The Fruit of Forgiveness

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The Fruit of Forgiveness

Psalm 32

 

In this award winning film called “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a mercenary who has taken asylum in the local church after killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage. He eventually leaves the church and heads to a mission post located above the waterfalls in a South American jungle. Because of what he has done, and how bad he feels, he ties himself to a several-hundred pound net of items that represents his sinful life. He feels compelled to drag this sack of sin around with him as a way to do penance for what he has done.
As you watch this clip you’ll see him slip under the burden of his past, with the rope choking the very life out of him. He feels terrible and yet doesn’t know what to do with his sin and the shame that comes with it.
Have you ever felt like that? I suspect that some of you are tethered to some sin or transgressions in the past. Others of you are gasping under the guilt of things you did several years ago. What do you do when you realize that you’ve messed up? How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Where do you go when you’ve failed? Where do you turn when you’ve hurt those closest to you? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging? Or, is there something better?
Before we look at Psalm 32 this morning, let me list a few things that guilt does to us (these insights are from a sermon by Jeff Seaman, as found on sermoncentral.com).
1. Guilt destroys our confidence. Guilt can make us feel insecure because we’re always worried that someone is going to find out what we’re really like, or what we’ve really done. Many years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each one that simply said this, “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all five men had left the country. That’s exactly the picture described in Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Is guilt destroying your confidence today?
2. Guilt damages our relationships. When we live with unconfessed sin we can respond to people in wrong ways. Are you impatient with others? Do you find yourself reacting in anger? Are you pulling back from those you love? If so, there may be some guilt in your gut somewhere.
3. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Do you continuously replay your sins over and over and over in your mind? Someone has said, “Guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future. But it can make you miserable today.” Have you ever noticed how your stomach keeps score when you swallow your sins?
While many of us wrestle with false guilt, too few of us take our real guilt seriously. Instead of confessing our sins, we often bury them or just try to ignore them. The Bible calls us back to the truth that we are sinners who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. Our own death warrants have been written into our birth certificates. In short, we struggle with guilt because we’re guilty. Ecc.7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

Let’s look at Psalm 32. The great theologian Augustine said that the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner. In order to be reminded of his depraved sinfulness and God’s gracious forgiveness, he had this psalm engraved on his bedroom wall as he lay dying in his bed. He read it all the time and when he was too sick, he instructed others to recite it for him.

Before we jump into the text, let’s focus on a few background truths.
David is the author. While he was a great king and walked with God for much of his life, we also know that he committed adultery and murder. When David speaks, he does so as a sinner who has been forgiven. The particular sin that David refers to is not important because there are plenty to choose from. He wrote this psalm to help us know that we can be fully restored and completely forgiven no matter what we’ve done.
This psalm is one of the seven psalms of forgiveness, which include Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.
Psalm 32 has also been referred to as one of “Paul’s Psalms” because it is quoted extensively in Romans 4:6-8 to help establish that we are declared righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on the Cross.
If you look at the very beginning of Psalm 32, right before verse 1, you’ll see the phrase, “A maskil.” This was a literary or musical term to indicate that the words to follow are very important. In other words, this is a “preaching psalm” given to us so that we can learn from the experiences of another. David wants us to pay particular attention to this inspired instruction so that we’ll understand and embrace our need for forgiveness. This is likely one of the psalms that Paul had in mind in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms…”
With that in mind, let’s see what we can learn about the fruit of forgiveness as we follow this simple outline:
1. The happiness of forgiveness (1-2)
2. The heaviness of sin (3-5)
3. The help of God (6-11)

The Happiness of Forgiveness
The very first word of Psalm 32 is “blessed.” This has a very rich meaning that cannot be defined with just one word. We could say, “How happy!” or “Congratulations to,” or, “Good for the one who,” or “Oh, the bliss of!” In addition, this word is in the plural so we could say, “Oh, the multiple happinessess, the bundles of blessings to the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
This is the second Psalm that begins with the word “blessed.” The first use is found in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” We are to be congratulated when we avoid sin and refuse to follow those who are a bad influence in our life. We are blessed when we do right and yet when we do sin and mess up and have our sins forgiven, Psalm 32 says we are blessed as well. This is cool. It’s much better to avoid sin and experience the blessings that come from making right choices. But when we blow it, we can still be called blessed if we ask for forgiveness.
David provides a threefold description of sin in these first two verses. Charles Spurgeon calls this the three-headed dog barking at the gates of hell. “Transgression” depicts a defiant disobedience toward God, a revolt against the Almighty. “Sin” means to miss the mark of God’s perfection either through acts of commission or omission. The word translated “sin” in verse 2 is actually the word “iniquity,” which represents a crookedness, deformity, or perversion. The image is of a tree that is gnarled and twisted.
The point of using these three different words is to remind us that all types of sin and wrongdoing can be forgiven. We defiantly disobey, we miss the mark, and we’re inherently crooked. Our “little” sins are an affront to the Almighty and those “big” acts of rebellion offend our Holy God. But no matter what we’ve done, we can be restored.
David also uses a triad of words to express the fullness of our forgiveness. The word “forgiven” means, “to lift a heavy burden and carry it away.” Our transgressions are taken away. Instead of trying to tug them along with us, we allow the Lord to lift them from us. The word “covered” refers to that which is concealed. What is offensive to God is put out of sight. The idea is that our sins are so covered that they will never appear again.
The third phrase, “not count against” is rich in meaning. We get the words “reckon” or “impute” from this term. This is the same word used in Genesis 15:6,where God “reckoned” righteousness to Abraham. God does not count our sins against us and in their place he has imputed the righteousness of another. God erases our sin-debt from the books as if it never happened. Romans 4 establishes that Christ’s right standing before God is ours and our sin is His.
No wonder David refers to the blessingnesses of forgiven transgressions, the covering of sins, and the erasing of our iniquities. Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” And, according to Isaiah 43:25, when God forgives, He no longer remembers our sins: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
That reminds me of the man who was telling his friend about an argument he had with his wife. “Every time we have an argument she gets historical.” The friend corrected him and said, “You mean hysterical, don’t you?” “No, I mean historical. Every time we fight she drags up stuff from the past and holds it against me!” God will not get “historical” with you if you have confessed your sins to Him. Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I love Micah 7:19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
In the last part of Psalm 32:2, David says that God does all this for the one in “whose spirit is no deceit.” That doesn’t mean someone who has no faults but rather refers to those who readily admit their sins. It’s the idea of authenticity. It means that we are not deceitful in acknowledging our sin. Listen carefully. The key to the Christian life is not our personal holiness, but our repentance. It’s not a matter of trying to be perfect but recognizing that we’re not. We need to fully admit that we are twisted transgressors and selfish sinners. Far too many of us are dishonest about our sins.
In his book called, “Not the Way We’re Supposed to Be,” Cornelius Plantinga writes, “The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin; feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grandparents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion…where sin is concerned, people just mumble now.” Are you mumbling about your meanderings, excusing your infractions, and being deceived by your disobedience? It’s time to get beyond our moral myopia that distorts the true view of ourselves. If we’re not real with God, David describes what will happen in verses 3-5.

The Heaviness of Sin
Look at verse 3: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” David is reflecting upon those times when he chose to keep quiet about his sins. When he tried to ignore his iniquities his bones felt like they were decaying. The word “groaning” was used to describe the roar of a wounded animal, or the growl of a bear in Isaiah 59:11. Job used this word in Job 3:24 to describe his agony: “For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water.” David tells us that his groaning went on all day long, or continuously, without intermission. When we don’t own our sins, our bodies revolt. Instead of happiness, we experience heartache. When we keep our mouths shut, our conscience screams. When we bottle up evil our bones waste away. Proverbs 28:13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper.”
We could put it this way: we are only as sick as our secrets. When you hide your sins you will be unhealthy and when you share your secret with God and with someone else, you’ll stop feeling sick. The secret you want most to conceal is the one you most need to reveal. Friend, what have you been concealing? What is it that you’ve been hiding? It’s time to come clean.
Verse 4 continues, “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” Even at night David could not rest from the cries of his conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The word “heavy” means, “to grievously afflict.” God’s hand can bring blessings but can also bear down on us. It’s because He cares so much for us. He loves us just the way we are but loves us too much to let us keep living the way we are. As Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”
David recalls feeling like his strength was sapped, his energy evaporated as in the heat of the summer. Listen to how he described this time in his life from Psalm 38:2-8: “For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me…my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly…I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” Guilt is really a divine implant graciously designed to bring the sinner back to God.
These verses remind us that when we don’t fully confess we will experience emotional and physical distress. Anger and bitterness can come as a result of unconfessed sin and will eat your insides out. Ulcers, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and lower back pain can come from concealing our sins. Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day!
David is suggesting here in verse 4 that you could be dry spiritually because of some specific disobedience in your life. After describing his spiritual drought and distress, David then writes the word, “Selah” immediately following this verse. This is a word that beckons us to pause and think about what has just been said. David doesn’t want us to miss the point. Only confession will bring restoration. [Pause]
It’s not easy for us to admit our sins, is it? It’s like the guy who went into the Hallmark store and asked the clerk, “Do you have a card that stops short of saying ‘I’m sorry’ yet vaguely hints of some wrongdoing?” Many of us do this with God when we’re not specific about our sins. We might tip our hat to our frailty but rarely fall down on our knees in real repentance before Him.
Two elderly Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. He was banging the pulpit and the ladies were cheering him on. When he condemned the sin of stealing, the two church ladies cried out loudly, “AMEN, BROTHER!” When he condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!” And, when he spoke out against lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROHTER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS…AMEN!”
But when preacher-man condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet. One lady turned to the other and said, “Well, he’s done quit preachin’. Now he’s just meddlin’.” What sin shuts you up this morning? It’s easy for us to get upset with those who sin differently than we do but it’s much tougher when the Holy Spirit starts meddlin’ in our lives.
Verse 5 gives us the right approach. When David could find relief in no other way, he said, “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.” Instead of concealing, David is now confessing. He first acknowledged his sin by stating the obvious. Then he stopped trying to cover it up. By the way, we can’t expect God to cover what we’re not willing to uncover.
Finally, he confessed to the Lord. In a sense, he’s like the prodigal son who had grown tired of living with the pigs. He owns his wrong and doesn’t make any excuses. To “confess” literally means, “to say the same” thing that God says about your sin. Until we can say, “God, you’re right, it’s wrong,” we haven’t really confessed. If you’re not ready to confess, maybe you need a little more distress in your life. David finally surrendered. Are you ready to do the same?
Notice that he takes personal responsibility by the use of personal pronouns ­ my sin, my iniquity, my transgressions. David repeats the three words for sins mentioned in verse 1: he acknowledges his sin, he does not cover up his iniquity, and he confesses his transgressions to the Lord. Notice that he doesn’t deny, minimize, or blame someone else. He simply calls his sin, “sin.” It’s not an error, a mistake, or a lapse in judgment. He doesn’t argue about what the meaning of “is” is. The greatest holdout to the healing of my hang-ups is me.
We would be much better off if we would stop using other words and phrases to excuse our behavior and begin using biblical terms. Sin loves to hide behind euphemisms. Here are some that come to mind.
· Instead of saying, “I stretched the truth,” it’s better to say, “I just sinned by lying to you.”
· Instead of saying, “I just have a bad temper,” it’s more accurate to say, “I just sinned against you with my words. Please forgive me.”
· Instead of saying, “I just want to share a prayer request with you,” it may be more truthful to say, “I want to pass along some gossip in order to defame someone.”
· Instead of saying, “I had an affair,” it’s more biblical to say, “I committed adultery.”
The smug soul that comes before God and says that sin is no big deal can never know the living God. John Piper puts it this way: “Until we fear sin and its consequences more keenly, we will not prize our pardon very highly.” This may sound blunt to you but actually its much better to call sin what it is. Why is that? Because there’s a solution for sin – it’s called forgiveness. Until we acknowledge that what we’ve done is sinful, we won’t experience freedom and restoration.
Confession is more than merely informing God that we’ve sinned. It also involves a turning away. It’s only when we stop being quiet about our specific sins, when we refuse to hide our transgressions and admit to God what we can barely admit to ourselves, that we will experience the fruit of forgiveness. Instead of just confessing our sins wholesale, it’s time to own up for the specifics. Here’s a helpful phrase to keep in mind: when you make a mess, confess! When you recognize your sin and reject it, God will remove it: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
We don’t have to beg God to forgive us because He wants to forgive more than we want to be forgiven. We don’t have to bargain with Him and we don’t have to bribe Him by promising to do a bunch of good things, and we don’t have to do penance for the bad things we’ve done. Another pause is needed here ­ Selah ­­ so that we don’t rush past the beauty of having all of our sins forgiven. Take some time right now to specifically confess any sins that you’ve been concealing.

The Help of God
After talking about the happiness of forgiveness and the heaviness of sin, in verses 6-11, David draws our attention to the help of God. God’s help is seen in three ways.
1. His protection (6-7). David urges those who are “godly” to pray. That doesn’t mean those who are perfect but those who are “inclined” to be godly. It’s not someone who is holy, but refers to the person who belongs to a holy God. There’s a sense of urgency attached to this call to prayer. Pray now while you can. When we seek Him he will protect us from the deluge of mighty waters. Verse 7 says that He will keep us from trouble and surround us with songs of deliverance. He is our hiding place. It’s interesting that in the beginning of this psalm, David is hiding his sins from God; now he is hiding himself in God. Whenever we confess our sins and find forgiveness, we will want to seek shelter under His wings.
2. His instruction (8-10). God promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. The blessing of protection is wonderful but it would be incomplete if it were not accompanied by His direction. What good would it be if He guarded us from destruction but didn’t tell us which way to go?
Verse 9 warns us about not being stubborn and stupid when it comes to following God: “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.” By nature, most of us are wild and unwilling to obey. When David acted like a mule, God put the bridle of suffering on him and pulled him to repentance. Is God humbling you right now? Is He trying to break you with the bit and bridle? He only does this so we will see our need and come back to Him.
3. His joy (11). When we stay close to the Lord by cultivating a spirit of surrender and submission, and when we practice regular confession, we can’t help but break out into joy: “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” The word, “rejoice” means to “spin around with glee.” And the phrase “be glad” literally means, “to brighten up!” When we have our sins forgiven we can’t help but break out into spontaneous expressions of joy. David put it this way in Psalm 92:4: “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.”
Those who are forgiven much love much. Those who have their sins covered can leap for joy. Conversely, if you don’t have much joy in your life today it may be because you’ve been carrying around a burden of guilt. Sin may be sucking the life out of you. It may be strangling your joy. If you want to truly be happy and stop living with so much distress, then learn to confess!
The only way to be rid of your regrets and to have your sins covered is to confess them to God. When you do, He will forgive you. And when He does, your sins are forgotten and you’re free! Some of you have asked for forgiveness but you’re still pulling a suitcase of sin with you.
There’s another scene in “The Mission” where Robert DeNiro is struggling with his load of guilt and someone cuts the rope. His net of iniquity goes tumbling down the path and into the water. Instead of being thankful, DeNiro pushes the man out of the way and runs after his sins. When he gets down to the water he picks up the bundle again and tries to carry it back up the mountain on his back.
Are you doing the same thing today? If you’ve confessed and repented, God has forgiven you. Can you forgive yourself? You see, the only way for God to glorify His name and make people happy is not just to overlook sins but also to change sinners. God not only covers our sins, He makes us into new people. 2
Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

 

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Letter from an airline pilot:

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Letter from an airline pilot:
He writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have an H.R. On this flight.” (H.R. Stands for human remains.) “Are they military?” I asked.

‘Yes’, she said.

‘Is there an escort?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I already assigned him a seat’.

‘Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early,” I said..

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

‘My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,’ he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our pre-flight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. ‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board’, she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do. ‘I’m on it’, I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a Secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I Saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:
‘Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.
The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.’

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, ‘You have no idea how much this will mean to them.’

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

‘There is a team in place to meet the aircraft’, we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the co-pilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, ‘Take your time.’

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.’

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of ‘God Bless You’, I’m sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.

They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.

Praying for a New Perspective (Part 2)

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Praying for a New Perspective (Part 2)

You Matter to the Majesty

 

As David pondered the power of God while seeing the solar system, his thoughts come back to earth in verse 4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” On this dark night, on this little pebble of a planet, why would God even care about me? Listen carefully. In God’s eyes, you are more spectacular than a supernova. The glory of the galaxy has been placed upon your head. If there is anything more marvelous than the sheer scale and splendor of the universe, it’s that in all of that vastness, you matter to the Majesty.

 

The word for “man” here is the word that means “weak and frail.” Our lives are like a vapor, here one moment and gone the next. And yet, God is mindful of us, meaning that He remembers us. This is a covenant term, indicating that He is committed to us and will never forget us. The word “care” has a rich meaning. It literally means, “to visit.” Because God treasures His creation, He looks for ways to come and get close to us and to visit us with His blessings.

 

Some of you don’t really believe that God thinks about you all the time. You have a hard time understanding how He could love you because of all the things you’ve done. While you may be unworthy, as we all are, you are not worthless! Allow the truth of Psalm 139:17-18 to break through your guilt and shame: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Do you know what that means? It means that you can’t even count the number of times God thinks about you!

And Zephaniah 3:17 tells us what He does when He thinks about us: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” When God thinks about you, which He does all the time, He takes great delight in you and even breaks out into song!

 

You are the pinnacle of His creative power, the apex of His awesome plan for the cosmos. We see that in verses 5-8. We are made just a little lower than the heavenly beings and have been crowned with glory and honor. God’s plan for us was to make us co-regents, as He’s called us to have dominion over flocks, herds, beasts of the field, birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. There has always been a special place in the heart of God for humans, whom He made superior to any other part of His earthly creation. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that we have been made in His image and therefore we reflect His glory, though rather dimly because of sin.

 

Allow Jesus to Recreate You

This Psalm leaves us feeling a bit unsettled because we know that while we can ride a horse and catch some fish, all of God’s creation is definitely not under our feet. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, cancer, and death are a stark reminder that our world is out of whack. Our trust in corporations, our courts, and even churches has been fractured these past months. And, we wonder when the next terrorist attack will come.

 

We can heal and we can harm. We both educate and exterminate. We can overflow with humanitarian help and then explode in inhumanity to others. The writer of the Book of Hebrews felt a similar tension when he read this Psalm. Right after quoting a section of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:8 he wrote: “In putting everything under him [meaning man], God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.”

 

We’ve come a long way from the day when God made mankind to have dominion. Great things have happened. Inventions have made life easier. The Sons of Liberty made a stand for independence. We have looked for ways to subdue our planet and have headed to space, looking for other worlds to conquer. We’ve done well…or have we? There’s still one thing you don’t have dominion over. Do you know what it is? It’s you. Humans have never learned to subdue sin. It was unleashed into the human bloodstream by Adam and Eve and it continues to infect lives today. That’s the root of the human dilemma. We’re image-bearers of God and yet we’re marred by the magnitude of sin.

 

The Book of Hebrews also gives the provision to our predicament. Quoting Psalm 8, the writer of Hebrews 2:9 no longer applies it to us, but rather points us to “…Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death…” Jesus took on the form of a man in order to taste death for us. He did this, according to verse 14-15, in order to “…destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil; and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

 

Humans have been made in the image of God to rule and reign as the divine agent in charge of the earth. But, because of sin, we have rejected God and pursued ultimate destruction for both our planet and ourselves. But Jesus came and dealt the devil a deathblow. When we put our faith in Him, we will become who God has made us to be. He is fashioning a new creation of men and women, boys and girls, who reflect His image and accomplish His purposes in the world.

One People Under God

 

That brings us full circle to the last verse of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Let me ask you a question. Is Jesus your Lord right now? David could say with confidence, “O Lord, our Lord.”

 

Sometime back a federal appeals court declared the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional because of the phrase, “under God.” Thankfully, that decision has been stayed and will hopefully be overturned. It was amazing to see how our entire nation rallied behind the pledge. I really enjoyed watching Congress recite it, giving special emphasis to the phrase, “under God.”

 

As I watched the reaction and read different responses, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are really “one nation under God.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that the public outcry was so overwhelming. But, let me bring this a bit closer to home. Psalm 8 establishes that God’s glory is above the Heavens and yet it reminds us that He can be “our” God. He can be your God. But that can only happen if you decide to live your life “under God.” Under his authority. Under his Word. Under His values. Under His purposes for your life.

 

As we approach our celebration of independence in a few weeks, are you ready this morning to pledge your dependence upon God and your determination to live under His leadership? If so, will you please join me as I conclude our time by praying through Psalm 8.

Praying For A New Perspective (Part 1)

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Praying for a New Perspective Part 1

Bev and I are on vacation this week. We are enjoying a wonderful time with our family and especially our grandchildren. We are in Thailand and have enjoyed the tropics with the warm and balmy climate. Yesterday was cool by Thai standards, but it was still in the eighties with just a touch of rain. We are looking forward to playing some golf today, the Lord willing.

Last Sunday, we had the privilege of worshipping with the believers at Immanuel Church. This is a new church plant that Ryan and Heather have partnered with to help evangelize, disciple and mature some church leaders. It was great to be a part of the service and to hear Ryan preach God’s Word, all in Thai. I heard three English words, my name when they introduced me, the word tornado as Ryan mentioned what happened to our church, and the word “face book.” I could see why Paul called for the interpretation of tongues in the public worship service in 1 Corinthians.

Since I have been gone, I have had the subject of prayer on my mind. I spoke on Sunday night on Colossians 4:12, where it states, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” So I have been drawn to the Psalms as my mind contemplates the area of prayer.

Have you ever thought about “Praying Through the Psalms.” While the Book of Psalms may be the most popular book in the Bible, and is most often associated with worship or songs of praise, the Psalms actually give us a very practical picture of prayer. They take us from the heights of joy to the depths of despair, using words that can serve as a pattern for our own prayers.

Ambrose, a church leader from the 4th Century, referred to the Psalms as the “gymnasium of the soul.” In order to catapult us into deeper prayer, both individually and as a church, we’re going to spend the next nine weeks exercising our faith as we pray through the Psalms. I encourage you to read through the entire Book of Psalms, using them as a model for prayer (if you read three a day you will finish the entire book by the end of summer).

It’s my hope that we will have, in our church, those who will help contribute to a flood of fervent prayers and raise the prayer temperature around here. Jesus said in Matthew 21:13: “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Let’s make Metro a house of prayer, and let’s commit to make our homes lighthouses of prayer. In order for that to happen, we must first have hearts of prayer.
I’ve often wondered what is most important – prayer or preaching? Should we be spending more time reading the Bible or praying? I love A.W. Tozer’s answer to this question: “Which is more important to a bird: the right wing or the left?” Teaching is not more important than caring for one another. Prayer is not better than evangelism. Worship does not trump ministry. They’re all essential and important.

My goal this summer is to allow the Word of God to catapult us into the praise of God. As we workout in the Psalms, we will find ourselves responding in protracted prayer. I will know that this has succeeded when each of us experience a revolution in our prayer life. I don’t want to just give information about the Psalms; I sincerely want to allow this section of God’s Word to affect life transformation.

Let’s admit something. Very few of us pray like we should. If the truth were known, most of us would be embarrassed if others knew how little we really prayed. Sometimes our prayer life is flabby simply because we’ve not been exercising it. But I’m convinced that for many of us prayer has become a bit boring and predictable. As we take this book of 150 prayers and actually begin praying these expressions of praise and longings back to God, we will experience nothing short of a prayer revival.

I’m not interested in giving you another formula for prayer. While they can be helpful in their simplicity, they invariably omit part of who we are or what we’re experiencing. Prayer becomes smaller and can become more like a task rather than life itself. When that happens real life and prayer begin to exist in separate compartments with few points of contact. Prayer can become a duty that we can never totally fulfill.

The call of the Bible is not a call to more prayer, but to a life of prayer. Paul calls it “unceasing prayer” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Jesus refers to prayer as a life of “abiding” in John 15:7. The Psalms are the only prayer guide that enlarges prayer so much that everything else is pulled into it. Prayer becomes the great conversation. Nothing is too large or too small to be prayed.

I went for a walk the other evening and it was pitch black. As I looked up at the stars and the moon, I was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and my own sense of smallness. Tears started to run down my face as God brought the words of Psalm 8 to my mind. I picture David, the author of this Psalm, lying on his back gazing at the heavens, when these words started flowing out of his mouth.

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Please join me as I pray this Psalm back to God…
We can outline this Psalm very simply.
1. God matters more than anything (1-3)
2. You matter to the Majesty (4-9)

God Matters More Than Anything
The theme of Psalm 8 is found in verse 1 and is repeated again in verse 9: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” The first word “LORD” is the name Yahweh, which was the unspoken name of God, and means “the self-existent one.” The second use of “Lord” is the name Adonai and is a title that reflects that He is master of everything. The use of “O Yahweh” focuses on God’s otherness, or separateness from us. The phrase “our Lord” helps us see that God is personally involved with us. God is powerful and He is also personal. Theologically speaking, He is both “eminent” and “immanent.” This dual orientation is a key to understanding this psalm.
 
 
We get in trouble when we emphasize one of these at the exclusion of the other. God is both beyond us and right near us. If we focus only on Him as forgiving, loving and not expecting too much, we can trivialize the Almighty. Conversely, if we picture God has removed from us, as One who is mysterious and to be afraid of, we can feel like He is impossible to know. Psalm 8 calls us to revel in the paradox of God’s being – He is “other” but He is “ours.” If I know Jesus as Savior, then God is both majestic and He is mine.

God’s name is “majestic” in all the earth. This means that His name, which stands for all that He is, is excellent and famous in the earth. There is no one else like Him. He is omnipotent and incomparable. Exodus 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” David is overwhelmed by the majesty and greatness of the Almighty, and recognizes God’s global glory, much like Paul does in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

David concludes verse 1 by saying that God’s glory is way beyond the heavens. The word “glory” encompasses all of His attributes. The word literally means, “heavy” and refers to the fact that God is weighty, or awesome. As David stared into the night sky, he was dazzled by what He saw and yet God’s glory fills the galaxy and beyond! When contemplating God’s glory, Solomon writes something similar in 1 Kings 8:27: “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

Verse 2 takes us from the highest heavens to one of the smallest things on earth: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise…” We move from heavenly bodies to infant expressions. I picture David’s stargazing being interrupted by a baby’s cry or a child’s voice. This is really cool. God’s transcendent glory, His greatness that is far above the heavens, can be grasped and expressed by a child! Children have a way of capturing spiritual truth in ways that amaze, and even rebuke us grownups.

A father was reading the Bible story about Lot to his young son: “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.” When he was done, his son asked, “What happened to the flea?” That reminds me of a three-year-olds response to a song that was sang to her recently, “Megan is a gift from God. Megan is a gift to be enjoyed. Megan is a gift from above. Megan is a gift to be loved.” When her friend finished the song, Megan said, “But I don’t have any wrapping paper on…”

Children have the innate ability to see things simply and literally. That’s why we have children’s church and Sunday School classes for all ages. That’s why we are about to start our VBS in just a few short days. It’s for their benefit, but actually, if you’re a teacher, you benefit from the praises that come from the lips of kids. Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 21:16 in response to the chief priests and teachers’ complaint about children confessing the deity of Christ. This helps us see that praise is instinctive to us as human beings. We have been made to worship. It’s natural to praise Him!

In verse 3, David’s mind returns to the marvels of the cosmos: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” The word “consider” means to meditate, or to see. As he looks at the star-spangled sky, He quickly gives testimony to God’s work – “your” heavens, “your” fingers, which “you” have set in place.
David is astonished at the greatness of a God who could create such things. It is estimated that there are at least 10 billion galaxies in the universe, with each galaxy containing perhaps 100 billion stars. The word “fingers” is a metaphor that was used for embroiderers. God knit everything together, arranging all the planets and stars in such a way that would bring Him the most glory. David only saw a fraction of this stellar display but he was overwhelmed nonetheless.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are best known as the first astronauts to land on the moon and take that “giant leap for mankind.” What you may not know is that before they emerged from the spaceship, Aldrin pulled out a Bible and as his first act on the moon, he broke bread, took a cup and celebrated communion.

Frank Borman was commander of Apollo 8 and had the thrill of looking down on the earth from 250,000 miles away. He radioed a message, in which he and his fellow astronauts took turns quoting the opening verses of Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” He later explained, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us, that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.” There’s something about space that sparks our spirit, isn’t there? I like what John Glenn said after his return to outer space 36 years later, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith.”

These first three verses help us see that God matters more than anything. The rest of the Psalm establishes a second truth: You matter to the Majesty. The first half focuses on God’s glory. The second half answers the age-old questions: “What is man? How do we fit into the cosmos? What is our purpose? Why are we here?” By the way, these questions can only be answered as we come to grips with who God is. Any attempt to find out who we are apart from the One who made us is doomed to failure. We must always start with God.