Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

Psalm 6 – Remember – No Pain – No Gain? How Depressing!

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

 

I don’t know how many times I need to hear this lesson but seems that the Lord brings it up again and again.  Remember no pain, no gain!  Perhaps I’m hard of hearing or slow to learn but His Love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me.  So why is it that when pain comes I sometimes get so depressed?

And I’m not just talking about those days when I’m feeling lonely or blue.  You ever have those days? Those days come and go for everyone I’m told.  Nor am I talking about those times when I’m grieving the loss of someone close.  Everyone experiences a little depression when grief and loss comes.

No, I’m talking about those dark episodes that linger and seem like they will never end.  Those days where it seems Simon and Garfunkel take control of my thoughts with “hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”, and even when I pray, seems all I hear are “sounds of silence”.  Have you ever been there?

Those times when like David says in this Psalm, I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6 (NIV).   It’s in those times that we especially need the Soul Care of Scripture and the skillful hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, to bring us back to truth and emotional health like only He can do.

Now I have no idea where you are at as I’m writing this.  In fact, I don’t even know where I will be emotionally, on the day that this sermon is written for.  But the day I began writing was April 18th and I had been downstairs half the morning with God’s Kitchen talking with many people who were, without a doubt, in desperate need of the Soul Care that comes from hearing and understanding these very Scriptures.  From, “Remembering the days of old; considering the generations long past. Asking your father and … your elders, to explain to you” just how they coped with misery (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

In Psalm 6 David deals head on with those “sounds of silence” and the fears that he has gone past the point of no return with God’s patience.    I know it’s not a cheery feel good start for our Summer in the Psalms, Soul Care but sometimes life’s like that.  And you have to deal with it!  And in those times, knowing how David worked his way through the darkness may bring us the light we need to see that there are better days ahead.

So if you have your Bible’s along let’s go through Psalm 6.

Ok so my sound effects can use a little help.  But I hope you have caught that this is a Psalm of someone deeply in pain and clearly depressed because of it.   Yet David is also genuinely repentant, even sorrowful for what he owns as his fault for the situation he finds himself in.  In fact, he not only owns it he accepts that he had it coming because of his choices.   David is showing integrity.

“This Psalm is commonly known as the first of seven Penitential Psalms… (The other six are Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102:1-7, 130, 143)” (The Treasury of David.)  Each one expressing a genuine time of heartfelt repentance by one who has messed up perhaps Royally messed up again.  We’re not talking oopps I let the f-bomb slip past my lips.  Some of these Psalms were written after dark and major transgressions in the life of the Psalmist.

Take for instance Psalm 51, which was written after David had an affair with Bathsheba and then David ordered her husband to the front lines to be killed.  David did this to cover up his sin because Bathsheba became pregnant as the result of their affair.

Psalm 6 is harder to pin down as to what brought on the need for such sorrowful words.  Some scholars believe that David grew gravely ill and was near death when he cried out:

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

Stop for a moment and imagine. What might it look like for the Lord to disciple you in His anger or wrath?  Would it look like this?

 

The finger of God reaching down and suddenly you’re toast!  A pile of ashes with wafers of smoke.  Sometimes, I don’t think we quite understand the extent of the power of His wrath.  Trust me you do not want to get God angry.  But wrath isn’t the verb of the sentence.   Still, maybe your idea is more like this picture?

 

This kind of wrath…when your cup of inequity has reached its limit on high and your sins flow from heaven like burning sulphur, levelling everything in their wake.  A rebuke so strong that even a slight act of rebellion gets swallowed up because of the heinous nature of sin.

Lot’s wife was severely disciplined for looking where she ought not. And to this day the once fertile land of Sodom is uninhabitable.

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

God’s anger?  What would David have remembered, or learned from the elders about God’s anger?  He could have thought about the time when the ground open and swallowed 14000 rebellious people and everything they owned…

Numbers 16:31-35 tells us: (31)  … the ground under them split apart (32)  and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. (33)  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. (34)  At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (35)  And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35 (NIV).  I don’t suspect David had that event in his mind as he laid on his sick bed.

Maybe your imagination of verse 1 took you more in this picture’s direction? 

David would have heard from his father and been taught by the elders of that time when Miriam was so rebellious. How her rebellion angered the Lord who showed great restrain I might add.  After a strong rebuke from the Lord she suddenly was stricken with leprosy (cf. Numbers 12:3ff).    That sickness was indeed a discipline from the Lord! There was a clear cause and effect.  It was immediately evident to all who were there when it happened.  This wasn’t a sickness that came on over days, months or years.  The moment the Lord finished speaking she went from fair skinned to leprous.

I stress this because a lot of sickness is blamed on God that is clearly organic.   Even some types of depression.   A chemical imbalance can cause the mind to drift into darkness and despair.   The depression may not be spiritual in nature at all.  And if it is simply a chemical imbalance all the casting out of demons and prayers of repentance of sins will do for you is cause more despair and depression, even greater anxiety because God’s seemingly lack of compassion may even seem punitive.  Until the chemical imbalance is rectified, or God chooses to supernaturally rectify it, the darkness of despair will remain.  Good News! God has given some to be Doctors and Chemists and allowed mankind to find out about those chemical imbalances and God has given knowledge of treatments that can radically alleviate the chemical imbalances.  This too has been in answer to prayer! Yes even science can be an answer to prayer!

Which doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes God does rebuke and discipline people, physically, biologically, powerfully at times.  What we can learn from any of these wrathful passages is that when God is rebuking you in His anger or disciplining you in His wrath, you know it.  Miriam had no doubt Who caused her sudden case of leprosy.  It didn’t start as a speck and spread slowly, it came along with a verbal rebuke so the lesson was understood.

If David was sick, as some suggest, he certainly could look back to all he had learnt of God’s anger and wrath and begin to worry and fret that his current situation was about to go from bad to worse. David knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance if God disciplined him in anger or wrath.  So he cried out for mercy.

Remember, no pain no gain.  It wasn’t that David wanted to get away with the sin he was being disciplined for, he just didn’t want God to be angry or wrathful when he was being rebuking David.  And so, David begins this prayer appealing from the knowledge of Who God is, and the understanding of What God could do appealing to His compassion.

(2)  Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. (3)  My soul is in anguish.”

David was hurting deeply.  Physically hurting and in much pain, but also in great mental anguish.

Physical pain wears you down on all levels!  Because you can’t do things you used to do psychologically that may lead you to believe that you are worthless.  Mentally you struggle with those doubts and that self-worth and left unchecked that can spiral into depression.  So, let’s nip that at the bud, shall we?

No more pain!  Yup, that’s the answer, right?  Get rid of all pain.  If David hadn’t felt bones in agony he wouldn’t have had mental anguish and his life would be rosy, right?

Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain usually leads to other issues.  In fact, ask any addict what got them hooked, and if they know themselves at all, they will tell you the pain that lead to addiction.  So get rid of or somehow mask the pain, because pain is bad! Right?

Pain is actually something to thank God for.

leprosy caught

I know, you are likely thinking,  “What is this sicko pastor talking about. Pain is something to thank God for?”  Bear with me for a moment.

Many years ago, as I was beginning my journey with Christ, I read a book called, “The Gift Nobody Wants” by Phillip Yancy and Dr. Paul Brand.  They’ve since changed the title to “The Gift of Pain”.   I guess they wanted people to want to buy a book about something nobody wants.

Dr. Brand spent much of his career helping people with Leprosy.  And he came to the understanding that pain is actually a gift that helps us know when something is wrong or hurting so that we could actually do something about it.  Without pain one gets into much trouble, as Dr. Band learned from those with Leprosy.

In Moloka?i, Hawaii stands a grave to a Saint named Father Damien, one of only a few people in America to be officially Sainted by the Catholic Church.  Father Damien was a compassionate and caring priest who personally cared for the needs of those with Leprosy.  This at very great person risk back in those days I might add.

As you can see from the picture above the risk was genuine.  He eventually noticed, after pouring scalding hot water on himself and not even flinching, that he had contracted the disease and some time later he died from leprosy.

But unlike those with leprosy David was in agony, physical, mental and spiritual agony.  His pain kept him up day and night and the lack of sleep combined with that intense pain caused him great mental anguish.

Those who have suffered like that can tell you that at first you feel that this is temporary and will go away.  But when it doesn’t, it’s hard to keep up hope and not slip down that slippery slope.

Again, this wasn’t the pain of a sore foot throbbing that wakes you up once and while that David’s crying about.  David’s cry “how long Lord, how long?”, tells us that this had knocked him down near the point of death.   In fact he says exactly that in verse 5 as he calls out to God,  “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (Psalm 6:5 (NIV)

Again, David isn’t being a drama queen here.  And he doesn’t accuse God of being sadistic in delivering the discipline that David felt was just.

Instead David calls upon God’s mercy, Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:4 (NIV).

David reminded God of what He said about himself as His Glory passed in front of father Moses, “…God proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:6-7).   David had remembered God’s unfailing love in the past.  He remembered what his father and the elders said about their God.  He knew the stories of deliverance as well as those of His wrath.

He knew that when they called upon God, even while in their rebellion, God not only disciplined them but He also delivered them.

David looked back to see what was ahead and he remembered God’s unfailing love.  And you can too!

Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever.  His promises are sure.  He is the faithful one so unchanging!  But if you sin…remember, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:7).  He loves you too much to let you continue to do those things that hurt you.  So, He’ll discipline you appropriately.

Solomon, wrote, (11)  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, (12)  because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”(Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV).

This pain had a purpose for David’s life.  And it is still fulfilling its purpose thousands of years later. But, Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).   No pain, no gain!

BUT only sicko’s like the pain!  Emotional pain like physical pain maybe necessary and even a gift that can tell us when something is a skew in our relationship with God and or our fellow man.  So even there, no pain, no gain!  But too much pain is simply too much!

David cried out, (6)  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (7)  My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes” (Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV).

David was human.  We all have our limits when it comes to pain.  Unless of course we’re leprous or too macho for our own good.  David cried mercy and our Heavenly Father knows when enough is enough.

As kids my older brothers and I liked to watch Stampede Wrestling on Saturdays.  And as brothers do we would occasionally wrestle as we watched.  We had a code word when we could stand it no more.  We would cry, “uncle”.   And most of the time the one with the upper hand would stop.  Not always, … but most of the time.  Sometimes it would be days before the sore muscles and bruises vanished especially when we refused, in our pride to cry, “uncle”.  Eventually I learned when enough was enough, at least while wrestling with my brothers.

David didn’t succumb to the temptation to curse God and die, or even crawl under a rock to die.  Instead, with all that was left in him, he cried out to God for mercy.

Now this Psalm could have ended with his cry.  It could have left us guessing what the outcome was.   But David himself tells us what happened next.  The battle briefly intensified for his mind and then it suddenly was over.

David said,(8) Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. (9)  The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.”

How did David know that the Lord heard his prayer?

I suspect it was the remembrance of past answers where God had delivered him that gave him confidence in this present darkness.  After all the God of his yesterday was still his God in the day of pain.

Like David, we too need to look back to how God was there for us to find hope for our future.  For the God of our past is present with us and will be with us for eternity.  He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we know He disciplines those he loves.

We see at the end of this Psalm that David suddenly had the strength to fight on and the confidence that the outcome would be victorious!

(10)  All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (Psalm 6:10 (NIV).   The God of his past gave David hope for his future, once more and again.  He had victory over the darkness.

As that great Hymn writer wrote, “The darkness will turn to the dawning and the dawning to noon day bright! And Christ’s great Kingdom will come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light.” (Lyrics: We’ve a story to tell to the Nations)

summer in the Psalms Soul Care

Psalm 1:1-6 Finding good direction for your life.

Every trail leads somewhere but do all those paths end up in the same place? And if not, just what happens when you find you’ve ended up on the wrong path?  What do you use to reset your direction?    Some people just follow the crowd, others set their own direction by intuition, while still others seem to have some sort of spiritual director guiding their way.  What about you?  We all need some direction at times.  It doesn’t matter if everything is going good or if the path we are on is rocky and we’re carrying a load.  But just where can we find good direction that brings us to a successful conclusion?

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When Rocks Fly – B.E.G.I.N.

March 30th, 2014
This week we had a special guest join in with harpist Simon Funk and sing In The garden and How Great Thou Art.
Watch it here:

Pastor Blake’s message was on Acts 14:19-28

Read it below or watch it here:

 

Acts 1419-29Slide1

Last week we left off with Paul showing the signs of a true Apostle of Christ.  Through the authority given to him by Christ he called healing into a man who was lame.  That man had never walked before in his life!  Can you imagine that?  He had no memory to help guide him on how to put one foot in front of another.   I can’t imagine that.

Acts1419-28-Slide2

We are waiting for the day when we hear that our grandson has taken his first step.  At this stage he hasn’t even begun crawling yet.   So we have a bit of a wait.  But we are already seeing progress towards that goal.   Hudson now sits up on his own.   He hasn’t rolled over yet but that’s bound to come soon.  Now that he is sitting it won’t be long before K&Z have him in a jolly jumper and that will begin to strengthen his wee little legs.  Then in time he will begin to crawl.  And if all goes as it should he’ll start hoisting himself up onto his legs and stand with the aid of a table or chair.  But he won’t have walked yet.

His parents will no doubt try to help him along in that by holding his hands, providing him balance, and as his legs increase in strength…and in perhaps six months to a year from now we may get the news that he has taken that first step on his own.

And this man was lame from birth, hadn’t ever taken that first step!  Clearly the crowd was amazed at the power of God and what He did to the lame man. Who wouldn’t be? They wanted to treat Paul and Barnabas as gods!  Paul would have nothing to do with that and even after he told them that they followed worthless things, they still wanted to sacrifice to him.   Until Satan’s helpers showed up that is.     Let’s pick up our narrative in verse 19 and see how this plays out.  So if you have your Bible along turn with me to Acts 14:19-28.

 Acts1419-28-Slide4

One minute they are cheering them on as gods and the next they have stones in their hands and they are playing god.  People are so fickle!

This was the second time someone tried to rid the earth of Paul.  It would happen 3 more times after this.  A real pattern was shaping up.  The first time was back in chapter 13.  The gospel was shared, people got saved and persecution ensued.  That time it was prominent women and the leaders in Iconium who decided this new teaching was too radical. They forced Paul and Barnabas to run away from that city.  And the apostles brushed the dust from their feet in protest.  But that time they did go on their way.

Now Luke tells us that 19   some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” Acts 14:19 (NIV).   That’s odd isn’t it?  Why did the Jews from Antioch and Iconium follow Paul and Barnabas?  If they didn’t like the message why follow the messengers?  Why not just leave them alone?  That’s what we Canadians do isn’t it?

Remember this verse.  Eph. 6:12We wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, things that are in a spiritual realm.  But those powers seem to find willing flesh and blood hosts to carry out their dastardly deeds.  And this time they used rocks to make their point.

They thought that they had killed Paul and dragged his body out to where nature could finish him off.  Clearly as they dragged him there he was unconscious.

Paul would later write, 25  Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost stoned to death” (2 Corinthians 11:25 (NCV).   It was that close a call.  He almost died!  They presumed him dead.

And yet, his recovery was almost miraculous.20  …after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe” (Acts 14:20 (NIV).

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The disciples?  What disciples would that be?  And where were they when the rocks were flying?  From the context it is pretty clear that it was those who at the beginning of chapter 14 had been won over to Christ.  Where they were when stones started flying we do not know.  Perhaps they stood back and watched?  But what’s more likely is that they slipped away from the hostile scene and followed at a safe distance.  And after Paul’s lifeless body laid outside of the city, covered in stones, these disciples went to mourn the death of their new teacher.  But to their surprise, I’m sure they weren’t expecting it, God had other plans.  Paul got up and off they went back into the city.

Notice that we are not told that a further fight erupted as Paul returned to the scene of the crime.  That’s because it didn’t.  He had the common sense to lay low overnight and left immediately the next morning without incidence. Let that be a lesson to you.   Don’t go looking for trouble.  Let it come looking for you.  And certainly don’t going looking for more trouble if you survive the first beating.  God gave you a brain and faith to be His messenger…use both.

Having survived a near death experience Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe to try try again.   And this time they saw a great number of believers come to faith in Christ.

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Imagine for a moment looking at the messenger for the next few days after he had been stoned.  I suspect he was quite the sight to behold.  And yet he preached boldly winning many to Christ.   You and I may have gone home, licking our wounds, determined not to go through that again.  But Paul and Barnabas actually did as Jesus had taught his disciples to do according to Mark 6:11.

“… if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”  Mark 6:11 (NLT) Leave and go somewhere else and keep preaching the good news until someone listens.  Plenty listened and became disciples in Derbe.

Then the day came when it was time to go back to Antioch.  Now personally if I was Paul I would have found another route to go on rather than the places where I was assaulted and forcibly ejected.  But it likely wasn’t that simple in those days.  No GPS to find an alternate route.   So they returned the way they came.  And Paul even stopped in and spoke again to the growing disciples.

Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people?   It’s a question that we all face eventually as Christians.  And it’s one that I’m often asked by non-Christians and new believers about Christians.  Sometimes the questions go something like, “If God is for them why are they persecuted and suffering so much?” When the rocks fly, you would think that having God on your side ought to have certain perks wouldn’t you?  How do you answer that age old question?  Why do bad things happen to Good people?

Paul faced this question as he returned to the scene of the crime so to speak.  He found that the disciples from Iconium, Lystra and Antioch needed to be encouraged.   They witnessed the brutal treatment of Paul and I’m sure the news spread quickly in that locality.

Paul wasn’t just being macho, you know “suck it up buttercups”.  It wasn’t the drill sergeant response they needed to hear.  Yet they did need to know the truth.  So as Paul went from town to town, 22  strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” he said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 (NIV).

Really he’s not telling them anything new.  He was just dispelling the myth that once you become a Christian everything will be rosy ever after.  Life has its hardships for every person.  And we as God’s children must understand that we too will go through them but unlike those who reject God’s grace, we are assured that we will overcome.  So we can press on and fulfill what it is that God has destined us to do.

Paul’s encouragement was forward looking.  He knew that they would have to continue without his help and so he did things with that in mind.

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Luke tells us in verse 23 that, 23  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:23 (NIV).   This would become the pattern for Christ’s church throughout the ages to come.

People would come to know and follow Jesus.  As they grew in their faith Christ would place them in positions of trust and responsibility where they too would lead others who would come to Jesus grow in the faith and pass the baton.  These were not perfect people.  They were simply very committed people.  Committed to the Lord and His church.

Paul later told Timothy and Titus what sort of people God was going to appoint.  Those qualifications can be found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  And well I don’t have time today to go into all those qualifications I would like to end by pointing out the most obvious one that many skip over when reading the list in those passages.

One of the first qualifications that is often overlooked or down played is the desire to become an overseer.  If there is no desire to be in leadership with an individual then likely the Holy Spirit hasn’t appointed them to that role yet.  It is not that we leaders look for the challenge or the honor or necessarily want to be the leader.  But neither do we shrink back when asked to lead.  I’ll leave the rest of the qualifications for another sermon.

Appointing leaders is important.  It was important enough for Paul and Barnabas that they willingly went back to the scene of their assault.  They took time in the places that they were hurt the most to make sure that the church was getting off on the right foot.  This in of itself is a miracle.  You know as well as I do that human tendency is to avoid places that we have been hurt.

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After appointing the elders they continued on their way back to the church at the Antioch that sent them on this journey of faith.  I can’t over emphasize the importance of this.  An apostle is one who is sent under the authority of another.  They are not lone rangers.  Sometimes our missionaries today feel all alone out there but they need not.  Especially in our day and age.  We have the technology to connect anywhere in the world in a very short time.  So keeping connected with the sending body shouldn’t be that hard.

Yet it was important for Paul and Barnabas to return to Antioch and give an account of their journey, and important enough that the Holy Spirit prompted Luke to write down those details so we could learn from them and do likewise.

The people who were praying needed the encouragement of knowing their prayers availed much.  Those who gave needed to know that what they gave was used to further God’s Kingdom on earth.  And the rest of the people needed to know that God is active and alive and still saving souls through people obedient enough to be sent.  It encourages us all to participate in our role of reconciliation that God has given us to do.

That’s why we always plan for a debriefing time when we have sent people on missions from Grace.  In the next couple of weeks we hope to hear from Scott and the team news from Mexico.  And we will spread that out over a couple of weeks so that we can truly get a sense of what God was up to through their ministry.

This week take time to encourage someone with what God has done in your life.   In doing so you’ll Give to God the Glory and He’ll bless you even more.