Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Wake Up Call and a Special Diet


Things are concluding—a culmination.  I am not talking the end of the age, though that is part of it.  All of history is coming to a point where the creation will be reconciled to God and able to fully live as he designed us to live. 

Everyone will kneel—I believe as an involuntary response to the truth.  Paul supports this by attaching the words that it will be to the glory of God when he espouses this action on our part.

I believe that the truth will not only set us free, but once we are free, we will kneel before Jesus.  In light of the truth, how could we do anything else.

What truth?  That Jesus is Lord.

Lord or king or master or other similar such words are not popular these days, especially in a culture dominated by the satisfaction and gratification of the self.  In an all about me world, nobody wants to hear about the King of kings or Lord of lords.

The truth tells us that is exactly who Jesus is.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords and Master and Prophet and Priest and Teacher—one with an easy yoke from whom we may learn, and he is Friend.

But this culmination is not here yet.  This complete reconciliation was accomplished on the cross but not fully realized throughout the universe, yet.  Some things must happen before everything comes together perfectly.

We know enough of our history with God to know that he has been at work in us.  This is not just general maintenance, but craftsmanship.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  He is crafting us into the exact people he wants us to be.  The creation is being shaped into the exact domain that God wants us to live in forever.

We look at Adam and Eve getting the boot from the Garden of Eden, and wonder, could it get any worse?  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the first murder.  Things got so bad in humanity’s early history that God sent a flood and started over with a remnant.

That cleaned up everything and made everyone one right with God for the rest of time.  Well, not really.  People got this all about me thing going early.  Actually, it might have been all about us.  In any case, humankind decided to build a tower to heaven instead of going out to subdue and exercise stewardship of the planet entrusted to them.

Had there been no Tower of Babel and confusion of human language, I would have never been required to take German in college; and surely would not have had to take it twice.

Liberation and captivity, commandments an sin, restoration and desolation have all had their turn in this craftsmanship.  God has taken our human weakness, much like a marred pot, and remade his people into what he wants us to be.

But, we have not fully realized everything in store for us.  Some things must come first.  Jesus, who was there at the creation and through whom all things were made would wait for a forerunner before entering this world as a babe in a manger.

Someone would precede him to prepare the way.  This forerunner would not direct road repairs or bridge construction or a beautification project along the royal route as would be done for an earthly king.  He would not make sure all the graffiti was painted over so as not to offend the sovereign.

This forerunner that we know as John would prepare a route for his King and yours into our hearts.  His message was one of repentance.  He told people that they must repent for their sins to be forgiven.  He told people that One was coming so much greater than he was that he was not even worthy to tie his shoes.

And John was a little different.  It was not your run of the mill religious guy.  Think about the age into which John came.

The religious leaders—the Scribes and Pharisees—wore fine clothes.  They were adorned with phylacteries.  They ate at the finest tables.  They loved the finer things in life and were never far from them.

They knew the law.  They knew what sacrifice was required for what offense.  They would have never stood for words such as the previous call is under further review.  The were the sole custodian of the yellow penalty flags.

John did not wear fine clothing.  In fact, when I think about what John wore, my skin itches 2000 years later. I don’t think there has ever been a more distinct fashioned statement than camel hair.  John never had to worry that if he went to a social event, somebody would show up in the same outfit.

He didn’t wear a phylactery on his forehead.  He wore a leather belt around his waist.

John did not eat the finest food as the Pharisees did.  He ate locusts and wild honey.  I like wild honey and I have eaten a few dozen grasshoppers in my day; but all things considered, I would rather do the Atkins or South Beach diet. 

John was anything but someone who fit the religious model of the day; yet, people came from all over to see him.  People came from all over to hear him.  People came from all around and were baptized by him.

But John said, I’m not the big deal here.  I am just getting you ready for the One that everyone has been waiting on to arrive.  Well, he is on his way.

People somehow knew that John had something to say to them that they needed to hear.  He was not about penalties and payments as the Pharisees were.  He was not about putting on a good show.  He did not seek the best seat in the house.

His ministry took place in the wilderness near the Jordan river.  He wore clothing that nobody would want to wear and was on a special diet; yet people came to him.

Was it his clothing or his diet? They were surely unique. 

There is an engraved sculpture of Will Rogers in Granite, Oklahoma.  I go through Granite about a dozen times each year.  I stop in and look at the sculpture about once a decade. 

There is the Stafford Space museum near Weatherford, Oklahoma.  I have been to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum at least 20 times but have never been to the space museum that is just half an hour away and that I drive by at least 40 times a year.

Both are unique, but I am not compelled to go just a little bit out of my way to see them.

John was a long way off the beaten path and people flocked to him.  Was it his clothing?  Probably not.  Was it his special diet?  I don’t think so.

Something was happening and somehow the people knew it.  Something big was about to happen on this world stage and John was the opening act.  Jesus had come into the world and now was the time for his ministry to begin. 

He would be God with us.
He would be the Anointed One.
He would be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.
He would be Teacher, Messiah, Healer, Prophet, and the only one ever to live a sinless life; yet he would become sin for us.
He would bear the sin of the world upon a cross and with a few words, It is finished, seal the deal forever.

Paul wroteBut when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

The time had come to that point.  John announced the coming of that time in his call for repentance and in the baptism that followed.  It was time for God to take away the sin of the world.

John baptized with water but the One for whom he prepared the way would leave us with the Holy Spirit when his work was done.

But somehow, people knew to come to John.  People came out of their world of religious regulation and began a course that would lead to liberation.

John fulfilled a role in the greatest story ever told.  His role would lessen once Jesus entered fully into his earthly ministry, but John’s role was essential.  He was the wakeup call to a generation full of God’s laws and void of the Spirit that should have come with them.

He was a voice that cried in the wilderness.  That wilderness was a geographical reference for sure, but he also called out in the wilderness that was the human heart.  John cried out to a world full of regulation but void of spirit.

John was the messenger that went ahead of the Messiah.  John was singing the verse in Joy to the World that goes, let every heart prepare him room.

John was an essential part of this story of reconciliation.  We like the part about the babe in a manger, but a few months earlier, there was a babe born to an old couple that were thought not to be able to have kids.  John was to prepare the way.

We have heard this part of the story many times.  Mark begins his gospel with it.  The other synoptics take a couple chapters to get there, but John was essential to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

Let’s turn the clock forward to 2018.  The New Year is upon us.  We will celebrate the birth of our Savior and begin a new year.  We will look forward to the coming of our Lord as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  We know that time is closer than it was in 2017.

But what are we doing to prepare the way for this coming of our Lord?
John came in a time when the religious world was riddled with regulation.  We live in a time when the body of Christ is drugged and disconnected.  

Some are faithful and hold fast to discipleship but so many need a wakeup call.
So many are content to merely exist and are not living for Christ.
So many have taken to the sidelines of discipleship.
So many offer advisory opinions and are void of service.
So many want transactions instead of transformations.
So many want to blend into the world so they don’t have to be identified with Christ.
So many want to love the world and everything in it.
So many are conformed to the patterns of the world and don’t want the discomfort of changing.

Who can do anything about this?  Who?

Listen to the prophet Malachi as the faithful few converse among themselves as God listens.

You have said, ‘It's useless to serve God. What's the use of doing what he says or of trying to show the Lord Almighty that we are sorry for what we have done?  As we see it, proud people are the ones who are happy. Evil people not only prosper, but they test God's patience with their evil deeds and get away with it.’”

Then the people who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the Lord and respected him.  “They will be my people,” says the Lord Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my very own. I will be merciful to them as parents are merciful to the children who serve them.  Once again my people will see the difference between what happens to the righteous and to the wicked, to the person who serves me and the one who does not.”

Who can do anything about the casual Christian or the half-drugged disciple?  God can, but we who fear the Lord and faithfully serve him must give a wakeup call.

Someone—we—must be preparing the way for Christ to come again.  We are his commissioned and yet most of those who should be ambassadors for Christ and letters from Christ have nestled themselves back into the comfort zone of the world.

How can we reach the lost if the body of Christ is doped up and out of the discipleship game?

Like it or not, we must be more like John the Baptist.  I am not buying a camel hair sports jacket for 2018 or changing the Wednesday night meal to locusts and honey, but I challenge us to be a voice in this modern wilderness and go on a special diet.

John was not calling out to the pagans of his age.  His voice went out to God’s people.  John had to wake up his own people.  The Anointed One was on his way.

We must give a wakeup call to those who have professed Jesus as Lord and Savior; yet, have been narcotized by the numbness of the world.
And we need a special diet.

Some of you know that some people were upset with me over some Facebook posts about the church not being the vending machine.  This has been a consistent message of mine for over 4 years, but this year it got some people angry and they defended the vending machine.

I won’t go into the business of the transactional church versus the transformational church right now, but I want to share something that was overwhelming as I read some of the comments.

People are not reading their Bibles.  They get a little on Sunday morning a couple times a month or a year or a decade.

They get the verse of the day.

They get a whole lot of unholy horsehockey that someone has posted as biblical.

People are not reading their Bibles!

We who are faithful must go on a special diet.  We must hunger for and consume the word of God as never before.  The word of God must be tastier to us than the most succulent ribeye steak.  It must be more delicious than bacon.  That’s a hard sell in some parts, but we must have a special diet.

It is the word of God.  We need to proclaim to those Christians who are stumbling around in the wilderness of this world what God’s words says.

I don’t think that we all need to be biblical scholars.  We don’t lock ourselves in ivory towers with our nose in the Bible but never putting anything we learn into practice.

  I think that we all need to rightly divide the word of God.  To me that’s a tradesman.  He or she can navigate life with the word of God as well as the mechanic replaces the transmission, or the doctor removes the appendix.

The mechanic does not have to be able to design next year’s car of the year, but he better be able to diagnose and repair more than a burned-out headlight or worn out windshield wipers.

We must know enough to live a holy life in response to the love of God that was poured out in the blood of Jesus on the cross. 

Must we all be able to illustrate the four most recognizable metaphors of the atonement?  Likely not!  Understanding that the blood of Jesus atoned for our sins is probably sufficient for most of us.

We need to read our Bibles more, not so we can strain out gnats of biblical minutia, but so that we don’t swallow any camels, which today would be the transactional nature of the church.  Today that would be the feeling that it’s just fine to sit out this discipleship stuff.  Today, that would be remaining conformed to the pattern of the world.

Jesus is coming.  I don’t have the date but the Bible says soon.  And the Christ professing world has gone to sleep or is drugged by the narcotizing effects of this post-modern world.

Be today’s voice in the wilderness.  Be the wakeup call to the deadheaded disciples who are just sitting out their salvation.

Be the voice that awakens the body of Christ.  We live in a time so like that of the prophet Malachi.  Few were faithful, but God remembers those who were.

This morning I call out to the faithful.  Wake up the sleepers.  Sober up the disciples drugged on the patterns of this world.  Be a voice in this modern wilderness that calls people home.

And...  Stick to your diet.  

It is a diet that equips you wake the saints and seek the lost.
It is a diet that enables you to rightly divide the world of God.
It is a diet that judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
It is a diet—a special diet—that fill us when we do the work of the One who sent us into the world. 
It is a diet that is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
It is a diet that is God-breathed.
It is a diet useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
It is a diet that proceeds from the mouth of God—better than bread alone.
It is a diet that equips us for every good work.
Let’s be the voice of our time that cries out to turn away from the world and back to God.

Let’s stick to our diet.

Amen.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Filthy Rags or We Are Your People


How many think that the end of the age can’t be far off now?  We are obviously closer to that point than we were yesterday, but who thinks it’s getting really close now?

I’m going to upset a few people.  I don’t believe you.  Why?

How many have increased their evangelistic efforts by 2 or 3 or 20 times what they were?  If you know that there is not much time left, what better thing to do with our time than reach out to those that are perishing.

There should be a lot of dissonance between thinking, “It can’t be long now,” and not increasing our evangelistic efforts.  Our minds should never be at peace harboring those oppositional thoughts.

The Hebrew people wanted God to come down to the earth and do mighty acts and put the pagans in their place.  They knew well the history of what God had done to free them from slavery in Egypt.

Actually, they didn’t just want God to come to earth and do mighty acts once again; they wanted him to rip through the heavens and make a grand entry.

There is no other God like him.  He acts on behalf of those who wait for him.  Understand, that this is a God who is sovereign, mighty, holy, and who has created everything that we know; yet, he is and has always been a God of compassion.

He is always there for those who seek him and wait upon him.  He is always there for those who know no other gods.

Oh, if he would but rip open the heavens and put the world right, right now.

But, then, there is that sin thing.  There is that rebelliousness that we can’t seem to shake.  There is that constant missing the mark that seems to define us more than anything else.

We are but filthy rags.  I don’t know anything that can motivate you any more for Christmas that the thought of being filthy rags.  “We’re filthy rags, we’re filthy rags, how filthy are our rags.”

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live as God’s Chosen People in the age before Christ came?  What everyone knew about the one true God came through you.  It would be like living in a glass house. 

So the question would be, would we remain faithful to God and stick out like a sore thumb in the world; or, would we do our best to blend in with the world?  Maybe nobody will notice that we are different.

The choice of God’s chosen people in Isaiah’s time was that they tried to blend in.  The one true God was ignored while the ways of the world prevailed.

OBTW—God was really angry about this.  The favor that his people had enjoyed was being withdrawn, at least for a time.  Ungodly nations would have their way with not just Jerusalem but all of God’s Chosen People.

It was as if God turned his face away from his people.  They had enjoyed the world so much that God let them know the ways of the world.  Those ways are seldom merciful and compassionate.

God was still at work in this people.  They had not been abandoned.  Testimonies were very evident in the captivity of this age, but the nation of Israel and Judah—the full compliment of God’s Chosen were taken from or driven from the land that God had preserved for them.  That land was now desolate.

Some of God’s people had seen this coming.  Perhaps they had believed their prophets.  They had the savvy to know that their leaders were not listening to God’s prophets and they fled the land before the invaders came.

Isaiah cries out for his people.  We are wasting away.  We shrivel up like a dead leaf.  We have angered you.  You have turned you face away from us.  We are all unclean.  We are like filthy rags and deserve everything that you are sending our way.

We don’t even have the courage to come to you in prayer anymore.  How can we be saved?

But, yet, there is this one thing that we have going for us.  You are our Father.  For everything that we turned into a mess, you are still our Father.

It is interesting that Jeremiah would go down this same path—use the same metaphor—in his prophecy of this same age.
You are the Potter.  We are the clay. 

We are a mess.  We are a total mess.  Filthy rags is the best representation of who we are.  Other metaphors might have been more accurate and condemning, but we will go with filthy rags.

What can we do?

We know from Jeremiah that the Potter can remake the marred pot in any way that he desires.

We know from King David, when he had made a mess of things with Bathsheba and Uriah and just neglecting his leadership duties, that only God could make him right.  Remember his words from Psalm 51Lord, create in me a clean heart.

David asked God to create in him a pure heart.  He said that he had messed things up so badly that he could not fix his own mess.  Only God could make him as he once was.  Only God could give him a pure heart.

Isaiah cries out to God.
·       Hold back your anger
·       Don’t hold our sins against us forever
·       We are but clay in your hands

Isaiah confessed that “all were unclean;” yet he asked God to remember that we are your people.  Consider this ninth verse once more.

Lord, do not be terribly angry
or remember our iniquity forever.
Please look—all of us are Your people!

Sometimes the only thing that we seem to have going for us is that we are his people.  When everything that we do seems to rebel against God, God is still faithful.  Isaiah’s plea was to a God whose love was greater than his anger.

Let’s leave the glass house of God’s Chosen People from centuries ago and come to the glass house of the disciple of Jesus Christ.  You won’t need to image this part.  You live there.

You may or may not be aware of this on a daily basis, but you live in a glass house.  People are watching.  You are unique. 

When Rick and I went to Africa and got out of the metro areas to western Kenya and eastern Uganda, it was not uncommon for people to point at us and say, “white people.”  They were not being disrespectful.  We were unique.  We were something that you didn’t just see every day.

One father pointed us out to what we figured was his son.  Perhaps, he had never seen white people before.  Perhaps, the father had told his son about white people, but his son was skeptical until then, when he saw two of them—of us.

We who follow Jesus are unique as well.  We are different from the world.  We are God’s people.  I ask the same question now that I asked when I prompted you to put yourself in the time and place of God’s Chosen People.

So the question is, will we remain faithful to God and stick out like a sore thumb in the world; or, will we do our best to blend in with the world?  Maybe nobody will notice that we are different.

It is the difference of just existing or being people who have a mission. 

Just existing or on a mission?

God’s Chosen People had become a mess—an absolute mess.  They were as filthy rags.  They were deserving of God’s wrath full strength, but they had one thing in their favor.  They were God’s people.

Later, the Hebrews would abuse this standing as an excuse to do whatever they wanted.  They would proclaim that they were sons of Abraham and that living a holy life was not as important as some thought.  That’s the world that Jesus came into as a babe in a manger.

Today, so many in this world are a mess—as filthy rags.  Some have professed Christ but apparently that profession seemed to be lip service as their lives remain unchanged.  But a profession of faith is a profession of faith and in that moment, the man or woman became one of God’s people.

We who are growing in grace understand the power of confession.  We understand the assurance of pardon for those who faithfully confess.  We know that no matter how filthy we may have become, God can and will create in us a clean heart.

Why would he do that?  We are his people.

His anger burns against our sin but not against us.  He knows that we are broken without him.  He knows that only he can make us the people he wants us to be.  He longs for us to embrace his way over that of the world.

So do we just throw up our arms and say, “OK God, You are doing the driving.  I hope that you don’t make any mistakes for me today?”

No.  We say, “You are the Potter.  I am the clay.  I embrace that relationship.”

You have loved me long before I learned to love you.
You spilled your blood for me long before I knew the extent of my sin.
Your grace exceeds anything that I can imagine.
I am going to mess up again.  I might even hit the filthy rags mark.
But I know that I am yours.
I will seek you and petition you to create in me a clean heart each and every time that I transgress.
I don’t want to sin, but I am so, so human and flawed.
I will believe your promise—your assurance of my forgiveness.
I am yours.
I thank you that your anger that burned against my sin was satisfied on a cross on a hill called Golgotha.
I am yours.
I will confess to you every day for I want nothing unclean to make its home in my life.

Clean me daily, Lord.  I am yours.+


Amen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Give Thanks!

Read Psalm 100

For those who have come most Sundays for 2017, you realize that most of my messages are about discipleship; therefore, a great majority of them come with some degree of challenge.

Salvation and eternal life are a gift.  Hallelujah! 

Discipleship is another matter, to which we should also shout hallelujah!  Following Jesus takes work—that’s not the best word.  Following Jesus takes life.

But following Jesus is often a challenge.  Today, I will present to you what may be the biggest challenge of a disciple.  What?

Thanksgiving.

Once again, the pastor has lost it.  I feel good when I am thankful.  Thanksgiving is good stuff.  When I am thankful, my problems seem less significant.

I agree with all of the above.  I do feel better when I am thankful.  Thanksgiving is good stuff.  My problems do not rule my life when I am thankful.

So why are we not thankful all of the time?

It’s hard to be thankful when you have a flat, don’t have a spare, and it’s raining and cold.

It’s hard to be thankful when you have to choose between paying the gas or the electric bill.

It’s hard to be thankful when the officials can’t get a single call right.

It’s hard to be thankful with cancer or after a car wreck or when everyone is criticizing you at every turn.

It’s hard to be thankful when the phone won’t stop ringing, supper is burning, and you don’t know how to turn the smoke alarm off.

It’s hard to be thankful when you are out of money, out of smokes, and out of people to blame for everything.

OK, I’m just writing lyrics for country and western songs now. 

How can we be thankful in all circumstances?  Some stuff just gets you.  You don’t forget to pray, but beginning your prayer by giving thanks is difficult.  Lord, I need healing or relief or a job or just someone to talk with or you finish the list.

It’s hard to thank God when our hearts hurt, our wallet is empty, and when nothing seems to be going our way.  How can I thank God when my world seems to be falling apart?

Give thanks to him because he is good.  That doesn’t change.  Your employment status can change.  Your grades in school might change.  Your tire might even get changed, but knowing that God is good.  That doesn’t change.

Let’s give thanks to God because he is good.

How about we give thanks to God because his love endures forever?  Even when my world is a mess, God loves me no less.

It is important that this thought be chiseled in our hearts and our minds.  God’s love endures forever.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  His love never ends.

Love never fails.

Even when my world is a mess, God loves me no less.

But in the middle of my mess, it seems like God has forgotten me.  Is he still there?

He is.  His faithfulness continues through all generations.  Unlike the transactional things of this world, his faithfulness does not expire.  Here are some things you won’t hear God say:

I’m sorry sir, the warranty on your salvation has expired.

That’s not covered as you have exceeded the recommended mileage on compassion. 

That forgiveness coupon was only good for last week.

Your login has failed three times.  You are now locked out.

His faithfulness continues through all generations!

In the middle of your worst day, remember:  God is good.  His love is forever.  His faithfulness doesn’t stop because of your mess or because the world is still upside down.  It continues, but before we continue, let’s answer a question.

Do you believe God’s holy word?  Do you believe in God’s love and faithfulness?  It influences our attitude towards thanksgiving.

Some of you may have noted that I started with the last verse first in Psalm 100.  That’s because the why of what we are called to do in the other verses is explained.  In many ways, it is the why of thanksgiving.


OK, I will do my best to be thankful, even in my mess, even in this topsy-turvy world.  What do I need to do?

Let’s start with 3 verbs:  Shout, worship, and come.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

We live in Oklahoma and we see these things.  Green pastures, wildflowers, wheat harvest, sunrise and sunset like nowhere else, snow that glistens on the ground or the same 1 inch of snow that just blows back and forth all day long. 

The world in its own way shouts for joy to the Lord.  If you have even happened upon a field of Black-eyed Susans interspersed among the Indian Blanket Flowers that work around the sage and cactus plants; you have been witness to a part of the earth shouting for joy to the Lord.

Why are humans the only ones who just say, “Yeah, OK, thanks?”

Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth!

But my life is a mess.  We went through that.  God is good.  His love is forever.  His faithfulness doesn’t stop because of your mess, it goes on and on.

So, am I to shout for joy to the Lord in the middle of my mess?  The answer is yes.

But we don’t stop there.  We worship the Lord with gladness.

Hold your holy horses, preacher.  I will shout some thanksgiving, but you can’t expect me to be happy about it.  You can’t really expect me to worship the Lord in gladness.  God knows my deal and it’s just not good for me right now.

I will make my offering and sing my songs and even stay awake for the sermon, but I am not going to be happy about it.

God wants us to know that our happiness is not rooted in our circumstances.  Our joy is in him.  Remember Paul’s counsel to rejoice in the Lords always.  He said it twice—again I say rejoice.

Rejoice in our circumstances?  No.  Our joy is in the Lord, so we worship him with gladness.  That manifests itself in joyful songs.

Come before him with joyful songs!  We don’t come singing a dirge.  What do I mean?

OK preacher, you are pushing the limits.  I will shout for joy and worship with gladness, but I am not getting all happy about singing.  That’s just not my style. 

Let me pick the next song.  We will sing, Were you there when they crucified my Lord…  Tremble, tremble

You may not be jumping up and down during our worship songs, but your heart needs to be full of joy and that joy is to be transferred to you lips.  We are called to make a joyful sound. 

We don’t have to be music majors.  When people who know music start talking sharps and flats, I’m thinking tires again.  Something sharp penetrated your tire and now you have a flat.  You don’t have to have the best pitch or even sing in the right key for your song to be joyful.

If you don’t believe me, swing by the men’s Bible study on Wednesday night.  We often open with a song or two and those songs may or may not follow the music in the books.  But we offer them to God with joy in our hearts that comes out through out lips.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

I am going to give you a word that you might not associate with this part of the psalm:  Truth.

Here is the truth that we need to remember.  Humankind did not love God, at least most of it was rebelling against him.  Judgment was what we deserved.  We were convicted in our sin and sentenced to death.

Jesus paid the price for us.  David didn’t understand all of this when he wrote this psalm, but it speaks so clearly to us today. 

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We were dead in our sin.  Now we are alive in Christ.

How can we come before God in our worship without thanksgiving and praise?  Being a Christian and not coming before our God with thanksgiving and praise is wholly inconsistent with who we are.

We were dead in our sins and now we are alive in Christ.  How can that alone not bring forth thanksgiving from every heart and how can thanksgiving not come forth from every mouth?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Duh!  Sorry for the highly theological terms.

This is sort of like when I am talking with a Christian tourist, someone who knows some of the Bible but doesn’t really want this whole discipleship thing, and they say, “The Bible doesn’t say you have to go to church.”

I get to answer, It’ says, “Don’t stop!”  It’s one of those ever so obvious things.  Don’t stop gathering together.  Duh!  How could the answer be anything else?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

We were dead.  Now we live.  Praise the Lord.  Thank you Jesus!

Some of you are clued in to the fact that I skipped the third verse.  I did.  The pastor has lost it now.  He started with the last verse, then went to the top, but skipped a verse.  What’s up with that?

That third verse begins with a unique verb—know.  There is a continuum of definitions that go with this word.  They on one end begin with awareness and perception and go to the other end to being fully convinced especially in matters of truth.  Archaic definitions involved intimacy.

This third verse involves being fully convinced.

Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

He is God.  He made us.  We are his.  This is an unmistakable relationship.  This is an undisputed relationship.  This is complete ownership.

We are his.

The psalmist adds the metaphor of being the sheep of his pasture.  Our trust is completely in him.  Our safety is completely in him. 

God is not an intellectual concept for us.

He is not one option among many life choices for us.

He is not available only as a last resort for us—though many Christians still need a little work there.

He is God!  We don’t think he is God.  He is God and we are his.  This is the most primal, the most basic, the most intimate relationship that we have.  It is the most natural relationship that we have.  This is foundational to who we are.

He is God and we are his.  There is no debate or equivocation. 

Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

There you have Psalm 100, even though we didn’t look at it sequentially.  This is a psalm, a song, for all of God’s people.

I have a whole bunch of songs that I like, but only a few that just grab me, take me, do the things that only music can do to you. 

I enjoy Heart of Worship, Blessed be the Name, Sweet Home Alabama (sometimes changing the words and making Alabama into Oklahoma) even though it doesn’t fit the rest of the lyrics.  Hotel California is always unique.  And yes, I can head bang with the best of them on Stairway to Heaven, but they don’t’ really just take me. 

When I was in high school, yes, in the last millennia, the Stone’s song Angie would do it for me.  Of course it was the perfect song for a 16-17-year-old kid who was always in love with somebody for at least 2 weeks.  It doesn’t ring my bell so much anymore.

Revelation Song owns me.  I just have to let the song have its way.

Psalm 100 is like that with me.  Much like the 23rd psalm, it just goes beyond the words and speaks to your heart and your entire being.

If it doesn’t do the same for you, well, you have issues.

It is different in another way.  It is not a first-person psalm as many of David’s were.  Psalm 100 speaks—sings—for all of us.  It is a song, a psalm that we are to lift up to God together.

Psalm 100 is a psalm for all of us.  The congregation memorized this a few years ago.  It is on our list of verses to memorize next year as well.  It’s been a few years and we have some folks who were not with us then or not old enough then.  So next year, we will memorize it.

For now, let’s close with it in unison.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Amen!