Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Godly People Know – Psalm 92

What Godly People Know – Psalm 92
by Pastor Lee Hemen
August 26, 2007 AM

There is a certainty and assurance that true Christians know and reflect in their lives. Others have noted the peace that believers display no matter what occurs in life. During the cold war a KGB agent for the Soviet Union had beaten nearly to death a young woman. He warned her never to be caught again. Her crime? Having a Bible study in her home and owning a Bible. She was caught again by the same agent. In disbelief he could not shake the peace that he saw in her face even after she was beaten to death by his squad. It haunted him from that day on. Later, he gave his life to Christ and had to escape Russia himself. How could that lovely young woman continue to praise God even after she was severely beaten and then later dying for her belief? In this worship Psalm we find out what Godly people know.

READ: Psalm 92

Why is it we are ready to give praise to those who really do not deserve it? Sports figures that gamble, cheat, or use drugs in order to better their careers, actors that exhibit lifestyles that are ungodly, or political figures that have lied to get into office. Yet, we find it difficult to take five minutes to praise the Creator? According to this Psalm, the believer should know that…

I. It is good to praise God! (vv. 1-5)

1. Christians should be about praising God! There is no greater thing the follower of Jesus can do than to praise the Lord. It should be something that lasts all day long. Literally from proclaiming God’s love in the morning to reminding oneself of His faithfulness as evening falls. Here we find the writer of this melody singing about the Lord’s “deeds… great works,” and “profound thoughts.” God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Paul, in quoting Isaiah would ask, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” And from Paul’s own inquiry he would answer, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:34-36) God is the one whom makes us “glad” and fills our hearts with “joy.” It is good to praise God!

EXAMPLE: A believer was once asked, “Do you feel that your sins are forgiven?” “No,” was the reply, “I do not always feel that they are forgiven, but I know they are, because God says so in His Word!” Paul did not say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will feel that you are saved.” He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Not all people “feel” that their sins are forgiven the moment they put their faith in Jesus Christ and receive the gift of salvation, but they are saved nonetheless. Catherine Booth, who with her husband William organized the Salvation Army, stressed the need for being content to walk by faith. In her final illness she talked to a friend about the difference between faith and sight. “One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn,” she said, “is to discern between faith and realization.” Catherine concluded, “All our enemies (including death) have to be conquered by faith, not by realization.” She was prepared to look at death with the assurance of her faith. He illness and fear did not dictate her faith. Catherine Booth willingly praised God with her life even as she faced her death. What a difference between her and what we recently have learned about Mother Teresa who wrote that she was continually uncertain about God’s existence and the certainty of her faith. Christians should be about praising God! It is good to praise God!

I find it extremely odd what people consider to be excellent in our day and age. We have seen cult films create an attitude whereby young people gain notoriety by acting stupid and doing extremely dangerous stunts that have left them maimed and disfigured for life. What many think as “excellent,” is in reality just insane. We find this to be true of those who irrationally decide not to give God praise. In fact we learn that…

II. The foolish do not know how to praise the Lord! (vv. 6-11)

1. A wise person knows whom to praise and when! The Teacher of Ecclesiastes asks, “Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1) The Psalmist declares, “The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” What may seems excellent in the eyes of the ungodly, is nothing to praise. In fact, God is the only one who is “exalted forever.” His “enemies will perish” and “all evildoers will be scattered.” The idea here being one that these “foolish” unbelieving people will be separated from God and eternally severed from His presence! WOW! Ultimately the righteous will see the “defeat” of their “adversaries” and hear the “rout” of the “wicked foes.” It is God who will revenge those that praise Him. In the end, when all people are judged, the righteous will hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant!” but the fool will hear, “throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:21-30) The foolish do not know how to praise the Lord!

EXAMPLE: In the 1960s, certain theologians proclaimed, "God is dead." In their opinion, the progress of scientific knowledge had made it impossible for “thoughtful people” to believe in God. These "thinkers" said it was time to bury the idea of an almighty Creator in the graveyard of abandoned myths. But the God-is-dead theology has basically died out. British scholar and historian Paul Johnson comments, "From the perspective of human spirituality, the most extraordinary thing about the 20th century was the failure of God to die." In fact, most people agree there is a God: About 90% of the US population! John Calvin agreed with King David that we all have an inborn sense of deity. That's why anthropologists have never discovered a tribe of atheists! To kill off faith in God, it would be necessary to blot out the stars, turn the orderly processes of nature into chaos, and perform a lobotomy on every human being! How foolish it is to deny God! This is why the Psalmist would also declare, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 53:1). The foolish do not know how to praise the Lord!

The exact opposite is true for those who believe in Christ. Faith is the certainty of things “hoped for.” In other words you know it is true because you have trusted God with your life. It is not found in feelings, a “burning in the bosom,” or by how much money you make and give away. In fact, the godly know God loves them no matter the outward condition of their lives! We discover in this Psalm that…

III. The godly know they thrive when they praise God! (vv. 12-15)

1. Grass makes good cattle feed but poor building material! The song now contrasts the condition of the righteous with that of the fool. The wicked "spring as the grass", but “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” Grass grows rapidly but certainly not a palm or a cedar! What a stark contrast between the transitory verge of the field and the nobility of the oasis or forest! “The palm standing erect, sending all its strength upward in one bold column, and growing amid the dearth and drought of the desert, we have a fine picture of the godly man, who in his uprightness aims alone at the glory of God; and, independent of outward circumstances, is made by divine grace to live and thrive where all things else perish.” – C. H. Spurgeon. The text tells us not only what the righteous is, but what he shall be when he praises God! In fact spiritually they will “still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” The godly know they thrive when they praise God!

EXAMPLE: What a beautiful thing to see older folks who continue to praise God with all that they are. Their lives are not lived in past regret, but in the moment where they boldly declare, “They will be done!” More than 90 years of memories and faith are her legacy, but she's not ready to surrender. Her life is full of the physical pain that often accompanies old age, and even though she's too weak to walk anymore, Margaret is not done with her ministry. Despite her increasing feebleness, and despite her near deafness and inability to move around, Margaret has a ministry that reaches far beyond the walls of the nursing home where she lives. Every day--often for hours at a time--she sits in her chair with a stack of prayer cards and prays diligently for missionaries. And sometimes, when she can push her frail body to do so, she kneels beside her bed on creaky knees to talk with God. Margaret doesn't have much more than prayer to offer her Lord. She is the essence of the answer to the question in Psalm 116:12, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" Verse 13 answers, "I will . . . call upon the name of the Lord." The godly know they thrive when they praise God!

Conclusion:

It is good to praise God! The foolish do not know how to praise the Lord! The godly know they thrive when they praise God! Let me ask you, “Do you praise God?”

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Praising God – Psalm 134

Praising God – Psalm 134
by Pastor Lee Hemen
August 19, 2007

There are little things in life that often surprise us and then delight us in ways we do not expect. It can be a smile from the lips of a child, laughter heard on an summer’s eve, or a soft breeze coming through the house that cools you after a hard day’s labor. Each in of itself is a small thing, yet a delightful thing. Something that God sends our way to bring joy into our life.

This Psalm, which is often overlooked because of its length, is like a cool breeze, a smile from a child, or laughter heard on a summer’s eve. It is spiritual refreshment for the weary soul and I believe David wrote it that way deliberately. He realized that as he praised God, spiritual refreshment would come. The pilgrim who had spent so much time worshipping in the temple, going and participating in the festivals of the Lord, were now returning home. Tired from all of their duties, but still feeling the afterglow of their devotion to God in His temple, they were encouraged to sing praises one last time as they journeyed home. In this little Psalm we discover a big truth in praising God.

READ: Psalm 134

In this day and age when so much of praise is focused on “me,” we need to remind ourselves of what praise truly is to be. Worship is not to be built around the worshipper but rather what honors the Lord. True worship is completely focused on God and not ourselves. David calls those who have been worshipping God to one last time of focus on Him rather than themselves. It is…

I. A call to praise (vv. 1-2)!

1. Our praise of God comes whether we serve in the light of day or in the darkest moments of life!

1) We learn that “The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the temple of the LORD…. They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening.” (1 Chronicles 23:28, 30) So great was the need of people to help in the sacrifices that David lowered the age of men who could serve from 30 years old to 20 years old and he allowed fathers to serve with their sons. Not only does it display for us a tremendous devotion to God, but how God’s leaders can ask for help and receive it! Often leadership within God’s congregation need help, but few step forward. It is a wonderful thing to serve the Lord in His church. It is an act of praise! Our praise of God comes whether we serve in the light of day or in the darkest moments of life!

2) David instructs them: “Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD!” All of God’s servants were to praise Him, especially those “who minister by night in the house of the LORD.” Often we wait to serve God when we “feel” like it, but God calls all of His people to service! Why then do we hesitate? We find that much of our praise of God depends upon our own emotions, rather than what we know to be true – our faith. Yet, we find David telling his people to “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD!” It was NOT dependent upon how they felt, it centered on who God was and is! God is worthy of our praise no matter how we feel or what our circumstances in life! Our praise of God comes whether we serve in the light of day or in the darkest moments of life! It is a call to praise!

EXAMPLE: C. H. Spurgeon, a famous 19th century Baptist preacher, related about this Psalm that it pictured “The Pilgrims… going home, and… singing the last song in their Psalter. They leave early in the morning, before the day has fully commenced, for the journey is long for many of them. While yet the night lingers they are on the move. As soon as they are outside the gates they see the guards upon the temple wall, and the lamps shining from the windows of the chambers which surround the sanctuary; therefore, moved by the sight, they chant a farewell to the perpetual attendants upon the holy shrine.” What a beautiful picture. It shows us just how important worship is supposed to be for God’s people. It is to so important that you actually can't stand to leave! You look back, seeing the house of God, and long to return again. When our worship is focused on God, that is what occurs. If it focused on what we can got out of it for the moment, then we will only long for the feeling of worship and not the fellowship of being with God, in His presence with His people. It is a call to praise.

The Bible makes it clear that we “reap what we sow.” We may not understand this completely living in a day and age where we do not go out and plant, water, and then harvest a crop. Paul, in Galatians, applies it to our spiritual lives when we writes, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8) This applies as well to our praise of God. We reap what we have sown. If we are praising God for the right reasons, we reap the benefits of that praise. If not, it is just so much hot air and hand waving. This is why David follows up his call to praise God with…

II. A prayer of blessing (v. 3)!

1. The blessings of God flow from the throne of God as we praise Him!

1) God’s people are encouraged to trust the living God because He will bless them all from the priests to the people – the pastors to the congregation! This is an important truth we find throughout Scripture. God does not care about your position in life. Whether you are rich or poor, high born or low. God told Samuel, who picked David to be King of Israel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Paul would state that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) While there can be distinctions in spiritual service, there is none in spiritual relationship. All believers became one with each other, human distinctions lose their significance. None is spiritually superior over another. This is why Paul would tell Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) The grandest form of praise is to give God your life! God blesses those who praise Him – from the least to the greatest! The blessings of God flow from the throne of God as we praise Him!

2) You need to know God in order to praise Him and experience His blessings! Paul would remind us there is no difference in God’s eyes as far as people are concerned. In fact, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame…. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11, 13) This is why Paul asks the question, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?” (v. 14) An unsaved person cannot call on God whom they have not believed in, nor can they rightly praise God whom they do not believe in! Jesus would quote the prophet Isaiah by teaching us that “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13) It is only by knowing God and trusting Him with your life that you can truly praise Him. Because then you know by faith “the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” and He will “bless you from Zion!” It is a prayer of blessing. Blessing comes when our lives are given over to Jesus Christ. The blessings of God flow from the throne of God as we praise Him!

EXAMPLE: Praise comes from a Latin word meaning “value” or “price.” Thus, to give praise to God is to proclaim His merit or worth. Many terms are used to express this in the Bible, including “glory,” “blessing,” “thanksgiving,” and “hallelujah,” the last named being a transliteration of the Hebrew for “Praise the Lord.” The Hebrew title of the book of Psalms (“Praises”) comes from the same root as “hallelujah” and Psalms 113-118 have been specially designated the “Hallel” (“praise”) psalms. We are “blessed” made happy in our relationship with Jesus when we praise Him. When we give to Him the honor that is truly due His name. Have you praised God lately for who He is? Perhaps this is why your relationship feels insecure because you depend on your emotions instead of your faith? Perhaps your faith is misplaced because you do not know Jesus? The blessings of God flow from the throne of God as we praise Him!

Conclusion:
1) A call to praise and 2) A prayer of blessing.