Friday, October 31, 2008

In the Days of Disaster

Psalm 44

I. God Takes Care of His Own

A. The Bible and the church it directs are intensely historical; telling the story of grace defines the culture of the saved. “To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil. We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” (Psalm 44:1) Believers share testimonies. See Deuteronomy 6.

B. Grace drove the pagans from the Holy Land and gave it to the Chosen People; hell is as deep as heaven is high. “How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.” (Psalm 44:2-3) “He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.” (Psalm 78:55)

C. Grace and success are always gifts from God; believers have evidence for praise. “Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.” (Psalm 44:4-8) “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

D. The prophets continually instructed believers to teach the history of grace. “Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.” (Joel 1:3)

II. National Disaster Comes

A. Sometimes God steps back and enemies prevail without any apparent advantage to the church. “But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.” (Psalm 44:9-12) “How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?” (Deuteronomy 32:30)

B. Even the holy people experience disaster. “Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.” (Psalm 44:13-16)

III. Apostasy and Idolatry Are Not the Only Causes

A. Disaster sometimes comes when the people are faithful. “All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.” (Psalm 44:17-19) Victory must wait for God’s time.

B. Sometimes the only interpretive parallel is sacrificial sheep. “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Psalm 44:20-22)

C. Martyrs have always been the seed of the church; following in the way of the cross brings nations to their knees before the Lord of Grace. “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8:36) “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”(Hebrews 11:35-38)

IV. Disaster Tests Loyalty

A. Faithful people draw close to God in the face of disaster; it propels them toward their only comfort. “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.” (Psalm 44:23)

B. Disaster reminds people that all things serve God’s purpose; if God had wanted peace and prosperity, it would have prevailed. “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?,” (Psalm 44:24) “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

C. The way out of disaster is only through God’s gracious providence. “For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake.” (Psalm 44:25-26)

Start Where God Starts

I. God Is God-Focused

A. Serious students of the Bible come up with one primary insight into how life works and what God expects. “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27)

B. Moses used even fewer words than the gospel writer to make the same point. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

C. God is so great that He can’t really be called the best; there is no god to compare with Him. Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

II. Draw the Obvious Conclusions

A. Serve God without reservation or evasion; the alternative is eternity in hell. “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

B. Serve God on His terms rather than someone else’s plan; march to the beat of the ultimate drum. “Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:” (Deuteronomy 26:17)

C. Tell everybody about God and what He says He wants.Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. (Isaiah 43:10)

D. Christ gave the church a summary of this primary doctrine as He left for heaven. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

E. Worship and glorify God appropriately; if it is not the Bible way, it is hell’s way. “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,” (Psalm 95:6-7) “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:10)

F. Meditate on the ways of God; fill the mind with truth and the history of grace. “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16) When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.” (Psalm 63:6)

G. Act now; do not put off getting to know God and His ways. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

III. Worship Actively

A. Honor God in obvious ways. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” (Malachi 1:6)

B. Spread the gospel passionately; forget multiculturalism and neutrality. “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (Isaiah 45:23)

C. Always seek the Lord’s way and deliberately choose it over all other options. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.” (Joshua 24:22) “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17)

D. Delight in God. “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Election Sermon

Psalm 2:1-11; 1 Timothy 6:1-21 / Psalm 24:1-10

I. Protect What You Have Received

A. Truth is not subject to opinion or focus groups. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

B. Stick to things which really matter; God doesn’t have a lively interest in some of the things which excite the age in which we live. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:” (1 Timothy 6:20)

C. Intellectually distracted people damage the Christian testimony; consider how petty yesterday’s defense of cultural norms often sounds. “Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana.” (1 Timothy 6:21)

II. Measure Candidates Biblically

A. The sound and fury seem frightening. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3)

B. God does not take great people and their great ideas very seriously. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:4-6)

C. Here is a bit of heavenly advice for people who think they and their policies are necessary. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:9-12)

D. Wise people calculate from things which are certain; God wins.Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” (Hosea 14:9)

E. Do not give much credence to common human answers. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)

III. Here Are the Relevant Facts

A. The creator still owns and manages everything He made. A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” (Psalm 24:1-2)

B. Ultimately, the election that matters is the election of grace; only God’s people go to heaven.Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.” (Psalm 24:3-6)

C. Political platforms which ignore the great reality of God’s revelation will toss people into eternal unhappiness; entrusting the nation’s future to someone who enlarges the doors of hell could be a very bad move.He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7-8)

D. Think twice before voting; don’t waste a vote on an eternal loser.Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” (Psalm 24:7-10)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Do You Really Want?

Psalm 43

I. God, Take Charge of My Case

A. Take my side in the struggles of life. “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.” (Psalm 43:1)

1. In the struggle of life only one ally is really necessary; start at the top with God. “But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” (Psalm 75:7)

2. Christ set the pattern and Peter affirmed it. “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” (1 Peter 2:23)

3. God has a solid record of taking care of those who belong to Him. For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. (Proverbs 22:23)

4. The enemies of God’s people offend Him when they abuse His people. “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.” (Zechariah 2:8)

B. Stop my suffering. “For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 43:2)

1. A believer should believe and act on the testimony he has received in his relationship with God. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7) Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25)

2. God renews and refreshes people who trust Him rather than themselves. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

3. The Redeemer makes all things possible. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

C. With God all things are possible and without Him nothing is possible. “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

II. Give Me the Resources I Need

A. The joyous Christian life depends on understanding that joy and all its causes begin with God. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.” (Psalm 43:4)

B. Salvation is the greatest resource and the platform for all other resources. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

C. No setback is final and no disaster is total as long as a believer’s soul is secure in God’s hands. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

D. Remember the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

III. Help Me with My Attitude

A. There is no justification for despondency when a believer trusts in God. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

B. Ultimately moods and emotions must be governed by theology. A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:1-3) “If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.” (Psalm 73:15-20)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Guests for Supper

Isaiah 61:1-11; Mark 6:30-44 / 1 Peter 5:1-14

I. Life Was Too Busy for the Disciples

A. The disciples reported to Jesus at the end of their mission. And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.” (Mark 6:30) “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

B. Even when they are engaged in important work for the kingdom, Jesus gives His servants rest. “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.” (Mark 6:31-32)

C. The needy people continued to demand attention. “And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and out went them, and came together unto him.” (Mark 6:33)

C. Resting was hard for Jesus too. “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

E. The disciples proposed to solve the problem in their own way. “And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

II. Jesus Had a Better Plan

A. Feed the hungry. “He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37)

1. God fed the people in the wilderness with manna when there was no other food for them. “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdellium.” (Numbers 11:7)

2. God even made the world out of nothing; there was neither pattern nor content when He began. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

B. Count the cost. “He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.” (Mark 6:38) The fish were similar in size to sardines.

1. When Jesus commands, the resources will meet the need. “He said, Bring them hither to me.” (Matthew 14:18)

2. Believers must learn to think and act with holy boldness. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

3. Do not set limits on God’s kindness. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)

C. Remember Moses and organize the people to receive their blessing. “And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.” (Mark 6:39-40)

D. Great benefits come to the church when it organizes as God directs. “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:” (Exodus 18:21)

E. Faithfulness turns dry places into refreshing pools on the way to God. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” (Psalm 84:5-7)

III. Jesus Fed the Hungry

A. The Lord blessed the food and distributed it. “And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.” (Mark 6:41) “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

B. Everyone ate at the Lord’s table and everyone was full; He who made the world from nothing did not face an insurmountable problem. “And they did all eat, and were filled.” (Mark 6:42) “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

C. The disciples had more at the end of the supper than at the start. “And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.” (Mark 6:43)

D. One lunch became a banquet for thousands. “And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” (Mark 6:44)

E. And so came to pass what had been prophesied in the terrible era of judgment; no matter how hard the times, God will supply His own. “And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:4)

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