jump to navigation

The First Song of Ascent: Psalm 120 October 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Peace, Prayer, Psalms, Temple, Testimony, Worship.
add a comment

GOD HEARS
Psalms 120

This is the first of the Songs of Ascent, psalms that were sung or recited as the Jews made their way to the Temple of Yahweh to worship the LORD their God. This psalm seems to be a strange one to begin with since it certainly seems to be a downer. There is no denial here of the difficulties of life, however, almost half of the psalms, over sixty of them, are like this psalm, a lament.

Often when times get difficult people don’t go to church. They have the idea that you have to feel positive about life to worship God. This psalm reminds us, however, that even when life is miserable you can worship God. Perhaps you are going through a rough time this morning. If so, then this psalm is for you now. The rest of us will need it next week, so we will listen also.

A. Did you begin your morning by testifying to someone that you are anticipating God’s deliverance (verse 1)? These people are on their way to celebrate the Lord’s blessings or perhaps to have their sins from the past year atoned for. The first phrase here is something like, “Nobody knows the trouble I see…nobody but my Jesus.” He is going to deliver. I’m not sure how but he will deliver.

One of the reasons we have a greeting time is so that you can express your relationship with God to each other. Do you take advantage of that opportunity? When you check your email in the morning, do you drop a note to someone expressing joy that God will answer prayer in your life? Does your family hear you sing or listen to songs on Sunday morning that express confidence in God’s working?

Jack Hayford gives four reasons why we should be expressive to each other in our worship of God.
a. “It challenges the culture.” The world believes that religion is a private matter. To openly express your faith to others “….[is] one way to witness to the world about the new and full life that Christ offers.”
b. “It nurtures humility. Many times our emotional reserve is but a fearful quest to retain control of our lives…Expressive worship prevents spiritual arthritis…in the body of Christ.”
c. “It creates a climate of warmth and acceptance. When you develop an expressive atmosphere, you cultivate the spirit of fellowship, which creates a climate for evangelism.”
d. “It fosters commitment. Rather than encouraging people to be placid observers, passing judgment on what is said and done, expressive worship demands participation and , therefore, commitment” (quotes from Hayford’s “Strategic Reasons for Expressive Worship,” Leadership, Spring 1994).

B. Did you spend time yesterday asking for the Lord’s deliverance (verse 2)? This prayer is quite specific, “Deliver me from lying lips and deceitful words.” There are some of you this morning that are being attacked by the spoken word. Perhaps you know this to be true or perhaps you merely suspect it to be true. Either way, you fear the arrows of the wicked word, being burned by the hot coals of the lie. Turn to God in prayer.

C. Are you wondering about how God might deliver you from the situation (verse 3-4)? Steve Harper of Shepherd’s Care in Lexington, Kentucky tells of “a student in [his] theology of prayer course stopped [him] after class one day. ‘My cancer has come back,’ he said. He was a young man who had undergone treatment for a brain tumor four years earlier, and the therapy appeared successful. The tumor had disappeared. ‘I’m in seminary to become a preacher,’ he said, ‘and it looks like I’ll never get to be one.’ He asked me to tell him if he had heard God’s call correctly.’ Prayer is often linked with profound questions about the will of God and the mystery of suffering. Such issues force us into a position of humility. I could not answer his question with any final authority. Nevertheless we talked that day about how deeply the will to live is ingrained in all of us, and I prayed with him for his complete healing” (Leadership, 1994).

D. Are you longing for God to make all things right (verses 5-7)? The Psalmist was not among friends. He was dwelling among pagans from Meshech (in Asia Minor) and Kedar (in Arabia). He was longing and waiting for God to deliver him from this situation. What can you do while waiting for the answer that you know is coming to arrive?

a. If someone is shooting arrows at you or throwing hot coals at you avoid that person if possible.
b. In extreme situations if you can find someone to help, go to them. David went to Jonathan for help against Saul. I’m not talking about revenge but rather legitimate help.
c. Don’t take it personally and don’t shoot arrows and throw coals back at your enemy. “Never wrestle with a pig. For one thing you will become dirty; second, the pig will love it; and third, he plays be a different set of rules” (from When You’ve Been Wronged by Erwin Lutzer).
1. Your character must correspond to that of God’s, a lover of peace (verse 7a)? A lover of peace is not threatened when others have more influence, control, or power than they have. A lover of peace does not seek revenge when removed from a place of power or position. A lover of peace does not desire for someone else to “get what’s coming to them.” A lover of peace does not go around seeking for sympathy or seeking to make another person look bad.

2. Your actions must correspond to those of God’s, a maker of peace (verse 7b)? We need to be strong in the Lord and stand against falsehood. That was the point of 2 Timothy; yet that book reminds us that we should be gentle. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The last phrase of this psalm makes it clear that the one being slandered desired peace and spoke words of peace to those who wanted to war with him.

E. When you cannot make peace, turn to Him who can. “Few preachers have experienced the kind of criticism that Spurgeon did…More than one writer expressed doubts that Spurgeon was even converted? His sermons were called ‘trashy,’ and he was compared to a rocket that would climb high and then suddenly drop out of sight!…Hearing slanderous reports of his character and ministry week after week could have led him into defeat; but he fell to his knees and prayed, ‘Master, I will not keep back even my character for Thee. If I must lose that, too, then let is go; it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil, and am mad, or, like Him, I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber’” (from Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe).

This Psalm teaches us two things: have confidence that God will hear and act according to the character of God. Neither is dictated by the circumstances. Both are necessary not just when going to church but every day of our lives.

Paul’s Defense Suggests What We Need to Do As We Witness July 10, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Testimony, Witnessing.
add a comment

PUTTING A BURR IN THE SADDLE
Acts 22

(From RBC by Martin DeHaan accessed at http://beenthinking.org/articles/giving-facts-a-chance/ on July 3, 2012) “In the early 1950s, a small Chicago-based religious sect predicted that the world was going to end on December 21, 1954. Their leader claimed to have received this information from an alien reincarnation of Jesus who went by the name of Sananda.
Their prophecy caught the attention of researchers from Stanford University, who decided to use the group as a case study in human nature.

Recently, author Chris Mooney wrote an article for Mother Jones magazine describing what the researchers learned. Since they were able to infiltrate the group to do their study, they were able to observe firsthand what happened when December 21 passed without incident.

First the researchers saw the confusion that occurred as members of the group tried to explain their mistake. Then the unexpected happened. The leader claimed to receive a new communication from Sananda. The new message was that the little group had not failed. On the contrary, they had saved the world from judgment by believing in the prediction. From that moment on, believers in Sananda were more convinced than ever of the truth and value of their mission. They adjusted their view of reality rather than admitting they were wrong.

So why is the study of this small religious sect worth thinking about? According to one of the researchers who studied them, this little group of fanatical believers remind us of a principle far greater than their numbers. ‘A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.’

The article goes on to suggest that many of the disagreements that divide us are rooted in our natural instincts for survival. To protect our beliefs and emotional attachments, we push threatening ideas away and pull friendly information closer. This begins to happen subconsciously even before we are aware of what is happening. Self-protective reactions mobilize thoughts and emotions to protect our beliefs as if our life depended on it.”
In our passage today we see an example of a group of people who did not want to face the facts. From this we can learn some lessons.

A. Our community may not moved by our personal testimony. It is interesting that in this scientific world that we live in, most of the decisions that we make and many of the things that we believe are not based on facts that can be demonstrated in the lab. I am not only talking about religion but about many things that intelligent people do, to take just one example, abusing their bodies with all manners of drugs, although it is clear that such abuse is destructive.

Why do people do this? Because many if not most of the decisions we make are not based on scientific facts but rather on what the accumulation of our personal experiences tells us.

1. Our society admires and confirms personal experience. This is true of conservatives and liberals. We value our experiences above any other source of truth. We value what we feel. We value what we think will give us safety or security or meaning or whatever it is that we think we need most. The problem with experience, however, is that not everyone has the exact same experiences. Maybe eating ice cream and Cheetos for breakfast has worked for you, made you more productive but I have functioned better on watercress and cucumbers. It is hard to judge and evaluate someone else’s experience. Unless we find someone’s personal experience threatening in some way, we tend to admire and confirm it in others.

2. Our society does not understand our personal experience with Christ. They may listen, they may affirm it, but they will not because they cannot understand our personal experience with Christ. That does not mean that we should not share it but they need more than personal experience. They need their conscience pricked.

B. Our community may not be moved by our miraculous experiences. It is interesting that the large number of books like “23 Minutes in Hell” do not seem to have an impact on the world. They may sell well among believers but the world seems not to be interested.

1. Many of them have also had miraculous experiences. It is not unusual to find unbelievers who have had amazing experiences. One of the leading atheists of the last century (A. J. Ayer) had an out-of-body experience in which he reportedly saw a “Divine Being” (see http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/roundtable/an-atheist-meets-the-masters-of-the-universe.php). Yet Ayer although noticeably different after “he died” did not become a Christian. Those who rejected Jesus did not disbelieve his miracles but simply attributed them to the power of the devil rather than the power of God. Belief in miracles does not necessarily open one to belief in Jesus Christ.

2. Those who doubt our miraculous experiences often will simply ignore us. This was true in Jesus’ day also. Marcus Borg, by no means a fundamentalist Christian, in “Jesus, A New Vision” wrote, “In the tradition in which [Jesus] stood, including the healings and exorcisms reported of him were not unique. Yet though the historical study of the miracles results in the loss of their uniqueness, it produces a gain in their credibility. Contrary to the modern notion that such events are impossible, we must grant that the historical evidence that Jesus stood in the stream of Jewish charismatic healers is very strong.” Perhaps this is in part why Jesus’ popularity before his death was short-lived and fickle.

It is also why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so powerful. To cast out demons, to heal the sick, these things are not unusual. To rise from the dead never to die again; that is powerful, life-changing, gives hope, establishes a foundation, a solid rock on which one can stand with full confidence in the future.

C. Our community will be bothered when they see life transformation. This is evidenced when Paul accuses them of Stephen’s murder and proclaims that God wants Gentiles to hear the message of Jesus Christ. It is only when men are held personally responsible for their own sin and what repentance should produce in lives that they will be forced to make a decision. They understood the implication of Paul’s message. Ethnic and religious loyalty resulted in sin against the resurrected Christ.

Yet that is exactly where we must touch them, where it really hurts. It does no good to operate on the big toe if it is the thumb that is broken. Jesus recognized this when he said, “It is the sick and not the well; which need a physician.” If you constantly tell people who think they are okay that there is something seriously, morally wrong with them, they will react. That is, however, what they need to hear from us. They need to hear that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God, a God who is angry with their sin and will be angry with them if they do not turn from all of their loyalties and give their sole loyalty to Jesus Christ.

A testimony of a Virginia Tech victim July 30, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Interview, Personalities, Testimony.
add a comment

http://thoughtsactions.wordpress.com/2007/07/28/interview-of-lauren-mccain-2-months-prior-to-virginia-tech-massacre/

Converted to Christ by an Atheist July 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Atheism, Easter, Faith, Gospel, Repentance, Terrible Parables, Testimony.
2 comments

Testimony Of Tom Dutton As Given on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007  

I’d like to take a few minutes, this morning, and tell you how I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior.   

My early life was one that I would best describe as running from God, but at the same time trying to find Him.  I remember trying to live up to the Ten Commandments that I had memorized in Bible School, but, at best, could only do so in short spurts.  I recall thinking that God must think of me as an absolute failure.  (If you have read the latest Terrible Parable on the Church web site this week, THE DEFECTIVE AFGHAN, you could add another person to that list!)   

When I looked at others, I saw there were some who seemed to be able to live a righteous life, at least more righteous than mine.  So I then developed a desire to meet those standards, but knew in my very being that I couldn’t do it.  But why?  If God gave us standards to live by, why wasn’t it reasonable to expect that his creatures would be able to obey them?  It only made sense that I should be able to do so, but I couldn’t!  So instead of running toward God, I ran away from Him. 

I recall reading Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven” which is an examination of the way God brought him to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  It also portrays, how God dealt with me in my earlier years.  I too, was seeking knowledge that would reveal God to me.  I too was trying to find God on my terms, in my way.  When I read the Bible, it made no sense, as I was trying to find a god (little ‘g’) that would fit my definition.  Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”, begins: 

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

A down Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears.” 

This poem could well have been a commentary on my own life; as I desired to know What God was, but didn’t want to know Who He was.  Or if I did, I wanted it on my own terms.  It was a roller coaster ride of the worst kind. 

During my mid twenties, I began to read the Bible again, this time with the teaching of a Biblical Pastor David and a couple of Christian friends Bill and Nelson.  I read passages like “there is none righteous, no not one”;  and “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”;  And, of course,  Paul’s own self examination was an echo of my own life,  

Romans 7

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 
 

Then a little further on in the same chapter, Paul continues:
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
19 For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do.

It was at this point that I began to realize that if the great Apostle Paul was in the same dilemma as I, then maybe I needed to listen a little more closely to what God was really saying in the Bible.  How did Paul get out of this quandary?  Paul goes on: 

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.    [So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.]

But as earlier in life, I tried to intellectualize this; How could I resolve this, How could I solve this seemingly impossible riddle?  I recall having many discussions with Nelson over this and other issues.  How big is God and where is He?  Can we really know Him if we don’t meet His standards?  How could Jesus be crucified and come back to life again?  How can I know if he died for me?  What. How, Why??? 

Then one day, In the late ‘60s, I was having lunch in a restaurant in Concord NH with a fellow worker from Dartmouth College.  He knew I went to church, as I had mentioned this to him before.  He was an atheist and made sure everyone knew it, so when he asked the question, “Tom, are you really a Christian?” I knew he was looking for more than just a yes or no, churchgoer response.   

“What do you mean by ‘a Christian’?” I asked, slowly, perhaps trying to delay my response as much as possible. 

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?” was his response. 

Uh, oh!  There it was; My life’s defining moment.  Now it isn’t every day that an atheist is the one that moves someone into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but I’m here to tell you that it happens!  Perhaps atheists know better than most that confession is the dividing line between faith and unbelief and Bob knew that if he could get me to deny Jesus, I would be in his camp.  But I also knew that Jesus said “If you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father who is in heaven.”  This was it!  How would I respond to life’s most important question? 

It came immediately, “Why, yes, Bob, He is my Lord and Savior.” 

From that moment, I recall, all doubt that I had harbored, immediately fled from me.  I also recall that Bob instantly changed the subject.  He had asked the wrong person the right question!  I had spent my whole life running from God and He spent it running after me, like the Hound of Heaven in Francis Thompson’s poem.  He finally cornered me and I had no way escaping Him.  I was His!  And He was mine! 

The “Hound of Heaven” poem ends with God’s voice: 

“Rise, clasp My hand, and come !”

Halts by me that footfall :

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly ?  

Then God’s voice again: 

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest !

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.” 

(You drove love away from yourself, when you repelled Me.)

[dravest: v. to repel or push away]  

John Newton described his salvation:“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see!” 

Galatians 2:16   “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  

There are many verses in the Bible that are very meaningful to me, but Phil 3:7 – 10 are my favorites: 

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
  

As you know, music is a big part of my life.  Music is an expression of the soul that cannot be expressed in any other way.  It’s not surprising then, that in the few glimpses we see of heaven in the Bible, that the saints are singing praises to the Risen Lamb.   

Although my musical talents are limited to strumming a guitar and singing, I began then to dedicate them to God; to use them in whatever way I could to give back to Him, a small part of the great love He has for me in giving His son Jesus Christ, who died for me.  And to express that love I have for Him, which is inexpressible in no other way than singing. 

I love to sing when I’m alone in the car; people who see or hear me as I drive by must wonder at my sanity!  The chorus, “I Love You, Lord” is a favorite of mine, one of many that I like to sing when I’m driving. 

Please join me in singing it.