John Woodhouse gives us an excellent overview of 2 Samuel in 3 components:

00:05:24-00:25:59 Part 1: David’s Kingdom (2 Samuel 1-10)
00:25:59-00:53:10 Part 2: David’s Disaster (2 Samuel 11-20)
00:53:10-01:15:00 Part 3: The kingdom of David and the kingdom of God (2 Sam 21-24)

Talk Manuscript

Brad Thorn tells us about his career as a professional league and union international player. Playing for Queensland, Australia and the All-Blacks. Most importantly he shares with us about his new life in Jesus.

Monopoly has been a worldwide favorite board game, everyone in the game is given the same money – $1500. But as we know we all don’t start life with the same opportunities, some are born into poor families and some into rich but the one thing it does get right is that whether you make a lot or a little, whether you have hotels on Mayfair or not, at the end of the game it all goes into the box.

The challenge for every preacher is showing the relevance of a passage. The thing about death is that it’s the one experience that every human shares, it becomes an important lens to understand the rest of life.

This Psalm begins with it a shout out to everyone to listen.

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: ~Psalm 49:1-2 (NIV)

This is a Psalm that speaks to all people, not just people who believe, its addressed to all nations, not just God’s people. What is said makes sense, whether your inside or outside the circle of faith, because it speaks of death. Its for all demographics, rich or poor, the powerful and the powerless, whether you live in Darling Point or Doonside.

It’s not a lament, or a confession or a praise, it’s a wisdom psalm and it promises understanding.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: ~Psalm 49:3-4 (NIV)

This is the very thing the world is so short on, we have lots of information but not much wisdom, we have lots of knowledge but no discernment, we have lots of Google me this but not much understanding. It begs the question, who is worth listening? With my bible closed I really have nothing worth saying. Lets open this psalm and gain some wisdom.

Why should I fear when evil days come, ~Psalm 49:5 (NIV)

The bible is realistic, it expects that days of evil will come but this Psalm also promises hope. Why should I fear and be intimidated when evil comes?

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? ~Psalm 49:5 (NIV)

Again, we have the importance of self-talk, why should I be afraid in the face of injustice? In this context the threat comes from evil doers who are deceivers. Liars are bad but deceivers are worse because a liar is easier to spot than a deceiver, a liar tells untruths for their own advantage but a deceiver tells a mixture of lies and truths to deceive and harm others.

Deceivers encircle the Psalmist. They both trust in their riches and boast in their wealth. Wealth is power and they were abusing their power by exploiting the poor. The way to dismantle one’s fear when you’re powerless is to think God thoughts, to understand the absolute false hopes of wealth through the lens of death.

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay. ~Psalm 49:7-9 (NIV)

Why not fear?

The price tag for eternity is too expensive for everyone. You can’t buy your way into heaven, you can’t bribe your way out of death. Sadly, you can’t ransom your life or any other, it’s what every grieving person knows, especially if you have lost a loved one, wishing you could take their place but knowing you cant.

When my son James nearly died at birth my theology went out the window, I was bargaining with God to save his life offering
everything I have.

Wealth can do a lot, you can use it to bless others, you can buy your way out of a lot of trouble with an expensive lawyer, you can buy your way out of poverty and move to a nice part of town, you can extend your life by paying for the best private medical treatment, but it cannot stop death.

Either way sooner or later we all owe God a death. As a result, we all die leaving our wealth to others.

For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. ~Psalms 49:10 (NIV)

Observe how both the rich die with the poor, the wise end up with the fools and the POWERFULL end up the same places as the POWERLESS. Death is the great leveller.

We all leave our accumulated wealth for other others to enjoy. Ecclesiastes makes this point and extends it, you leave it to another and you don’t know whether they will be a fool or wise. Sooner or later either your kids, grandkids or their spouses will blow it away by gambling, or a divorce or a bad investment.

Train yourself not to be easily impressed

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. ~Psalm 49:16-17 (NIV)

We all leave this earth in exactly the same way as we enter, naked and with nothing. On any given day you can have a homeless man and a wealthy man both lying on a slab next to each other at the Morgue, the exact same outcome. Bottom line is, don’t be overawed by the rich who take advantage of you, they can’t take it with them.

There is the story of the wealthy man who organized to be buried in his gold plated car, as the car rolled into the ditch, one worker asked to the other “how much did he leave behind?” The answer is always the same “All of it.”

Egyptian Pharaoh’s tried to take it with them but the grave robbers were the only ones who benefitted. You never see a removalist truck following the hearse to the cemetery, which is why it’s tragic when Christians sell their souls for some get rich schemes. The only house that we will live in is our tomb.

In that sense, we are no different from the animals

Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. ~Psalm 49:11-12 (NIV)

When my kids were impressed by someone who was both famous and foolish I said “Don’t forget they will die like a dog like everybody else” now that is good parenting.

The only house you own and benefit from is your coffin. I find Mausoleums very interesting, they are impressive buildings that house a tomb of a loved one, the most famous would be the Taj Mahal. They are attempts to honour the dead and soften the reality of death, they look somewhere between a temple and a hotel, the only difference is that no one gets to walk out.

The Psalmist says, while you managed to leave your name on some piece of real estate or monument, you wont be around to enjoy it. Bill Bryon notes that if you’re buried in a sealed coffin you will deteriorate somewhere from 5-40 years. “The average grave is visited only for about fifteen years, so most of us take a lot longer to vanish from the Earth than from others memories”

This is the destiny of humanity, well not quite…

This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. ~Psalm 49:13-14 (NIV)

The call is to be wise as to who and what you put your trust in. If you put your trust in yourself and in your wealth than death wins every time. While the mansion you built will carry your name, your corpse is rotting away. If you trust yourself then, death becomes your shepherd and it leads you to destruction. If Jesus is your good shepherd he will restore your soul and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

For one reason, while we can’t ransom our lives, while we cant take the place of another, God can and did.

But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. ~Psalm 49:15 (NIV)

Jesus alone is able to ransom us from death. He is the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.

We have already heard that no one can ransom themselves or another, that is unless they satisfy 3 criteria.

  • They have to be human, for only a human can take the place of a human
  • They have to be sinless, otherwise they will have to die for their own sin
  • They have to be God for only God can endure the horror of hell

In Jesus alone we have all three, He was truly human, He was totally sinless and He was fully God. That is why Jesus can say…

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:45 (NIV)

It’s why He can say:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

The psalmist is pleading, don’t be in awe, don’t be afraid of those who exploit you with their wealth. You’re not the one to live in fear, they are! Their blessings are short lived.

Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life. ~Psalm 49:18-19 (NIV)

Right now we are seeing many lose their jobs while others are getting a promotion, we are seeing some businesses die a slow or quick death while others are bursting with success. If things are going well the temptation is to trust yourself, take care what conversation you’re having with yourself. When other say “Wow, you have made it!” take care how you interpret the praise of others.

As one T shirt said, “The one with the most toys doesn’t win he just dies like everything else.” Not true, there is a different destiny between those who trust in themselves and their wealth and those who don’t.

People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish. ~Psalm 49:20 (NIV)

So, the issue is not just wealth, its not about those who have wealth but those who have wealth without understanding.

  • Don’t fear that person who cling to wealth and not Jesus.
  • Don’t envy a person on their way to hell.
  • Pity yes but not envy

How do I know that I am not putting my trust in myself and in what possessions I have, Jesus will urge us:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

So you can take it with you! if you use what you have great or small as if it belongs to God. You own absolutely nothing!
Death is proof of that. You are but a steward entrusted by God with much or little and as stewards we will give an account.

I was talking to one of our overseas ministry partners, they said “I want to live life like I’m playing Uno not Monopoly” “What do you mean?” “In Monopoly you win by ending up with the most things, in Uno you win by giving all your cards away.” I thought it was a helpful image.

I want to commend those who have kept their jobs but have not panicked, you are still generous and supporting the work of the gospel and care for the poor.

As Psalm 90 ends, Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Or as Luther put it, “Teach us that we must die…”

Dear Father,
Teach us to not be afraid.
To not be intimidated.
To not be overwhelmed with those who take advantage of us.
Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Teach us to not put our confidence in ourselves and in what we have.
But to trust in our Jesus for he alone can ransom us from death.
And set us free that we may store our treasures in heaven.
In Jesus name Amen.

Happy Father’s day. All Fatherhood stems from God the Father, which means our Dads were either stepping stones or stumbling blocks to knowing the one true God. They either hindered or they helped or a bit of both.

One of the most decisive moments in my life was when I went to hear Larry Crabb, renown Psychologist, speak at a week-long conference. He shared stories about his two boys and I didn’t realise, but I was being drawn to him as a father, in Larry Crabb, I found a man who both loved God and loved people. It awoke something inside of me and at the end of the conference as he drove away I started crying and I don’t cry all that much, I didn’t stop crying for the next 3 hours and they were the most beautiful tears I have ever shed. It exposed a grief I carried about my own dad.

At age 22 I started a journey that led me to know the love of my Father in heaven, which freed me to both face my Dad’s failures and yet be grateful for his love. Too many people spend their life desperate for their fathers. Approval or seeking to prove their father wrong. Psalm 103 speaks of the Fatherhood of God in all his glory, He is the Father you never had.

Yes, the Bible is patriarchal. Third-wave feminism wants to solve a real problem the wrong way, the aim is not to deconstruct patriarchy and dismantle fatherhood. We think the answer to bad fatherhood is no fatherhood but the answer to bad fatherhood is to imitate their heavenly Father.

Our Father in heaven deserves our praise. The Psalm is an extended call to oneself to praise God our Father.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. ~Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

David is speaking to himself for most of this psalm, let all of me praise all of you Father. We can’t really sing “all of me loves all of you” because we don’t love the sin in the other person. But with our Holy Father, all of me can truly love all of Him.

The modern vision of Fatherhood is not a Christian one, in it, we Dads become the heroes and not God our Father. I think there are lots of fathers who love their kids, they take them to sport, they make time and have fun but you hear no God-talk on their lips and they share no joy in Christ.

John Piper is right when he says “Dads, your kids greatest need is to see you praise God”

Either by talking singing or sharing some truth about who God is and what he has done, whether at church, at home or in the car or camping. Psalm 103 is one long self talk.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits ~Psalm 103:2 (NIV)

Learn the art of preaching to your soul and don’t forget what God has done, don’t steal his glory and don’t be overwhelmed with life’s pressures. The way to remember is to keep urging yourself to praise God for HIS many blessings.

There are so many benefits in this Psalm, let’s break them down into 3 areas.

1. We praise our Father for he is in total control 

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. ~Psalm 103:19 (NIV)

God rules! Praise God that he rules over every corner of this universe, from Angels to Atoms to Ants, He lovingly rules over the big picture and the small details of life.

In the fury of the moment
I can see the masters hand
In every leaf that trembles and
In every grain of sand
~Bob Dylan

Do you have a moment by moment awareness of Gods total control? God rules over the present and the future.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ~Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV)

His total authority is clearly seen in his Son who had absolute control over sin, sickness, suffering, satan, and the surf. Let our children hear us say, I praise you, Lord, that you rule over all 7 billion humans in all 195 nations, that you rule over every world leader however they got into power, that you rule over every corner of this massive system and over a rouge virus.

Learn to give yourself a good talking to. For example:

Q: Raymond is God Lord of the universe? Yes!
A: Then why do you live with so much fear?

Q: Will God supply all my needs? Yes!
A: Then why O Ray, why are you so anxious

Praise your Father in heaven for he alone rules! We praise our Father who seeks justice for the powerless.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. ~Psalm 103:6 (NIV)

God jealously defends those who can’t speak up for themselves. Think with me for a moment, the bible is honest about the sins of Israel. Why are we so afraid to admit the sins of Australia?

If like me you or your parents chose to make Australia your home then we must own its history both the good and bad. If we benefit from the past sins, we must assume responsibility of the past, not to mention the present. It’s a history that has oppressed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We had a white Australian policy when the original custodians were not white. We only gave them citizenship in 1967 when I was 7. It’s shameful that my Maltese Father who came to Australia in 1939 got his citizenship before Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders who lived in this land for over 40,000 years. They fought in wars defending a country that would not let them vote, they were not paid a proper wage and at times were limited to who they could marry. Their children were taken from the mothers. We have systematically dismantled a culture over centuries and it took as late as February 2008 before a Prime Minister finally apologized, then wonder why or come up with cheap answers to why they have high mortality rate, unemployment and incarceration and shorter lifespans.

When you see injustice know the God of the bible hates it, so Praise him for being a God of justice

  • When wrongs are righted – Praise God
  • When sins are exposed – Praise God
  • When rights are trampled – Plead with God

Let your children hear you praise the Lord for his justice and plead for his protection of the powerless. Never forget, no one is more powerless than the unborn. Praise God that his cross is the ultimate evidence that he is a just God.

We praise our Father for his extravagant love

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ~Psalm 103:3-5 (NIV)

God never does a job that is half baked, He lavishes us with his love and His blessings are so complete that He

  • Cancels all of our sins (past, present and future)
  • Heals all our sickness (some in this age and all in the next)
  • Every good thing you long for will be satisfied

When God entered into a covenant with Israel He revealed his glory by revealing his character

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. ~Psalm 103:8-10 (NIV)

That is your Father in heaven. I don’t know what your Dad was like. Was he quick to anger and quick to blame, who constantly brought up your failures and shamed you in public? When you think of the word “Father” what words spring to mind? Harsh or Gentle. Mean or Gracious. Critical or Encouraging. Absent or Present. Abusive or Safe. Like me, my Dad was a mixed bag, that is why at times we Fathers must apologise to our children. If we don’t then we are liars and hypocrites, most kids can live with imperfect Dads if we genuinely own our failures.

God does not hold our sins against us and he is perfect SO why do we hold our children’s sins against them and why do we hold our Dad’s sins against them?

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV)

God wants us to grasp the full extent of his love that just can’t be measured. Sometimes God says When I forgive, it’s like I take all your sins and I plunge them in the deepest part of the ocean. Never to be used against you. Praise you Lord. When I forgive you its like I put your sins behind my back. So that when I look at you I see perfection. Praise you Lord God. Or, I create so much distance between you and your sin that its the distance between East and West. In a full moon, you can’t see the moon and sun at the same time.

The point is that God is saying I cant see you and your sin, He treats us as we don’t deserve.

But our sins are not placed at the bottom of the ocean or behind Gods back they are all stapled to the body of his Son
who took our blame, they were left at the cross never ever to be brought up against us again.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ~1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

But of course, this is only for those who FEAR GOD, three times we are told it’s for those who fear God, specifically, who put their trust in God’s Son. Do you joyfully praise God for his forgiveness or are you like Trump? When asked if he had ever sought God’s forgiveness and he replied, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

Days later when asked to clarify if, “asking for forgiveness” is a central tenet in his faith life. Trump answered “I try not to make mistakes where I have to ask forgiveness,” Friends I’ll stay out of politics when politicians stay out of bad theology. You don’t want your kids, let alone your nation, ever to hear that. Remember it’s critical we point our kids to our heavenly Father
because we won’t be around forever and they won’t be around forever.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. ~Psalm 103:13-16 (NIV)

Here today and gone tomorrow. We are not preparing the next generation for our death if we make ourselves the heroes of the story.

I said to my Maddy, who has a sensitive conscience, if by chance I catch COVID from you and die please remember that God my Father numbered my days not you.

Don’t waste your life feeling guilty for God sovereignty.

Finally, as the psalm begins so it ends, but now he wants everything and everyone everywhere to praise our Father for his many benefits.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. ~Psalm 103:20-22 (NIV)

It’s a call to you angels who stand in the presence of God day and night, yes even you archangels Gabriel and Michael that includes Cherubim’s and Seraphim. Don’t hold back, give God the praise he deserves. To You who died in Christ and are gathered in heaven around the throne, you believers gathered in homes or around this screen or around the world. What is stopping you!!! Pump up the volume and let your neighbours hear praise coming from out of your mouth and out of your windows

And as for the rest of creation from Mt Everest to Mt Druitt from Buffalos to Bees, let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
You may not be able to sing at church but you can sing at home and in the car. You can praise God in words before the world and before the saints.

Here is one idea: Why not write a Father Day card to God your Father. My son gave me a Fathers day card and the cover said… Best Dad in Sydney …I was hoping for the World. He wrote “I am so thankful to God to have you as my Dad”

How about we all write God a Fathers day card telling him why we love him, then share what you wrote with your friends or family, here is mine.

Heavenly Father, Bless you for you choosing me before the creation of the world and adopting me into your forever family.
Precious Father I praise you for providing me with full forgiveness for all my sins, past present and future.
You have gifted me with your Son who died in my place.
You have gifted me with your Spirit who dwells in my body.
You have gifted me with your forever family where I have found a home.
Praise you for being the Father I never had and I could never have.
Praise you for being a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.
Praise you for being in absolute control of this universe and my personal world.
Thank you for siding with the oppressed and for hating injustice.
And today I want to thank you so much for loving me through my earthly Dad
In Jesus precious name Amen.

On Monday this week, our family remembered that 2 years ago on the 24th August, our daughter, our little sister, Evie beat the rest of our family to the grave. We want to thank a number of you who messaged and sent flowers. One, in particular, helped us put our grief in context. “As hard as anniversaries are, that Evie hasn’t been with you for 2 years. Take comfort that she’s been with Jesus for 2 years”

24 August 2018 is one of those days that’s just etched in my memory. Teresa & I rushed to Mount Druitt Hospital in the wee hours of the morning. Evie’s breathing had become very faint, our hearts were fearing the worst. Shortly after, with all 5 of us around her bed, we said goodbye as she breathed her last.

Then tears, lots of them from all of us. Hugs, tight hugs, hugs with each other, hugs with Evie. In God’s kindness, we were able to take Evie with us to Bear Cottage, a children’s hospice. We got to spend more time with her saying our goodbyes in such a supportive environment. I still remember the drive there, Evie was in her car seat and apart from the sound of tears and sniffles God would have it that the CD that was playing in the background was a song from our very own MBM album. “Father’s Hands”

For each of the 77 days Evie was alive, we read a Psalm to her and with her. On Day 42 we would have read the Psalm we’re looking at today, verse 3 of this psalm pretty much described those next few days.

My tears have been my food day and night, ~Psalm 42:3 (NIV)

The day after Evie died, I remember from the moment I woke up just bawling my eyes out.

Now maybe it’s because of this pandemic, but is it just me? Or have these Psalms ministered to me, in a fresh way. As it effortlessly puts the full range of human emotions and feelings into words for me. Psalm 42 has connected with me off the back of major grief. But for you, it doesn’t have to be major grief.

  • If you’ve ever felt down in the dumps or felt deep disappointment (which is pretty much every single human being), then Psalm 42 is for you.
  • If you’ve felt as if life’s getting the better of you. If you felt dejected, depressed, whether it’s diagnosed or not, Psalm 42 is for you.
  • If you’ve felt as though God’s distant. If the joy of the Lord is no longer there. If you’ve ever felt dry in your walk with God.
    Then Psalm 42 is for you.

 

Psalm 42 is that go-to Psalm when you’re feeling lonely. When you’re under pressure. This week alone, I’ve heard how Psalm 42 comforts a parent whose adult child has turned their back on God. I’ve heard how Psalm 42 got someone through their battle with cancer. I’ve suggested it to someone picking up the pieces from a toxic relationship. I’ve shared it with someone who’s marriage has gotten stagnant.

Now what we’re going to do today is first look at the situation our writer finds themselves in. Then we’re going to see 3 lessons the Psalmist teaches us. These are super helpful for not just what we’re all going through now. But for all of life.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. ~Psalm 42:1 (NIV)

Picture a deer. What pops into your mind? This is my picture – there they are prancing around, frolicking with not a worry in the world. Now I didn’t know this about deer but they drink constantly, that’s because they’re creatures of instinct, see water, drink water. Well, not this deer, this deer, he’s not just thirsty, he’s beyond thirsty, he’s panting, he’s parched. Notice what he thirsts for.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~Psalm 42.2 (NIV)

He wants not water but God. He wants his entire being, his whole person, to taste and to see, to think and to feel, to enjoy and experience… God.

ALL of him wants ALL of God. I’ll say that again. All of him wants ALL of God. And yet, our writer is a long way from that. Three times we see the word “downcast” that’s what’s going on deep down inside of him. Verse 3 gives us more of a window into his situation.

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~Psalm 42:3 (NIV)

It’s there again in verse 10

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~Psalm 42:10 (NIV)

Our writer is sick of being on the back foot with his back against the wall. It’s no different to our post-Christian world today, many of us have been ridiculed, by the workmate, at school, on campus, on social media, sometimes by another family member, all because we side with Jesus.

In my experience as a pastor, the number one question I get asked is this and maybe it’s your question too if you’re someone who’s still checking out Jesus: “Where is God when there’s suffering? Why doesn’t God stop COVID? Because if there really is a God who’s powerful, a God who’s loving then he’d put an end to all that. I mean that’s what I’d do if I were God. But you and I, we’re not God, my ways are not his ways. He knows what’s best.

To make matters worse, our writer’s not just feeling spiritually distant he’s physically distant too!

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. ~Psalm 42:4 (NIV)

The psalmist longs for the good old days when he used to enter the temple. From what we know about the writer, he most likely had a key role in temple life, leading the music and singing. Yet, here he is yearning to be back in Jerusalem praising God with others.

Do you notice the similarities with our Psalm here and our current situation? Sure, the writer may not have a pandemic on his hands but still, he’s unable to gather. That’s why, if you’re not meaningfully gathering with your church family, maybe now’s the time to do that. Why not have someone over? Why not reach out and call someone?

It’s been beautiful to see some of you out there in Youtube land, back in the flesh again! One person, when they came for a live service recently got emotional. They didn’t realise just how much they missed seeing brothers and sisters. How much being here felt like home.

Now, of course, you may not be up for meeting in person either with your small group or here at church. But can I say, if you ARE in a position to do so, I beg you, don’t let excuses get in the way. Yes, I know a good number of you are doing the Christian thing and allowing others who need or want to gather go first. I admire that, but the rest of your church family want to see you too! Here’s a suggestion – why not book in every second or third week? And yes, there’ll be a re-adjustment. There’ll be new habits to form, rather than just rolling out of bed and flicking on the TV, you’ll need to get changed and drive the 10, 20, 30 minutes, but boy is it worth it.

There are really good reasons NOT to come back. I remember when I was starting out as a Christian it would often get to Sunday night where I didn’t FEEL like going to church, a finale of a TV show was on, I needed to finish off that assignment or a family dinner. But I tell you what, the times I was there I remember walking back to the car thinking: “So glad I was at church tonight” Whether it was because I was ministered to by a song, whether it was an encouraging conversation or whether it was being able to Amen to a prayer that was prayed.

Our writer’s not done yet, he’s not going to let his feelings or his emotions get the better of him, no way. I love how this guy, we can tell God’s personal for him, calls God “My God, my Saviour, my Rock, my living God” right throughout the Psalm.
That’s why these next three lessons are so, so helpful.

LESSON 1: POUR OUT YOUR SOUL

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: ~Psalm 42:4a (NIV)

Pouring out your soul, that’s like the ancient version of what today we’d call: ‘getting in touch with your feelings’. This was his way of paying attention to what’s going on. Whereas at the start of the Psalm he was dry. Now, he’s drowning.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. ~Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

Picture two waterfalls plunging into a valley with you at the bottom. Can you imagine that roar, the noise would be off the charts. Now picture you out in the ocean being pummelled by wave after wave. I’ve had that feeling before and I nearly drowned. That’s what our writer is feeling here. It’s just relentless, it’s all around him.

…why God have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?… ~Psalm 42:9 (NIV)

I mean it’s not as if there’s a sin that’s weighing him down. He doesn’t feel the need to come clean. He doesn’t feel burdened by guilt. No heavy conscience. He just feels God’s left him in the dark. If this were you and I, we’d run away from these feelings. Instead, we might be tempted to indulge in a bit of escapism. Maybe raid the pantry, binge some screentime or social media. But not our guy. No – He runs head-on into the issue. Or maybe we’d numb these feelings. Maybe self-medicate by hitting the bottle, watching porn. Not this guy – instead of numbing, he NAMES those feelings.

And look to be honest, in times of spiritual dryness when we feel forgotten by God we can feel like talking to anyone BUT God. But not this guy. Talk about putting it ALL out on the table. Our writer is not afraid one bit to take those real questions, those real hurts and to present them to God who’s REAL to him.

2. TALK TO YOURSELF

Not only does our writer talk to God, the second thing he does is this: he talks to himself.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? ~Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

Why so disturbed within me? ~Psalm 42:11 (NIV)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who wrote a book called Spiritual Depression, explains this idea of self-talk better than I can:

The first thing we have to learn is what the Psalmist learned — we must learn to take ourselves in hand. …He is talking to himself, he is addressing himself….  [In] spiritual depression… we allow our self to talk to us… instead of talking to our self.
Listen to what he says next: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

Wow! What a profound statement.

Lloyd Jones goes on to say: [The Psalmist has realised his] soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment.”

There’s been plenty of talk about self-care during this pandemic, about exercise, eating well, managing screentime, giving yourself permission to feel all the feels. Well, I want to say that self-talk is a key part of self-care! See when we listen to our heart, that’s when the anxiety sky-rockets. “Oh no, what if this happens. This might happen. You better not do that.”

We end up being controlled by lies. “Dan – What will people think of you if you preach a dud sermon. Dan – you can’t do that task, you failed the last time you tried it”

But when we talk to our self like the Psalmist does here. When I reflect on who God is and what he’s done. When I say to myself: This is the sort of God I’m dealing with here. A God who’s slow to anger. A God who is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful.

As I speak back to myself about what God’s done in the past. He’s a faithful God who’s kept every single one of his promises. He’s never let me down. He’s only inclination is to do good to me. He’s chosen me before the beginning of time.

This idea of self-talk – it’s the key to unlocking the whole Psalm!

Over the last two years, a good portion of my self-talk has revolved around the fact that God is good even though I might not feel it, even though I might not see it. Plenty of us have, or will face times where we’ll question God’s goodness, where we’ll doubt God’s goodness, but it doesn’t mean that God is NOT good.

As a dad, I’ve been doing self-talk about God’s goodness with my kids too with the help of a book called THE MOON IS ALWAYS ROUND. Together, we’ve been reading it a lot this week so I thought I might read a bit of it to you too. Just like the moon is always round, God indeed is good.

3: RE-DIRECT YOUR HOPE

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5b (NIV)

Our writer has had a lightbulb moment. One minute he asks “Soul – why are you downcast?” In the next sentence. “Put your hope in God” In the same verse, he’s answered his own question. His hope was in the wrong object, the wrong person. It was in something OTHER than God, something SMALLER than God.

It’s as if he’s realised that in the process of talking to himself, he says: “Hang on a sec, the only thing that’ll satisfy my soul is God himself! Notice how it’s personal for him. He calls God MY saviour, MY God. For this is the God who’s been with him through thick and thin.

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. ~Psalm 42:8 (NIV)

Through morning, noon and night, 24/7, round the clock, day in day out. Like the sun shining on his back, he feels the Lord’s love is with him every step he takes. God’s never failed him, no wonder he can talk to the God of HIS life.

Is it just me, or has the word “hope” been thrown around plenty of times in this pandemic. Hope for a vaccine. Hope for the depression, the anxiety, the loneliness, the social distancing, the fear will come to an end. Hope we’ll be able to travel again.
Hope we still have jobs. I even came across this headline in the newspaper this week. It was in relation to those finishing school this year. It read: “Give students hope amid coronavirus mental health crisis, experts urge”

Well, the writer of our Psalm would say this in response. Hope isn’t an object you just dish out. No, Hope is someone you turn to. And in this case, notice who the Psalmist places his hope in:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. ~Psalm 42:2 (NIV)

He has a living hope because he has a living God. This is a hope that is more than wishful thinking its a hope that will be there post-COVID and on and on into eternity!

Now of course, we can only re-direct our hope because Jesus himself walked in the same shoes of our writer. Think about it. Jesus himself said similar words when troubled by anxious thoughts when having a downcast spirit.

The night before Jesus was nailed to that cross, Jesus says:

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. ~Matthew 26:38 (NIV)

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. ~John 12:27 (NIV)

Now THAT is self-talk.

  • Just as the Psalmist cries out “God why have you forgotten me”. Jesus cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  • Just as the Psalmist hears the taunts of his enemies, Jesus heard the mocking of his scoffers.
  • Just as the Psalmist’s bones suffer mortal agony, Jesus has nails driven through his hands and his feet.

If anyone felt abandoned, forgotten, crushed or downcast, in the Lord Jesus, surely we have one who has tasted it on our behalf.

Jesus has walked in our pain. He has felt the feelings and emotions we have gone through.

I love the way Hebrews puts it better than I can. It’s a version of redirecting our hope in the midst of deep darkness is this:

For the joy set before him what did Jesus do? He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

Now that’s what it means to put your hope in God. Fix our eyes on Jesus who willingly got up on that cross. Who fully and finally paid the price and is now sitting down at God’s right hand. That’s what gives us every reason to NOT grow weary and to not lose heart.

This past week, someone suggested that I go away and spend some time, just me and Psalm 42. Initially, I thought, that’ll take 10 minutes tops, I’ll run of out things to do. But how wrong was I, I had to stop after 2 hours but could have easily gone for more! I didn’t intend on doing this, but one of the things I ended up doing was to re-write Psalm 42 in my own words. I effectively poured out my soul as I made this Psalm my own.

Let me share some of what I wrote:
“Like one thirsty deer aching for a tonne of water
Same too with my entire being.
I, Dan – every part of me, wants you, every part of you God.
My entire being is thirsty for God. The God who’s alive.
God – when can we see each other? When can we do business God?
I’m living on a diet of tears around the clock.
Meanwhile people all day long are having a go at me saying: Dan – so much for this God you’ve been telling me about? He seems pretty powerless.
As I’m doing this detox of my soul, here’s some things I remember:
The good ol’ days of meeting in the church building.
Where I could gather with brothers and sisters.
With plenty of singing. Plenty of people. Plenty of testimonies about your goodness.
Now that was a spiritual high!
But why Dan? Why do I feel down in the dumps? What’s troubling me?
God is object and source of my delight. Of goodness.
For yes – I will tell God how good he is. And how he continues to be to me.
You God are my rescuer. My God”

Let me encourage you to find time this coming week to pour out your to a God who is more than ready to listen. To talk the truths of the gospel to yourself and to not grow weary or lose heart as you redirect your hope towards the risen, the resurrected, the ruling and the returning Jesus.

When I was a Personal trainer, people would often say to me, “Let me get fit first, then I’ll come and see you for a few sessions.” and I used to say, “But that’s my job. To get you fit, you’ll never be fit enough to see me, because my job is to take you from where you’re at, and get you fit and fitter”

It was backwards thinking and we can often think the same way about God. “Let me get good enough myself and then I’ll bring myself to you.” The problem is, we can never be good enough for God–that’s his job–to make us good. He takes us from where we’re at and transforms us from there.

We often get it the wrong way round, thinking we’ll sort our lives out first. But it’s impossible, David’s thinking in a very similar way in this Psalm, when he asks…

LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? ~Psalm 15:1 (NIV)

God’s sacred tent and His Holy mountain refer to the place God decided to dwell among his people – in David’s day it was a large tent, in Jerusalem, soon to become a massive temple built by his son, Solomon.

There were a few rooms in the tent and only the High Priest could enter the inside room where the presence of God was and only after offering a bunch of sacrifices.

God’s people would come year after year, offering sacrifices and gifts, being reminded of their inability to stand in God’s presence, because of their sin. David’s essentially asking — who gets to see you – what does it take to go in that room where you are – and stay with you?

When Jesus was speaking with his disciples one day about who he is, he was telling them that he’s going away to His father, and he’s going to prepare a place for them in God’s house, a special room for them, and then he said “you know how to get there” and Thomas, in classic doubting Thomas style said:

“Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. ~John 14:5-6 (NIV)

Jesus is God’s way in, His death and resurrection is the only way we get access to God’s heavenly home. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sin, he is the door into God’s house.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. ~Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)

By faith in him – He takes us in and allows us to stay and stand. Too many Christians stop there, they put faith in Jesus, and then think that’s it, I’ve arrived, but it doesn’t stop there, that’s only the beginning!

It’s true, God does accept us as we are, whatever we’ve done, however we come, he accepts us and because of Jesus he forgives us BUT just like a personal trainer — He refuses to leave us there… He loves us too much to leave us there — he wants to transform us to be just like Jesus, that’s the great privilege and joy of being Christian. Learning to have a heart like God for others. We must never think we’ve arrived at the end of our Christian life until we’re actually in the presence of God. Until that day, as the Apostle Peter put it:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)

So, what does it look like to share the heart of God for others? David spells it out in these next 4 verses. They’re packed full of goodness.

It looks like.

1. Being holy because God is holy.

The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, ~Psalm 15:2a (NIV)

Blameless here doesn’t mean sinless, it can’t mean sinless, otherwise, Jesus would have died for nothing. No, it’s someone who’s done all that’s required before God. It’s the idea of being complete, dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” and filling in all the cracks.

Being blameless is having NO inconsistencies between your faith and your practice. Having nothing that God or others could hold against you. That doesn’t mean never doing anything wrong, but always seeking to do right. And, when you’ve done wrong, acknowledging it, confessing it, bringing it to God and seeking to change according to his word. Continual cycle…

I wonder if I asked everyone you know and come into contact with this week, to give an account of your life – If we downloaded a report from your mobile phone and computer and kept a recording of everything you said this week, if we had a full report of every aspect of your life, what it would reveal about you? How consistent or inconsistent would it be with your faith? Now, of course, we’re all a work in progress, and some areas are always going to be stronger than others, but the question is – how seriously are we taking those inconsistent areas… God tells us – Be blameless – because I am blameless.

Secondly – Having a heart like God means,

2. Speaking like God speaks

who speaks the truth from their heart; ~Psalm 15:2b (NIV)

This isn’t talking about that brutally honest person, you know the one, if there’s something that needs saying, you don’t have to ask them. That’s often me.

No, this is truth spoken with love. It’s the person who doesn’t just know the truth here in their head, just able to repeat it, but they’ve let the truth sink deep down into their heart. So, you know when they speak, they’re sharing themselves with you…

Jesus says

out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. ~Matt 12:34b (NIV)

Our words reveal our heart. Now it must be said, in James 3 he tells us – no human being can fully tame the tongue – he says – if anyone is able to control their tongue – they’re a perfect person. But we know that’s not us… And Jeremiah gives us the reason in 17:9-10 – The human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure – who can understand it.

Our hearts are stained and our words are affected but thanks be to God, he’s working on that heart. So this is the person who speaks truth from a heart seeking to be consistent with God’s character. The person who’s been meditating on God’s heart from his word and values those words like the writer of Psalm 19 who says – they are more precious than gold, they are sweeter than honey.

Right speech comes from a right heart, so keep praying as you get to the word, that God would help those words sink deep down into your heart, not just stop at your head.

whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others; ~Psalm 15:3 (NIV)

Finish this phrase – “Sticks and stones will break my bones…” “but words will never hurt me.” Nice idea, but words are powerful, aren’t they? Words are so strange, they’re just vibrations spoken into the air, but they have the power to sever a marriage, to rule a country, to start a war, to mend a broken heart, to save a life. Words are fundamental to all relationships, especially God’s with us.

God is a speaking God. He shares himself with us by His word, that word eventually showed up in Jesus Christ who demonstrated what real love for others is and then left us his words that we might continue showing his love to others.

A wise friend of mine recently said: “Jesus is the reason for all words”. Words exist for his sake and it’s so true! The word himself gave us, words that we would use for His glory.

A person whose tongue utters no slander, does no wrong to a neighbour and casts no slur on others, is someone who seeks to honour and protect the value and dignity of others in the way they talk to them and about them. It’s really the opposite of gossip and flattery. What’s the goal of gossip? – self-serving – and flattery is always about me before it’s about others..

I’ve realised recently I’ve got a tendency to complain about others and point out their faults. Sally’s been trying to get me to see it for years but I’ve only just come to realise. For years I’ve justified it as “venting” or “clarifying information” but in the end, my heart doesn’t naturally honour others. I was even pulled up on it twice in the last few weeks, by 2 different people. I’ll share one example –

Our youth pastor, Rehan was catching up with someone I’d met before and he remembered me and shared in front of Rehan how we connected at an event. When Rehan came back after the meeting I said to Rehan “he’s a funny character hey…” I shared with Rehan that I didn’t think we connected but I chatted to him because I felt we had a disconnection… but after I said that Rehan asked me “Oh did I need to know that…?” And as I searched my heart I had no response, but that I for some reason sought to dishonour him, and honour myself. Rehan’s comment was so helpful and has stayed with me since then and helped me reflect on how I speak about people when I’m not with them.

I wonder, how do you go with honouring others with your words? If words are a big challenge for you then read the book of proverbs, every time I do, I get to the end and say to myself, I think I want to speak less…

Thirdly, having a heart like God’s is

Viewing people the way God views them

who despises a vile person but honours those who fear the LORD; ~Psalm 15:4a (NIV)

This one jars doesn’t it?! The Psalms are often talking about hating God’s enemies and loving those who love him but in the New Testament, the gospel and love is offered to all. Here are we hating the vile person, or hating the actions of the person that we wouldn’t align ourselves with.

Now, If we despised all vile people, we wouldn’t share the gospel with anyone. Sometimes I think we like to tell God who he hates, based on what we think about what they’ve done. If God’s will seems to line up with yours too often, you’ve got to ask some questions.

Ultimately God’s enemies are all those who reject him to the end to the last day, never repenting, but until then we don’t know who those enemies are, that person WE think is vile may hear the gospel and repent just like we did, who were his enemies.

But there’s a special word here to those inside the church who claim to be Christian but are living in sin in a way that is vile before God. The apostle Paul tells us to have nothing to do with the person who’s claiming Jesus’ name and living in unrepentant sin. Not the one struggling with it, the one who’s given up struggling and are now justifying it as ok. Paul says don’t even eat with that person, but again that’s not the final situation. We’re to break fellowship with those people so that they would see how much that life of sin isn’t worth it and how much they need God! It’s always with the goal of restoring the person.

I’m continually asking God to break my heart for what breaks his, and to teach me to love what he loves, but Honour those who fear the Lord

Let me tell you about a couple of guys I think are worthy of honour. A close friend of mine, Richie, topped his year at university and was offered a high paying role in a software development company. He turned down that role and kept his part-time job at JB-HI-FI so that he could keep giving his quality time to his church and serving on Christian youth camps. He’s been doing that for almost 10 years now. He’s a model of servant-hearted-ness.

Another guy from our Church named Nick. Nick just spent 4 weeks of his long service leave in our church offices helping out with some of our online training. Nick could have been skiing the slopes of Perisher, but chose to serve our church with his break. He even put on a BBQ for the staff team on his last day with us. Thanks Nick!

4. Faithfulness to our word

who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; ~Psalm 15:4b (NIV)

They say the measure of a person is their commitment to their word. Reflecting on the power of our words, if others can’t trust our word, what else do we have?

Our God is all-powerful, but there are some things he can’t do, He can’t do evil, because he is only good, He can’t be false/he can’t lie because he is the truth and he can’t break a promise he’s made! He is bound to his word. His word reflects himself and he is 100% faithful. If he says something – he does it!

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” ~1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV)

We on the other hand, often only keep our word as far as it benefits us, if things look like I’m going to lose out I’ll work out a way to get out of it. Did you know that 1 in 3 marriages in Australia ends in divorce? That’s 1/3 of all marriages, that’s 1/3 of people who vowed for better or worse, I will commit to you forever have a broken promise.

Sally and I have more than once acknowledged that if it wasn’t for God, and our commitment to him, we’d probably be divorced by now. We’re committed to our word to one another, because we’re committed to being like God in his faithfulness to His word. He’s the one keeping us committed! That doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride, but being a Christian means no matter the cost, no matter how hard reconciling is, and however long it takes, our oath to one another isn’t up for change.

But this doesn’t just apply to oaths and vows, Jesus tells us we don’t need to make promises to be consistent with our words. He challenges us to make our yes a yes and our no a no.

A friend of mine was recently challenged when he told his workmate he was going to do something, his workmate said, ‘is this another one of those things you just say you’re going to do but don’t do it?’ That was a window into his life.

Hear the Apostle John’s encouragement this is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ said he loved us… NO… He laid down his life for us, then he says – dear children let us not love with words and speech, but with actions and in truth! Imagine if Jesus showed up and said he was going to save the world and never did.

We have an opportunity to represent Jesus’ faithfulness to His word as we hold ours to others. When we say we’ll do something let’s do it.

5. Having a generous heart like God

who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. ~Psalm 15:5a (NIV)

This is about not taking advantage of those who can’t defend or protect themselves. Instead, just like God did with us, we show generosity to those in need, without expecting to make something out of it.

You might not know but we have a big freezer at church full of frozen meals that generous people have prepared and donated for those among us who are in need. Could you use that? Could you prepare a meal? Get in touch.

But this also extends further into our workplaces, the other day a Christian friend of mine was telling me about a deal his work was making with a company who went bankrupt and needed to sell off everything they had and his company seemed to be benefitting a little too much, it all seemed a little dodgy, so he asked, “Is this wrong what we’re doing?” and his work colleague said ‘it’s not illegal, it’s just not ethical.’

As a Christian, I’m not sure we would hold a difference. Do you know how your business affects others? Maybe you could ask some questions this week.

After spelling all that out David concludes with this reality:

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. ~Psalm 15:5b (NIV)

They’ll never fall off the mountain, or out of the tent. This is the hope we have, it’s firm and secure, an anchor for our soul.

Now, remember none of these things on their own secure us a place before God. It’s only by faith in Jesus that we are secured a place in God’s presence. But the one who understands they’ve been given the privilege of living like Jesus will seek to do these things in unending measure.

As the writer of Hebrews says

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be Shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. ~Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

The truth is God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way, he wants to make you just like Jesus – Just like himself. What a privilege!

Let’s pray reflecting David’s prayer

May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. ~Psalm 19 (NIV)

The famous English writer, Marghanita Laski, was no friend of Christianity, but before she died in 1988 she said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.” I guess she never fell for the modern therapeutic gospel which is you have to learn to forgive yourself.

The religion of psychology tells us that the one person whose forgiveness you need is not God and not others but you. What most people say, including Christians, is that what I think of me is the most important opinion. But it didn’t satisfy Laski who said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.”

We know forgiving yourself has limited value because the rise of psychology has not brought about the rise of happiness.

1. The search for true happiness is being completely forgiven by God.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. ~Psalm 32:1-2 (NIV)

David knew firsthand the need for forgiveness, he had committed adultery with his bodyguard’s wife and then murdered his bodyguard. True happiness was found in being offered a fresh start and a clean slate.

There are 4 different words for what needs forgiveness

  • The word sin itself describes falling short of Gods expectation to love him and others
  • The word Iniquity speaks of our twisted nature, turned in on itself like a knot that you can’t undo.
  • The word transgressions speaks of crossing a line you know is there

David managed to break 4 commandments in a short time.

  • He covets his neighbours wife
  • He steals his neighbour wife
  • He has sex with his neighbours wife
  • Then He kills his neighbour

He could not undo what he had done. He knew that every sin was written in God’s ledger awaiting judgment. David knew that being blessed was not about having a big palace and a 1000 chariots. True happiness is found in having the sin of adultery covered over, in having the sin of murder cancelled.

The 4th word is deceit. Until he confessed he was living a lie. To come clean to God is to become clean before God. By confession, we mean to side with God and agree that what we did was wrong. By forgiveness, we mean God will not count your sins against you.

Without a relationship with Christ, your sins will be counted, just like the odometer on your car counting every kilometre you drive. So, every sin you commit is being recorded and forgiveness means your sin not will be used as evidence against you on the judgment day. That is forgiveness and it is a beautiful gift from God.

A thousand “I’m sorrys” can’t fix the problem. Confession without the cross is empty. Someone has to pay. Happiness is knowing that sins confessed are sins forgiven only because those sins were paid for by Christ at the cross. This is where true joy is found.

We hate it when others keep bringing up our failures

  • “You always…” .
  • Or when people love to say, “I forgive you but I will never forget” with a tone that doesn’t sound like we are forgiven.

When God forgives he will not use our sins against us.

  • Others may judge us
  • Our conscience may convict us
  • Satan may rub our noses in those sins

However, God’s awesome promise is ” I will remember your sin no more.” This is where happiness is found. If you know the joy of being forgiven then you should know the joy of forgiving others. For Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Why? Because that is exactly what Jesus did for you.

Happiness is knowing you are completely forgiven by God. Laski was so right when she said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness.”

2. Unconfessed sins lead to profound unhappiness.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. ~Psalm 32:3-4 (NIV)

This is David’s story: For a whole year, he covered up the sin of adultery and murder
For a whole year, Bathsheba knew part of it and General Joab knew the other part. Only David and God knew all of it and he wasn’t talking to God about it.

David reflects on the experience of unconfessed sin. It damaged him physically, psychologically, and spiritually

  • Physically it cut deep into his bones, and drained his energy.
  • Psychologically he groaned day and night. It never left him.
  • Spiritually the Lord’s hand was heavy upon him. This was the loving and painful discipline of the Lord.

David was silent to God and so had silenced God he was in his own personal hell. If you don’t hand your sins to Christ then guess who has to carry them? YOU!

“He (Christ) himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, ~1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

Either Christ carries your sins in his body on that cross or you have to carry those sins in your body every day. And you can’t, no wonder you’re so exhausted. Over the years, I’ve spoken to men and women who have carried the guilt and shame of unconfessed sin.

When asked why they said

  • I was too proud to admit it to God.
  • I was too ashamed to talk to anyone
  • I was too afraid to confess
  • I was too guilty to acknowledge it

They say Western culture focuses on Guilt and Innocence. African culture focuses on Fear and Power. Asian culture focuses on Shame and Honour. All are true for every culture, but the cross means: Guilt, Fear and Shame are all gone.

The alternative to confession is

  • Blame
  • Denial
  • Pretend to God, to others and oneself
  • Living a life of distraction – from work to pleasure
  • Self-medicating
  • Living a compartmentalized life.

The result is that it eats into our soul. We become

  • Exhausted
  • Ashamed
  • Tired
  • Afraid
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • And Guilt that drives some to self-harm

This week at MBM we almost had a suicide, were it not for that dear brother finally confessing a decade long lie. Let’s hear from that dear brother.

“The weight of sin, which involved lies and deceit to my family over a decade to cover my destructive addiction simply got too much to carry any longer, gradually eating away at me from the inside out.

I knew it would eventually be all laid bare and the scale of destruction and sheer hurt it would cause to my relationships with my wife and children.

I’d reached what I thought was rock bottom but sunk even
lower to the extent I’d planned on more than one occasion in specific detail how I was going to end my life to avoid the shame and disgrace of my actions. I was totally weighed by down by guilt.

This was precisely the outcome Satan seeks for sinners who succumb to temptation but I couldn’t grasp that in those moments.

In desperation and complete and utter despair I reached out to ask for help in a totally distressed state. We talked, then met on several occasions and together we asked Jesus for forgiveness as the hopeless sinner I had become. If not for that intervention I would not be writing these words today.

While I am in early days of recovery and I have significant work to do to repair the untold hurt I caused to the loved ones around me I have Jesus to thank for his all powerful and enduring love that carried me through and for the ultimate sacrifice he paid for me. Nothing I can do will ever repay that. I now count every day as a blessing and praise God and his almighty powerful son Jesus for saving my life.”

Satan wants you to think you are unforgivable and that death is the only way out. Don’t llisten to him, he is a liar and he does not want you to be free or happy.

Did you hear the sadness in Laski quote? “I have nobody to forgive me.” M Laski. But we do friends.

3. The search for happiness begins with confessed sin

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. ~Psalm 32:5 (NIV)

From cover up to confession to cries of joy. Oh, the relief of naming our sin before God and others. David says “When I acknowledged my sin to you Lord, the pretending stopped, the sin is forgiven, the guilt is removed and God’s hand is lifted.

Here is the Paradox. When you try to cover your sin it remains exposed before the Lord. But when you uncover your sin to God, He then covers it by his Blood. If you confess your sin, God will conceal it. If you conceal your sin, God will condemn it.

We live in a culture that has found a thousand sophisticated ways to excuse our sin. Every department at University plays their part:

  • Chemistry will say it’s just the dopamine hit in your head
  • Biology will say its in your DNA
  • Psychology blames your parents
  • Economics points to your unemployment
  • Education will say you didn’t know better
  • No ultimate joy is found in these partial truths. The BIBLE IS full of unqualified confessions that satisfies the soul.

 

David says:

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. ~Psalm 51:2 (NIV)

Isaiah says

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! ~Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)

Peter says

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” ~Luke 5:8 (NIV)

The Tax collector says

‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ~Luke 18:13 (NIV)

Have you owned your sin?
What is holding you back?

It can’t be that God won’t forgive you.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. ~Psalm 32:5b (NIV)

That is a promise! And its why we share the gospel!

4. Forgiven sinners plead with other sinners to confess and be happy

Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble ~Psalm 32:6-7 (NIV)

If God is willing to forgive then don’t delay. He pleads with us to talk to Him while he may be found.

  • Today is the day of salvation. Don’t hesitate.
  • Tomorrow is promised to no one.
  • The thing about saying “no” to God is you get very good at it.

Don’t think God is like you. He never tires of hearing you say “I’m so sorry Lord.” He will never throw your confession back in your face.

God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confess his sin. God has sent me to tell you today to confess your sin.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. ~Psalm 32:8-9 (NIV)

In verse 8 God takes over the Psalm and talks directly to each of us. He says, I have my loving eye on you. I have been teaching you the right path. But if you don’t listen to my tender love, you will listen to my tough love.

Don’t be like a stubborn mule or an unbroken horse who need the bit and bridle. One way or the other you’re coming to me. We can do it the hard way or the easy way, either way you’re coming.

Spurgeon once said:

“If one severe trial does not sanctify you, expect another more rigorous.”

In last few years Sandy and I have both seen how God has used the bit and bridle to disciplined us in our pride…What personal feedback, bible reading and sermons didn’t do God did with the bit and bridle of reality. Painful as it was I’m so glad he did. This is where deep joy is found.

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! ~Psalm 32:10-11 (NIV)

5. Forgiven souls want to rejoice and sing.

Great sinners are great singers. What joy there is in confession and forgiveness. See the pattern, it never changes:

  • Sin brings Sorrow,
  • Confession brings Forgiveness
  • Forgiveness brings Joy.

Is this not how any relationship works?

Conclusion

You may not be a Christian and so this passage is calling you to confess a life lived in rebellion. Let me give you the ABC of becoming a Christian

  • Admit you’re a sinner
  • Believe Jesus paid for your sins at the cross.
  • Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

You may be a Christian and this passage is saying never stop confessing. Stand with God against your sin and claim your blood-bought forgiveness.

You may be a Christian who has backslidden. Like a brother in Christ I spoke to some time ago, he was married but had slipped into a series of anonymous sexual encounters with other men. He was so overwhelmed by his guilt and shame that he too was very close to suicide. He finally came to me to confess, with tears in his eyes I got him to read David’s confession in Psalm 51. You could see the relief in his eyes and the joy in his soul.

Can I suggest confessing to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, Pastor or Christian counsellor? Having someone know your sins and having them announce that you are forgiven in Christ is a powerful thing. The prophet Nathan did just that to David.

And of course, your relief may be the beginning of someone else’s grief who you have sinned against.

  • Let them grieve.
  • Let them be angry with you.
  • Don’t demand they forgive you because God has
  • And don’t let their reaction deny your comfort that God has washed away all your sin.

What is stopping you? Laski thought she had no one to forgive her but you do friends.

It’s a psalm read at funerals and it will probably be read on your death bed. It speaks of the personal, powerful and protective hand of God. But it’s not a Psalm for the dead but for the living!

It speaks of the journey of life, the God of Israel, who watches over his people as a shepherd, not just in the good times but in the bad. Its wreaks of assurance and confidence because he the good shepherd is my shepherd.

1. I trust that my Shepherd provides all that I need.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

This is a very personal psalm, it’s not a ‘we’ psalm but a ‘me’ psalm. He is My shepherd. This God doesn’t just watch every corner of the universe nor does he just watch over his nation, he watches over my life and yours. A Reminder that Christianity is not just a religion but a personal relationship with God.

King David makes the God of his people, the Shepherd of his Soul. So what does he promise?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

This is not a call to deny your desires, like Buddhism, nor is he saying everything you want you get like a prosperity preacher. The logic is: The Lord is my shepherd and because of that I lack nothing, or as one child said ‘the Lord is my Shepherd I’ve got all I want.’

We know Jesus is God for a number of reasons

  • He talks like God
  • He acts like God
  • He accepts worship as God
  • He takes the titles of God and applies them to himself

Twice Jesus says in John 10, I am the good shepherd. The act of saying this psalm and meaning it is itself an act of faith. I’m telling God and I’m telling others and I’m telling myself He is my everything. I have many desires but my deepest desires are fulfilled in him and his dear son. The good Shepherd provides for all that I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. ~Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)

For a sheep this is heaven on a stick; green pastures to satisfy the hunger and, quiet waters to quench thirst. He is the source of life. It’s why Jesus said…“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”

Do you know sheep find it hard to lay down if they are hungry or sick or afraid or stressed then they will not lie down? This good shepherd has taken care of all that that is why He refreshes my soul. Jesus is that Good Shepherd who provides all that I need. 

To appreciate Psalm 23 let consider the opposite. David Powlison wrote Antipsalm 23

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need.
Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless.
I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle—I feel overwhelmed.
It’s a desert—I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck.
I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.

This is life without a Shepherd. Its not a compliment to be likened to a sheep, they are dumb animals, but oh do they trust their shepherd who knows them.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me ~John 10:14 (NIV)

Sheep stations in Australia can carry 80,000 sheep. But in the Middle East, you may have 10-20 sheep and each one is known by name. The Shepherd is the source of life.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. ~John 10:27-28 (NIV)

There is an unquestioning trust in the Shepherds voice.

Elisabeth Elliot has told the story of a toddler who was very ill but had learned to recite Psalm 23 on her fingers. Starting with her pinkie she would grab a finger as she said each word of The Lord is my Shepherd. As she said the word shepherd she would clasp her thumb in recognition of the care that God has for her. One morning after a long and hard fight against her disease, the little girl was found dead with one hand clasped around the other thumb. The lord is her shepherd, He has made her to lie down in green pastures. He has led her to quiet waters. Surely she will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

That voice takes them down the right roads

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. ~Psalm 23:3 (NIV)

The Good Shepherd guides us down the right paths, down the narrow road where few go but life is found. He leads us away from broad roads where many are on but ends in destruction.

Why does he do it? He does it for his name’s sake. All he does is for His glory.

Friend, it’s clear from this Psalm that you matter to God the Shepherd of your soul, but it’s not about you. We do good to make the good Shepherd look good. We trust our Shepherd when the grass is green and when the valley is dark.

2. I trust my Shepherd to provide full protection.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

To get to water and green pastures you sometimes walk through dangerous territory. You walk in the valley of the shadow of death where the predators prowl and the enemy stalks. There is good reason to be afraid but David says I will fear no evil. 

We all live in the land of the shadow of death, He promises to protect us. He comes not only with a staff to guide the sheep but a rod to thump the enemies. We know that David took on the bears and lions who attacked his sheep. As a shepherd, he risked his life for his sheep, as a sheep he knew what God did for him again and again. The Lord is my Shepherd, I will fear no evil.

I took my grandkids to the zoo and we were at the Tiger enclosure. We could barely see the awesome animal and then it walked right round the enclosure till it stopped and stared straight at my 20 month old grandson. With only 30 cms separating them, he let out this amazing roar and it should have been terrifying, were it not for the protective glass. Jesus is the good shepherd who promises to be with us and protect us.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. ~John 10:27-28 (NIV)

Notice, David goes from talking about God to talking to God. He leads me, He restores my soul, He guides…becomes in verse 4, for you are with me, your rod and your staff will comfort me. What we learn friends, is talking about God must become talking to God. Get into the habit of interrupting your talk about God to talking with him.

When does David talk to God? At the point when he walks in the darkest valley, when enemies surround.

3. I trust my Shephard who has the power to save

In verse 5 and verse 6 the image changes. This shepherd king now becomes our host.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ~Psalm 23:5 (NIV)

You don’t eat a banquet when the enemy is about to eat you up. Picture marauding hordes of Philistines, alla Lord of the Rings. These are about to attack David and his men, the prophet Nathan whisper in David’s ear that God has promised victory. So, David decides to sit down to a banquet with his enemies on the horizon. He is taking his time eating his lamb Kebabs and Tabouli, he then pours himself a fine Israeli red wine and now General Joab is getting nervous “David shouldn’t we get ready for the battle.” Yes, yes Joab but hang on I haven’t tried the Baklava, I love the baklava! He will fear no evil why? Because if ‘God is for us who can be against us’ The victory belongs to God.

Dr. Zahiruddin, a Medical doctor, was abducted by the Taliban in Pakistan 8th Dec 2007. He was chained up in a rat-infested, dark cold room, threatened with beatings and then beheading if he did not convert to Islam. He prayed and fasted each day to his good shepherd to save him. He was eventually released after 25 days. On the last day the Taliban put on a farewell meal for him and as he sat to eat the meal in front of the Taliban he thought of this verse, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

What was Jesus doing the night before he was betrayed, beaten and brutalised on the cross? He sat and ate the Last supper, eating with his friends in the face of enemies, with the enemy of death he was about to defeat, with the enemy of sin that he would pay for, with enemy of Satan he was about to disarm. 

It’s because of Christ’s victory over the enemies that we read this Psalm to people on their death bed. Confidence in the face of our death; I will fear no evil.

It’s a privilege to come close to a person breathing their last, to lean in and whisper ‘Jesus your good Shepherd says to you. “Today you will be with me in paradise”’ Unlike the atheist doctor whom my friend visited, so afraid to die, he couldn’t let his wife leave the room.

… You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ~Psalm 23:5b (NIV)

It could mean the anointing of the messiah, but I think it’s the custom of refreshment. God refreshes our souls, that is why our cup is neither half empty nor half full, its not even full. My cup overflows…with the Holy Spirit who has poured out the love of the Good Shepherd into our hearts.

This is not a psalm just for the dying it’s for the living, It’s not for the end of life but for the whole of life…

4. I trust my Shepherd will never stop pursuing me with his love

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~Psalm 23:6 (NIV)

Are you feeling like someone is watching? You should!  Literally it reads

Surely your goodness and love will (pursue) me all the days of my life ~Psalm 23:6 

Here is God’s unrelenting love. A love that hunts down its victims. You are being stalked by God’s love. Seeking ultimate intimacy- anywhere else leaves you empty.

Antipsalm 23

I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me—except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
In contrast this Psalm brims with confidence

The certainty of statements like

  • I lack nothing
  • I will fear no evil
  • I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

5. I trust the Shepherd’s promise of his presence now and forever

The house of the Lord is code for the presence of God. So God has been with him from green pasture to dark valley, from banquet to battles. He is confident in the presence of his enemies. He is confident that he will be in the presence of his God forever. God is not a means to an end it is the end for David.

Assurance

The privilege of being in Christ is the privilege of being safe in the arms of God. He will not abandon you.

  • Your spouse may dump you
  • Your friends may betray you
  • Your children may reject you
  • Your boss may sack you
  • Your health may leave you

But the promise for those who follow Jesus is this, I will never forsake you. Jesus last words are ‘I will be with you always to the end of the age.’ 

You’re not alone even in the darkest valley. How long Lord will I feel this way? I feel nothing, not joy or sorrow – nothing.

I was meeting with someone from church who was doing it tough and I suggested they write a psalm to God about what they are experiencing. Here is what they wrote:

I am tired, I am always tired.
How can I feel completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time?
I am engulfed by my own thoughts.
Ohhh guilt. I do feel guilt. Guilt because I know you’re my
Father, I know that you are good.
I know that you love me dearly, much much more than I deserve.
I know that you are reaching your arm down to help me out of this pit but I can ‘t bring my arm up to meet yours.
I can’t be bothered. Who even says that?
I can’t be bothered to get the help from the creator of the world, my one true love.

I am my own worst enemy.
I am weary and burdened and feel no rest.
I read the beautiful words you write to me.
I know them and trust them.
They just go in one ear and out the other.
Lord, please clear my head to allow room only for thoughts of you.

I don’t like it here and I want to get out.
You’ve done it before Lord. Please do it again.

George Mueller once said “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”

Psalm 1 answers the question, how does one find their soul happy in the Lord? Let’s read Psalm 1 together as Christians have done from the beginning.

We begin a new series in the book of Psalms:

  • It is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament and by Jesus.
  • It was the song book of Israel.
  • It is the prayer book of the church.
  • It gives expression to every major emotion and experience a believer has and turns them to prayers
  • It begins as Jesus began his first sermon, Blessed or happy is the person..
  • It ends with a flurry of praise to the Lord. 

The opening verses of Psalm 1 start with “Blessed is the one” “Happy is the one” Not just happy, it’s in the plural, ‘happiness’ is the person who…

The world offers short term pleasure and the word offers lifelong happiness. But this happiness will include praises to God, confession of sin, and lament in our suffering. There are over 60 psalms of lament. There are many types of Psalms. Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm and it answers the question you have been asking all your life. How do I find true and lasting happiness?

Point 1 The happy soul says “No!” to the world’s influence.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, ~Psalm 1:1 (NIV)

The wise one who seeks true happiness has 3 postures. They do not walk, they do not stand with and they do not sit among the wicked, sinner scoffers. There is a descending tragedy. The wise one will not be drawn into ideas and behaviours that silence God or oppose his ways. Happiness puts up a fence, they will not entertain those ideas, they will not engage with those behaviours, they will not embrace those who stand against Christ.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s not like we put our thumbs in our ears and say ‘I’m not listening.’ We are to take every idea prisoner for Christ and run every idea through the lens of the bible.

Those seeking to influence are described in 3 words, Wicked–Sinners–and Scoffers. Those who defy God and have no shame.

A friend of mine, a solid Christian has read a book on how the bible is not against same-sex marriage. It’s written by a person who claims to love Jesus and loves his same-sex partner. My friend has a strong level of empathy and the book is drawing him away from 2000 years of consistent bible teaching on sexuality, to a view that is been agreed to for 30 years, promoted by the world marked by sinners and scoffers. To be fair he is doing the right thing by asking me to read the book and speak to the issue.

So the question is clear Who is influencing you in your life? Who are you opening yourself up to? Who has your ear? Every day is a battle for ideas and we are called to take every thought prisoner for Christ. Don’t let the world set the agenda for your life and faith a favourite singer, lecturer or influencer, a radio or TV personality, a preferred Podcaster or blogger or a friend or parent.

Come back to the question, Who has your ear? Who do you drop your guard with? Who do you find hard to resist? Who is shaping your values? Which set of ideas has your heart and mind? So often Christians take up an ideology that is fashionable and then dip into the bible to find the verses that justify their ..’ism’ Scienceism, Feminism, Chauvinism, Capitalism. Each has a partial truth but treat it as the whole truth. I know it sounds sophisticated. Don’t be seduced.

Remember when you were young and you did something stupid and Mum said, Who told you to do that?…my friends were doing it and she would say ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they were to do it?’ It was good argument then and it’s a good argument now.

The Christian knows that to worship God and by pleasing him we are to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. That is how we worship God and please him.

Someone at youth last term asked me a question: What to do with a friendship that is tempting you to sin. My rule is simple, who is influencing who more? If they influence you more than you can influence them then end the friendship. Nothing is more important than your relationship with Christ. “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Any time I talk to a person with an addiction sooner or later I get to saying “unless you’re prepared to end a certain friendship that’s influencing you to drink, use drugs, gamble, or sexually sin you won’t stay clean”. I tell them, your future you will thank you for saying no to that toxic friendship. We know the studies, the people you hang with shape your decisions. But unless you fill your minds with the truth you will not resist.

Point 2. The happy soul fills their mind with God’s word

If the happy soul does not walk, stand or sit with sinners then verse 2 is his or hers.

… delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. ~Psalm 1:2 (NIV)

The Happy soul finds their joy in the law of the Lord, the law of the Lord refers to God’s instructions, it can refer to the whole of the Old Testament. Finding delight in Law of the Lord is finding delight in every book of the bible including the Psalms. The person marked by happiness in its many forms finds their joy in Gods word. They meditate on Gods word day and night.

To Meditate is to murmur under your breath, to chew over the Word, to think God’s thoughts after him. Christian mediation is not like Eastern meditation it’s not emptying the mind, it’s filling the mind with God’s word. The word for ‘mediate’ is an active word, it’s the same word in Psalm 2 when the nations conspire against the Lord’s Messiah. You’re either conspiring against Christ or for Christ. Happiness is found in learning, loving, and living the word of God, because in that word we don’t find a better version of you and we find the promise of the Messiah as in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 ends as Psalm 1 begins. On the theme of happiness

Kiss the son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 2:12 (NIV)

Kiss the son or kiss heaven goodbye. Happiness is found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus who we meet in his Word. That is why Happiness is found in meditating day and night. God has so much to say to you and he has said it in his written word.

“Complaining that God is silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.” When we open the Bible, we find more than 750,000 words breathed out by God himself for you. There is a lot to meditate on. Since we are the generation that has never been distracted more and find it hard to concentrate less than switch off the notification on your smartphone. You can’t expect to meditate on the word of God while being reminded every 60 seconds of that text or that great deal. Take charge of your electronic world.

The happy person is one who meditates day and night. Find a time and a place to read slowly and prayerfully. Aim to read through Psalms this year.

I spent a couple of weeks early this year on the biggest psalm. Psalm 119. It is divided into 22 sections which follow the Hebrew alphabet. I found a verse in each section and rewrote it then I carried it with me and sent it to others.

Whether you’re in a Growth Group or not use the study material. Let me encourage you to memorize verses. This term in Growth Groups we are going to spend two weeks on Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd. Our aim to memorize it. Feed off Gods word and you will thrive.

Point 3 The Happy soul will bear fruit.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. ~Psalm 1:3 (NIV)

The wise one is likened to a tree whose roots draw life-giving water, who is fruitful in season and whose leaves stay green. Which means the one who meditates on Gods word doesn’t just survive they thrive.

We have plastic plants in our unit, they always stay green but they are not real. We also have real plants outside and they need to be watered. We chose cactus so that we don’t have to remember all that often. The lavenders are struggling because I’m not consistently watering them. They remind me of me when I starve myself of Gods word.

Did you see the summary? For the person who sinks deep into the word of God, whatever they do prospers. So, yes, there is a prosperity gospel in the bible, of course, there is. If prosperity is furthering God purposes. If prosperity is bearing fruit to the glory of God, bring it on. If prosperity is persevering in suffering with joy, hallelujah! Not the ugly prosperity gospel that names and claims health and wealth. “Come to Jesus so you can satisfy the selfish desires of your soul. As someone rightly said “Prosperity gospel is like marrying someone for their money”

Just read Psalm 73, the writer envies wicked because everything they do turns to gold as they curse God. • He thinks it’s a waste of time to worship God until he realizes that he’s using God.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. ~Psalm 73:25 (NIV)

That is how his soul is happy again in the Lord. He realises that God is enough!

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. ~Psalm 1:4-5 (NIV)

There is no future for those who oppose God, they are like chaff, the husks that get blown away into oblivion, of no use with no future. The wicked and sinners are now mentioned again, this time the wicked who were so influential will not stand in judgment. This time the sinners whose conversation were persuasive will be absent in the heavenly church. Listen to them and you will be with them, shut out from the presence of the Lord.

We have here 2 ways to live and 2 destinies.

I was at a coffee shop preparing this sermon and two retired men were talking next to me. One of them spoke about hearing of a man who died, he said “when is the funeral?” The friend said it was yesterday but don’t worry it was private, he gave orders to ‘Take me to the crematorium and get rid of me.’ He saw his death as the end, like chaff blown away.

So different from Rapunzel who we heard at the funeral say ‘I’m so looking forward to going on holidays with God forever.’ The closer to face death the greater her happiness, for she knew the Lord watched over her soul. As one pastor put it “Our sin is not that we long to be happy but that we are stupidly and blindly  determined to find it in something or someone other than God and all that he is for us in Jesus.”

Dear Father,

We thank you for wanting us to be happy. Forgive us for seeking that happiness apart from your dear Son. Teach us to find our joy in your Word. Inspire us to meditate on your Word day and night. May we take refuge in your Son and reject the lies of this world. May our happy souls bear much fruit for your glory.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I must admit that watching MBM online has been very convenient, for the first time in 35 years I have got my Saturday nights back. On Sunday I move from my bedroom, shower, kitchen and go to my TV to go on MBM online, youtube. Sandy and I pray and share. I catch up with some of you on zoom. There are no more arguments about getting up, getting ready, getting out, getting in the car and no more car park miracles.

With forced smiles, and awkward conversations at church, are we sure we want to come back?

So, it’s a good time to stop and to see the church of God through Jesus’ eyes again. And in the words of the great Robert Abboud, to let personal preferences surrender to Gods purposes, to retrain ourselves back into the habit of meeting with one another. I so want everyone at MBM to see how precious the church is in Jesus’ eyes.

The word church in the New Testament is almost always the gathering of believers around God’s word, whether that gathering was at Old Testament Mt Sinai, or Mt Druitt or the heavenly Mt Zion. For too long the church has had a target on its back and let’s face it, there is a lot to criticize. But when we declare Jesus to be Lord, we choose to see the church through Jesus’ eyes.

The Bible is clear, God’s great plan is that He is saving a people for his Son. Every person at MBM was in God’s heart from before the creation of the world. We were chosen not just to be forgiven but to be adopted into God’s family – the church.

I want to look at 2 images to understand the church.

Point 1. The Church is Christ’s Bride
When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, they were not just our first parents and the first couple, they were the first church. When these two were gathered, God was with them in the cool of the day. And each marriage points to the ultimate marriage between Christ and his church. Not surprising when Paul starts talking about marriage he ends up talking about the
church.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ~Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

From that passage we see Jesus posture toward the church. We are told 5 things about Jesus attitude to his church

  1. Christ really loved his church. Have you ever said I love the church?
  2. Christ loved the church knowing every stain, wrinkle and blemish. The failures of the church don’t stop Jesus loving his bride and they should not stop us.
  3. Christ gave himself up for his church. Jesus loves his bride all the way to the cross. Very few verses speak of Christ dying for me. Only 1, Christ died for his sheep, his church, his people, elect.
  4. Christ cleanses his bride by his word. When we accepted the good news we are washed whiter than snow.
  5. Christ wants a beautiful church not just a forgiven church. Jesus is committed to making the church radiant, we are the apple of his eye. And He rejoices over us in song.

Christ wants us to be with him and one day he will come to live with us. We are his forever people.

Now think about your attitude to the church. Do you have a love for the church like Jesus does? Or do you use the sins of the church as an excuse to ignore his bride? Do you use the sins of the church to judge his people?

Jesus is not naïve. Every letter in the New Testament is a rebuke to the churches then and now. We can see why people say ‘I love Jesus -it’s the church I can’t stand.’

I was talking to a guy, who owns a café, 2 months ago when we were on hard lockdown, he had 5 women not keeping social distance buying take away, he gently warned them that police were around. They stayed for 2 hours in groups of 5 when only 2 were allowed. They complained about the food and demanded a part refund. He said ‘I am going to refund all your meals’ They said, ‘You must be a Christian, so are we’. He said ‘its people like you that give Christianity such a bad name.’

Whatever sins you see in the church, Jesus not only knows them, he died for each one. As the bride of Christ, you can’t love Jesus and not love his church. You can’t love Jesus and not his people at MBM, too many Christian just don’t get this, they think they can love Jesus and not love his people. They are the very people Jesus personally chooses.

As a young Christian, I knew I did not naturally fit in at church, they were not my kind of people, I loved going to hear rock bands play at pubs, the music at church sounded like bad country and western. I didn’t realize that by saying yes to Jesus, I was saying yes to a new family who I didn’t choose.

They were not my kind of people but then it dawned on me as a young Christian, they were Jesus’ people, He loves them, he chose them and died for them, so I needed to love them and serve them. Those who I get on with and those I don’t, those who drain me and those who energize me, those who love me and those who hurt me. I needed to see them through Jesus’ eyes.

That is why when people withdraw from the church of God, they end up hanging with people just like themselves. Jesus said even the pagans love those who love them. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family and you can’t pick Gods family, that is God choice. The church is Christ’s bride.

Point 2 The church is Christ’s body
With Christ as the head and we are his body. Each of us makes up different members of his one body, the moment you believe you belong.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body— whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. ~1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV)

The moment you are born you belong in a family, the moment you are born again you are reborn into the body of Christ. This beautiful body of Christ crosses cultures, and class, where everyone belongs, flies first class. Just as a human body has different parts, head, fingers, legs, eyes and ears, so the body of Christ has many different people with different gifts all joined by the same Spirit. You belong, whether you feel like you belong or not. You belong even if you have not found a best friend at church that you click with.

There are 2 attitudes that can undermine that unity.

Warning #1 Don’t despise your place in the body.

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. ~1Corinthians 12:15 (NIV)

Telling yourself you don’t belong does not stop you from belonging.

An insecure big toe with low self-esteem does not stop the big toe from being part of the body. Imagine for a moment if the whole body were one big eyeball or imagine a 6-foot nose, no eyes, no legs just a nose. At best you would look like Mr Potato head and worse you would look like a Picasso Painting.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? ~1 Corinthians 12:17 (NIV)

Try talking to a person who has lost a hand or lost an eye and they will tell you, every part matters. Sometimes we despise our place when we say to ourselves, if only they knew what I did this last week they would not be so nice. Or Everyone is so together at church and my life is such a mess. Relax: all of our lives are a mess. The church is not a gym for the spiritual fit and healthy, it’s a hospital for sick sinners crying out for mercy.

Christ did not pay the price of his life to buy you the most expensive ticket to be part of God’s forever people so that you can’t tell yourself you don’t belong.

Warning #2 Don’t despise the place of others.

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” ~1Corinthians 12:20-21 (NIV)

This passage forbids that ugly rugged individualism that says I don’t need you. Now, of course, no one is not likely to say it, we just act like it.

So, when you only come to church when you feel like it you are saying ‘I don’t need others or they don’t need me.’ What is worse is when we justify our neglect of His church by saying “God is enough.” The church is God’s body language.

[we] should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. ~1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)

Jesus feels the joys and sorrows of his people, He shares our joys and weeps with our tears. The way he shows that is through us, we are his body language. He wants you to express his joy and sorrow over the joy and sorrows of others. You are his hands his feet, his tears and his smile.

Last week we lost our sister Rapunzel. This 27 year old woman who went to be with the Lord and left her loving husband Sam. Sam’s grief must be our grief as it reflects Christ grief.

There is not a person in this church you don’t need and there is not a person in this church who doesn’t need you.

“Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from Gods family and unaccountable to spiritual leaders because he knows they are defenceless and powerless.” Rick Warren (p136)

So what helps people feel like they belong? The repeated feedback from people is this. Join a small group and find out how you can serve.

One woman said, ‘I was coming to the church for over a year before I knew anyone, when I made the move to join the morning tea team I began to know the people in my team so, that was a bit better but still mostly I would wander on my own. Then, I finally joined a bible study group, THAT made lots more difference’

MBM online has been the right thing to do during COVID but it’s not church. It’s been an important ministry of the word, but it’s not church. It’s what we do for a season, but it’s not church.

Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ And neither will COVID. Not all of us can gather straight away as we move from 1 to 2 to 3 services. It may be because of limited numbers and services or it may be because you are vulnerable and we fully understand. Just don’t make inconvenience the reason you don’t gather. Personal preferences need to surrender to God’s purposes. I want you to grasp how Jesus sees his church.

Point 3 Judgement day shows the importance of the church

Jesus is seated on his glorious throne with angels. He separates the Sheep from the Goats.

To one group Jesus says

Depart from me ~Matthew 25:41 (NIV)

To the other he says

Come, you who are blessed by my Father ~Matthew 25:34 (NIV)

But what marks out the sheep from the goats?

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ~Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)

It all turns on your treatment of Jesus.

But they are thinking: “How did we feed, clothe, visit, and care for you Jesus, you were in heaven?”

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. ~Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Do you see? What you did for my people my bride and my body you did to me. Those “Brothers and Sister of mine…” When you neglected them you neglected me, when you ignored them you ignored me and when you loved them you loved me.

If a finger represents you and a hand represents your small circle of church friends you will not love Jesus until you love his whole body. That is why the place the church has in your heart is one of the great indicators of the place Jesus has in my heart.

Friends, it may be time to trade in those slippers for the privilege of serving the saints.

My Lord Jesus,
We know you saved us not just from hell but to be part of your family, your bride and your body. Help us to grasp that to ignore your people is to ignore you. And to love your people is how we love you. May we rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep in the body of Christ
In Jesus name.
Amen

Dr. Victor Chang was a great heart surgeon based at St.Vincents Hospital. He had the ability to transplant a heart and a lung and he gave people an extra 20 years of life. Things were said of him that will not be said of many of us. 

One Thursday morning while driving to work he was pulled over by 2 gunmen, he refused their request and he was shot dead, there on that footpath at Mosman was the very best and the very worst this country had to offer. His hand devoted to saving lives, the hands of his murderers were devoted to taking his.

The story that Jesus tells also puts two men together side by side in the presence of God. They stood for the very best and the very worst his nation could provide. 

He tells the story for one reason.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ~Luke 18.9 (NIV)

This is a critique on those who trust in their own goodness and as a result, look down on everybody else. What we have here is the Pharisee and the Tax collector. 

The Pharisees were about 1% of the Jewish population, they were hardcore and there were no half measures, these were spiritual heroes of that culture. They fasted 2 days a week and this is not your 5-2 diet where you drop to 600 calories 2 days a week. This was no food for 2 days every week, week in week out. It was all the more impressive given the bible only required 1 day per year, but that is religion for you, it always adds to what God says. 

They also gave 10% of their wage to a greater cause. If anyone had grounds for thinking they had done enough it was them. They had a high standard and a high success rate!

The tax collectors were on the other end of the spectrum, they were contracted by the Romans, who invaded Israel, to tax their own people. They were a nasty piece of work, they betrayed their own people by siding with the enemy. They exploited their own people by overtaxing them. They bled decent people of a decent living. Kids went to bed hungry because of the Tax collectors who lined their own pockets with illegal taxes.

Knowing that, who would you honestly think that Jesus would promise heaven to.

Let’s see how they approach God. The Pharisee comes before God prayerfully confident that he did everything required of him and more.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ~Luke 18:11-12 (NIV)

As far as he is concerned, he has kept the 10 commandments. He paid his taxes and he has not slept with another man’s wife. But most of all he is grateful that he is has not turned out like that treacherous tax collector.

He does not sing “Amazing Grace how sweat the sound that saved a wretch like me.” His hymn is “Amazing Grace how sweat the sound that saved a wretch like him.”

The Pharisee thinks he a good person who has done a lot of good and his community would agree, this is why he relies on what he does. You get the feeling that God owes him. What the Pharisee doesn’t do is this; he doesn’t come, wanting to be put right with God, not a hint of confession. 

The religious heart tends to produce one of two outcomes, you’re either proud or petrified. Proud that I’m good enough and you’re not or Petrified that I’m not good enough and I never will be.

The Tax collector, on the other hand, is very much aware of his failure before God

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ~Luke 18.13 (NIV)

This is not low self-esteem, this is an honest assessment of himself. He knows that he comes before a perfect God as a sinner, there is no offer to try a little harder, there are no new resolutions. He places no hope whatsoever in anything good he may have done, because he may well have been good to his close circle of friends and family but he knows they are but crumbs. All we hear from his lips are “Have mercy on me a sinner’ or literally ‘the sinner.’

What made these two men end up coming to God in such different ways? 

1. Being good is its own temptation. The Pharisee was deceived by his virtues, he was a man who did good things, but he then concluded that he was good enough. The fatal error is, I’m good therefore I’m good enough for God.

So, the warning is clear, the better you are, the more sincere, more compassionate, more spiritual, the more causes you pursue, the more justice you seek on behalf of others, the greater the danger for thinking that these are the grounds of God’s approval. They aren’t.

The Tax Collector has no goodness to be deceived by, that is why he is not pretending. He knows he is a mongrel and so does everybody else.

Friends let me be very clear, Heaven is not for good people, Heaven is for forgiven people. It has to be because Jesus said “No one is good, except God alone.” The Pharisee didn’t come looking for forgiveness, he came to present his CV to get a promotion.

2. The Pharisee does what we are all tempted to do, he made other people the yardstick and not God. He measured his performance with other people like the tax collector instead of measuring his performance with God. Of course, he was better than the tax collector, but so what! People all over the world are pinning their hopes that they are at least statistically average and better than most. Did you know that 80% of Australian men think they are above average in sport? 

We are deluded by comparison, I am 5 ft 6 inches tall, that’s 165 cms which is not all that tall, yet growing up I thought of myself as being tall. My Father was 5 ft or 152 cms and my Mother was 5 ft or 152 cms and my sisters are 150 cms so, by the time I was 12 I towered in my family. As long as I used my family as the comparison, I considered myself to be tall. But by the age of 13, I discovered all my friends grew 5 to 10 cms taller than me and before I knew it I was on the receiving end of short jokes.

So what if you are as good as the average and better than most. So what if you’re the best person who has ever walked this earth, line yourself up to Gods standard and cringe.

What does the Tax Collector do? He doesn’t measure himself to the Pharisee, he measures himself to a God whose standard is nothing less than perfect. Once you know that yardstick you’re only left with one response. “Have mercy on me a sinner!”

The tax collector sees himself in light of God alone, hence the clean confession. No excuses. No, I’m sorry but here are my good points. No, I’m sorry but I support three world vision kids. No, I’m sorry but I fight for the rights of Koalas. Have mercy on Me the sinner. So simple and so profound.

The problem with the human heart is this. It overestimates human nature then comes up with superficial solutions, but Jesus will tell us we are far worse than we can imagine and God is more merciful than we could ever hope for. When the Tax collector asks for mercy he is saying “God I know you’re rightly angry with me, I know I deserve hell. I’m asking you Lord to turn your anger away from me..”

Jesus, who told this parable is on his way to the cross, to take that anger upon himself. We fail to see the seriousness of our situation. 

Imagine if you value your failures in terms of a financial debt toward God and you were told that you have incurred a debt by God for $250,000 and you have one life time to pay it back. What would you think? Serious – but I can solve this problem. You would work out how to pay it back…sell the car, or sell the house or take a loan. You would be optimistic that you could repay the debt. That is a human solution, to think I can pay it back. But Jesus’ message is, your failures are more like a 900 billion dollar debt and you have one life time to pay it. What would be your reaction? You’re not going to offer 3 cents in the dollar, you would give up and cry for mercy.

The Tax Collector has done what God expects everyone to do, Give up! Not give up doing good! Give up trusting that your goodness will justify you before God or qualify you for heaven. Heaven is not for good people because they don’t exist. Heaven is for forgiven people who ask for mercy. Don’t stop doing good but stop relying on the good you do and start relying on God’s mercy.

The Tax collector sees things as God sees them. Now Jesus, who is the one who will judge us all, tells us how he sees them.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18.14 (NIV)

What?! Jesus declares that the horrible tax collector now broken before God has his charges dropped. He is justified, and that is as offensive as putting a civil rights activist and a member of the ku klux klan in a church, both hear the same message of grace. The ku klux klan member cries out for mercy and is forgiven but the civil right activist is offended and refuses to ask for forgiveness.

The Pharisee wants from God what he thinks he deserves and he got it, rejection. The Tax Collector asked for what he didn’t deserve, mercy and he got it.

What do you want from God? I promise you, you will get it.

God will give you what you deserve if that is what you want.

Are you really sure you want it!

I remember watching a former minister of immigration talking to a Cambodian refugee in a detention centre. The minister of immigration asked the refugee “What do you want from me? The Cambodian man dropped his head and whispered, “mercy”.

He is saying. “I know I have no right to be accepted but I’m asking for what I don’t deserve” Mercy

Friends God is dying to offer you mercy. No, Gods son Died to provide you with mercy. Jesus lived the life we should have lived, but didn’t and then died the death we deserved to die but don’t have to. The payment is made, we owed a debt we just couldn’t pay and Jesus paid the debt he didn’t owe. And so let me plead with you, ask God for mercy, turn from your sins, turn to Christ. Begin a new personal relationship with this Lord Jesus whose mercy provides full forgiveness.

I preached this sermon once and a man came up and said “I was on that footpath in Mosman when Dr. Victor Chang was shot.” He was a British man working in Sydney, the assassin threatened him and he was too afraid to go home in Mosman.

So, he lived with a family for months who were Christians. They took him to church where he heard that Heaven is not for good people but forgiven people, who own their sin and cry out for mercy to Jesus. Is it not time for you to join the rest of us..

Dear God,

Have mercy on me a sinner. I know that what I deserve is your rejection but what I am asking for is your beautiful mercy. 

Thank you Lord Jesus that through your death on the cross you paid the debt that I could never pay.Thank you that I am now fully forgiven.

I now put my trust in you. I now seek to put you first in my life. Please help me to live for you and never look down on others.

In Jesus name, Amen

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in heaven? Adulterers -Terrorists -Child abusers or someone who has profoundly wronged you or someone you love. And does the idea of sharing heaven make you not want to be there? Or are you ok about them being in heaven but can’t rejoice at them being in heaven?

All of which exposes how our heart is not lined up with God’s heart.

Jesus tells 3 stories about something or someone being lost and then found. A lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.

We learn 3 things about God’s heart.

  1. God is committed to seeking and saving the lost
  2. God rejoices when they are found
  3. He expects that we too will celebrate with him.

We all know the pain of losing something and the relief and joy of finding it again. If you have ever lost a child in a crowd for 15 minutes you know that sinking feeling and then the relief when you find them, unless they were hiding.

There are 2 kinds of lost, the lost where no one knows you’re missing & the lost where someone is looking for you. Jesus is looking for you, why is Jesus telling the story?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable ~Luke 15:1-3a (NIV)

Jesus was attracting the wrong crowd, He was welcoming the scrap heap into the kingdom and the religious leaders were not happy, they want to shut heaven’s door in people’s faces. They were so different from God.

When the Shepherd in the first parable knows he has lost one

sheep, he doesn’t say 99 out of 100 is not bad. He seeks it out and then he calls his friends to rejoice with him. The point of the story is that

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. ~Luke 15:5-7 (NIV)

While Heaven rejoices the Pharisees resent, notice how the one lost soul matters to Jesus. As we seek to make 1000 new disciples, remember behind every number is a person and every person has a story. When the women loses an expensive coin she makes a careful search for it until she finds it and then she calls her friends together to rejoice with her.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~Luke 15:10 (NIV)

God is on about seeking, finding, saving and rejoicing. God is not all that interested in sheep and coins, He is interested in people like us who have wandered from God.

What makes big news in heaven is not a fantastic grand final win, its when a sinner repents, we must celebrate it because if we don’t then who will? The world’s response to you becoming a Christian can be patronizing “As long as it makes you happy” or it can be Pity “I guess you need a crutch”

But the Pharisees will not rejoice because like all religion it’s built on merit and not the mercy of God. Do you share the heart of God for sinners?

So we turn to the most famous story Jesus ever told, the story of 2 lost sons. The younger son couldn’t wait for his dad to die, as the younger son he technically was not entitled to the Inheritance, that was the privilege of the firstborn male and certainly not before Dad died. I joked about the inheritance to my Dad but he knew and I knew that it was a joke. To be serious is to wish your Father was as good as dead.

Then begins the downward slide of this son. His bags are packed, the tickets for New York are booked, he goes to a far country. He could have spent it in a nearby town, but he didn’t want his Mum to find a prostitute in his Porsche. So it’s off to a far off country!!

The son eventually finds himself flat broke as a foreigner in a foreign land in the midst of a famine. As a Jew you know he has hit rock bottom, he finds himself envying the menu of a pig. All he has now are the memories of the good life. But memories cant fill your stomach when it cries out for food.

In his brokenness, he remembers, not what he had as a son but what his Dads workers had. He remembered that his Dad, even as a boss, was generous.

‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ~Luke 15:17-19 (NIV)

You notice, the thought never crosses his mind that his father would take him back as a son, but maybe just maybe he would give him a job!! He obviously felt he had crossed over the line where forgiveness is not an option. He had exhausted the grace of a good father. I don’t blame him. Had he gone too far?

When we look into our hearts and into our past there are things that are better left unsaid. Things done that reminds us that we to have gone to a far country away from our Father. An affair; an abortion; abuse or betrayal. And if we are honest, it’s just the tip of an iceberg. We know we are lost, we too need Jesus who came to seek and save us.

Let me tell you the true story of Maria and Christine. Maria lived in a small village on the outskirts of a South American city. Her husband died soon after her daughter Christine was born. Maria worked long hours to provide for her daughter and her one fear was that her daughter would end up as a prostitute.

Eventually, Christine secretly left for the big city and Maria caught a bus to the city and she took countless photos of herself and wrote the same message on the back of each one. Maria planted the photos everywhere through the city, bars-hotels -night clubs. Maria eventually ran out of money and returned home to wait.

Christine ended up in prostitution and one day she walked down the stairs of a hotel and noticed a photo of her mum. She took it, turned it over and read these words “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn’t matter, please come home”

God is saying to you “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn’t matter please come home.”

The younger son comes home to a father with open arms.

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. ~Luke 15:20 (NIV)

We are told that when the God-like father saw his son coming home, his first instinct was his heart was filled with compassion. He then does what a man in that culture never does, he runs (old Middle Eastern men don’t run), he doesn’t wait for the son to come to him, he strides with all his might to a son that wanted him dead then he holds him in his arms and kisses him. The father doesn’t even wait for the boy to finish his confession, the father has treated the son as royalty with food, robes, rings.

There is a Buddhist version of the prodigal son: where the son comes back and has to work for every cent. We might have expected the father to say “…you’re telling me you’re not worthy, now cop this and get the hell out of here…” We might have even expected “…sorry are you? well you can come back but don’t expect things to be same.”

And things were not the same they are better!!! Now is the time to party!!!! He was as good as dead and now he is alive. This is the heart of God that loves to welcome sinners. Whenever the lost are found, whenever a sinner repents there is rejoicing in heaven. But not everybody wants to rejoice. 

Then enters the older son with the sweat running from his brow, he hears the sounds of a party taking place. He hears, the one who had cheated the family of half of the inheritance was back and his foolish gullible father has given him the party and he was angry.

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ~Luke 15:28-30 (NIV)

Now it was his turn to reject the father. He might have kept his father’s commands but not the one to come inside and celebrate. He despised his Father generosity, in a way both sons had misunderstood what it meant to be a son. They both thought sonship was by merit. 

The younger son thought you earned it and so assumed that he lost all chances of having it. The older son thought you earned the right to be a son and so he saw his whole work for his father as slavery. Look all these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.

For too many Christians, they only see their walk with God in terms of law not love, with God as their Judge not their Dad, with Jesus as their Lord not their Saviour.

Both sons have missed the point, you become a child of God by relying on the Love of the Father. God has run out to meet us in the words of John 3:16 God so loved you and this world/you that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes may not perish but have everlasting life.

Whoever believes, come turn and trust, confess and come back to the Father, whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter!!! Just come home

The older son does not want to celebrate his brother coming home. The older son was outside the door but he could have been in a far country, either way, he was not rejoicing with the father over a brother who was lost.

Hear the heart of Jesus who came to seek and save, not just rebels but the self-righteous who repent. Whether you have taken the high road of rebellion or the low road of rebellion, Come home!

The father is not angry with the older son he is pleading with the self-righteous brother.

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” ~Luke 15:31-32 (NIV)

For this younger brother was not just lost, he was dead and he was his brother. Sinners who don’t repent are dead in their sins! Facing the second death. But we had to celebrate and be glad because he is alive and found. 

Do you know what is worse than a Christian committing murder or adultery? It is that same Christian not repenting. And do you know what is just as bad as committing murder or adultery? It is withholding joy when they repent.

Yes, it feels like they have gotten away with it.

The point is clear. “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Remember the Lord’s prayer? “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Question: What are we to do on earth that is being done in heaven.
Answer: Rejoicing over sinners who turn back to God

Have you thought of having a born again party? My two children made decisions for Christ, on July 27th and each year we had a born again party, Pizza hut, Lone star, they can pick. We would go and celebrate because the day they became born again was the day heaven unleashed in a never-ending shout of joy.

Some people don’t celebrate because they are cynical that those who say yes to Jesus today will say no a month later. Jesus knows people fall away but it doesn’t stop him from wanting you to celebrate.

If you are still lost know this, the angels are waiting to celebrate and so are we, because whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter, please come home.

Of course it matters. It matters so much that God gave his one and only Son, who made full the payment for your sins. The price has been paid, the father’s arms are open wide. So whatever you have done please come home.

Dear Father,

I admit that I have run away from you and I am so sorry Father for breaking your heart. Thank you, Father, that you loved me so much that you gave your one and only Son that I may not perish but have eternal life.

I am home now and I want to follow you, Jesus, as my precious Lord and loving Saviour.

Please help to always to have the heart of God to seek out

others who are lost and rejoice when they are found in Jesus name.

Amen

If there’s one thing that COVID19 has made us realise, it’s that we DEFINITELY do NOT control the future. COVID19 has been the great equaliser, hasn’t it? Whether you’re in charge of a country or whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck, or whether you’re studying for the HSC. Tomorrow is guaranteed to none of us. 

At best, we can make our plans, but those plans can change at the drop of a hat. Let me see, I’ve had a holiday, a SPARTAN obstacle race, a birthday party and a work conference all cancelled because of COVID. 

And it’s not as if there’s a whole lot of certainty as you look ahead either. As we brace ourselves for this so-called “second spike” we ponder, when will we be back in the church building? What will it look like? As we ask (with or without Jobkeeper) what’s going to happen to my job? 

During times like this, it may feel like the God of the Bible is absent or that’s he’s silent.  Well, Genesis 12 today, is going to assure us that God is anything but that. We have a God who not only makes promises. He keeps them too. That’s just who he is.  

The same God who spoke a certain word during the uncertain times of Abram is the same God who speaks a certain word in the uncertain days of COVID. 

I don’t know about you, but in light of the past few months, that sounds like exactly what I need. To know there is LIFE in the face of death that there is HOPE in the face of fear that we CAN have certainty in the face of uncertainty. 

Because what God promises, God delivers on. Genesis 3-11 has had the same recurring pattern. The pattern of human’s sin, God judges but then follows it up with grace. 

Last week, in Genesis 11 we definitely had the sin, humans trying to make a name for themselves and uniting together to overthrow God.

God handed out an appropriate judgment by confusing their language and therefore scattering them. But where was the grace? In Genesis 12, where God speaks to one man, an Iraqi pensioner named Abram. 

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. ~Genesis 12:1 (NIV)

God tells Abram to pack up his bags and go. 

When my parents left Hong Kong for Australia, it was for a better place. They already knew people here, siblings and friends. They’d come here before. 

Abram, he leaves, not even knowing where he was going! You can imagine Abram travelling day by day, pitching his tent, packing it up and asking himself: “Are we there yet God? Are we there yet? But God doesn’t issue this command without a promise. Look at verse 2.  

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV)

In 3 verses God makes 3 breath-taking promises: 

  1. Land. God wants Abram to get up and go from Haran to a place called Canaan. What we know as Iraq to Israel. 
  2. Offspring. At face value, this seems like a ridiculous promise because Abram we’re told is 75 and his wife, Sarai is 65. 

Elderly people DO NOT give birth! and there’s just one other thing, you know one small, minor obstacle we’re told in Genesis 11.

Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive. ~Genesis 11:30 (NIV)

If God’s going to deliver on this promise, it’ll be God and God alone. 

  1. Blessing. In other words, God will do good by Abram and not just him but through Abram, God will do good to ALL people. All nations. All tribes. 

3 promises, 3 majestic promises.

This week, over breakfast, I did something very brave, I asked my family to tell me when I have kept my promise and when have I broken my promise. 

One of my kids piped up straight away said ‘Dad you’ve kept your promise by marriage to Mum!’ Then that same child reminded me: ‘But Dad, you broke your promise because you said you were going to do some drawing with me on Tuesday.’ 

Teresa then dropped in a promise that she remembers me making but that I had no recollection making, about a trip to America! You see, all her family, her sister and her younger brother, have all been and I’ve been. In fact, she’s still bitter about the time her parents went to Disneyland and left her behind with her grandparents!  

Anyway, I first heard this story when we were dating and in my attempts to woo her and to impress her, I must have said “I promise I’ll take you to America one day” Well, now I’m on public record that I have to fulfil this promise. 

When it comes to promises, before it’s about us, before it’s about Abraham, it’s about God. Notice how God’s the one doing all the heavy lifting here. 

Seven times we read: I will. I will. I will. He is ALL in. God commits himself to one man, Abram and his family. Whatever happens to Abram and his family, over the next day, over the next generation, the next century. God’s behind it all every step of the way. 

Is this not God’s grace or what?! God didn’t have to do what he’s just done here in Genesis 12. After another pattern of sin and judgment God could have said: Right, enough’s enough, let’s call it a day and have an 11-chapter Bible. 

God could have left humanity to babble on and on stumbling along in confusion. But he doesn’t! Instead of walking away, God says: I will bless, I will bless, I will bless. I will use you, Abram, to make it possible for the entire world to know me. 

God hasn’t cut you off, He welcomes you back into his fold and I don’t know about you, but that provides me with immeasurable comfort. An unbelievable amount of certainty! 

Think about it, the God of this universe, He himself! Is committed to the future, He’s bound to deliver on these promises. 

And so that means, that if you’ve given up on God, whether it’s because you feel you’ve been let down by him or you’ve let him down, again and you’ve got a truckload of guilt and regret by falling short. Well I want to ask you to reconsider the God you’ve stopped worshipping, today is as good a day as any to come home. He will take you back because in the Lord Jesus, he has promised to wipe your slate clean. To give you a fresh start and to not hold your sins against you. 

Well, God’s laid out his promises to Abram on the table. How does Abram respond? 

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. ~Genesis 12:4 (NIV)  

Abram took God at his word, and set off, his was the model response. In response to God’s extravagant commitment, Abram trusts God. Trusts he’ll come good on his promises and he expresses that trust in obedience. Trust and obedience are not necessarily the same things but are certainly two sides of the same coin. 

Abram picks up his family, packs all his belongings, gets up and goes heading for the land God commanded him to go to. 

BUT [And there’s always a but] come verse 10 and Abram’s obedience soon turns into disobedience.

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. ~Genesis 12:10 (NIV)

On the one hand this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, whether it’s food, whether it’s toilet paper. When you run out, you go hunt it down. Only Egypt wasn’t where God wanted Abram to go.

It gets worse. Not only has he gone in the OPPOSITE direction of where God wants him to go. He’s also done the exact OPPOSITE of what every husband should do. He’s also put his own wife in danger. 

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” ~Genesis 12:11-13 (NIV)

In the space of just 13 verses, Abraham has gone from hero to zero. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve seen this and it won’t be the last. We see it again and again. God will make extraordinary, extravagant promises to someone and then shortly after, they’ll stuff it up.

Remember Noah? God spares him from judgement. First thing he does when he walks out of the ark is he gets drunk and is an embarrassment to his family. 

King David, one minute he’s promised a forever kingdom and next minute he’s in bed with Bathsheba.

In the New Testament, Peter is the first to work out that Jesus is God’s promised king and next minute, he tries to persuade Jesus that death and resurrection is a stupid idea.

Don’t you love how the Bible refuses to do pretend? There’s no photoshopping going on here. 

And that’s good news for you and I because the promises God makes, they don’t ride on the shoulders of you or I or Abram or Noah or David. Oh, thank goodness that what God promises God makes happen. Thank goodness we do NOT control the future, but we know the God who does.

Back when I used to work in Human Resources, part of my job involved interviewing people for jobs and the principle was this:  Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. I had to resist the urge to not be wowed by how well the applicant spoke, by their charming personality, by their impressive resume. Instead, I had to drill down and focus on what exactly they, as an individual, did because past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour.

So, let’s see how God came good on his promises to Abram. 

Take the promise of LAND. Throughout the Old Testament, the focus is on a city, Jerusalem, a country, a geographical place. That’s the place where God lived in his temple. 

But come the New Testament, the promise of land is found in a PERSON. Jesus is the true temple and that in Jesus, the land we will dwell in is in heaven, seated around his throne. 

Then there’s the promise of OFFSPRING. 25 years after Abram is given the promise, at the ripe old age of 90, Sarah checks in to the maternity ward and out pops Isaac. 

Abram’s name is later changed to Abraham, his name literally means: “Father of many” and so the rest of the Old Testament is the story of God turning this nation into a great nation. Not because of anything special in and of themselves but because God set his affection upon them. 

Then you turn over to the very first verse of the New Testament. 

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…~Matthew 1:1 (NIV)

It took over 2,000 years to get there. But Jesus himself is born into the line of Abraham. And so are you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, then Abraham is your spiritual dad. You are living proof that the promise that Abraham would have millions of kids as vast as the stars in the sky and as numerous as the sand on the seashore. You are the fulfilment of that promise. 

And third, that promise of blessing. 

Last Friday, Teresa and I watched a documentary called American Gospel. Do yourself a favour and watch it after church today, you can find it on Youtube. 

It had us both, on the one hand, cheering by hearing stories of how the gospel is changing lives in America. But on the other hand, it had us fuming as well! Fuming because of how there are people who’ve misunderstood this promise of blessing. Who’ve twisted it to make it all about them. Rather than about Jesus. For them, the blessing God promises you is the blessing of a better car, a bigger house, more money and less sickness. 

And that all these blessings are simply yours if you have enough faith. 

It’s this false gospel. It’s the complete OPPOSITE of what Paul says in Galatians, because in Galatians, Paul takes the guess work out of what exactly God means when he promised blessing to Abram. 

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” ~Galatians 3:8 (NIV)

Notice how Paul says, that the gospel was already being declared ahead of time to Abraham. You see it there in the words: “All nations will be blessed through you” What is this blessing that will come to all people? 

Well, look earlier in the verse. See that phrase: God would justify the Gentiles. The nations. Non-Jews. Let me be clear about the blessing is this. That the God of this universe, the one who you’ve wronged and rebelled against will not count your sins against you. That you are justified. That is, you know today, what God is going to say when you meet him on judgment day …….Not guilty! He’s dropped the charges for your rebellion. 

Now thanks to Jesus, we have EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING! 

That’s better than any physical blessing, that now thanks to Jesus, we have a blessing that goes on to eternity, not just limited to this life. 

That’s worth remembering because Abraham was only working off what we have in the first 11 chapters of the Bible. That’s it! 

Lots of promises. Not much fulfilment

Sure we might feel these are uncertain times but this is what gives us certainty because we’ve seen what Abraham never saw. We’ve seen how God has come good on promise after promise. In many ways, we’ve got even less of an excuse NOT to believe!

Now can I say that if all this seems a bit foreign to you, if the Old Testament seems a bit intimidating then can I encourage you to go deeper, because the Bible’s story it’s also your story. 

Know it. Treasure it. Sink your teeth into it. 

Learn to see your story in light of the Bible story, it is the cure for doubt. It helps you realise your faith. It’s based on more than just John 3:16. That is goes back further than what your parents have passed on.

I love a freebie and until the end of this month, there’s one done by one of my favourite Bible teachers, Mike Raiter, it’s called the Ridley Certificate. I know one couple from our 6pm service have been doing it and it’s really helped them. 

Now let’s just stand back from all this. We’ve seen God not only MAKE promises but also KEEP promises. 

I hope you’re beginning to realise what sort of God we’re dealing with here. Wow! God’s more committed to the future than we are!! God DOES indeed provide a word of certainty in the face of uncertainty. 

And so let me issue you this challenge: When you was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone. When was the last time when you really HAD to trust God?  

I happened to be reflecting this week, I looked back and saw how God’s promises have really kept me hanging in there. In the midst of dark clouds, and rough patches his promises have preserved me. Knowing he is faith-FULL when I am faith-LESS. 

Promises like Romans 8:1: There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. 

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but gee, what a wonderful promise that was to hear 22 years ago when I took the hand of Jesus. It’s just as wonderful today. Then there was the one 20 years ago when I finished university and was about to begin full-time work. 

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15.58 (NIV)

The promise that because Jesus has risen, that my decisions, my choices matter. That what I do in this lifetime, has the potential to have ripple effects into eternity. It’s this promise. That’s what shapes my purpose. It gives meaning to everything I do. 

Then there was June, 10 years ago when my wife Teresa, lost a brother to suicide and a dad to cancer 3 months later, and the promise we knew in our heads, but really sunk down in our hearts at that time was an oldie but a goodie. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

And then there’s 2 years ago. This June would’ve been the 2nd birthday of a daughter who we only had for 77 days. One of my children has memorised this wonderful promise because she’s written it next to her bed. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? ~John 14:1-2 (NIV)

The promise of a room in my daddy’s house. Can’t wait for that. 

And then there’s June last year, road tripping with Ben from our church up to Uluru. Only to have it cut short because I managed to flip both HIS car, and HIS caravan, then to be able to able to turn off the engine, walk out without even a scratch. 

God got my attention with 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

As I look back and see how God’s words and God’s promises have kept me going. That’s what inspires me to keep looking ahead. To keep trusting him no matter how uncertain things get. To see how he’s been faithful even though I’ve often been faith-less. And despite all that, knowing God’s got my back, that’s what inspires me to take risks. To have a posture of expectancy. In everything. 

Whether it’s sharing Jesus with those who don’t know him when it comes to serving him. 

When it comes to finances, being generous. 

When it comes to relationships. 

When it comes to decisions about the future. 

All because of this simple truth: That what God promises, God delivers on.

We have seen the policeman in Minneapolis placing his knee on the neck of 46 year old George Floyd, for 9 minutes George cried out “I cant breath…” and eventually he breathed his last breath. It sparked an avalanche of protests and riots across the US, because that death cried out for justice, just like Abel’s death cried out for justice

1. The Sin of Cain

In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve refused to take God at his word, they both ate of the tree of good and evil. Once naked with no shame but now they hide from God and from each other and are removed from paradise.

But God in his kindness allows Eve to give birth to 2 sons, her first born is Cain, the first man to have a belly button, a farmer by trade. Her second born Abel, a Cowboy-herder of sheep. Both were religious men, both willing to draw near to God but on very different terms

By faith Abel offers his best.

And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. ~Genesis 4:4 (NIV)

For us fat is bad. In the Jewish sacrificial system, the fat portions and the first born where highly prized. The message is clear, Abel GAVE HIS BEST. Not so Cain. Cain offers some of the fruits of the soil, but not the first fruits as we would have expected from the first born. The result is…

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. ~Genesis 4:4b-5 (NIV)

Cain’s thankless heart gave God his left overs, God was not pleased.

We in Christ are told that in view of God’s mercies, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. We give our best because God gave his best in sending his Son.

The downward slide of Cain begins. If you break the first commandment you will end up breaking the rest. Cain begins where Adam left off. Cain’s sin takes the next step as sin often does. Cain’s sin spills into pride, self pity, and jealously. If Envy wants what you’ve got then Jealously hates you for having it. Cain is jealous and very angry that his brother was favoured by God. His face was downcast, here is sin in all its blindness…

Should Cain not have been feeling remorse or guilt? Abel only offered a better sacrifice because it came by faith in God’s gracious promises and that grace unleashed a generous heart.

In the words of one song…“Lord, You have given me everything, What can I do for you…”

Faith in God’s gracious promises unleashed deep thankfulness. It opens the heart to love God, it opens the diary to make time for others, it opens the wallet to bless others. Cain is not the victim of random favouritism.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

God offers Cain both forgiveness and warning. First the loving warning, if Cain does not treat God properly and deal with his jealous anger he will open himself to more sin. Sin is pictured like a wild animal about to pounce on him.

This is how temptation leads to sin and death.

“… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” ~James 1:14-15 (NIV)

Notice, It begins with our own evil desires.

With Eve the temptation came from outside her by Satan. For Cain and us temptation comes from within us by our own evil desires. Once you admit the problem is with you and not God then you will not waste your time blaming everyone else, including God. Otherwise, like a fish on a hook you are dragged away and before you know it your jealousy becomes anger, becomes murder and full-blown resentfulness to God.

You know the story, you’re wounded in some way and it generates some hurt but you refuse to forgive. Then you avoid the person and you replay the wrongs in your mind and you then think the worst of them and it leads to resentment and rage and revenge.

Like Cain I grew up on a farm growing crops, when I was 6 and my brother was 11 we were pulling out weeds for a couple of hours throwing them onto the back of a trailer. It was hard work and when we were finished, my brother drove the tractor-trailer home without giving me a lift.

I was furious, my hurt led to anger and my anger led to revenge, I ran toward a patch of vegetables near the house that we both grew and I ripped them up. As I was exercising revenge, a shadow fell on me, it was my Dad and he was furious, he pulled out his belt and I ran. I let my hurt become anger and my anger become revenge. I did not master that sin, it mastered me.

Eve let Satan lead her to sin, now sin leads Cain to murder. Cain takes his brother to the field and then takes his life, the first murder happens inside the family. This is the first act of domestic violence and it won’t be the last.

Sin has now spread faster than COVID 19.

When God confronts Adam, it was about his individual sin. Where are you? But when God confronts Cain, the focus was on how it impacted others. Where is your brother? Cain’s answer is defiant, I don’t know and I don’t care.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ~Genesis 4:9 (NIV)

The answer is, Yes, you are Cain, we all are our brother’s keeper, now more than ever.

There have been 432 black deaths in custody where no charge was laid. We can’t be concerned for justice for ourselves and not for others.

The same attitude that was there in Cain’s offering is in this sarcastic response. I don’t care about God becomes I don’t care about my brother. And all along the promise was there.

If you do what is right will you not be accepted. ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

Sin is still crouching at the door, your door, and you must master it.

What the law can’t do God did by sending his Son to forgive and his Spirit to transform. Don’t be like Cain who failed to deal with pride, self pity, jealousy, anger, violence and defiance to God. Don’t delay, deal with that issue, it will not go away, it won’t stay hidden and it will get worse,

2. God’s judgment on Cain

Cain may not do what is right but God will, He is a just God who holds Cain responsible. When Cain offered a pathetic sacrifice and God named it for what is was. When Cain murders his brother God confronts Cain. God demands justice for the blood of Abel.

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. ~Genesis 4:10 (NIV)

The same word is used in Genesis for the screams of a woman who is raped. Abel’s murder screams for justice. Every rape victim screams for justice. Every abused child screams for justice. Every victim of domestic family violence screams for justice. That is what we are hearing from protestors in the US, messy as it is, the cry for justice. Don’t use the looting and violence to ignore the cry for justice for many.

When Israel cried out to God for freedom from oppression of Egypt she was far from perfect in how she behaved. Moses murdered an Egyptian.

Friends, it’s easy to demand justice when we have been mistreated but not so easy when it’s for others. We are our brother’s keeper. We can’t pick and choose which injustice we should speak up for, whether its Abortion or entrenched Racial inequality.

Cain exceeds his father sin and so does the judgment. Adam could till the soil and it would produce food, Cain could sow whatever seed he likes and nothing, he will be forced to wander from the presence of God.

Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. ~Genesis 4:11-12 (NIV)

Cain will be a fugitive on the run with no place to lay his head and at the mercy of whoever wants to exact revenge on Abel. The ground that drank the blood of Abel will curse him to his dying days.

But where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

3. God’s grace to Cain

You see grace to this rebel in so many ways. Eve thanks God for allowing her to have 2 sons. The bible doesn’t end with Genesis 3. God promises if Cain would do the right thing he will be accepted, God will have Cain back. God’s arms are willing to embrace him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9 (NIV)

No person is beyond forgiveness, no sin has ever created a debt that the Christ of the cross can’t pay. I remember talking a white supremacist, he hated anyone who wasn’t white until he accepted Christ and repented of his racism and loves his Indian pastor.

When Cain kills his brother he should have died. An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth and a life for a life. But God hears this rebel’s plea and places a mark of protection.

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. ~Genesis 4:15 (NIV)

Cain had forsaken God but God had not forsaken him. He finds himself beyond God presence, East of Eden, but not beyond the protective hand of God. This is God’s common grace, this is as good as it gets without Christ. But there is much more grace to enjoy.

If you find yourself wondering why God did not kill Cain on the spot then you may missed the point! Have you not forgotten that murder and anger spring from the same heart. Jesus said:

“I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. ~Matthew 5:22 (NIV)

And have you not forgotten, we too stand under the judgment of God and Hell is too much for us to bear. Ones death will never pay for the sins of Cain, the policemen in Minneapolis or any of us “Its appointed that a person die once and afterward face judgment.” That is a punishment unable to bear. There is a death that will provide justice and mercy.

You have come to … Jesus … and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. ~Hebrew 12:23b-24 (NIV)

The blood of Abel rightly demanded death and hell but the blood of Jesus speaks a better word, a word of mercy where justice is not ignored, a word of forgiveness where sins are taken seriously, a word of love where God’s righteous anger is poured out and a word of hope where anyone who calls on the name of this Lord will be saved.

It’s too late to be sinless but it’s not too late to turn and trust in our Lord and it’s not too late to stand with those who do speak of the racial injustices they have experienced.

Why not this week ask permission to listen to the story of those who have come from a different culture to your own. Ask them about experiences of racism inside and outside the church.

Heavenly Father
forgives for our pride, our jealousy, our anger and our defiance against you.
Forgive us for not being our brother’s keeper.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for providing full forgiveness for any who turn and put their trust in you.
Thank you Lord that your blood offers us a word of justice and mercy.
Empower us to listen to, to speak up and stand with those who experience injustice.
In Jesus name.

Last Saturday I celebrated my 60th birthday with my family, my 3 beautiful kids asked a bunch of people to send in a video. It was very encouraging, it was like I was at my own funeral, it also felt quite unreal because I know me, I know this is not the whole truth.

Genesis 1 and 2 is so beautiful and true but it’s not the whole truth, we need Genesis 3. It explains this life marked by sin and suffering, depression and death, wars and worries, boredom and broken relationship. Without Genesis 3 you will never understand life nor Gods plan for this world.

Adam and Eve are placed in Eden with no sin, no shame, no fear, right with God, right with each other and right with creation. They have no reason to doubt God. Enter Satan, we are not told why the serpent is in the garden.

Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. ~Genesis 3:1a (NIV)

From Revelation 12 we know that this serpent is Satan:

  1. He was part of the creation.
  2. He took animal form.
  3. He is wise.

When wisdom is in evil hands it becomes cunning. Satan cunningly sow’s seeds of doubt, these doubts lie behind every sin. The first doubt, that God is not good that he doesn’t want their good. The doubt that God is not good – Satan begins with a question.

He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” ~Genesis 3:1b (NIV)

That is not of course what God said. Adam and Eve could eat from every tree except one. God is put in a bad light, He is made to look mean. Eve should have said “Get behind me Satan!” But she allows herself to be led by another voice. A voice from a part of creation that she was to rule over.

Remember friends whoever is speaking they are just another created being.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” ~Genesis 3:2-3 (NIV)

Eve corrects the Serpent but she starts to play his game. Eve said that she would die even if she touched the Tree of Good and Evil. Not true. Typical of religion – which adds to the word of God. She makes God seem harsh. Once you make God a kill joy it gives you permission to turn away from him.

One thing Eve did get right, eating of the tree will involve death, not because it was an evil tree, if they loved God they would obey him, which means, this one tree is off limits. Notice that Eve uses the same name that Satan uses for God, she does not use the personal name of the Lord God, she keeps God at a distance…Like people who talk of God but do not mention Jesus. Doubting Gods goodness now becomes doubting God’s word. What started off as a question ends up as a straight up lie.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ~Genesis 3:4 (NIV)

In other words:

  • God is a liar
  • There is no Judgment
  • You can eat and not die
  • You can play God and experience no consequences.

Think about the stupidity of sin. What has Satan ever done to deserve be listened to? Nothing!
What has God ever done that makes you want to reject him? Nothing!

Now Satan claims that God is holding Eve back from her experiencing her full potential.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ~Genesis 3:5 (NIV)

“You see, lady, God is trying to rip you off. You eat of that tree and you will be like God, you get to decide for yourself what is good and evil, right and wrong, we now have 7 Billion humans playing god. Its god-like but it’s not godly.”

Notice that Satan never once tells Eve to eat, he is not stupid.The power of suggestion, like movies, sitcoms and songs, they rarely preach, they just assume and suggest. These Satanic lies wrapped up in half-truths now rolling around in her head, Eve looks again at the tree and all of a sudden she feels like she is missing out, that God is withholding blessings. What advertisers do to us Satan does to Eve. He makes you dissatisfied with what you have, dissatisfied with your life, your choices, your spouse, your house, your car, your job, your faith.

You’re missing out.

Single, wishing you were married. Married, wishing you were married to someone else. Poor man wants to be a rich man,rich man wants to be king, king ain’t satisfied till he is ruling everything. Eve was missing out on so much.

The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom. ~Genesis 3:6 (NIV)

Every part of her will miss out. Her appetite, its good for food, her imagination, its pleasing to the eye, her mind, it would make her wise.

Let’s imagine what went on in Eve’s mind:

  • Don’t eat that tree.
  • I never notice that tree before.
  • The thought never crossed my mind to even eat from that tree
  • But now that you mention it…
  • It is a beautiful tree
  • I really like the look of the tree, it’s a sexy tree
  • I like to eat from that tree.
  • I need to eat from that tree
  • I won’t be a complete human unless I eat it.
  • You can’t tell me not to eat of that tree.
  • I will eat from that tree
  • Oh, No… I have eaten from that tree.”

Eve now becomes wise in her own eyes, deciding for herself what is right and wrong. Eve grabs for equality with God, instead of letting God tell her what is good, she now decides for herself.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ~Genesis 3:6 (NIV)

She saw, she took and she gave, she is behaving like God. It was God who saw all that he had made, it was God who took Adam and placed him in the Garden, it was God who gave Woman to Adam. Eve then compounds her sin, and gives it to Adam, the one she was created to help is hindered, not that Adam was out riding horses when it all happened. The man who named the animals failed to name the sin of Satan. Adam says nothing, does nothing and just went along with Eve.

With the sin comes the fear and shame. God goes first to Adam.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so, I hid.” ~Genesis 3:9-10 (NIV)

Once Adam and Eve would have been excited to hear that God was walking in the garden, now they are dead scared, they hid among the trees, they hid behind fig leaves. They hide behind their excuses, they hide from each other, they hide from God. We have been hiding ever since. We know there is something deeply wrong with each of us. Can you see yourself here?

Adam hides behind excuses.

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” ~Genesis 3:12 (NIV)

Man does what we men do best, BLAME. First the silence of Adam, then the hiding from God and finally, the blame shifting. Brothers, I see my sin in Adam and Adams sin in me. 

Imagine a different story.

As Eve was listening to the serpent Adam said “Eve please don’t listen Satan is trying to rip you off.” but Adam remained passive and silent.

Imagine as Eve went to reach out for the tree, Adam gently held her and says ‘I beg you Eve don’t do it -for our sake and for Gods sake.”

Imagine as Eve handed over the fruit to Adam he just said “Darling, I will not share in your sin, God has only ever been good to us.”

Imagine after he ate he led his wife by falling to his knees and cried out “Have mercy on us for we have sinned against you Lord”

NO, for Adam there is just the silence, hiding, excuses and then the blaming.

How many times has Sandy, my wife, asked me about something and I’m half listening but I say yes to end the conversation then it blows up and I blame her.

I remember my parents both laughing at me sliding in the back yard after heavy rain fall. When I hurt myself, my Dad turns to Mum and says “Why did you let him play in backyard?”

Blaming is not just a male problem.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~Genesis 3:13 (NIV)

Eve’s deception is complete. Adam blames Eve and she blames the serpent. I was tricked again, it’s not my fault. The order of creation is turned upside down and we have been buck passing ever since.

Do you know the Christian version of this? 

When we blame Adam and Eve for the fall we blame God for putting Satan in the garden. We blame God for creating us knowing we would sin and we blame God for making Adam our representative. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of humanity, the blame is laid totally at the feet of humans. 

This is our story as well. 

The temptations to lust for more, the doubt that God will keep his word, the lie that God is ripping us of, the running away from God, the hiding from God, the blaming that its everyone’s fault but mine. Its not the devil made me do it.

And now the judgment, God takes us and himself very seriously, understand this, when God reimposes his will over a rebel, it always comes with a quota of pain. The snake is cursed and the women will suffer child birth. I asked one mother ‘How was the birth?’ “It was horrendous” 

The battle of the sexes begins here.

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” ~Genesis 2:16c (NIV)

Woman’s temptation is to overrule her man and Man’s temptation will be abuse his women. The ground is cursed and work scared with pain and frustration. Worst of all, we are all ejected from the garden and return to the dust of the earth. This is the great holocaust. This one sin introduces sin and death to every human.

But where sin increased Grace abounds all the more.

  1. God in his kindness lets Adam live for 930 years. God will not give up on us humans and Eve will be the mother of every living person.
  2. God in his kindness provides proper clothes to cover their naked shame. But not without the shedding of blood to garments of skin.
  3. But best of all God issues a word of hope.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” ~Genesis 3:15 (NIV)

It speaks of a war to end all wars between a son of Adam and Satan. Its fought in another garden, The Garden of Gethsemane in which Jesus the Son of Man cries out, “Not my will but yours be done.”

And there on another tree of life our forgiveness is purchased by the obedience of Jesus

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” ~1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

There is a way back into a better garden. A paradise where there is no Satan and no sin. You may think it’s unfair that Adams sin impacts you. If you think it’s unfair that Adams sin made you a sinner, then it’s unfair that Jesus obedience can make you a forgiven saint.

Only 2 people have made a difference in this world, the rest of us are footnotes. You become a child of Adam by birth, you become a child of God by faith.

Dear Father,

We confess that we are like our first parents, Adam and Eve.
We have listened to the lies of Satan.
We have doubted your goodness Lord and rebelled.
We have doubted your word and sinned against you.
We have kept you at a distance.
Forgive us for hiding from you, and blaming others.
Today we own our sin, and throw ourselves upon your mercy.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for your obedience on the cross;
For bearing our sins and taking our blame.
Thank you, for letting us back into your presence.
Help us to resist the lies of Satan.
For you are good, and you are trustworthy.

In Jesus name, Amen

I’m Dave Jensen and I’m so excited to be here today, especially as we’re digging into a topic that is close to my heart, the topic of relationships. I don’t know what your experience of relationships have been, in my time I’ve seen some great ones and some bad ones. 

Probably the most significant relationship in my childhood was that of my parents. My parent’s marriage was and is incredible, they’ve been married for 51 years. They met when they were kids, Mum was dropped off at church for cheap baby sitting and Dad was dropped off so his parents could play golf. 

My parent’s marriage has been the bedrock of my entire family, from it sprung most of my other relationships, certainly growing up. Cousins, family friends and church friends, when I think back to my childhood I don’t remember tv or video games, I remember people, wonderful, warm memories, my fondest memories are about people. 

But I’ve also been involved in some painful ones too. 

I became a Christian when I was 28 but before that I was married and divorced in my early 20s, a marriage which produced 2 amazing kids. Divorce hurts, it hurts everyone involved, the kids, my parents, not to mention my ex wife and I. It created a huge wound in me which I carried around within me for many years, so painful that I actually couldn’t talk about it for many years. 

I wonder if that’s been your experience. Think of your fondest memories, I bet they’re about times you’ve shared with people. But then, think of your most painful memories, again almost always involving people. Relationships are incredibly powerful aren’t they? They have the power to fill us with incredible joy but also the power to cause immense pain. 

The question is – why? What is it about how we relate to other people that is so powerful? Why do relationships have the ability for the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows? 

But even deeper than that, is it possible for us to relate in marriage, in friendship, in church community in a way where we don’t keep seeing things break down and cause havoc, but rather be a source of joy and happiness for us? 

God is not a silent God, He speaks and He speaks directly about this topic, and we have few better players to hear from than by observing the very first human relationship, between the very first people. 

What we see here are not just helpful guidelines for us in relating to one another, but also the idea that actually the power in relationships is not accidental, it’s intentional and it points us to a deeper purpose at play that God has in bringing us together. 

Genesis 1, which you looked at a few weeks ago talks all about Gods creation of all things. It’s this incredible aerial, birds-eye view of creation. Now, if you remember, at the end of most days of creation God would look back and assess his handiwork and say ‘this is good’. The last thing he creates is people and he takes it one step further and says ‘this is VERY good’. God has made everything and he’s pleased with it all. 

That is until now. The Bible reading we had given for us starts with something very different.

Up until verse 18 everything has still been good, good, very good but then: 

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone… ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

This is good, good, good, very good. But now this is NOT good. What is it? Man’s alone-ness, loneliness. And that shouldn’t surprise us because God, the creator, has never been alone. In chapter 1 you see that he is the trinity, in constant community within himself, never lonely or needy. All eternity past and future in community. 

And just as he is, so we are designed by him for relationships, in community. We are designed for relationships with one another. That is why loneliness is such a terrible thing. 

A death row documentary shows prisoners where the worst punishment was isolation. 23 hours a day alone with 1 hour for exercise in a cage. The state of Florida knew to really hurt a man you cut him off from people. It made them deranged, and was a path towards insanity. 

Covid19 in isolation. We’re designed to relate to each other and so that’s why God does something about it. 

…I will make a helper suitable for him. ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

And so, in verses 21 and 22 we read how God made a woman out of the rib of Adam. In the woman the suitable helper was created. 

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. ~Genesis 2:21-22 (NIV)

In the woman, Eve, the suitable helper for Adam was created. I know to our 21st century ears, that sounds incredibly sexist and demeaning, like God is giving Adam a maid or a slave, but that’s not the meaning of the term. The phrase suitable helper is used 16 times in the Bible and 13 of those times it’s used for God himself, being a suitable helper for his people Israel. So, this is not an expression of superiority but rather of equal but different partnership. We see here Adams desire for relationship being completely fulfilled in Eve, his wife. 

So we have what is not good, loneliness and God reaching into the middle of that and giving us each other… other people. The illness is loneliness and the cure is each other! 

We were designed for relationships, to know and be known, to love and be loved in return. You were created to be fulfilled by others but also to fulfil others. 

And we don’t just get this concept in Genesis but all throughout the rest of the Bible. We see it here, in husband and wife. Later, with children, then with friends and ultimately, in the church. 

Why do relationships have so much power over us? Because God says the most important thing about your life is relationship. Not accomplishment or achievement, it’s people. That’s the heart of life. Relationships are what makes life mean anything. That’s why when it’s good it’s amazing. But when it’s bad it’s truly awful. 

So, the question is, how do we take that principle, that relationships are what matter most and apply it to our relationships in order to make them what God designed them to be: loving, caring, thoughtful? 

Is it possible that our lives don’t have to be defined by a lifetime of bitterness and anger and resentment but instead can be defined by mutually loving and caring relationships? 

The answer is – yes! That’s why God made you that way and He shows us how in the passage. 

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. ~Genesis 2:23-25 (NIV)

How can they feel no shame? This is a picture of life with no sin. Living life the way it was designed, living life with God at the centre. 

You see, God has designed you to relate not just with each other but with Him. In fact, even more than that, He has designed you to best relate to one another when you’re in a relationship with him. 

It’s crucial that we don’t forget Gods presence here. This relationship is an incredible one, but not because of the two people involved but because they were in constant relationship with both each other, and with God. The vertical and the horizontal. This is a picture of a relationship with each other but with God at the centre. 

The meaning of life, this isn’t a small thing. In fact, let me say outright, I believe this concept, knowing and being known by God and by people is at the very centre of what it means to be alive. To be living life the way you were designed. I don’t think it’s possible to live a meaningful life without both of these things. 

A little bit later, Jesus addresses the same issue. In Matthew 22, a man approached Jesus and asked him straight, what does God want from us? 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ~Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Love your neighbour as yourself, value relationships, put other people first, relate to other people in community. But don’t miss the other part. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Jesus says, among all the relationships in life, it’s relationship with God that matters the most. That’s what life is all about. That’s the main thing. That’s what God made you for.  

And yet it’s interesting, that whilst most of us would acknowledge that relating to other people is important, even though most people in this country say they believe in Gods existence, the truth is he hardly ever comes up on our radar. We just don’t think about him or acknowledge him. And it’s because of that that Jesus was sent to earth. 

Jesus was sent to earth not to teach religious people to be good, or to give you life tips, but for a far deeper purpose. To reconcile you to God. To bring you into relationship with God. He died on the cross taking the punishment we deserve so it could happen. 

Jesus is the best argument for the truthfulness of what he’s saying. Not only did he speak about it and offer it, He demonstrated it. 

You see – at the heart of the universe something truly incredible is going on. There is a God who made you, who loves you and who wants to know you, who has moved heaven and earth in order for that to happen. 

So, what do you need to do? 

All you need to do is say Yes to God. Accept his offer of a relationship and realise you need to apologise for the way you’ve treated him, realise you need forgiveness and put your faith in him. 

The pandemic has caused a worldwide financial crisis. No country is exempt. We are thankful for the government stimulus package and job keeper allowance, but we know unemployment is growing and many have lost their jobs. Then there are those who have never worked harder, especially our heroes in the essential services. 

Working from home has come as a blessing for many families. MBMers have told me they love having lunch with their kids and having no travel time. For other’s the novelty is over and they feel they are in a pressure cooker ready to explode. Trying to run a zoom meeting for work with a 2 year old banging on the door needing their nappy changed. 

With each person on their own device for study or work, there is pressure at home for space and internet bandwidth   

  • More of us have headaches, 
  • We are finding it hard to concentrate
  • We can’t get through out to do list 
  • Everything seems harder. But we are not sure why.

There is no separation of work and home. We are in “groundhog day” – not sure which day it is. This season of Covid19 might just be the best time to do some thinking about work and rest. 

So let’s go to the beginning. Genesis 1 gives the aerial shot 10,000 metres up in the air. Genesis 2 we fly down low and take a closer look at Adam and Eve. As God rests from his work of creation, so Man begins his work in creation

In Genesis 2 we begin with what is not there. The earth is vacant, no plant, no rain and no imager bearer. When Adam is mentioned, he is immediately connected with work

…and there was no one to work the ground ~Genesis 2:5c (NIV)

It’s almost as if creation is waiting for humans. Adam is part of creation. He is not formed from the animals; he is from the dust of the earth. God gives him mouth to mouth resuscitation and breathes life into Adam. Adam is totally dependent on God’s Spirit for life. While God introduces himself with the general name of  Elohim – Genesis 1

In Genesis 2 God gives his personal name, I think for two reasons:

  1. The God of Israel is the God who created the heavens and the earth
  2. God gives his personal name because he wants a personal relationship with humans, but on his terms. That is why Adam is on probation, he can access the tree of life if he refuses to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he will return to the dust of the earth. Adam is placed in the garden within creation

Eden is viewed as a real place in real time. Two of the four rivers are known to us, the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is not middle earth. It is not a religious picture, but the words used to describe the garden are similar to the temple that would come much later. The precious metals and jewels in Genesis 2 were used to decorate the temple and priest  

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

The 2 words for Adam to work and take care of the garden are the same words used to describe the priests work in the tabernacle and temple.

They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, by doing the work of the tabernacle. ~Numbers 3:8 (NIV)

The point is that all of life is holy, work is holy and you worship God in your work. God placed man to work and care for the garden.

In question time last week someone asked about Christians attitude to the environment. 

Here are 4 principles

  1. God entrusted the earth to us to steward. We give an account for how we care for it. 
  2. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. It could be in the next 10 minutes or next 1000 years.
  3. Which means if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves we must pass this planet on to the next generation better than we received it.
  4. Never forget creation is groaning and what its ultimately looking toward is resurrection of Christians who will spearhead the new creation. Work is more than taking care of our environment. We are to Work in this age, but work for the age to come.

God is both white collar and blue collar, He doesn’t just give the orders, He gets down and dirty.

The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. ~Psalm 95:5 (NIV)

God is pictured proudly working with his hands. When my farming cousin was told that my niece is a doctor he said, “Yes but can she grow spinach?” Farmers need doctors and doctors need farmers and both need garbage collectors. God honours all kinds of work and so should we. All work expresses the character of God.

Clean a wardrobe You reflect that God creates order out of chaos
Service a car You reflect Gods protection for people
Work at Pizza Hut You reflect that God is the great provider of food
Nurse a wound You reflect Gods desire to restore life
Mother an infant You reflect Gods love for his children

The challenge for you this week is this:
How does your work reflect Gods character and purpose?

God did not put man in the garden to sit on a banana chair by the side of a pool sucking on a Pina Colada. Adam tilled the soil, he named the animals, he subdued the earth.

As Genesis goes on. Cities are built, music is created and  technology is developed. Work is good. If your dream is to make $4 million by 40 and sit on a beach and do  nothing. Repent of that dream! Work is given as a gift to humans. This explains why when we cant work we are so unhappy. With growing unemployment we must take care of those who have lost their jobs   

By work I’m not just referring to paid work. 

  • If you’re unemployed then looking for work is your job 
  • If you’re sick getting better is your work 
  • If you’re a student your study is your work
  • There is volunteer work, 
  • There is domestic work from washing up to mowing the lawn 
  • There is relational work such as parenting and being a grandparent or caring for your nephew. 

And there is the work of the Lord and every Christian can and should be involved. But whatever joy we find in our job, Friday afternoons are still better than Monday mornings

After Adam sinned God said:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, ~Genesis 3:17b-19 (NIV)

Every time Adam works the soil it will cause him much pain and frustration, it will have its thorns and thistles, he will work by the sweat of his brow. Covid19 has added to the frustrations of work. I’m trying to redeem the time but it’s like I’m working in a fog, like swimming in sludge, getting less done, but I just need to accept that. This pandemic has tuned us to the futility of work 

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? ~Ecclesiastes 2:17-18 (NIV)

No matter how hard you work, all your efforts, all goods and services you produce they all have a use by date. Sooner or later, the work you do or the money you make from it will eventually come to nothing.

I was talking to one friend in the IT area. One moment his program was cutting edge and then 2 years later, no one was interested. That is why Jesus said don’t work for food that spoils.

We must work in this age, but we work for the age to come. The work itself doesn’t last. Doctors heal the body, but the body eventually dies. Carpenters build a house, but the house gets knocked down. Your work will not last, but the glory you gave God in your work will. 

Work for the glory of God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Your work will not last but the pleasure you gave God will endure forever.

I have worked in many jobs, on a farm, as a furniture removalist, for MacDonald’s, in a Nursery, at a Chicken abattoir, painting houses, being a student, working as a kitchen hand, a Clerk for the NSW Health commission, employed as a Social worker for Anglicare and now your minister. Very different wages, very different work conditions but:

  • Every job can glorify God 
  • Every job creates order out of chaos 
  • Every job is to seek to love others. 

Work is about relationships. Do you know why I know that? Because when someone says “I’m stressed at work” I always say “Who is it?” Behind stress is usually a person putting pressure, criticizing, undermining, gossiping, unrealistic deadlines, etc. It’s not so much what you do but how you treat those at work.

When the New Testament speaks about work its often tied to relationships. Its about your boss, your workers, your workmates or your clients and customers or your government and of course your God. It’s not so much what you do but how you do it. Your work wont last but your love will pass on into eternity. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

Even the money you earn from your work is about relationships as you support your family, the poor, the spread of the gospel, your church staff, but most of all your work is tied to your relationship with God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. ~Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Work is one sphere in which you worship God. So, when you leave for work and they ask where are you going? Tell them, you’re off to worship God. But you wont worship God if you’re a workaholic. 

There is a Work/Rest rhythm in Genesis 1 and 2 we need to follow. We Work hard and rest well. We must rest from our labours because we are not God, we have bodies and minds that need to be refreshed. We rest because when we put down our tools, we are saying God will take care of my needs.

We rest from the pressure to perform, I am not my job, my identity is that I am a child of God and not how much I make and how much respect my job gives me. So, if I lose my job, it will disappoint me but it will not devastate me. We can rest from thinking my good works make me acceptable to God. 

There is a deep rest in knowing Christ who says, ‘your value comes from my work at the cross not your work during the week’ and with it a freedom to please God by doing the work of the Lord, to serve his people and the cause of Christ. 

Our Jobs have meaning but they are not the meaning of life.

During the 90s my wife Sandy was seriously sick and I thought I would have to leave the demands of being a pastor to care for her. It was then I found that my identity had shifted from being a Son of God to being a Pastor. I had to work again through who I was. Could I walk away from the role as Pastor? 

I was not walking away from giving myself fully to the work of the Lord but from my role as Pastor. I grasped afresh that Jesus is enough, I didn’t need to be the pastor of MBM. As it turned out I didn’t need to resign as Sandy’s health improved. She felt loved and since then I have worked from a different place. I serve from a place where Jesus is enough! It was a lesson I would have to learn many times again. 

Dear Father,

Thank you that we can worship you in our work.That our work has meaning, but help us to know that it is not the meaning of life. Thank you Lord for offering us physical rest. Rest that refreshes our body. Rest that refreshes our soul. Rest in your work at the cross-where forgiveness is found.Praise you Lord that we are now free to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

In Jesus name, Amen.

What kind of an animal is a human? Mark Twain once said that “Man is the only animal that blushes, man is the only animal that needs to blush”. I remember hearing of 3 teenagers who set alight a homeless man in the city and watched him burn to death. What kind of animal is man? 

This Psalm wants to answer the question ‘what is a human?’

But it will do so in terms of God and it will do so as a means of praising God.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. ~Psalm 8:1 (NIV)

The Psalm opens and closes in a song of praise. It declares not of the magnificence of creation but the magnificence of the God of creation. A Psalm that comes from the lips of King David. What set us apart from the rest of creation is that we chose to praise or not praise our God. David celebrates how God’s name, that is his character, is seen at work in the universe. Both the heavens and the earth wreak of the majesty of God. Its not just kings or galaxies that praise God, praise falls off the lips of the smallest infant.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. ~Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

As Spurgeon said, ‘Children have a way of reminding us of the God we forget’. 

Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 21 and applies it to himself. The religious leaders see Jesus perform miracles in the temple, hear the children praise Jesus and they are angry. They say to Jesus “Do you hear what these children are saying” In other words shut them up, they are blaspheming. The praise of the insignificant kid – shut the mouths of the arrogant.

When my daughter was 5 years old, she was talking about how she loved Jesus who died on the cross for her. I said to her “Maddy, you know more than 90% of all the professors in all the Universities in all the world.” She says, “Really Daddy?! Wow. What is a professor?” She may not know what a professor is but she praises the God who created the world and sent his Son to die for her.

But the wonder of creation became the backdrop for David to wonder at Gods favour on us.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? ~Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

With the universe being so big and we being so small, why do we matter so much to God? We are not the biggest species of creation, we don’t live the longest, we are certainly not the fastest but we are the ones God has bestowed his care on. Jesus picks up the idea of our precious place

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. ~Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

Are you not as valuable than they? No
Are you not more valuable than they? No
Are you not much more valuable than they? YES

Notice the royal language? You don’t have to live in Buckingham palace to be royalty.

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. ~Psalm 8:5 (NIV)

Just a little lower than the angels, a little lower for a little while. We not told that we will judge the angels. We not told that they are servants sent to serve us. We humans alone bear the title ‘Made in the Image of God’

Friends, the only thing allowed to represent God on this earth is you. Both male and female are involved in ruling this creation as image bearers. We were made as the pinnacle of creation, to rule and care for this world under God. When an ancient ruler conquered a land, they would place an image of the king to indicate who now rules the land

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: ~Psalm 8:6 (NIV)

Psalm 8 is a commentary on Genesis 1:26-27, we were not made side by side with the rest of creation, we were made to rule the world under God. Not only are we uniquely cared for by God, we are given that amazing privilege of ruling over it. With power comes responsibility and we will give an account for how we live our lives.

A pure evolutionary world view stole our uniqueness, a mindset that puts our existence solely as the result of time and chance. Where one species is ranked of equal value to another, so that more tears are shed over 5 beached whales than 80,000 human abortions which happen each year. Being an image bearer is a status that is given not earnt by our performance or ability.

Peter Singer, an ethics philosopher in Princeton said “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons… therefore, the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” How disrespectful to God and destructive to humans.

You will deny God his praise if you treat humans as no different to animals. You will deny God his praise if you view humans like they are gods. Only when humans are viewed as part of creation and ruling over it under God will you say “O, Lord our Lord how majestic is your name.” Of all creatures, He has given to us schmucks the right to rule.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. ~Psalm 8:6-8 (NIV)

It is quite comprehensive. The more we walk on this planet the more we seem to rule. We ride horses they don’t ride us. We discovered penicillin and the fever goes. We invent refrigeration and enjoy fruit all year round. There seems to be nothing we can’t do. But Hebrews 2:8 tells us that this seems overstated.

At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. (NIV)

We know that everything is not subject to us. Psalm 8 carries a partial truth, not the whole truth.

As Francis Schaeffer rightly put it, we are a glorious ruin—part glory and part ruin.

Our control of the world is not so complete after all. Earthquakes and floods wreak havoc, for every wave we ride, we get dumped by another. Sometimes we catch the fish and sometimes a white pointer takes a bite out of us. Not the least we cant keep ourselves alive. Right now we are shut in 4 walls with lives lost and an economy that is nose diving.

I remember one holiday where it all went wrong. Kiama-Holidays, I forgot the keys to my in laws who live in Kiama and they were away. I called my Father in law and he said if you gently slide the kitchen window you will get through. I slide the window and it collapsed into the kitchen, glass was everywhere and I didn’t realise that the soil of the plant fell into the drain.

The drain was blocked and we spent the rest of the next day. Unblocking it. While the drain was blocked it flooded the dishwasher, vomiting suds. While unblocking the drain the TV co-incidentally breaks down. That next afternoon we discovered that the hose to the washing machine down stairs was split and flooded the down stairs. At present we do not see everything subject to him. 

I decided to reclaim the holiday and show my son how to fly a kite. A good windy day is ideal on the Kiama Beach for flying a kite and I felt I could master the winds. Ten bronzed Aussie surfers with arms folded leaning on the surf club wall having a good laugh at this father trying to impress an embarrassed son.

My son finally said “can we go home.” I was feeling sorry for myself but when I watched the news that night, I heard of a tragic family from Pakistan who were swept into the water near the blow hole. My friend had to go with the Father and help identify his drowned daughters.

At present we do not see everything subject to him. Even if we have managed to tame animals, we cant tame something as small as the tongue:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. ~James 3:7-9 (NIV)

One moment we sing, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name”; the next we tell our loved ones to shut up! Get out, get lost or I hate you! Rule the world? We can’t even rule the words that leave our mouths and destroy our relationships.

We can’t even keep ourselves alive. Sin and death mock us. They are now ruling. Death is the final declaration that we do not ultimately rule. The writer of Hebrews sees the hope of Psalm 8 fulfilled specifically in Jesus: He is the true image of God.

At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. ~Hebrews 2:8-9 (NIV)

Everything hoped for in humans is realized in Jesus. His rule was evident throughout his earthly life.

  • When caught in a storm -he said shut up
  • When confronted by demons -he said get out
  • When faced with a disabled man he said get up
  • When he met men who loved God he said follow me.

He could look people in the eye and say, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:45). Jesus even has authority over death: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17). Jesus came to earth for us to reclaim our true humanity.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. ~Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

Before Christ shares death with us, he tastes death for us. At its core, Christ’s death on the cross is an act of liberation, freeing us humans to live life without the fear of death.

My daughter Amy once asked my wife, “Mum, can you say ‘no’ to dying?” It’s a good question. The answer, as we all know, is, “No”. That is why we are described in Hebrews as being enslaved to the fear of death. We are such a long way from our high calling to be crowned with glory and honour. The most profound paradoxes of the human condition. 

God placed eternity in our hearts, and yet we walk in the valley of the shadow of death. Our fear of death has many faces, from humour to despair. It’s captured in one comedian who said:

“I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” (Eric Lax, Conversations with Woody Allen, Knopf, New York, 2009, p. 84.)

Albert Camus wrote that “life is a sustained protest against death”

It’s as if our whole life is compressed into the last 5 seconds before we drive the car into a brick wall at 100 km per hour, with his foot pressed hard on the brake…trying to stop the inevitable. As a result, many spend their lives fearing death or some refuse to go to funerals. Some develop health obsessions, trying to milk another five years out of life, while others try to cram ten lifetimes into one because one is all they have. 

Many are hopeful that they will live on in their children or in their dreams. These are all profoundly unsatisfying solutions. In Christ, death has been defeated in history. At the end of history, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed.

So, we who have been set free are no longer shamed by death and slavery to sin, we are liberated to praise God for our renewed humanity.

Not long after I joined the church staff team, Les Vitnell, the senor minister developed cancer. I went to visit him just before he died. As I stood at his bedside, I asked him this question: “Les, what is it like to know that within 24 hours you are going to be in the presence of God?” With a smile he said, “Ray, I have to tell you, I’m a little excited!” I was touch jealous, he knew his Saviour, who set him free from the fear of death.

Whatever reasons King David had for thanking God, we who live after the resurrection of Jesus Christ have so many more reasons. So, let us join David and declare:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~Psalm 8:9 (NIV)

We are starting a new series on Genesis 1-12. It’s called The Blueprint, as it lays the foundations for God’s great plan to save a people for himself. 

I was talking to someone who said “I don’t know why I am so afraid to open the bible and read it.” They then said “I think it’s because I don’t want to hand over control of my life.” But what is the alternative? We can’t keep ourselves alive. The world has been brought to it’s knees by one mutant virus.

So, let go to Genesis 1 for there we see an awesome God who creates an awesome universe, worthy of our worship, He can be trusted.

1. God is awesome because He alone is the creator.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ~Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

Before its about us its about God. Not gods but God – Just one. Unlike the movie Thor who shares the heavens with a bunch of other gods fighting it out, God has no peer! He alone creates, He will not share his glory with another.

In the beginning God. There is no attempt to prove the existence of God. God’s finger prints are all over his creation.

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 people are without excuse. ~Romans 1:20 (NIV)

2. God is awesome because he creates out of nothing.

The fancy word is Ex nihilo. God is not like a Do it Yourself mum or dad who goes to Bunnings, buys wood nails and glue and makes a chair. ‘In the beginning’ refers to a starting point, before which only God existed. Christianity has always taught there was a beginning to the universe. It took Science as recent as the 1960s and the Big Bang theory to catch up. All matter had a starting point.

3. God is awesome because he created everything.

“Heavens and Earth” is code for all things. God is not just the God of Israel, He is not just the God of this earth. He is the God of the known and unknown universe, all 100 trillion galaxies that make up our universe. That is why we should be impressed by creation, but we must only worship its creator. Although I do like to hug the odd tree.

God created the Heaven and the earth that includes the spiritual beings. That is why the right response is worship. Let’s join the chorus of praise and say together:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” ~Revelation 4:11 (NIV)

As my wife Sandy walks each day, she thanks God for different parts of creation, she has noticed it helps her anxiety. God may have rested from his creating work but he has not rested from his sustaining work. “In him we live and move and have our being” That would include the 37 trillions cells that make up your body.

And as Bill Bryson said “each one operating in more or less perfect concert more or less all the time.” (Bill Bryson The Body p9) 

Many claim that the simple cell evolved by chance into complex life forms. The simple cell is not so simple, its more like a complex factory at work as seen in this image.

4. God is awesome because he creates by his powerful word.

Christians may differ on how long it took, but all agree that God created the universe by the power of his word, by just talking. We read again and again “and God said… and it was so”. 100% success rate.

I love to watch Grand Designs UK. Many plan to be build their dream house in 9 months and 2 years later the house is still not finished and they have blown their budget. 

God speaks and all matter, time, energy, and space came into being. Like Father like Son, in Mark 4, Jesus is woken up on a boat caught in a massive storm, half awake Jesus tells the storm to shut up! and immediately it collapses into ideal lake conditions. The disciples say to each other, “Who is this, even the winds and waves obey him” He calms raging storms with a simple word.

Notice how the process is so effortless with God. God doesn’t strain, and he doesn’t sweat, no resistance, very different from the other ancient creation stories, like Enuma Elish, where one god kills another god and slices it in two, the upper part is heaven and the lower part is earth. What we get “Let there be light” and the universe comes alive. Gods word never returns empty.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” ~Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

That is just as true when God’s word leaves your mouth about Jesus, people are born again and become a new creation. Do you have any idea how powerful God’s word is? Ponder the sheer size of creation. If you were travelling at the speed of light, at 300,000 kms per second, in one second you would circle the earth 7 times.  

At that speed it would take 100,000 light years to cross the galaxy and 20,000,000 light years to reach the next cluster of galaxies and you have only just begun to explore the universe. And all of it created by God’s word. That’s is why God told his anxious people in Exile.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? ~Isaiah 40:12 (NIV)

God really does have the whole world in his hands. 

Anyone having problems trusting in that God in COVID-19?

5. God is awesome because his creation is a sheer act of Grace

We did nothing to earn or deserve to be created. And then God stamped us humans with his image. We go from nothing to something to someone to sons of God. God could have created a world to glorify him and left us out of the picture and saved himself a lot of hurt. But he created it for us to rule and care and enjoy and to glorify him. Knowing we would break his heart. It wasn’t because he was lonely.

6. God is awesome because He is more than one person.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. ~Genesis 1:26 (NIV)

Not my image, my likeness, our image, our likeness. God takes counsel not with the angels but with himself. Father, Son and Spirit. What is hinted at in Genesis 1 is made clear in gospels about Jesus the Word of God who becomes flesh, we read in John 1:3

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (NIV)

Jesus is not ‘plan b’, downloaded to fix up the problem of sin that God did not see coming. As Melito said in the 2nd century, ‘He who hung the earth in its place, hung there on the cross’ 

I’m always stunned when I realise that we humans crucified the creator. We killed author of life.

7. Our God is awesome because He creates with purpose and order.

Genesis 1 moves from chaos to order.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ~Genesis 1:2 (NIV)

And that is not good. But what is good is when the Spirit turns dark into light, when the formless is given shape, when empty becomes full of life. So, God creates the space then fills:

Day 1 he creates light and Day 4 he makes the Sun, Moon and stars.

Day 2 he separates the water below from the sky above and Day 5 he fills the sky with birds and fills the water with fish.

Day 3 he makes land and Day 6 he fills the land with animals and finally humans.

We are clearly not told everything. In my bible translation there are only 813 words which make up Genisis 1. My iphone instruction manual has over 73,000 words.

At MBM we hold with an open hand on the different views of the age of the universe. For some hold to a young earth and others hold to an old earth. For some, God directed form of evolution. Each with their problems but what is clear, no species of life exists without God’s direct hand. This is a closed hand issue. Non negotiable.

It’s worth remembering that Charles Darwin, who came up with Evolution remained a believer in God. In his autobiography he thought it impossible to conclude that ‘blind chance or necessity’ could account for ‘this immense and wonderful universe including man.’

Sir Fred Hoyle, English Astronomer, not a Christian, said that the idea of the origin of life by chance is absurd. Even a 15 billion year old universe is too short for the formation of complex higher life by chance. Once an atheist, he agreed that there was an external, intelligent designer.

The God of Genesis 1 is that external intelligent designer, He alone commands, speaks, names, creates, separates and blesses. God is the main character of this story. Genesis 1 reduces fear and makes science possible. The sun and moon that were worshipped as gods are not even given names just told to do their job and they can be studied. That is why when Christianity comes to town superstitions go and modern science is born. 

There is only one God and who created an ordered world. Its able to be studied by his image bearers for God’s glory and our good.

8. Our God is awesome because his creation is so diverse and fruitful.

There is so much variety. The skies, like the seas, like the land are teeming with life. God blesses his creation and orders it to reproduce and fill the earth.

God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” ~Genesis 1:22 (NIV)

The life giver calls forth more life, each according to their kind. There are 20,000 types of butterflies. Do you know how many different types of moths? 160,000. 200 hundred would have been more than enough. Don’t you think!? Such diversity reveals God’s awesome wisdom and Glory.

Do you know how many types of humans there are? Just 2 – Male and Female. Matt Fuller helpfully writes, “All creatures are made ‘according to their kinds’; there are different species within fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. Yet the only distinction in humanity is male and female.

Both made in God’s image and both given pride of place in this creation

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

How you understand the world came into being and how you see the place of humans has a massive flow on. Reject Genesis 1 and Lawrence Krauss (A Universe from Nothing) is right

“The lessons I want to give people, is you’re more insignificant than you ever thought, and the future is miserable.”

Reject Genesis and the most basic human rights are lost. Yuval Harari (Noah Harari Sapiens 122) wrote in his book Sapiens:

“According to the science of biology, people were not ‘created’. They have evolved. And they certainly did not evolve to be ‘equal’. The idea of equality is inextricably intertwined with the idea of creation. The Americans got the idea of equality from Christianity, … ‘Created equal’ should therefore be translated into ‘evolved differently.’”

Harari states that human rights exist only in the imagination. You can see the problem, this world view leads to racism and chaos. Harari then quotes Voltaire:

“There is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night”

But we have an Awesome creator who made an awesome universe and has graced every human male and female a special place. God alone is worthy to be worshipped. God is so adamant about doing you good that He will bring about a new heaven and earth and the rest promised on the 7th day will be yours for ever more. A new heaven and new earth where there is no more crying or grief or pain. 

Soon after Sandy and I were married, one of her school friends, Lorraine died in a car accident. Lorraine was recently married and living in Kurrajong and she was driving from the school where she taught. An oncoming truck crossed lanes and tragically killed her in a head on. It was a Thursday afternoon.

On the Monday night before she died her bible study group was studying Genesis 1. She shared how “If God went to all the trouble of making this wonderful world which he knew would come to an end, imagine what the next one will be like. Little did she know she was about to find out. Lorriane still speaks to us …. We have an awesome creator who made an awesome universe and is worthy of our worship.

Father God,

You are an awesome God and you made an awesome creation. Your power is breathtaking, bringing the universe into being by the power of your word. You are so worthy of our praise and thanksgiving. You are so deserving of our trust and obedience. 

We acknowledge that our creation is an act of grace. We did not deserve it. 

We acknowledge that our status as image bearers is a greater act of grace.

So, we thank you and praise you for being good and for doing us so much good. May we live for your glory and take time to look at creation and praise you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

That is the task of every sermon because the word of God is a double edge sword, it comforts those afflicted by guilt and suffering and it afflicts those comfortable with unconfessed sin and lukewarm Christianity.

Some days you walk out of church, when we had a church building to walk out of, thrilled over your assurance in Christ, over the moon that God will remember your sin no more and other days you walk out convicted of sin, broken and contrite, knowing you are presuming on the grace of God. 

Comfort those who are afflicted. Afflict those who are comfortable in their sin. That is what Isaiah is about, Chapter 1-39, God afflicted Israel who were comfortable in their sin, Chapter 40 opens with a word of comfort to a people who felt God had forgotten them.

“My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? ~Isaiah 40:27b (NIV)

God had abandoned them in their suffering. Maybe that is where you’re at today…One journalist said that this is the year God forgot, with Bushfires, Drought and COVID-19. The word of Comfort verses 1-2, in a sense God recommissions Isaiah to comfort his people.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. ~Isaiah. 40:1-2 (NIV)

The God who engraved his peoples name on the palm of his hand had not forgotten her. Comfort, comfort my people. The word Comfort means God stands with his people to strengthen them. So important it is repeated, comfort, comfort. Notice God is saying you are still ‘My people’. I am still your God.” I’m going no where.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. ~Isaiah 40:1a (NIV)

The 70 years of exile was not permanent rejection, but temporary discipline. It is a word of comfort – spoken with tenderness, lit into the heart, to be felt. God did not wake up one morning in a good mood and said ‘I think I will change my mind and end the exile.’

Let’s take a step back, in exile Israel lost her land, her king, her temple, her wealth, her fame and for 70 years living under foreign rule. But now her sins were paid for she was coming home, the jail term was up, the sentence has been served.

We need to be careful here. It’s not that anyone can fully pay for their sin on earth. For example, a person can spend 20 years in jail for a murder and we may even say the criminal has paid his debt to society, he has served his sentence, he is free to go, but he has not paid his debt to God and neither have we.

Each of us accumulates a debt to God for a life lived in sin but that is ultimately only paid in one of two places, either at the cross by Jesus, once and for all or in hell by any who reject Jesus for ever. 

Friends from another angle, this exile was a time of discipline and the discipline is over. Don’t confuse the discipline for the Lord and the ultimate punishment of the Lord. Don’t confuse the pain of discipline with the idea that God is punishing or rejecting you. We must keep the same principle when we discipline our own kids or kids in our program.

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. ~Proverbs 19:18 (NIV)

If you don’t discipline you are telling your kids and that don’t matter. You set them up to suffer much more later in life. The first time some kids find out about consequence is when they are being crashed tackled by a policeman. 

But keep in mind that as parents:

  • The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty.
  • The purpose of discipline is to shape character
  • The focus of punishment is on the past – what they have done wrong.
  • The focus of discipline is on the future – what you can be.
  • The attitude behind punishment is anger.
  • The attitude behind discipline is love.

If you discipline in anger then all it will do is produce resentment. 

Israel’s time of discipline is over, it’s time to come home. We have three voices of Comfort. The first voice calls out, God is leading his people home. 

1. Glory of God

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ~Isaiah 40:3-5 (NIV)

God is bringing his people home, He is leading them back to the promised land, though the wilderness. So, the voice is saying get ready everybody – clear the decks – and God himself will do it. 

You take the highway up to the north coast, you appreciate the language of levelling mountains and raising up valleys. The world that laughed at the God of Israel when they were sent into Exile is the world that will SEE his splendor in saving his people. 

The voice here is ultimately that of John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, who came 400 years after the exile. Which reminds us that Israel returned from exile but she remained in a kind of spiritual exile, until John the Baptist turns up and he calls on Israel to prepare the way for Lord. By getting Israel to start again, confess her sins and welcome Jesus. It would be Jesus who would lead his people out of judgment and into comfort, into eternal life, where sins are forgiven and the Spirit given and the blessing of new creation.

Brothers and sisters, we need more voices of comfort to a world that is lost. With all the down side of Covid-19 we have never seen more people access the Christian online message.

2. Word of God

But words are cheap, there is too much over promising and under delivering. This 2nd word of comfort can look very limp in the face of the Babylonian empire, so Isaiah remind them that God’s word is certain and all humans are fragile.

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. ~Isaiah 40:6-8 (NIV)

It’s so easy to be intimidated in your time, whether you’re an Israelite in exile in Babylon or when you’re in a lock down with Covid-19 for 6 months. God’s word stands forever just like God. Jesus is clear.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. ~Mark 13:31 (NIV)

And as surely as God’s people went into exile so they will go home and so will you. This good news must not be kept to oneself. 

3. Arm of the Lord

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” ~Isaiah 40:9 (NIV)

So, the 3rd voice of comfort calls on the good news (gospel) of the exiles return to be preached, not just to preach it but preach it loud, shout it out! Say to the towns of Judah who saw God’s glory leave, say to them “Here is your God” This is such good news, the towns and city are no longer under judgment.

God is bringing his people back. What joy it must evoke. I think our Sudanese or Liberian brothers and sisters caught in bloody civil war, on the run from rebels. They find temporary peace at a UN refugee camp, only to wait for years and then you hear the news…There is a home waiting for you in Australia. The God who promises comes with power.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, is reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. ~Isaiah 40:10 (NIV)

Bruce Springsteen wrote in his biography that he believed in love of Jesus but not his power. Love without power are empty words. Power without love is oppression. Power and love together is a beautiful mix.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

When God leads his people out of exile there will be no fall out, the weak will not be left behind in the dust of the strong and the sick will not be left behind in the wake of the healthy. Each one is carried close to God’s heart:

  • He is the good shepherd who lays down his life
  • He is the good shepherd who loses none of his own
  • He is the good shepherd not satisfied in saving 99/100
  • He will search out the 1, for everyone matters to God.

God doesn’t comfort the afflicted for themselves alone

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others in their troubles. It’s not supposed to end with us, there is the overflow principle. Have you ever seen champagne glasses stacked high in the form of a pyramid? as the top cup is filled up it overflows to the others. 

God’s comfort overflows from our cup of suffering into other cups. The reason: Gods comfort for us is always greater than the afflictions we suffer. Whether it’s the pain of persecution, broken relationships, the sickness the anxiety and depression.

God has voiced his comfort to us so that we can offer a voice of comfort to others. God wants to take us on a journey out of ourselves to bless others. It’s not supposed to end with us. 

We must reflect on how God’s grace meets us in our brokenness. For example, the comfort of knowing that Jesus weeps with those of us who weep, overflows so that we can weep with those who weep. 

It’s not supposed to stay with you. God who has forgiven us for everything overflows into us forgiving others for everything they have done to us.

It’s not supposed to stay with you. God who will not count our sins against us overflows in us telling others that God will not count their sins against them.

It’s not supposed to stay with you. Knowing God’s tenderness with us in our anxiety or depression overflows to those whose souls carry splinters.

It’s not supposed to stay with you.

Oh, that MBM would be a community that not only is comforted but comforts others with the same comfort we have received.

Dear Father,

Thank you for comforting us at this time with the love of Christ who weeps with those who weep, who does not hold our sins against us, who promises to be with us during this journey.

May your comfort for us overflow to others, that we would weep with those who weep.

We would both forgive others and share the forgiveness that Jesus brings. That we would be there for others in Jesus name.

Amen

I’m sure we’d all agree that right now, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. In an instant. There’d be no need to self-isolate. We’d have freedom to meet again, to hug each other, to hang out with your friends, your extended family, your boyfriend or your girlfriend and to go on holiday. There’d be no more fear whenever we left the house, fear of being infected and there’d be no panic buying. 

I’m a routine guy, I like a bit of structure, a bit of order. And so for me, it sounds weird, but the thing I’ve missed most has been my routine. My rhythm, my rhythm of exercise, my rhythm of a lunch date with Teresa on my day off, my rhythm of seeing you in the flesh on Sunday!

Now yes, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. But what about the resurrection of Jesus? Does that change anything? 

We’re in John 21. If you’re watching today, and you’re checking us out, so good to have you with us! Our custom here at MBM is to look at the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, because that’s the way God’s revealed it.

John 20 finished with John telling us why he’s gone to the trouble of writing 20 majestic chapters. Why? 

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ~John 20:31 (NIV)

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, John could have ended it there. He’s given us the entire biography of Jesus, from beginning to end. And now he’s saying, over to you. Believe! 

But he doesn’t end it, John’s going to put pen to paper for one more chapter. Why? Because John doesn’t want to just download a set of facts. A set of propositions about Jesus. He wants to make it personal for you, he wants to show you and I exactly what it means to have life in his name. I, for one, am so thankful that he did that. 

I reckon John 21, through the life of one person, Peter, teaches us two things.

1. Forgiveness is possible. So accept it
2. Following Jesus is essential. So keep at it. 

John 21:15 begins with these words, “When they had finished eating”. This is the third appearance Jesus has made since he walked out that tomb. This time, he’s having fish and chips with his disciples. I love the fact that here, we have Jesus, the one who has endured the most bloody of deaths. In a new glorious body, the one with fresh wounds from the nails that went through his hands and the spear that went into his side. 

That same Jesus, is now cooking a BBQ brekkie for his mates, at a beach next to the Sea of Galilee. You can see it on Google maps. This is not a made-up story. This really happened! It’s early in the morning and some, not all the disciples, they’ve been doing one of the few things you CAN still go out and do during coronavirus lockdown–fishing!

In some ways, life had gone back to normal for these guys. Before they’d met Jesus, they were fishermen. Now that Jesus had come and gone life had gone back to normal for these guys. Back on the boats, dropping the nets. Well that’s all about to change! Jesus turns up in verse 4. 

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NIV)

That’s understandable, it’s dark and the boat’s about 100 metres out in the water. Then comes some advice from the shore.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” ~John 21:6a  (NIV)

Try the other side of your boat Jesus said! The result? 

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. ~John 21:6b (NIV)

Gee, I wish Jesus gave me fishing tips when I was teaching my son to fish a few years back. We were up at South West Rocks. Apparently one of the easiest places to catch fish. Not for us!

We’d gone out early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We tried this spot and that spot, this bait and that bait. Just as we were about to give up and end the holiday without any fish, we caught one! 1! That’s nothing compared to the 153 fish the disciples caught in an instant. 

Well, with a truckload of fish, the guys who were in the boat were surely wondering: “Who’s standing on the shore giving us these fishing tips?”

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” ~John 21:7a (NIV) 

I love this next bit

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. ~John 21:7b (NIV)

No hesitation whatsoever, whereas we usually take off our clothes before jumping in the water. Peter puts on his clothes. And swims in to meet Jesus. 

Now we’re about to eavesdrop in on the first recorded conversation between Peter and Jesus since Good Friday. You could say a lot has changed since then. 

Now, in case you don’t know much about Peter, this is a guy who’s got a big heart. A big heart for Jesus. But that often leaves him with a truckload of regrets. It lands him in a lot of trouble, Peter likes to talk a big game but he often has difficulty backing it up. Like the time Peter, after Jesus revealed he was going to suffer and die. Peter tried to pull Jesus aside and rebuke him. Pete, you don’t tell the sinless son of God what to do. 

And then there was the time when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus goes off to pray and says to Peter and a few others: watch out for me. What do they all do? They all nod off instead. They let Jesus down. 

One more. Back in John 13. Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples. He told them he’s about to go to the cross. Peter boldly puts himself out there and says: “I will die for you Jesus” But sadly, instead of dying for Jesus, he denied Jesus. Not once. Not twice. But three times. I’m not with him. I don’t know him. I wasn’t there. Talk about overpromising and under-delivering. That was the story of Peter’s life. So with all that background info on Peter. 

On how he’s let Jesus down again and again and again. We’re kind of holding our breath as we come to this first conversation between Peter and Jesus. But notice Jesus’ words: He could easily have said: “Pete, I told you so” “Pete, you let me down” But no, instead of rejection, instead of retaliation from Jesus. Instead of revenge, Jesus offers a welcome reception. He makes restoration by inviting Peter to share a meal with him. 

“Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” ~John 21:10 (NIV)

“Come and have breakfast.” ~John 21:12  (NIV)

This is more than invitation to simply eat food, it’s an invitation to friendship. Meals are super significant, they’re super symbolic, today and back then, even more so. Whenever you see Jesus inviting people to share a meal with him. That’s a powerful declaration. A statement that says: “We’re at peace with each other” In a tangible and concrete way. Meals express that. 

I’ve got say, that’s one of the good things about coronavirus. As a family, we’ve had time to slow down and have meals with each other. The conversations have been richer and we’ve been able to connect in a meaningful way. In fact, one those highlights was last Saturday, where in the Lee household, we had a formal dinner. All of us got dressed up. The boys donned ties. The girls put on dresses and makeup. We brought out the fancy plates. Dimmed the lighting. Then after dinner, wait for it, there was dancing too. It was a real treat! 

Well, what a breakfast this was for Peter. In the space of 1 meal, he’s gone from being full of regret to being full of forgiveness. If Thomas, who we saw last week in John 20, speaks to the corner of doubt lurking in each of us. Then Peter’s story here in John 21 speaks to the truckloads of regret and failures that are in all of us. 

What Jesus has done here for Peter. He’s also done it for you and I. Jesus says to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible!’ If you’ve not yet tasted or not yet received this forgiveness Jesus is offering you, then look at Peter. Peter is the perfect example that no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’ve become, no matter how many times you’ve mucked it up. That is not the end of the story. You. Can. Be. Forgiven.

Come and join the rest of us. We’re all in the same boat as Peter. We who have got our own quota of regrets, of failures and of stuff ups. That’s the great message of Christianity, that’s what we’ve just celebrated at Easter, what happened on that cross didn’t happen at a distance, it’s not ancient history. No – it affects you and I, here today, April 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic! Perhaps, this pandemic is God’s way of getting your attention. 

As CS Lewis puts it: God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 

Whereas the message from our government has been, don’t hoard toilet paper! The message from Jesus is this: Don’t stockpile your sin! Let Jesus take that weight, that guilt, that shame off you. 

Perhaps in this season of lockdown, you’re tuning in as someone who use to check out the things of God. Maybe you’ve drifted from Jesus. Well, let me assure you, today’s as good a day as any other to come home. Get in touch with us via our website. We’d love to help you take those next steps. 

2. Following is essential. 

Remember how we started at verse 15? Well, let’s get back to it! Jesus asks Peter straight up. 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” ~John 21:15b (NIV)

Notice Jesus, he doesn’t call him Simon Peter, instead he calls him Simon, son of John. It’s the name before Jesus called him to follow him. Again, reminding us that Jesus has rewound the clock here, it’s a clean slate, a fresh start for Pete. 

Jesus goes on to ask Peter two more times: Pete do you love me. Peter do you love me. It wasn’t that Peter had a hearing problem or a comprehension problem. No Jesus asks Peter three times for his own good. He wants to give a very powerful. A very public demonstration of just how rich in mercy he really is. To the disciples at that breakfast and to us reading today. 

In fact, come the third time Peter’s a bit over it. He’s got nothing, no track record to appeal to. All he’s got is the character of Jesus. 

Lord, you know all things. ~John 21:17 (NIV)

That is both a scary thought, that Jesus knows every single thing about you, the deep recesses of your heart. But it’s also a comforting thought, that Jesus came not to judge, but to show mercy. 

And by the way, we’re talking about the same Jesus who knows when and how coronavirus is going to end. It’s this Jesus who is saying to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible so, accept it.’ ‘Following is essential, so hang in there.’ 

Well, the Jesus who knows Peter, also knows your heart and He knows mine. He asks us the same questions:

  • You, who’ve rejected me. Do you love me?
  • You, who’ve denied me. Do you love me?
  • You, who deep down are all talk and no action. Do you love me?

Peter’s answer is the model answer in verses 15, 16 and 17.

“Yes” Peter says, “you know that I love you”. 

Let’s face it friends. Now, perhaps more than ever in our life, Jesus question here is more important than ever. Our love for Jesus is being tested during this season of COVID19, because if there was a time to get away with godliness, to pretend, or to fake our love for Jesus. Now would be it! because we’re all locked up. We’re not in each others lives as much, not rubbing shoulders with the usual accountability structures. Porn is now that much easier to get away with. We’re on screens and on devices more than ever. Stealing time from our boss as we work from home is as easy as. 

Loving Jesus, it’s not just some warm, fuzzy feeling you have towards Jesus. Jesus has already told us what loving him looks like. 

“If you love me, keep my commands.” ~John 14:15 (NIV)

To love Jesus, is to obey what he says, to let him call the shots, to live under his rule, that’s how we show we love him!

After hearing Peter declare his love for Jesus, it’s now time for Jesus to respond. If this were Hollywood, what do you reckon the next words out of Jesus mouth would be? Hollywood would make Jesus say: “Aww. I love you too Pete. Give us a big hug” 

But instead, what does Jesus say?

“Feed my sheep” ~John 21:17 (NIV)

The Good Shepherd now invites Peter to shepherd his sheep. To love them, to feed them, to protect them. It’s as if Jesus says: Pete, you’re back on the team. Welcome back. Now, it’s time to get to work because my sheep matter. I’m handing them over to you, I’m not abandoning them. But as I return to be with my Father, you’re to look after them here on earth. Jesus not only lays down his life for his sheep He’s committed to making sure they carry on as his sheep. 

Now – whilst we’re in lockdown for who knows how long, I’ve got to admit I’ve had plenty of corona-goals. I’m trying to make the most of the “extra time”. I’ve started doing a bit of home re-organisation, a bit of decluttering. I’ve started baking my own sourdough bread! And I’ve picked up the ukulele again. I just turned 40 last week, hence these new glasses. At some point in this decade, I expect to be asking myself again and again: Is this my purpose in life? Is this what life’s about?

Well, John 21 helps me put all those things in perspective. It helps me keep the main thing, the main thing. Because Jesus says life is about two words. 

Follow me! ~John 21:19 (NIV)

Following Jesus is the catch all phrase Jesus uses to describe everything we’ve seen so far. Following Jesus looks like loving him. Following Jesus looks like being committed to Jesus’ people and in verses 18 and 19, following Jesus looks like following him until death! 

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. ~John 21:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus predicted Peter would deny for him. Now he’s predicting Peter would die for him! And where Peter’s denial shamed Jesus. Peter’s death will now glorify Jesus.

Friends, the coronavirus may be the way Jesus takes our lives, for many of us, it probably won’t, but one thing’s for sure, you be sure that this new season we find ourselves in, this is a test. 

How prepared are you follow Jesus?

In not just the good times but also the bad. Not just when there’s plenty but when there’s less. Not just when it’s convenient but when you need to do some of the work yourself. Not just on Sundays but every day, in every aspect of life. The times when we’ll have less rather than more.

Jesus himself said: Following never was going to be easy. You didn’t sign up for a comfortable walk in the park when you signed up to follow me. 

I began this talk by painting a picture of how everything would change if coronavirus ended tomorrow. Well, the truth is, everything has already changed. Because Jesus is risen. 

John Piper puts it best:

What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us, graphically, painfully, that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus. This global pandemic takes away our freedom of movement, our business activity, and our face-to-face relations. It takes away our security and our comfort. And, in the end, it may take away our lives. But the reason God exposes us to such losses,

Piper concludes. Is this:

To rouse us to rely on Christ. 

It’s this Christ who is alive, well and ruling the universe, even today. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the stories of people, months down the track, when we’re back in this building, I’m looking forward to hearing the stories that begin with these words: “During coronavirus, my love for Jesus grew”

  • It grew as my soul was fed by his word
  • It grew as I ran to him in prayer
  • It grew as I took up opportunities to display the fruit of the Spirit to my family, my kids, my housemates, my neighbours.

How about we pray for that to happen? 

You are a God who is compassionate. Rich in mercy. Slow to anger. You’re a forgiving God. We confess our many failings. Not only this day. This week. This season of coronavirus. 

Thank you that our sin. Our shame. Our shortcomings are not the end of the story. That we are NOT cut off. 

But you are a God who is RICH. Abundant in mercy. And we’ve seen that most clearly in Jesus. 

Thanks so much that Jesus did what no one else can do. 

Ask that during this time, we would love you more dearly. Follow you more wholeheartedly. And live for you unashamedly. 

AMEN

With floods and fires and now coronavirus. One ABC journalist said “2020 is the year that God forgot.” It’s not true, but it can feel like it. It’s like we woke up in an apocalyptic movie. Panic buying, lockdowns, shutdowns, boarder control, travel restrictions, and empty streets.

Think back to November when we had Hong Kong protests, Brexit battles, Kim Jong-un firing missiles, the Roosters won 2nd straight grand final and it wasn’t so bad!

By January we prayed for relief from drought and fires and those prayers were answered, the rains came down and the fires went out. Dams were full, the air was clean and life was good.

We then heard of this new virus in Wuhan province in China, it strangely sounded like a beer, but this was not the first time for the Coronavirus, it gave birth to SARS in 2004 when it spread to 24 countries resulting in 774 deaths.

This new version is called COVID-19 and most of us assumed it was serious but manageable. Then in a short time it became a pandemic and spread to 185 countries with over 14,000 deaths as at today (March 23, 2020). 

The focus then became more and more local and the restrictions rapidly ramped up, we went from no touching and washing hands and keeping our distance to self-isolation, Quarantine, border control and shut downs. Some felt this was an overreaction and others thought it was a conspiracy by whoever for whatever reason. We were told that the World economy would nose dive and it has. Someone suggested we preach through Leviticus with is strong distinction of clean and unclean.

Friends we are living in a bizarro world! Panic set in with fights over toilet paper, hostile comments on social media over school closures, anxiety felt for loved ones who are old or sick, uncertainty over job losses and mental health for those self-isolating. There is no place on earth to escape. There is no economy untouched, there is no population that is safe and there is no quick solution.

I like quick solutions! If it went for a month, no problem; a dose of Netflix, a few good books to read and more time with the family, but the government speaks in terms of 6 to18 months.

We know that with self-isolation will come increased levels of anxiety and depression, a rise of domestic violence and the increase of addictive behavior like drugs, alcohol, online gambling, pornography and overeating.

I may be an optimist but I too have been caught off guard. I too am worried and concerned for my family, my MBM family, Australia and the world. Oh yes I’m 60 in May. I’m also grieving for not being with God’s people, not gathering around his word, encouraging each other and praising his name, the more we gorge ourselves on Corona news the more anxious we get. 

So, we need to press the pause button and think God thoughts.

Why is this happening? What should be our response? Some say it is a judgment of God on the world because of gay marriage and abortion and a discipline on God’s people who stopped being regular at church. Friends we just have no specific word from the Lord for why this has happened.

So, we go to God word and speak of what we do know.

1. Creation is groaning

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time ~ Romans 8:22 (NIV)

Creation is groaning and it is not just some of it. The whole of nature has been groaning right up to now. It’s not just creation in the 21th century where oil tankers are leaking poison on the barrier reef. Just as Israel groaned under slavery in Egypt looking for freedom.

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. ~Romans 8:21 (NIV)

It is enslaved to decay, every cell, every tree, every animal cries out for freedom. The universe is locked in the neverending cycle of Decline, Death, Decay and Decomposition.

We must locate this pandemic in what God says about creation generally. We live after the fall of Adam and outside the garden, we live in a broken world, it’s not just seen in floods and fires or in lions eating lambs but with bacteria and virus wreaking havoc.

Remember this is not new, here are 3 examples of many:

  • 1350 Black death with 1/3 of world population wiped out,
  • 1918 Spanish Flu with 50 million deaths,
  • 1957 Asian Flu with 1.1 million deaths. So, we don’t want to over read this virus.

Creation enslaved to death and decay and it wont stop until Jesus returns and with it the resurrection of Gods children. We will spear head a new creation where there is no more crying or grief or pain. I also don’t think COVID-19 is telling us that Jesus is coming back in two weeks but it is to make us hungry for his return. It’s why the bible ends Marantha. Come Lord Jesus. We are to live as if Jesus were coming in the next 5 minutes, we are to plan like he will return in 1000yrs. One thing we do know is that with each day we are one day closer.

2. In the mean time we push back on effects of the fall.

We relieve suffering, we combat disease. As those made in Gods image to rule the world, we seek to understand how viruses work and how they spread, we earnestly pray that scientists will find a vaccination to the virus. We listen to medical directives and stop thinking, because I believe in Jesus I have some force field protecting me from this virus. If that were the case then don’t take out insurance, don’t lock your house or wear a seat belt. But that is not the case because creation is groaning and so are you.

Pray earnestly, live wisely, follow medical directives, relax it’s not a conspiracy! Although those rednecks storing food for a crisis are ahead of the game.

3. Be thankful for a long season of health in Australia

We must pause and give thanks that we have not lived in a world of pandemics, although a family friend, Dorothy, who is 104. When people say “we have not seen a pandemic like this in our life time.” She says wait a minute, “I was alive in 1918 during the Spanish flu” That was 102 years ago.

Be thankful for God’s common grace in having the world leaders work together on this pandemic and for those medics who daily risk their lives.

4. We rightly grieve but not without hope

You do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. ~1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

That is true whether we face death or unemployment. It’s right to feel the grief of losing a job, burying a grandparent, being forced to move house or a business going bankrupt. Christians grieve! We feel pain and we don’t deny pain, that is Buddhism.

We see Jesus weeping when he saw Mary and Martha crying because their brother had died. This is a very, very serious matter and its only just begun but we don’t grieve as ones without hope. 

Take time to mediate on gospel truths.

  • Jesus paid for our sins
  • Jesus rose on the 3rd day, death has been defeated.
  • This earth is not our home, our citizenship is in heaven
  • We are awaiting a resurrected body.
  • God is our Father and we are his children.
  • Remember when you became a Christian, you left everything to follow Jesus.

One clue we have turned a good thing into an idol? It’s how we respond when we lose possession, freedom, health. Are we grieving or are we devastated. If devastated then recalibrate your heart and set your mind on the things above.

5. God has the world’s attention.

When I was battling anxiety over the last 3 years I came to realize that it’s a gift from God to get my attention and turn to him in prayer. Our prayer in this season is that the world will be moved to ask big questions. They will realize we cannot keep ourselves alive. Humanity has been humbled by one mutant virus. 

We had over 55 non Christians attending the Explaining Christianity course in Term 1. In the most recent course, 5 people accepted Christ and 11 want to be followed up. Pray that God will convince people that they need a savior. Pray that the gospel will spread faster than COVID-19.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. ~2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NIV)

Don’t waste this pandemic! Let’s encourage those in our household who don’t yet know Jesus to watch MBM online next Sunday with us.

6. Don’t surrender to your anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

The opposite to anxiety is, not so much, not anxiety but prayer. We can’t directly stop worrying. No button to press! But we can cast our cares before our Father in heaven. Why? because he cares for you. This is what glorifies God, don’t waste your panic, turn it into prayer. And Remember you are just a 3 year old kid whose Dad happens to be Sovereign creator of the universe. Your older brother is none other than Jesus – Lord of glory, who upholds the universe by the power of his word.

It’s going to be OK! Don’t be anxious because your Father knows your needs before you ask. Jesus is clear, if our Father takes care of the birds of the air will he not take care of you. Are you not much more valuable than those birds? He has your back! It’s going to be ok. And as Jesus reminds us, being anxious has a 100% failure rate. Jesus said, “You can’t add 1 day to your life by worry.” The only thing anxiety produces is ulcers and heart burn, its critical you meditate on this.

7. God is in total control and he is good

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? ~Lamentations 3:37-38 (NIV)

You can’t pick and choose where God is soverign. Not one Sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of my Father. No virus will mutate and spread apart from our Fathers directive, that is why we pray for a cure, He is in charge. That is why we don’t panic, He is in control. That is why we don’t despair, He is our dad. That is why..

8. We receive suffering as discipline not as rejection

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father… but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. ~Hebrews 10:7,11 (NIV)

For every believer, COVID 19, is a discipline form the Lord, not a punishment. When hardship comes we rightly ask

  • What is God teaching me?
  • Will I be content through this season?
  • Where do I need to repent?
  • Where do I need to trust my Father more?
  • What haven’t I been doing?
  • Where has my heart been?
  • What idols have I been loving, and serving.

This is not the reason for COVID-19 but it tells us how we are to respond to COVID 19. But for every Christian, our Fathers discipline is to help us be more like Jesus.

  • God is at work in it–have no doubt.
  • He is working for your good–have no doubt
  • That good involves us being shaped by Christ.

Whether we come out of this looking more or less like Christ, that is our decision. 

9. Glorify God by Loving others

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. ~Galatians 6:10 (NIV)

In the early centuries of the church when plagues wiped out villages and towns, many left their sick families behind… beginning with the doctors. Often Christians stayed behind and took care of the sick, not just their own but others.

The pagan Emperor Julian was exasperated at Christian kindness as it made pagans look bad. “It is disgraceful that, when… the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”

It was one of the reasons why Christianity spread. The Christians were prepared to die with the plague because they had the hope of the resurrection. They refused to be intimidated by death, since they were forgiven, they lived without fear, they were free to love others. 

The days before us are going to be very hard, have no doubt. This is not going away in a hurry. Let’s look back on this time as our best days of MBM, where we took care of not only ourselves, but others, inside and outside the church. Let’s not postpone living a life that glorifies God. Don’t waste this pandemic.

As one brother at MBM said, “I got too comfortable, bored with the ordinary Christian life. I needed a wake up. COVID-19 was that wake up call, so I called my extended family to see if they needed anything, I then called you to see if anyone at church needed anything.”

Let us know if you need help?
Let us know if you can offer help?

This battle has only just begun!

But if God is for us who can be against us!

Talk Manuscript

Brad Thorn tells us about his career as a professional league and union international player. Playing for Queensland, Australia and the All-Blacks. Most importantly he shares with us about his new life in Jesus.

Monopoly has been a worldwide favorite board game, everyone in the game is given the same money – $1500. But as we know we all don’t start life with the same opportunities, some are born into poor families and some into rich but the one thing it does get right is that whether you make a lot or a little, whether you have hotels on Mayfair or not, at the end of the game it all goes into the box.

The challenge for every preacher is showing the relevance of a passage. The thing about death is that it’s the one experience that every human shares, it becomes an important lens to understand the rest of life.

This Psalm begins with it a shout out to everyone to listen.

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: ~Psalm 49:1-2 (NIV)

This is a Psalm that speaks to all people, not just people who believe, its addressed to all nations, not just God’s people. What is said makes sense, whether your inside or outside the circle of faith, because it speaks of death. Its for all demographics, rich or poor, the powerful and the powerless, whether you live in Darling Point or Doonside.

It’s not a lament, or a confession or a praise, it’s a wisdom psalm and it promises understanding.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: ~Psalm 49:3-4 (NIV)

This is the very thing the world is so short on, we have lots of information but not much wisdom, we have lots of knowledge but no discernment, we have lots of Google me this but not much understanding. It begs the question, who is worth listening? With my bible closed I really have nothing worth saying. Lets open this psalm and gain some wisdom.

Why should I fear when evil days come, ~Psalm 49:5 (NIV)

The bible is realistic, it expects that days of evil will come but this Psalm also promises hope. Why should I fear and be intimidated when evil comes?

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? ~Psalm 49:5 (NIV)

Again, we have the importance of self-talk, why should I be afraid in the face of injustice? In this context the threat comes from evil doers who are deceivers. Liars are bad but deceivers are worse because a liar is easier to spot than a deceiver, a liar tells untruths for their own advantage but a deceiver tells a mixture of lies and truths to deceive and harm others.

Deceivers encircle the Psalmist. They both trust in their riches and boast in their wealth. Wealth is power and they were abusing their power by exploiting the poor. The way to dismantle one’s fear when you’re powerless is to think God thoughts, to understand the absolute false hopes of wealth through the lens of death.

No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay. ~Psalm 49:7-9 (NIV)

Why not fear?

The price tag for eternity is too expensive for everyone. You can’t buy your way into heaven, you can’t bribe your way out of death. Sadly, you can’t ransom your life or any other, it’s what every grieving person knows, especially if you have lost a loved one, wishing you could take their place but knowing you cant.

When my son James nearly died at birth my theology went out the window, I was bargaining with God to save his life offering
everything I have.

Wealth can do a lot, you can use it to bless others, you can buy your way out of a lot of trouble with an expensive lawyer, you can buy your way out of poverty and move to a nice part of town, you can extend your life by paying for the best private medical treatment, but it cannot stop death.

Either way sooner or later we all owe God a death. As a result, we all die leaving our wealth to others.

For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. ~Psalms 49:10 (NIV)

Observe how both the rich die with the poor, the wise end up with the fools and the POWERFULL end up the same places as the POWERLESS. Death is the great leveller.

We all leave our accumulated wealth for other others to enjoy. Ecclesiastes makes this point and extends it, you leave it to another and you don’t know whether they will be a fool or wise. Sooner or later either your kids, grandkids or their spouses will blow it away by gambling, or a divorce or a bad investment.

Train yourself not to be easily impressed

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. ~Psalm 49:16-17 (NIV)

We all leave this earth in exactly the same way as we enter, naked and with nothing. On any given day you can have a homeless man and a wealthy man both lying on a slab next to each other at the Morgue, the exact same outcome. Bottom line is, don’t be overawed by the rich who take advantage of you, they can’t take it with them.

There is the story of the wealthy man who organized to be buried in his gold plated car, as the car rolled into the ditch, one worker asked to the other “how much did he leave behind?” The answer is always the same “All of it.”

Egyptian Pharaoh’s tried to take it with them but the grave robbers were the only ones who benefitted. You never see a removalist truck following the hearse to the cemetery, which is why it’s tragic when Christians sell their souls for some get rich schemes. The only house that we will live in is our tomb.

In that sense, we are no different from the animals

Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. ~Psalm 49:11-12 (NIV)

When my kids were impressed by someone who was both famous and foolish I said “Don’t forget they will die like a dog like everybody else” now that is good parenting.

The only house you own and benefit from is your coffin. I find Mausoleums very interesting, they are impressive buildings that house a tomb of a loved one, the most famous would be the Taj Mahal. They are attempts to honour the dead and soften the reality of death, they look somewhere between a temple and a hotel, the only difference is that no one gets to walk out.

The Psalmist says, while you managed to leave your name on some piece of real estate or monument, you wont be around to enjoy it. Bill Bryon notes that if you’re buried in a sealed coffin you will deteriorate somewhere from 5-40 years. “The average grave is visited only for about fifteen years, so most of us take a lot longer to vanish from the Earth than from others memories”

This is the destiny of humanity, well not quite…

This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. ~Psalm 49:13-14 (NIV)

The call is to be wise as to who and what you put your trust in. If you put your trust in yourself and in your wealth than death wins every time. While the mansion you built will carry your name, your corpse is rotting away. If you trust yourself then, death becomes your shepherd and it leads you to destruction. If Jesus is your good shepherd he will restore your soul and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

For one reason, while we can’t ransom our lives, while we cant take the place of another, God can and did.

But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. ~Psalm 49:15 (NIV)

Jesus alone is able to ransom us from death. He is the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.

We have already heard that no one can ransom themselves or another, that is unless they satisfy 3 criteria.

  • They have to be human, for only a human can take the place of a human
  • They have to be sinless, otherwise they will have to die for their own sin
  • They have to be God for only God can endure the horror of hell

In Jesus alone we have all three, He was truly human, He was totally sinless and He was fully God. That is why Jesus can say…

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:45 (NIV)

It’s why He can say:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

The psalmist is pleading, don’t be in awe, don’t be afraid of those who exploit you with their wealth. You’re not the one to live in fear, they are! Their blessings are short lived.

Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life. ~Psalm 49:18-19 (NIV)

Right now we are seeing many lose their jobs while others are getting a promotion, we are seeing some businesses die a slow or quick death while others are bursting with success. If things are going well the temptation is to trust yourself, take care what conversation you’re having with yourself. When other say “Wow, you have made it!” take care how you interpret the praise of others.

As one T shirt said, “The one with the most toys doesn’t win he just dies like everything else.” Not true, there is a different destiny between those who trust in themselves and their wealth and those who don’t.

People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish. ~Psalm 49:20 (NIV)

So, the issue is not just wealth, its not about those who have wealth but those who have wealth without understanding.

  • Don’t fear that person who cling to wealth and not Jesus.
  • Don’t envy a person on their way to hell.
  • Pity yes but not envy

How do I know that I am not putting my trust in myself and in what possessions I have, Jesus will urge us:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

So you can take it with you! if you use what you have great or small as if it belongs to God. You own absolutely nothing!
Death is proof of that. You are but a steward entrusted by God with much or little and as stewards we will give an account.

I was talking to one of our overseas ministry partners, they said “I want to live life like I’m playing Uno not Monopoly” “What do you mean?” “In Monopoly you win by ending up with the most things, in Uno you win by giving all your cards away.” I thought it was a helpful image.

I want to commend those who have kept their jobs but have not panicked, you are still generous and supporting the work of the gospel and care for the poor.

As Psalm 90 ends, Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Or as Luther put it, “Teach us that we must die…”

Dear Father,
Teach us to not be afraid.
To not be intimidated.
To not be overwhelmed with those who take advantage of us.
Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Teach us to not put our confidence in ourselves and in what we have.
But to trust in our Jesus for he alone can ransom us from death.
And set us free that we may store our treasures in heaven.
In Jesus name Amen.

Happy Father’s day. All Fatherhood stems from God the Father, which means our Dads were either stepping stones or stumbling blocks to knowing the one true God. They either hindered or they helped or a bit of both.

One of the most decisive moments in my life was when I went to hear Larry Crabb, renown Psychologist, speak at a week-long conference. He shared stories about his two boys and I didn’t realise, but I was being drawn to him as a father, in Larry Crabb, I found a man who both loved God and loved people. It awoke something inside of me and at the end of the conference as he drove away I started crying and I don’t cry all that much, I didn’t stop crying for the next 3 hours and they were the most beautiful tears I have ever shed. It exposed a grief I carried about my own dad.

At age 22 I started a journey that led me to know the love of my Father in heaven, which freed me to both face my Dad’s failures and yet be grateful for his love. Too many people spend their life desperate for their fathers. Approval or seeking to prove their father wrong. Psalm 103 speaks of the Fatherhood of God in all his glory, He is the Father you never had.

Yes, the Bible is patriarchal. Third-wave feminism wants to solve a real problem the wrong way, the aim is not to deconstruct patriarchy and dismantle fatherhood. We think the answer to bad fatherhood is no fatherhood but the answer to bad fatherhood is to imitate their heavenly Father.

Our Father in heaven deserves our praise. The Psalm is an extended call to oneself to praise God our Father.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. ~Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

David is speaking to himself for most of this psalm, let all of me praise all of you Father. We can’t really sing “all of me loves all of you” because we don’t love the sin in the other person. But with our Holy Father, all of me can truly love all of Him.

The modern vision of Fatherhood is not a Christian one, in it, we Dads become the heroes and not God our Father. I think there are lots of fathers who love their kids, they take them to sport, they make time and have fun but you hear no God-talk on their lips and they share no joy in Christ.

John Piper is right when he says “Dads, your kids greatest need is to see you praise God”

Either by talking singing or sharing some truth about who God is and what he has done, whether at church, at home or in the car or camping. Psalm 103 is one long self talk.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits ~Psalm 103:2 (NIV)

Learn the art of preaching to your soul and don’t forget what God has done, don’t steal his glory and don’t be overwhelmed with life’s pressures. The way to remember is to keep urging yourself to praise God for HIS many blessings.

There are so many benefits in this Psalm, let’s break them down into 3 areas.

1. We praise our Father for he is in total control 

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. ~Psalm 103:19 (NIV)

God rules! Praise God that he rules over every corner of this universe, from Angels to Atoms to Ants, He lovingly rules over the big picture and the small details of life.

In the fury of the moment
I can see the masters hand
In every leaf that trembles and
In every grain of sand
~Bob Dylan

Do you have a moment by moment awareness of Gods total control? God rules over the present and the future.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ ~Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV)

His total authority is clearly seen in his Son who had absolute control over sin, sickness, suffering, satan, and the surf. Let our children hear us say, I praise you, Lord, that you rule over all 7 billion humans in all 195 nations, that you rule over every world leader however they got into power, that you rule over every corner of this massive system and over a rouge virus.

Learn to give yourself a good talking to. For example:

Q: Raymond is God Lord of the universe? Yes!
A: Then why do you live with so much fear?

Q: Will God supply all my needs? Yes!
A: Then why O Ray, why are you so anxious

Praise your Father in heaven for he alone rules! We praise our Father who seeks justice for the powerless.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. ~Psalm 103:6 (NIV)

God jealously defends those who can’t speak up for themselves. Think with me for a moment, the bible is honest about the sins of Israel. Why are we so afraid to admit the sins of Australia?

If like me you or your parents chose to make Australia your home then we must own its history both the good and bad. If we benefit from the past sins, we must assume responsibility of the past, not to mention the present. It’s a history that has oppressed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We had a white Australian policy when the original custodians were not white. We only gave them citizenship in 1967 when I was 7. It’s shameful that my Maltese Father who came to Australia in 1939 got his citizenship before Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders who lived in this land for over 40,000 years. They fought in wars defending a country that would not let them vote, they were not paid a proper wage and at times were limited to who they could marry. Their children were taken from the mothers. We have systematically dismantled a culture over centuries and it took as late as February 2008 before a Prime Minister finally apologized, then wonder why or come up with cheap answers to why they have high mortality rate, unemployment and incarceration and shorter lifespans.

When you see injustice know the God of the bible hates it, so Praise him for being a God of justice

  • When wrongs are righted – Praise God
  • When sins are exposed – Praise God
  • When rights are trampled – Plead with God

Let your children hear you praise the Lord for his justice and plead for his protection of the powerless. Never forget, no one is more powerless than the unborn. Praise God that his cross is the ultimate evidence that he is a just God.

We praise our Father for his extravagant love

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ~Psalm 103:3-5 (NIV)

God never does a job that is half baked, He lavishes us with his love and His blessings are so complete that He

  • Cancels all of our sins (past, present and future)
  • Heals all our sickness (some in this age and all in the next)
  • Every good thing you long for will be satisfied

When God entered into a covenant with Israel He revealed his glory by revealing his character

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. ~Psalm 103:8-10 (NIV)

That is your Father in heaven. I don’t know what your Dad was like. Was he quick to anger and quick to blame, who constantly brought up your failures and shamed you in public? When you think of the word “Father” what words spring to mind? Harsh or Gentle. Mean or Gracious. Critical or Encouraging. Absent or Present. Abusive or Safe. Like me, my Dad was a mixed bag, that is why at times we Fathers must apologise to our children. If we don’t then we are liars and hypocrites, most kids can live with imperfect Dads if we genuinely own our failures.

God does not hold our sins against us and he is perfect SO why do we hold our children’s sins against them and why do we hold our Dad’s sins against them?

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV)

God wants us to grasp the full extent of his love that just can’t be measured. Sometimes God says When I forgive, it’s like I take all your sins and I plunge them in the deepest part of the ocean. Never to be used against you. Praise you Lord. When I forgive you its like I put your sins behind my back. So that when I look at you I see perfection. Praise you Lord God. Or, I create so much distance between you and your sin that its the distance between East and West. In a full moon, you can’t see the moon and sun at the same time.

The point is that God is saying I cant see you and your sin, He treats us as we don’t deserve.

But our sins are not placed at the bottom of the ocean or behind Gods back they are all stapled to the body of his Son
who took our blame, they were left at the cross never ever to be brought up against us again.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ~1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

But of course, this is only for those who FEAR GOD, three times we are told it’s for those who fear God, specifically, who put their trust in God’s Son. Do you joyfully praise God for his forgiveness or are you like Trump? When asked if he had ever sought God’s forgiveness and he replied, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

Days later when asked to clarify if, “asking for forgiveness” is a central tenet in his faith life. Trump answered “I try not to make mistakes where I have to ask forgiveness,” Friends I’ll stay out of politics when politicians stay out of bad theology. You don’t want your kids, let alone your nation, ever to hear that. Remember it’s critical we point our kids to our heavenly Father
because we won’t be around forever and they won’t be around forever.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. ~Psalm 103:13-16 (NIV)

Here today and gone tomorrow. We are not preparing the next generation for our death if we make ourselves the heroes of the story.

I said to my Maddy, who has a sensitive conscience, if by chance I catch COVID from you and die please remember that God my Father numbered my days not you.

Don’t waste your life feeling guilty for God sovereignty.

Finally, as the psalm begins so it ends, but now he wants everything and everyone everywhere to praise our Father for his many benefits.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. ~Psalm 103:20-22 (NIV)

It’s a call to you angels who stand in the presence of God day and night, yes even you archangels Gabriel and Michael that includes Cherubim’s and Seraphim. Don’t hold back, give God the praise he deserves. To You who died in Christ and are gathered in heaven around the throne, you believers gathered in homes or around this screen or around the world. What is stopping you!!! Pump up the volume and let your neighbours hear praise coming from out of your mouth and out of your windows

And as for the rest of creation from Mt Everest to Mt Druitt from Buffalos to Bees, let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
You may not be able to sing at church but you can sing at home and in the car. You can praise God in words before the world and before the saints.

Here is one idea: Why not write a Father Day card to God your Father. My son gave me a Fathers day card and the cover said… Best Dad in Sydney …I was hoping for the World. He wrote “I am so thankful to God to have you as my Dad”

How about we all write God a Fathers day card telling him why we love him, then share what you wrote with your friends or family, here is mine.

Heavenly Father, Bless you for you choosing me before the creation of the world and adopting me into your forever family.
Precious Father I praise you for providing me with full forgiveness for all my sins, past present and future.
You have gifted me with your Son who died in my place.
You have gifted me with your Spirit who dwells in my body.
You have gifted me with your forever family where I have found a home.
Praise you for being the Father I never had and I could never have.
Praise you for being a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.
Praise you for being in absolute control of this universe and my personal world.
Thank you for siding with the oppressed and for hating injustice.
And today I want to thank you so much for loving me through my earthly Dad
In Jesus precious name Amen.

On Monday this week, our family remembered that 2 years ago on the 24th August, our daughter, our little sister, Evie beat the rest of our family to the grave. We want to thank a number of you who messaged and sent flowers. One, in particular, helped us put our grief in context. “As hard as anniversaries are, that Evie hasn’t been with you for 2 years. Take comfort that she’s been with Jesus for 2 years”

24 August 2018 is one of those days that’s just etched in my memory. Teresa & I rushed to Mount Druitt Hospital in the wee hours of the morning. Evie’s breathing had become very faint, our hearts were fearing the worst. Shortly after, with all 5 of us around her bed, we said goodbye as she breathed her last.

Then tears, lots of them from all of us. Hugs, tight hugs, hugs with each other, hugs with Evie. In God’s kindness, we were able to take Evie with us to Bear Cottage, a children’s hospice. We got to spend more time with her saying our goodbyes in such a supportive environment. I still remember the drive there, Evie was in her car seat and apart from the sound of tears and sniffles God would have it that the CD that was playing in the background was a song from our very own MBM album. “Father’s Hands”

For each of the 77 days Evie was alive, we read a Psalm to her and with her. On Day 42 we would have read the Psalm we’re looking at today, verse 3 of this psalm pretty much described those next few days.

My tears have been my food day and night, ~Psalm 42:3 (NIV)

The day after Evie died, I remember from the moment I woke up just bawling my eyes out.

Now maybe it’s because of this pandemic, but is it just me? Or have these Psalms ministered to me, in a fresh way. As it effortlessly puts the full range of human emotions and feelings into words for me. Psalm 42 has connected with me off the back of major grief. But for you, it doesn’t have to be major grief.

  • If you’ve ever felt down in the dumps or felt deep disappointment (which is pretty much every single human being), then Psalm 42 is for you.
  • If you’ve felt as if life’s getting the better of you. If you felt dejected, depressed, whether it’s diagnosed or not, Psalm 42 is for you.
  • If you’ve felt as though God’s distant. If the joy of the Lord is no longer there. If you’ve ever felt dry in your walk with God.
    Then Psalm 42 is for you.

 

Psalm 42 is that go-to Psalm when you’re feeling lonely. When you’re under pressure. This week alone, I’ve heard how Psalm 42 comforts a parent whose adult child has turned their back on God. I’ve heard how Psalm 42 got someone through their battle with cancer. I’ve suggested it to someone picking up the pieces from a toxic relationship. I’ve shared it with someone who’s marriage has gotten stagnant.

Now what we’re going to do today is first look at the situation our writer finds themselves in. Then we’re going to see 3 lessons the Psalmist teaches us. These are super helpful for not just what we’re all going through now. But for all of life.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. ~Psalm 42:1 (NIV)

Picture a deer. What pops into your mind? This is my picture – there they are prancing around, frolicking with not a worry in the world. Now I didn’t know this about deer but they drink constantly, that’s because they’re creatures of instinct, see water, drink water. Well, not this deer, this deer, he’s not just thirsty, he’s beyond thirsty, he’s panting, he’s parched. Notice what he thirsts for.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~Psalm 42.2 (NIV)

He wants not water but God. He wants his entire being, his whole person, to taste and to see, to think and to feel, to enjoy and experience… God.

ALL of him wants ALL of God. I’ll say that again. All of him wants ALL of God. And yet, our writer is a long way from that. Three times we see the word “downcast” that’s what’s going on deep down inside of him. Verse 3 gives us more of a window into his situation.

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~Psalm 42:3 (NIV)

It’s there again in verse 10

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~Psalm 42:10 (NIV)

Our writer is sick of being on the back foot with his back against the wall. It’s no different to our post-Christian world today, many of us have been ridiculed, by the workmate, at school, on campus, on social media, sometimes by another family member, all because we side with Jesus.

In my experience as a pastor, the number one question I get asked is this and maybe it’s your question too if you’re someone who’s still checking out Jesus: “Where is God when there’s suffering? Why doesn’t God stop COVID? Because if there really is a God who’s powerful, a God who’s loving then he’d put an end to all that. I mean that’s what I’d do if I were God. But you and I, we’re not God, my ways are not his ways. He knows what’s best.

To make matters worse, our writer’s not just feeling spiritually distant he’s physically distant too!

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. ~Psalm 42:4 (NIV)

The psalmist longs for the good old days when he used to enter the temple. From what we know about the writer, he most likely had a key role in temple life, leading the music and singing. Yet, here he is yearning to be back in Jerusalem praising God with others.

Do you notice the similarities with our Psalm here and our current situation? Sure, the writer may not have a pandemic on his hands but still, he’s unable to gather. That’s why, if you’re not meaningfully gathering with your church family, maybe now’s the time to do that. Why not have someone over? Why not reach out and call someone?

It’s been beautiful to see some of you out there in Youtube land, back in the flesh again! One person, when they came for a live service recently got emotional. They didn’t realise just how much they missed seeing brothers and sisters. How much being here felt like home.

Now, of course, you may not be up for meeting in person either with your small group or here at church. But can I say, if you ARE in a position to do so, I beg you, don’t let excuses get in the way. Yes, I know a good number of you are doing the Christian thing and allowing others who need or want to gather go first. I admire that, but the rest of your church family want to see you too! Here’s a suggestion – why not book in every second or third week? And yes, there’ll be a re-adjustment. There’ll be new habits to form, rather than just rolling out of bed and flicking on the TV, you’ll need to get changed and drive the 10, 20, 30 minutes, but boy is it worth it.

There are really good reasons NOT to come back. I remember when I was starting out as a Christian it would often get to Sunday night where I didn’t FEEL like going to church, a finale of a TV show was on, I needed to finish off that assignment or a family dinner. But I tell you what, the times I was there I remember walking back to the car thinking: “So glad I was at church tonight” Whether it was because I was ministered to by a song, whether it was an encouraging conversation or whether it was being able to Amen to a prayer that was prayed.

Our writer’s not done yet, he’s not going to let his feelings or his emotions get the better of him, no way. I love how this guy, we can tell God’s personal for him, calls God “My God, my Saviour, my Rock, my living God” right throughout the Psalm.
That’s why these next three lessons are so, so helpful.

LESSON 1: POUR OUT YOUR SOUL

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: ~Psalm 42:4a (NIV)

Pouring out your soul, that’s like the ancient version of what today we’d call: ‘getting in touch with your feelings’. This was his way of paying attention to what’s going on. Whereas at the start of the Psalm he was dry. Now, he’s drowning.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. ~Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

Picture two waterfalls plunging into a valley with you at the bottom. Can you imagine that roar, the noise would be off the charts. Now picture you out in the ocean being pummelled by wave after wave. I’ve had that feeling before and I nearly drowned. That’s what our writer is feeling here. It’s just relentless, it’s all around him.

…why God have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?… ~Psalm 42:9 (NIV)

I mean it’s not as if there’s a sin that’s weighing him down. He doesn’t feel the need to come clean. He doesn’t feel burdened by guilt. No heavy conscience. He just feels God’s left him in the dark. If this were you and I, we’d run away from these feelings. Instead, we might be tempted to indulge in a bit of escapism. Maybe raid the pantry, binge some screentime or social media. But not our guy. No – He runs head-on into the issue. Or maybe we’d numb these feelings. Maybe self-medicate by hitting the bottle, watching porn. Not this guy – instead of numbing, he NAMES those feelings.

And look to be honest, in times of spiritual dryness when we feel forgotten by God we can feel like talking to anyone BUT God. But not this guy. Talk about putting it ALL out on the table. Our writer is not afraid one bit to take those real questions, those real hurts and to present them to God who’s REAL to him.

2. TALK TO YOURSELF

Not only does our writer talk to God, the second thing he does is this: he talks to himself.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? ~Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

Why so disturbed within me? ~Psalm 42:11 (NIV)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who wrote a book called Spiritual Depression, explains this idea of self-talk better than I can:

The first thing we have to learn is what the Psalmist learned — we must learn to take ourselves in hand. …He is talking to himself, he is addressing himself….  [In] spiritual depression… we allow our self to talk to us… instead of talking to our self.
Listen to what he says next: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

Wow! What a profound statement.

Lloyd Jones goes on to say: [The Psalmist has realised his] soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment.”

There’s been plenty of talk about self-care during this pandemic, about exercise, eating well, managing screentime, giving yourself permission to feel all the feels. Well, I want to say that self-talk is a key part of self-care! See when we listen to our heart, that’s when the anxiety sky-rockets. “Oh no, what if this happens. This might happen. You better not do that.”

We end up being controlled by lies. “Dan – What will people think of you if you preach a dud sermon. Dan – you can’t do that task, you failed the last time you tried it”

But when we talk to our self like the Psalmist does here. When I reflect on who God is and what he’s done. When I say to myself: This is the sort of God I’m dealing with here. A God who’s slow to anger. A God who is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful.

As I speak back to myself about what God’s done in the past. He’s a faithful God who’s kept every single one of his promises. He’s never let me down. He’s only inclination is to do good to me. He’s chosen me before the beginning of time.

This idea of self-talk – it’s the key to unlocking the whole Psalm!

Over the last two years, a good portion of my self-talk has revolved around the fact that God is good even though I might not feel it, even though I might not see it. Plenty of us have, or will face times where we’ll question God’s goodness, where we’ll doubt God’s goodness, but it doesn’t mean that God is NOT good.

As a dad, I’ve been doing self-talk about God’s goodness with my kids too with the help of a book called THE MOON IS ALWAYS ROUND. Together, we’ve been reading it a lot this week so I thought I might read a bit of it to you too. Just like the moon is always round, God indeed is good.

3: RE-DIRECT YOUR HOPE

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5b (NIV)

Our writer has had a lightbulb moment. One minute he asks “Soul – why are you downcast?” In the next sentence. “Put your hope in God” In the same verse, he’s answered his own question. His hope was in the wrong object, the wrong person. It was in something OTHER than God, something SMALLER than God.

It’s as if he’s realised that in the process of talking to himself, he says: “Hang on a sec, the only thing that’ll satisfy my soul is God himself! Notice how it’s personal for him. He calls God MY saviour, MY God. For this is the God who’s been with him through thick and thin.

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. ~Psalm 42:8 (NIV)

Through morning, noon and night, 24/7, round the clock, day in day out. Like the sun shining on his back, he feels the Lord’s love is with him every step he takes. God’s never failed him, no wonder he can talk to the God of HIS life.

Is it just me, or has the word “hope” been thrown around plenty of times in this pandemic. Hope for a vaccine. Hope for the depression, the anxiety, the loneliness, the social distancing, the fear will come to an end. Hope we’ll be able to travel again.
Hope we still have jobs. I even came across this headline in the newspaper this week. It was in relation to those finishing school this year. It read: “Give students hope amid coronavirus mental health crisis, experts urge”

Well, the writer of our Psalm would say this in response. Hope isn’t an object you just dish out. No, Hope is someone you turn to. And in this case, notice who the Psalmist places his hope in:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. ~Psalm 42:2 (NIV)

He has a living hope because he has a living God. This is a hope that is more than wishful thinking its a hope that will be there post-COVID and on and on into eternity!

Now of course, we can only re-direct our hope because Jesus himself walked in the same shoes of our writer. Think about it. Jesus himself said similar words when troubled by anxious thoughts when having a downcast spirit.

The night before Jesus was nailed to that cross, Jesus says:

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. ~Matthew 26:38 (NIV)

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. ~John 12:27 (NIV)

Now THAT is self-talk.

  • Just as the Psalmist cries out “God why have you forgotten me”. Jesus cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  • Just as the Psalmist hears the taunts of his enemies, Jesus heard the mocking of his scoffers.
  • Just as the Psalmist’s bones suffer mortal agony, Jesus has nails driven through his hands and his feet.

If anyone felt abandoned, forgotten, crushed or downcast, in the Lord Jesus, surely we have one who has tasted it on our behalf.

Jesus has walked in our pain. He has felt the feelings and emotions we have gone through.

I love the way Hebrews puts it better than I can. It’s a version of redirecting our hope in the midst of deep darkness is this:

For the joy set before him what did Jesus do? He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

Now that’s what it means to put your hope in God. Fix our eyes on Jesus who willingly got up on that cross. Who fully and finally paid the price and is now sitting down at God’s right hand. That’s what gives us every reason to NOT grow weary and to not lose heart.

This past week, someone suggested that I go away and spend some time, just me and Psalm 42. Initially, I thought, that’ll take 10 minutes tops, I’ll run of out things to do. But how wrong was I, I had to stop after 2 hours but could have easily gone for more! I didn’t intend on doing this, but one of the things I ended up doing was to re-write Psalm 42 in my own words. I effectively poured out my soul as I made this Psalm my own.

Let me share some of what I wrote:
“Like one thirsty deer aching for a tonne of water
Same too with my entire being.
I, Dan – every part of me, wants you, every part of you God.
My entire being is thirsty for God. The God who’s alive.
God – when can we see each other? When can we do business God?
I’m living on a diet of tears around the clock.
Meanwhile people all day long are having a go at me saying: Dan – so much for this God you’ve been telling me about? He seems pretty powerless.
As I’m doing this detox of my soul, here’s some things I remember:
The good ol’ days of meeting in the church building.
Where I could gather with brothers and sisters.
With plenty of singing. Plenty of people. Plenty of testimonies about your goodness.
Now that was a spiritual high!
But why Dan? Why do I feel down in the dumps? What’s troubling me?
God is object and source of my delight. Of goodness.
For yes – I will tell God how good he is. And how he continues to be to me.
You God are my rescuer. My God”

Let me encourage you to find time this coming week to pour out your to a God who is more than ready to listen. To talk the truths of the gospel to yourself and to not grow weary or lose heart as you redirect your hope towards the risen, the resurrected, the ruling and the returning Jesus.

When I was a Personal trainer, people would often say to me, “Let me get fit first, then I’ll come and see you for a few sessions.” and I used to say, “But that’s my job. To get you fit, you’ll never be fit enough to see me, because my job is to take you from where you’re at, and get you fit and fitter”

It was backwards thinking and we can often think the same way about God. “Let me get good enough myself and then I’ll bring myself to you.” The problem is, we can never be good enough for God–that’s his job–to make us good. He takes us from where we’re at and transforms us from there.

We often get it the wrong way round, thinking we’ll sort our lives out first. But it’s impossible, David’s thinking in a very similar way in this Psalm, when he asks…

LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? ~Psalm 15:1 (NIV)

God’s sacred tent and His Holy mountain refer to the place God decided to dwell among his people – in David’s day it was a large tent, in Jerusalem, soon to become a massive temple built by his son, Solomon.

There were a few rooms in the tent and only the High Priest could enter the inside room where the presence of God was and only after offering a bunch of sacrifices.

God’s people would come year after year, offering sacrifices and gifts, being reminded of their inability to stand in God’s presence, because of their sin. David’s essentially asking — who gets to see you – what does it take to go in that room where you are – and stay with you?

When Jesus was speaking with his disciples one day about who he is, he was telling them that he’s going away to His father, and he’s going to prepare a place for them in God’s house, a special room for them, and then he said “you know how to get there” and Thomas, in classic doubting Thomas style said:

“Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. ~John 14:5-6 (NIV)

Jesus is God’s way in, His death and resurrection is the only way we get access to God’s heavenly home. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sin, he is the door into God’s house.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. ~Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)

By faith in him – He takes us in and allows us to stay and stand. Too many Christians stop there, they put faith in Jesus, and then think that’s it, I’ve arrived, but it doesn’t stop there, that’s only the beginning!

It’s true, God does accept us as we are, whatever we’ve done, however we come, he accepts us and because of Jesus he forgives us BUT just like a personal trainer — He refuses to leave us there… He loves us too much to leave us there — he wants to transform us to be just like Jesus, that’s the great privilege and joy of being Christian. Learning to have a heart like God for others. We must never think we’ve arrived at the end of our Christian life until we’re actually in the presence of God. Until that day, as the Apostle Peter put it:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)

So, what does it look like to share the heart of God for others? David spells it out in these next 4 verses. They’re packed full of goodness.

It looks like.

1. Being holy because God is holy.

The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, ~Psalm 15:2a (NIV)

Blameless here doesn’t mean sinless, it can’t mean sinless, otherwise, Jesus would have died for nothing. No, it’s someone who’s done all that’s required before God. It’s the idea of being complete, dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” and filling in all the cracks.

Being blameless is having NO inconsistencies between your faith and your practice. Having nothing that God or others could hold against you. That doesn’t mean never doing anything wrong, but always seeking to do right. And, when you’ve done wrong, acknowledging it, confessing it, bringing it to God and seeking to change according to his word. Continual cycle…

I wonder if I asked everyone you know and come into contact with this week, to give an account of your life – If we downloaded a report from your mobile phone and computer and kept a recording of everything you said this week, if we had a full report of every aspect of your life, what it would reveal about you? How consistent or inconsistent would it be with your faith? Now, of course, we’re all a work in progress, and some areas are always going to be stronger than others, but the question is – how seriously are we taking those inconsistent areas… God tells us – Be blameless – because I am blameless.

Secondly – Having a heart like God means,

2. Speaking like God speaks

who speaks the truth from their heart; ~Psalm 15:2b (NIV)

This isn’t talking about that brutally honest person, you know the one, if there’s something that needs saying, you don’t have to ask them. That’s often me.

No, this is truth spoken with love. It’s the person who doesn’t just know the truth here in their head, just able to repeat it, but they’ve let the truth sink deep down into their heart. So, you know when they speak, they’re sharing themselves with you…

Jesus says

out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. ~Matt 12:34b (NIV)

Our words reveal our heart. Now it must be said, in James 3 he tells us – no human being can fully tame the tongue – he says – if anyone is able to control their tongue – they’re a perfect person. But we know that’s not us… And Jeremiah gives us the reason in 17:9-10 – The human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure – who can understand it.

Our hearts are stained and our words are affected but thanks be to God, he’s working on that heart. So this is the person who speaks truth from a heart seeking to be consistent with God’s character. The person who’s been meditating on God’s heart from his word and values those words like the writer of Psalm 19 who says – they are more precious than gold, they are sweeter than honey.

Right speech comes from a right heart, so keep praying as you get to the word, that God would help those words sink deep down into your heart, not just stop at your head.

whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others; ~Psalm 15:3 (NIV)

Finish this phrase – “Sticks and stones will break my bones…” “but words will never hurt me.” Nice idea, but words are powerful, aren’t they? Words are so strange, they’re just vibrations spoken into the air, but they have the power to sever a marriage, to rule a country, to start a war, to mend a broken heart, to save a life. Words are fundamental to all relationships, especially God’s with us.

God is a speaking God. He shares himself with us by His word, that word eventually showed up in Jesus Christ who demonstrated what real love for others is and then left us his words that we might continue showing his love to others.

A wise friend of mine recently said: “Jesus is the reason for all words”. Words exist for his sake and it’s so true! The word himself gave us, words that we would use for His glory.

A person whose tongue utters no slander, does no wrong to a neighbour and casts no slur on others, is someone who seeks to honour and protect the value and dignity of others in the way they talk to them and about them. It’s really the opposite of gossip and flattery. What’s the goal of gossip? – self-serving – and flattery is always about me before it’s about others..

I’ve realised recently I’ve got a tendency to complain about others and point out their faults. Sally’s been trying to get me to see it for years but I’ve only just come to realise. For years I’ve justified it as “venting” or “clarifying information” but in the end, my heart doesn’t naturally honour others. I was even pulled up on it twice in the last few weeks, by 2 different people. I’ll share one example –

Our youth pastor, Rehan was catching up with someone I’d met before and he remembered me and shared in front of Rehan how we connected at an event. When Rehan came back after the meeting I said to Rehan “he’s a funny character hey…” I shared with Rehan that I didn’t think we connected but I chatted to him because I felt we had a disconnection… but after I said that Rehan asked me “Oh did I need to know that…?” And as I searched my heart I had no response, but that I for some reason sought to dishonour him, and honour myself. Rehan’s comment was so helpful and has stayed with me since then and helped me reflect on how I speak about people when I’m not with them.

I wonder, how do you go with honouring others with your words? If words are a big challenge for you then read the book of proverbs, every time I do, I get to the end and say to myself, I think I want to speak less…

Thirdly, having a heart like God’s is

Viewing people the way God views them

who despises a vile person but honours those who fear the LORD; ~Psalm 15:4a (NIV)

This one jars doesn’t it?! The Psalms are often talking about hating God’s enemies and loving those who love him but in the New Testament, the gospel and love is offered to all. Here are we hating the vile person, or hating the actions of the person that we wouldn’t align ourselves with.

Now, If we despised all vile people, we wouldn’t share the gospel with anyone. Sometimes I think we like to tell God who he hates, based on what we think about what they’ve done. If God’s will seems to line up with yours too often, you’ve got to ask some questions.

Ultimately God’s enemies are all those who reject him to the end to the last day, never repenting, but until then we don’t know who those enemies are, that person WE think is vile may hear the gospel and repent just like we did, who were his enemies.

But there’s a special word here to those inside the church who claim to be Christian but are living in sin in a way that is vile before God. The apostle Paul tells us to have nothing to do with the person who’s claiming Jesus’ name and living in unrepentant sin. Not the one struggling with it, the one who’s given up struggling and are now justifying it as ok. Paul says don’t even eat with that person, but again that’s not the final situation. We’re to break fellowship with those people so that they would see how much that life of sin isn’t worth it and how much they need God! It’s always with the goal of restoring the person.

I’m continually asking God to break my heart for what breaks his, and to teach me to love what he loves, but Honour those who fear the Lord

Let me tell you about a couple of guys I think are worthy of honour. A close friend of mine, Richie, topped his year at university and was offered a high paying role in a software development company. He turned down that role and kept his part-time job at JB-HI-FI so that he could keep giving his quality time to his church and serving on Christian youth camps. He’s been doing that for almost 10 years now. He’s a model of servant-hearted-ness.

Another guy from our Church named Nick. Nick just spent 4 weeks of his long service leave in our church offices helping out with some of our online training. Nick could have been skiing the slopes of Perisher, but chose to serve our church with his break. He even put on a BBQ for the staff team on his last day with us. Thanks Nick!

4. Faithfulness to our word

who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; ~Psalm 15:4b (NIV)

They say the measure of a person is their commitment to their word. Reflecting on the power of our words, if others can’t trust our word, what else do we have?

Our God is all-powerful, but there are some things he can’t do, He can’t do evil, because he is only good, He can’t be false/he can’t lie because he is the truth and he can’t break a promise he’s made! He is bound to his word. His word reflects himself and he is 100% faithful. If he says something – he does it!

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” ~1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV)

We on the other hand, often only keep our word as far as it benefits us, if things look like I’m going to lose out I’ll work out a way to get out of it. Did you know that 1 in 3 marriages in Australia ends in divorce? That’s 1/3 of all marriages, that’s 1/3 of people who vowed for better or worse, I will commit to you forever have a broken promise.

Sally and I have more than once acknowledged that if it wasn’t for God, and our commitment to him, we’d probably be divorced by now. We’re committed to our word to one another, because we’re committed to being like God in his faithfulness to His word. He’s the one keeping us committed! That doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride, but being a Christian means no matter the cost, no matter how hard reconciling is, and however long it takes, our oath to one another isn’t up for change.

But this doesn’t just apply to oaths and vows, Jesus tells us we don’t need to make promises to be consistent with our words. He challenges us to make our yes a yes and our no a no.

A friend of mine was recently challenged when he told his workmate he was going to do something, his workmate said, ‘is this another one of those things you just say you’re going to do but don’t do it?’ That was a window into his life.

Hear the Apostle John’s encouragement this is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ said he loved us… NO… He laid down his life for us, then he says – dear children let us not love with words and speech, but with actions and in truth! Imagine if Jesus showed up and said he was going to save the world and never did.

We have an opportunity to represent Jesus’ faithfulness to His word as we hold ours to others. When we say we’ll do something let’s do it.

5. Having a generous heart like God

who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. ~Psalm 15:5a (NIV)

This is about not taking advantage of those who can’t defend or protect themselves. Instead, just like God did with us, we show generosity to those in need, without expecting to make something out of it.

You might not know but we have a big freezer at church full of frozen meals that generous people have prepared and donated for those among us who are in need. Could you use that? Could you prepare a meal? Get in touch.

But this also extends further into our workplaces, the other day a Christian friend of mine was telling me about a deal his work was making with a company who went bankrupt and needed to sell off everything they had and his company seemed to be benefitting a little too much, it all seemed a little dodgy, so he asked, “Is this wrong what we’re doing?” and his work colleague said ‘it’s not illegal, it’s just not ethical.’

As a Christian, I’m not sure we would hold a difference. Do you know how your business affects others? Maybe you could ask some questions this week.

After spelling all that out David concludes with this reality:

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. ~Psalm 15:5b (NIV)

They’ll never fall off the mountain, or out of the tent. This is the hope we have, it’s firm and secure, an anchor for our soul.

Now, remember none of these things on their own secure us a place before God. It’s only by faith in Jesus that we are secured a place in God’s presence. But the one who understands they’ve been given the privilege of living like Jesus will seek to do these things in unending measure.

As the writer of Hebrews says

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be Shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. ~Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

The truth is God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way, he wants to make you just like Jesus – Just like himself. What a privilege!

Let’s pray reflecting David’s prayer

May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. ~Psalm 19 (NIV)

The famous English writer, Marghanita Laski, was no friend of Christianity, but before she died in 1988 she said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.” I guess she never fell for the modern therapeutic gospel which is you have to learn to forgive yourself.

The religion of psychology tells us that the one person whose forgiveness you need is not God and not others but you. What most people say, including Christians, is that what I think of me is the most important opinion. But it didn’t satisfy Laski who said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me.”

We know forgiving yourself has limited value because the rise of psychology has not brought about the rise of happiness.

1. The search for true happiness is being completely forgiven by God.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. ~Psalm 32:1-2 (NIV)

David knew firsthand the need for forgiveness, he had committed adultery with his bodyguard’s wife and then murdered his bodyguard. True happiness was found in being offered a fresh start and a clean slate.

There are 4 different words for what needs forgiveness

  • The word sin itself describes falling short of Gods expectation to love him and others
  • The word Iniquity speaks of our twisted nature, turned in on itself like a knot that you can’t undo.
  • The word transgressions speaks of crossing a line you know is there

David managed to break 4 commandments in a short time.

  • He covets his neighbours wife
  • He steals his neighbour wife
  • He has sex with his neighbours wife
  • Then He kills his neighbour

He could not undo what he had done. He knew that every sin was written in God’s ledger awaiting judgment. David knew that being blessed was not about having a big palace and a 1000 chariots. True happiness is found in having the sin of adultery covered over, in having the sin of murder cancelled.

The 4th word is deceit. Until he confessed he was living a lie. To come clean to God is to become clean before God. By confession, we mean to side with God and agree that what we did was wrong. By forgiveness, we mean God will not count your sins against you.

Without a relationship with Christ, your sins will be counted, just like the odometer on your car counting every kilometre you drive. So, every sin you commit is being recorded and forgiveness means your sin not will be used as evidence against you on the judgment day. That is forgiveness and it is a beautiful gift from God.

A thousand “I’m sorrys” can’t fix the problem. Confession without the cross is empty. Someone has to pay. Happiness is knowing that sins confessed are sins forgiven only because those sins were paid for by Christ at the cross. This is where true joy is found.

We hate it when others keep bringing up our failures

  • “You always…” .
  • Or when people love to say, “I forgive you but I will never forget” with a tone that doesn’t sound like we are forgiven.

When God forgives he will not use our sins against us.

  • Others may judge us
  • Our conscience may convict us
  • Satan may rub our noses in those sins

However, God’s awesome promise is ” I will remember your sin no more.” This is where happiness is found. If you know the joy of being forgiven then you should know the joy of forgiving others. For Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Why? Because that is exactly what Jesus did for you.

Happiness is knowing you are completely forgiven by God. Laski was so right when she said “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness.”

2. Unconfessed sins lead to profound unhappiness.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. ~Psalm 32:3-4 (NIV)

This is David’s story: For a whole year, he covered up the sin of adultery and murder
For a whole year, Bathsheba knew part of it and General Joab knew the other part. Only David and God knew all of it and he wasn’t talking to God about it.

David reflects on the experience of unconfessed sin. It damaged him physically, psychologically, and spiritually

  • Physically it cut deep into his bones, and drained his energy.
  • Psychologically he groaned day and night. It never left him.
  • Spiritually the Lord’s hand was heavy upon him. This was the loving and painful discipline of the Lord.

David was silent to God and so had silenced God he was in his own personal hell. If you don’t hand your sins to Christ then guess who has to carry them? YOU!

“He (Christ) himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, ~1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

Either Christ carries your sins in his body on that cross or you have to carry those sins in your body every day. And you can’t, no wonder you’re so exhausted. Over the years, I’ve spoken to men and women who have carried the guilt and shame of unconfessed sin.

When asked why they said

  • I was too proud to admit it to God.
  • I was too ashamed to talk to anyone
  • I was too afraid to confess
  • I was too guilty to acknowledge it

They say Western culture focuses on Guilt and Innocence. African culture focuses on Fear and Power. Asian culture focuses on Shame and Honour. All are true for every culture, but the cross means: Guilt, Fear and Shame are all gone.

The alternative to confession is

  • Blame
  • Denial
  • Pretend to God, to others and oneself
  • Living a life of distraction – from work to pleasure
  • Self-medicating
  • Living a compartmentalized life.

The result is that it eats into our soul. We become

  • Exhausted
  • Ashamed
  • Tired
  • Afraid
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • And Guilt that drives some to self-harm

This week at MBM we almost had a suicide, were it not for that dear brother finally confessing a decade long lie. Let’s hear from that dear brother.

“The weight of sin, which involved lies and deceit to my family over a decade to cover my destructive addiction simply got too much to carry any longer, gradually eating away at me from the inside out.

I knew it would eventually be all laid bare and the scale of destruction and sheer hurt it would cause to my relationships with my wife and children.

I’d reached what I thought was rock bottom but sunk even
lower to the extent I’d planned on more than one occasion in specific detail how I was going to end my life to avoid the shame and disgrace of my actions. I was totally weighed by down by guilt.

This was precisely the outcome Satan seeks for sinners who succumb to temptation but I couldn’t grasp that in those moments.

In desperation and complete and utter despair I reached out to ask for help in a totally distressed state. We talked, then met on several occasions and together we asked Jesus for forgiveness as the hopeless sinner I had become. If not for that intervention I would not be writing these words today.

While I am in early days of recovery and I have significant work to do to repair the untold hurt I caused to the loved ones around me I have Jesus to thank for his all powerful and enduring love that carried me through and for the ultimate sacrifice he paid for me. Nothing I can do will ever repay that. I now count every day as a blessing and praise God and his almighty powerful son Jesus for saving my life.”

Satan wants you to think you are unforgivable and that death is the only way out. Don’t llisten to him, he is a liar and he does not want you to be free or happy.

Did you hear the sadness in Laski quote? “I have nobody to forgive me.” M Laski. But we do friends.

3. The search for happiness begins with confessed sin

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. ~Psalm 32:5 (NIV)

From cover up to confession to cries of joy. Oh, the relief of naming our sin before God and others. David says “When I acknowledged my sin to you Lord, the pretending stopped, the sin is forgiven, the guilt is removed and God’s hand is lifted.

Here is the Paradox. When you try to cover your sin it remains exposed before the Lord. But when you uncover your sin to God, He then covers it by his Blood. If you confess your sin, God will conceal it. If you conceal your sin, God will condemn it.

We live in a culture that has found a thousand sophisticated ways to excuse our sin. Every department at University plays their part:

  • Chemistry will say it’s just the dopamine hit in your head
  • Biology will say its in your DNA
  • Psychology blames your parents
  • Economics points to your unemployment
  • Education will say you didn’t know better
  • No ultimate joy is found in these partial truths. The BIBLE IS full of unqualified confessions that satisfies the soul.

 

David says:

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. ~Psalm 51:2 (NIV)

Isaiah says

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! ~Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)

Peter says

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” ~Luke 5:8 (NIV)

The Tax collector says

‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ~Luke 18:13 (NIV)

Have you owned your sin?
What is holding you back?

It can’t be that God won’t forgive you.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. ~Psalm 32:5b (NIV)

That is a promise! And its why we share the gospel!

4. Forgiven sinners plead with other sinners to confess and be happy

Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble ~Psalm 32:6-7 (NIV)

If God is willing to forgive then don’t delay. He pleads with us to talk to Him while he may be found.

  • Today is the day of salvation. Don’t hesitate.
  • Tomorrow is promised to no one.
  • The thing about saying “no” to God is you get very good at it.

Don’t think God is like you. He never tires of hearing you say “I’m so sorry Lord.” He will never throw your confession back in your face.

God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confess his sin. God has sent me to tell you today to confess your sin.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. ~Psalm 32:8-9 (NIV)

In verse 8 God takes over the Psalm and talks directly to each of us. He says, I have my loving eye on you. I have been teaching you the right path. But if you don’t listen to my tender love, you will listen to my tough love.

Don’t be like a stubborn mule or an unbroken horse who need the bit and bridle. One way or the other you’re coming to me. We can do it the hard way or the easy way, either way you’re coming.

Spurgeon once said:

“If one severe trial does not sanctify you, expect another more rigorous.”

In last few years Sandy and I have both seen how God has used the bit and bridle to disciplined us in our pride…What personal feedback, bible reading and sermons didn’t do God did with the bit and bridle of reality. Painful as it was I’m so glad he did. This is where deep joy is found.

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! ~Psalm 32:10-11 (NIV)

5. Forgiven souls want to rejoice and sing.

Great sinners are great singers. What joy there is in confession and forgiveness. See the pattern, it never changes:

  • Sin brings Sorrow,
  • Confession brings Forgiveness
  • Forgiveness brings Joy.

Is this not how any relationship works?

Conclusion

You may not be a Christian and so this passage is calling you to confess a life lived in rebellion. Let me give you the ABC of becoming a Christian

  • Admit you’re a sinner
  • Believe Jesus paid for your sins at the cross.
  • Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

You may be a Christian and this passage is saying never stop confessing. Stand with God against your sin and claim your blood-bought forgiveness.

You may be a Christian who has backslidden. Like a brother in Christ I spoke to some time ago, he was married but had slipped into a series of anonymous sexual encounters with other men. He was so overwhelmed by his guilt and shame that he too was very close to suicide. He finally came to me to confess, with tears in his eyes I got him to read David’s confession in Psalm 51. You could see the relief in his eyes and the joy in his soul.

Can I suggest confessing to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, Pastor or Christian counsellor? Having someone know your sins and having them announce that you are forgiven in Christ is a powerful thing. The prophet Nathan did just that to David.

And of course, your relief may be the beginning of someone else’s grief who you have sinned against.

  • Let them grieve.
  • Let them be angry with you.
  • Don’t demand they forgive you because God has
  • And don’t let their reaction deny your comfort that God has washed away all your sin.

What is stopping you? Laski thought she had no one to forgive her but you do friends.

It’s a psalm read at funerals and it will probably be read on your death bed. It speaks of the personal, powerful and protective hand of God. But it’s not a Psalm for the dead but for the living!

It speaks of the journey of life, the God of Israel, who watches over his people as a shepherd, not just in the good times but in the bad. Its wreaks of assurance and confidence because he the good shepherd is my shepherd.

1. I trust that my Shepherd provides all that I need.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

This is a very personal psalm, it’s not a ‘we’ psalm but a ‘me’ psalm. He is My shepherd. This God doesn’t just watch every corner of the universe nor does he just watch over his nation, he watches over my life and yours. A Reminder that Christianity is not just a religion but a personal relationship with God.

King David makes the God of his people, the Shepherd of his Soul. So what does he promise?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

This is not a call to deny your desires, like Buddhism, nor is he saying everything you want you get like a prosperity preacher. The logic is: The Lord is my shepherd and because of that I lack nothing, or as one child said ‘the Lord is my Shepherd I’ve got all I want.’

We know Jesus is God for a number of reasons

  • He talks like God
  • He acts like God
  • He accepts worship as God
  • He takes the titles of God and applies them to himself

Twice Jesus says in John 10, I am the good shepherd. The act of saying this psalm and meaning it is itself an act of faith. I’m telling God and I’m telling others and I’m telling myself He is my everything. I have many desires but my deepest desires are fulfilled in him and his dear son. The good Shepherd provides for all that I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. ~Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)

For a sheep this is heaven on a stick; green pastures to satisfy the hunger and, quiet waters to quench thirst. He is the source of life. It’s why Jesus said…“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”

Do you know sheep find it hard to lay down if they are hungry or sick or afraid or stressed then they will not lie down? This good shepherd has taken care of all that that is why He refreshes my soul. Jesus is that Good Shepherd who provides all that I need. 

To appreciate Psalm 23 let consider the opposite. David Powlison wrote Antipsalm 23

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need.
Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless.
I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle—I feel overwhelmed.
It’s a desert—I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck.
I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.

This is life without a Shepherd. Its not a compliment to be likened to a sheep, they are dumb animals, but oh do they trust their shepherd who knows them.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me ~John 10:14 (NIV)

Sheep stations in Australia can carry 80,000 sheep. But in the Middle East, you may have 10-20 sheep and each one is known by name. The Shepherd is the source of life.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. ~John 10:27-28 (NIV)

There is an unquestioning trust in the Shepherds voice.

Elisabeth Elliot has told the story of a toddler who was very ill but had learned to recite Psalm 23 on her fingers. Starting with her pinkie she would grab a finger as she said each word of The Lord is my Shepherd. As she said the word shepherd she would clasp her thumb in recognition of the care that God has for her. One morning after a long and hard fight against her disease, the little girl was found dead with one hand clasped around the other thumb. The lord is her shepherd, He has made her to lie down in green pastures. He has led her to quiet waters. Surely she will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

That voice takes them down the right roads

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. ~Psalm 23:3 (NIV)

The Good Shepherd guides us down the right paths, down the narrow road where few go but life is found. He leads us away from broad roads where many are on but ends in destruction.

Why does he do it? He does it for his name’s sake. All he does is for His glory.

Friend, it’s clear from this Psalm that you matter to God the Shepherd of your soul, but it’s not about you. We do good to make the good Shepherd look good. We trust our Shepherd when the grass is green and when the valley is dark.

2. I trust my Shepherd to provide full protection.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

To get to water and green pastures you sometimes walk through dangerous territory. You walk in the valley of the shadow of death where the predators prowl and the enemy stalks. There is good reason to be afraid but David says I will fear no evil. 

We all live in the land of the shadow of death, He promises to protect us. He comes not only with a staff to guide the sheep but a rod to thump the enemies. We know that David took on the bears and lions who attacked his sheep. As a shepherd, he risked his life for his sheep, as a sheep he knew what God did for him again and again. The Lord is my Shepherd, I will fear no evil.

I took my grandkids to the zoo and we were at the Tiger enclosure. We could barely see the awesome animal and then it walked right round the enclosure till it stopped and stared straight at my 20 month old grandson. With only 30 cms separating them, he let out this amazing roar and it should have been terrifying, were it not for the protective glass. Jesus is the good shepherd who promises to be with us and protect us.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. ~John 10:27-28 (NIV)

Notice, David goes from talking about God to talking to God. He leads me, He restores my soul, He guides…becomes in verse 4, for you are with me, your rod and your staff will comfort me. What we learn friends, is talking about God must become talking to God. Get into the habit of interrupting your talk about God to talking with him.

When does David talk to God? At the point when he walks in the darkest valley, when enemies surround.

3. I trust my Shephard who has the power to save

In verse 5 and verse 6 the image changes. This shepherd king now becomes our host.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ~Psalm 23:5 (NIV)

You don’t eat a banquet when the enemy is about to eat you up. Picture marauding hordes of Philistines, alla Lord of the Rings. These are about to attack David and his men, the prophet Nathan whisper in David’s ear that God has promised victory. So, David decides to sit down to a banquet with his enemies on the horizon. He is taking his time eating his lamb Kebabs and Tabouli, he then pours himself a fine Israeli red wine and now General Joab is getting nervous “David shouldn’t we get ready for the battle.” Yes, yes Joab but hang on I haven’t tried the Baklava, I love the baklava! He will fear no evil why? Because if ‘God is for us who can be against us’ The victory belongs to God.

Dr. Zahiruddin, a Medical doctor, was abducted by the Taliban in Pakistan 8th Dec 2007. He was chained up in a rat-infested, dark cold room, threatened with beatings and then beheading if he did not convert to Islam. He prayed and fasted each day to his good shepherd to save him. He was eventually released after 25 days. On the last day the Taliban put on a farewell meal for him and as he sat to eat the meal in front of the Taliban he thought of this verse, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

What was Jesus doing the night before he was betrayed, beaten and brutalised on the cross? He sat and ate the Last supper, eating with his friends in the face of enemies, with the enemy of death he was about to defeat, with the enemy of sin that he would pay for, with enemy of Satan he was about to disarm. 

It’s because of Christ’s victory over the enemies that we read this Psalm to people on their death bed. Confidence in the face of our death; I will fear no evil.

It’s a privilege to come close to a person breathing their last, to lean in and whisper ‘Jesus your good Shepherd says to you. “Today you will be with me in paradise”’ Unlike the atheist doctor whom my friend visited, so afraid to die, he couldn’t let his wife leave the room.

… You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ~Psalm 23:5b (NIV)

It could mean the anointing of the messiah, but I think it’s the custom of refreshment. God refreshes our souls, that is why our cup is neither half empty nor half full, its not even full. My cup overflows…with the Holy Spirit who has poured out the love of the Good Shepherd into our hearts.

This is not a psalm just for the dying it’s for the living, It’s not for the end of life but for the whole of life…

4. I trust my Shepherd will never stop pursuing me with his love

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~Psalm 23:6 (NIV)

Are you feeling like someone is watching? You should!  Literally it reads

Surely your goodness and love will (pursue) me all the days of my life ~Psalm 23:6 

Here is God’s unrelenting love. A love that hunts down its victims. You are being stalked by God’s love. Seeking ultimate intimacy- anywhere else leaves you empty.

Antipsalm 23

I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me—except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
In contrast this Psalm brims with confidence

The certainty of statements like

  • I lack nothing
  • I will fear no evil
  • I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

5. I trust the Shepherd’s promise of his presence now and forever

The house of the Lord is code for the presence of God. So God has been with him from green pasture to dark valley, from banquet to battles. He is confident in the presence of his enemies. He is confident that he will be in the presence of his God forever. God is not a means to an end it is the end for David.

Assurance

The privilege of being in Christ is the privilege of being safe in the arms of God. He will not abandon you.

  • Your spouse may dump you
  • Your friends may betray you
  • Your children may reject you
  • Your boss may sack you
  • Your health may leave you

But the promise for those who follow Jesus is this, I will never forsake you. Jesus last words are ‘I will be with you always to the end of the age.’ 

You’re not alone even in the darkest valley. How long Lord will I feel this way? I feel nothing, not joy or sorrow – nothing.

I was meeting with someone from church who was doing it tough and I suggested they write a psalm to God about what they are experiencing. Here is what they wrote:

I am tired, I am always tired.
How can I feel completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time?
I am engulfed by my own thoughts.
Ohhh guilt. I do feel guilt. Guilt because I know you’re my
Father, I know that you are good.
I know that you love me dearly, much much more than I deserve.
I know that you are reaching your arm down to help me out of this pit but I can ‘t bring my arm up to meet yours.
I can’t be bothered. Who even says that?
I can’t be bothered to get the help from the creator of the world, my one true love.

I am my own worst enemy.
I am weary and burdened and feel no rest.
I read the beautiful words you write to me.
I know them and trust them.
They just go in one ear and out the other.
Lord, please clear my head to allow room only for thoughts of you.

I don’t like it here and I want to get out.
You’ve done it before Lord. Please do it again.

George Mueller once said “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”

Psalm 1 answers the question, how does one find their soul happy in the Lord? Let’s read Psalm 1 together as Christians have done from the beginning.

We begin a new series in the book of Psalms:

  • It is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament and by Jesus.
  • It was the song book of Israel.
  • It is the prayer book of the church.
  • It gives expression to every major emotion and experience a believer has and turns them to prayers
  • It begins as Jesus began his first sermon, Blessed or happy is the person..
  • It ends with a flurry of praise to the Lord. 

The opening verses of Psalm 1 start with “Blessed is the one” “Happy is the one” Not just happy, it’s in the plural, ‘happiness’ is the person who…

The world offers short term pleasure and the word offers lifelong happiness. But this happiness will include praises to God, confession of sin, and lament in our suffering. There are over 60 psalms of lament. There are many types of Psalms. Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm and it answers the question you have been asking all your life. How do I find true and lasting happiness?

Point 1 The happy soul says “No!” to the world’s influence.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, ~Psalm 1:1 (NIV)

The wise one who seeks true happiness has 3 postures. They do not walk, they do not stand with and they do not sit among the wicked, sinner scoffers. There is a descending tragedy. The wise one will not be drawn into ideas and behaviours that silence God or oppose his ways. Happiness puts up a fence, they will not entertain those ideas, they will not engage with those behaviours, they will not embrace those who stand against Christ.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s not like we put our thumbs in our ears and say ‘I’m not listening.’ We are to take every idea prisoner for Christ and run every idea through the lens of the bible.

Those seeking to influence are described in 3 words, Wicked–Sinners–and Scoffers. Those who defy God and have no shame.

A friend of mine, a solid Christian has read a book on how the bible is not against same-sex marriage. It’s written by a person who claims to love Jesus and loves his same-sex partner. My friend has a strong level of empathy and the book is drawing him away from 2000 years of consistent bible teaching on sexuality, to a view that is been agreed to for 30 years, promoted by the world marked by sinners and scoffers. To be fair he is doing the right thing by asking me to read the book and speak to the issue.

So the question is clear Who is influencing you in your life? Who are you opening yourself up to? Who has your ear? Every day is a battle for ideas and we are called to take every thought prisoner for Christ. Don’t let the world set the agenda for your life and faith a favourite singer, lecturer or influencer, a radio or TV personality, a preferred Podcaster or blogger or a friend or parent.

Come back to the question, Who has your ear? Who do you drop your guard with? Who do you find hard to resist? Who is shaping your values? Which set of ideas has your heart and mind? So often Christians take up an ideology that is fashionable and then dip into the bible to find the verses that justify their ..’ism’ Scienceism, Feminism, Chauvinism, Capitalism. Each has a partial truth but treat it as the whole truth. I know it sounds sophisticated. Don’t be seduced.

Remember when you were young and you did something stupid and Mum said, Who told you to do that?…my friends were doing it and she would say ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they were to do it?’ It was good argument then and it’s a good argument now.

The Christian knows that to worship God and by pleasing him we are to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. That is how we worship God and please him.

Someone at youth last term asked me a question: What to do with a friendship that is tempting you to sin. My rule is simple, who is influencing who more? If they influence you more than you can influence them then end the friendship. Nothing is more important than your relationship with Christ. “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Any time I talk to a person with an addiction sooner or later I get to saying “unless you’re prepared to end a certain friendship that’s influencing you to drink, use drugs, gamble, or sexually sin you won’t stay clean”. I tell them, your future you will thank you for saying no to that toxic friendship. We know the studies, the people you hang with shape your decisions. But unless you fill your minds with the truth you will not resist.

Point 2. The happy soul fills their mind with God’s word

If the happy soul does not walk, stand or sit with sinners then verse 2 is his or hers.

… delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. ~Psalm 1:2 (NIV)

The Happy soul finds their joy in the law of the Lord, the law of the Lord refers to God’s instructions, it can refer to the whole of the Old Testament. Finding delight in Law of the Lord is finding delight in every book of the bible including the Psalms. The person marked by happiness in its many forms finds their joy in Gods word. They meditate on Gods word day and night.

To Meditate is to murmur under your breath, to chew over the Word, to think God’s thoughts after him. Christian mediation is not like Eastern meditation it’s not emptying the mind, it’s filling the mind with God’s word. The word for ‘mediate’ is an active word, it’s the same word in Psalm 2 when the nations conspire against the Lord’s Messiah. You’re either conspiring against Christ or for Christ. Happiness is found in learning, loving, and living the word of God, because in that word we don’t find a better version of you and we find the promise of the Messiah as in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 ends as Psalm 1 begins. On the theme of happiness

Kiss the son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 2:12 (NIV)

Kiss the son or kiss heaven goodbye. Happiness is found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus who we meet in his Word. That is why Happiness is found in meditating day and night. God has so much to say to you and he has said it in his written word.

“Complaining that God is silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.” When we open the Bible, we find more than 750,000 words breathed out by God himself for you. There is a lot to meditate on. Since we are the generation that has never been distracted more and find it hard to concentrate less than switch off the notification on your smartphone. You can’t expect to meditate on the word of God while being reminded every 60 seconds of that text or that great deal. Take charge of your electronic world.

The happy person is one who meditates day and night. Find a time and a place to read slowly and prayerfully. Aim to read through Psalms this year.

I spent a couple of weeks early this year on the biggest psalm. Psalm 119. It is divided into 22 sections which follow the Hebrew alphabet. I found a verse in each section and rewrote it then I carried it with me and sent it to others.

Whether you’re in a Growth Group or not use the study material. Let me encourage you to memorize verses. This term in Growth Groups we are going to spend two weeks on Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd. Our aim to memorize it. Feed off Gods word and you will thrive.

Point 3 The Happy soul will bear fruit.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. ~Psalm 1:3 (NIV)

The wise one is likened to a tree whose roots draw life-giving water, who is fruitful in season and whose leaves stay green. Which means the one who meditates on Gods word doesn’t just survive they thrive.

We have plastic plants in our unit, they always stay green but they are not real. We also have real plants outside and they need to be watered. We chose cactus so that we don’t have to remember all that often. The lavenders are struggling because I’m not consistently watering them. They remind me of me when I starve myself of Gods word.

Did you see the summary? For the person who sinks deep into the word of God, whatever they do prospers. So, yes, there is a prosperity gospel in the bible, of course, there is. If prosperity is furthering God purposes. If prosperity is bearing fruit to the glory of God, bring it on. If prosperity is persevering in suffering with joy, hallelujah! Not the ugly prosperity gospel that names and claims health and wealth. “Come to Jesus so you can satisfy the selfish desires of your soul. As someone rightly said “Prosperity gospel is like marrying someone for their money”

Just read Psalm 73, the writer envies wicked because everything they do turns to gold as they curse God. • He thinks it’s a waste of time to worship God until he realizes that he’s using God.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. ~Psalm 73:25 (NIV)

That is how his soul is happy again in the Lord. He realises that God is enough!

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. ~Psalm 1:4-5 (NIV)

There is no future for those who oppose God, they are like chaff, the husks that get blown away into oblivion, of no use with no future. The wicked and sinners are now mentioned again, this time the wicked who were so influential will not stand in judgment. This time the sinners whose conversation were persuasive will be absent in the heavenly church. Listen to them and you will be with them, shut out from the presence of the Lord.

We have here 2 ways to live and 2 destinies.

I was at a coffee shop preparing this sermon and two retired men were talking next to me. One of them spoke about hearing of a man who died, he said “when is the funeral?” The friend said it was yesterday but don’t worry it was private, he gave orders to ‘Take me to the crematorium and get rid of me.’ He saw his death as the end, like chaff blown away.

So different from Rapunzel who we heard at the funeral say ‘I’m so looking forward to going on holidays with God forever.’ The closer to face death the greater her happiness, for she knew the Lord watched over her soul. As one pastor put it “Our sin is not that we long to be happy but that we are stupidly and blindly  determined to find it in something or someone other than God and all that he is for us in Jesus.”

Dear Father,

We thank you for wanting us to be happy. Forgive us for seeking that happiness apart from your dear Son. Teach us to find our joy in your Word. Inspire us to meditate on your Word day and night. May we take refuge in your Son and reject the lies of this world. May our happy souls bear much fruit for your glory.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I must admit that watching MBM online has been very convenient, for the first time in 35 years I have got my Saturday nights back. On Sunday I move from my bedroom, shower, kitchen and go to my TV to go on MBM online, youtube. Sandy and I pray and share. I catch up with some of you on zoom. There are no more arguments about getting up, getting ready, getting out, getting in the car and no more car park miracles.

With forced smiles, and awkward conversations at church, are we sure we want to come back?

So, it’s a good time to stop and to see the church of God through Jesus’ eyes again. And in the words of the great Robert Abboud, to let personal preferences surrender to Gods purposes, to retrain ourselves back into the habit of meeting with one another. I so want everyone at MBM to see how precious the church is in Jesus’ eyes.

The word church in the New Testament is almost always the gathering of believers around God’s word, whether that gathering was at Old Testament Mt Sinai, or Mt Druitt or the heavenly Mt Zion. For too long the church has had a target on its back and let’s face it, there is a lot to criticize. But when we declare Jesus to be Lord, we choose to see the church through Jesus’ eyes.

The Bible is clear, God’s great plan is that He is saving a people for his Son. Every person at MBM was in God’s heart from before the creation of the world. We were chosen not just to be forgiven but to be adopted into God’s family – the church.

I want to look at 2 images to understand the church.

Point 1. The Church is Christ’s Bride
When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, they were not just our first parents and the first couple, they were the first church. When these two were gathered, God was with them in the cool of the day. And each marriage points to the ultimate marriage between Christ and his church. Not surprising when Paul starts talking about marriage he ends up talking about the
church.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ~Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

From that passage we see Jesus posture toward the church. We are told 5 things about Jesus attitude to his church

  1. Christ really loved his church. Have you ever said I love the church?
  2. Christ loved the church knowing every stain, wrinkle and blemish. The failures of the church don’t stop Jesus loving his bride and they should not stop us.
  3. Christ gave himself up for his church. Jesus loves his bride all the way to the cross. Very few verses speak of Christ dying for me. Only 1, Christ died for his sheep, his church, his people, elect.
  4. Christ cleanses his bride by his word. When we accepted the good news we are washed whiter than snow.
  5. Christ wants a beautiful church not just a forgiven church. Jesus is committed to making the church radiant, we are the apple of his eye. And He rejoices over us in song.

Christ wants us to be with him and one day he will come to live with us. We are his forever people.

Now think about your attitude to the church. Do you have a love for the church like Jesus does? Or do you use the sins of the church as an excuse to ignore his bride? Do you use the sins of the church to judge his people?

Jesus is not naïve. Every letter in the New Testament is a rebuke to the churches then and now. We can see why people say ‘I love Jesus -it’s the church I can’t stand.’

I was talking to a guy, who owns a café, 2 months ago when we were on hard lockdown, he had 5 women not keeping social distance buying take away, he gently warned them that police were around. They stayed for 2 hours in groups of 5 when only 2 were allowed. They complained about the food and demanded a part refund. He said ‘I am going to refund all your meals’ They said, ‘You must be a Christian, so are we’. He said ‘its people like you that give Christianity such a bad name.’

Whatever sins you see in the church, Jesus not only knows them, he died for each one. As the bride of Christ, you can’t love Jesus and not love his church. You can’t love Jesus and not his people at MBM, too many Christian just don’t get this, they think they can love Jesus and not love his people. They are the very people Jesus personally chooses.

As a young Christian, I knew I did not naturally fit in at church, they were not my kind of people, I loved going to hear rock bands play at pubs, the music at church sounded like bad country and western. I didn’t realize that by saying yes to Jesus, I was saying yes to a new family who I didn’t choose.

They were not my kind of people but then it dawned on me as a young Christian, they were Jesus’ people, He loves them, he chose them and died for them, so I needed to love them and serve them. Those who I get on with and those I don’t, those who drain me and those who energize me, those who love me and those who hurt me. I needed to see them through Jesus’ eyes.

That is why when people withdraw from the church of God, they end up hanging with people just like themselves. Jesus said even the pagans love those who love them. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family and you can’t pick Gods family, that is God choice. The church is Christ’s bride.

Point 2 The church is Christ’s body
With Christ as the head and we are his body. Each of us makes up different members of his one body, the moment you believe you belong.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body— whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. ~1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV)

The moment you are born you belong in a family, the moment you are born again you are reborn into the body of Christ. This beautiful body of Christ crosses cultures, and class, where everyone belongs, flies first class. Just as a human body has different parts, head, fingers, legs, eyes and ears, so the body of Christ has many different people with different gifts all joined by the same Spirit. You belong, whether you feel like you belong or not. You belong even if you have not found a best friend at church that you click with.

There are 2 attitudes that can undermine that unity.

Warning #1 Don’t despise your place in the body.

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. ~1Corinthians 12:15 (NIV)

Telling yourself you don’t belong does not stop you from belonging.

An insecure big toe with low self-esteem does not stop the big toe from being part of the body. Imagine for a moment if the whole body were one big eyeball or imagine a 6-foot nose, no eyes, no legs just a nose. At best you would look like Mr Potato head and worse you would look like a Picasso Painting.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? ~1 Corinthians 12:17 (NIV)

Try talking to a person who has lost a hand or lost an eye and they will tell you, every part matters. Sometimes we despise our place when we say to ourselves, if only they knew what I did this last week they would not be so nice. Or Everyone is so together at church and my life is such a mess. Relax: all of our lives are a mess. The church is not a gym for the spiritual fit and healthy, it’s a hospital for sick sinners crying out for mercy.

Christ did not pay the price of his life to buy you the most expensive ticket to be part of God’s forever people so that you can’t tell yourself you don’t belong.

Warning #2 Don’t despise the place of others.

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” ~1Corinthians 12:20-21 (NIV)

This passage forbids that ugly rugged individualism that says I don’t need you. Now, of course, no one is not likely to say it, we just act like it.

So, when you only come to church when you feel like it you are saying ‘I don’t need others or they don’t need me.’ What is worse is when we justify our neglect of His church by saying “God is enough.” The church is God’s body language.

[we] should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. ~1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)

Jesus feels the joys and sorrows of his people, He shares our joys and weeps with our tears. The way he shows that is through us, we are his body language. He wants you to express his joy and sorrow over the joy and sorrows of others. You are his hands his feet, his tears and his smile.

Last week we lost our sister Rapunzel. This 27 year old woman who went to be with the Lord and left her loving husband Sam. Sam’s grief must be our grief as it reflects Christ grief.

There is not a person in this church you don’t need and there is not a person in this church who doesn’t need you.

“Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from Gods family and unaccountable to spiritual leaders because he knows they are defenceless and powerless.” Rick Warren (p136)

So what helps people feel like they belong? The repeated feedback from people is this. Join a small group and find out how you can serve.

One woman said, ‘I was coming to the church for over a year before I knew anyone, when I made the move to join the morning tea team I began to know the people in my team so, that was a bit better but still mostly I would wander on my own. Then, I finally joined a bible study group, THAT made lots more difference’

MBM online has been the right thing to do during COVID but it’s not church. It’s been an important ministry of the word, but it’s not church. It’s what we do for a season, but it’s not church.

Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ And neither will COVID. Not all of us can gather straight away as we move from 1 to 2 to 3 services. It may be because of limited numbers and services or it may be because you are vulnerable and we fully understand. Just don’t make inconvenience the reason you don’t gather. Personal preferences need to surrender to God’s purposes. I want you to grasp how Jesus sees his church.

Point 3 Judgement day shows the importance of the church

Jesus is seated on his glorious throne with angels. He separates the Sheep from the Goats.

To one group Jesus says

Depart from me ~Matthew 25:41 (NIV)

To the other he says

Come, you who are blessed by my Father ~Matthew 25:34 (NIV)

But what marks out the sheep from the goats?

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ~Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)

It all turns on your treatment of Jesus.

But they are thinking: “How did we feed, clothe, visit, and care for you Jesus, you were in heaven?”

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. ~Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Do you see? What you did for my people my bride and my body you did to me. Those “Brothers and Sister of mine…” When you neglected them you neglected me, when you ignored them you ignored me and when you loved them you loved me.

If a finger represents you and a hand represents your small circle of church friends you will not love Jesus until you love his whole body. That is why the place the church has in your heart is one of the great indicators of the place Jesus has in my heart.

Friends, it may be time to trade in those slippers for the privilege of serving the saints.

My Lord Jesus,
We know you saved us not just from hell but to be part of your family, your bride and your body. Help us to grasp that to ignore your people is to ignore you. And to love your people is how we love you. May we rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep in the body of Christ
In Jesus name.
Amen

Dr. Victor Chang was a great heart surgeon based at St.Vincents Hospital. He had the ability to transplant a heart and a lung and he gave people an extra 20 years of life. Things were said of him that will not be said of many of us. 

One Thursday morning while driving to work he was pulled over by 2 gunmen, he refused their request and he was shot dead, there on that footpath at Mosman was the very best and the very worst this country had to offer. His hand devoted to saving lives, the hands of his murderers were devoted to taking his.

The story that Jesus tells also puts two men together side by side in the presence of God. They stood for the very best and the very worst his nation could provide. 

He tells the story for one reason.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ~Luke 18.9 (NIV)

This is a critique on those who trust in their own goodness and as a result, look down on everybody else. What we have here is the Pharisee and the Tax collector. 

The Pharisees were about 1% of the Jewish population, they were hardcore and there were no half measures, these were spiritual heroes of that culture. They fasted 2 days a week and this is not your 5-2 diet where you drop to 600 calories 2 days a week. This was no food for 2 days every week, week in week out. It was all the more impressive given the bible only required 1 day per year, but that is religion for you, it always adds to what God says. 

They also gave 10% of their wage to a greater cause. If anyone had grounds for thinking they had done enough it was them. They had a high standard and a high success rate!

The tax collectors were on the other end of the spectrum, they were contracted by the Romans, who invaded Israel, to tax their own people. They were a nasty piece of work, they betrayed their own people by siding with the enemy. They exploited their own people by overtaxing them. They bled decent people of a decent living. Kids went to bed hungry because of the Tax collectors who lined their own pockets with illegal taxes.

Knowing that, who would you honestly think that Jesus would promise heaven to.

Let’s see how they approach God. The Pharisee comes before God prayerfully confident that he did everything required of him and more.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ~Luke 18:11-12 (NIV)

As far as he is concerned, he has kept the 10 commandments. He paid his taxes and he has not slept with another man’s wife. But most of all he is grateful that he is has not turned out like that treacherous tax collector.

He does not sing “Amazing Grace how sweat the sound that saved a wretch like me.” His hymn is “Amazing Grace how sweat the sound that saved a wretch like him.”

The Pharisee thinks he a good person who has done a lot of good and his community would agree, this is why he relies on what he does. You get the feeling that God owes him. What the Pharisee doesn’t do is this; he doesn’t come, wanting to be put right with God, not a hint of confession. 

The religious heart tends to produce one of two outcomes, you’re either proud or petrified. Proud that I’m good enough and you’re not or Petrified that I’m not good enough and I never will be.

The Tax collector, on the other hand, is very much aware of his failure before God

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ~Luke 18.13 (NIV)

This is not low self-esteem, this is an honest assessment of himself. He knows that he comes before a perfect God as a sinner, there is no offer to try a little harder, there are no new resolutions. He places no hope whatsoever in anything good he may have done, because he may well have been good to his close circle of friends and family but he knows they are but crumbs. All we hear from his lips are “Have mercy on me a sinner’ or literally ‘the sinner.’

What made these two men end up coming to God in such different ways? 

1. Being good is its own temptation. The Pharisee was deceived by his virtues, he was a man who did good things, but he then concluded that he was good enough. The fatal error is, I’m good therefore I’m good enough for God.

So, the warning is clear, the better you are, the more sincere, more compassionate, more spiritual, the more causes you pursue, the more justice you seek on behalf of others, the greater the danger for thinking that these are the grounds of God’s approval. They aren’t.

The Tax Collector has no goodness to be deceived by, that is why he is not pretending. He knows he is a mongrel and so does everybody else.

Friends let me be very clear, Heaven is not for good people, Heaven is for forgiven people. It has to be because Jesus said “No one is good, except God alone.” The Pharisee didn’t come looking for forgiveness, he came to present his CV to get a promotion.

2. The Pharisee does what we are all tempted to do, he made other people the yardstick and not God. He measured his performance with other people like the tax collector instead of measuring his performance with God. Of course, he was better than the tax collector, but so what! People all over the world are pinning their hopes that they are at least statistically average and better than most. Did you know that 80% of Australian men think they are above average in sport? 

We are deluded by comparison, I am 5 ft 6 inches tall, that’s 165 cms which is not all that tall, yet growing up I thought of myself as being tall. My Father was 5 ft or 152 cms and my Mother was 5 ft or 152 cms and my sisters are 150 cms so, by the time I was 12 I towered in my family. As long as I used my family as the comparison, I considered myself to be tall. But by the age of 13, I discovered all my friends grew 5 to 10 cms taller than me and before I knew it I was on the receiving end of short jokes.

So what if you are as good as the average and better than most. So what if you’re the best person who has ever walked this earth, line yourself up to Gods standard and cringe.

What does the Tax Collector do? He doesn’t measure himself to the Pharisee, he measures himself to a God whose standard is nothing less than perfect. Once you know that yardstick you’re only left with one response. “Have mercy on me a sinner!”

The tax collector sees himself in light of God alone, hence the clean confession. No excuses. No, I’m sorry but here are my good points. No, I’m sorry but I support three world vision kids. No, I’m sorry but I fight for the rights of Koalas. Have mercy on Me the sinner. So simple and so profound.

The problem with the human heart is this. It overestimates human nature then comes up with superficial solutions, but Jesus will tell us we are far worse than we can imagine and God is more merciful than we could ever hope for. When the Tax collector asks for mercy he is saying “God I know you’re rightly angry with me, I know I deserve hell. I’m asking you Lord to turn your anger away from me..”

Jesus, who told this parable is on his way to the cross, to take that anger upon himself. We fail to see the seriousness of our situation. 

Imagine if you value your failures in terms of a financial debt toward God and you were told that you have incurred a debt by God for $250,000 and you have one life time to pay it back. What would you think? Serious – but I can solve this problem. You would work out how to pay it back…sell the car, or sell the house or take a loan. You would be optimistic that you could repay the debt. That is a human solution, to think I can pay it back. But Jesus’ message is, your failures are more like a 900 billion dollar debt and you have one life time to pay it. What would be your reaction? You’re not going to offer 3 cents in the dollar, you would give up and cry for mercy.

The Tax Collector has done what God expects everyone to do, Give up! Not give up doing good! Give up trusting that your goodness will justify you before God or qualify you for heaven. Heaven is not for good people because they don’t exist. Heaven is for forgiven people who ask for mercy. Don’t stop doing good but stop relying on the good you do and start relying on God’s mercy.

The Tax collector sees things as God sees them. Now Jesus, who is the one who will judge us all, tells us how he sees them.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18.14 (NIV)

What?! Jesus declares that the horrible tax collector now broken before God has his charges dropped. He is justified, and that is as offensive as putting a civil rights activist and a member of the ku klux klan in a church, both hear the same message of grace. The ku klux klan member cries out for mercy and is forgiven but the civil right activist is offended and refuses to ask for forgiveness.

The Pharisee wants from God what he thinks he deserves and he got it, rejection. The Tax Collector asked for what he didn’t deserve, mercy and he got it.

What do you want from God? I promise you, you will get it.

God will give you what you deserve if that is what you want.

Are you really sure you want it!

I remember watching a former minister of immigration talking to a Cambodian refugee in a detention centre. The minister of immigration asked the refugee “What do you want from me? The Cambodian man dropped his head and whispered, “mercy”.

He is saying. “I know I have no right to be accepted but I’m asking for what I don’t deserve” Mercy

Friends God is dying to offer you mercy. No, Gods son Died to provide you with mercy. Jesus lived the life we should have lived, but didn’t and then died the death we deserved to die but don’t have to. The payment is made, we owed a debt we just couldn’t pay and Jesus paid the debt he didn’t owe. And so let me plead with you, ask God for mercy, turn from your sins, turn to Christ. Begin a new personal relationship with this Lord Jesus whose mercy provides full forgiveness.

I preached this sermon once and a man came up and said “I was on that footpath in Mosman when Dr. Victor Chang was shot.” He was a British man working in Sydney, the assassin threatened him and he was too afraid to go home in Mosman.

So, he lived with a family for months who were Christians. They took him to church where he heard that Heaven is not for good people but forgiven people, who own their sin and cry out for mercy to Jesus. Is it not time for you to join the rest of us..

Dear God,

Have mercy on me a sinner. I know that what I deserve is your rejection but what I am asking for is your beautiful mercy. 

Thank you Lord Jesus that through your death on the cross you paid the debt that I could never pay.Thank you that I am now fully forgiven.

I now put my trust in you. I now seek to put you first in my life. Please help me to live for you and never look down on others.

In Jesus name, Amen

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in heaven? Adulterers -Terrorists -Child abusers or someone who has profoundly wronged you or someone you love. And does the idea of sharing heaven make you not want to be there? Or are you ok about them being in heaven but can’t rejoice at them being in heaven?

All of which exposes how our heart is not lined up with God’s heart.

Jesus tells 3 stories about something or someone being lost and then found. A lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.

We learn 3 things about God’s heart.

  1. God is committed to seeking and saving the lost
  2. God rejoices when they are found
  3. He expects that we too will celebrate with him.

We all know the pain of losing something and the relief and joy of finding it again. If you have ever lost a child in a crowd for 15 minutes you know that sinking feeling and then the relief when you find them, unless they were hiding.

There are 2 kinds of lost, the lost where no one knows you’re missing & the lost where someone is looking for you. Jesus is looking for you, why is Jesus telling the story?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable ~Luke 15:1-3a (NIV)

Jesus was attracting the wrong crowd, He was welcoming the scrap heap into the kingdom and the religious leaders were not happy, they want to shut heaven’s door in people’s faces. They were so different from God.

When the Shepherd in the first parable knows he has lost one

sheep, he doesn’t say 99 out of 100 is not bad. He seeks it out and then he calls his friends to rejoice with him. The point of the story is that

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. ~Luke 15:5-7 (NIV)

While Heaven rejoices the Pharisees resent, notice how the one lost soul matters to Jesus. As we seek to make 1000 new disciples, remember behind every number is a person and every person has a story. When the women loses an expensive coin she makes a careful search for it until she finds it and then she calls her friends together to rejoice with her.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~Luke 15:10 (NIV)

God is on about seeking, finding, saving and rejoicing. God is not all that interested in sheep and coins, He is interested in people like us who have wandered from God.

What makes big news in heaven is not a fantastic grand final win, its when a sinner repents, we must celebrate it because if we don’t then who will? The world’s response to you becoming a Christian can be patronizing “As long as it makes you happy” or it can be Pity “I guess you need a crutch”

But the Pharisees will not rejoice because like all religion it’s built on merit and not the mercy of God. Do you share the heart of God for sinners?

So we turn to the most famous story Jesus ever told, the story of 2 lost sons. The younger son couldn’t wait for his dad to die, as the younger son he technically was not entitled to the Inheritance, that was the privilege of the firstborn male and certainly not before Dad died. I joked about the inheritance to my Dad but he knew and I knew that it was a joke. To be serious is to wish your Father was as good as dead.

Then begins the downward slide of this son. His bags are packed, the tickets for New York are booked, he goes to a far country. He could have spent it in a nearby town, but he didn’t want his Mum to find a prostitute in his Porsche. So it’s off to a far off country!!

The son eventually finds himself flat broke as a foreigner in a foreign land in the midst of a famine. As a Jew you know he has hit rock bottom, he finds himself envying the menu of a pig. All he has now are the memories of the good life. But memories cant fill your stomach when it cries out for food.

In his brokenness, he remembers, not what he had as a son but what his Dads workers had. He remembered that his Dad, even as a boss, was generous.

‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ~Luke 15:17-19 (NIV)

You notice, the thought never crosses his mind that his father would take him back as a son, but maybe just maybe he would give him a job!! He obviously felt he had crossed over the line where forgiveness is not an option. He had exhausted the grace of a good father. I don’t blame him. Had he gone too far?

When we look into our hearts and into our past there are things that are better left unsaid. Things done that reminds us that we to have gone to a far country away from our Father. An affair; an abortion; abuse or betrayal. And if we are honest, it’s just the tip of an iceberg. We know we are lost, we too need Jesus who came to seek and save us.

Let me tell you the true story of Maria and Christine. Maria lived in a small village on the outskirts of a South American city. Her husband died soon after her daughter Christine was born. Maria worked long hours to provide for her daughter and her one fear was that her daughter would end up as a prostitute.

Eventually, Christine secretly left for the big city and Maria caught a bus to the city and she took countless photos of herself and wrote the same message on the back of each one. Maria planted the photos everywhere through the city, bars-hotels -night clubs. Maria eventually ran out of money and returned home to wait.

Christine ended up in prostitution and one day she walked down the stairs of a hotel and noticed a photo of her mum. She took it, turned it over and read these words “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn’t matter, please come home”

God is saying to you “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn’t matter please come home.”

The younger son comes home to a father with open arms.

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. ~Luke 15:20 (NIV)

We are told that when the God-like father saw his son coming home, his first instinct was his heart was filled with compassion. He then does what a man in that culture never does, he runs (old Middle Eastern men don’t run), he doesn’t wait for the son to come to him, he strides with all his might to a son that wanted him dead then he holds him in his arms and kisses him. The father doesn’t even wait for the boy to finish his confession, the father has treated the son as royalty with food, robes, rings.

There is a Buddhist version of the prodigal son: where the son comes back and has to work for every cent. We might have expected the father to say “…you’re telling me you’re not worthy, now cop this and get the hell out of here…” We might have even expected “…sorry are you? well you can come back but don’t expect things to be same.”

And things were not the same they are better!!! Now is the time to party!!!! He was as good as dead and now he is alive. This is the heart of God that loves to welcome sinners. Whenever the lost are found, whenever a sinner repents there is rejoicing in heaven. But not everybody wants to rejoice. 

Then enters the older son with the sweat running from his brow, he hears the sounds of a party taking place. He hears, the one who had cheated the family of half of the inheritance was back and his foolish gullible father has given him the party and he was angry.

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ~Luke 15:28-30 (NIV)

Now it was his turn to reject the father. He might have kept his father’s commands but not the one to come inside and celebrate. He despised his Father generosity, in a way both sons had misunderstood what it meant to be a son. They both thought sonship was by merit. 

The younger son thought you earned it and so assumed that he lost all chances of having it. The older son thought you earned the right to be a son and so he saw his whole work for his father as slavery. Look all these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.

For too many Christians, they only see their walk with God in terms of law not love, with God as their Judge not their Dad, with Jesus as their Lord not their Saviour.

Both sons have missed the point, you become a child of God by relying on the Love of the Father. God has run out to meet us in the words of John 3:16 God so loved you and this world/you that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes may not perish but have everlasting life.

Whoever believes, come turn and trust, confess and come back to the Father, whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter!!! Just come home

The older son does not want to celebrate his brother coming home. The older son was outside the door but he could have been in a far country, either way, he was not rejoicing with the father over a brother who was lost.

Hear the heart of Jesus who came to seek and save, not just rebels but the self-righteous who repent. Whether you have taken the high road of rebellion or the low road of rebellion, Come home!

The father is not angry with the older son he is pleading with the self-righteous brother.

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” ~Luke 15:31-32 (NIV)

For this younger brother was not just lost, he was dead and he was his brother. Sinners who don’t repent are dead in their sins! Facing the second death. But we had to celebrate and be glad because he is alive and found. 

Do you know what is worse than a Christian committing murder or adultery? It is that same Christian not repenting. And do you know what is just as bad as committing murder or adultery? It is withholding joy when they repent.

Yes, it feels like they have gotten away with it.

The point is clear. “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Remember the Lord’s prayer? “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Question: What are we to do on earth that is being done in heaven.
Answer: Rejoicing over sinners who turn back to God

Have you thought of having a born again party? My two children made decisions for Christ, on July 27th and each year we had a born again party, Pizza hut, Lone star, they can pick. We would go and celebrate because the day they became born again was the day heaven unleashed in a never-ending shout of joy.

Some people don’t celebrate because they are cynical that those who say yes to Jesus today will say no a month later. Jesus knows people fall away but it doesn’t stop him from wanting you to celebrate.

If you are still lost know this, the angels are waiting to celebrate and so are we, because whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter, please come home.

Of course it matters. It matters so much that God gave his one and only Son, who made full the payment for your sins. The price has been paid, the father’s arms are open wide. So whatever you have done please come home.

Dear Father,

I admit that I have run away from you and I am so sorry Father for breaking your heart. Thank you, Father, that you loved me so much that you gave your one and only Son that I may not perish but have eternal life.

I am home now and I want to follow you, Jesus, as my precious Lord and loving Saviour.

Please help to always to have the heart of God to seek out

others who are lost and rejoice when they are found in Jesus name.

Amen

If there’s one thing that COVID19 has made us realise, it’s that we DEFINITELY do NOT control the future. COVID19 has been the great equaliser, hasn’t it? Whether you’re in charge of a country or whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck, or whether you’re studying for the HSC. Tomorrow is guaranteed to none of us. 

At best, we can make our plans, but those plans can change at the drop of a hat. Let me see, I’ve had a holiday, a SPARTAN obstacle race, a birthday party and a work conference all cancelled because of COVID. 

And it’s not as if there’s a whole lot of certainty as you look ahead either. As we brace ourselves for this so-called “second spike” we ponder, when will we be back in the church building? What will it look like? As we ask (with or without Jobkeeper) what’s going to happen to my job? 

During times like this, it may feel like the God of the Bible is absent or that’s he’s silent.  Well, Genesis 12 today, is going to assure us that God is anything but that. We have a God who not only makes promises. He keeps them too. That’s just who he is.  

The same God who spoke a certain word during the uncertain times of Abram is the same God who speaks a certain word in the uncertain days of COVID. 

I don’t know about you, but in light of the past few months, that sounds like exactly what I need. To know there is LIFE in the face of death that there is HOPE in the face of fear that we CAN have certainty in the face of uncertainty. 

Because what God promises, God delivers on. Genesis 3-11 has had the same recurring pattern. The pattern of human’s sin, God judges but then follows it up with grace. 

Last week, in Genesis 11 we definitely had the sin, humans trying to make a name for themselves and uniting together to overthrow God.

God handed out an appropriate judgment by confusing their language and therefore scattering them. But where was the grace? In Genesis 12, where God speaks to one man, an Iraqi pensioner named Abram. 

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. ~Genesis 12:1 (NIV)

God tells Abram to pack up his bags and go. 

When my parents left Hong Kong for Australia, it was for a better place. They already knew people here, siblings and friends. They’d come here before. 

Abram, he leaves, not even knowing where he was going! You can imagine Abram travelling day by day, pitching his tent, packing it up and asking himself: “Are we there yet God? Are we there yet? But God doesn’t issue this command without a promise. Look at verse 2.  

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV)

In 3 verses God makes 3 breath-taking promises: 

  1. Land. God wants Abram to get up and go from Haran to a place called Canaan. What we know as Iraq to Israel. 
  2. Offspring. At face value, this seems like a ridiculous promise because Abram we’re told is 75 and his wife, Sarai is 65. 

Elderly people DO NOT give birth! and there’s just one other thing, you know one small, minor obstacle we’re told in Genesis 11.

Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive. ~Genesis 11:30 (NIV)

If God’s going to deliver on this promise, it’ll be God and God alone. 

  1. Blessing. In other words, God will do good by Abram and not just him but through Abram, God will do good to ALL people. All nations. All tribes. 

3 promises, 3 majestic promises.

This week, over breakfast, I did something very brave, I asked my family to tell me when I have kept my promise and when have I broken my promise. 

One of my kids piped up straight away said ‘Dad you’ve kept your promise by marriage to Mum!’ Then that same child reminded me: ‘But Dad, you broke your promise because you said you were going to do some drawing with me on Tuesday.’ 

Teresa then dropped in a promise that she remembers me making but that I had no recollection making, about a trip to America! You see, all her family, her sister and her younger brother, have all been and I’ve been. In fact, she’s still bitter about the time her parents went to Disneyland and left her behind with her grandparents!  

Anyway, I first heard this story when we were dating and in my attempts to woo her and to impress her, I must have said “I promise I’ll take you to America one day” Well, now I’m on public record that I have to fulfil this promise. 

When it comes to promises, before it’s about us, before it’s about Abraham, it’s about God. Notice how God’s the one doing all the heavy lifting here. 

Seven times we read: I will. I will. I will. He is ALL in. God commits himself to one man, Abram and his family. Whatever happens to Abram and his family, over the next day, over the next generation, the next century. God’s behind it all every step of the way. 

Is this not God’s grace or what?! God didn’t have to do what he’s just done here in Genesis 12. After another pattern of sin and judgment God could have said: Right, enough’s enough, let’s call it a day and have an 11-chapter Bible. 

God could have left humanity to babble on and on stumbling along in confusion. But he doesn’t! Instead of walking away, God says: I will bless, I will bless, I will bless. I will use you, Abram, to make it possible for the entire world to know me. 

God hasn’t cut you off, He welcomes you back into his fold and I don’t know about you, but that provides me with immeasurable comfort. An unbelievable amount of certainty! 

Think about it, the God of this universe, He himself! Is committed to the future, He’s bound to deliver on these promises. 

And so that means, that if you’ve given up on God, whether it’s because you feel you’ve been let down by him or you’ve let him down, again and you’ve got a truckload of guilt and regret by falling short. Well I want to ask you to reconsider the God you’ve stopped worshipping, today is as good a day as any to come home. He will take you back because in the Lord Jesus, he has promised to wipe your slate clean. To give you a fresh start and to not hold your sins against you. 

Well, God’s laid out his promises to Abram on the table. How does Abram respond? 

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. ~Genesis 12:4 (NIV)  

Abram took God at his word, and set off, his was the model response. In response to God’s extravagant commitment, Abram trusts God. Trusts he’ll come good on his promises and he expresses that trust in obedience. Trust and obedience are not necessarily the same things but are certainly two sides of the same coin. 

Abram picks up his family, packs all his belongings, gets up and goes heading for the land God commanded him to go to. 

BUT [And there’s always a but] come verse 10 and Abram’s obedience soon turns into disobedience.

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. ~Genesis 12:10 (NIV)

On the one hand this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, whether it’s food, whether it’s toilet paper. When you run out, you go hunt it down. Only Egypt wasn’t where God wanted Abram to go.

It gets worse. Not only has he gone in the OPPOSITE direction of where God wants him to go. He’s also done the exact OPPOSITE of what every husband should do. He’s also put his own wife in danger. 

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” ~Genesis 12:11-13 (NIV)

In the space of just 13 verses, Abraham has gone from hero to zero. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve seen this and it won’t be the last. We see it again and again. God will make extraordinary, extravagant promises to someone and then shortly after, they’ll stuff it up.

Remember Noah? God spares him from judgement. First thing he does when he walks out of the ark is he gets drunk and is an embarrassment to his family. 

King David, one minute he’s promised a forever kingdom and next minute he’s in bed with Bathsheba.

In the New Testament, Peter is the first to work out that Jesus is God’s promised king and next minute, he tries to persuade Jesus that death and resurrection is a stupid idea.

Don’t you love how the Bible refuses to do pretend? There’s no photoshopping going on here. 

And that’s good news for you and I because the promises God makes, they don’t ride on the shoulders of you or I or Abram or Noah or David. Oh, thank goodness that what God promises God makes happen. Thank goodness we do NOT control the future, but we know the God who does.

Back when I used to work in Human Resources, part of my job involved interviewing people for jobs and the principle was this:  Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. I had to resist the urge to not be wowed by how well the applicant spoke, by their charming personality, by their impressive resume. Instead, I had to drill down and focus on what exactly they, as an individual, did because past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour.

So, let’s see how God came good on his promises to Abram. 

Take the promise of LAND. Throughout the Old Testament, the focus is on a city, Jerusalem, a country, a geographical place. That’s the place where God lived in his temple. 

But come the New Testament, the promise of land is found in a PERSON. Jesus is the true temple and that in Jesus, the land we will dwell in is in heaven, seated around his throne. 

Then there’s the promise of OFFSPRING. 25 years after Abram is given the promise, at the ripe old age of 90, Sarah checks in to the maternity ward and out pops Isaac. 

Abram’s name is later changed to Abraham, his name literally means: “Father of many” and so the rest of the Old Testament is the story of God turning this nation into a great nation. Not because of anything special in and of themselves but because God set his affection upon them. 

Then you turn over to the very first verse of the New Testament. 

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…~Matthew 1:1 (NIV)

It took over 2,000 years to get there. But Jesus himself is born into the line of Abraham. And so are you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, then Abraham is your spiritual dad. You are living proof that the promise that Abraham would have millions of kids as vast as the stars in the sky and as numerous as the sand on the seashore. You are the fulfilment of that promise. 

And third, that promise of blessing. 

Last Friday, Teresa and I watched a documentary called American Gospel. Do yourself a favour and watch it after church today, you can find it on Youtube. 

It had us both, on the one hand, cheering by hearing stories of how the gospel is changing lives in America. But on the other hand, it had us fuming as well! Fuming because of how there are people who’ve misunderstood this promise of blessing. Who’ve twisted it to make it all about them. Rather than about Jesus. For them, the blessing God promises you is the blessing of a better car, a bigger house, more money and less sickness. 

And that all these blessings are simply yours if you have enough faith. 

It’s this false gospel. It’s the complete OPPOSITE of what Paul says in Galatians, because in Galatians, Paul takes the guess work out of what exactly God means when he promised blessing to Abram. 

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” ~Galatians 3:8 (NIV)

Notice how Paul says, that the gospel was already being declared ahead of time to Abraham. You see it there in the words: “All nations will be blessed through you” What is this blessing that will come to all people? 

Well, look earlier in the verse. See that phrase: God would justify the Gentiles. The nations. Non-Jews. Let me be clear about the blessing is this. That the God of this universe, the one who you’ve wronged and rebelled against will not count your sins against you. That you are justified. That is, you know today, what God is going to say when you meet him on judgment day …….Not guilty! He’s dropped the charges for your rebellion. 

Now thanks to Jesus, we have EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING! 

That’s better than any physical blessing, that now thanks to Jesus, we have a blessing that goes on to eternity, not just limited to this life. 

That’s worth remembering because Abraham was only working off what we have in the first 11 chapters of the Bible. That’s it! 

Lots of promises. Not much fulfilment

Sure we might feel these are uncertain times but this is what gives us certainty because we’ve seen what Abraham never saw. We’ve seen how God has come good on promise after promise. In many ways, we’ve got even less of an excuse NOT to believe!

Now can I say that if all this seems a bit foreign to you, if the Old Testament seems a bit intimidating then can I encourage you to go deeper, because the Bible’s story it’s also your story. 

Know it. Treasure it. Sink your teeth into it. 

Learn to see your story in light of the Bible story, it is the cure for doubt. It helps you realise your faith. It’s based on more than just John 3:16. That is goes back further than what your parents have passed on.

I love a freebie and until the end of this month, there’s one done by one of my favourite Bible teachers, Mike Raiter, it’s called the Ridley Certificate. I know one couple from our 6pm service have been doing it and it’s really helped them. 

Now let’s just stand back from all this. We’ve seen God not only MAKE promises but also KEEP promises. 

I hope you’re beginning to realise what sort of God we’re dealing with here. Wow! God’s more committed to the future than we are!! God DOES indeed provide a word of certainty in the face of uncertainty. 

And so let me issue you this challenge: When you was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone. When was the last time when you really HAD to trust God?  

I happened to be reflecting this week, I looked back and saw how God’s promises have really kept me hanging in there. In the midst of dark clouds, and rough patches his promises have preserved me. Knowing he is faith-FULL when I am faith-LESS. 

Promises like Romans 8:1: There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. 

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but gee, what a wonderful promise that was to hear 22 years ago when I took the hand of Jesus. It’s just as wonderful today. Then there was the one 20 years ago when I finished university and was about to begin full-time work. 

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15.58 (NIV)

The promise that because Jesus has risen, that my decisions, my choices matter. That what I do in this lifetime, has the potential to have ripple effects into eternity. It’s this promise. That’s what shapes my purpose. It gives meaning to everything I do. 

Then there was June, 10 years ago when my wife Teresa, lost a brother to suicide and a dad to cancer 3 months later, and the promise we knew in our heads, but really sunk down in our hearts at that time was an oldie but a goodie. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

And then there’s 2 years ago. This June would’ve been the 2nd birthday of a daughter who we only had for 77 days. One of my children has memorised this wonderful promise because she’s written it next to her bed. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? ~John 14:1-2 (NIV)

The promise of a room in my daddy’s house. Can’t wait for that. 

And then there’s June last year, road tripping with Ben from our church up to Uluru. Only to have it cut short because I managed to flip both HIS car, and HIS caravan, then to be able to able to turn off the engine, walk out without even a scratch. 

God got my attention with 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

As I look back and see how God’s words and God’s promises have kept me going. That’s what inspires me to keep looking ahead. To keep trusting him no matter how uncertain things get. To see how he’s been faithful even though I’ve often been faith-less. And despite all that, knowing God’s got my back, that’s what inspires me to take risks. To have a posture of expectancy. In everything. 

Whether it’s sharing Jesus with those who don’t know him when it comes to serving him. 

When it comes to finances, being generous. 

When it comes to relationships. 

When it comes to decisions about the future. 

All because of this simple truth: That what God promises, God delivers on.

We have seen the policeman in Minneapolis placing his knee on the neck of 46 year old George Floyd, for 9 minutes George cried out “I cant breath…” and eventually he breathed his last breath. It sparked an avalanche of protests and riots across the US, because that death cried out for justice, just like Abel’s death cried out for justice

1. The Sin of Cain

In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve refused to take God at his word, they both ate of the tree of good and evil. Once naked with no shame but now they hide from God and from each other and are removed from paradise.

But God in his kindness allows Eve to give birth to 2 sons, her first born is Cain, the first man to have a belly button, a farmer by trade. Her second born Abel, a Cowboy-herder of sheep. Both were religious men, both willing to draw near to God but on very different terms

By faith Abel offers his best.

And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. ~Genesis 4:4 (NIV)

For us fat is bad. In the Jewish sacrificial system, the fat portions and the first born where highly prized. The message is clear, Abel GAVE HIS BEST. Not so Cain. Cain offers some of the fruits of the soil, but not the first fruits as we would have expected from the first born. The result is…

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. ~Genesis 4:4b-5 (NIV)

Cain’s thankless heart gave God his left overs, God was not pleased.

We in Christ are told that in view of God’s mercies, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. We give our best because God gave his best in sending his Son.

The downward slide of Cain begins. If you break the first commandment you will end up breaking the rest. Cain begins where Adam left off. Cain’s sin takes the next step as sin often does. Cain’s sin spills into pride, self pity, and jealously. If Envy wants what you’ve got then Jealously hates you for having it. Cain is jealous and very angry that his brother was favoured by God. His face was downcast, here is sin in all its blindness…

Should Cain not have been feeling remorse or guilt? Abel only offered a better sacrifice because it came by faith in God’s gracious promises and that grace unleashed a generous heart.

In the words of one song…“Lord, You have given me everything, What can I do for you…”

Faith in God’s gracious promises unleashed deep thankfulness. It opens the heart to love God, it opens the diary to make time for others, it opens the wallet to bless others. Cain is not the victim of random favouritism.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

God offers Cain both forgiveness and warning. First the loving warning, if Cain does not treat God properly and deal with his jealous anger he will open himself to more sin. Sin is pictured like a wild animal about to pounce on him.

This is how temptation leads to sin and death.

“… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” ~James 1:14-15 (NIV)

Notice, It begins with our own evil desires.

With Eve the temptation came from outside her by Satan. For Cain and us temptation comes from within us by our own evil desires. Once you admit the problem is with you and not God then you will not waste your time blaming everyone else, including God. Otherwise, like a fish on a hook you are dragged away and before you know it your jealousy becomes anger, becomes murder and full-blown resentfulness to God.

You know the story, you’re wounded in some way and it generates some hurt but you refuse to forgive. Then you avoid the person and you replay the wrongs in your mind and you then think the worst of them and it leads to resentment and rage and revenge.

Like Cain I grew up on a farm growing crops, when I was 6 and my brother was 11 we were pulling out weeds for a couple of hours throwing them onto the back of a trailer. It was hard work and when we were finished, my brother drove the tractor-trailer home without giving me a lift.

I was furious, my hurt led to anger and my anger led to revenge, I ran toward a patch of vegetables near the house that we both grew and I ripped them up. As I was exercising revenge, a shadow fell on me, it was my Dad and he was furious, he pulled out his belt and I ran. I let my hurt become anger and my anger become revenge. I did not master that sin, it mastered me.

Eve let Satan lead her to sin, now sin leads Cain to murder. Cain takes his brother to the field and then takes his life, the first murder happens inside the family. This is the first act of domestic violence and it won’t be the last.

Sin has now spread faster than COVID 19.

When God confronts Adam, it was about his individual sin. Where are you? But when God confronts Cain, the focus was on how it impacted others. Where is your brother? Cain’s answer is defiant, I don’t know and I don’t care.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ~Genesis 4:9 (NIV)

The answer is, Yes, you are Cain, we all are our brother’s keeper, now more than ever.

There have been 432 black deaths in custody where no charge was laid. We can’t be concerned for justice for ourselves and not for others.

The same attitude that was there in Cain’s offering is in this sarcastic response. I don’t care about God becomes I don’t care about my brother. And all along the promise was there.

If you do what is right will you not be accepted. ~Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

Sin is still crouching at the door, your door, and you must master it.

What the law can’t do God did by sending his Son to forgive and his Spirit to transform. Don’t be like Cain who failed to deal with pride, self pity, jealousy, anger, violence and defiance to God. Don’t delay, deal with that issue, it will not go away, it won’t stay hidden and it will get worse,

2. God’s judgment on Cain

Cain may not do what is right but God will, He is a just God who holds Cain responsible. When Cain offered a pathetic sacrifice and God named it for what is was. When Cain murders his brother God confronts Cain. God demands justice for the blood of Abel.

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. ~Genesis 4:10 (NIV)

The same word is used in Genesis for the screams of a woman who is raped. Abel’s murder screams for justice. Every rape victim screams for justice. Every abused child screams for justice. Every victim of domestic family violence screams for justice. That is what we are hearing from protestors in the US, messy as it is, the cry for justice. Don’t use the looting and violence to ignore the cry for justice for many.

When Israel cried out to God for freedom from oppression of Egypt she was far from perfect in how she behaved. Moses murdered an Egyptian.

Friends, it’s easy to demand justice when we have been mistreated but not so easy when it’s for others. We are our brother’s keeper. We can’t pick and choose which injustice we should speak up for, whether its Abortion or entrenched Racial inequality.

Cain exceeds his father sin and so does the judgment. Adam could till the soil and it would produce food, Cain could sow whatever seed he likes and nothing, he will be forced to wander from the presence of God.

Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. ~Genesis 4:11-12 (NIV)

Cain will be a fugitive on the run with no place to lay his head and at the mercy of whoever wants to exact revenge on Abel. The ground that drank the blood of Abel will curse him to his dying days.

But where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

3. God’s grace to Cain

You see grace to this rebel in so many ways. Eve thanks God for allowing her to have 2 sons. The bible doesn’t end with Genesis 3. God promises if Cain would do the right thing he will be accepted, God will have Cain back. God’s arms are willing to embrace him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9 (NIV)

No person is beyond forgiveness, no sin has ever created a debt that the Christ of the cross can’t pay. I remember talking a white supremacist, he hated anyone who wasn’t white until he accepted Christ and repented of his racism and loves his Indian pastor.

When Cain kills his brother he should have died. An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth and a life for a life. But God hears this rebel’s plea and places a mark of protection.

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. ~Genesis 4:15 (NIV)

Cain had forsaken God but God had not forsaken him. He finds himself beyond God presence, East of Eden, but not beyond the protective hand of God. This is God’s common grace, this is as good as it gets without Christ. But there is much more grace to enjoy.

If you find yourself wondering why God did not kill Cain on the spot then you may missed the point! Have you not forgotten that murder and anger spring from the same heart. Jesus said:

“I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. ~Matthew 5:22 (NIV)

And have you not forgotten, we too stand under the judgment of God and Hell is too much for us to bear. Ones death will never pay for the sins of Cain, the policemen in Minneapolis or any of us “Its appointed that a person die once and afterward face judgment.” That is a punishment unable to bear. There is a death that will provide justice and mercy.

You have come to … Jesus … and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. ~Hebrew 12:23b-24 (NIV)

The blood of Abel rightly demanded death and hell but the blood of Jesus speaks a better word, a word of mercy where justice is not ignored, a word of forgiveness where sins are taken seriously, a word of love where God’s righteous anger is poured out and a word of hope where anyone who calls on the name of this Lord will be saved.

It’s too late to be sinless but it’s not too late to turn and trust in our Lord and it’s not too late to stand with those who do speak of the racial injustices they have experienced.

Why not this week ask permission to listen to the story of those who have come from a different culture to your own. Ask them about experiences of racism inside and outside the church.

Heavenly Father
forgives for our pride, our jealousy, our anger and our defiance against you.
Forgive us for not being our brother’s keeper.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for providing full forgiveness for any who turn and put their trust in you.
Thank you Lord that your blood offers us a word of justice and mercy.
Empower us to listen to, to speak up and stand with those who experience injustice.
In Jesus name.

Last Saturday I celebrated my 60th birthday with my family, my 3 beautiful kids asked a bunch of people to send in a video. It was very encouraging, it was like I was at my own funeral, it also felt quite unreal because I know me, I know this is not the whole truth.

Genesis 1 and 2 is so beautiful and true but it’s not the whole truth, we need Genesis 3. It explains this life marked by sin and suffering, depression and death, wars and worries, boredom and broken relationship. Without Genesis 3 you will never understand life nor Gods plan for this world.

Adam and Eve are placed in Eden with no sin, no shame, no fear, right with God, right with each other and right with creation. They have no reason to doubt God. Enter Satan, we are not told why the serpent is in the garden.

Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. ~Genesis 3:1a (NIV)

From Revelation 12 we know that this serpent is Satan:

  1. He was part of the creation.
  2. He took animal form.
  3. He is wise.

When wisdom is in evil hands it becomes cunning. Satan cunningly sow’s seeds of doubt, these doubts lie behind every sin. The first doubt, that God is not good that he doesn’t want their good. The doubt that God is not good – Satan begins with a question.

He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” ~Genesis 3:1b (NIV)

That is not of course what God said. Adam and Eve could eat from every tree except one. God is put in a bad light, He is made to look mean. Eve should have said “Get behind me Satan!” But she allows herself to be led by another voice. A voice from a part of creation that she was to rule over.

Remember friends whoever is speaking they are just another created being.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” ~Genesis 3:2-3 (NIV)

Eve corrects the Serpent but she starts to play his game. Eve said that she would die even if she touched the Tree of Good and Evil. Not true. Typical of religion – which adds to the word of God. She makes God seem harsh. Once you make God a kill joy it gives you permission to turn away from him.

One thing Eve did get right, eating of the tree will involve death, not because it was an evil tree, if they loved God they would obey him, which means, this one tree is off limits. Notice that Eve uses the same name that Satan uses for God, she does not use the personal name of the Lord God, she keeps God at a distance…Like people who talk of God but do not mention Jesus. Doubting Gods goodness now becomes doubting God’s word. What started off as a question ends up as a straight up lie.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ~Genesis 3:4 (NIV)

In other words:

  • God is a liar
  • There is no Judgment
  • You can eat and not die
  • You can play God and experience no consequences.

Think about the stupidity of sin. What has Satan ever done to deserve be listened to? Nothing!
What has God ever done that makes you want to reject him? Nothing!

Now Satan claims that God is holding Eve back from her experiencing her full potential.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ~Genesis 3:5 (NIV)

“You see, lady, God is trying to rip you off. You eat of that tree and you will be like God, you get to decide for yourself what is good and evil, right and wrong, we now have 7 Billion humans playing god. Its god-like but it’s not godly.”

Notice that Satan never once tells Eve to eat, he is not stupid.The power of suggestion, like movies, sitcoms and songs, they rarely preach, they just assume and suggest. These Satanic lies wrapped up in half-truths now rolling around in her head, Eve looks again at the tree and all of a sudden she feels like she is missing out, that God is withholding blessings. What advertisers do to us Satan does to Eve. He makes you dissatisfied with what you have, dissatisfied with your life, your choices, your spouse, your house, your car, your job, your faith.

You’re missing out.

Single, wishing you were married. Married, wishing you were married to someone else. Poor man wants to be a rich man,rich man wants to be king, king ain’t satisfied till he is ruling everything. Eve was missing out on so much.

The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom. ~Genesis 3:6 (NIV)

Every part of her will miss out. Her appetite, its good for food, her imagination, its pleasing to the eye, her mind, it would make her wise.

Let’s imagine what went on in Eve’s mind:

  • Don’t eat that tree.
  • I never notice that tree before.
  • The thought never crossed my mind to even eat from that tree
  • But now that you mention it…
  • It is a beautiful tree
  • I really like the look of the tree, it’s a sexy tree
  • I like to eat from that tree.
  • I need to eat from that tree
  • I won’t be a complete human unless I eat it.
  • You can’t tell me not to eat of that tree.
  • I will eat from that tree
  • Oh, No… I have eaten from that tree.”

Eve now becomes wise in her own eyes, deciding for herself what is right and wrong. Eve grabs for equality with God, instead of letting God tell her what is good, she now decides for herself.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ~Genesis 3:6 (NIV)

She saw, she took and she gave, she is behaving like God. It was God who saw all that he had made, it was God who took Adam and placed him in the Garden, it was God who gave Woman to Adam. Eve then compounds her sin, and gives it to Adam, the one she was created to help is hindered, not that Adam was out riding horses when it all happened. The man who named the animals failed to name the sin of Satan. Adam says nothing, does nothing and just went along with Eve.

With the sin comes the fear and shame. God goes first to Adam.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so, I hid.” ~Genesis 3:9-10 (NIV)

Once Adam and Eve would have been excited to hear that God was walking in the garden, now they are dead scared, they hid among the trees, they hid behind fig leaves. They hide behind their excuses, they hide from each other, they hide from God. We have been hiding ever since. We know there is something deeply wrong with each of us. Can you see yourself here?

Adam hides behind excuses.

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” ~Genesis 3:12 (NIV)

Man does what we men do best, BLAME. First the silence of Adam, then the hiding from God and finally, the blame shifting. Brothers, I see my sin in Adam and Adams sin in me. 

Imagine a different story.

As Eve was listening to the serpent Adam said “Eve please don’t listen Satan is trying to rip you off.” but Adam remained passive and silent.

Imagine as Eve went to reach out for the tree, Adam gently held her and says ‘I beg you Eve don’t do it -for our sake and for Gods sake.”

Imagine as Eve handed over the fruit to Adam he just said “Darling, I will not share in your sin, God has only ever been good to us.”

Imagine after he ate he led his wife by falling to his knees and cried out “Have mercy on us for we have sinned against you Lord”

NO, for Adam there is just the silence, hiding, excuses and then the blaming.

How many times has Sandy, my wife, asked me about something and I’m half listening but I say yes to end the conversation then it blows up and I blame her.

I remember my parents both laughing at me sliding in the back yard after heavy rain fall. When I hurt myself, my Dad turns to Mum and says “Why did you let him play in backyard?”

Blaming is not just a male problem.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~Genesis 3:13 (NIV)

Eve’s deception is complete. Adam blames Eve and she blames the serpent. I was tricked again, it’s not my fault. The order of creation is turned upside down and we have been buck passing ever since.

Do you know the Christian version of this? 

When we blame Adam and Eve for the fall we blame God for putting Satan in the garden. We blame God for creating us knowing we would sin and we blame God for making Adam our representative. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of humanity, the blame is laid totally at the feet of humans. 

This is our story as well. 

The temptations to lust for more, the doubt that God will keep his word, the lie that God is ripping us of, the running away from God, the hiding from God, the blaming that its everyone’s fault but mine. Its not the devil made me do it.

And now the judgment, God takes us and himself very seriously, understand this, when God reimposes his will over a rebel, it always comes with a quota of pain. The snake is cursed and the women will suffer child birth. I asked one mother ‘How was the birth?’ “It was horrendous” 

The battle of the sexes begins here.

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” ~Genesis 2:16c (NIV)

Woman’s temptation is to overrule her man and Man’s temptation will be abuse his women. The ground is cursed and work scared with pain and frustration. Worst of all, we are all ejected from the garden and return to the dust of the earth. This is the great holocaust. This one sin introduces sin and death to every human.

But where sin increased Grace abounds all the more.

  1. God in his kindness lets Adam live for 930 years. God will not give up on us humans and Eve will be the mother of every living person.
  2. God in his kindness provides proper clothes to cover their naked shame. But not without the shedding of blood to garments of skin.
  3. But best of all God issues a word of hope.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” ~Genesis 3:15 (NIV)

It speaks of a war to end all wars between a son of Adam and Satan. Its fought in another garden, The Garden of Gethsemane in which Jesus the Son of Man cries out, “Not my will but yours be done.”

And there on another tree of life our forgiveness is purchased by the obedience of Jesus

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” ~1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

There is a way back into a better garden. A paradise where there is no Satan and no sin. You may think it’s unfair that Adams sin impacts you. If you think it’s unfair that Adams sin made you a sinner, then it’s unfair that Jesus obedience can make you a forgiven saint.

Only 2 people have made a difference in this world, the rest of us are footnotes. You become a child of Adam by birth, you become a child of God by faith.

Dear Father,

We confess that we are like our first parents, Adam and Eve.
We have listened to the lies of Satan.
We have doubted your goodness Lord and rebelled.
We have doubted your word and sinned against you.
We have kept you at a distance.
Forgive us for hiding from you, and blaming others.
Today we own our sin, and throw ourselves upon your mercy.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for your obedience on the cross;
For bearing our sins and taking our blame.
Thank you, for letting us back into your presence.
Help us to resist the lies of Satan.
For you are good, and you are trustworthy.

In Jesus name, Amen

I’m Dave Jensen and I’m so excited to be here today, especially as we’re digging into a topic that is close to my heart, the topic of relationships. I don’t know what your experience of relationships have been, in my time I’ve seen some great ones and some bad ones. 

Probably the most significant relationship in my childhood was that of my parents. My parent’s marriage was and is incredible, they’ve been married for 51 years. They met when they were kids, Mum was dropped off at church for cheap baby sitting and Dad was dropped off so his parents could play golf. 

My parent’s marriage has been the bedrock of my entire family, from it sprung most of my other relationships, certainly growing up. Cousins, family friends and church friends, when I think back to my childhood I don’t remember tv or video games, I remember people, wonderful, warm memories, my fondest memories are about people. 

But I’ve also been involved in some painful ones too. 

I became a Christian when I was 28 but before that I was married and divorced in my early 20s, a marriage which produced 2 amazing kids. Divorce hurts, it hurts everyone involved, the kids, my parents, not to mention my ex wife and I. It created a huge wound in me which I carried around within me for many years, so painful that I actually couldn’t talk about it for many years. 

I wonder if that’s been your experience. Think of your fondest memories, I bet they’re about times you’ve shared with people. But then, think of your most painful memories, again almost always involving people. Relationships are incredibly powerful aren’t they? They have the power to fill us with incredible joy but also the power to cause immense pain. 

The question is – why? What is it about how we relate to other people that is so powerful? Why do relationships have the ability for the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows? 

But even deeper than that, is it possible for us to relate in marriage, in friendship, in church community in a way where we don’t keep seeing things break down and cause havoc, but rather be a source of joy and happiness for us? 

God is not a silent God, He speaks and He speaks directly about this topic, and we have few better players to hear from than by observing the very first human relationship, between the very first people. 

What we see here are not just helpful guidelines for us in relating to one another, but also the idea that actually the power in relationships is not accidental, it’s intentional and it points us to a deeper purpose at play that God has in bringing us together. 

Genesis 1, which you looked at a few weeks ago talks all about Gods creation of all things. It’s this incredible aerial, birds-eye view of creation. Now, if you remember, at the end of most days of creation God would look back and assess his handiwork and say ‘this is good’. The last thing he creates is people and he takes it one step further and says ‘this is VERY good’. God has made everything and he’s pleased with it all. 

That is until now. The Bible reading we had given for us starts with something very different.

Up until verse 18 everything has still been good, good, very good but then: 

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone… ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

This is good, good, good, very good. But now this is NOT good. What is it? Man’s alone-ness, loneliness. And that shouldn’t surprise us because God, the creator, has never been alone. In chapter 1 you see that he is the trinity, in constant community within himself, never lonely or needy. All eternity past and future in community. 

And just as he is, so we are designed by him for relationships, in community. We are designed for relationships with one another. That is why loneliness is such a terrible thing. 

A death row documentary shows prisoners where the worst punishment was isolation. 23 hours a day alone with 1 hour for exercise in a cage. The state of Florida knew to really hurt a man you cut him off from people. It made them deranged, and was a path towards insanity. 

Covid19 in isolation. We’re designed to relate to each other and so that’s why God does something about it. 

…I will make a helper suitable for him. ~Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

And so, in verses 21 and 22 we read how God made a woman out of the rib of Adam. In the woman the suitable helper was created. 

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. ~Genesis 2:21-22 (NIV)

In the woman, Eve, the suitable helper for Adam was created. I know to our 21st century ears, that sounds incredibly sexist and demeaning, like God is giving Adam a maid or a slave, but that’s not the meaning of the term. The phrase suitable helper is used 16 times in the Bible and 13 of those times it’s used for God himself, being a suitable helper for his people Israel. So, this is not an expression of superiority but rather of equal but different partnership. We see here Adams desire for relationship being completely fulfilled in Eve, his wife. 

So we have what is not good, loneliness and God reaching into the middle of that and giving us each other… other people. The illness is loneliness and the cure is each other! 

We were designed for relationships, to know and be known, to love and be loved in return. You were created to be fulfilled by others but also to fulfil others. 

And we don’t just get this concept in Genesis but all throughout the rest of the Bible. We see it here, in husband and wife. Later, with children, then with friends and ultimately, in the church. 

Why do relationships have so much power over us? Because God says the most important thing about your life is relationship. Not accomplishment or achievement, it’s people. That’s the heart of life. Relationships are what makes life mean anything. That’s why when it’s good it’s amazing. But when it’s bad it’s truly awful. 

So, the question is, how do we take that principle, that relationships are what matter most and apply it to our relationships in order to make them what God designed them to be: loving, caring, thoughtful? 

Is it possible that our lives don’t have to be defined by a lifetime of bitterness and anger and resentment but instead can be defined by mutually loving and caring relationships? 

The answer is – yes! That’s why God made you that way and He shows us how in the passage. 

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. ~Genesis 2:23-25 (NIV)

How can they feel no shame? This is a picture of life with no sin. Living life the way it was designed, living life with God at the centre. 

You see, God has designed you to relate not just with each other but with Him. In fact, even more than that, He has designed you to best relate to one another when you’re in a relationship with him. 

It’s crucial that we don’t forget Gods presence here. This relationship is an incredible one, but not because of the two people involved but because they were in constant relationship with both each other, and with God. The vertical and the horizontal. This is a picture of a relationship with each other but with God at the centre. 

The meaning of life, this isn’t a small thing. In fact, let me say outright, I believe this concept, knowing and being known by God and by people is at the very centre of what it means to be alive. To be living life the way you were designed. I don’t think it’s possible to live a meaningful life without both of these things. 

A little bit later, Jesus addresses the same issue. In Matthew 22, a man approached Jesus and asked him straight, what does God want from us? 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ~Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Love your neighbour as yourself, value relationships, put other people first, relate to other people in community. But don’t miss the other part. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

Jesus says, among all the relationships in life, it’s relationship with God that matters the most. That’s what life is all about. That’s the main thing. That’s what God made you for.  

And yet it’s interesting, that whilst most of us would acknowledge that relating to other people is important, even though most people in this country say they believe in Gods existence, the truth is he hardly ever comes up on our radar. We just don’t think about him or acknowledge him. And it’s because of that that Jesus was sent to earth. 

Jesus was sent to earth not to teach religious people to be good, or to give you life tips, but for a far deeper purpose. To reconcile you to God. To bring you into relationship with God. He died on the cross taking the punishment we deserve so it could happen. 

Jesus is the best argument for the truthfulness of what he’s saying. Not only did he speak about it and offer it, He demonstrated it. 

You see – at the heart of the universe something truly incredible is going on. There is a God who made you, who loves you and who wants to know you, who has moved heaven and earth in order for that to happen. 

So, what do you need to do? 

All you need to do is say Yes to God. Accept his offer of a relationship and realise you need to apologise for the way you’ve treated him, realise you need forgiveness and put your faith in him. 

The pandemic has caused a worldwide financial crisis. No country is exempt. We are thankful for the government stimulus package and job keeper allowance, but we know unemployment is growing and many have lost their jobs. Then there are those who have never worked harder, especially our heroes in the essential services. 

Working from home has come as a blessing for many families. MBMers have told me they love having lunch with their kids and having no travel time. For other’s the novelty is over and they feel they are in a pressure cooker ready to explode. Trying to run a zoom meeting for work with a 2 year old banging on the door needing their nappy changed. 

With each person on their own device for study or work, there is pressure at home for space and internet bandwidth   

  • More of us have headaches, 
  • We are finding it hard to concentrate
  • We can’t get through out to do list 
  • Everything seems harder. But we are not sure why.

There is no separation of work and home. We are in “groundhog day” – not sure which day it is. This season of Covid19 might just be the best time to do some thinking about work and rest. 

So let’s go to the beginning. Genesis 1 gives the aerial shot 10,000 metres up in the air. Genesis 2 we fly down low and take a closer look at Adam and Eve. As God rests from his work of creation, so Man begins his work in creation

In Genesis 2 we begin with what is not there. The earth is vacant, no plant, no rain and no imager bearer. When Adam is mentioned, he is immediately connected with work

…and there was no one to work the ground ~Genesis 2:5c (NIV)

It’s almost as if creation is waiting for humans. Adam is part of creation. He is not formed from the animals; he is from the dust of the earth. God gives him mouth to mouth resuscitation and breathes life into Adam. Adam is totally dependent on God’s Spirit for life. While God introduces himself with the general name of  Elohim – Genesis 1

In Genesis 2 God gives his personal name, I think for two reasons:

  1. The God of Israel is the God who created the heavens and the earth
  2. God gives his personal name because he wants a personal relationship with humans, but on his terms. That is why Adam is on probation, he can access the tree of life if he refuses to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he will return to the dust of the earth. Adam is placed in the garden within creation

Eden is viewed as a real place in real time. Two of the four rivers are known to us, the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is not middle earth. It is not a religious picture, but the words used to describe the garden are similar to the temple that would come much later. The precious metals and jewels in Genesis 2 were used to decorate the temple and priest  

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

The 2 words for Adam to work and take care of the garden are the same words used to describe the priests work in the tabernacle and temple.

They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, by doing the work of the tabernacle. ~Numbers 3:8 (NIV)

The point is that all of life is holy, work is holy and you worship God in your work. God placed man to work and care for the garden.

In question time last week someone asked about Christians attitude to the environment. 

Here are 4 principles

  1. God entrusted the earth to us to steward. We give an account for how we care for it. 
  2. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. It could be in the next 10 minutes or next 1000 years.
  3. Which means if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves we must pass this planet on to the next generation better than we received it.
  4. Never forget creation is groaning and what its ultimately looking toward is resurrection of Christians who will spearhead the new creation. Work is more than taking care of our environment. We are to Work in this age, but work for the age to come.

God is both white collar and blue collar, He doesn’t just give the orders, He gets down and dirty.

The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. ~Psalm 95:5 (NIV)

God is pictured proudly working with his hands. When my farming cousin was told that my niece is a doctor he said, “Yes but can she grow spinach?” Farmers need doctors and doctors need farmers and both need garbage collectors. God honours all kinds of work and so should we. All work expresses the character of God.

Clean a wardrobe You reflect that God creates order out of chaos
Service a car You reflect Gods protection for people
Work at Pizza Hut You reflect that God is the great provider of food
Nurse a wound You reflect Gods desire to restore life
Mother an infant You reflect Gods love for his children

The challenge for you this week is this:
How does your work reflect Gods character and purpose?

God did not put man in the garden to sit on a banana chair by the side of a pool sucking on a Pina Colada. Adam tilled the soil, he named the animals, he subdued the earth.

As Genesis goes on. Cities are built, music is created and  technology is developed. Work is good. If your dream is to make $4 million by 40 and sit on a beach and do  nothing. Repent of that dream! Work is given as a gift to humans. This explains why when we cant work we are so unhappy. With growing unemployment we must take care of those who have lost their jobs   

By work I’m not just referring to paid work. 

  • If you’re unemployed then looking for work is your job 
  • If you’re sick getting better is your work 
  • If you’re a student your study is your work
  • There is volunteer work, 
  • There is domestic work from washing up to mowing the lawn 
  • There is relational work such as parenting and being a grandparent or caring for your nephew. 

And there is the work of the Lord and every Christian can and should be involved. But whatever joy we find in our job, Friday afternoons are still better than Monday mornings

After Adam sinned God said:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, ~Genesis 3:17b-19 (NIV)

Every time Adam works the soil it will cause him much pain and frustration, it will have its thorns and thistles, he will work by the sweat of his brow. Covid19 has added to the frustrations of work. I’m trying to redeem the time but it’s like I’m working in a fog, like swimming in sludge, getting less done, but I just need to accept that. This pandemic has tuned us to the futility of work 

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? ~Ecclesiastes 2:17-18 (NIV)

No matter how hard you work, all your efforts, all goods and services you produce they all have a use by date. Sooner or later, the work you do or the money you make from it will eventually come to nothing.

I was talking to one friend in the IT area. One moment his program was cutting edge and then 2 years later, no one was interested. That is why Jesus said don’t work for food that spoils.

We must work in this age, but we work for the age to come. The work itself doesn’t last. Doctors heal the body, but the body eventually dies. Carpenters build a house, but the house gets knocked down. Your work will not last, but the glory you gave God in your work will. 

Work for the glory of God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Your work will not last but the pleasure you gave God will endure forever.

I have worked in many jobs, on a farm, as a furniture removalist, for MacDonald’s, in a Nursery, at a Chicken abattoir, painting houses, being a student, working as a kitchen hand, a Clerk for the NSW Health commission, employed as a Social worker for Anglicare and now your minister. Very different wages, very different work conditions but:

  • Every job can glorify God 
  • Every job creates order out of chaos 
  • Every job is to seek to love others. 

Work is about relationships. Do you know why I know that? Because when someone says “I’m stressed at work” I always say “Who is it?” Behind stress is usually a person putting pressure, criticizing, undermining, gossiping, unrealistic deadlines, etc. It’s not so much what you do but how you treat those at work.

When the New Testament speaks about work its often tied to relationships. Its about your boss, your workers, your workmates or your clients and customers or your government and of course your God. It’s not so much what you do but how you do it. Your work wont last but your love will pass on into eternity. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

Even the money you earn from your work is about relationships as you support your family, the poor, the spread of the gospel, your church staff, but most of all your work is tied to your relationship with God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. ~Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Work is one sphere in which you worship God. So, when you leave for work and they ask where are you going? Tell them, you’re off to worship God. But you wont worship God if you’re a workaholic. 

There is a Work/Rest rhythm in Genesis 1 and 2 we need to follow. We Work hard and rest well. We must rest from our labours because we are not God, we have bodies and minds that need to be refreshed. We rest because when we put down our tools, we are saying God will take care of my needs.

We rest from the pressure to perform, I am not my job, my identity is that I am a child of God and not how much I make and how much respect my job gives me. So, if I lose my job, it will disappoint me but it will not devastate me. We can rest from thinking my good works make me acceptable to God. 

There is a deep rest in knowing Christ who says, ‘your value comes from my work at the cross not your work during the week’ and with it a freedom to please God by doing the work of the Lord, to serve his people and the cause of Christ. 

Our Jobs have meaning but they are not the meaning of life.

During the 90s my wife Sandy was seriously sick and I thought I would have to leave the demands of being a pastor to care for her. It was then I found that my identity had shifted from being a Son of God to being a Pastor. I had to work again through who I was. Could I walk away from the role as Pastor? 

I was not walking away from giving myself fully to the work of the Lord but from my role as Pastor. I grasped afresh that Jesus is enough, I didn’t need to be the pastor of MBM. As it turned out I didn’t need to resign as Sandy’s health improved. She felt loved and since then I have worked from a different place. I serve from a place where Jesus is enough! It was a lesson I would have to learn many times again. 

Dear Father,

Thank you that we can worship you in our work.That our work has meaning, but help us to know that it is not the meaning of life. Thank you Lord for offering us physical rest. Rest that refreshes our body. Rest that refreshes our soul. Rest in your work at the cross-where forgiveness is found.Praise you Lord that we are now free to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

In Jesus name, Amen.

What kind of an animal is a human? Mark Twain once said that “Man is the only animal that blushes, man is the only animal that needs to blush”. I remember hearing of 3 teenagers who set alight a homeless man in the city and watched him burn to death. What kind of animal is man? 

This Psalm wants to answer the question ‘what is a human?’

But it will do so in terms of God and it will do so as a means of praising God.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. ~Psalm 8:1 (NIV)

The Psalm opens and closes in a song of praise. It declares not of the magnificence of creation but the magnificence of the God of creation. A Psalm that comes from the lips of King David. What set us apart from the rest of creation is that we chose to praise or not praise our God. David celebrates how God’s name, that is his character, is seen at work in the universe. Both the heavens and the earth wreak of the majesty of God. Its not just kings or galaxies that praise God, praise falls off the lips of the smallest infant.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. ~Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

As Spurgeon said, ‘Children have a way of reminding us of the God we forget’. 

Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 21 and applies it to himself. The religious leaders see Jesus perform miracles in the temple, hear the children praise Jesus and they are angry. They say to Jesus “Do you hear what these children are saying” In other words shut them up, they are blaspheming. The praise of the insignificant kid – shut the mouths of the arrogant.

When my daughter was 5 years old, she was talking about how she loved Jesus who died on the cross for her. I said to her “Maddy, you know more than 90% of all the professors in all the Universities in all the world.” She says, “Really Daddy?! Wow. What is a professor?” She may not know what a professor is but she praises the God who created the world and sent his Son to die for her.

But the wonder of creation became the backdrop for David to wonder at Gods favour on us.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? ~Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

With the universe being so big and we being so small, why do we matter so much to God? We are not the biggest species of creation, we don’t live the longest, we are certainly not the fastest but we are the ones God has bestowed his care on. Jesus picks up the idea of our precious place

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. ~Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

Are you not as valuable than they? No
Are you not more valuable than they? No
Are you not much more valuable than they? YES

Notice the royal language? You don’t have to live in Buckingham palace to be royalty.

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. ~Psalm 8:5 (NIV)

Just a little lower than the angels, a little lower for a little while. We not told that we will judge the angels. We not told that they are servants sent to serve us. We humans alone bear the title ‘Made in the Image of God’

Friends, the only thing allowed to represent God on this earth is you. Both male and female are involved in ruling this creation as image bearers. We were made as the pinnacle of creation, to rule and care for this world under God. When an ancient ruler conquered a land, they would place an image of the king to indicate who now rules the land

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: ~Psalm 8:6 (NIV)

Psalm 8 is a commentary on Genesis 1:26-27, we were not made side by side with the rest of creation, we were made to rule the world under God. Not only are we uniquely cared for by God, we are given that amazing privilege of ruling over it. With power comes responsibility and we will give an account for how we live our lives.

A pure evolutionary world view stole our uniqueness, a mindset that puts our existence solely as the result of time and chance. Where one species is ranked of equal value to another, so that more tears are shed over 5 beached whales than 80,000 human abortions which happen each year. Being an image bearer is a status that is given not earnt by our performance or ability.

Peter Singer, an ethics philosopher in Princeton said “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons… therefore, the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” How disrespectful to God and destructive to humans.

You will deny God his praise if you treat humans as no different to animals. You will deny God his praise if you view humans like they are gods. Only when humans are viewed as part of creation and ruling over it under God will you say “O, Lord our Lord how majestic is your name.” Of all creatures, He has given to us schmucks the right to rule.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. ~Psalm 8:6-8 (NIV)

It is quite comprehensive. The more we walk on this planet the more we seem to rule. We ride horses they don’t ride us. We discovered penicillin and the fever goes. We invent refrigeration and enjoy fruit all year round. There seems to be nothing we can’t do. But Hebrews 2:8 tells us that this seems overstated.

At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. (NIV)

We know that everything is not subject to us. Psalm 8 carries a partial truth, not the whole truth.

As Francis Schaeffer rightly put it, we are a glorious ruin—part glory and part ruin.

Our control of the world is not so complete after all. Earthquakes and floods wreak havoc, for every wave we ride, we get dumped by another. Sometimes we catch the fish and sometimes a white pointer takes a bite out of us. Not the least we cant keep ourselves alive. Right now we are shut in 4 walls with lives lost and an economy that is nose diving.

I remember one holiday where it all went wrong. Kiama-Holidays, I forgot the keys to my in laws who live in Kiama and they were away. I called my Father in law and he said if you gently slide the kitchen window you will get through. I slide the window and it collapsed into the kitchen, glass was everywhere and I didn’t realise that the soil of the plant fell into the drain.

The drain was blocked and we spent the rest of the next day. Unblocking it. While the drain was blocked it flooded the dishwasher, vomiting suds. While unblocking the drain the TV co-incidentally breaks down. That next afternoon we discovered that the hose to the washing machine down stairs was split and flooded the down stairs. At present we do not see everything subject to him. 

I decided to reclaim the holiday and show my son how to fly a kite. A good windy day is ideal on the Kiama Beach for flying a kite and I felt I could master the winds. Ten bronzed Aussie surfers with arms folded leaning on the surf club wall having a good laugh at this father trying to impress an embarrassed son.

My son finally said “can we go home.” I was feeling sorry for myself but when I watched the news that night, I heard of a tragic family from Pakistan who were swept into the water near the blow hole. My friend had to go with the Father and help identify his drowned daughters.

At present we do not see everything subject to him. Even if we have managed to tame animals, we cant tame something as small as the tongue:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. ~James 3:7-9 (NIV)

One moment we sing, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name”; the next we tell our loved ones to shut up! Get out, get lost or I hate you! Rule the world? We can’t even rule the words that leave our mouths and destroy our relationships.

We can’t even keep ourselves alive. Sin and death mock us. They are now ruling. Death is the final declaration that we do not ultimately rule. The writer of Hebrews sees the hope of Psalm 8 fulfilled specifically in Jesus: He is the true image of God.

At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. ~Hebrews 2:8-9 (NIV)

Everything hoped for in humans is realized in Jesus. His rule was evident throughout his earthly life.

  • When caught in a storm -he said shut up
  • When confronted by demons -he said get out
  • When faced with a disabled man he said get up
  • When he met men who loved God he said follow me.

He could look people in the eye and say, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:45). Jesus even has authority over death: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17). Jesus came to earth for us to reclaim our true humanity.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. ~Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

Before Christ shares death with us, he tastes death for us. At its core, Christ’s death on the cross is an act of liberation, freeing us humans to live life without the fear of death.

My daughter Amy once asked my wife, “Mum, can you say ‘no’ to dying?” It’s a good question. The answer, as we all know, is, “No”. That is why we are described in Hebrews as being enslaved to the fear of death. We are such a long way from our high calling to be crowned with glory and honour. The most profound paradoxes of the human condition. 

God placed eternity in our hearts, and yet we walk in the valley of the shadow of death. Our fear of death has many faces, from humour to despair. It’s captured in one comedian who said:

“I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” (Eric Lax, Conversations with Woody Allen, Knopf, New York, 2009, p. 84.)

Albert Camus wrote that “life is a sustained protest against death”

It’s as if our whole life is compressed into the last 5 seconds before we drive the car into a brick wall at 100 km per hour, with his foot pressed hard on the brake…trying to stop the inevitable. As a result, many spend their lives fearing death or some refuse to go to funerals. Some develop health obsessions, trying to milk another five years out of life, while others try to cram ten lifetimes into one because one is all they have. 

Many are hopeful that they will live on in their children or in their dreams. These are all profoundly unsatisfying solutions. In Christ, death has been defeated in history. At the end of history, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed.

So, we who have been set free are no longer shamed by death and slavery to sin, we are liberated to praise God for our renewed humanity.

Not long after I joined the church staff team, Les Vitnell, the senor minister developed cancer. I went to visit him just before he died. As I stood at his bedside, I asked him this question: “Les, what is it like to know that within 24 hours you are going to be in the presence of God?” With a smile he said, “Ray, I have to tell you, I’m a little excited!” I was touch jealous, he knew his Saviour, who set him free from the fear of death.

Whatever reasons King David had for thanking God, we who live after the resurrection of Jesus Christ have so many more reasons. So, let us join David and declare:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~Psalm 8:9 (NIV)

We are starting a new series on Genesis 1-12. It’s called The Blueprint, as it lays the foundations for God’s great plan to save a people for himself. 

I was talking to someone who said “I don’t know why I am so afraid to open the bible and read it.” They then said “I think it’s because I don’t want to hand over control of my life.” But what is the alternative? We can’t keep ourselves alive. The world has been brought to it’s knees by one mutant virus.

So, let go to Genesis 1 for there we see an awesome God who creates an awesome universe, worthy of our worship, He can be trusted.

1. God is awesome because He alone is the creator.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ~Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

Before its about us its about God. Not gods but God – Just one. Unlike the movie Thor who shares the heavens with a bunch of other gods fighting it out, God has no peer! He alone creates, He will not share his glory with another.

In the beginning God. There is no attempt to prove the existence of God. God’s finger prints are all over his creation.

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 people are without excuse. ~Romans 1:20 (NIV)

2. God is awesome because he creates out of nothing.

The fancy word is Ex nihilo. God is not like a Do it Yourself mum or dad who goes to Bunnings, buys wood nails and glue and makes a chair. ‘In the beginning’ refers to a starting point, before which only God existed. Christianity has always taught there was a beginning to the universe. It took Science as recent as the 1960s and the Big Bang theory to catch up. All matter had a starting point.

3. God is awesome because he created everything.

“Heavens and Earth” is code for all things. God is not just the God of Israel, He is not just the God of this earth. He is the God of the known and unknown universe, all 100 trillion galaxies that make up our universe. That is why we should be impressed by creation, but we must only worship its creator. Although I do like to hug the odd tree.

God created the Heaven and the earth that includes the spiritual beings. That is why the right response is worship. Let’s join the chorus of praise and say together:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” ~Revelation 4:11 (NIV)

As my wife Sandy walks each day, she thanks God for different parts of creation, she has noticed it helps her anxiety. God may have rested from his creating work but he has not rested from his sustaining work. “In him we live and move and have our being” That would include the 37 trillions cells that make up your body.

And as Bill Bryson said “each one operating in more or less perfect concert more or less all the time.” (Bill Bryson The Body p9) 

Many claim that the simple cell evolved by chance into complex life forms. The simple cell is not so simple, its more like a complex factory at work as seen in this image.

4. God is awesome because he creates by his powerful word.

Christians may differ on how long it took, but all agree that God created the universe by the power of his word, by just talking. We read again and again “and God said… and it was so”. 100% success rate.

I love to watch Grand Designs UK. Many plan to be build their dream house in 9 months and 2 years later the house is still not finished and they have blown their budget. 

God speaks and all matter, time, energy, and space came into being. Like Father like Son, in Mark 4, Jesus is woken up on a boat caught in a massive storm, half awake Jesus tells the storm to shut up! and immediately it collapses into ideal lake conditions. The disciples say to each other, “Who is this, even the winds and waves obey him” He calms raging storms with a simple word.

Notice how the process is so effortless with God. God doesn’t strain, and he doesn’t sweat, no resistance, very different from the other ancient creation stories, like Enuma Elish, where one god kills another god and slices it in two, the upper part is heaven and the lower part is earth. What we get “Let there be light” and the universe comes alive. Gods word never returns empty.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” ~Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

That is just as true when God’s word leaves your mouth about Jesus, people are born again and become a new creation. Do you have any idea how powerful God’s word is? Ponder the sheer size of creation. If you were travelling at the speed of light, at 300,000 kms per second, in one second you would circle the earth 7 times.  

At that speed it would take 100,000 light years to cross the galaxy and 20,000,000 light years to reach the next cluster of galaxies and you have only just begun to explore the universe. And all of it created by God’s word. That’s is why God told his anxious people in Exile.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? ~Isaiah 40:12 (NIV)

God really does have the whole world in his hands. 

Anyone having problems trusting in that God in COVID-19?

5. God is awesome because his creation is a sheer act of Grace

We did nothing to earn or deserve to be created. And then God stamped us humans with his image. We go from nothing to something to someone to sons of God. God could have created a world to glorify him and left us out of the picture and saved himself a lot of hurt. But he created it for us to rule and care and enjoy and to glorify him. Knowing we would break his heart. It wasn’t because he was lonely.

6. God is awesome because He is more than one person.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. ~Genesis 1:26 (NIV)

Not my image, my likeness, our image, our likeness. God takes counsel not with the angels but with himself. Father, Son and Spirit. What is hinted at in Genesis 1 is made clear in gospels about Jesus the Word of God who becomes flesh, we read in John 1:3

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (NIV)

Jesus is not ‘plan b’, downloaded to fix up the problem of sin that God did not see coming. As Melito said in the 2nd century, ‘He who hung the earth in its place, hung there on the cross’ 

I’m always stunned when I realise that we humans crucified the creator. We killed author of life.

7. Our God is awesome because He creates with purpose and order.

Genesis 1 moves from chaos to order.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ~Genesis 1:2 (NIV)

And that is not good. But what is good is when the Spirit turns dark into light, when the formless is given shape, when empty becomes full of life. So, God creates the space then fills:

Day 1 he creates light and Day 4 he makes the Sun, Moon and stars.

Day 2 he separates the water below from the sky above and Day 5 he fills the sky with birds and fills the water with fish.

Day 3 he makes land and Day 6 he fills the land with animals and finally humans.

We are clearly not told everything. In my bible translation there are only 813 words which make up Genisis 1. My iphone instruction manual has over 73,000 words.

At MBM we hold with an open hand on the different views of the age of the universe. For some hold to a young earth and others hold to an old earth. For some, God directed form of evolution. Each with their problems but what is clear, no species of life exists without God’s direct hand. This is a closed hand issue. Non negotiable.

It’s worth remembering that Charles Darwin, who came up with Evolution remained a believer in God. In his autobiography he thought it impossible to conclude that ‘blind chance or necessity’ could account for ‘this immense and wonderful universe including man.’

Sir Fred Hoyle, English Astronomer, not a Christian, said that the idea of the origin of life by chance is absurd. Even a 15 billion year old universe is too short for the formation of complex higher life by chance. Once an atheist, he agreed that there was an external, intelligent designer.

The God of Genesis 1 is that external intelligent designer, He alone commands, speaks, names, creates, separates and blesses. God is the main character of this story. Genesis 1 reduces fear and makes science possible. The sun and moon that were worshipped as gods are not even given names just told to do their job and they can be studied. That is why when Christianity comes to town superstitions go and modern science is born. 

There is only one God and who created an ordered world. Its able to be studied by his image bearers for God’s glory and our good.

8. Our God is awesome because his creation is so diverse and fruitful.

There is so much variety. The skies, like the seas, like the land are teeming with life. God blesses his creation and orders it to reproduce and fill the earth.

God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” ~Genesis 1:22 (NIV)

The life giver calls forth more life, each according to their kind. There are 20,000 types of butterflies. Do you know how many different types of moths? 160,000. 200 hundred would have been more than enough. Don’t you think!? Such diversity reveals God’s awesome wisdom and Glory.

Do you know how many types of humans there are? Just 2 – Male and Female. Matt Fuller helpfully writes, “All creatures are made ‘according to their kinds’; there are different species within fish, birds, reptiles and mammals. Yet the only distinction in humanity is male and female.

Both made in God’s image and both given pride of place in this creation

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

How you understand the world came into being and how you see the place of humans has a massive flow on. Reject Genesis 1 and Lawrence Krauss (A Universe from Nothing) is right

“The lessons I want to give people, is you’re more insignificant than you ever thought, and the future is miserable.”

Reject Genesis and the most basic human rights are lost. Yuval Harari (Noah Harari Sapiens 122) wrote in his book Sapiens:

“According to the science of biology, people were not ‘created’. They have evolved. And they certainly did not evolve to be ‘equal’. The idea of equality is inextricably intertwined with the idea of creation. The Americans got the idea of equality from Christianity, … ‘Created equal’ should therefore be translated into ‘evolved differently.’”

Harari states that human rights exist only in the imagination. You can see the problem, this world view leads to racism and chaos. Harari then quotes Voltaire:

“There is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night”

But we have an Awesome creator who made an awesome universe and has graced every human male and female a special place. God alone is worthy to be worshipped. God is so adamant about doing you good that He will bring about a new heaven and earth and the rest promised on the 7th day will be yours for ever more. A new heaven and new earth where there is no more crying or grief or pain. 

Soon after Sandy and I were married, one of her school friends, Lorraine died in a car accident. Lorraine was recently married and living in Kurrajong and she was driving from the school where she taught. An oncoming truck crossed lanes and tragically killed her in a head on. It was a Thursday afternoon.

On the Monday night before she died her bible study group was studying Genesis 1. She shared how “If God went to all the trouble of making this wonderful world which he knew would come to an end, imagine what the next one will be like. Little did she know she was about to find out. Lorriane still speaks to us …. We have an awesome creator who made an awesome universe and is worthy of our worship.

Father God,

You are an awesome God and you made an awesome creation. Your power is breathtaking, bringing the universe into being by the power of your word. You are so worthy of our praise and thanksgiving. You are so deserving of our trust and obedience. 

We acknowledge that our creation is an act of grace. We did not deserve it. 

We acknowledge that our status as image bearers is a greater act of grace.

So, we thank you and praise you for being good and for doing us so much good. May we live for your glory and take time to look at creation and praise you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

That is the task of every sermon because the word of God is a double edge sword, it comforts those afflicted by guilt and suffering and it afflicts those comfortable with unconfessed sin and lukewarm Christianity.

Some days you walk out of church, when we had a church building to walk out of, thrilled over your assurance in Christ, over the moon that God will remember your sin no more and other days you walk out convicted of sin, broken and contrite, knowing you are presuming on the grace of God. 

Comfort those who are afflicted. Afflict those who are comfortable in their sin. That is what Isaiah is about, Chapter 1-39, God afflicted Israel who were comfortable in their sin, Chapter 40 opens with a word of comfort to a people who felt God had forgotten them.

“My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? ~Isaiah 40:27b (NIV)

God had abandoned them in their suffering. Maybe that is where you’re at today…One journalist said that this is the year God forgot, with Bushfires, Drought and COVID-19. The word of Comfort verses 1-2, in a sense God recommissions Isaiah to comfort his people.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. ~Isaiah. 40:1-2 (NIV)

The God who engraved his peoples name on the palm of his hand had not forgotten her. Comfort, comfort my people. The word Comfort means God stands with his people to strengthen them. So important it is repeated, comfort, comfort. Notice God is saying you are still ‘My people’. I am still your God.” I’m going no where.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. ~Isaiah 40:1a (NIV)

The 70 years of exile was not permanent rejection, but temporary discipline. It is a word of comfort – spoken with tenderness, lit into the heart, to be felt. God did not wake up one morning in a good mood and said ‘I think I will change my mind and end the exile.’

Let’s take a step back, in exile Israel lost her land, her king, her temple, her wealth, her fame and for 70 years living under foreign rule. But now her sins were paid for she was coming home, the jail term was up, the sentence has been served.

We need to be careful here. It’s not that anyone can fully pay for their sin on earth. For example, a person can spend 20 years in jail for a murder and we may even say the criminal has paid his debt to society, he has served his sentence, he is free to go, but he has not paid his debt to God and neither have we.

Each of us accumulates a debt to God for a life lived in sin but that is ultimately only paid in one of two places, either at the cross by Jesus, once and for all or in hell by any who reject Jesus for ever. 

Friends from another angle, this exile was a time of discipline and the discipline is over. Don’t confuse the discipline for the Lord and the ultimate punishment of the Lord. Don’t confuse the pain of discipline with the idea that God is punishing or rejecting you. We must keep the same principle when we discipline our own kids or kids in our program.

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. ~Proverbs 19:18 (NIV)

If you don’t discipline you are telling your kids and that don’t matter. You set them up to suffer much more later in life. The first time some kids find out about consequence is when they are being crashed tackled by a policeman. 

But keep in mind that as parents:

  • The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty.
  • The purpose of discipline is to shape character
  • The focus of punishment is on the past – what they have done wrong.
  • The focus of discipline is on the future – what you can be.
  • The attitude behind punishment is anger.
  • The attitude behind discipline is love.

If you discipline in anger then all it will do is produce resentment. 

Israel’s time of discipline is over, it’s time to come home. We have three voices of Comfort. The first voice calls out, God is leading his people home. 

1. Glory of God

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ~Isaiah 40:3-5 (NIV)

God is bringing his people home, He is leading them back to the promised land, though the wilderness. So, the voice is saying get ready everybody – clear the decks – and God himself will do it. 

You take the highway up to the north coast, you appreciate the language of levelling mountains and raising up valleys. The world that laughed at the God of Israel when they were sent into Exile is the world that will SEE his splendor in saving his people. 

The voice here is ultimately that of John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, who came 400 years after the exile. Which reminds us that Israel returned from exile but she remained in a kind of spiritual exile, until John the Baptist turns up and he calls on Israel to prepare the way for Lord. By getting Israel to start again, confess her sins and welcome Jesus. It would be Jesus who would lead his people out of judgment and into comfort, into eternal life, where sins are forgiven and the Spirit given and the blessing of new creation.

Brothers and sisters, we need more voices of comfort to a world that is lost. With all the down side of Covid-19 we have never seen more people access the Christian online message.

2. Word of God

But words are cheap, there is too much over promising and under delivering. This 2nd word of comfort can look very limp in the face of the Babylonian empire, so Isaiah remind them that God’s word is certain and all humans are fragile.

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. ~Isaiah 40:6-8 (NIV)

It’s so easy to be intimidated in your time, whether you’re an Israelite in exile in Babylon or when you’re in a lock down with Covid-19 for 6 months. God’s word stands forever just like God. Jesus is clear.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. ~Mark 13:31 (NIV)

And as surely as God’s people went into exile so they will go home and so will you. This good news must not be kept to oneself. 

3. Arm of the Lord

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” ~Isaiah 40:9 (NIV)

So, the 3rd voice of comfort calls on the good news (gospel) of the exiles return to be preached, not just to preach it but preach it loud, shout it out! Say to the towns of Judah who saw God’s glory leave, say to them “Here is your God” This is such good news, the towns and city are no longer under judgment.

God is bringing his people back. What joy it must evoke. I think our Sudanese or Liberian brothers and sisters caught in bloody civil war, on the run from rebels. They find temporary peace at a UN refugee camp, only to wait for years and then you hear the news…There is a home waiting for you in Australia. The God who promises comes with power.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, is reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. ~Isaiah 40:10 (NIV)

Bruce Springsteen wrote in his biography that he believed in love of Jesus but not his power. Love without power are empty words. Power without love is oppression. Power and love together is a beautiful mix.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

When God leads his people out of exile there will be no fall out, the weak will not be left behind in the dust of the strong and the sick will not be left behind in the wake of the healthy. Each one is carried close to God’s heart:

  • He is the good shepherd who lays down his life
  • He is the good shepherd who loses none of his own
  • He is the good shepherd not satisfied in saving 99/100
  • He will search out the 1, for everyone matters to God.

God doesn’t comfort the afflicted for themselves alone

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others in their troubles. It’s not supposed to end with us, there is the overflow principle. Have you ever seen champagne glasses stacked high in the form of a pyramid? as the top cup is filled up it overflows to the others. 

God’s comfort overflows from our cup of suffering into other cups. The reason: Gods comfort for us is always greater than the afflictions we suffer. Whether it’s the pain of persecution, broken relationships, the sickness the anxiety and depression.

God has voiced his comfort to us so that we can offer a voice of comfort to others. God wants to take us on a journey out of ourselves to bless others. It’s not supposed to end with us. 

We must reflect on how God’s grace meets us in our brokenness. For example, the comfort of knowing that Jesus weeps with those of us who weep, overflows so that we can weep with those who weep. 

It’s not supposed to stay with you. God who has forgiven us for everything overflows into us forgiving others for everything they have done to us.

It’s not supposed to stay with you. God who will not count our sins against us overflows in us telling others that God will not count their sins against them.

It’s not supposed to stay with you. Knowing God’s tenderness with us in our anxiety or depression overflows to those whose souls carry splinters.

It’s not supposed to stay with you.

Oh, that MBM would be a community that not only is comforted but comforts others with the same comfort we have received.

Dear Father,

Thank you for comforting us at this time with the love of Christ who weeps with those who weep, who does not hold our sins against us, who promises to be with us during this journey.

May your comfort for us overflow to others, that we would weep with those who weep.

We would both forgive others and share the forgiveness that Jesus brings. That we would be there for others in Jesus name.

Amen

I’m sure we’d all agree that right now, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. In an instant. There’d be no need to self-isolate. We’d have freedom to meet again, to hug each other, to hang out with your friends, your extended family, your boyfriend or your girlfriend and to go on holiday. There’d be no more fear whenever we left the house, fear of being infected and there’d be no panic buying. 

I’m a routine guy, I like a bit of structure, a bit of order. And so for me, it sounds weird, but the thing I’ve missed most has been my routine. My rhythm, my rhythm of exercise, my rhythm of a lunch date with Teresa on my day off, my rhythm of seeing you in the flesh on Sunday!

Now yes, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. But what about the resurrection of Jesus? Does that change anything? 

We’re in John 21. If you’re watching today, and you’re checking us out, so good to have you with us! Our custom here at MBM is to look at the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, because that’s the way God’s revealed it.

John 20 finished with John telling us why he’s gone to the trouble of writing 20 majestic chapters. Why? 

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ~John 20:31 (NIV)

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, John could have ended it there. He’s given us the entire biography of Jesus, from beginning to end. And now he’s saying, over to you. Believe! 

But he doesn’t end it, John’s going to put pen to paper for one more chapter. Why? Because John doesn’t want to just download a set of facts. A set of propositions about Jesus. He wants to make it personal for you, he wants to show you and I exactly what it means to have life in his name. I, for one, am so thankful that he did that. 

I reckon John 21, through the life of one person, Peter, teaches us two things.

1. Forgiveness is possible. So accept it
2. Following Jesus is essential. So keep at it. 

John 21:15 begins with these words, “When they had finished eating”. This is the third appearance Jesus has made since he walked out that tomb. This time, he’s having fish and chips with his disciples. I love the fact that here, we have Jesus, the one who has endured the most bloody of deaths. In a new glorious body, the one with fresh wounds from the nails that went through his hands and the spear that went into his side. 

That same Jesus, is now cooking a BBQ brekkie for his mates, at a beach next to the Sea of Galilee. You can see it on Google maps. This is not a made-up story. This really happened! It’s early in the morning and some, not all the disciples, they’ve been doing one of the few things you CAN still go out and do during coronavirus lockdown–fishing!

In some ways, life had gone back to normal for these guys. Before they’d met Jesus, they were fishermen. Now that Jesus had come and gone life had gone back to normal for these guys. Back on the boats, dropping the nets. Well that’s all about to change! Jesus turns up in verse 4. 

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NIV)

That’s understandable, it’s dark and the boat’s about 100 metres out in the water. Then comes some advice from the shore.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” ~John 21:6a  (NIV)

Try the other side of your boat Jesus said! The result? 

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. ~John 21:6b (NIV)

Gee, I wish Jesus gave me fishing tips when I was teaching my son to fish a few years back. We were up at South West Rocks. Apparently one of the easiest places to catch fish. Not for us!

We’d gone out early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We tried this spot and that spot, this bait and that bait. Just as we were about to give up and end the holiday without any fish, we caught one! 1! That’s nothing compared to the 153 fish the disciples caught in an instant. 

Well, with a truckload of fish, the guys who were in the boat were surely wondering: “Who’s standing on the shore giving us these fishing tips?”

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” ~John 21:7a (NIV) 

I love this next bit

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. ~John 21:7b (NIV)

No hesitation whatsoever, whereas we usually take off our clothes before jumping in the water. Peter puts on his clothes. And swims in to meet Jesus. 

Now we’re about to eavesdrop in on the first recorded conversation between Peter and Jesus since Good Friday. You could say a lot has changed since then. 

Now, in case you don’t know much about Peter, this is a guy who’s got a big heart. A big heart for Jesus. But that often leaves him with a truckload of regrets. It lands him in a lot of trouble, Peter likes to talk a big game but he often has difficulty backing it up. Like the time Peter, after Jesus revealed he was going to suffer and die. Peter tried to pull Jesus aside and rebuke him. Pete, you don’t tell the sinless son of God what to do. 

And then there was the time when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus goes off to pray and says to Peter and a few others: watch out for me. What do they all do? They all nod off instead. They let Jesus down. 

One more. Back in John 13. Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples. He told them he’s about to go to the cross. Peter boldly puts himself out there and says: “I will die for you Jesus” But sadly, instead of dying for Jesus, he denied Jesus. Not once. Not twice. But three times. I’m not with him. I don’t know him. I wasn’t there. Talk about overpromising and under-delivering. That was the story of Peter’s life. So with all that background info on Peter. 

On how he’s let Jesus down again and again and again. We’re kind of holding our breath as we come to this first conversation between Peter and Jesus. But notice Jesus’ words: He could easily have said: “Pete, I told you so” “Pete, you let me down” But no, instead of rejection, instead of retaliation from Jesus. Instead of revenge, Jesus offers a welcome reception. He makes restoration by inviting Peter to share a meal with him. 

“Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” ~John 21:10 (NIV)

“Come and have breakfast.” ~John 21:12  (NIV)

This is more than invitation to simply eat food, it’s an invitation to friendship. Meals are super significant, they’re super symbolic, today and back then, even more so. Whenever you see Jesus inviting people to share a meal with him. That’s a powerful declaration. A statement that says: “We’re at peace with each other” In a tangible and concrete way. Meals express that. 

I’ve got say, that’s one of the good things about coronavirus. As a family, we’ve had time to slow down and have meals with each other. The conversations have been richer and we’ve been able to connect in a meaningful way. In fact, one those highlights was last Saturday, where in the Lee household, we had a formal dinner. All of us got dressed up. The boys donned ties. The girls put on dresses and makeup. We brought out the fancy plates. Dimmed the lighting. Then after dinner, wait for it, there was dancing too. It was a real treat! 

Well, what a breakfast this was for Peter. In the space of 1 meal, he’s gone from being full of regret to being full of forgiveness. If Thomas, who we saw last week in John 20, speaks to the corner of doubt lurking in each of us. Then Peter’s story here in John 21 speaks to the truckloads of regret and failures that are in all of us. 

What Jesus has done here for Peter. He’s also done it for you and I. Jesus says to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible!’ If you’ve not yet tasted or not yet received this forgiveness Jesus is offering you, then look at Peter. Peter is the perfect example that no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’ve become, no matter how many times you’ve mucked it up. That is not the end of the story. You. Can. Be. Forgiven.

Come and join the rest of us. We’re all in the same boat as Peter. We who have got our own quota of regrets, of failures and of stuff ups. That’s the great message of Christianity, that’s what we’ve just celebrated at Easter, what happened on that cross didn’t happen at a distance, it’s not ancient history. No – it affects you and I, here today, April 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic! Perhaps, this pandemic is God’s way of getting your attention. 

As CS Lewis puts it: God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 

Whereas the message from our government has been, don’t hoard toilet paper! The message from Jesus is this: Don’t stockpile your sin! Let Jesus take that weight, that guilt, that shame off you. 

Perhaps in this season of lockdown, you’re tuning in as someone who use to check out the things of God. Maybe you’ve drifted from Jesus. Well, let me assure you, today’s as good a day as any other to come home. Get in touch with us via our website. We’d love to help you take those next steps. 

2. Following is essential. 

Remember how we started at verse 15? Well, let’s get back to it! Jesus asks Peter straight up. 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” ~John 21:15b (NIV)

Notice Jesus, he doesn’t call him Simon Peter, instead he calls him Simon, son of John. It’s the name before Jesus called him to follow him. Again, reminding us that Jesus has rewound the clock here, it’s a clean slate, a fresh start for Pete. 

Jesus goes on to ask Peter two more times: Pete do you love me. Peter do you love me. It wasn’t that Peter had a hearing problem or a comprehension problem. No Jesus asks Peter three times for his own good. He wants to give a very powerful. A very public demonstration of just how rich in mercy he really is. To the disciples at that breakfast and to us reading today. 

In fact, come the third time Peter’s a bit over it. He’s got nothing, no track record to appeal to. All he’s got is the character of Jesus. 

Lord, you know all things. ~John 21:17 (NIV)

That is both a scary thought, that Jesus knows every single thing about you, the deep recesses of your heart. But it’s also a comforting thought, that Jesus came not to judge, but to show mercy. 

And by the way, we’re talking about the same Jesus who knows when and how coronavirus is going to end. It’s this Jesus who is saying to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible so, accept it.’ ‘Following is essential, so hang in there.’ 

Well, the Jesus who knows Peter, also knows your heart and He knows mine. He asks us the same questions:

  • You, who’ve rejected me. Do you love me?
  • You, who’ve denied me. Do you love me?
  • You, who deep down are all talk and no action. Do you love me?

Peter’s answer is the model answer in verses 15, 16 and 17.

“Yes” Peter says, “you know that I love you”. 

Let’s face it friends. Now, perhaps more than ever in our life, Jesus question here is more important than ever. Our love for Jesus is being tested during this season of COVID19, because if there was a time to get away with godliness, to pretend, or to fake our love for Jesus. Now would be it! because we’re all locked up. We’re not in each others lives as much, not rubbing shoulders with the usual accountability structures. Porn is now that much easier to get away with. We’re on screens and on devices more than ever. Stealing time from our boss as we work from home is as easy as. 

Loving Jesus, it’s not just some warm, fuzzy feeling you have towards Jesus. Jesus has already told us what loving him looks like. 

“If you love me, keep my commands.” ~John 14:15 (NIV)

To love Jesus, is to obey what he says, to let him call the shots, to live under his rule, that’s how we show we love him!

After hearing Peter declare his love for Jesus, it’s now time for Jesus to respond. If this were Hollywood, what do you reckon the next words out of Jesus mouth would be? Hollywood would make Jesus say: “Aww. I love you too Pete. Give us a big hug” 

But instead, what does Jesus say?

“Feed my sheep” ~John 21:17 (NIV)

The Good Shepherd now invites Peter to shepherd his sheep. To love them, to feed them, to protect them. It’s as if Jesus says: Pete, you’re back on the team. Welcome back. Now, it’s time to get to work because my sheep matter. I’m handing them over to you, I’m not abandoning them. But as I return to be with my Father, you’re to look after them here on earth. Jesus not only lays down his life for his sheep He’s committed to making sure they carry on as his sheep. 

Now – whilst we’re in lockdown for who knows how long, I’ve got to admit I’ve had plenty of corona-goals. I’m trying to make the most of the “extra time”. I’ve started doing a bit of home re-organisation, a bit of decluttering. I’ve started baking my own sourdough bread! And I’ve picked up the ukulele again. I just turned 40 last week, hence these new glasses. At some point in this decade, I expect to be asking myself again and again: Is this my purpose in life? Is this what life’s about?

Well, John 21 helps me put all those things in perspective. It helps me keep the main thing, the main thing. Because Jesus says life is about two words. 

Follow me! ~John 21:19 (NIV)

Following Jesus is the catch all phrase Jesus uses to describe everything we’ve seen so far. Following Jesus looks like loving him. Following Jesus looks like being committed to Jesus’ people and in verses 18 and 19, following Jesus looks like following him until death! 

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. ~John 21:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus predicted Peter would deny for him. Now he’s predicting Peter would die for him! And where Peter’s denial shamed Jesus. Peter’s death will now glorify Jesus.

Friends, the coronavirus may be the way Jesus takes our lives, for many of us, it probably won’t, but one thing’s for sure, you be sure that this new season we find ourselves in, this is a test. 

How prepared are you follow Jesus?

In not just the good times but also the bad. Not just when there’s plenty but when there’s less. Not just when it’s convenient but when you need to do some of the work yourself. Not just on Sundays but every day, in every aspect of life. The times when we’ll have less rather than more.

Jesus himself said: Following never was going to be easy. You didn’t sign up for a comfortable walk in the park when you signed up to follow me. 

I began this talk by painting a picture of how everything would change if coronavirus ended tomorrow. Well, the truth is, everything has already changed. Because Jesus is risen. 

John Piper puts it best:

What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us, graphically, painfully, that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus. This global pandemic takes away our freedom of movement, our business activity, and our face-to-face relations. It takes away our security and our comfort. And, in the end, it may take away our lives. But the reason God exposes us to such losses,

Piper concludes. Is this:

To rouse us to rely on Christ. 

It’s this Christ who is alive, well and ruling the universe, even today. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the stories of people, months down the track, when we’re back in this building, I’m looking forward to hearing the stories that begin with these words: “During coronavirus, my love for Jesus grew”

  • It grew as my soul was fed by his word
  • It grew as I ran to him in prayer
  • It grew as I took up opportunities to display the fruit of the Spirit to my family, my kids, my housemates, my neighbours.

How about we pray for that to happen? 

You are a God who is compassionate. Rich in mercy. Slow to anger. You’re a forgiving God. We confess our many failings. Not only this day. This week. This season of coronavirus. 

Thank you that our sin. Our shame. Our shortcomings are not the end of the story. That we are NOT cut off. 

But you are a God who is RICH. Abundant in mercy. And we’ve seen that most clearly in Jesus. 

Thanks so much that Jesus did what no one else can do. 

Ask that during this time, we would love you more dearly. Follow you more wholeheartedly. And live for you unashamedly. 

AMEN

With floods and fires and now coronavirus. One ABC journalist said “2020 is the year that God forgot.” It’s not true, but it can feel like it. It’s like we woke up in an apocalyptic movie. Panic buying, lockdowns, shutdowns, boarder control, travel restrictions, and empty streets.

Think back to November when we had Hong Kong protests, Brexit battles, Kim Jong-un firing missiles, the Roosters won 2nd straight grand final and it wasn’t so bad!

By January we prayed for relief from drought and fires and those prayers were answered, the rains came down and the fires went out. Dams were full, the air was clean and life was good.

We then heard of this new virus in Wuhan province in China, it strangely sounded like a beer, but this was not the first time for the Coronavirus, it gave birth to SARS in 2004 when it spread to 24 countries resulting in 774 deaths.

This new version is called COVID-19 and most of us assumed it was serious but manageable. Then in a short time it became a pandemic and spread to 185 countries with over 14,000 deaths as at today (March 23, 2020). 

The focus then became more and more local and the restrictions rapidly ramped up, we went from no touching and washing hands and keeping our distance to self-isolation, Quarantine, border control and shut downs. Some felt this was an overreaction and others thought it was a conspiracy by whoever for whatever reason. We were told that the World economy would nose dive and it has. Someone suggested we preach through Leviticus with is strong distinction of clean and unclean.

Friends we are living in a bizarro world! Panic set in with fights over toilet paper, hostile comments on social media over school closures, anxiety felt for loved ones who are old or sick, uncertainty over job losses and mental health for those self-isolating. There is no place on earth to escape. There is no economy untouched, there is no population that is safe and there is no quick solution.

I like quick solutions! If it went for a month, no problem; a dose of Netflix, a few good books to read and more time with the family, but the government speaks in terms of 6 to18 months.

We know that with self-isolation will come increased levels of anxiety and depression, a rise of domestic violence and the increase of addictive behavior like drugs, alcohol, online gambling, pornography and overeating.

I may be an optimist but I too have been caught off guard. I too am worried and concerned for my family, my MBM family, Australia and the world. Oh yes I’m 60 in May. I’m also grieving for not being with God’s people, not gathering around his word, encouraging each other and praising his name, the more we gorge ourselves on Corona news the more anxious we get. 

So, we need to press the pause button and think God thoughts.

Why is this happening? What should be our response? Some say it is a judgment of God on the world because of gay marriage and abortion and a discipline on God’s people who stopped being regular at church. Friends we just have no specific word from the Lord for why this has happened.

So, we go to God word and speak of what we do know.

1. Creation is groaning

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time ~ Romans 8:22 (NIV)

Creation is groaning and it is not just some of it. The whole of nature has been groaning right up to now. It’s not just creation in the 21th century where oil tankers are leaking poison on the barrier reef. Just as Israel groaned under slavery in Egypt looking for freedom.

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. ~Romans 8:21 (NIV)

It is enslaved to decay, every cell, every tree, every animal cries out for freedom. The universe is locked in the neverending cycle of Decline, Death, Decay and Decomposition.

We must locate this pandemic in what God says about creation generally. We live after the fall of Adam and outside the garden, we live in a broken world, it’s not just seen in floods and fires or in lions eating lambs but with bacteria and virus wreaking havoc.

Remember this is not new, here are 3 examples of many:

  • 1350 Black death with 1/3 of world population wiped out,
  • 1918 Spanish Flu with 50 million deaths,
  • 1957 Asian Flu with 1.1 million deaths. So, we don’t want to over read this virus.

Creation enslaved to death and decay and it wont stop until Jesus returns and with it the resurrection of Gods children. We will spear head a new creation where there is no more crying or grief or pain. I also don’t think COVID-19 is telling us that Jesus is coming back in two weeks but it is to make us hungry for his return. It’s why the bible ends Marantha. Come Lord Jesus. We are to live as if Jesus were coming in the next 5 minutes, we are to plan like he will return in 1000yrs. One thing we do know is that with each day we are one day closer.

2. In the mean time we push back on effects of the fall.

We relieve suffering, we combat disease. As those made in Gods image to rule the world, we seek to understand how viruses work and how they spread, we earnestly pray that scientists will find a vaccination to the virus. We listen to medical directives and stop thinking, because I believe in Jesus I have some force field protecting me from this virus. If that were the case then don’t take out insurance, don’t lock your house or wear a seat belt. But that is not the case because creation is groaning and so are you.

Pray earnestly, live wisely, follow medical directives, relax it’s not a conspiracy! Although those rednecks storing food for a crisis are ahead of the game.

3. Be thankful for a long season of health in Australia

We must pause and give thanks that we have not lived in a world of pandemics, although a family friend, Dorothy, who is 104. When people say “we have not seen a pandemic like this in our life time.” She says wait a minute, “I was alive in 1918 during the Spanish flu” That was 102 years ago.

Be thankful for God’s common grace in having the world leaders work together on this pandemic and for those medics who daily risk their lives.

4. We rightly grieve but not without hope

You do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. ~1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

That is true whether we face death or unemployment. It’s right to feel the grief of losing a job, burying a grandparent, being forced to move house or a business going bankrupt. Christians grieve! We feel pain and we don’t deny pain, that is Buddhism.

We see Jesus weeping when he saw Mary and Martha crying because their brother had died. This is a very, very serious matter and its only just begun but we don’t grieve as ones without hope. 

Take time to mediate on gospel truths.

  • Jesus paid for our sins
  • Jesus rose on the 3rd day, death has been defeated.
  • This earth is not our home, our citizenship is in heaven
  • We are awaiting a resurrected body.
  • God is our Father and we are his children.
  • Remember when you became a Christian, you left everything to follow Jesus.

One clue we have turned a good thing into an idol? It’s how we respond when we lose possession, freedom, health. Are we grieving or are we devastated. If devastated then recalibrate your heart and set your mind on the things above.

5. God has the world’s attention.

When I was battling anxiety over the last 3 years I came to realize that it’s a gift from God to get my attention and turn to him in prayer. Our prayer in this season is that the world will be moved to ask big questions. They will realize we cannot keep ourselves alive. Humanity has been humbled by one mutant virus. 

We had over 55 non Christians attending the Explaining Christianity course in Term 1. In the most recent course, 5 people accepted Christ and 11 want to be followed up. Pray that God will convince people that they need a savior. Pray that the gospel will spread faster than COVID-19.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. ~2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NIV)

Don’t waste this pandemic! Let’s encourage those in our household who don’t yet know Jesus to watch MBM online next Sunday with us.

6. Don’t surrender to your anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

The opposite to anxiety is, not so much, not anxiety but prayer. We can’t directly stop worrying. No button to press! But we can cast our cares before our Father in heaven. Why? because he cares for you. This is what glorifies God, don’t waste your panic, turn it into prayer. And Remember you are just a 3 year old kid whose Dad happens to be Sovereign creator of the universe. Your older brother is none other than Jesus – Lord of glory, who upholds the universe by the power of his word.

It’s going to be OK! Don’t be anxious because your Father knows your needs before you ask. Jesus is clear, if our Father takes care of the birds of the air will he not take care of you. Are you not much more valuable than those birds? He has your back! It’s going to be ok. And as Jesus reminds us, being anxious has a 100% failure rate. Jesus said, “You can’t add 1 day to your life by worry.” The only thing anxiety produces is ulcers and heart burn, its critical you meditate on this.

7. God is in total control and he is good

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? ~Lamentations 3:37-38 (NIV)

You can’t pick and choose where God is soverign. Not one Sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of my Father. No virus will mutate and spread apart from our Fathers directive, that is why we pray for a cure, He is in charge. That is why we don’t panic, He is in control. That is why we don’t despair, He is our dad. That is why..

8. We receive suffering as discipline not as rejection

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father… but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. ~Hebrews 10:7,11 (NIV)

For every believer, COVID 19, is a discipline form the Lord, not a punishment. When hardship comes we rightly ask

  • What is God teaching me?
  • Will I be content through this season?
  • Where do I need to repent?
  • Where do I need to trust my Father more?
  • What haven’t I been doing?
  • Where has my heart been?
  • What idols have I been loving, and serving.

This is not the reason for COVID-19 but it tells us how we are to respond to COVID 19. But for every Christian, our Fathers discipline is to help us be more like Jesus.

  • God is at work in it–have no doubt.
  • He is working for your good–have no doubt
  • That good involves us being shaped by Christ.

Whether we come out of this looking more or less like Christ, that is our decision. 

9. Glorify God by Loving others

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. ~Galatians 6:10 (NIV)

In the early centuries of the church when plagues wiped out villages and towns, many left their sick families behind… beginning with the doctors. Often Christians stayed behind and took care of the sick, not just their own but others.

The pagan Emperor Julian was exasperated at Christian kindness as it made pagans look bad. “It is disgraceful that, when… the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”

It was one of the reasons why Christianity spread. The Christians were prepared to die with the plague because they had the hope of the resurrection. They refused to be intimidated by death, since they were forgiven, they lived without fear, they were free to love others. 

The days before us are going to be very hard, have no doubt. This is not going away in a hurry. Let’s look back on this time as our best days of MBM, where we took care of not only ourselves, but others, inside and outside the church. Let’s not postpone living a life that glorifies God. Don’t waste this pandemic.

As one brother at MBM said, “I got too comfortable, bored with the ordinary Christian life. I needed a wake up. COVID-19 was that wake up call, so I called my extended family to see if they needed anything, I then called you to see if anyone at church needed anything.”

Let us know if you need help?
Let us know if you can offer help?

This battle has only just begun!

But if God is for us who can be against us!

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