger. It was typical for each city to have a group of watchmen, posted on the city walls, looking for any army that might be advancing against them; and, to warn the people with a trumpet blast, should an enemy be spotted approaching! His job was vital to the well-being of the people; and, he was only responsible for his part. If he blew the trumpet and the people failed to respond then he was absolved of any guilt should their lives be lost. Their blood was on their own hands! But, if the watchman fell asleep on the job; and, an army slipped in then the blood of those who lost their lives, because of his negligence, would be on his hands! The analogy between watchmen and believers today is self-evident!

-Jesus’ Commission To Us!

Remember what Jesus said to His disciples when He commissioned them:  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”  Matthew 28:18-20. As Jesus’ disciples, we’ve been given a specific responsibility, church! “Make disciples!” That’s the imperative; or, the command! “Go” is not the command! “Make disciples” is the command! That’s our part! As our Creator, Savior; and, King, Jesus has the authority to send us! The making of disciples is done in the powerful name of the Triune Godhead—Father, Son; and, Spirit! Jesus paid for sin on the cross so that anyone could become His disciple! That’s God’s part! Our part is to share the Gospel! The unbeliever is responsible to believe!

Put Your Hope In God!

-The Uncertainties Of Life!

We live in a world so full of uncertainty that organizations have developed “uncertainty indices” to measure the uncertainty people feel over economic policies & geopolitical risk & government corruption! Seems like, whatever the uncertainty, someone has an index to measure it! We deal with escalated uncertainties, it seems every day. We all go through periods where we live with uncertainty over our jobs; and, therefore, our money. There’s uncertainty in many of our relationships; and, even our faith. About the time we feel good & certain about things, life just happens & throws a wrench in there to mess it all up.

-A Routine Doctor Visit!

All it takes is one routine doctor visit to uncover something unexpected about our health; and, that creates anxiety & uncertainty about what’s next. The one seemingly casual meeting, with your boss, can take you from feeling good about your job to look for a new one! Some of you have been blindsided by a fight or an event with your spouse that left you feeling very uncertain about where your relationship stood! Sometimes individuals feel so helpless & their uncertainty so unbearable that they feel like the only way out is to take their own lives. Our hearts ought to ache for anyone who feels so helpless that suicide is their response. Life is a precious gift from God to be cherished.

-Great Purpose In Life!

Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychotherapist who survived the ghastly holocaust at the Nazi’s Auschwitz concentration camp. Frankl’s wife, mother & brother were all murdered by the Nazi’s; and, he concluded, after observing those who survived & those who did not, that “…when there is a driving passion or a great purpose in life, the physical body is more likely to survive.”  He detected a strange phenomenon in those physically intolerable & life-suffocating concentration camps—survival did not appear to depend on the physical health of the inmates! Often, the young, the healthy & the strong would die while the old, frail & sickly would survive! He said that those who did survive had a common sense of purpose & hope for the future.

-A Book Of Lamentations!

If you’ve spent some time reading the Old Testament prophets, you’ve probably noticed a very short book, of 5 chapters in length, right smack dab between Jeremiah & Ezekiel called Lamentations. As you read it you get a sense of the hopelessness that Jeremiah & the Jewish people felt over their uncertain situation. They were under God’s judgment because of their sin! The nation of Babylon had attacked them, killed many of their people; and, taken the rest into captivity. They’d leveled the walls around the city of Jerusalem; and, burned the temple of God to the ground.

-God, My Portion!

Tradition says that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations from a mountain that overlooked the city; where he wept & cried over the desolation. And, I find it significant that amid Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem; and, their punishment & their suffering, that we find a triumphant word of hope in chapter 3, verses 21-24, “Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” It’s like Jeremiah suddenly reminds himself about God’s character; and, of God’s promise to Israel to return them to the Promised Land one day in the future. Twice he used the word “hope.” Unlike our finger-crossing kind of hope, this hope is a “confident expectation.” Jeremiah remained strong, with confident expectation, despite the suffering he endured!

Don’t Harden Your Heart!

-Heading Out On A Little Vacation-

-Next Post: August 25th-

-God’s Intentions Are Good!

God is benevolent toward us! That simply means that He is well-intended! His intentions toward us are good! It is in His very nature that He is loving, gracious, and merciful! His benevolence is not only intended toward us as individuals; but, also toward the nations of the world! However, while He is well-intended toward us— the people of the world— He holds the Sovereign right, as Creator, King & Lord over His creation, to withdraw His intended blessings from us as individuals; or, as a nation, when we fail to listen to His revealed Word!

-It’s His Sovereign Right To Judge!

He holds the Sovereign right to act toward us in the judgment that our actions deserve! And, listen, friend, you don’t wanna go there! God often warns us, in His Word, not to test Him! He often railed on Israel, His chosen people, for their constant testing of His resolve! He will judge! He will punish! It’s not what He wants to do; but, it is what He will do! Over the last several posts, we’ve considered the parable, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, about the “potter and the clay.” In the parable, God is said to be the “potter”; while, we are His “clay.” We’ve discussed God’s Sovereign right to make of each individual lump of clay what He wills to create! We’ve also discussed how gracious God is to “remold” us after we’ve lived a life of rebellion that did not conform to His will! If we’ll confess our sinful & stubborn will, He will put us back on His spinning wheel and make of us a remolded piece of pottery!

-God’s Sovereign Right To Cast Us Aside!

In this post, we want to point out, from God’s parable in Jeremiah, that God also has the Sovereign right to cast us aside when we become hardened against Him:  “This is what the Lord says: ‘Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests and go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah, and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods… you are to shatter the jar in the presence of the people traveling with you, and you are to proclaim to them: This is what the Lord of Hosts says: I will shatter these people and this city, like one shatters a potter’s jar that can never again be mended” (Jeremiah 19:1-10). Those words are terrifying! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God! Don’t mess with Him! Yes, He is loving, gracious & merciful! But He is equally just & righteous; and, He will punish those who harden their hearts against Him! If you harden your heart against God’s Word, He has the Sovereign right to cast you aside!

-Submit To The Designer’s Will!

We are a lump of clay in God’s hands! We are like clay, which has little value, until we are molded, by the Master Potter, into Jesus’ likeness! God has a design for you; and, in the eternal sense, it’s the same for each one of us! He intends to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For we are His creation,” Paul wrote the Church of Ephesus, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). There’s a story told that when Michelangelo was asked how he could fashion his masterpiece, of King David, he’s reported to have said:  “It wasn’t that difficult. I just chipped away every piece of the stone that didn’t look like David.” That’s what God, the Potter, is doing in your life. He’s forming you! He’s shaping you into the image of Jesus. Sometimes it hurts a little as He’s forming us; but, He always works on us because He loves us & His plans are best for us!

The Fear Of God!

Are You Thinking Rightly About God?

So, how do we think rightly about God? Where does our thought life, about God, need to begin? Well, the wisest man who ever lived, said that it begins with the fear of God— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline “ Proverbs 1:7. This is the introduction to the book, of the Bible, which is known for its wisdom! The writer sets up the theme of Proverbs for the entire book with those opening words. And, if you read the book from the 1st page to the last, you’ll uncover that theme of the “fear of the Lord” on multiple occasions; along, with the keywords associated with that theme—wisdom, knowledge, guidance, instruction!

-You’ll Be Wise!

And, the end results of adhering to God’s words of wisdom? You’ll be wise! For rejecting the wisdom of these Scriptures? You’ll be a fool! In my time of ministry, I’ve had the occasion, several times, to encourage individuals, that I was discipling, to read through the book of Proverbs once a month. There are 31 chapters; so, read a chapter a day! You might need to double up a couple of chapters at the end of certain months! But, you’ll be amazed at how God’s wisdom will change you in your person; in your marriage; in the training up of your children; in your work; and, in the entirety of the rest of your life!

Wisdom Has It’s Origin In God!

So, let’s draw some points from this key verse of Scripture, Proverbs 1:7. Notice that the author, King Solomon, begins with a presupposition, that, authentic wisdom has its origin with God! Theologically, we mean that God is omniscient; or, He is all-wise! So, all wisdom comes from Him! All knowledge comes from Him! Think about that! Anything that’s knowable, He knows! There is nothing He does not know! He knows the end from the beginning, Scripture says because He IS the END & the BEGINNING! He is the ALPHA & the OMEGA! God knows all things (1 John 3:20).

God Knows Everything That’s Knowable!

He knows every detail happening in all the world right now! Even when a sparrow falls out of a tree; or, a hair falls from your head, He knows (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your every thought before you speak it (Psalm 139:4). He saw you when you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows everything that’s on your heart (1 Kings 8:39). Even things you share with no one else, He knows! If you look at Proverbs, chapter 8, beginning with v.22, wisdom is personified & informs us of its origin:  “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His creation, before His works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began” (8:22-23). In Proverbs 3:19, he adds: “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding.”

-Looking For Wisdom?

So, if you’re looking for wisdom, look no further! Seek God! He created wisdom! Do you want knowledge & understanding? See God in His word! He has it! All of it! So, there’s a 2nd point that builds on the 1st. Authentic wisdom begins with a belief that God exists! If “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge…”; then, unbelief, in God’s existence, would result in no fear of God & conclude with an absence of wisdom & understanding! Were you tracking with me? In other words, if we view Solomon’s words here as a hypothesis or a proposition, he’s drawing the conclusion that an unbeliever (especially an atheist) is incapable of true wisdom; because true wisdom comes ONLY from the very God he fails to believe exists! He can be a really smart guy! He can be book smart! But, the ultimate wisdom necessary to successfully navigate this world & eternity is only available in God! We’ll pick it up there next week!

Thinking Right About God!

-The Most Important Thing About You?

What comes to your mind if I ask you:  “What is the #1 most important thing about you?” Ponder that a moment! What is the #1 most important thing about you? Here it is:  “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the #1 most important thing about you.” The heaviest question, in front of us, is always about God Himself! And, our current pluralistic, relativistic, narcissistic, politically correct “culture” shows little to no regard for the accuracy & truth of the God impressions we have floating around in our little self-absorbed minds! “You’re OK & I’m OK” as long as you don’t tell me that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God! “Whatever you believe about God is OK as long as you VALIDATE what I believe about Him.”  “You have your truth & I have mine.” Those are ultimately idolatrous statements, aren’t they? Any belief about God that is twisted or inaccurate is “idolatry”—they’ve made up their own god in their own image!

-God Has Left The Building!

I love what A.W. Tozer said many years ago before the world was even close to being as religiously inclusivist as it is today:  “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”  And, listen church, the trickle-down from the cultural idolatry & false thinking, about God, is so pervasive in our civilization that it’s made inroads into the church! In most of our mainline denominations, God has “left the building”; because, “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” A.W. Tozer said that too! That’s the post-modern world that we live in, isn’t it? There are no “absolutes” in the world of 2021; and, it’s sad the depths, of foolishness, an unregenerate & hopelessly lost world will go to silence that inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit.

-God Is Not Silent!

Listen, God is not silent! He has not created this place; and, then went off to some corner of the universe to hide out & see what happens! God is alive & well; and, the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated! God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to pen these words, in his letter to the Church of Rome. He says the unbelieving world will suppress the truth, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them (It’s INNATE), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…” Romans 1:19-21.  Scripture insists that everyone knows there’s a God! There is an “internal witness” or evidence! It’s innate! Everyone, in their heart, knows there is a God! They simply suppress the truth! And, there’s also the “external witness”; or, the evidence of creation, Paul says, in this passage from Romans.

Truth Suppressers!

The unbeliever, who refuses to humble himself & admit he can’t know everything there is to know about an eternal God, rejects Him & suppresses the truth about Him! He comes up with all sorts of theories that masquerade as science; but, they’re all lies. So, the answer to the #1 most important thing about you? It’s what comes into your mind when you think about God! And, the consequences, about your thoughts of God, will impact both the quality of your life here & for eternity! Your life will prove to be successful as you pursue the wisdom of God; and, reject the seductive distractions of the world. That requires a leap of faith—not a BLIND leap of faith; because, God has buried evidence of Himself, inside you! The “internal” evidence! And, He’s also left His fingerprints all over the created world & universe! The “external” evidence! So, how do we think rightly about God? Where do we start? We’ll get into that next post!

An Epidemic Of Biblical Illiteracy!

-Only 19% Read Their Bible!

A recent survey, of churchgoers, revealed that only 19% read their Bible every day! The writer of Psalm 119 uses 176 verses to describe the Word of God. He uses 8 different words throughout! He calls Scripture:  God’s PRECEPT, God’s STATUTE, His COMMAND, His JUDGMENT, His PROMISE & God’s WORD! So, when he finishes the Psalm with the words, “I wander like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commands” (v.176), he intends for us to understand that his “wandering”, like a lost sheep, is from Scripture! That’s the context! We, here in the west, resemble that remark!

-Ignoring The Compass Of God’s Word!

The American church has wandered away from God, like a lost sheep, because we’ve ignored the “compass” God has given us in His Word! God’s Word is the only GPS that will help us navigate this lost world & keep us on course following Jesus! But, many of us have ignored it! We sing the song, “Come Thou Fount, Come Thou King” from time to time in our church worship service. And, there’s that familiar verse that goes like this:  “O to grace how great a debtor; daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, Lord take & seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.” We can identify with that verse, can’t we?

-Wandering Away From God!

By the way, this is not the first time that the writer of this Psalm has talked about wandering away from God. Look at these very familiar verses:  “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (vs. 9-11). Notice how sexual purity is attached to God’s word! It’s no wonder that even professing believers are caught up in sexual sin if 81% of churchgoers fail to read the Bible every day! And, what is the writer’s hope & prayer? “…(God) don’t let me WANDER from your commands…” is preceded by a seeking after God with all his heart! We can’t be nonchalant or cavalier in our attitude toward God; or, we’ll wander away from Him! I have to search for Him with all my heart! He has to be the only One or thing that I pursue with all my heart! Let’s be clear here—the Psalmist is not making a promise that if you read your Bible every day that you’ll never wander away from God! What he’s confessing is that he’s prone to wander! He’s prone to cave into his flesh! He’s broken by his sin!

-Our Heart Can Deceive Us!

The writer is saying that our failure to read God’s word regularly is evidence that we’re in danger of wandering away from God! Look back at that last verse, verse 176, of Psalm 119. Notice the middle phrase— “…seek Your servant…” We live in a church culture that constantly focuses on US seeking after God! And, clearly, Scripture does say: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13. But, Scripture also says that “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” Jeremiah17:9. There is tension there! Our heart can deceive us, God says! We can think that we’re doing OK spiritually; but, we can be deceived! We tend to think, “Oh, I hope so-and-so is listening to this message”; when, God has intended it for you! But, you’re missing it because your heart has deceived you! So, ask God to SEEK you & to reveal to you your spiritual condition!

Your Greatest Happiness!

-Right Relationship With God!

Your greatest happiness will come only when you are in the right relationship with God, your Creator! You were created for Him! And, only in Him will you find your ultimate fulfillment! If you’ve cracked the Bible, you may have noticed that the book of the Psalms takes up quite a chunk of space in the Bible. The word for “Psalms” in the original Hebrew language means “praise”; and, most of the Psalms were poetic “Songs Of Praise” to Yahweh; although, one-third of the Psalms are prayers! So, it contains both songs & prayers that Israel used in their worship! Also, most students of Scripture believe there’s significance to the order in which they were placed.

-Psalm 1: The Stage Setter!

So, Psalm 1 is meant to be understood as an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It’s like the “stage setter” because it vividly points out the radical difference between the “believer” and the “unbeliever.” According to the writer of the Psalm, your life will be blessed or happy if you live it sincerely for God; and, it will prove to be miserable & unhappy if you rebel against God! Those are your only 2 options! It’s funny how the world sees the life, that follows Jesus, as boring & blasé! I think even many believers suffer from some big-time misconceptions about the Christian life.

-Earthly Hedonists!

It’s been my observation that many believers just endure the Christian life! Secretly, they still pine for the pleasures & fleeting happiness that they think the world enjoys. In their heart, they’re earthly hedonists! They’re like the children of Israel, during the Exodus, still looking back with longing for the old life they left behind in Egypt. Somehow, we’ve come to the erroneous conclusion that life’s just not going to be fun or happy as a Christian; but, we put up with it because, well, we get heaven in the end! But, the 1st Psalm debunks the notion that the life that follows Christ & adheres to the Scriptures is boring! What this Psalm says is quite the opposite.

-Setting The Record Straight!

The writer sets the record straight— we don’t just endure the Christian life, putting in our time here until we get to heaven & hang out with Jesus forever & ever! No! This Psalm tells us that it’s the life that submits to God & His word that provides us with the greatest fulfillment & the most happiness possible in this life! Happiness & prosperity in this life & eternity follows only the God-centered life; not, the life that is centered & focused on the stuff of this world! Does it surprise you that God is concerned with your happiness? Some believers even debate between “joy” & “happiness.” Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, they say; and, that’s what we should concern ourselves with!

-Is Happiness Fleeting?

Joy sounds more spiritual than happiness, doesn’t it? Happiness seems like it’s dependent on circumstances! It comes & goes! Joy is based on the eternal, the argument goes! But, this 1st Psalm seems to play the contrarian:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction…” (vs. 1-2). It seems like we don’t have to choose between joy & happiness! Instead, life in Christ offers us both— JOY & HAPPINESS! But, there is a caveat. Genuine happiness, in life, is contingent on some things! That’s where we get the idea that happiness is dependent on circumstances. But it’s not so much that happiness comes & goes as much as it is that our walk with God is inconsistent! That’s what we’ll talk about next week!

God Punishes Because He Loves!

-God So Loved The World!

The most well known verse, in all of Scripture, is John 3:16. It says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” In this way, God proved His love— He sent Jesus to atone for our sin by His death on the cross! That’s really the end of the argument against God! For all the doubters of God’s love, mercy & grace there is the One & Only “Exhibit A”— His Name is Jesus! And, He bore God’s judgment against sin so we wouldn’t have to! So that we could be saved!

-Brokenness To Openness!

But, it’s only as we experience our brokenness that we become open to God’s overtures to save us! And, punishment is often the tool He uses to expose our brokenness! So, ultimately, it is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to the place of brokenness; where, He can redeem us! And, there is perhaps no better Biblical example of that than God’s judgment of Judah & Jerusalem as they are overrun by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar; and, taken into captivity & exile! The Biblical narrative reveals that God first warned them; then, punished them; and, finally, in love, He redeems them! To accomplish God’s purposes in our broken world, He first warns!

-A Skirmish You Can’t Win!

Disobedience to God & His Word will never turn out well for you! When you fight against God, it’s a skirmish you can’t possibly win! When I was young & very foolish I loved to get into fist fights out on the school playground! But, I always sized up the other guy first! There were some guys that I just knew I couldn’t take! So, I would find a way to wiggle out of that fight! I was foolish; but, I wasn’t stupid! I would do everything I could to avoid getting into a fight I knew I couldn’t win! So, why would anyone ever pick a fight with God! You can’t possibly win against a God who is all-powerful! You can’t outwit a God who knows everything there is to know! And, you can’t run away from a God who is everywhere!

-They Despised His Warnings!

And, yet, the Biblical account shows that Israel tried multiple times & lost! So, God warned them & warned them & warned them again! In 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, God reminds them of this:  “But Yahweh, the God of their ancestors sent word against them by the hand of His messengers, sending them time and time again, for He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (vs. 15-16)

-God’s Compassion Toward Us!

Did you notice why God said He sent them prophets? Look at the end of v.15. It says He sent messengers to warn them, “…because He had compassion on His people…” God warns because of His great compassion toward us! He warns because He is Love! When you  disobey God’s word you expose yourself to great danger! Sin lies to you! It promises pleasure! But, it always delivers pain! Sin is a destroyer! It destroys lives, families & nations! Just go back and read God’s 10 Commandments; and, consider the pain and suffering that comes to those who break them! The one who steals will be incarcerated! The one who lies will never be trusted! The one who sleeps with someone they’re not married to destroys relationships & families & brings hatred & disease upon themselves! Listen when God warns!