Monday, February 28, 2011

Psalm 111 - Why Do We Worship?

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 27, 2011

Psalm 111:1-10, “Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Why have you come to this place, at this hour? I mean, it's eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, and honestly, there are some people in our city who aren't out of bed yet! Some people who are just getting up about now. Why have you come – here – now? On a beautiful morning like this, some people may be out on the golf course, the tennis court, the jogging track, enjoying some recreation, as we call it. Others may be on their way to the malls to shop, at the grocery store to stock up for the week, or at the movie theatre to be entertained. Some people are working in their yards, others are catching up on what's been happening in this world – reading the paper, watching a newscast, surfing the Internet. Still others are paying bills or fixing lunch. But, listen. You're not those people, maybe you wish you were, maybe if you had your way, you would be – out there – with them... But you're not.

And so, again I ask, and let me suggest that I think you ought to be asking, why am I here, I mean here - in this place, now, today - at this moment?

Before we explore this amazing, and unusual passage of Scripture for heavenly answers, for diving insight into this question, and others that relate to it, allow me to make this one recommendation to each one of you: every time you are here, on this day of the week, and at this hour of the day, that question, “why am I here, why have I come to this place at this particular time?” - every time you walk in that door at 11:00 on Sunday morning, you ought to ask yourself: why? I'm here, now, but why?

Psalm 111 – This Psalm, like the next several psalms, extending all the way through Psalm 118, this psalm, these psalms – numbers 111-118 – either begin and/or end with the word, “Hallelujah!”, with the words, in English, “Praise the Lord!” or “Praise ye the Lord!” That, by the way, is a huge clue, a simple but powerful insight into the message of these psalms for all of us!

Psalm 111 – It's a psalm that begins and ends on a note of praise to God! Secondly, it is what is called an acrostic poem, a passage that uses an interesting A through Z kind of structure, to walk through the thoughts, the truths, the teachings about our great God that were in the heart and mind of the psalmist as he wrote these words...

Furthermore, and perhaps most poignant and practical of all, this text, one of 150 such texts wrapped up in this Book of the Bible we call the 'Book of Psalms', this passage links worship, praising God at times and places like here and now, with wisdom! It writes the worshippers' 'Hallelujahs' with the Higher Road, the far less traveled road of obedience to God!

My Loved Ones, it's eleven, soon to be twelve o'clock on Sunday, and you and I are here, not out on the golf course, not on our way to the mall or the movie house, not in the crowded aisles at Kroger or Wal-Mart. We're here – now – but, why are we here?

Used to, the seventh day of the week and the first day of the week, people called them the 'Sabbath', the 'Day of Rest', and the 'Lord's Day'. Now-a-days, however, most folks call those days the 'weekend' and Monday – day number two according to Someone Else's way of counting (God's way) – has come to be viewed as 'Day One', the 'First Day of the Week'! Interesting, isn't it, how far we have come – or maybe I should say, how far we have gone – from the viewpoint about these things made plain in this Book!

Why are you here? If you haven't noticed yet, or figured it out et, that's a question of great importance for you and me, if we call ourselves the 'People of God'. It's a question of great importance, one, because it's a question that brings us back to our intentions, our purpose, our goals for being here, in this place, at this time!

'Praise ye the Lord', the first line of our study text, in the original language of this passage, that's a command! 'Hallelujah!' 'Praise the Lord' – those are or ought to be familiar words, oft-spoken words by those who wear the name of Christ! They ought to be those kind of words, but are they, have they become for you and me, nothing more than a half-hearted line in a song? A tired and perhaps meaningless tradition we use in our prayers and worship rituals? 'Praise ye the Lord!' That's a command! That's a command, and, you saw it coming, didn't you? A signal, those four words with which this psalm begins, they are a signal, an arrow pointing us in the direction of God's answer to our question: “Why have we come?”

We don't know the name of the person who wrote this psalm, it could have been David or perhaps Solomon or Moses or one of the lesser known Hebrew poets like Asaph. This psalm is, therefore, what might be termed an 'anonymous poem'. We don't know the psalmist's name. Oh, but listen, don't let that fact turn you off from its message. It is God's word, through someone whose name we don't know. And, listen, it is this servant of the Lord's answer, the psalmist's answer to our troubling question: 'why am I here, now?'

Take a look at verse one again with me, will you? Other would-be worshippers are bowing down to reach an egg-sized white ball out of a hole in a lush, green lawn. Other would-be worshippers are catching a few more winks at home – in bed – or maybe, just maybe, across the aisle from you. Other would-be worshippers are stretched out on their couches, or leaning back in their seats to watch the latest and greatest of Hollywood's 'gods'. But, you're here! I'm here – now! So, what are we to do, here, now?

With all my heart, with all that I am, I will praise the Lord,” so says the psalmist in verse one.

What a powerful declaration, don't you think? Worship, this Divine answer to the question, 'why are we here?' given by our friend, the psalmist; worship of our Maker, our Defender, our Redeemer, our King, his fully Christian activity that is linked up so tightly with what it means to really be wise. What does the psalmist's declaration: “I will praise the Lord with all my heart!” teach us about worship?

Allow me to take you, in our mind's eye, to the golf-course, to the ball field, to the mall, the grocery store or the movie house on Sunday morning. Why are you there, at that time, in those places? To sit in the golf car and watch the ducks in the pond? To lean against the backstop drawing pictures in the sand with your cleats? To take a nap on the bench outside Penny's while the world passes you by? To go home with nothing, nothing to put in the pantry or fridge?

You know why you and I would be there, don't you? To hit a hole in one! To strike out the side! To ship till we drop! To stock up for another week! We would be there, in all of those places to do what folks do in those places - full throttle! One hundred and ten percent, right?

Guess what? That's why we're here! “In the assembly of the upright, in the congregation”, gathered together with others whose smiling faces, whose warm greetings, whose attentive minds, whose alert and awake ears tell you, “that's why we're here!”

We are here, and not there, at or in any of those other places - why? Because here, in this place, and now, at this time, we have gathered to praise the Lord full throttle, one hundred and fifty percent! But, how? How do we do that? Allow me to suggest two or three ways to go about worshiping the Lord: number one- worship, Biblical worship, proper, God-pleasing worship, always begins with a humble heart! I mean if God is not God, not the reason for our lives, not the Ruler over all that we are, then we're in the wrong place! This place is set aside and dedicated, did you see the sign above the door when you came in? This place is set aside and dedicated for the purpose of worshiping – Him! Humble, reverent, submissive worship offered up in those ways, with those attitudes of heart and mind, worship that way, keeps the attention where it ought to be, right? On Him! On Him! On the One whose works are great! Verse two. On the One whose works are honorable and glorious, more great, honorable and glorious than striking out the side or hitting a hole in one!

When we come to this place, at this time, let's remember we've come to worship our God humbly! Other 'great ones' rise and fall, come and go, but listen, as the last line of this text reminds us, God's praise, the Greatest One's praise endures forever! Forever!

Secondly, I want to remind you of what ought to be a 'given', really for God's people. When we come to this place, for the high and holy purpose of worshiping our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ – what should be our heart attitude? What should be our mindset? Think of it, with me, will you? The God you and I serve ISN'T ordinary! No! His works and ways are in keeping with WHO He is! Verse 4 – He is gracious! He is full of compassion! Verse 5 – He is faithful to provide our needs, faithful to keep His promises! Verse 7 – He is true and just. Verse 9 – He is holy and awesome. He is all of these things, and more! So, therefore, how should we worship Him? You've already got this one written down, don't you? It's a 'given', right? We should worship our great and gracious, high and holy, faithful and merciful God JOYFULLY! In light of WHO He is, and in light of WHAT He does for you and me, we ought to shout “Hallelujah!” “Praise ye the Lord!”

Then, third and finally, I'd like to encourage you to worship God in one other unique and very important way! I look forward to exploring this part of the lesson from this Psalm next week, perhaps. But, allow me to state it simply and briefly like this: worship, linked up so tightly as it is with real wisdom, worship, as the psalmist suggests in verses two, four and ten, is always to be offered up to our great and gracious God, INTELLIGENTLY! Intelligently! One more time let's read those three verses and with them we will close. Verse 2 – Worship the Lord intelligently, “The works of the Lord are great – studied, sought-out – by all who have pleasure in them!” Verse 4 – worship the Lord intelligently, “THe Lord, He has made His wonderful works to be remembered”, to be rehearsed, recited and even passed on from generation to generation! And, finally verse 10 – worship the Lord intelligently, the smartest things you could ever do... What is it? Verse 10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding has all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Why have you come to this place, at this hour?

Worship, with the Greatest One at the center stage, offered up humbly, joyfully and yes, intelligently, that's why we have come!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Church Has Many Critics But No Rivals

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 20, 2011

Matthew 16:13-18, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.””

1 Peter 2:1-10, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “ Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Someone has said that the Church has many critics, but no rivals. That’s an interesting statement, don’t you think? Why would this unknown someone say this? And, what did he mean by this rather astute observation?

The Church has many critics… Going back all the way to the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, and – for that matter – going all the way back to the days of the Old Testament men and women of faith. Beloved, the fact of the matter is, that God’s people, those who faith in Him is genuine, and whose relationship to Him is certain, God’s people, Old Testament and New, have always been the object of opposition, derision, criticism and even persecution. Why? Because sinful men and women and children, given over as they are to their ‘master’, the Devil, wicked people HATE God and anyone and anything that has anything to do with God! Yes, no surprise here, for the Church has many, many critics – and God said His people would! In our country, who are the critics? They are such as the secular media, the educational establishment, the strident voices - screaming for freedom of choice, alternative lifestyles, moral relativity - and even sometimes the next door neighbors. All of whom are lashing out, subtly and, in some cases, not so subtly, against God by attacking His people. Yes, the Church has many critics: that’s the first half of this perceptive comment. But, listen – there’s a second half to that insight from our anonymous friend, and that half is this: the Church has no rivals!

What exactly does this unknown observer mean by this portion of what he said?

The Church has no rivals. Here’s what I believe this discerning commentator is trying to communicate by that statement: there is only ONE, count it with me, not 10, not 5, not 3, not 2, but ONE true Church! Check it out with me, will you? There is only ONE true Church, how do we know that? Matthew 7:13-27 – Remember the text with which Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, only one true Church. Are you a part of it? Lot’s of people, I mean lots of people, the great majority of people, will think they are a part of the true church, but won’t be! But aren’t! And why won’t they be? I mean, the road they are traveling, it’s a mile wide and as cram-packed as Central Expressway at 7 O’clock in the morning on Monday through Friday. I mean, the gate they are passing through, isn’t it the gateway to heaven? Isn’t it? I mean, everybody, or so it would seem, is using that gate to try to get in! Oh, but listen, my friends, just because EVERYBODY is going a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the right way! And, just because the great majority of people have chosen one gate, doesn’t mean it leads to eternal life! Matthew 7:13-14 – Would you read it with me, please?

Matthew 7:13-14, ““Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The true Church - I’m talking about the few who refuse to get caught up in the HERD mentality! The true Church, I mean the tiny minority God says are actually His, they are the ones who select the way that really does lead to life, the straight gate and the narrow, restrictive, exclusive way! The Church, the true Church, has no rivals…
There really is only ONE true Church, are you a part of it? Am I? Matthew 7:15 – Beloved, if you’re only looking at things - external – if we’re concentrating merely on the outward appearance of things, we might be led to believe that God’s flock – in fact – is quite large! But listen, what did Jesus say? How did He warn His true sheep? Matthew 7:15 – “Beware of false prophets, beware of phony professors. Oh, they’ll look the part for sure! Just look at their clothes! They’re dressed in 100% wool, just like the sheep! In fact, they even sound like the sheep! “Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons in Your name? Did we not perform many miracles in Your name? But Jesus says, “Beware of them” my friends! “Beware!”

They are not the true Church! No! Inwardly they are wolves, ferocious wolves out to decimate the flock! They are the useless thistles, the ugly, awful thorn bushes that produce no good fruit at all! Yes, they are the foolish builders, who rebelliously – yes, I said rebelliously – think they can do WITHOUT Lordship, without the obedience to Jesus Christ that He commands and requires!

The Church, criticized, attacked, maligned, that’s what the enemies of God are all about. Yet, what did Jesus say He is all about? Go back to Matthew 16:18 with me. I love this verse, don’t you? Matthew 16:18, Jesus declared to Peter, and the rest of His disciples: “I will build My church, and even the very gates of HELL shall not prevail against it!” The Church, the true people of God, how did Peter describe them in 1 Peter 2:7? Are they the un-believing, those who reject Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone? No! No! And, verse 8, are they the disobedient, those who wrongly think that they can continue with their ungodly lifestyles after they have made the good confession and were baptized? Take a look at chapter one, verses 14-15. Once again, the answer is ‘no!’ Rather, the Church, the true people of God, is made up of those who have been genuinely born again. And, it consists of those who have repents, truly repented of their sins, and – with God’s help – are seeking to lay those sins and sinful habit patterns aside, once and for all! The true Church, the ones Peter calls ‘living stones’ in verse 5, these are the ones God is building, Jesus Christ is building into a spiritual house, and fashioning into a holy priesthood, that will regularly offer up spiritual sacrifices that are well-pleasing to God!

The Church – what do you know, about the Church? How acquainted are you with what this Book says about the true people of God? Beloved, you need to know, you need to really grasp the fact that - along with the Christian family, God’s first, and I believe, primary divinely-ordained institution – the Church has a key role to play in God’s plan for the ages. Yet, it seems to me that, going back al the way to the time of the apostles, and certainly, all the way up to today, there is so much MIS-understanding, so little CORRECT insight into the WHO and WHAT and WHY? behind the Church! In the time that remains this morning, I’d like to do something about that! With God’s help, I’d like to do something to change that!

The Church, to know, to understand, right up front, for us to gain insight into this incredibly important entity, we must begin to grasp just what this one, 6-letter word means – the Church.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church” – when the apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, what did they mean when they used that term the ‘church’? Mark this one down my friends, the Church, that single, 6-letter word comes from a New Testament word that literally means and refers to those who have been called BY God, out of the world, out of sin, out of rebellion against God and allegiance to Satan, to Himself, to ownership by and obedience to God Himself! How many of you realized that before hearing it just now? The Church, the reason it is the true, people of God is because God has had, and does have everything to do with it! He is the One who has called it into existence. He is the One who has brought it together in and through His dear Son. And, He is the One who will keep it together through out all eternity! To say it as Jesus said it, the Church is HIS church! It belongs to Him! He is it’s Head! Not some preacher or pope or elder or lady group’s chairwoman – no! The Church is HIS body! He is it’s head. And, yes, He is it’s Loving Husband, whose’ incomparably great sacrificial love sanctifies, and purifies, and even glorifies the Church, she belongs to Him! She is His bride, not the world’s, so Christian, stop flirting with the world! She is, you are, His bride! Not some sports team, some actress, some musician, some American idol; so Christian, stop adulterating yourself at their ‘altars’! Yes, the Church, the true one, the un-rivaled one, is His! Can we get our minds around that one, beloved? Will we surrender our hearts’ throne to that one? Will we?

The Church, the called out ones, it belongs to God. It is the sole possession of Jesus Christ! But, how do we know that? On what basis can we say that? Go back to 1 Peter with me, will you? 1 Peter 1:23-25.

In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter refers to the Church, to Christians as “newborn babies”. Now, here’s the $64,000 question for you. How did these newborn babies come to be alive in the first place? Who conceived them? How were they given birth?

1 Peter 1:23-25 – The Church, it belongs to God, the called-out ones, the newborn ones, they belong to God – how do we know that? 1 Peter 1:23-25 – It is God’s Word that has conceived and given birth to them!

My Loved Ones, the Church belongs to God. If it is the true Church, the unrivaled Church, Christ’s church – how do we know that? 1 Peter 1:18-19 – Who put up the ‘money’ to fund it, to buy it? Beloved, do you realize that there would BE no church, no church at all for critics to attack, no group of called out ones for the enemies of God to slander, if Jesus Christ HAD NOT first endured the abuse - verbal and other wise – of the Cross! 1 Peter 1:18-19 – The church is His, it is His – why? Because He bought and paid for it with His own, precious life’s blood! The Church, yes, it is the company of the redeemed! We are God’s blood-bought people! But, listen, we didn’t get that way, by the way of our wallet. “You were NOT redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, [or American dollars] – no! But, by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot!“

The Church is God’s church, the Church belongs to Christ! He is the Living Stone, rejected indeed by men – by the wolves, by the thorn bushes, the walkers on the wide road marked destruction. But, He also is the One God has chosen to be the cornerstone, the foundation stone for that grand New Testament temple He has determined to construct out of all who believe and obey Him! The question is – do you belong to Him? Newborn babes, those who truly have been begotten by the Word of God have a longing, a hunger, a thirst for the sincere milk of the Word, do you? And, true trees, they don’t merely profess allegiance to Christ – “Lord, Lord!” – no! They produce the good fruits of righteousness that prove it! What kind of fruit is your life producing?

The Church, God’s called out ones, His chosen ones, His elect! My loved ones, as your preacher, my job is to comfort the afflicted, for sure! But, listen – just as for sure, just as important in god’s view of things is my job to AFFLICT the comfortable! To afflict the comfortable!

The Church, where do you stand, with respect to that God-ordained entity? Are you one of its critics? Yes, right here, inside these 4-walls, are some who look the part, some who wear their 3 piece suits, and flowing skirts made out of the finest wool. But, inwardly they are wolves, ferocious wolves! Are you one of them? Am I? Jesus Christ, the Church’s head and Husband says, “Repent! Repent! And bring forth the good fruits that are in keeping with repentance! Repent!”

The Church, indeed, it has many critics, but NO rivals! Beloved, do you know what that means? It means simply this: if you want to go to heaven, if you want to enter into life, eternal life, you must be a part of God’s Church! You must be purchased by Christ’s blood, connected to and submissive to Christ as your Head, and built on Christ as your foundation. You must!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God's Great and Gracious Love

Photo credit: Johanna Kautt
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 13, 2011
Psalm 103:1-22, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

I happened to tune in my radio yesterday, as I was out in the car, to a report about a contest to recognize and honor the couple that had been married the longest. With Valentine's Day coming up tomorrow, and the chance to praise God for the nearly 30 years of marriage that I've shared with my dear wife, I turned the volume up to listen a little more closely. From what the report said, over 150 couples were found who had been married from 60 to 69 years – Glynn & Peggy are nearly a part of that bunch. About a hundred couples were found who had been married 70 to 79 years, and over 50 couples 80 years or more. As it turns out, the contest winner were a Mr. And Mrs. Kuykendal of New Mexico, who have been married 82 years. Still living in the home they built together many years ago, still active at ages 102 and 101. Mr. and Mrs. Kuykendal set an example and serve as an inspiration to all of us.

82 years of marriage, isn't that amazing?! You know, if I had the opportunity to ask them one question, I'd like to ask them to explain to me where they would be without each other's love and commitment?

Where would I be...” ask yourself this question, my Loved Ones, as we examine God's Word together this morning, “where would I be without the love of the Lord?” This morning I want you to join me in praising God for the best valentine gift of all; “for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:8) “By this we know love: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us...” (1 John 3:16) “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Where would I be, where would you be if Jesus hadn't loved you? Where would we be without His tender love? This psalm, through the words, the thoughts, yes, even the emotions of the psalmist David, the Lord has given us an avenue to come to grips with that question. Much more, through the joyful expressions of praise wrapped up in this passage, our God has supplied us with divine insight to guide us in our own expressions of thanksgiving to God for His love. Take a look with me, will you?
Literally, almost from the very first word of this psalm, David, the shepherd king of Israel, the one whom God had chosen to lead His people when King Saul, the 'people's choice' failed, David, the one God brought up from obscurity, serving as a lowly, youngest brother, take care of Daddy's sheep role, to the throne and through him, the messianic line, what does David say? How does he begin this song of praise to God for his incredible mercy and love? “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name...” “He has done great things, He has done great things, He has done great things, bless His holy name...”

Literally, right from the start, David points us toward our question, “Where would we be without God's love?” and to an answer, a powerful, joyful, even humbling and awe-inspiring answer: “bless the Lord, O my soul, and ALL that is within me bless His holy name...” The first thing we need to realize here is that God's great and gracious love for us, it literally alters and impacts ALL, yes I mean ALL, that we are!

Take a look at his list, the catalog of benefits David unveils for us here. The Lord, out of His great love for us, what does He do?

First off, He forgives. He forgives allthere's that word again – our iniquities. Then, watch the progression here. “He forgives all our iniquities, He heals all our diseases, He redeems our lives from destruction.” Do you follow where David, led by God's Spirit, is taking us? He's taking us, in my minds eye, I imagine him grabbing up his shepherd's staff, and walking with us out to one of the hillside meadows to which he used to lead his father's sheep. Can't you just see it: lush and green, quiet and secluded, perfect place for his father's tender lambs to feed. But, then – abruptly, he stops us, and then, carefully, leads us to something only a trained, shepherd's eye would see – a crack – a crevice, in the rocky terrain, going down, down, down, to who knows where, a pit of no-return for any and every little lamb that fall there. Listen, through these opening words of joyful praise, soaring as they do to the heights of worship, they would mean nothing – NOTHING – if there wasn't a way out of the pit! Listen, my friends, God's forgiving love is the way! God's healing love is the way! God's redeeming love is the way, the way lost, straying sheep like you and me are brought up out of the pit, the pit of sin, and rescued from its dreadful consequences: destruction.

Where would we be without God's great and gracious love? There's a unique characteristic to Old Testament poetry that amazes me every time I come across it. You've probably observed it yourself, but maybe didn't have the technical, theological term to use to label it. Well, here goes, here's the technical, theological label for this characteristic of Old Testament poetry seen in many places in the psalms, including right here in Psalm 103. It is the 'snow ball effect', pretty technical sounding, huh? Pretty theological sounding, huh? The snowball effect!

Where would you and I be without God's love? How is it that David could say, and I believe, say rightly, accurately and appropriately, “all that is within me, praises You for Your incredible love for me...” Here's how, here's why, the snowball effect, God's love, through His great and gracious love, He has forgiven me! God's love, through His great and gracious love, He has healed and redeemed me, God's love, through His great and gracious love, He has satisfied me (verse 5). And, then God's love, through His great and gracious love He has crowned me! The snowball effect, you see it, don't you? Where would we be without God's love?

Verses 8 through 10 – Look what these verses tell us about our Lord, talk about snowballs! His great and gracious love, what is it? It is an expression, a display – I like to think of it as an overflow, an eruption of His mercy, His grace and yes, His patience! Where would we be if our God wasn't that way? Read it with me again, will you? If God wasn't merciful, if our Lord wasn't gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous – I love that old King James word, plenteous – abounding in His mercy toward us, where would we be? Listen to verse 10, and you'll see! “He HAS dealt with us according to our sins. He HAS punished us according to our iniquities!!” That's where we would be without God's great love for us!

When we're talking about the love of God, forgiving us, healing us, rescuing us, satisfying us, crowning us – as Christians – when we're talking about the great and gracious love of God, where do we always ultimately end up? You know it, don't you? Any Christian discussion and study of the love of God always ultimately leads us to the Cross of our Dear Savior! Why is that?

Well, allow me to use this psalm, this Old Testament poem of praise to our gracious God to explain. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate demonstration of God's great love for us – do you see it here? Verses 13 & 14 – See it with me, would you please – in the way in which our gracious God, our Dear Father, recognizes the weakness that is in us.

Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” is the tender way our Savior spoke it from the cross...

Then there's verse 11. Take a look at what it shows us about God's great love at Calvary – the Cross – it is the ULTIMATE demonstration of God's great love for us, because in the cross, at the cross, we see God reaching down, the High and Holy One reaching down, down, down, to us!! To a sinful wretch like me!

Psalm 103:11, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.”

Next, what is there? This Old Testament poem, and it's snowball effect describes what Jesus did for us at Calvary when it says, take a look at it, verse 12, then take a look up here, “As far as the East is from the West,” God, in His great and gracious love, “has removed our transgressions from us!” The eyes of God, like a Father, He recognizes the weakness in us. The arms of God, high and holy though He may be, He reaches down to us. And yes, the hands of God – the nail-pierced hands of the Son of God – what do they do for us? As far as the East is from the West, they remove our sins from us. Which lead where, then? One more amazing snowball heaped up, up, up, in verses 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Psalm 103:15-18, “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”

Where would you and I be without the great and gracious love of God in Christ, at the Cross? Do you see it? “As for man his days are as grass as flourishing flowers of the field...” Sounds promising, doesn't it? Until the wind passes over it, then what? It is gone! “It is gone!” Sad ending to an otherwise hopeful passage of Scripture? No, look! This psalm of praise to our God for His great and gracious love and mercy, it doesn't end with the weakness and frailty of man – no! Praise God! It ends with the certainty, the confident, certainty we have because of the Faithfulness of God!

Where would we be without the love of God? I want you to look one more time at verse 17, and ask yourself this question: “where would I be if God's love had a time limit on it?” Verse 17, read it again with me.

Psalm 103:17-18, “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”

Where would you be, where would I be without God's great and gracious love? Do you mind if I switch things up for you just a bit, before we close?

This time, ask yourself this question: “Where am I with the love of God? What am I BECAUSE God loves me?” I would suggest to you that you are in the choir, led by that great musician, the Psalmist David, singing these words, “Bless the Lord, O My Soul...”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Generous, Faithful, Compassionate and Saving God

Image credit.
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 6, 2011

Psalm 50:14-15, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for you consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Beloved, I've been talking with quite a few hurting people of late. I don't know if you realize or not, but there are quite a number of them out there. And, if I can get a whee bit personal with you this morning - there also are a rather sizable number of troubled, hurting people in here too – there are!

Just the other day, a friend of mine told me about a friend of his who had been kicked in the mouth by some of his co-workers. Oh, not literally kicked in the mouth – but kicked so-to-speak, by their angry words and by the venom of their hostility toward him. That man, that woman, that person made in God's image, undoubtedly is hurting!

Do you see them? Do you know any of them? Are you one of them? The hurting... Listen, my friends, they ARE all around you and me, and likely, several of them are within arm's reach of you this morning!

Hurting people, troubled, discouraged people, who have been kicked-in-the-mouth, so-to-speak, God's people. Since this morning, this assembly, is ostensibly a gather of God's people; and, since many of God's people – yes, I said God's people – are weary and wounded my question for you and me this morning is: Is there something God's people need when they are hurting? And, is there somewhere they can go to find that something?

My Loved Ones, the thrust of this message, this Bible lesson today, is rather simple, almost elementary, I suppose. And, yet, I trust that when we give it some time to really sink in, upon meditating on this lesson's point, I trust we all will see how utterly profound AND meaningful it is to all of us, hurting or not!

Once more – as we begin our look at these passages of Scripture, and at our lives, and at the lives of others we know and love, the questions: Is there something God's people need when they are hurting? And: Where and how are they going to find that something? The simple answers, the profoundly meaningful and powerful answers to those questions are these: hurting people NEED comfort. The hurting people of God need comfort! And, God – their God – is that Comfort! In Him, God's people find or CAN find all the comfort all the encouragement, all the uplifting and, all the refreshing they need, when they are hurting!!

What is it about God, the God, who through the psalmist Asaph, said, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; and, I will deliver you, and you shall honor Me.” What is it about the God Who spoke these words that would cause God's people – people like you and me – to say, “He is My comfort! He is my help and hope”?

Psalm 50:14 – The verse begins with this command, this exhortation, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Beloved, what is it about God that calls forth from His people – from you and me – a sacrifice of thanksgiving, an offering of praise? Listen to what James says in James 1:17, and see if you can't figure it out. James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights...” My Loved Ones – Do you see it? Friends, it's all over the pages of this Book! The generosity of God that calls forth thanksgiving from God's people! You just think about it with me, will you? Every reason for our being thankful and grateful – ultimately – takes us back to God, to our incredibly generous God, as the Source and Supplier of every good and perfect gift!

Philippians 4:6, 7 – One of my favorite encouraging Scriptures; how does it put it?

Comfort, peace, wellness and quietness of soul, in the present, in the day of trouble, and hope for the future; where are God's people to find it? Beloved, they find it – we find it, or should find it and receive it – from the God of peace, when we combine petitions regarding the present WITH praises for the past!

It is God's generous nature that comforts us in the day of trouble! The psalmist said it like this in Psalm 37:25, “I was young, and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread!” It is God's generous nature that encourages God's people when they are wounded and weary. Psalm 34:8-10, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed it the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him! The young lion lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack ANY good thing!”

It is God's generous nature – the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them! Are you not more valuable than they? The lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin, God clothes them, will He not much more clothe you? It is God's great generosity that comforts us in our trials – so praise Him! So offer a thank offering to Him! So, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness!

What is it that God's people need when they are hurting? And, where are they gonna find that something? We know it, almost instinctively, hurting people, yes, even hurting CHRISTIAN people need comfort when they are torn and troubled – God is that Comfort! The God who supplies us all things richly to enjoy, the God who provides every good and perfect gift!

Hurting people need a generous God – guess what? We Christians have one! Not only that, but listen, hurting people, people who get kicked in the mouth so-to-speak, they need a faithful God, a true and truthful God. Is that the kind of God who has made Himself known through the pages of this Book?

Someone has wisely observed that there is one things that God CANNOT do! “What?” you might ask, “I thought God could do ALL things!” Oh, you're right. But listen – there is one thing God CANNOT do. And, that is this: (Titus 1:2) God cannot lie! He cannot, He will not fail to keep His word! Talk about comfort!

Look at Jesus' life the last few hours of His life, before He died on Calvary's cross, who helped Him as He wrestled with the thought of drinking the cup of God's wrath poured out on Him because of our sins? Did the disciples help Him? No! They were snoring there in Gethsemane! Did Judas help Him? No! He was off plotting and pulling together Jesus' betrayal! So, who helped Him? Luke 22:43 – Scripture says that His Father, the faithful God of heaven, helped Him by sending His angel to strengthen Him!

Or, what about His trials before the San Hedrin, before Herod, and before Pilate? Who helped Jesus through all of that? Peter didn't help Him. In fact, 3 times he denied he even knew Jesus! What kind of help is that? What about the other disciples? They were long gone, saving their own skins. And, as for Judas, you know what he ultimately did! He didn't help Jesus; no he hung himself! Who helped Jesus in Gethsemane? Who helped Jesus during His trials? Who helped Jesus as He hung there in agony, on that cruel Roman cross? The very same faithful and true God to whom Jesus said, “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit!”

Are you listening, my friends? People of God, it is your God's great faithfulness, His absolute truthfulness and trustworthiness that shall comfort you in your time of distress! It is! And, it is God's great faithfulness and truthfulness that calls you to be faithful! Psalm 50:14 - “Offer to God sacrifices of thanksgiving and pay your vows – fulfill your promises to the Most High!” Read 2 Timothy again sometime, and be careful to observe how both sides of that marvelous equation – God's faithfulness AND the faithfulness of God's people – are played out in the final days of the apostle Paul's life!

Brothers and Sisters, my fellow wounded and weary warriors, when you are hurting, what do you need? You know it! You need comfort! And, when you lift your eyes heavenward to find some comfort, is that what you'll find? Some say, “No! No way will you find comfort in the God of the Bible! No! He's a capricious God, a malicious God, a cold, calloused even cruel God, there's no comfort to be found in Him!”

Psalm 50:15 – You who say, you who believe that the God who has revealed Himself int his Book is whimsical, unpredictable, harsh and uncaring; let me ask just one question: if our God was that kind of God, why would He even BOTHER to urge His people to “call on Him in the day of trouble”? I mean, if the God of heaven didn't plan to listen, if He didn't intend to DO something to help His people, why would He say, “Call on Me?!”

Listen, Beloved, the fact of the matter is this: both through His gracious invitations to pray AND through His equally gracious answers to our prayers, God proves Himself to be, not malicious, not capricious, but compassionate! What a comfort that is, Amen? Amen!

So, what? So, keep on praying! You're hurting, you're wounded, you're weary, and, perhaps for a time God's comfort is not forth-coming, who do you think wants to come along side right about then, and whisper to you, “See! See! I told you prayer doesn't work! I told you that God doesn't really listen, that He doesn't really care about you!”

Beloved, that's not the Holy Spirit of God whispering in your ear! No! That's the Enemy of God, and of God's people, Satan. Don't listen to him! No! Find your comfort in the compassionate God who says, “Call on Me! Call on Me in the day of your distress!” And keep on praying!

Is there something hurting people, the hurting people of this room, need when they are hurting? And, where and how are they going to find it? Beloved, this Book tells me that what hurting people need is comfort. And that the where and how of finding that comfort lead ultimately to a WHO, the God of Comfort, the compassionate, faithful, generous God of ALL comfort!

Psalm 50:15 – My Loved Ones, there's one more aspect to this text that brings all of this lesson together. And, that's the final word of promise coming from the lips of the God of comfort - “I will deliver you...” My fellow wounded, what kind of God do you look to for comfort? A compassionate God? Yes... A generous God? Yes... A faithful God? Yes...

One more question for you: what if your God was all of those things, but wasn't a God who delivers, a God who saves? What good ultimately would all His generosity, faithfulness and compassion to be to you? 3 quick scenes from Jesus' life, I'm sure you'll remember all three. Jesus and Zaccheus – Luke 19:1-10. Jesus and Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee – Matthew 14:22-33. And, one more: Jesus and the repentant Thief on the Cross – Luke 23:39-43. If you look at all three of these scenes from Jesus' life, you will see, number one: hurting people needing comfort of some kind or another. Second, you will see glimpses of Jesus' compassion, His faithfulness and His generosity. Now, here's the really important question: if Jesus hadn't come to seek and to save – to save – the lost, if He hadn't come to bring deliverance to Zaccheus' life, what good would that generous invitation to eat lunch with Zaccheus have done for Zaccheus?

Or, take Peter, about to drown in the depths of the Sea of Galilee, because he really had NO ability to walk on that sea. What good would Jesus' faithfulness have been to Peter, if He hadn't stretched forth His hand to raise Peter uo?

And, what about that thief, that repentant thief crucified next to Jesus? What good would Jesus great compassion have been to that man, if Jesus did no also declare to him this promise: “Today you will be with Me in paradise!”

Beloved, are you wounded? Are you hurting? Do you need comfort? Praise and thank the God who is so incredibly generous! And, faithfully live for the God who never ever fails to keep His promises. And, never stop praying to the God whose compassionate ears are always – ALWAYS – open to your prayers! But, listen – most important of all, trust in the saving God whose hands were stretched forth on that tree, to deliver you and me!

God, our God, generous, faithful, compassionate and most important of all, saving. He is our comfort, He is! So, what? So, glorify Him! So, praise Him!

2 Corinthians 1:3ff: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort... who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God...”