Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Psalm 148: Praise, 4 September 2022

Psalm 148: Praise!
Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea:
The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: Let all of creation praise the Creator!
Praise the LORD! That’s the simple message of today’s scripture reading. Praise the LORD!
The original Hebrew word, which will be explained more fully later in a video, means to give glory, to sing praises, to go mad, to make fools, to boast. It has a connection to wedding songs and one reference says, “acted insanely.”
When is the last time you went bananas? When did you last embarrass yourself with your unbridled joy and enthusiasm?
Last night there were more than 100,000 people in
Columbus giving praise to young adults who were passing a pigskin. They sang praises. They boasted about their team. They gave glory to a university athletic program. To some, they appeared to be going mad, and to others they looked like fools.
Praise requires effort, passion, and energy…and an object. Praise the LORD!
This summer we’re in the book of Psalms, the song book of the Bible. We’ve looked at several themes about our relationship with God which all lead to praising Him.
Are you ready?
The heavens praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. (Psalm 148:1-4)
Have you ever witnessed this? I think you have! We might not see angels and heavenly hosts, but the sun and moon are quite spectacular, right? Were they created just for us, or could their movements actually be an expression of praise to their Creator?
What about the shining stars? We’ve mentioned them throughout this summer series. The more I learn about the
stars and galaxies, the smaller I feel!
I’ve shared the story before, but
William Beebe, the naturalist, used to tell this story about Teddy Roosevelt. At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: “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, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.” (
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever—he issued a decree that will never pass away. (Psalm 148:5-6)
The name of the LORD is to be praised. It’s holy. It’s sacred. It’s powerful.
The earth and sea praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, (Psalm 148:7-8)
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children. (Psalm 148:9-12)
That includes you and me! The late Dallas Willard said,
“Sometimes we get caught up in trying to glorify God by praising what He can do and we lose sight of the practical point of what He actually does do.”
God is awesome. He can do great things, but He also does great things that deserve our praise. God is good…all the time! All the time…God is good!
We need to be reminded of this. We need to remember…because we so easily forget. We get freaked out by the news. Social media can cause anxiety. Life is filled with stress and trials and problems…and some are quick to blame God for all of their troubles rather than the sin which plagues our world.
All of creation—everything—is to praise the LORD!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. (Psalm 148:13)
We sang earlier about the name of the LORD. There are actually several names for God. We
often reference three because there is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We call this the Trinity. This is a mystery
The ancient Greek Fathers of the Church likened the Trinity to a dance. A weaving in and out, back and forth with a harmony of Spirit and a unity of purpose.
I like this statement from InterVarsity’s website which speaks of the Dance of Equality:
There is no hierarchy in the Trinity. The Son glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son.  The Spirit glories Jesus.  The gospel of John paints this picture of equality powerfully for us.
The Trinitarian doctrine that we affirm proclaims the one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit full of love and glory. Did you catch that in the doctrinal basis? “Full of love and glory.”
The Son and Spirit don’t lack glory. The Father doesn’t lack love. Far from it!  The New Testament says he lavishes his love on us by sending his Son! They highlight and spotlight and exalt and serve each other. The ancients called the relationship perichoresis, but the best way to describe it is to think of it as a dance.  They spin and whirl in a wild dance of love and trust until you can’t tell who’s leading and who’s following and all you know is that a great time is being had.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
The Trinity is certainly a mystery. I suppose if we completely understood God, we would be God!
The Bible gives numerous descriptions of the roles of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason, I used to imagine the Father as the One who created everything, but John clearly states otherwise. Then again, Genesis 1:26 tells us that God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” If that doesn’t sound like more than one Person…
We praise the Father. We praise the Son. We praise the Spirit. They are all God. They are God. But on this communion Sunday as we prepare to remember the work of Jesus on the cross, I want to show you references to Jesus specifically in Psalm 148.
Jesus the Messiah can be seen in this psalm. He is the
-       Creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17)
       Captain of the hosts of the LORD (Joshua 5:14)
       Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78)
       Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)
He demonstrated power over
-       Storms (Matthew 8:23-27; 14:23-33)
       Trees (Matthew 21:18-22)
       Animals (Mark 1:13; 11:1-3)
And he has raised up for his people a horn,  the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD. (Psalm 148:14)

Credits: some ideas from Warren Wiersbe

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

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Psalm 46: Fortress, 14 August 2022

Psalm 46: Fortress
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: God is our refuge, strength, help, and fortress in a broken world. 
The movement of Jesus began with…Jesus! The Jewish Messiah gained Gentile followers of the years, becoming the first multi-ethnic faith in the world. In 1054, the global Christian Church split in two—Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox—following the East-West Schism. About 500 years later, the Protestant Reformation protested many practices of the Roman Catholic Church, further dividing Christians into Catholic and Protestant in addition to Orthodox. One of the leading figures of the Reformation was a priest named Martin Luther, the figure behind the Lutheran Church today.
Luther wrote the song we sang earlier,
A Mighty Fortress is Our God. It was often called “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” and is based on our text today, Psalm 46 which begins
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
We’re in the middle of a summer series on the Psalms, songs written thousands of years ago, yet writings which are amazingly relevant today. Some things never change!
It’s like that Psalm 46 was written as a response to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians during King Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32; Isaiah 36-37). Some believe the king himself wrote this psalm, and the next two.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible for many reasons, not the least of which is the last word: trouble. If I know anything about you, I know you’ve experienced trouble, you’re experiencing trouble now, or you will experience it in the future…or all three!
The original Hebrew word is
tsarah and it means distress, affliction, anguish, trouble.
There’s an old song that say, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen/Nobody knows but Jesus.”
Jesus himself said,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Maybe some of you have been told if you love God, everything will be happy, happy, happy. If so, you were told a lie! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:3)
Does that sound happy, happy, happy to you?!
I don’t claim to be an expert on world religions, but I know of no other faith that follows a suffering servant.
If you are going through trouble today, Jesus understands. He knows loneliness, betrayal, disappointment, rejection, …and he really knows pain. He promised trouble in this world, but then added
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Jesus conquered sin and death, pain and trouble. His followers will, too…in time. We all know trouble of one kind or another, which leads us back to our text for today in Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
When we’re in trouble, we want help.
When we’re in trouble, we want strength.
When we’re in trouble, we want a refuge, a safe haven, safety, protection, a fortress, a shelter, a tower.
That’s God! He’s not just help, He’s an ever-present help. That’s good news! That’s gospel!
I want to pause for a moment and lead you in a time of prayer.
-       Prayer for those in trouble.
       Prayer for those who know someone in trouble.
Thank You, LORD! He is our refuge, our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:2-3)
Fear is an interesting thing. I may be afraid of something that bring you no fear.
How many of you are afraid of snakes?
How many of you like snakes?
How many of you like snakes behind glass rather than crawling up your leg?
I’m not a big fan of snakes, but people have no fear of them at all. If you know something is harmless or if you are protected from it, there’s less fear…maybe none. I am not afraid of snakes at the zoo. The glass is a refuge, a fortress from any harm that could come my way from the source of the fear, the snake.
Because God is our refuge, our strength, our help, even if the world around us is out of control—and it is—we will not fear. We will exercise faith.
Whatever you fear has mastery over your life, which is why we are told to fear God and only God. When God is your master, every other fear will lose its control over you. Pastor Erwin McManus says,
“When all your fear is directed at God, his perfect love casts out all the fear and now you can live a life that’s truly free.” – Erwin McManus
Who doesn’t want that?
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. (Psalm 46:4) God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (Psalm 46:5)
This is not a literal body of water, but a poetic image of God’s presence. Jerusalem was the Holy City which God set apart, yet unlike most cities, Jerusalem has no river. God’s blessings provided more value and help than any river. If they trust in the LORD, it will become almost like the Garden of Eden. In these days, God’s presence was usually contained in the Jerusalem temple. How blessed we are that the curtain the kept that presence in the Holy of holies was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died…and since the Holy Spirit was unleashed upon believers in Acts 2, we can experience God’s presence and power wherever we go.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (Psalm 46:6) Here's another brilliant image. Imagine the earth melting at the sounds of God’s voice. It’s really not a stretch since the earth was created at the sound of God’s voice!
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7) There are two distinct messages here. The first is incarnation…Emmanuel…God with us. He’s with us, family! You can’t see Him or touch Him, but just like the invisible wind, you can see His activity. When do you feel closest to God? For me, it’s nature and the arts, especially music. Some feel close to God while studying the Bible, others in serving the poor, and still others engaging in justice and righteousness activities. The message of Christmas is God is here. The message of Acts chapter 2 is God is here, the Holy Spirit, living within us. What a beautiful mystery!
God is also our fortress. We don’t often see a fortress in modern architecture. The closest thing some have is a safe room in their house…or a basement for tornados. A fortress or refuge is a place of safety. God is that for us.
Our God is a mighty fortress! He is a shelter in the time of storm. He is our refuge and strength. He is our protector. Last Sunday we were reminded that He is our shepherd (Yahweh-Rohi). He is the strong one who sees (El-Roi). He is God Almighty (El-Shaddai-Rohi). He is the everlasting God (El-Olam). He is the most high God (El-Elyon). He is our provider (Yahweh-Jireh). He is the Lord over all (Adonai). He is the Lord who is present (Yahweh-Shammah). That’s just a few of the names of God!
What is your favorite name for God?
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. (Psalm 46:8)
That sounds rather dark, but the scene is the fields surrounding Jerusalem, filled with the destruction of the Assyrian army the LORD defeated.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. (Psalm 46:9)
God is God. He is the definition of justice…and yet He is also merciful, hallelujah! We don’t want what we deserve from God! As the psalmists describe God’s power, the tone changes in verse ten.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) Be still and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am
Be still, and know that
Be still, and know
Be still, and
Be still,
If you’re like me, it’s hard to be still. Noise surrounds us. Activity never ends. Even when my head hits the pillow, my mind often runs endlessly.
Maybe you’ve asked God to speak and heard nothing. Could it be you’re too busy to hear? He speaks primarily through His Word. Are you reading it daily? He’ll never contradict it.
If your brain feasts on cable news, you’ll forget He is God.
If your mind is filled with social media, God will diminish.
If your calendar is packed with activity, your love for God will grow cold.
If your life is lived at a non-stop pace, you will fail to worship the LORD.
I’m guilty! I don’t like slow. I struggle with still. I spent three years engaging in the Life on Life Retreat Experience specifically because I needed help…and I still do…even as I lead Life on Life Retreats! One of the practices, one of the rhythms is so be still, to be quiet, to rest, to Sabbath…not to gaze at our navels, but to fix our eyes on Jesus, to know that He is God.
Be still! The phrase literally means, “Take your hands off! Relax!” Jacob got in trouble taking matters into his own hands rather than trusting the LORD. Have you ever done that? Be still. Keep calm. Trust God. It doesn’t mean be inactive, but don’t worry…pray…and obey!

Check out
this recent interview with John Eldredge (start at 4:40) and his 3-minute tool that could literally restore your soul.
The verse also says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
For God so loved the…United States of America?
For God so loved the…English-speaking people?
For God so loved…the world! The nations!
One of the most beautiful visions in the Bible is from the book of Revelation. John wrote,
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9a)
God will be exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth.
The final verse declares,
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:11)
This is a perfect summary of the chapter.
The LORD. There is none like Him.
The LORD Almighty. He’s greater than any trouble, enemy, fear, army, addiction, or disease.
The LORD Almighty is with us. He is present. He is here. He’s not just out there. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus.
The God of Jacob is our fortress. He’s known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From generation to generation, He remains faithful. What He did then, He can do now.
God is our refuge, strength, help, and fortress in a broken world. Hallelujah!

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

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Psalm 8: Majestic, 31 July 2022

Psalm 8: Majestic
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: Our God is majestic and worthy of praise.
I often say the two most important questions might be
Who is God?
Who are you?
How you answer those questions will tell me a lot about you, your identity, your values, and your worldview. Today we’re going to look at the first question, and I hope it impacts the second for you.
Who is God? Who are you?
Although God created us in His image, many have unfortunately returned the favor! We tell God what is fair. We define what is right and wrong. We jump in the driver’s seat and put Him in the trunk. I’ve got a very offensive thing to say to you today:
You are not God!
It’s tempting for all of us to want to be in control, to do things our way, to turn to God only when we need something from Him, and to make an idol out of ourselves, our needs, our desires. We do this out of pride and arrogance, but I wonder if there isn’t another reason. Could it be that our God is too small?
We don’t see too many visual depictions of God, but He is often seen as weak, angry, stupid, or sleeping. After all, why is the world out of control if God is truly sovereign and in control?
The short answer is He has chosen, for whatever reason, to allow satan and demons to tempt us for a season, but it won’t be forever. It might end when every man, woman, and child has heard the good news that Jesus is LORD. That’s our mission!
Today we’re continuing our series on the book of
Psalms, the songbook of the Bible. It’s important to recognize the psalms are not a history book. They are not a science textbook. The psalms are poetry, art, lyric.
The first course I took in seminary was called hermeneutics. It simply means interpreting the Bible. Our textbook was
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart. Perhaps the most profound statement in the book is:
A text cannot mean what it never meant to its author or his or her readers.
It’s amazing how many people read the Bible as if it was written in English in 2022 and jump to application today.
We begin with what it originally meant. The technical term is exegesis. Then, we examine what it means for us today…hermeneutics. Then, we seek to apply it to our lives. Sometimes this process is quick and easy. For example, in the book of Exodus, Moses records this command of the LORD:
“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 10:13)
Looking at the context—the Ten Commandments—and the repetition of this message elsewhere in the time period, it’s safe to assume God meant to communicate to His people they should not murder.
What does this verse mean for us today? Was it written only for people thousands of years ago? Was the message found in the New Testament? Did Jesus support the teaching? Yes! Could it mean we should not murder in 2022? I’m confident in saying yes. The application, then, is we should not murder!
If only every verse in the Bible was so simple and clear!
As we look at Psalm 8, notice the context is not instructions or history or even narrative story. It’s a songwriter trying to describe and worship God. This video from The Bible Project will help us understand Psalm 8. Psalm 8 is the first praise psalm and the only one addressed entirely to the Lord.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
What comes to mind when you think of the word “majestic?” The original Hebrew word is “adder,” meaning majestic, glorious, magnificent, mighty, powerful, stately.
One dictionary describes the adjective “majestic” as
1. Impressive or beautiful in a dignified or inspiring way. synonym: grand.
2. Possessing or exhibiting majesty; of august dignity, stateliness, or imposing grandeur; lofty; noble; grand.
3. Having qualities of splendor or royalty.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
I don’t think there’s anything in USAmerican culture that compares to British
royalty. The wedding, birthday, and anniversary celebrations are spectacular. The crowns and palaces associated with the royal family are truly majestic.
Can you imagine the majesty of God? The psalmist begins by associating majesty with the name of the LORD. His name alone is majestic. In fact, it’s so sacred, Jewish people refuse to speak it aloud. I once asked my Messianic Jewish friend if the Hebrew name was pronounced
Yahweh. He said somewhat gingerly, “That’s very close!”
The name of the LORD is holy, sacred, majestic. You may be aware just a few verses before the prohibition of murder, it is stated in command number three:
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
If you never speak the name—the thinking goes—you cannot misuse it or use it in vain. Tragically, Hollywood has turned God’s name—and Jesus, in particular—as a curse word. It is holy! It is majestic!
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
It’s not just a Jewish thing. It’s not just an American thing. His name is majestic in all the earth! For all people. He is
our LORD! While we’re examining these words, the all-cap LORD is that sacred name, YHWH (Yahweh). The second Lord is Adonai, the more generic term for God or lord, literally “master.”
Did I mention you are not God?! You are special, loved, created in God’s image, but we are but dust, broken sinners in need of restoration, weak lumps of clay desperate for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Family, if we could get the focus off of ourselves and onto our majestic Lord, I believe our fear, worry, and anxiety would diminish. As pastor Donald said last Sunday, God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good! Taste and see that the LORD is good. King David continues,
You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:1b-2, NIV)
The bottom line of our church’s mission statement is God’s glory. It can be seen in the heavens or the sky. Children and infants praise the LORD. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to say when they cry!!! Jesus referenced this verse in Matthew 21:16 while welcoming the praise of children and silencing Jesus’ enemies as predicted here. God’s power and glory are greater than we can imagine. As I mentioned, He is allowing sin on the earth now, but someday soon, Jesus will return to rule and reign forever. Death will be defeated. Satan and his friends will be destroyed. Even now, demons tremble at the sound of the name of Jesus.
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)
Have you ever admired a sunrise or sunset? Have you ever paused to stare at the stars in the sky? It’s hard in the city, but rural areas provide an amazing experience. The writer of Romans said,
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)
It really takes effort to believe the universe was one big accident.
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5, NIV)
This is referring to mankind, to humans. Although it says angels, the original word, elohimˆ means God. Instead of being a little higher than animals, David is saying we’re a little lower than God. It’s truly incredible that God would be mindful of us, that He would care for us, that He would create us for a purpose, for a relationship with Him. It’s truly awesome that He would love you and me…warts and all!
Our value is determined by God, not social media, family, or our neighbors. He has created you to serve Him and share in His glory.
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)
There’s a prevailing message in our culture that we’re just animals. In fact, many seem to value animals over human life. I was recently selected to serve as a juror in a case that involved a murdered man and an injured dog. Some seemed more concerned about the cruelty to the animal than the death of the human! I love animals, but they were not created in the image of God. They were placed under the authority and stewardship of humans. The first book of the Bible—the first chapter of the Bible—makes this clear.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV)
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)
I know it’s not politically correct, but it is biblically correct to say
God created humans male and female in His image. I never thought such a statement would be controversial, but people have drifted so far from God’s design, it’s no wonder we live in a land of confusion. We are to love all humans and offer compassion to those who are suffering and struggling, but our source of truth must always be God and His Word, not what we might “feel” at a particular moment. I’m deeply saddened by the despair and desperation expressed by those who live without the LORD. Taste and see that the LORD is good…all the time!
OK, back to the main point, we are greater than other animals, according to God.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NIV)
We are to care for creation, not destroy it.
The psalm ends the way it begins.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9, NIV)
This is the theme of this song, this psalm. The LORD is majestic…in all the earth. The name of the LORD is majestic…in all the earth!
In summarizing Psalm 8, Warren Wiersbe notes,
God the Father created us to be kings, but the disobedience of our first parents robbed us of our crowns. God the Son came to earth and redeemed us to be kings (Rev. 1:5–6), and today the Holy Spirit of God can empower us to “reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). When you crown Jesus Christ Lord of all, you are a sovereign and not a slave, a victor and not a victim. “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:9).
Let’s proclaim his majesty to every living creature and declare the goodness of the LORD!
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Psalm 1: Blessed, 3 July 2022

Psalm 1: Blessed
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea:
The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: True blessings are found in seeking and following the LORD.
Shortcuts. We all love short cuts. The modern expression is hacks. How can do have it our way…now? Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Everybody wants to be rich, but nobody wants to work. Everybody wants a fit spouse, but nobody wants to be the one going to the gym. Everybody wants a degree, but nobody wants to study. Everybody wants to play the piano, but nobody wants to practice.
I realize everybody and nobody are exaggerations, but it’s true, right? We all want hacks to make life easier. Here’s one for you:
Everybody wants to be blessed, but nobody wants to obey the LORD.
Today we’re beginning a summer series on the Psalms called “restoring your soul.” Psalms may be my favorite book of the Bible. It is the songbook of scripture, though we don’t have the original music, unfortunately. I recently learned of an Australian musical group called The Sons of Korah who are trying to put all 150 psalms to music! They have dozens completed thus far.
The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul from a number of different writers. It is my prayer that they will speak not only to your mind, but also your heart and soul
A blessing is literally “God’s favor and protection.” Who doesn’t want that?
Today we’re beginning our series with Psalm…one! Its first letter is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. I learned in studying for this sermon the Psalms have five sections or books just like the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses that begin the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Psalm one is something of an introduction to the entire songbook, but it’s a simple yet profound piece of wisdom. The big idea is
true blessings are found in seeking and following the LORD. Don’t look for shortcuts. You can pray for blessings—for yourself or others—but we can participate with our lives.
The New International Version of Psalm 1 begins
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)
That’s a mouthful. We’re going to use the
New Living Translation this morning, but I want you to catch the “blessed.” Some versions say “happy.” The original Hebrew word is “Asheri.” That doesn’t mean much to most of you, but the NLT translates it
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. (Psalm 1:1, NLT)
I used to tell my kids, “You are your friends. Choose wisely.” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” Paul said,
“Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). We are all influenced by others, whether it’s family, friends, or even social media. Who do you hang with? Are they wicked? Do they sin without regret or repentance? Do they mock others? Are they filled with pride? What comes out of their mouth? Would it be appropriate around children?
The very first sentence of the very first Psalm says one is blessed not when they ask God to bless them, but rather when they don’t let the wicked influence them. There is effort involved. There is self-control involved. It may mean thinking twice about how you spend your time…with whom you spend your time!
This does not mean we should never develop relationships with non-Christians. It does mean in doing so we need to shine light into the darkness, not let our light get snuffed out by the darkness. Notice the progression: walk/follow, stand, sit/join. The righteous don’t have time to stand around and mock and gossip because they’re delighting in the LORD.
The LORD said to Joshua,
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
You’ll be blessed!
The psalmist continues the thought in verse two:
But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. (Psalm 1:2, NLT)
This is what a blessed person does. If you want to experience joy, this is what you do. You fill your mind with truth. You meditate not on your navel, but on the scriptures! According to numerous studies, biblical illiteracy has been on the increase for decades. Even many so-called Christians don’t know what the Bible says…or act like they don’t! I’ve been amazed—especially in the past few years—at the ungodly attitudes of so-called Christians. I expect the world to act like the world, but the lack of love, peace, compassion, empathy, courage, sacrifice, patience, and goodness of many who claim to follow Christ is evidence many simply don’t meditate on the Word of God. They’ve been more influenced by political parties or trendy ideas than on the law of the LORD.
Family, we need to meditate on the Bible day and night. Just reading it isn’t sufficient. Thirty minutes on Sunday morning is not enough. Most people I know eat more than one meal a week…more than one meal a day! We need to not only feed our bodies, we need to feed our minds. We need to feast on God’s Word, especially when we’re exposed to countless lies every day on billboards, television, and the Internet.
The Hebrew word for meditate,
hagah, means to moan, growl, ponder. The same word is found in Isaiah 3:14 for a lion’s low growling and later for the cooing of a dove. Perhaps you’ve tried to memorize something, repeating it quietly out loud. Day and night the blessed, the happy, the joyful marinate their minds on God’s Word. It is their delight. By the way, the Hebrew word for “law,” Torah, is more than just rules. It’s all of the stories, prophecies, and instructions in the Bible, provided for us to know and understand God and reality.
It's no wonder our world is filled with so many opinions and perspectives. People are reading different books…literally! What is your basis for faith? For truth? For understanding life?
We’ve given you several tools to help you meditate on God’s Word. Let me remind you of some of them:
1.    Mission 119. This free app will guide you through the entire Bible over about 20 months. Alliance Pastor John Soper will give you scriptures and offer a daily audio commentary on the passage, which is especially helpful in those difficult texts. I’m doing it for the third time now and it’s one of the best habits I’ve ever done.
    Lectio 365. This is another free app which has both a morning and an evening meditation on God’s Word. It provides space for prayer and reflection as well as biblical content. Heather and I do it most every day together and it’s one of the best investments we’ve made in ourselves and our marriage.
    RightNow Media. First Alliance pays for you to have a free subscription to this huge library of videos, all available on your mobile device or streaming box. There are resources for children, small groups, and personal Bible study from some of the best teachers on the planet.
    YouVersion. This is so much more than a Bible app. It’s packed with Bible reading plans, videos, a verse of the day, and the “live” section has First Alliance Church each week!
    Life Groups. The heart of First Alliance is not actually Sunday morning in rows, but in circles with small groups. It’s difficult to interact with my preaching live (unless you’re online; chat away!), but doing life together with others is a terrific environment to not only feed on the Bible but also digest it into your soul.
Of course, there are many other ways to get God’s Word in your heart, letting it fill your mind. The best Bible translation is…the one you read! I like the New Living Translation and the New International Version, but if you prefer a different one, go for it! I like my
NIV Study Bible and my Life Application Bible.
One core value of our Alliance family states, “Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success.”
One of this church’s core values says, “We are committed to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus.” Don’t miss that last part. It’s not enough to know it in your head. It needs to leak into your heart and hands, too!

Arguably the best chapter in the Bible about the Bible is Psalm 119. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible (176 verses!). If you want a great place to start meditating on God’s Word, read it slowly. Those who delight in God’s Word, those who meditate on it…
They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:3, NLT)
Have you ever slowed down long enough to observe trees? God designed them to get nourishment through their roots and the results can be seen in the leaves. It seems like trees near water have an advantage! Even when the weather is dry, a tree near water is able to drink. They are able to bear fruit. I love fruit, especially fresh fruit!
But have you ever had bad fruit? Moldy fruit? Those who feed on God’s Word, those who meditate on the LORD, will produce good fruit, the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a, NIV)
This is the fruit of doing life with God, filling our minds with truth and righteousness. Note trees don’t eat their own fruit, but produce it to benefit others. That’s true for the righteous.
But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. (Psalm 1:4, NLT)
I’m no gardener, but I know the wheat and chaff are separated. One has value, the other is worthless trash. The kernel falls to the threshing floor and saved while the chaff blows away. Imagine a watermelon. You eat the fruit and throw away the rind, right? This is how God describes the wicked, those who ignore God and His wisdom. It gets worse.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. (Psalm 1:5, NLT)
Judgment Day is coming…for all humans. Are you ready? I know our culture is filled with gray, but scripture repeatedly talks about the sheep and the goats, the wide and narrow road, heaven and hell. There are two paths. Which have you taken? It’s never too late to repent, turn, and follow Jesus.
For the LORD watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:6, NLT)
Which path are you choosing?
Jesus once said,
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28, NIV)
It’s not enough to hear it. It’s not enough to read it. We must live it!
Do you want to be blessed? There’s something you can do about it! To experience God’s favor, you need to seek and follow Him. It’s not enough to say, “Bless me, LORD!” There are no shortcuts. You need to spend time with Him, meditate on His Word, surround yourselves with others who will speak the truth in love and model a Jesus lifestyle. Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out!
The message today is quite simple, yet we’re so easily enticed by the lies of this world and miss the pathway to blessings. It’s ultimately about seeking and following the LORD. It’s about building your life around Jesus. It’s about Christ being our cornerstone…our life!
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. (Psalm 33:12, NIV)
May God bless the United States of America this week as we celebrate our freedom…and may He bless every nation on earth!

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

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library