Expedition | A Season For Praise | Psalm 103 | Week 3


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EXPEDITION: A Season for Praise  Psalm 103  Dr. Scott Wenig  (2nd Service)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}  Today we’re going to walk our way through Psalm 103. Before we look into this psalm and see what the Lord would teach us through it, I’m going to ask you to join your hearts together with me in prayer.  Father, a couple of moments ago, we sang about how good you are and you are so, so good to all of us.  So, Lord, today, I just ask that you would reveal that side of your character to us in the teaching.  Lord, as we continue to engage you and try to come to know you, I just pray you would pour out your mercy and your grace and your compassion on each of us.  Father, we probably all walked in here today with different things we’re processing through, different issues we’re struggling with, maybe even sins we’re tempted to commit, so, Lord, wherever we’re at, I just pray that you embrace us and love us and show us how much you care for us.  Now as we look into this psalm, Lord, we ask for your Spirit’s guidance, we ask that you might enlighten our minds, we ask that you might touch our hearts, we ask that you would show us who you are and what that means for us.  We pray all this in the great and powerful name of Jesus.  Amen.

Beginning this week, we’re entering into what our society labels ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.  And for many of us, this is a great time because we get to see family and friends, and eat some great food, and read some great books, and go the movies, and sing Christmas carols, and sleep in more than normal.  But for others here, it may not be so wonderful.  The reason why it’s not so much fun is because there’s pain from family dysfunction, or there’s the increasing cost of buying all those gifts, or we have to stand in the security line at DIA with thousands of our closest friends to board a plane which might be delayed at some point due to bad weather. And while the holiday season is really good for lots of us and not so good for others of us, it’s almost always the BUSIEST time of the year for ALL of us.  Regardless of who we are or how old we are, at one point or another we’re probably going to be shopping for presents at the mall or shopping on Amazon.  At some point, we’re going to be standing in line at King Soopers, or standing in line at Starbucks, or standing in line at Starbucks at King Soopers.  We’re going to be attending Christmas concerts and school concerts.  We’re going to be completing the semester.  We’re going to be wrapping up a big project at work before the end of the year, We’re going to be coming to church; we going to be sitting in traffic.  And that’s just in the first week of December.

The holiday season often reflects what the Red Queen said in the famous novel, Alice in Wonderland:  “Now, here you see, it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you’ll have to run at least twice as fast as that!”

And yet in the midst of all the busyness and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Scripture calls us to pause for a few moments here and there, to pause beyond Sunday morning, and then from the very deepest part of our being, praise our great God and Savior.  Look how Psalm 103:1 starts off:  Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Everyone of these psalms in the psalter has what we call a superscription.  It’s a little statement right underneath the number of the psalm and it usually ascribes the psalm to a particular author.  The superscription for Psalm 103 attributes it to David.  If you’ve ever read the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you know that David was many things throughout the course of his life.  He was a son, a shepherd, a refugee for a large part of his life, a warrior, a politician, a friend, a husband, a father, a poet, a worship leader, and eventually he became Israel’s king.  Many scholars think David wrote this psalm when he was serving as Israel’s king.  I think it’s instructive that in the midst of all his various royal responsibilities, tasks, and duties, he pauses, he reflects, and he calls upon himself, from the deepest part of his being, to praise God.

What’s it mean to praise?  What exactly is that?  Praise is the verbal and emotional expression we give to something or someone that we heartily approve of.  If you’re a music lover, or a movie lover, or a sports fan, you understand what praise is all about.  If you really like a movie, you say, “That movie was fantastic!”   Or if you loved the music, you say, “Man, that concert was great!”  If you’re a sports fan and your team does something really, really well, you get up out of your chair and automatically go, “They were awesome!  That was fantastic!”

Well, that’s what David is expressing here in the psalm. In the midst of everything, as king, that he’s got going on, he’s pausing to say, “God, you’re my Savior, you’re my Lord, and from the deepest part of my soul I want to praise you!”  In fact, the word that’s used here for ‘praise,’ in Psalm 103:1—it’s also translated ‘bless’ in some versions—is the Hebrew word barak.  It means to humbly bow in the presence of someone who is unbelievably great.   Friends, Psalm 103 calls all of us to dedicate some time, some energy, some effort to praising God in the midst of the good times, the tough times, and the really, really busy times that are going to come our way here in the next few weeks.

The most famous Christian missionary of the 19th century was the Englishman, David Livingstone.  By all counts, Livingstone was a person of exceptional gifts, and he was utterly committed to taking the gospel to places and to people where they had never heard of Jesus.  So in 1866, he ventured deep into the African jungle and was not heard of for years; most thought that he had been killed or died of disease.  A few years later, in 1871, Morton Stanley stumbled on Livingstone coming out of the jungle, all emaciated and dehydrated. But the very first thing Livingstone said upon seeing Stanley was Psalm 103:1, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.”  

See, David comes to us here, friends, and he tells us that regardless of our circumstances, praise can be a core part of who we are, but like everything else in the Christian life, it has to be learned and practiced.  So King David wants to push us in that direction by giving us some very specific reasons to praise our great God.  The first comes to us in Psalm 103:2-5:  Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The first reason David tells you and me to praise God is because of the many, many, many benefits He’s bestowed upon us.  Let me walk through these one more time.   God is the One who forgives our sins. He heals our diseases. He redeems our life from the pit.  He crowns us with love and compassion.  He renews our youth by giving us good, good things.  I like the way the great 19th century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, phrased this:  “Here David begins his list of blessings received which he rehearses as themes and arguments for praise. He selects a few of the choicest pearls from the basket of divine love, threads them on the string of memory and then hangs them on the neck of gratitude.”  I love that, because Spurgeon says in such an eloquent manner that God has blessed us with all of these benefits! 

I want us to pause here for a moment and do just a little bit of personal reflection. Is there one benefit in this list that applies to you more than any of the rest?  Let me rephrase the question:  I mean, we’re all the recipients of all of those benefits, but does one stand out in your mind as a special reason for YOU to praise this great God today?   For me, it’s that second phrase: heals your diseases.  In early December 2005, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My mom had died about 15 years before that from cancer, and so I knew that if the Lord did not intervene the medical professionals would just buy me some time. But, by God’s grace, my two doctors had caught the cancer early, did a great job of diagnosis and surgery, and were used by the Lord to heal my disease.  Friends, our great and gracious God has blessed us with incredible benefits and even though we’re busy right now—and we’re all going to get a whole lot busier over the next four or five weeks—let’s do what David says here and take some time to pause, reflect, and praise our great God.

David says you should do that first of all because of his many benefits, but then he goes on to give us a second reason to pause and praise God. He says that the Lord deserves our praise because He forgives each and every one of our sins.  Look at verses 6-12:   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. 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. 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.

The historical context that David is referencing here is that period of time in Israel’s history known as the Exodus.  God called Moses to be the human agent of His divine deliverance in bringing the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt.  Then they wandered for forty years in the desert, grumbling, and complaining, and sinning against the Lord who had miraculously delivered them and then provided for their needs.  Sometimes that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Maybe sounds a little bit like us.  Praise and gratitude don’t come easily to humanity.  Praise of God is not our normal default mode.  I think that’s especially true for us as Americans, in spite of all our abundance, and our wealth, and our mobility.

In fact, in American society, if things don’t go too well, a lot of Americans have the tendency to grumble, to complain, to blame others, and then sue them.  I don’t know if you knew this, but a few years ago, the San Francisco Giants baseball team was sued for passing out Father’s Day gifts to ONLY men.  Not long after that, a psychology professor sued for sexual harassment because there was the presence of mistletoe at a Christmas party.  One I just read recently about:  A psychic was awarded almost a million dollars in damages when a doctor’s CT scan impaired her psychic abilities.  You have to wonder about that third one a little bit, don’t you?  If she was really a psychic, wouldn’t she had known she shouldn’t have gone to that doctor or gotten that CT scan in the first place?

Psalm 103 pushes back on all that negativity by calling us, as God’s people, to give Him praise.  In this section of the psalm, we’re to praise Him for his gracious forgiveness.  As David says in verse 10, “Listen, listen, listen, He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, He forgives our iniquities,” and I love how he states it in verse 12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  So let me ask you, how far, how far, how far is the east from the west?  That’s a wonderfully poetic way of illustrating that our God is never reluctant to forgive humble, penitent sinners.  I’d also like to suggest that this phrase, that David wrote around 1000 bc, points forward 1000 years to when Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for our sins.  As the Apostle Paul would write in the fifth chapter of his great letter to those first Christians in Rome—God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The novel Sophie’s Choice was made into a movie back in the early 1980s. The film revolves around the main character, Sophie, who was placed in a German concentration camp along with her two children.  At one point the camp commandant comes to her and says, “Choose. Choose one of your children to live and one of them to die. And if you don’t choose, they’ll both die.”  And so Sophie is forced to make the most horrible decision that any human being, any parent, any mom, would ever have to make.  Choosing one of your children to live and the other child to die. 

Yet the Bible tells us that that’s the choice our heavenly Father was faced with.  On the one hand, He had His Son Jesus who was sinless, holy,  and perfect, and on the other hand He had each one of us who are by nature deeply sinful.  That was the choice our heavenly Father faced, and yet He chose us to live and Jesus to die! Friends, this God that is pictured for us in Psalm 103 is a God of gracious compassion who forgives every single one of our sins, and if only for that, we should pause, bow down, and praise Him every single day!

Listen, listen, listen, David comes to us here and says we should pause and praise God for his many benefits.  We should pause and praise God because of his gracious forgiveness.  But he doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to say that we should also praise God for His everlasting love.  Look at verses 13-18 of this psalm:  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  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.

As David makes crystal clear, we’re all frail and mortal creatures.  We come from the dust of the ground and someday, we’ll return to that.  We’re like grass or flowers that flourish in the summer, but now it’s November and they’re gone. The wind blows over our lives and before we know it, life is over.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across this website:  Deathclock.com.  You type in your date of birth, gender, and your body mass index—they have a chart to figure it out.  Then you press a button that gives you the date of your death based on actuarial tables from insurance companies.  But the creepy thing is there’s a clock right in your face that’s counting down the seconds!

Friends, we’re mortal, frail creatures.  Some day we will return to dust.  That’s the bad news, but Psalm 103 doesn’t stop there.  It gives us the good news that God gives us His everlasting love.  David mentions God’s love in verse 4 and verse 8 and verse 11 of this psalm.  But I want us to look again at verse 17.  But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  The word that he uses here for love is the Hebrew word hesed.  Hesed means God’s covenant love with His people from eternity past all the way into eternity future.  The Apostle Paul was a great Jewish rabbi.  He knew the Old Testament by heart.  Certainly he had hesed in mind when he wrote that passage in Romans 8 — …neither height nor depth, nor angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, or anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Karl Barth is considered by many to be the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century.  In 1919 he wrote a brilliant commentary on the Book of Romans that completely changed the nature and scope of biblical studies for the next sixty years.  Then in the 1930s he went on to write a massive four volume treatise of systematic theology known as Church Dogmatics.  On one occasion, after giving a lecture, someone asked Barth for the most profound theological insight he had gained through all his work and scholarship.  And Barth said, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Friends, you might not believe this, but the truth is Jesus loves you and He loves me.  He is with us through thick and thin, good and bad, sickness and death.  Then, on that great day of His return, He’ll love us beyond what we can think or imagine by resurrecting us from the dead and giving us a glorified body that is not made of dust, that is not frail, that is not mortal, that can do all kinds of unbelievable things and is indestructible for all of eternity!  Friends, in this busy season of the year, David comes to us here in Psalm 103 and he tells us that we should praise God for His many benefits.  You should praise God for His gracious forgiveness.   You should praise God for His everlasting love.

As you read this psalm and you read all these reasons why we should praise God, it makes sense to think that David was ready to draw it to a close. But that’s not what happened.  It’s like that as he thought about how God has done all these things for us, and how great God is, and how we have all these reasons why we should praise Him, David got more inspired.  It looks like he got more emotional and more and more pumped up.  I imagine him sitting in his room in the early evening, and as he comes to this section of the psalm, he’s so wired he gets up and runs outside.  He looks up to the sky and it’s become dark and he sees all those stars—those million and million of stars and galaxies.  He calls on the entire cosmos to break out in praise of this great and glorious God.  Look what he says here in 19-22:  The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.  Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.  Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.  Praise the LORD, my soul.

In 1741, the great German composer George Frederick Handel composed what quickly became his most famous oratorio, “Handel’s Messiah.” Written in three parts, it follows the narrative of the New Testament from the birth of Jesus the Messiah, through His life, death, resurrection, and his ascension.  Handel also went on to include Jesus’s promised return to get us in glory. The high point of “Handel’s Messiah” is the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” which always brings audiences to their feet in a standing ovation.  These final four verses of Psalm 103 are David’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ to this great and awesome God that you and I get to serve.  David’s calling on everyone and everything in the universe, from the tiniest creature to the largest galaxy, including angels and heavenly hosts, to rise up and praise this great and glorious God who has given us so very much, and who sovereignly rules and reigns over all!

As Aaron and the team come up on stage, I want us to do the exact same thing that David is calling the cosmos to do. I want us to stand on our feet, in honor of this Old Testament version of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ and then from the deepest part of who we are, let’s give praise to God for his many blessings, his gracious forgiveness, his everlasting love!

Expedition | A Season For Praise | Psalm 103 | Week 32020-08-20T18:37:43-06:00

Expedition | World’s Best Boss | Psalm 2 | Week 2


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EXPEDITION: World’s Best Boss   Psalm 2    Resident Amelia Schmidt    (1st)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}  Hi! I just want to tell you about myself before I get started.   I grew up in a tiny town in South Dakota, moved to Minnesota to go to Crown College, and then moved here just over three years ago to attend Denver Seminary and pursue my Masters of Divinity.  In just under a month I will finally graduate! I started working here at South just four days after moving to Colorado and I’ve had the privilege of working with our middle and high school students here for the past three years, leading worship for them. I absolutely love our students and getting to be a part of their lives. Some other important things you should know about me is that I love pizza, ultimate Frisbee, and spending time with friends.

Another thing about me that a lot of people don’t know, is that I’m a pretty big nerd. Growing up, my family watched a lot of sci-fi movies and shows, and one of my favorites was Star Wars! Throughout this epic series, we see the story of a famous rebellion. The Rebel Alliance stood bravely against the evil Galactic Empire. They never backed down, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them. They worked in secret for decades to overthrow the Emperor and restore democracy to the galaxy, which (spoiler alert) they finally did. The Rebels took down the Empire! Good won once again!

This story, and those like it, move us; good versus evil and the good guys winning! But what if it was evil rebelling against good? That’s not a story you hear very often, probably because it wouldn’t make much sense, because people don’t usually rebel against good things, right? I mean, if you go watch a movie where the bad guys were trying to defeat the good guys, and they won, it probably wouldn’t be a very good movie. It doesn’t seem right. Yet, as much as that doesn’t make sense, I realized that it happens all the time. Kids rebel against their parents who love them. People break rules that are meant to help them and keep them safe. And each and every one of us rebel against God. We sin. As much as we don’t want to, we still do it. We rebel against a God who deeply loves us and wants what’s best for us. We want to control our lives, be our own boss. And we lose sight of who God is.

We’re not the first ones to do this either. Ever since the beginning of humanity this has been an issue.  Psalm 2 starts off by talking about a rebellion, a rebellion against good, a rebellion against God. If you have your Bibles, open them to Psalm 2. It will also be on the screen.   Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”  I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.  Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the end of the earth your possession.  You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”  Therefore, you kings, be wise;  be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.  Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2 begins by setting the scene with a rebellion. The nations are conspiring, people plotting, kings rising up, rulers banding together. It seems as though everyone is in on this revolution. Then, we see that they are all against the Lord and his anointed, which is the king, the king of Israel. The goal of rebellion was lordship. These earthly leaders wanted to be the ones in charge.

In verse 3, we hear the battle cry of the rebels, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” This was a metaphor of stubborn cattle or oxen that break and throw off their restraints in order to be free of the plow they were attached to. These earthly leaders saw the rule of God as something they were enslaved to, something oppressive, and something they needed to free themselves from. God was an opposing force, their enemy.

Throughout Scripture, there is this theme of rebellion against God, and things aren’t much different today. In our post-Christian culture it’s become normal to live in rebellion to God.   How do we do this?  Rebel against God? It might not be obvious. Maybe for you, it’s trying to control every area of your life – your finances, schedule, family, job – instead of surrendering it to God. Maybe, it’s just avoiding spending time with him overall, letting busyness, laziness, fear, or just life get in the way. I know I struggle with that.

One night in youth group, we were in small groups, and I asked a question, “How do you enjoy God?” Students were throwing out answers – sports, nature, music. And then I called on one student and I asked her, “How do you enjoy God?” and she just replied, “I’ve never thought about it. For most of my life, I’ve been afraid of God, so the idea of enjoying God is so foreign to me.” I don’t think she’s alone in that. There is this widespread view of God that he is a big scary God who will strike you down if you mess up or do anything wrong. If you think that, the idea of enjoying God would be crazy! If you have that view of God, I want to encourage you to listen up this morning and to be open to the idea that maybe you have an incomplete view of God. The one true God is all powerful, yes, but he is also full of love, compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and so much more!

These rebels in Psalm 2 thought God was oppressive, they did not enjoy him, and they wanted nothing to do with him. They didn’t see him as good, and thought that they could get out from under his control by rebelling, but they would soon realize that wouldn’t work out very well.  In verses 4-6, we see God’s response to the rebellion of the nations, kings, and rulers.  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

The psalmist shows here that God has the full range of emotions, from laughter to anger, scoffing to wrath. God is laughing at the ridiculous idea of people trying to defeat him. God. The very one who gave them life, the one enthroned in heaven.

WRATH – What do you think of when you hear this word? How does it make you feel? Maybe a little uncomfortable, fearful, anxious? Let’s be honest, it sounds scary. God’s anger and wrath is something that we don’t often talk about. It’s not as fun to talk about as his love or mercy. It’s pretty ironic that I’m talking  about wrath and anger, because for those of you who know me, know that I never really get angry. I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve actually been angry in the past 5 years. But love, now love I can talk about! I love love, and I love loving people, and helping them, and encouraging them! So I prefer to talk about God’s love, and avoid his wrath and anger. But today, I’m gonna go there.

I want us to take a step back and look at what God’s wrath really means.  So many of us have this picture of an angry, scary, wrathful God, like my student had for most of her life.  I think God’s wrath is his response when things go against his design, his good plan. It’s the natural reaction to evil and sin, things that God didn’t intend for humanity, those created in his image. But, listen to this because it’s very important. The object of God’s wrath is not you, it’s not me, it’s not us. The object of God’s wrath is sin and evil. God is angry at sin, death, and evil, and what it does to his children whom he deeply loves. He hates when those things have a hold on our lives and isn’t going to just leave it alone. But some people experience God’s love as pain when they want to reject it. Going against the grain of God’s love can feel like wrath. It’s kind of like if you have a piece of wood. You can run your hand across it one way, and it feels pretty smooth. But then, if you go back the other way, against the grain, you might get a splinter. God’s wrath is the result of things going against his good plan, against his love.

I believe that one of the reasons we don’t talk about God’s wrath and anger is because there’s a stigma around anger in general, especially in the Christian culture. Ever since I was young, I viewed sadness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions as bad and things to avoid at all cost. I thought that a good Christian didn’t experience those emotions. So, even if I did ever feel those things, I wouldn’t dare let them out or express them in any way. However, earlier this year, I began to learn more about emotions. In a leadership class I took we read the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero, which is probably one of the best books I have ever read, so I’d encourage you to go read it too. I learned that emotions are not bad. They are a part of being human and we need to embrace them and let ourselves feel whatever feelings we’re feeling. There is no such thing as “bad” emotions. There are bad, or unhealthy, ways to deal with our emotions, but they are not bad in and of themselves. Emotions are a part of being human, made in the image of God. Scazerro says in his book, “To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. . . . To cut them out of our spirituality is to slice off a part of our humanity.” If emotions are a part of being made in the image of God, that means that emotions are a part of who God is too. We cannot minimize God’s anger and wrath or expect him to only express his love and other “good” emotions; just like we can’t tell a person that they can’t be angry or sad, just happy. I told that to myself for most of my life, and let me tell you, it’s not healthy! God experiences the full range of emotions, and we should expect nothing less from him.

God’s anger and wrath here are a result of people rebelling against him, going against his good plan for them, going against the grain of his love. God’s response in verses 4-6 reveals the ignorance of these nations that are rebelling, as well as God’s sovereignty. God is the sovereign King. He is the supreme authority and all things are under his control.

One of my dad’s favorite shows is Star Trek, and in this show there is an alien group called the Borg, and when they encounter another alien race they intend to assimilate into their Borg collective, part of their standard message they say is “Resistance is futile.” God’s response to the nations’ rebellion here is an emphatic and resounding, “Resistance is futile.”

God installs his king and gives a decree, read by the king here, starts with the statement in verse 7, “You are my son; today I have become your father.” At the heart of this decree is the idea of adoption, sonship. God is the sovereign king, but his earthly representative was this Davidic king, this king of Israel.

Verse 9 then says, “You will break them with a rod of iron.” The word for break can also be translated as “rule.” The rod of iron, or iron scepter, is a symbol of rule and authority. It is the means of discipline and judgment. Another use of this verb is in shepherding. Shepherds rule with a staff by using it to fight off intruders and protect their flock. So, the king will rule over the nations with this rod of iron, expressing his God-given authority, enforcing and disciplining, as well as using it to protect and guide.

The next phrase is, “You will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Now, I thought about throwing this clay pot on the ground to help you visualize this, but I figured it might make too much of a mess. But, shattering a clay vessel, or piece of pottery, was a common symbol of destruction in the Ancient Near East. In Egypt, names were often written on pottery and then shattered, emphasizing the defeat and destruction of their enemies.

An iron rod is very strong, and pottery is very fragile. These metaphors reveal the difference between the power of the Davidic king and the fragility of the earthly rulers. It all comes down to the strength and power of God. For Davidic kings, their power and authority came from God and was exercised under God, unlike the earthly kings who try to rule out of their own power.

You may have heard in the past month or so that the famous music artist, Kanye West, became a Christian. He released a new album called, “Jesus is King.” Kanye recognized this truth, that God is king. Until recently, he was his own boss. He seemingly controlled everything in his life, he had fame, money, fans. He lived out of his own power. But that wasn’t enough for him. His life has changed drastically since becoming a Christian and accepting the fact that God is the sovereign king. Now, he lives and leads out of God’s power, not his own. How cool is that!

Psalm 2 is one of the psalms most frequently quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. That is because from the perspective of early Christianity, this was a messianic psalm, which means it’s a prophesy or expressing hope for a messiah, or savior. Without a king, the Israelites were left waiting and hoping for their messiah, a king who would come in and finally deliver them and rule over them once again. That king was Jesus, though he wasn’t the kind of king they expected. First of all, he came as a fragile, innocent, baby. Years later, after he had been teaching for a while, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a big horse, as kings would normally do. A week later, Jesus was crowned, not with a crown of jewels, but a with a crown of thorns, and instead of being exalted on a throne, he was crucified, killed on a cross. This so called Messiah had just died and the Jewish people were back to square one, waiting again for their king to come.  But to death, Jesus declared, resistance is futile! Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death once and for all. He showed that he not only rules over life, but he has power over death as well.  This new kingdom that Jesus ushered in was established in his death and resurrection and he is the king of this kingdom. Jesus is the fulfillment of this psalm. He is ultimately the one that the Lord installed as king on Zion, the Son of God. Unlike earthly kingdoms that are established in destruction, destroying other nations in order to grow, the Kingdom of God is established in love, humility, forgiveness, serving, and radical self-sacrifice.

Now in Psalm 2, these earthly leaders were trying to rule out of their own power, destroy other nations, rebel against God. God responded by announcing the installment of his king, his earthly representative, and also by showing that God is sovereign. So, how are these earthly leaders to respond to this? How are we to respond to this?  Well, following this decree of the king, we hear a warning to these rulers of the earth. Starting at verse 10, “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.” Leaders are called to serve God. This service to God is not slavery though, there is freedom in serving God. However, serving does not come naturally to most leaders. It seems almost like a contradiction. Although, I would argue that the best leaders are those who serve the people they lead.

I tried to think of examples of this, and I really couldn’t find any better than the World’s Best Boss, Michael Scott! {Character from TV show “The Office.”}  Just kidding.  The perfect example of this, of servant leadership, is Jesus. One of my favorite pictures of his servant leadership is in John 13 when he washes his disciples’ feet. Feet can be pretty disgusting, especially when you’re walking around the desert with sandals on. I went to Israel last year and wore my Chacos basically every day, and let me tell you, my feet got pretty nasty! Normally a servant would wash everyone’s feet when they come into a house, but this time, Jesus, the King of Kings, humbled himself and washed his disciples feet.  Jesus, the true World’s Best Boss, showed how leaders are to serve.

The author here is saying that these leaders need to realize they are not on the top of the totem pole, that in the chain of command, God is at the top and they are to serve him. God is the sovereign King. Because God is the sovereign King, we should serve him.  Verse 11 says to “Serve the Lord with fear.” Fearing God, like wrath, is another thing we don’t often talk about, but all throughout Scripture, we are told to fear God. This fear is not just being scared or afraid of God. It is recognizing his authority and that he is all-powerful and sovereign, and responding with fear, awe, reverence, deep respect. God is so great and so holy and we must remember that. But he isn’t a tyrant or an evil dictator that we are to be afraid of. He is the sovereign, loving, holy, all-powerful, compassionate King. We are to fear God, stand in awe of who he is, and respond to him with reverence and deep respect.   Along with serving the Lord with fear, leaders are also called to celebrate his rule with trembling. These are parallel statements, reinforcing how these earthly leaders, and we, should respond to God’s rule. That fear and awe is combined with celebration and joy. Worship of God is characterized by both awe and joy, fear and celebration. These things are not exclusive, they are complementary. If you truly understand how good God is, your natural response would be worship.  We are not only called to serve God because he is the sovereign King, but because God is the sovereign King, we should fear him. The psalmist here is telling these earthly leaders that they are to recognize that God is King and live and lead in light of that reality—to serve him with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

Even though we aren’t kings or queens, or presidents, or governors, we are all leaders, even if you don’t see yourself as a leader. We are leaders in our work places, church, families, friend groups, and whatever other places you find yourself in. This psalm should serve as a warning to us too.  Warnings aren’t necessarily bad, they can be very good things. We are not the boss. We report to a good, sovereign king who is much greater than us, one who we are to serve with fear, with awe and reverence. This is good news! God is the ruler of all things! If we truly believe that, how would that change the way we lead and live? Maybe it would mean bringing your plans, your hopes, your desires before God and seeing what he will do with them, instead of trying to make them happen out of your own power. Or maybe you would experience the freedom of knowing that everything is not dependent on you, or what you do or do not do. The pressure that we so often put on ourselves is not real. There is freedom knowing that God is in charge, he is in control, he is sovereign. We can surrender these areas that are causing so much anxiety and stress in our lives—wondering if you’ll be able to make your next rent payment, worrying about the choices your son or daughter are making, your desire for marriage or for children, or hoping you’ll get that promotion at work, or a part in the musical, or make it on the team. Part of that fear and reverence of God is conceding the need to control our lives. True freedom comes from acknowledging that God is good and sovereign. How would knowing that we serve a good, sovereign king, change the way we lead and live?

We are also told in verse 12 to “kiss his son.” This seems like an odd statement to us. But back then, kissing was a sign of honor and submission. With this call to submission, the psalmist warns the leaders of what will happen if they don’t submit and serve God. “Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Now, this wording is important here. It says YOUR way will lead to YOUR destruction. It does not say, “Kiss his son, or he will be angry with you and he will lead you to destruction.” No, not at all! God knows what is best for humanity, and if they go against his good plan, they will be met with destruction, but it’s their own doing, not God’s. These earthly leaders’ ways are not as good as God’s way. It’s like a parent telling their child not to touch the stove or they’ll get burned. God knows what’s good and he wants to protect his children.

A few weeks ago, we took a group of forty-some students up to the mountains for our fall retreat. Over the weekend, we went through different passages in 1 Corinthians. The first night, Josh talked about 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Verse 6 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” When talking about this verse, he said, “Maybe love is not letting everyone do whatever they want.” This kind of love is tough love, it’s the kind of love that might sting in the moment, it might hurt, it might not be what a person wants, but it is done out of love, knowing what’s best for them in the end. I think that God was showing some tough love to the leaders of the earth here in the form of the warning to serve and submit or else they’ll have to face the consequences. He is addressing those who lead others, those who have influence on others’ lives. So often, we hear stories of people in positions of authority abusing their power, I mean just look at the #MeToo movement the past couple years. Leaders have authority, and God doesn’t want them to abuse their power. Here, we see that God confronts these leaders’ sin, their rebellion, in hopes that they will submit to him and have life, instead of death and destruction.

Now, you may have noticed that there’s one more sentence in verse 12. Psalm 2 concludes with this, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” That’s a beautiful statement, but where in the world did it come from?! I feel like I get whiplash when I read this psalm. Rebellion, anger, wrath, warning, destruction, more anger, more wrath, blessed are all who take refuge in him. Wait, what? I thought about skipping the rest of the psalm and just preaching on this last sentence. But this sentence is an essential part of this psalm. Blessed are all, ALL, who take refuge in God. This directly contrasts those who rebel against God, who try to lead out of their own power and not serve and submit to God. Those people will have to face God’s wrath and anger. But all who serve God and submit to him will find refuge in him. They’ll find safety, protection, and provision in God. Because God is the sovereign King, we should find refuge in him.

In preparing for this sermon, I spent some time looking through adorable pictures of mama birds caring for their little baby birds. There were so many pictures of these baby birds just resting under their mothers’ wings. Under those wings, they found shelter, protection, warmth, love, and peace. The baby birds trusted their mothers as they rested under their wings. Just like a baby bird, we are to take refuge under God’s wings, we are to rest in his presence.

What would that look like for us? Maybe just spending some time simply sitting in his presence, or reading and meditating on Scripture, or worshiping him with music, going on a walk and enjoying his beautiful creation, or just telling him how we’re feeling. As we take refuge in God, we get to enjoy his presence. The more we sit with God and spend time in his presence, the more we learn from him. Whether it’s a few minutes, or a few hours a day, or once a week, let your time in God’s presence form and shape you. God wants us to spend time with him because he loves us. Imagine if we were a church who took this seriously. If we pursued God’s presence. What if people could just tell that we’ve been with him, by what we say and do, the way we live, the way we love? By living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  We are able to find our refuge in God because he is a good king. We are to fearfully serve the Lord as King and take refuge under his wings.

Last week we looked at Psalm 1. This psalm paints a picture of what it looks to delight in the Lord, in his law–they’ll be like a tree planted by streams of water. Psalm 2 reveals what happens when we choose our own way, and don’t submit to or serve God as king. The result is destruction and wrath. Which one is a picture of where you are today? Are you delighting in the Lord, taking refuge in him? Or are your own boss, trying to be in control? Where are you now? Where do you want to be? It’s your choice.

At the beginning of this year, I was coming out of a pretty rough season. One day, I was in a counseling session, talking about how I felt the need to be perfect in every area of my life, school, work, friendship. Friendship is a big one for me. I felt like I needed to be the perfect friend, which meant always being available, leaving my phone on at night in case anyone needed me, and loving people the best I could all the time, even at the expense of myself and my own needs. Then, my counselor asked, “Do you think someone would love you if you didn’t do anything for them?” To which I said, “No. I don’t know why anyone would love me if I didn’t do anything for them.” I was shocked when I heard those words come out of my mouth. I realized that this wasn’t just true in my friendships, but it was true of my relationship with God as well. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I felt this pressure to be perfect, to do everything right. After a while though, I started to view God as king and I was his servant. This is true, but I don’t think I viewed God’s kingship as a loving leadership. My job was to serve him, and I did that really well; I was really good at doing things for God. Deep down, I thought that the more I did for him, the more God would love me, but let me tell you, that’s not the way God’s love works. We cannot earn his love. Even though I knew God was good and loving, I wasn’t fully living out of that reality. I didn’t know how to take refuge in God. I didn’t know how to sit in his presence and not DO anything. I struggled to believe that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do, but thankfully this past year, God has been reminding me again and again of that truth. God loves me for who I am and not what I do; and he loves you for who you are, not for what you do. We can take refuge in him, enjoy his presence, simply because he loves us, and we are his children. God is the sovereign King and we are able to trust him with our lives and rest knowing that God has it under control. Remember to both fearfully serve the Lord as King AND take refuge under his wings.  Let’s pray.

God, we praise you this morning for who you are.  God, we thank you that you are in control and that we get to serve a good, loving King.  God, I pray that you would help us this morning to take these truths and not only get them in our head, but God, I pray that you would move them to our hearts; that we would realize that you love us for who we are and not for what we do.  God, I pray that you would help us to rest in your presence this week.  God, help us to pursue you.  God, we love you so much.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Expedition | World’s Best Boss | Psalm 2 | Week 22020-08-19T15:49:37-06:00

Expedition | Blessed is the One… | Psalm 1 | Week 1


EXPEDITION: Blessed is the one…   Psalm 1   Dr. Scott Wenig   (1st)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}  Glad to see you all here today.  We’re going to do a short series on some Psalms, the next three weeks.  This is going to build a pathway toward our time as we prepare ourselves for Advent.  This morning, we’re going to be looking at the very first of the Psalms, Psalm 1.  Before we look at the Word of God, I’m going to invite us to bow briefly in prayer.  Father, thanks so much for the privilege we have to worship you and to gather together.  Lord, today, we just want to surrender our lives to you.  Lord, you are a gracious and kind and compassionate God who loves us and is calling us into a deeper walk with you.  I pray now, as we look into your word, that you would use this time and this text to encourage and teach us.  We pray all of this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

As many of you may know, the largest city in the U.S. is New York which has about 8 ½ million people.  But what you may not know is that there are approximately 10 million cats and 12 million dogs who also live there.  When your pet dies in New York City, you can’t just go out and bury it in the backyard since most of the city is concrete, so the city authorities passed an ordinance that they’ll come by, pick up your deceased pet, and dispose of it for $75.   Well, a few years back, a lady came up with an enterprising idea to make some money.  She advertised that she would dispose of your pet for only $35 dollars.  What she’d do is buy a $2 suitcase at the local Salvation Army thrift store.  She’d then go and pick up the dead animal and put it in the suitcase and then hop on the subway.  Now, if you’ve ever been on the subway in New York City you know it’s really, really crowded…..and theft is a huge problem.  So the lady would set down the suitcase, intentionally look away, and wait for someone to steal it, and then she’d cry out….‘Wait…stop…thief!’  The authorities finally caught on to her scheme, but what do you charge her with?  And what about the thieves? How did they react when they finally opened the stolen suitcase only to discover that it contained something they hadn’t planned on?

I’d like to suggest that the thieves who stole those suitcases function as a metaphor for a lot of people in our society.  They’ve grabbed onto something thinking it will provide them with happiness, significance and fulfillment only to discover that it’s not so.  We live in the greatest civilization the world has ever seen and is known the world over for its technology, its affluence, and its mobility.  Yet I’m not sure that a majority of our citizens would say they’re really satisfied with life.  I know some people would say that it’s simply not possible to find fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction in a world filled with so much brokenness, misery, and suffering.

But Scripture seems to suggest that despite the presence of pain in our broken and fallen world, it is possible to find fulfillment, to find satisfaction, but that takes focus, dedication and perseverance over the long haul of life. That’s what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us in Psalm 1.  Look at the first phrase—Blessed is the one…

Literally the word ‘blessed’ means ‘to be happy;’ in the original text it’s ashre.  But it doesn’t mean happy the way most Americans would define it.  I don’t want to over-generalize, but I think that in our culture we think of happiness in terms of bigger houses, nicer cars, more exclusive vacations, comfortable retirements and excellent health with a minimum of pains and problems, for this you can Check out to find the best supplements for this purpose.  But ashre is different than that:  it does not mean having a problem-free life or getting to do whatever we want, when we want with no hassles or headaches or heartbreaks.  Ashre literally means to be satisfied, to be whole, and to be blessed.  It could be mostly accurately described as having a sense success, a feeling of fulfillment.

I think all of us in this room have felt that way at certain points in our lives.  You probably felt that way when you worked really hard and finally completed a degree program at college or grad school.  Maybe you felt that way after you finished a long term project at work and it came off really, really well.  Maybe you felt that way after you did a long-term remodel of your home and it turned out exactly how you wanted.

Melanie and I have some friends and a couple of years back, they successfully launched their oldest son off to college.  They felt success, they felt fulfillment, so after they dropped him off, they went to a restaurant and then posted this picture on Facebook.    They entitled it “Heartbroken!”  Well, that’s the blessedness, friends, that the psalmist is describing here in Psalm 1; feeling complete, satisfied, and fulfilled. Men and women are intrinsically wired to seek that out.

The psalmist affirms that search; he says it is possible to find that but we have to do TWO things, the first of which he describes in the rest of verse 1 — Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.   First of all, the psalmist tells us that what we need to do is boundary the bad.  We need to put up some guardrails in our life against the wrong kinds of influence.  When we were growing up, most of our parents rightly told us to be careful who we made friends with because those friends would influence us.  Well, the psalmist is pretty much doing the same thing.  He’s instructing us to be careful with who and what we let into our hearts and our minds and our lives.

To reinforce that, he describes a downward progression of bad influences.  It starts with the counsel of the wicked, and then it moves to the path of sinners, and then it ends up in the seat of mockers. Let me translate this for us and put it in the vernacular.  It begins with the UNDUE influence of ungodly information, which over time, if we allow that into our lives, leads to a series of immoral choices, which ultimately leads to the stubborn habits of opposing God and rejecting everything that His kingdom represents.  Now I think sometimes, in church world, it’s tempting for us here to think this downward progression only describes really nasty people like drug lords, dictators, or gang members.  But the psalmist is using these phrases, friends, to refer to ideas, people, and practices that reject God and oppose His truth. Collectively, I like to describe this and put it under the label of Practical Atheism.  It’s the belief and philosophy that life can be interpreted and then lived without any reference to God and the way He’s created reality.  In other words, God is just not part of the picture.

We all know that one of the most powerful forces in our lives and our culture today is the media.  It reaches all the way from Hollywood and New York to network TV to the information we download on our phones. There are exceptions to this so I don’t want to overstate it.  Generally speaking, friends, in our culture the media never lets God into the room.  I really like the show “Elementary.”  It’s basically a TV show about these detectives that solve murders; I like Sherlock and I like Joan and I like Captain Gregson and I like Marcus, but God is never, ever a part of their worldview.  He’s never, ever a part of their life.  God simply is never in the room.  While I like the show, I have to be careful to think that through.  What’s probably closest to reality in that show is that no one in that show ever smiles very much.  They don’t seem to be very joyful or fulfilled.  Maybe only for a brief moment when they catch a bad guy.

I know there are some folks who would argue that we should withdraw from the culture in order to avoid that kind of thinking and living.  But the psalmist doesn’t say we can structure our lives in such a way that we never encounter those kinds of people, practices and ideas; that wasn’t possible in ancient Israel, in the era of the early church, and it’s certainly not possible in 21st century America.  What the psalmist is telling you and me is that if we want to find fulfillment and satisfaction in life, the first thing we have to do is to boundary the bad.  The second thing though, and this is even more important, is we need to grab the good.  Look what he says here:  Blessed is the one (blessed is the man…blessed is the woman)….who delights in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

The word that’s used here in this context for ‘law’ originally meant all of the Old Testament scripture, from Genesis up to Malachi.  But from the perspective of the New Testament, we would need to interpret it as ALL of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.  The psalmist is telling you and me that the blessed person—the person who finds success, the person who get fulfillment in life—is someone who takes this book—they LOVE this book, they READ this book, they STUDY and MEDITATE on this book.  In other words, the psalmist is saying that for the blessed person, God’s word and the study of God’s word and thinking about God’s word, is the foundation of their lives.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16:  All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in right living so that the man and woman of God may be adequately equipped for every good work.

G.K. Chesterton was one of most articulate and thoughtful Christian writers in the first half of the 20th century.  On one occasion someone asked him, “If you were marooned on a desert island and could have only one book with you, what would you choose?”  Naturally, everyone thought that he would say the Bible, but he didn’t. Chesterton said that if he were marooned on a desert island the one book he would want is “Thomas’ Guide to Practical Ship Building”.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  If we’re trapped on an island, we’d want a book that will help us get off the island. We don’t want to be entertained or just informed, we want a book that will show us how to be saved.

Friends, we have a fallen nature and we live in a fallen world, so we need a book that’s going to point us to the Savior, Jesus.  He’s the one who saves us.  We need a book then that tells us here’s how you want to live if you want fulfillment, if you want satisfaction, if you want some success in life. And that book’s the Bible.  If we delight in it, if we study it, and we meditate on it, over time it will change our lives because it points directly to our Savior, and shows how to live in a way that leads to satisfaction.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions for us as we study the Scripture.  These are just suggestions, if they’re not helpful to you, you can disregard them.  Here’s what I’d like to suggest—when reading the Scriptures, first of all, do so at your best time. Some of us are morning people, some of us are evening people.  Some of us get our mojo from noon to one, whatever it might be.  Friends, I want to suggest that you find your best time of the day and take a little bit of time to read the Scripture during your best time.  I’m a morning person.  I need to read the Bible in the morning; if I try to read the Bible at night, I guarantee you I’m going to fall asleep, that’s not just a good time for me.  Find your best time.

Secondly, I’d like to suggest that as we read the Scriptures we go slower and we go deeper. I know some folks want to encourage us to read the whole Bible in a year and that works for some people.  Most of us, I’d like to suggest, are much better served by going slower and deeper.  I like the way 17th century writer Madame Guyon put it:  “If you read quickly it will benefit you little.  You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower.  Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower.  You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.”

Friends, let’s pause here for a moment and let’s review.  In these first two verses the psalmist has argued that if we want to find fulfillment in life we need to boundary the bad and then grab the good.  He’s saying we need to guard against the influence of practical atheism and then build our lives on the Bible.  And yet, in all honesty, that approach strikes us—at least sometimes—as naïve at best and as untrue at worst.  Let’s be honest, we look around and see sports stars, music celebrities, hedge-fund managers and politicians, and they could give a rip about God.  They mock Jesus and yet they’re prospering like crazy.  On the other hand, there are thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world today who are suffering pain and persecution.  In fact, in your life right now, you may have a neighbor, or co-worker, or somebody you sit next to in school who wants nothing to do with God and yet they appear to be healthy, wealthy and happy.  And so, while we may not voice it in Churchworld, deep down we wonder if the psalmist was deluded or if he was living in some kind of spiritual bubble.

The reality is that sometimes God’s people do really suffer and the ungodly do prosper; you’ve seen that and so have I.  But over the long haul of life those results are almost always reversed and that’s why the psalmist tells us to build our lives on God’s Word.  Look what he says in verse 3:  That person (the person who builds their life on the Bible) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

The psalmist uses an agricultural metaphor to prove his point.  He says that the person who builds his or her life on Scripture will be like a tree planted by streams of water; it nourishes and refreshes their life.  He lived out in the Judean desert and it was completely dry there, so any kind of a stream of water was viewed as a source of life.  Any of us who live here in Denver realize that this is a high desert as well, so we love water.  You need water to nourish trees.  And sticking with the metaphor, you know that trees require lots of water and even with lots of water they always take TIME to grow.  And let’s remember that fruit trees—whether its oranges, peaches or apples—only bear fruit in their season.  Friends, the psalmist uses this picture to let us know that we will have a positive impact on our family, friends, and communities, and we will find fulfillment, success and satisfaction, but always, always, always takes time.

I think there’s another reason we tend to dismiss this kind of teaching, when it comes to the Scriptures, because we all live in a society with tons of technology and everything happens NOW!  Years ago, when I was in grad school, I worked part time for Dominos Pizza and that was when they promised 30-minute delivery. They even had an ad campaign that said, “We don’t sell pizza, we sell delivery!”  And if you’ve ever eaten Dominos pizza you know that’s true!  That was a long time ago.  Our society is far more fast-paced and impatient now than it was then.  Think about it, you order something from Amazon and it’s here in one day.  You go to Starbucks and it’s up for you in one minute.  You Google something and it’s…..NOW!

So, from the perspective of American culture, it’s hard for us to wait and see the Lord bring fruit into our lives, but my experience and observations over the years tells me that the Psalmist is right—it always takes time. One of the wisest, most productive people I ever met in my life is a woman in her late 80s in a senior care center.  She came from a hard background; never knew her mother who died when she was a little girl.  She was raised by her dad and uncle, in poverty.  She eventually climbed her way out and got her undergraduate degree and also a couple graduate degrees. She went into ministry and counseling.  She was one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. I asked her one time,  “How did you gain such wisdom?”  And she said, “I’ve been studying two things for over 40 years:  people and the Scripture, and when you study those two things for that long, you learn a lot.”

One of my mentors was raised in poverty.  His mom died when he was young. He tried to navigate life and it was challenging, but he eventually became known as a very great Bible scholar and preacher.  But along the way he had horrible charges against his character.  It was very wounding to him.  Before he died, just a couple years ago, he had literally blessed thousands and thousands and thousands of people through his ministry of teaching in the Scriptures.

Men and women like that are illustrations of what the psalmist describes here:  their leaf does not wither. That doesn’t mean that circumstances don’t affect them; they do—just like moving from summer to fall to winter affects the leaves on a tree.   Those leaves will fall off, but in the spring they always come back.  Those kind of men and women have built their lives on the Word of God and they’ve set up some guardrails against the bad influences.  There’s a sense of stability and satisfaction and peace in their lives because they know that the Lord is with them.

The psalmist goes on and says whatever they do prospers.  He’s NOT saying that if we just read the Bible we’ll eventually get rich. He’s not saying that at all.  What he’s saying is if we study the Scripture, and we think about the Scripture, and we meditate on the Scripture, and, by the grace of God, in time we will become the men and women He has called us to be.  Men and women who are filled with satisfaction, fulfilled with the life that God has called us to.

A while back I heard about man who was doing a road trip across the country.  He stopped in the middle of Kansas to stay with his friends overnight; his friends were farmers.   As they chatted over dinner, the visitor asked his farmer friends about their two sons, each of whom was serving in the U.S. Navy—one on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, the other on an intelligence gathering destroyer stationed in the South China Sea.  And the parents said both boys were doing really well and loved their lives in the Navy.  Upon hearing that, the man who was visiting asked this couple how it was possible to raise two sons in the middle of Kansas who now love serving on ships in the U.S. Navy, thousands of miles out at sea.  And the couple smiled, laughed and said, “We’ve asked ourselves that same question a thousand times.” Well, the next morning, at breakfast, the visitor said to his hosts, “You know last night when you said you weren’t sure how it was possible for you to raise two sons who left here to go to the Navy?  Well, I think I have a possible answer for you.”   He took them upstairs to the bedroom he had slept in, which years before had been bedroom of those two sons and which the parents pretty much had left as it was when the boys lived there.  As they walked in the room, the visitor pointed to the ceiling, which had this huge poster of a Navy battle group sailing at sea.  And then they walked in the bathroom, which had a poster from the movie “Top Gun” with an F-14 taking off from that aircraft carrier.  Almost the first thing those boys saw every morning and the last thing they saw before they went to sleep at night were the pictures of those Navy ships sailing out at sea and that F-14 launching off that carrier.  If every single day you see ships at sea, and think about ships at sea, and reflect on the ships at sea, over time, you may become a sailor.

If you think about the Scripture, and you meditate on the Scripture, and, by the grace of God, you try to live out the teachings of the Scripture, over a long period of time you might become a saint.  But that’s not true of those who go the other direction.  Over the long haul those who live a life of practical atheism end up in a bad place.  Look what the psalmist says here:  Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  

Once again, the psalmist draws a picture from the agricultural setting he lived in. This is a reference to a threshing floor of a barn at harvest time.  In ancient Israel, the sheaves of grain were brought into the barn, laid on the floor, and a large wooden sled, like a big rolling pin, was rolled back and forth across the sheaves breaking open the grain.  Then the sheaves were tossed into the air by farmers with pitchforks and the grain fell to the floor.  And the wind caught the chaff of the remains of the empty stalks and blew them away like dust.  The psalmist wants you and me to know that people who leave God out the equation—who live lives of practical atheism—will become exactly like that. They were created to serve God, love Him, and help others, but they decided to serve themselves so over time, as life draws to a close, it becomes apparent that much of what they’ve done and accomplished is nothing more than a colossal waste of time and talent and treasure.  As the rock group Kansas sang years ago, “They’re just dust in the wind.”

Friends, you don’t have to be a drug addict, or a bum on Skid Row, or member of a drug cartel to waste your life. I’ve seen people, I’ve known people who were decent folks and had careers, raised families, and paid their bills, but God was never part of the equation.  When retirement came, they played golf, they played bridge, they played shuffleboard, and began to ask over and over, “Is this what life is all about?”  And the answer to that is NO, because someday judgment will come and all of us will be evaluated on whether or not we knew Jesus and what we did with what God entrusted to us, whether large or small. Those who lived lives of practical atheism will see their lives as chaff and that’s why they won’t, as the psalmist says here, stand in the judgment or in the assembly of the righteous, those who have been made righteous by Christ.

But those who have professed faith in Christ, trusted in His grace, and then built their lives on the Bible—they’re part that enormous crowd of righteous men, women, and children, who are happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. They’re visualized for us in the book of Revelation, and they will be filled with joy and wonder and satisfaction for all eternity.  See, if you want fulfillment NOW and you want heaven THEN, you need to trust the Incarnate Word of God, who is Jesus, and then build your life on the written Word of God, which is the Bible.

Now, neither Jesus nor the rest of Scripture ever promise that we’ll have an easy path.  They both tell us that our Heavenly Father will provide His Providential Protection as we build our lives on that foundation.  We see that in Psalm 1:6 —  For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. The psalmist drives home the point he’s been making through this entire Psalm: there are two roads in life, two paths people take which over time lead to two very different destinations.  One road is built on the spiritual and moral independence of people who foolishly leave God out of the equation because think they’re the masters of their own fate, the captains of their ship, the shapers of their own destiny, but that’s a dead end road leads to destruction.  Jesus said the same thing.  But the other road is built on the love of Christ.  He’s the one who makes us righteous.  And it’s built on trying to live by His grace according to the truth of His Word.  The psalmist says if we do that the Lord, in His mercy, will watch over us who choose that path.  He will give us fulfillment and over time He will change us into the people that He’s called us to be.

Friends, I don’t know where you’re at today in terms of a personal relationship with Christ.  I don’t know where you’re at in terms of your own personal commitment to building your life on His Word, but I do know it’s never too late to move those directions. Today might be the day that you give your heart to Jesus and you submit to Jesus and you surrender everything to Jesus.  Or maybe, maybe, maybe you’ve known the Lord a long time and today the Holy Spirit is whispering to you, “Build your life on My Word, study My Word, commit yourself to becoming a meditator on My Word.”  Friends, if we do that, over time, Christ will be at work in our lives and we will be blessed!

Christian author and speaker Tony Campolo told about a friend of his who pastored a small church in downtown New York City back in the 1980s. The AIDS crisis had broken out and one day two young gay men showed up at this man’s church and asked him to lead a memorial service for a friend of theirs who had just died of AIDS.  So, they planned the service, which they wanted held at the graveside.  It was to have a couple of songs and a short homily and a prayer by the pastor.  When the day came there were about 25 gay men and some family members who attended.  After the service, almost everyone was crying, so the pastor asked, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”  One of the men said, “When I was little my mom took me to church and they always read Psalm 23.  Would you read that please?”  So he did.  After that another man said, “I know there’s a saying somewhere in the Bible about ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God.’ Would you read that?” So, the pastor read Romans 8:28-32.  And for the next half-hour the pastor read Scripture after Scripture after Scripture to them.  A few days later those two men showed up again at the pastor’s door and said they wanted to hear more about Jesus and His Word, so he started to meet with them every week to study the Scriptures.  Eventually they gave their lives to Jesus and, over time, they started to align their lives with His Word.  Friends, if you want fulfillment now and heaven then, we need to do the exact same thing those two men did. We need to give our lives to Jesus, and then we need to make a full heartfelt commitment to building our lives on His Word.

We’ve looked at the Word of God, now we’re going to participate in the Table of God.  Let me pray for us as we prepare ourselves to do that.  Holy Spirit, you know where we’re all at today; may you reach deep, deep, deep down into our hearts and our lives.  Draw us close to you because you love us so much.  Help us to understand and know and experience that.  We pray that in Jesus’s name.  Amen.

Expedition | Blessed is the One… | Psalm 1 | Week 12020-08-20T18:36:32-06:00
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