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Weekly Word

Entries in Praise (4)

Monday
Nov282016

A Thankful Heart

Psalm 100:1-5.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 20, 2016.

After this year’s presidential election we see that there are some who are rejoicing and others who are mourning.  Even Christians are divided on whether the results were good or bad.  I am not going to stand here today and make the case that the election of Donald Trump is a reason for giving thanks.  Rather, I am challenging each of us to understand that for the Christian, our reasons for rejoicing cannot be touched by an election, or the stroke of an executive pen, or the folly of a legislative session, or even the over-reach of a zealous judiciary.  Throughout history the godly have had to learn how to have joy in God’s presence regardless of what the world around them was doing.  So this Thanksgiving let’s have a thankful heart for the right reasons!

Exhorted to give thanks to God

Psalm 100 is addressed as a psalm for thanksgiving (some versions translate it as “praise”).  In fact the word that is translated as thanksgiving is the Modern Hebrew word for saying “thank you,” today.  There is a structural note to make about this psalm.  It is designed to have a 1-2 punch twice.  That is, the psalmist exhorts us to give thanks (verses 1 & 2) and then tells us why (verse 3).  He does this again with verses 4 and 5.  Thus we are going to look at verses 1 and 2 along with verse 4 because they are focused on the exhortation to give thanks to God.

First we are told to “shout joyfully” to the Lord.  This is a good translation, but it is informative to understand that this word is determined by the context.  It can also mean “an urgent cry, or shout for help, or a cry of alarm.”  However the context here is giving thanks to God.  Notice that this is meant to be a passionate response from our heart.  In fact, it is usually the times in our life where we cried out in alarm, and cried for help from God, that we find a reason for the joyful shout of victory.  Thus the psalmist addresses both Israel and “all the earth.”  Yes, the gentiles were separated from God at the time of this psalm.  They were also suffering under the administration of those false gods that they wanted to serve.  Yet, Psalms 96-99 have been underlining the coming reign of Messiah, or the Savior King that God would send.  In fact Psalm 98:3 says, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”  Of course the psalmist is looking ahead and declaring what the Spirit is revealing, by faith.  Can we shout the joyful shout before the victory has come?  In Christ, believers have the joy of being able to shout a victorious shout before it happens, because God guarantees our victory.  Sometimes we lack passion in our worship and thanksgiving to God because we have never given thought to all that God has done and all that He has promised to do.  We can then become distracted by the things of this earth and live life without a deep-seated joy in Jesus.

Next we are told to “serve the Lord with gladness.”  From this point on the psalmist gives a command along with a description of how we should do it.  We are to serve with a heart of gladness.  Serving can become a very tedious thing, even overbearing at times.  But generally, it becomes so because we lose sight of what our service is accomplishing or bringing us.  When we go through moments of difficulty, our heart is tested.  Some grow weary and quit.  Others continue to work, but it has become a sad tedium to them.  Don’t settle for merely going through the motions.  God wants you to have gladness of heart.  So take time today, and each day, to ask God to give you faith to believe that He is accomplishing a good thing out of our lives and service for Him.  May God help us to believe that He is working all things to our good.

In verse 2 we are told to come before the Lord with singing.  Literally, it is to come before His face.  The picture is not of some ethereal “presence” of the Lord, but actually stepping into the place of His attention.  When we sing we connect with God from a very deep place.  For the person in the midst of turmoil and sadness, singing can be the rebellion of faith against the darkness.  For the person who has seen the victory of the Lord, it can be the dancing heart’s eloquent discourse. 

We see this same idea in verse 4 when it says, “enter.”  It is actually the same word as “come,” but the context of going through gates into a God’s courts give the sense of “enter.”  We should not only be thankful among one another, but we need to take time to enter into the throne room of God by faith and rejoice before Him with the songs of joy on our lips.  Thus verse 4 mentions thanksgiving and praise.  Thanksgiving has to do with a heart that is grateful.  It is one thing to be happy about something good.  It is quite another to go and give thanks to the giver.  Sometimes we can be overly intent on a particular good thing that we want to the expense of the good thing that we already have.  Often relationship with God, and one another, can be sacrificed in the desire for something else.  Pray for God’s wisdom to know when we need to let things go to follow Him and when we need to learn how to be content and rejoice in what we already have.

Praise is similar to thanksgiving.  However, it is more of a recounting of those good things that God has done and the good character that He has displayed.  This outward adoration of God can be in a physical house of worship.  But it must always be from a heart that has spiritually become a place of worship.  In our private moments we can enter into the presence of God at any moment because He is everywhere at all times.  People like Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned in an Iranian prison for his faith in Jesus, can give testimony to the truth that no prison can keep us from entering into the presence of God and giving Him thanks and praise.

The Reasons Why We Can Be Thankful

Verses 3 and 5 give us the reasons why God is worthy of our thanksgiving.  The first reason is because it is He who has created us.  Of all the pretender gods among the nations, there is only One who is truly God.  The One who brought all that exists into being.  Yes, angels were considered divine in the sense that they dwelt with God and are immortal.  But they are not of the same class as the God who created all things.  Thus, in worshipping fallen angels in various forms, the Gentiles demonstrated the tendency of human beings to look to the creation and worship it rather than the Creator.  This reason could be categorized as a legal reason.  He created us and all that we have.  It is only right that we give Him thanks.  How could we not be thankful to Him or worse give our thanks to something that is created itself?  Within modern thinking, we are attempting to “take control of our own evolution.”  This has given rise to a progressive philosophy that believes we can make ourselves what we want in all areas (socially, physically, and spiritually).  However, just as we did not make ourselves, we will not be able to remake ourselves as well.  Mankind will always impale itself upon the sword of its own sinful nature.  Try as we might, we cannot fix the fallen human condition, only the Creator can.

If He is our Creator then by rights we belong to Him.  Thus the Psalmist says that we are his people.  He also employs a metaphor of a shepherd with his sheep.  We are sheep that belong to the Great Shepherd.  Of course God will not force us to serve Him and praise Him.  He is not raising us up as sheep to be slaughtered and eaten.  The shepherd metaphor is meant to reference a good shepherd who cares for and nurtures the sheep.  He defends them from the wolves that want to eat them.  He leads them to water, food, shelter, and a safe place.  This is our God.

Verse 5 tells us that He is good.  This is not a legal reason.  It is more of a moral argument.  God is good and to reject His claims upon our life in order to go after other things that are not good is foolish.  Not only is God good, but He has a good end in mind for us.  The Bible says that, “He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”  Similarly He is merciful or full of loving kindness.  Each of these is a type of goodness, or a facet of it.  In mercy and compassion God does not give us what we deserve, but instead, offers us kindness and love.  Of course we can receive mercy and not be thankful for it.  This too is folly.

Lastly, His truth or faithfulness endures to all generations.  The things that God has revealed can be depended on by every generation.  Some in the Church have waffled on this point.  The Truth of God is applicable to every culture at all times.  Yes, there are many things that God commanded Israel that are not intended for the other cultures and every generation.  But, with a proper understanding of what God is saying and revealing to the whole earth, we can know what is actually true in our generation.  Though many have cast off God, and any hope in what God can do, we must not do it.  Though many may push to make their own hope by their own hands, we must not do it.  Our hope is in the God who created us.  He is good and merciful to us.  He will be faithful to every generation.  Amen!  Don’t be fooled by the pied pipers of our day.  Give your life over to Jesus and ask Him to cover your sins.  Be a follower of Jesus and join with all the saints in giving up the Joyful Shout!

Thankful Heart audio

Tuesday
Jul052016

The Coming Day of the Lord 2

Isaiah 24:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 3, 2016.

Tomorrow we will be celebrating The Declaration of Independence by the United States of America.  In that document we appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”  Rectitude means the straightness or righteousness of our intentions.  Today, it does not seem that many in our government are concerned about the Supreme Judge of the world.  Our passage today reminds us why it was so important to do so back then and why we should be doing it now.  God is not just potentially the judge of the world, but He has appointed a day in which all the nations of the earth will be brought into judgment before Him, at the end of this age.  Whether in the Church or in our government, we need leaders who have such a fear of God that they feel compelled to make their case before the God of heaven.  We need leaders who will make their case in conformity with the Word of God (straight intentions) rather than in defiance of it.  My cry this morning is for Christians to not fail in their duty to conform their intentions to the straightness of God’s Word.  We must be about our Father’s business because the devastating day of Judgment that we will continue to read about today.

The Joys of the Harvest Will End

In verses 1-6 the prophet lets us in on the vision he has had of God judging the whole earth.  There he referred to the “withering” of the earth.  In verse 7 we see that this withering is a reference to drought conditions that bring an end to the joyful harvests.  The drought will also have an impact on their celebratory drinking of wine.  Of course a global drought would affect all crops, wine was the staple of their celebrations and where their hearts truly lay.  Thus the judgment upon the crops is more of a judgment upon their joyful celebrations.  God will bring them to an end.  He will do so because all of their jubilations are done without regard for Him and His ways.  They only give thought to earthly matters and ignore His warning of judgment.  Thus Isaiah mentions that the new wine fails.  There is not enough grapes that survive the drought in order to make new wine, and in fact the vines themselves are failing as well.  Thus the future of their wine is in jeopardy also.  The “merry-hearted” that are mentioned are the partiers and revelers.  They will groan because the drink is diminished, but also because there is nothing to take joy in; everything is being destroyed on the earth.  All of their labor is coming to nothing and being destroyed.

Thus verse 8 speaks to the festivals of the merry-hearted.  All mirth, noise of jubilations, and anything of the sort will come to an end and cease.  Man was not created to fixate his life on amassing material commodities, while ignoring their Maker.  Rather we were created to enjoy the material things before God while giving Him praise.  Our rejoicing should be in Him more than it is in the material gifts that He provides.

In verse 9 we see that what wine is consumed will be done in bitterness rather than in joy.  Like Naomi complaining that God had dealt bitterly with her, so they will lack anything over which to be joyful.  They may still have stores of wine to drink, but they will bring them no joy.

The City of Confusion is Destroyed

In verse 10 we have this phrase, “the city of confusion.”  It could be a description of any of the capitol cities that God had warned in Isaiah 13-23.  It could be a generic label for all the Cities of Man that are raised up and ignore God.  These will all be brought to destruction.  They have been a place of confusion in that they have rejected the ordinances of God and His proper order.  They have led and taught men to do the same within their streets.  So God will bring them into Judgment and cause them to be confusion.  The word that is translated confusion is the same word that is translated “formless” in Genesis 1:2.  It is as if God will “uncreate” them so to speak.  They will be so destroyed that nothing can live their without a new act of creation by God.  I say this because both Isaiah and the book of Revelation point to a new heavens and a new earth.  It is also possible that Isaiah is also hinting at what Revelation calls “Mystery Babylon.”  There it is the great city that rules over all the kings of the earth.  Thus it is the head city of confusion.  The destruction of Mystery Babylon is part of the emphasis of God’s judgment.

Thus Isaiah sees that the city will be broken and all the doors shut up.  Instead of open doors and partiers in the streets, the city is broken and no one is out and about.  The devastation that the Lord will bring leaves the city unable to function.  The rubble of the destruction both blocks the doors and is probably used as a barricade for protection by the few inhabitants that are left.

Verse 11 points to the cry for wine in the streets.  Sadly the cry is not in repentance towards God and asking for mercy.  The inhabitants of the earth are so fixated on material things that, even when God takes the material away, repentance cannot be found.  This is in contrast to the righteous.  They cry out for God even in the midst of plenty because they know it can all be gone tomorrow.  But the wicked ignore or spite God in plenty or in lack.  We must not let our eyes be blinded and our hearts be hardened by the spirit of this world.  Let the Spirit of god soften it today that we might raise up a righteous cry before God, rather than one of greed and selfishness.  Let us raise up a cry of repentance and desire for Him.

Verse 12 then reminds us that the vision has not happened yet, “When it shall be thus…”  When it does happen there will be little of any good left over.  The imagery of the earth being reaped is thus connected to judgment.  Interestingly in the book of Revelation we are shown two different reapings of the earth.  One harvest is that of the righteous who are pictured as grain gathered into the barn.  Though the grain may be treaded down, it will only break off the hard chaff and what is good will be left behind and spared by God.  The other harvest is that of the wicked.  They are pictured as clusters of grapes that are tossed into the pit and treaded underfoot in judgment.  The grapes will not survive.  Thus their lust for wine becomes a kind of prophecy pointing towards the poetic justice of their end.  They lust for wine so much that God has appointed a day when they will be caught up in the “wine making” process.

A Song of Praise to God is Raised up

In verse 14 there is a shift in the vision.  The “they” that will lift up their voice and sing for the majesty of the Lord does not fit with the city of confusion and the people of the earth who long for wine.  So why are they praising?  Though it is not made explicit, the context demands that they praise Him for bringing Judgment.  Clearly the singers are from all over the earth due to the phrases used of them.  “From the sea” is often connected with the West and refers to the Mediterranean Sea.  “In the dawning light” is connected with the East where the sun rises.  The “coastlands” was a reference to the faraway places that had to be sailed to.  Lastly we have “the ends of the earth.”  All of these phrases emphasize that the singers are not from any one place.  In the midst of those who are to be judged are a group of people that have not cried for wine.  Rather they have praised the God of heaven.

In the vision it is as if the song of praise is replacing the sons of mirth that the earth dwellers have been singing.  As the songs of ignorance are silenced the song of praise is raised up.  This becomes the first sign in the vision that, though the earth be destroyed; it is so that all things may be set back in order.  Just as the sons of God sang at the first creation so the new sons of God will sing at the New Creation.  Thus history comes back full circle upon itself.

Yet, the day of joy that Isaiah glimpses in the future is overshadowed by the judgment that must first happen.  Isaiah is so overwhelmed with the heaviness of the judgment that he cries out that he is ruined.  Thus he sees that for now the treacherous will continue in their treachery.  They will only grow worse until the final judgment.  This is reminiscent of Revelation 22:11,12, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.  And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.”  The wickedness of this world will have its payday from the Lord.  It will grow worse and worse until the day in which the Lord tramples out the vintage of the grapes of wrath.  Until then, it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ to be His last offer of peace to those who are blinded to the plight of this world.  May God help us to boldly lift up a song of praise to him before all who are around us, so that they might see Him and be saved!

 

Coming Day II Audio

Wednesday
Jul152015

Blind

July 12, 2015--Luke 18:35-43

This sermon was preached by Pastor Nick Hauenstein.  Please click the audio link in order to listen to it.

Blind audio

Thursday
Dec122013

The Prophecy of Mary

Note:  We apologize that an audio of today's message is not available.

We have been looking at the Christmas story in Luke 1 and 2.  So today we pick it up in Luke 1:39-56.  Mary has just received the news from the angel Gabriel that she is to become pregnant by the Creative power of the Holy Spirit.  However, he had also revealed to her the miracle that her relative Elizabeth was now 6 months pregnant.  This situation opens the door for Mary to leave her home town in Nazareth and go down to the Jerusalem area and stay with Elizabeth till she delivers.  Elizabeth would need the help and Mary could use her company and understanding.  Who else would truly understand her pregnancy?

When Mary comes into their house and greets them a strange thing occurs.  It is not strange for babies to kick and move in the womb and by now Elizabeth would know that.  However, there is a large movement of the baby and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. She breaks out in a praise and prophetic declaration under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Verses 42-45 record this outburst.  First of all Mary hasn’t said anything yet, but by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognizes that Mary is pregnant with the Messiah, “my Lord.”  Not only does she recognize that the Messiah has now come, but she also blesses Mary for her trust in the Lord and encourages her.  How invaluable this moment, and many more encouraging ones afterwards, must have become to Mary.  She who would be looked upon as a sinner without understanding, had one individual in Elizabeth who understood the miracle of what God was doing through Mary.

Mary’s response to this is referred to as a song because it is in a poetic style and has been used as a hymn by the Church from its beginning.  It is also called the Magnificat (Latin) because of Mary’s opening line of Magnifying the Lord.  However, this is more than a song.  It too is a prophetic pronouncement and praise by Mary.  This prophecy is given in the same style and Spirit as Hannah the mother of Samuel in 1 Samuel chapter 2.

Mary Magnifies the Lord

In verse 46 Mary magnifies the Lord.  To magnify the Lord is to cause His reputation to be greater.  God is what He is and no one can make Him greater.  But we can cause the greatness of who He is to be recognized more.  In a world that has cynically rejected the greatness of God, we need people who will magnify the Lord with their words and their deeds.  Our lives can increase or diminish the view that others hold of God.  An interesting thing about this is that God loves to be magnified by the lowly.  Mary is no great person in the political scene of Israel and, yet, she is able to magnify the Lord.  In fact, God has made it abundantly clear that he prefers the praise of the lowly over the false words of the great.

How highly and how great do you see God as?  Is He only a figment of the imagination of an ancient culture?  Is He just a good idea that is inspiring to us today?  Or, is He the Mighty One who loves to help the lowly?  We can never think too highly of the Lord.  May God increase our understanding and may we magnify Him in the eyes of others.

Mary Rejoices that God Is Her Savior

We can rejoice in the general things that God has done for us all.  He has created a planet with all that we need to live and enjoy life.  He has provided salvation for us.  He has given us His Word in living and written form.  He has made His Spirit available to all who believe in Jesus.  But we should also rejoice in the things that He has specifically done for us.  Mary gives praise specifically that the Lord has chosen her to bear the Messiah.  Only one woman of all history would ever have this distinction, not even Eve herself.  Yet, our praise of the specifics God does in our life should never be in comparison to others.  Even though God has not done a thing of such magnitude through you, don’t diminish what He has done.  Learn to take joy in those things which God does for you.  In fact, as bearers of Jesus we find ourselves in a similar situation as Mary and able to rejoice that God has chosen us to bring Christ into the lives of others.

I would point out that in verse 47 Mary recognizes that she is a sinner in need of a Savior, “my savior.”  She was not some salty sailor of extreme wickedness.  But, neither was she a sinless, immaculately conceived being.  She was a young girl who believed the promises of God and was living for Him.  And yet, she also knew that she needed a savior.  She too was tainted by sin.  What a joy to know that the time had come that her sins and the sins of her people would be removed by the Messiah in one day!

God Notices the Lowly

In verses 48-50, Mary recognizes the mercy of God in choosing one who is lowly.  Now Mary is a young girl who is part of an off-shoot of the Davidic line.  She is not of a family that is in line for the throne nor involved in the politics of the day.  They couldn’t be much more removed from power and influence than to live in Nazareth.  Neither do they appear to be of any great economic stature.  Mary sees herself as lowly in the estimation of the world around her.  Yet, God took notice of her.  O friend, what is it in a person that catches the eye of God?  It can only be by keeping ourselves lowly of heart.  Mary could not control her circumstances, but she could control her heart.  Even when we are doing great in the estimation of the world, let us lower ourselves as Christ did.  Dying to the life of ease so that we can tend to the burdens of others is the hallmark of our Lord.  More than food, and health, people need the salvation of Christ that touches the burden of their sin.  How horrible it would be to feed someone and clothe them and yet do nothing for their soul.  God does not need great people.  He simply needs someone who is humble enough to greatly trust Him.  Humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord and He will lift you up in due time.

God is Against The Proud And Mighty

Next Mary exults that God not only notices and chooses the lowly, but He purposely rejects the proud and mighty of this world.  Yes, He notices them.   Yet, He refuses them.  In fact, He has pledged Himself to judge them.  1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ “  Also, in James 5 read verses 1-7.   “

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”

We cannot count on justice in this age.  But, God promises a day of judgment in which all will stand before Him and give account.  All things will be rectified by God.  Much evil is done in this life in the name of getting justice.  Beware of the fact that the enemy loves to use good things as a cover for all manner of evil.  Also recognize that God has made the rationale He will use on that day abundantly clear throughout the Scriptures.

God Remembered His Promise

Israel itself is a type of the lowly.  When God needed a nation to bring forth Truth and the Messiah, He did not choose the proud and mighty nations of the world (Egypt, Chaldeans, Assyrians, etc…).  Rather, he found a single, lowly man, and made a nation out of him.  Among the nations of the time, Israel was the “slave nation” who would not even exist if it wasn’t for the help and grace of God.  God had made promises to Abraham and his children.  Now it was being remembered as the Messiah was conceived.  God is a God who remembers and helps the lowly.  Even to this day, the nations of the world look down on Israel as something that should not exist.  To them the world would be better if she disappeared or were completely destroyed.  Be careful when you are standing in line judging others that you are not loading the ammunition that will be used against you by the Lord.

May God help us to be faithful to the Lord in our generation.  God help us to trust Him.  God help us to believe that no matter how lowly we are in the world’s eyes and by the world’s measures, God will exalt us in due time and put down the proud.