Psalms

When Under Attack, 29 April 2018

When Under Attack
D6 Series—
Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
Psalm 109

Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

Big Idea: God is our shield and help when we experience injustice and opposition.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 109:30-31

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them. (Psalms 109:30-31)

Isn’t that nice? God stands at the right hand of the needy. So that means when we get a flat tire, God is with us. When we catch the flu, God will help us. We will praise the LORD even if we don’t get the promotion we were hoping or when we experience ridicule for being a Christian.

But what about serious condemnation? Where is God when things get really rough?

Jesus famously told his followers…

…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b)

That word “witnesses” in the original Greek is “martus,” related to our word “martyr.”

We’ve all experienced injustice and opposition in our lives, but few of us can say our lives have been in jeopardy. I rarely hear of people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on American soil, and for that we can be grateful, not only to God but also those who have fought for our freedom.

Throughout history, godly men and women have been threatened. They have had contracts on their lives. They have been hunted down. Can you imagine? What would you do if you received a death threat?

Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I have mentioned how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Then we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72 and God’s love expressed in Psalm 89. Last Sunday we looked at what it means to bless or praise the LORD in Psalm 103.

Our psalm for today is 109 and it is quite different from the previous psalms we have examined. This psalm was used by Thomas Hardy in his novel
The Mayor of Casterbridge. It is often called an imprecatory psalm, a zealous prayer and song to God calling out the wicked. This psalm is similar to Psalm 69, but here the writer is innocent, not a wrongdoer. He is a victim, yet his response to his enemies is somewhat surprising.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

My God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues. (Psalms 109:1-2)

Has anyone ever lied about you? Gossiped about you? Slandered you? How does it feel? David understands. He wants God to intervene, to take action, to not remain silent. God, where are you? Do you see this? Do you hear this?

With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause. (Psalms 109:3)

Remember that old expression, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”? What a lie! Words can actually lead to our bones being broken! Charles Spurgeon said, “In all Satan’s armoury there are no worse weapons than deceitful tongues.”

In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer. (Psalms 109:4)

Satan is called the accuser. These people are satanic, they are accusers. David is
innocent, yet he is being attacked. What a contrast—accusations and prayer. His
enemies are talking falsely about him to others and David is talking to God. What
does David do when treated unjustly? He drops to his knees. The Hebrew says literally,
“But I prayer.” In other words, he’s all about prayer. Are you?

I wish I could say prayer is always my first response to attack. It’s not. I get defensive. I strategize a retaliation. I seek revenge. My mind refuses to shut off, engaging in imaginary conversations. I want justice. I want to cry, “Foul!”

They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship. (Psalms 109:5)

No good deed goes unpunished! Notice David’s mention of friendship. No one can hurt you like a friend. You can sometimes forget the words of a stranger, but wounds from those we love run deep. Now David goes into a tirade against his enemy, a singular man. These verses are incredible!

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership. (Psalms 109:6-8)

Peter quotes this last verse in Acts 1:20 as fulfillment of Judas’ death.

We don’t know if David was king when this was written, but David was a warrior. Do you remember what he did to Goliath? It’s important to understand David did not act upon these curses. He left the heavy lifting for God after he poured out his heart.

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. (Psalms 109:9-14)

Have you ever felt that way? He’s not done!

May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth.
For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him. (Psalms 109:15-17)

David’s saying, “Do unto him as he has done unto me. Curse him as he has cursed
others.

He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him. (Psalms 109:18-19)

Now he shifts from an individual to a plural group, perhaps the people led by the man.

May this be the LORD’S payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me. (Psalms 109:20)

He’s honest! He declares his desires, but leaves the matter to the LORD. Then David
speaks one of the most important words in the English language—“but.”

But you, Sovereign LORD,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. (Psalms 109:21)

What do we do in the midst of distress? Call upon the LORD. Ask God for help. Seek
deliverance. Ask for protection, not on the basis of your own goodness but on the basis
of God’s name and goodness.

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust. (Psalms 109:22-23)

Even great men like David—king or not—are but dust. Whether we acknowledge it or
not, we all need God.

My knees give way from fasting;
my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads. (Psalms 109:24-25)

This is hardly the picture we expect of David! He’s thin and gaunt, pitiful and disgusting.

Help me, LORD my God;
save me according to your unfailing love. (Psalms 109:26)

The appeal is not David’s goodness, but God’s love and mercy.

Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, LORD, have done it. (Psalms 109:27)

He wants God to receive the glory, not himself.

While they curse, may you bless;
may those who attack me be put to shame,
but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. (Psalms 109:28-29)

God’s blessings will always be greater than the curses of our enemies. David rejoices
knowing God is in control and will have the last word.

Now we see the context for today’s scripture reading.

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them. (Psalms 109:30-31)

At the end of the day, David knows God is real. He knows his calamity is temporary, his life is but a vapor, a gift. He knows no matter the circumstances, God is worthy of praise, of blessing, of extoling, of worship. His story is not over. There is hope.

So What?

D6: The fact that we face opposition and attack because of our faith demonstrates that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare.

The writer of the book of Romans had some radical things to say about our enemies.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)

Then he quotes Proverbs 25…

On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”


Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

If we are to follow the example of David, we should ask God to curse our enemies, right? That sounds like a reasonable application. After all, David was called a man after God’s own heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean he was perfect. But I love his honesty. He tells God how he feels. He expresses his emotions—constructively.

You may have been told to never get emotional. Big boys don’t cry. Don’t let them see you sweat. Never question God. Bury your feelings.

I think David would vehemently disagree! His language is raw. It’s passionate. He feels, but he channels his emotions appropriately. He gets real, but then gives it to God. This is the same God who said,

It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

It’s as if God says to us, “Thanks for sharing. I’ll take it from here.”

D6: God is the Sovereign Lord of all. He alone is qualified to deal with those who oppose and attack us.

Generations later, a descendent of David would pray speak harsh condemnations, too. Jesus said of Judas…

The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21)

He said of the Jewish leaders…

Jesus answered,
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)

Jesus was not always nice, but he never sinned, even in his anger, outraged by injustice. And Jesus not only expressed his feelings of outrage, he articulated radical love. In the presence of his enemies, as he is hanging on the cross…

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)

What do you do when you’re angry? When you’ve been slandered, oppressed, wronged? I want to encourage you to get real, give it to God, and pray for your enemy.

Why? Why forgive? Why pray for our enemies?

First, they are as worthy of forgiveness as you and I. Forgiveness is never deserved. Remember what Jesus taught us to pray?

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. (Luke 11:4a, NIV)

Jesus died for them, too. They might one day surrender to Christ. What if they repent and become your friend?

Ultimately, we must relinquish control of our pain, let go and let God. He will judge. He will deal with all sins…and sinners one day.

And one more thing…fear not. God is in control. No weapon—or person—will prevail.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:16-17)

Credits:
some ideas from D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Bless The LORD, 22 April 2018

    Bless The Lord
    D6 Series—
    Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
    Psalm 103

    Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

    Big Idea: God is worthy of our praise!

    Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalms 103:1, ESV)

    We’ve sung the words, but what do they mean?

    Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I have mentioned how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

    On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Then we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72 and God’s love expressed in Psalm 89 last Sunday. Today we turn to Psalm 103.

    At the recent Worship Night in America event, Pastor Darren Whitehead talked about the seven Hebrew words for “praise.” Just saying that makes our English language seem so simplistic!

    The word repeated used in Psalm 103 for “praise” or “bless,” depending upon your translation, is the word “barak.”

    Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalms 103:1)

    בָּרַךְ   bāraḵ   means to bless or pronounce blessings, give praise, give thanks, extol, to kneel down, to bow or salute, to bless God as an act of adoration.

    This Hebrew word appears about 300 times in the Old Testament. To bless or praise the LORD is to bow down before Him, acknowledging He is God and we are not, thanking Him and telling others how great He is…in word, song, and deed. Praising or blessing God, then, is more than just words…it’s a lifestyle, an act of worship.

    King David begins this famous psalm by not merely stating, “barak,” but telling his soul, all of his inmost being, to praise the LORD and His holy name.

    The Hebrew name for God is so holy, in fact, that to this day it is never spoken out loud by Jews. The word “Adonai” is a more general term for God, but the holy name which Gentiles often pronounce “Yahweh” is sacred and revered. There is so much in this one short verse. It’s as if David is throwing himself before the LORD saying, “I’m Yours, LORD. All of me. My body. My soul. My heart. My mind. It all thanks You. It all adores You. It all belongs to You.”

    Have you ever felt like that? That’s devotion. That’s passion. That’s worship. And God loves it! This idea of blessing the LORD is the central idea of this psalm. The LORD has blessed David, and David returns the favor.

    Praise the LORD, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
    who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases, (Psalms 103:2-3)

    David tells his soul to forget not. Why? Because we forget! What do we forget? We forget the LORD’s blessings, His benefits.

    Do you like benefits? It seems like every few months I’m getting a notice in the mail about new benefits coming soon to my credit card or changes in my health insurance benefits (not always good changes!). When making a major purchase, one must always learn about the features and benefits of the investment.

    We must not forget the benefits of the LORD. David lists five in this psalm.

  • 1. God has forgiven our sins (all our sins!)
  • 2. God heals all our diseases (someday all diseases will be healed; maybe today!)

  • What else?

    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. (Psalms 103:4-5)

    Here we see the final three benefits:

  • 3. God redeems our life from the pit (now and beyond the grave)
  • 4. God crowns us with love and compassion (surrounds us, placed upon us)
  • 5. God satisfies our desires with good things (we can satisfy them with bad things!)

  • The result is our youth, our strength, is renewed. Because of the goodness of the LORD we can have hope and passion (one of my prayers for FAC).

    Is this good news, family? Absolutely! The problem for many of us is we forget. I don’t necessarily mean we have no knowledge of these truths, but rather we are so familiar with them we forget their importance, their impact, and we forget to thank God!

    The LORD works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
    He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:6-8)

    Have you ever felt oppressed? Many in our world today are oppressed—by poverty, slavery, injustice…and yet God works on their behalf. He is engaged in righteousness and justice. His timing might not be as quick as we would like, but in the end, justice will prevail.

    Moses and the people of Israel were witnesses of God’s righteousness and deliverance.

    Verse eight is echoed throughout the Bible. From Exodus to Joel to Jonah, this phrase appears:

    “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in love.”

    Because God is just, he gets angry. We should get angry when we see injustice. We simply need to direct our anger appropriately.

    … “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

    Jesus got angry. The Father gets angry, but His anger is limited by His grace, mercy and 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. (Psalms 103:9-10)

    This is great news! We come to a God of justice but also grace and mercy. He is a God of wrath, but also love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Meditate on that for a moment. Hallelujah! People often talk about what they deserve. All I deserve is eternal separation from God because of my sins, yet God does not treat me as my sins deserve. I’m so grateful. Praise the LORD!!!

    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. (Psalms 103:11-12)

    Here’s another oft-quoted scripture. God created the cosmos for us to enjoy. His love is as great as from here to the heavens! That’s infinite!

    Furthermore, our sins are forgiven, sent as far away as from the east to the west. That’s far! That’s infinite!

    God’s love is endless. God’s forgiveness is endless. There’s more!

    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. (Psalms 103:13-14)

    This past week I was thrilled to be present for the formal legal adoption of the Glovers’ son. Watching him during these six months since birth has brought me so much joy, and mine pales in comparison to the joy of mom, dad, and big brother.

    I was thinking about him when I read this verse. His mom and dad know he is small, young, and fragile. God knows even the strongest people on our planet are nothing compared to God’s power. We are all but dust. Those who fear—who revere—God will receive His compassion rather than His wrath and justice for our sins, which reminds of the one child the Father did not have compassion upon—Jesus. He took our punishment. He died on our behalf.

    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. (Psalms 103:15-16)

    Here’s another beautiful image of our weakness, our mortality. We often think we’re so strong and mighty, but when we compare ourselves to God…to the universe…we are like a blade of grass. Yet to God, we are special.

    But from everlasting to everlasting
    the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
    with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalms 103:17-18)

    All good dads love their children. They give age-appropriate feedback and discipline. They encourage, support, and provide for their kids. They are aware of the limitations of little people and nurture them to adulthood.

    But don’t miss the condition—obedience. We talked about this last week. God’s love language is obedience. We love Him because He first loved us. We obey, not out of fear of punishment, but out of reverence, respect, and love. God can be trusted. God’s Word can be trusted. God’s commands can be trusted. He’s a good, good Father.

    The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalms 103:19)

    That’s pretty comprehensive! God’s kingdom rules over all, and not just over us.

    Praise the LORD, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word. (Psalms 103:20)

    The LORD rules over the angels who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will. (Psalms 103:21)

    The LORD rules over the heavenly hosts who praise Him.

    Praise the LORD, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion. (Psalms 103:22a)

    The LORD rules over all of creation who praise Him. There’s a great scene in the Palm Sunday account where Jesus warns what will happen if we don’t praise the LORD.

    When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

    “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

    Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

    “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40)
    I don’t want any stones praising the LORD instead of me!

    And finally, David ends the way he began:

    Praise the LORD, my soul. (Psalms 103:22b)

    So What?

    As the ushers come forward, I want to prepare you for opportunities to praise the LORD. First, you can bless and praise the LORD by giving of your tithes and offerings. The word tithe means ten percent, something of a minimum. All we have belongs to God. We have the freedom to spend and save, but the Old Testament minimum was ten percent to the LORD. Some of you give more than ten percent, which is wonderful. You’ve experienced the joy of generosity as Heather and I have. Worshipping through giving is not the weekly church fundraiser. It’s a way to tangibly declare our allegiance to God.

    If you don’t tithe, I want to encourage you to begin with something. Start with five percent. Start with one percent! I recently learned that in the average church, one third of the people give zero, zip, nada. How sad…for them! Another third give less than $10/week. That might be fine for some of our students whose only income is a paper route, but for many of us ten dollars is less than we spend a week on restaurant tips…and we’re talk about Almighty God! If you’re not prepared to give this morning, no worries. You can give via our free smartphone
    app or on our website, too.

    If we love God, we will obey, and that includes being generous with the resources He has given to us. As you listen to this beautiful song of praise, may it prompt you to fully engage in worship, in blessing the LORD.

    Benediction (containing “barak”)

    ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’ (Numbers 6:24-26)

    Credits:
    some ideas from D6, Westside Church Vancouver

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • A Lasting Love, 15 April 2018

    A Lasting Love
    D6 Series—
    Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
    Psalm 89

    Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

    Big Idea: God is awesome, faithful, loving, and just.

    Introduction

    Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I mentioned last week how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

    On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Last week, we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72. Today we will explore Psalm 89, a long and somewhat unique psalm. Written by Ethan the Ezrahite, this maskil—a word with uncertain meaning, but possibly “instruction”—is packed with descriptions of Almighty God. Although it is too short to be considered a biography of God, it reveals to us many features of our Creator, not merely for the sake of intellectual curiosity, but rather to help us know our awesome God who is alive and personally knowable.

    Since it’s so long, the text will largely speak for itself. It’s always my desire to proclaim the Word of God first and foremost every Sunday, letting my commentary merely aid you in understanding and application. The Bible is our authority—not my words. I challenge you today to listen to these beautiful descriptions of the Almighty.


    A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

    I will sing of the LORD’S great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
    I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. (Psalm 89:1-2)

    Arguably the most important part of God’s character is love. In the book of 1 John, the scriptures simply say,

    God is love. (1 John 4:16a)

    God is the definition of love. Ethan, the psalmist, not only knows God’s love, he knows it’s great, and he will sing of it forever!

    One of the most popular worship songs of the past twenty years is taken from this passage: “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” except Nathan says he
    will sing of God’s great love forever. He declares it. God’s faithfulness, too, is announced.

    Love and faithfulness.

    You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
    ‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’ ”
    (Psalm 89:3-4)

    This note echoes last week’s Psalm describing the king and royalty. King Jesus was born in the lineage of David…and He will return and will rule forever.

    The heavens praise your wonders, LORD,
    your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
    For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?
    Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? (Psalm 89:5-6)

    If you’ve ever gazed at the stars in the sky, you’ve seen the same lights seen by the psalmist.

    You may have heard Pastor Soper in the Mission 119 devotional tell the story of Theodore Roosevelt. He would gaze at the stars with his friend, William Beebe, the naturalist. They would chant together, “
    That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “No I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.”

    Living in a city in world with electrical lights dominating our region, we are only able to get a glimpse of the heavenly bodies created at the sound of God’s voice. Another psalmist wrote,

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalms 19:1)

    I challenge you to take some time this week—if we get a clear sky—and admire God’s handiwork. A couple of weeks ago I was outside doing just that, nearly blinded by the intensity of the full moon. After being so careful not to look at the sun during the recent eclipse, I hesitated to stare at the moon, it was so bright and beautiful!

    Although none of us have seen God, we can learn much about the Creator by studying creation.

    In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
    he is more awesome than all who surround him.
    Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
    You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. (Psalm 89:7-8)

    Ethan is at a loss for words. No one and nothing can compare to God. He has no equal. In biblical days, much like today among some religions, there is belief in multiple gods. For example, there are 33 categories of gods in Hinduism with the actual number of gods in the millions!

    I’ve said before that I reserve the word “awesome” for God. If you think a car is awesome or your cell phone is awesome or the arrival of spring weather is awesome, that’s fine, but to me it’s a special “God” word. Our God is an awesome God…the awesome God!

    You rule over the surging sea;
    when its waves mount up, you still them.
    You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
    with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. (Psalm 89:9-10)

    God is powerful and He’s not afraid to use His power. It’s not that He hates people, but
    rather He hates sin and evil. You might say God’s allergic to them! God has a real enemy named satan who has an army of demons who have been wreaking havoc on our planet since our first ancestors. God is omnipotent—all powerful—and also a God of justice, love, and mercy.

    The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
    you founded the world and all that is in it.
    You created the north and the south;
    Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. (Psalm 89:11-12)

    Everything belongs to God. He created it. He owns it. That includes you and me!

    Your arm is endowed with power;
    your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
    Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
    love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:13-14)

    I love the creative use of words, describing God’s arm and hand. God is righteous and just…along with being love and faithful.

    Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
    who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
    They rejoice in your name all day long;
    they celebrate your righteousness. (Psalm 89:15-16)

    Here things shift briefly to humanity. Those who follow the LORD are blessed. God is with them. How can we not rejoice and celebrate? God is truly good news!

    For you are their glory and strength,
    and by your favor you exalt our horn.

    Indeed, our shield
    belongs to the LORD,
    our king to the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 89:17-18)

    Is God your glory? Is God your strength? Is God your shield?

    So far we’ve seen our God as loving, great, and powerful. He longs for nothing more than a relationship with you. Intimacy with you. He loves to reveal Himself through the pages of the Bible, among other things, and He loves the sound of your voice in prayer. In fact, I believe your voice is the most beautiful sound to God. Now things shift a bit.

    Once you spoke in a vision,
    to your faithful people you said:
    “I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
    I have raised up a young man from among the people. (Psalm 89:19)

    I have found David my servant;
    with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
    My hand will sustain him;
    surely my arm will strengthen him. (Psalm 89:20-21)

    God chose David to be king over Israel. He wasn’t even considered worthy by his own family when there was a search for a king, yet God saw this shepherd, knew his heart, and made him arguably the greatest leader in Israel’s history. The book of 1 Samuel describes the account:

    Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.”
    So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

    “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

    Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
    So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

    Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (1 Samuel 16:10-12)

    This is our God. He sees you! He knows your heart. You might not be famous or powerful, but you are known by God…and He can do incredible things in and through your life if you will commit all of your ways to Him. Back to David…

    The enemy will not get the better of him;
    the wicked will not oppress him.
    I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down his adversaries. (Psalm 89:22-23)

    My faithful love will be with him,
    and through my name his horn will be exalted.
    I will set his hand over the sea,
    his right hand over the rivers. (Psalm 89:24-25)

    He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’
    And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
    the most exalted of the kings of the earth. (Psalm 89:26-27)

    I will maintain my love to him forever,
    and my covenant with him will never fail.
    I will establish his line forever,
    his throne as long as the heavens endure. (Psalm 89:28-29)

    Now listen to this condition.

    “If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
    if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
    I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
    but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. (Psalm 89:30-33)

    Again, God hates sin. All sin. Would you like a list?! He doesn’t hate people who sin, but He hates sin. All sin separates us from God, something only restored through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    How do you respond to love? A common response to love is love! We love God before He first loved us. And how do we love God? Obedience. That’s it! Obeying God’s Word. The Bible is packed with instructions of how to live life to the full, to the max! Every time we ignore a command, we disrespect God, sin, and basically declare ourselves to be God. We know better than our Creator…or we simply choose to rebel.

    There are some difficult commands in the Bible, but Jesus obeyed them all perfectly and wants us to follow His example, not because God is a control freak and wants to take away our fun, but because Father knows best.

    Our culture—and courts—have basically said do whatever you want. Individual autonomy has been championed by at least one prominent judge, which sounds great on the surface, but we were made for community. We were made to be dependent. Our actions affect others. And most of all, we were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. Following Jesus means you don’t get to do whatever you want, whenever you want!

    You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

    The context is sexuality. Pardon this brief tangent, but God created our bodies and created sex…for procreation and for a husband and wife to bond together and experience pleasure and connection. It’s a gift from God, but only between a husband and wife. That’s not politically correct in a world that says do whatever you want whenever you want as longer as there is “consent,” but God has special plans and purposes for our bodies, for our sexuality, for our health, for our time, talents, and treasures. I didn’t make the rules, but I know they’re for our ultimate satisfaction.

    “If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
    if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
    I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
    but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. (Psalm 89:30-33)

    We must never forsake God’s law, His statues, His decrees, His commands. If we truly love God, we will obey Him. Obedience is God’s love language.

    I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered. (Psalm 89:34)

    God never breaks His promises, His covenant, His word.

    Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
    and I will not lie to David—
    that his line will continue forever
    and his throne endure before me like the sun;
    it will be established forever like the moon,
    the faithful witness in the sky.” (Psalm 89:35-37)

    Can you imagine such a legacy? What a statement by God! Now Ethan address God again with some strong statements.

    But you have rejected, you have spurned,
    you have been very angry with your anointed one.
    You have renounced the covenant with your servant
    and have defiled his crown in the dust. (Psalm 89:38-39)

    You have broken through all his walls
    and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
    All who pass by have plundered him;
    he has become the scorn of his neighbors. (Psalm 89:40-41)

    You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
    you have made all his enemies rejoice.
    Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
    and have not supported him in battle. (Psalm 89:42-43)

    You have put an end to his splendor
    and cast his throne to the ground.
    You have cut short the days of his youth;
    you have covered him with a mantle of shame. (Psalm 89:44-45)

    This is where things get interesting. Ethan has said these wonderful things about God, yet he has questions. He has concerns. He’s not just singing love songs to God 24/7. He’s real.

    How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
    How long will your wrath burn like fire? (Psalm 89:46)

    Have you ever felt like God was hiding from you? I have! I have questioned God, doubted God, …and it’s ok to do so. God can handle it. He loves authenticity.

    Remember how fleeting is my life.
    For what futility you have created all humanity!
    Who can live and not see death,
    or who can escape the power of the grave? (Psalm 89:47-48)

    Life is fragile. We all have an expiration date, and we must never forget it.

    Lord, where is your former great love,
    which in your faithfulness you swore to David? (Psalm 89:49)

    More questions. It’s possible to gaze at the sky and proclaim God’s majesty, only to look down at the messy world we live in, filled with suffering and pain.

    Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked,
    how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
    the taunts with which your enemies, LORD, have mocked,
    with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one. (Psalm 89:50-51)

    Following God is never easy, but justice will eventually be served and redemption will come. Ethan knows this, concluding

    Praise be to the LORD forever!
    Amen and Amen. (Psalm 89:52)

    So What?

    Psalm 89 is quite the scripture! What have we learned?

    God is loving, but He hates sin and rebellion and refuses to ignore them.

    (D6) We can trust the promises we find in the Bible because the Bible is God’s Word, and he is always faithful to His Word.

    Do you read it? Listen to it? Study it? Know it? It’s the best tool we have for knowing God.

    (D6)
    Israel’s tendency to turn away from God illustrates how we are engaged in a spiritual warfare.

    The people of Israel had a roller coaster relationship with God, claiming allegiance and then abandoning Him. We have a real enemy who is destroying our world: school shootings, homelessness, corruption, racism, abortion, poverty, sex trafficking, injustice, hatred, suicide, …but we also are invited to follow the awesome God, the LORD of lords and the King of kings, Jesus Christ. As we said last week, in a kingdom, subjects submit to the king. We must submit to God, His commands, and His discipline, knowing that He loves us and wants what’s truly best for us. We love because He first loved us. We are faithful because He has been faithful to us. We serve others because He served us. We forgive others because we have been forgiven.

    This week, how will you praise and honor God, even in the midst of stress and distress? You might begin by reviewing Psalm 89, this brief biography of the Almighty. Declare God’s character. Our God is the awesome, loving, faithful God.

    God didn’t just talk about love, He demonstrated it by sending Jesus to live, die, and rise from the dead, bearing our guilt and shame and sin which God hates. Taking our place. We join the psalmists in praising God, yet we have even more to praise Him for being on this side of the cross. Hallelujah!

    Credits: some notes from D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • He Shall Reign Forever! 8 April 2018

    He Shall Reign Forever!
    D6 Series—
    Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
    Psalm 72

    Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

    Big Idea: We are to honor, serve, and submit to King Jesus…who is coming soon.

    What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word…king?

    Chess?
    Burgers?
    The British Royal family?
    The Lion King?
    A fiction writer?
    A tennis player?
    A Cleveland basketball player?
    Elvis?

    This past week we remembered the horrific assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago.

    We really have nothing in our culture quite like a king. No mayor, movie star, president, or billionaire CEO possesses the authority of a king.

    Human Kings

    The Bible is filled with kings, queens, and kingdoms. In the Old Testament alone, the word
    melek or “king” in English appears almost 2700 times! Human kings first appear in Genesis 14. Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah are just a few of the biblical kings. Wealth and power surrounded them, though they often faced opposition from other kings and kingdoms.

    The kings of Israel had to meet several strict criteria, according to Deuteronomy 17:14–20:

    chosen by God
    not a foreigner
    must not accumulate horses (i.e., build up and trust in military might)
    must not accumulate many wives
    must not accumulate wealth for himself
    must write a copy of the law for himself
    must read it and obey it

    Unlike foreign kings who were often considered to be gods themselves, the kings of Israel were not to be above the law, but rather subject to God’s law. The king was to be an example of a humble servant of God leading the people in keeping God’s law. Oh that all of our leaders would have such a posture!

    In his book
    Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight argues that in the Bible, “kingdom” implies five things

    - A king
    - A rule
    - A people
    - A law
    - A land (Israel)

    In short, the biblical understanding of “the kingdom’ is a people governed by a king. Today, the Kingdom of God, then, is the church.

    Psalms

    Today we continue our month-long look into the book of Psalms. Last Sunday we began with Psalm 22 and those unforgettable words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    The book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook. I’d love to hear the melodies of these songs! It probably won’t surprise many of you to know Psalms is my favorite book of the Bible, at least in the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

    Just as there are different types of hymns, there are different types of Psalms. Psalm 72 is a Messianic Psalm, viewing the Messiah—which literally means “the anointed one”— as King. It was written by or for Solomon (by his father David) as a prayer, also prophetically speaking of Jesus the Messiah. They helped prepare the saints of the Old Testament for the coming of Christ. What’s fascinating about this Psalm is it’s written by a king…about King Jesus.

    Of Solomon.

    Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
    May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice. (Psalms 72:1-2)

    I love the heart of the writer. The king has power, but wants it used wisely, benevolently. He seeks to be righteous and just. Of course, everything he seeks will ultimately be fulfilled in King Jesus.

    May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
    the hills the fruit of righteousness.
    May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor. (Psalms 72:3-4)

    Does anyone have a problem with this? Of course not. We all want to see prosperity. We want the suffering defended, the children saved, and the oppressors crushed. That’s justice. And I might add the subjects of the king carry out the wishes of the king.

    May he endure as long as the sun,
    as long as the moon, through all generations.
    May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
    like showers watering the earth.
    In his days may the righteous flourish
    and prosperity abound till the moon is no more. (Psalms 72:5-7)

    A common theme in kingdom language is longevity and legacy. A member of the British royal family has been on the throne for centuries. Spoiler alert: King Jesus will rule forever!!!

    May he rule from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    May the desert tribes bow before him
    and his enemies lick the dust. (Psalms 72:8-9)

    Verse 8 is similar to Zechariah 9:10. I love the imagery, especially in verse nine. May his enemies lick the desert dust!

    May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
    bring tribute to him.
    May the kings of Sheba and Seba
    present him gifts. (Psalms 72:10)

    One day we will present King Jesus with gifts, laying our crowns before him (Revelation 4:10-11).

    May all kings bow down to him
    and all nations serve him.
    For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
    He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death. (Psalms 72:11-13)

    King Jesus will rule over all nations! Once again we see references to the needy, weak and afflicted. The Bible is loaded with concern for the vulnerable.

    He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.
    Long may he live!
    May gold from Sheba be given him.
    May people ever pray for him
    and bless him all day long. (Psalms 72:14-15)

    There’s a lot in these two verses which pretty much speak for themselves. Note the prayers. The psalmist recognized the need for prayer, for divine intervention. While we pray to Jesus more than pray for Jesus, we can certainly pray for our human leaders. The Presidential Prayer Team has a website where you can learn how to pray for our president and his colleagues. Our mayor, city council, governor, judges, and congress all need our prayers.

    May grain abound throughout the land;
    on the tops of the hills may it sway.
    May the crops flourish like Lebanon
    and thrive like the grass of the field. (Psalms 72:16)

    We would probably never think to pray for grain and crops in a nation so agriculturally rich, yet we are not beyond drought, floods, and other natural disasters which could spoil our food supply.

    May his name endure forever;
    may it continue as long as the sun.

    Then all nations will be blessed through him,
    and they will call him blessed. (Psalms 72:17)

    Again we see all nations impacted by the royal son of David, the Messiah, not just Israel. Thus concludes the prayer. The rest of the chapter is a doxology, the response of the people.

    Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.

    Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
    Amen and Amen.
    This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse. (Psalms 72:17-20)

    The LORD God is the One we are to praise. He is the source of all blessings, provisions, gifts, and wisdom.

    May the name of the LORD be forever praised!
    May the whole earth be filled with the glory of the LORD!

    So What?

    Although we may not be ruled by an earthly king, we are subjects to a heavenly King. He longs to see the vulnerable cared for, the oppressed released, and justice served. Every follower of Jesus has a duty, a responsibility, an obligation, and a privilege to glorify the King by carrying out His will, His desires in our world today. In His absence, we are to re-present the King well to our broken world.

    Our Messiah, King Jesus, will one day return to rule and reign forever. Listen to these words most commonly recited around Christmastime:

    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

    Do you hear echoes of Lamentations?

    You, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. (Lamentations 5:19)

    There’s more to Christianity than the cradle and the Cross. There’s also the crown. Chiseled into the cornerstone of the United Nations building is an unfulfilled quotation from Isaiah in the Bible. It reads,

    They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

    Won’t that be the day?! This is a prophecy of when the Messiah will reign over the earth. The prophet Ezekiel wrote,

    A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until he to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.’ (Ezekiel 21:27)

    The King is coming!

    The NIV translation of the Bible includes 365 mentions of the word “kingdom.” Perhaps the most famous is in what we call the LORD’s prayer: Jesus said,

    “This, then, is how you should pray:


    “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)

    The late Dallas Willard said we ask that the kingdom would “take over at all points in the personal, social and political order where it is now excluded.”  

    This should be our constant prayer, for the rule of the King to be real and present in our lives. As subjects to the King, we are to seek the will of the King. We are to pray for heaven to kiss earth. We are all aware that we are in the now and the not yet, the in between time, the space where good and evil battle…but not forever!

    Someday Jesus will return to the earth he created, the earth he visited, the earth where he lived, died, and rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven but promised to return. When he returns, he won’t come as a baby. His mission won’t be to surrender his life. He won’t ride a donkey. No, the return of the King will be much different. He will come back as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Revelation tells us there will be a battle.

    They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14)

    In fact,

    On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

    KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)


    In possibly the greatest musical composition of all time, The Messiah, George Frideric Handel wrote

    The kingdom of this world
    Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
    And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
    And He shall reign for ever and ever.
    King of kings, and Lord of lords,…
    And He shall reign forever and ever,
    King of kings, forever and ever,
    And Lord of lords,
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    Conclusion

    Dallas Willard explains in The Divine Conspiracy, “God’s own ‘kingdom,’ or ‘rule,’ is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done. The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles, whether by nature or by choice, is within his kingdom.” This kingdom is among us, and is accessible now. Jesus said,

    So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

    May we seek first his kingdom, bringing honor and glory, praise and worship to the king of Kings and the lord of LORDs. He shall reign forever! Amen!

    Credits: some notes from Dallas Willard, Scot McKnight, D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Praising Him in Pain, 1 April 2018

    Praising Him in Pain
    D6 Series—
    Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
    Psalm 22
    Matthew 28:1-6

    Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song

    Big Idea: There’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering.

    Video: Psalm 22
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR5S08q_DII

    I know, you were expecting happy music, dancing bunnies, and chocolate eggs on every seat. Isn’t it Easter? Is this an April Fool’s Day prank? Why are we focusing on the death of Jesus? That was Friday. Yes, but there is no resurrection without a death. There is no Easter without a Good Friday.

    “Good” Friday is the day we remember the death of Jesus, a death prophesied hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22, our text for today. Hearing those words again, it’s amazing how they were written generations before Christ. They so vividly describe the pain and suffering of Jesus…and apparently David, too.

    Although some churches have an Easter sunrise service, on the first Resurrection Sunday morning, there were no Easter parades, bonnets, or celebrations.

    After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

    They were horrified to find it empty! Imagine going to a relative’s grave in a cemetery and finding the tombstone broken and nothing but a hole in the ground. That’s probably how these women felt.

    What a week! First, they watched their hope of a savior die mercilessly on a cross without even a hint of resistance. Then someone stole the body from the tomb? We cannot begin to imagine the despair, the sorrow, …the pain.

    I fear we’ve sanitized the Bible, telling stories to children as if they are fairy tales rather than real, raw accounts of people just like you and me who are altogether familiar with suffering and grief. David, who penned Psalm 22 which opened our gathering, was a real, historical figure with real emotions. He felt despair, sorrow and pain…and wasn’t afraid to pour out his heart and tell God. Likewise, the first followers of Jesus felt despair, sorrow, and pain at the beginning of the first Resurrection Sunday. It was yet another day to remember the loss of the One they hoped would overthrow the Roman Empire and save them. It was another hopeless morning of shattered dreams. It was another reminder of the horrors of watching their leader suffer and die, butchered and hung up for all to see, naked and tortured.

    Whether you are a member here or a first-time guest at First Alliance Church, I know one thing about you: you know pain. We’ve all experienced it in the past, are experiencing it now, and/or will experience it in the future. Like King David—and Jesus—perhaps you have felt forsaken by God. You wonder if there is any reason for hope in the midst of your mess. Maybe this morning you’ve been feeling out of place, thinking you’re the only one struggling on a day when everyone is happy, happy, happy.

    There can be no resurrection without a death—no Easter without a Good Friday. So before our party begins, we pause to remember the death of Jesus, the mourning that occurred both on Friday and Sunday morning.

    King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

    Today we remember the death of Jesus, following his instructions on the day before his death to take the bread in remembrance of his body that would be broken, and the cup in remembrance of his blood that would be shed for us. If you are a follower of Jesus, we invite you to eat and drink with us in remembrance of Christ.

    Communion

    There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:5-6)

    Can you feel the change in this room, the shift in the atmosphere? From darkness to light. From despair to hope. From death to resurrection.

    Here’s the big idea:
    there’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering. I know in a group this size many of you are experiencing pain and suffering. Maybe this is your first Easter without a loved one. Perhaps you’ve been battling a physical illness. Some of you are in a financial mess with tax day around the corner. Still others are experiencing relational challenges. I get it. I’ve been through all of those things…and some are very real to me at this moment. Jesus gets it, too. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.

    I believe one of the greatest obstacles to people trusting God is simply understanding how a good God could allow pain and suffering. If God loves us, why doesn’t He heal everyone, send angels to prevent drunk driving accidents, ensure beautiful sunny weather (at least on Easter!), and provide for all of the starving children in Africa.

    I don’t have time today to answer every question related to God, but there are three things you must know about God and pain:


    1. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.
    One of his best friends denied even knowing him three times. Another friend betrayed him, selling him out for thirty pieces of silver. In his greatest time of need, his “followers” abandoned him. He was beaten. Spit upon. A crown of thorns shoved into his skull. He was mocked. And that was just the beginning. Crucifixion was the most horrific torture known in the Roman world. Even worse than the emotional and physical pain, Jesus bore our sins. He suffered the greatest of all spiritual anguish. This is God, choosing to die…not because you and I are good, but because we are sinners in need of a Savior.

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

    In most other religions, the god or gods are distant. They may live in heaven or paradise or someplace removed from earth. Our faith teaches that

    …God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

    Jesus entered our world as Emmanuel, God with us. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us

    …we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    Jesus was sick, tired, hungry, and was tempted. He spent 33 years on our planet experiencing every emotion we experience. And He knows pain.

    2. God is with us in the midst of pain. I know, it doesn’t always feel like it. I went through a season in my life when I wanted to take the letter “Y” out of the alphabet because it seemed all I did was ask God, “Why?” If He was really with me, why didn’t He intervene, fix my problems, heal my daughter, fill my bank account, restore my relationships. As your pastor, I must say there are many things about God I don’t understand. I still ask, “Why?” But I’ve also learned that God loves us and can be trusted. He has His reasons, and often we just need to wait to understand them. We can trust God in all circumstances because He is the Sovereign Lord of all, which leads to my third point:

    3. Your story is not over. Today you may feel like it’s Good Friday…death and sorrow. It doesn’t feel good because you’re the one being crucified, criticized, abandoned, abused, mistreated, or simply suffering. The good news—the great news—is Jesus didn’t remain on the cross. One of the distinctions between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians is Catholics often show Jesus on the cross, the crucifix. Most Protestant crosses are empty, reminding us that He is no longer dead. Our symbol should be an empty tomb, but that would be a strange thing to wear around your neck, I suppose! But today we celebrate because Jesus did not stay in the grave. The story did end on Friday…and your story is not over, either.

    One of the greatest elements of the death and resurrection of Jesus is redemption. Redemption is clearing a debt. It’s buying one’s freedom. It means being saved from sin, error, or evil. Jesus died to redeem you, to pay the penalty of your sin, which is so radical it’s amazing. Christ is our redeemer. He bought our freedom…from sin and death. Before He died, he cried out, “It is finished!” It wasn’t a declaration of defeat, but of victory. The Greek word literally means, “Paid in full.” Hallelujah!

    Jesus died, and because Jesus died He invites you into a relationship with your Creator. Because Jesus died, He invites you to repent—turn from your sins and pride and selfish living—and following Him. Surrender your life. Let go and let God.

    Because Jesus is alive, He invites you to experience life that way it was designed to be lived, a life filled with love, peace, joy, and hope.

    And make no mistake…Jesus is alive! If Jesus is dead, I have no hope. Dead people can’t do anything for me. The Bible says

    And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

    Some people believe Jesus didn’t die. If He didn’t die, I have to pay for my sins on Judgment Day which is coming for all of us.

    Some people believe Jesus is still dead. If He is still dead, I have to pay for my sins. I’m hopeless.

    But nobody ever survived a crucifixion, and hundreds saw Jesus after He died and was resurrected. They talked with Jesus. They ate with Jesus. They wrote about Jesus. They gave their lives for Jesus, refusing to deny the resurrection.

    Jesus loves you.
    Jesus died for you.
    Jesus wants to be your friend.
    Jesus wants to be your king.
    Jesus wants to be your God.

    Religion is about doing things to earn God’s approval. Jesus flipped religion upside down. He did the heavy lifting. He died so you can live. If you could be good enough, he wouldn’t have needed to be crucified. Our faith is not about works, but rather faith, taking a step of faith and trusting Jesus to be the leader of your life, to be LORD.

    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

    I want you to know my best friend, Jesus. I want you to have a great life now, and great life after you die. Jesus offers both. If you invite him to be your God, your LORD, your leader, he will show you what life really means. He will guide you, be your friend, forgive you of all you have done wrong, and give you peace…and love.

    I know some of you are experiencing deep pain, loss, and trials. Jesus knows pain. I can’t magically fix every challenge you face, but God understands, God is here, and we are here…to love and serve you, to be the hands and feet of Jesus until He returns.

    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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

    We can praise Him even in the midst of pain because He understands, He is with us, and our story is not over.

    Good Friday was agonizing for Jesus but good for us. He suffered and died for us. And Resurrection Sunday is good because of Good Friday.

    Jesus is alive. Our redeemer lives!
    Jesus is here through the Holy Spirit.
    Jesus is returning.

    And now we celebrate. We praise. We worship. We party! Our Redeemer lives!

    Credits: some ideas from: D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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