Waiting for Christmas? How do you spend the time between now and then?
Category Archives: worship
What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well please with us, if we be in Christ!
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, p2.
During a recent funeral service I spoke from Psalm 145. It is titled, “A Psalm of Praise”.
Spurgeon suggested it was a favorite of King David’s and summarises his entire view of God, the world and himself. Yet the Psalm has no personal requests or cries for help. It is purely singing God’s praises. In so doing, it presents a liberating worldview.
This Psalm invites us to see is the profound hope and peace that is generated when we rightly praise God and treasure him as the most important, crucial, valued, sacred person and thing above everything else in life.
Slightly modifying Spurgeon’s suggested outline there are four things David praises God for.
1. His Greatness and Power
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.” v3
“One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty” vv4-5
Greatness without goodness could make God a selfish powerful tyrant and goodness without greatness could make him willing to help us and show us kindness, but be unable to.
So David also praises God for
2. His Goodness
“celebrate your abundant goodness” v7
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate” v8
“The Lord is good to all;” v9
God displays his goodness indiscriminately, to all – not because we deserve it but because of his compassion.
David also praises God for
3. His Government – how God rules as King
“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” v13
“The Lord is faithful to all his promises”
Because he is sovereign we have the assurance that he is in control and that his promises will prevail.
Where we stand today, we can see that in Jesus, God has fulfilled his promise to restore us and our broken world. Jesus death has paid the just penalty for our sin and his resurrection is the first validation that death is a defeated foe and life everlasting is his to give to all who cling to him in faith.
God’s power, greatness, goodness and government are not distant abstract concepts. David also praises God for
4. His Grace
“The Lord upholds all those who fall” v14
“The Lord is near to all who call on him” v18
“He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” v19
This is a God who, though he is powerful, is not some far off distant deity worshipped only for fear of punishment or worshipped to bribe for some favour.
Jesus Christ came near to us and experienced all our limitations as well as all of our sorrow, pain and loss to the point of death.
Despite all that, he lived as we ought to, but are not able to, in complete dependence and obedience to God. Because of that the Bible tells us he has made atonement for the sins of the people and because he suffered when he was tempted, he can help those who are being tempted.
In fact, he doesn’t just help us in our frailty and weakness he sympathizes with our weaknesses – yet without sin, so we can approach him with confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We will all praise and worship something. There is something that you treasure, value above everything else in your life. It is something you adore and worship.
When you are alone, that’s what your mind will drift to – your most treasured possession. Comfort, food, control, making more money, career, house, holiday, pleasure. They never satisfy – you’re always seeking more.
When we learn, like David, to make the praise of God our greatest treasure. When the praise of God dominates and saturates your life, then everything else is put into it’s proper perspective and you gladly let it go for the sake of treasuring God above everything else.
As Keller notes in ‘Counterfeit Gods‘, praising (treasuring/valuing) God has a way of bringing sweetness and rest to the heart that heals you and frees you to relax your grip on anything else you think you must have and you will come to see he is all you need to have.
That gives you a profound hope and a confident peace.
Better start making your lists and checking them twice if you want to get in before the rush starts!
No? Well there’s always Easter – crossed buns are already for sale at most supermarkets and bakeries. And if you can’t wait that long, there’s always Chinese New Year which kicks off a 2 week festival in only 12 days!
These festivals, regardless of your level of excitement about their approach are the way that we mark time. Our calendars, work cycles, school year and family get together’s revolve around key dates in the year when we consider it important to spend time together for whatever reason.
For us, it might simply be a case of a long weekend and a bit of a breather or an excuse to go to the beach or snow for a quick getaway. For others it is a major time to celebrate and instil traditions that will carry over to future generations.
In Israel, life revolved around the harvest year. This is connected back to the promise God made to Noah when he came off the ark:
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” ~ Genesis 8:22
While Israel was being prepared to enter the promised land, this cycle was expanded to 7 festivals or celebrations that measured time on a weekly and annual basis. The 7 festivals are summarised in Leviticus 23.
The cycle begins with the weekly Sabbath and follows through with the grain harvest feasts of Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost. These are followed later in the year by the festivals of Trumpets, Atonement and Booths in the later half of the year.
The festivals involved eating and drinking. We are reminded that the Son of Man came eating and drinking (Matt 11:18-19, Luke 7:33-35) and each of these not only point us to Jesus, but call us to celebrate God’s work of redemption. When we observe communion today, with bread and wine (eating and drinking!) we are celebrating Christ and anticipating the feast at the end of history (1 Cor 5:6-8, 11:23-26, Rev 19:9).
This Sunday at Kogarah I will teach on the 7 festivals in more detail, focusing on how God marks time in fulfilling his covenant promise.
No, it’s not a naughty word, nor is it the title of a film about the life of Nelson Mandela. It’s the 3rd book of the Bible. You know, the one with all the gory sacrifices and (seemingly!) obsolete laws and rituals.
This time of year, many Christians make plans to read through the Bible in the coming year. It’s a commendable goal and regular bible reading ought to be part of the life of anyone who is serious about knowing, believing in, trusting and living for God. However in an average reading plan, say 3 or 4 chapters a day (8-15min) many people come unstuck somewhere around the end of January.
Why? Well there are many reasons; lack of discipline, lack of encouragement, overwhelmed by the task, or as is often the case… they hit the book of Leviticus and balk. The stories of the patriarchs in Genesis are great, they give the background to all those Sunday School and Children’s Spot lessons we’re so familiar with. The account of the plagues in Egypt and the amazing crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus is an easy read, because, after all, most of us have seen the movie and we know the story. Right?
But, blood, guts, more blood, weird definitions of cleanliness and did I mention blood? What on earth has that got to do with the ‘golden rule’ and loving my neighbour and all that stuff Jesus spoke about? Here’s the rub, the first time that is taught in the Bible is, you guessed of course, Leviticus 19:18, which says,
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV84)
Leviticus tells what it means to be God’s holy people and how that is displayed in day to day life. More specifically though, blood is a divider and separator. It is through sacrifice that we move (or rather are moved by God) into worship. We are taken hold off, separated from what we were and established as something altogether new.
During my preaching at Grace Church in January, I am going to spend 2 Sunday mornings at Kogarah and 1 at Sutherland going through some of the highlights of Leviticus. We’ll have a look at some of those gory details and see how they connect to Jesus and the New Testament. As we do that, you might like to have another go at reading the book of Leviticus. There’s only 27 chapters, 3 a day and you’ll knock it over in 9 days. Give it a shot.
If you’re still thinking or wondering about a plan to read through the rest the of the Bible, here’s a couple of links that might help out.
… the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer ~ Psalm 6:8-9
Our confidence before God in prayer – our boldness to dare enter his presence at all – has to be based on his mercy. We could never hope to be accepted based on our inadequate performance.
As he approaches God thus, David is overwhelmed at God’s mercy and his tears of remorse bring a flood of relief.
The NIV leaves untranslated the word “voice/sound” in verse 8. We need to know that our tears and our weeping have a voice – that is universally translated and interpreted in heaven.
Spurgeon: Weeping is the eloquence of sorrow… Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail. Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers.