For Times of Uncertainty

Sun, Mar 27, 2022
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:28 mins

Message text

Ephesians 5:19-20 & Psalms 103:1-22

Thinking about his childhood, an old farmer wrote: "I recall, as a little barefoot boy…, standing straight up in my classroom & repeating the 'Pledge of Allegiance.' Our nation was at war & times were hard.

"My teacher had lost her husband on the blood-washed shores of Normandy. As we bowed our heads for prayer she wept aloud. I did too. All the class joined in. I still remember her praying. She stumbled through one of the most moving expressions of gratitude & praise that ever emerged from a soul plunged in pain.

"Lost in sympathy & a boy’s pity for his teacher, I walked home very slowly that afternoon. Although only a child, I had profound feelings of gratitude for my country. . . my friends . . . my school . . . my church . . . my family.

"I swore before God that I would fight to the end to keep this land free from foes who would want to take away America’s distinctives & the joys of living in this good land. I have never forgotten my childhood promise. I never shall."

You know, there is so much in our lives as Americans that we take for granted. When I get up in the morning, I can step into my shower & enjoy the hot water.
Then I can get dressed, go out & get into my car & drive anywhere I want to go. When I get low on gas… I can pull into a gas station & fill up again…. for a small fortune nowadays … but we have that freedom.

Then when I go home, I can enter the house, flip a switch, & the lights come on. When I open my refrigerator … I’ll find all kinds of foods to eat. And like most Americans I tend to just take all these things for granted.

But that isn’t the way things have been in some of our cities. Riots have erupted, statues & memorials torn down, stores & businesses looted & burned, houses destroyed & people terrorized. Whether accidental or deliberate, people have been injured, & lives have been lost.
And the country that I, & millions of others, love & have pledged our allegiance to, is often under attack.

In the 103rd Psalm David starts out praising God & then says: “Praise the LORD, O my soul, & FORGET NOT all his benefits.” Psalm 103:2  If we forget God’s benefits - if we forget the blessings He’s given us - we can end up being ungrateful, taking what we have for granted.

We can become like the woman who walked into a grocery store a day before Thanksgiving & was very upset with the size of the turkeys that were left. She turned to the stock boy & asked snippishly, "Don't these turkeys get any bigger?" To which he calmly replied, "No ma'am. They're dead!”  That woman had more food in front of her than people in most 3rd world countries would ever see. And yet, she was angry because what she saw wasn’t BIG enough.

Back in 1988, a Polish worker named Jan Grzebski was hit by a train. He lived, but only barely. For the next 19 years he was in a coma.  He awoke in 2007 to a whole different world. 19 years earlier, Poland was a communist state. Grzebski noted that back then meat was rationed, grocery shelves were nearly empty, & there were huge lines at almost every gas station.  But 19 years later he awoke to a free nation where, he said, “There were people on the streets with cell phones, & so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.”  These people had freedom & food & wealth greater than Poland had had in many years – and today we have over 2 million of Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge there.

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days & nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  On their return, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yes, I did," said the son. "So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.  The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog & they had four. We have a pool that fills half of our backyard, & they have a creek that stretches way past their property. We have lanterns in our yard & they have the stars at night.  "We have a small piece of land to live on & they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."
The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me just how poor we really are."

It makes you wonder what would happen if we gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don’t have.  If we don’t get into the habit of thanking God for what we DO have… we may soon become ungrateful because of what we DON’T have.   So the 103rd Psalm says: Get into the habit of being thankful - NOW! Get into the habit of NOT FORGETTING what God has given you.

Ephesians 5:19-20 tells us to " speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

And 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Several churches in North Dakota were being served by an old circuit-riding preacher. The people were amazed at his ability to pray, for no matter what the circumstances were, he could always find something for which to be thankful.
As he made his rounds one cold, gloomy winter morning, he was late in getting to the church because of excessive snow drifts. But when he did get there, as usual he began the service with prayer.
The parishioners were eager to see what the old preacher could come up with to be thankful for on this dismal & frigid morning. "Gracious Lord," his prayer began, "we thank you that most days are not like today."

So… as you spend time considering the blessings which God has showered upon you & your family, what do you thank Him for? How has God blessed you?
For most of us I imagine that we thank Him for family & friends, for those who love us & care about us. We thank him for our homes, for our jobs in a time when too many are homeless & are looking for the essentials needed to survive.

And probably many of us thank him for our country & the blessings He has showered upon our nation over the years. I hope, also, that you include this church, its worship & its work – that we might be faithful & true to God and his plan of salvation.

In the 103rd Psalm … David praises God for forgiving his sins, healing all his diseases, redeeming his life from the pit, and crowning him with love & compassion.
Jesus emphasizes exactly the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. In (Matthew 6:19-21) He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy, & where thieves break in & steal.   “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth & rust do not destroy, & where thieves do not break in & steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What are our treasures? Well, in our text this morning … Psalm 103 … David says that his greatest treasure is knowing of God’s love & compassion for each of us.
He writes in verses 13 and 14, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”

Now David acknowledges that neither he – nor any of us – are worthy of God’s love. David goes on to say in vs’s 15-16 that “(our) days are like grass, (we) flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it & it is gone, & its place remembers it no more.”
We’re not all that impressive, are we? We’re fragile & easily forgotten. And God knows that. He was the one who formed us from the dust of the earth. But when God formed us from that dust He formed us in His likeness.

You see, the Bible tells us that you & I are a special creation by God. Yes, we are fragile & easily forgotten by this world - but God will never forget us!
He loves us so much that vs. 4 of our text tells us He “…redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love & compassion.”

As we read through the Bible we see stories of men & women who spent time in pits.
Jeremiah was thrown into a pit where he sank into the muck up to his armpits.
And Daniel was thrown into a pit that we know was a lion’s den.
Then there was Joseph, whose brothers threw him into a pit with the intention of killing him - but then changed their minds & sold him into slavery instead.
Those were literal pits that God rescued them from.
But there were other “pits” that weren’t so literal, but were equally depressing:
David spent several years hiding from King Saul.
Moses spent 40 years in exile from Egypt.
And Ruth spent a number of years in poverty.
Each story about these heroes & heroines of faith told how God reached down into the holes those people found themselves in, pulled them up & out of that pit, & placed them on solid ground.
And David says that what God did for those people – He’ll do for you & me.
We know that God meets our physical needs on this earth. But just like David we also know that’s not enough.

Jesus asked this ULTIMATE universal question in Mark 8:36: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, & lose his own soul?”
Unless our sins are dealt with we’ll be cut off from God. And unless our sins are forgiven, we’ll never know the blessings of living eternally in heaven.
Then David tells us “YES, God is willing to take care of that too.” In vs. 3 David says that God “forgives all your sin.” And in vs’s 10-12 David goes on to say, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
“As far as the east is from the west.” Now that is an interesting comment. Why not as far as the North is from the South?
Consider this: if we left here going West to CA, & continued West from there, we can go as far West as we like - & we would never start going East.
On the other hand, if we start going North, we would end up at the North Pole. From that point on every direction would be South.
Now, why didn’t God say He would remove our sins from us as far as the North is from the South? He could have. But if He’d said that - He would be telling us that there is a point at which He would stop forgiving us - where He’d stop wanting to forgive us.
But that’s not true. When He forgives us – He removes our sins as far from us as the East is from the West. He will remember them no more.

That is the kind of God we serve. A God who loves us SO much that He “gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Conclusion: It was the year 1822, & her name was Charlotte Elliott. She had been an invalid from her youth. Her handicap filled her with resentment & anger. And one day, when a preacher was visiting, she let loose on him about her bitterness at her condition.
The preacher listened, but instead of comforting her - he challenged her. He told her that what she needed to do was to give her life totally to God - to come to Him just as she was, with all her bitterness & anger.
As you can imagine, she didn’t like that. She resented what seemed to her to be an almost callous attitude on his part concerning her condition.
Through her life she had doubts & struggles.
Then in 1836, she decided to write a song about her faith in God. One of the verses goes this way:
“Just as I am, tho’ tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
“Just As I Am” - That hymn has become one of the best known & most powerful invitation songs ever written.
May I … and us as a whole … remember to “Praise the LORD, O my soul, & FORGET NOT all his benefits.”



Sermon Contributor: Melvin Newland


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