June 26, 2014

Sermons from Psalms 91-100

We recently finished another installation of sermons from the psalms.  Enjoy, and be encouraged!

Psalm 91 - Security
Psalm 92 - "It is good to give thanks to the LORD"
Psalm 93 - "The LORD reigns"
Psalm 94 - "God of vengeance, shine forth!"
Psalm 95 - A Call to Worship
Psalm 96 - "Sing to the LORD, all the earth"
Psalm 97 - Psalm 97
Psalm 99 - Psalm 99
Psalm 100 - Psalm 100

Psalm 98 was preached back in 2010, and may be found on our website.

And here are links to some of the previous segments: Psalms 51-60, Psalms 71-83, and Psalms 84-90. Nearly all the Psalms, from 31 forward, have been digitally recorded and are available on the church's website. So check in there to find sermons not linked above.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations in these sermons are taken from the NASB®.  Sermon titles in quotation makes are also quotations from the NASB®.

June 25, 2014

Integrity

“A just balance and scales belong to the LORD;
All the weights of the bag are His concern.” 
Proverbs 16.11

Picture yourself ambling around the town square, doing your weekly shopping at a medieval bazaar. You walk up to the grain vendor, dig out several scoops of grain, pour them into your sack, and set the sack on one side of the vendor’s scales. And he, for his part, opens his little bag of weights, and begins to put them on the other side of the scale … adding them one by one by one until the two sides are balanced. ‘Okay, Mrs. So-and-So. That’s 31 ounces of grain. So, let me see ... that comes to ... three schillings and a ha’-penny.’ All well and good, right? You fish the change out of your pockets, and head down the aisle to the fish stall. But then a few minutes later, you hear a ruckus being raised at the grain stand and, as you gather on the fringes of the gathering crowd to see what all the fuss is about, you see a very angry customer pulling out his own bag of weights, and weighing them against the grain vendors. And lo and behold, each ‘five ounce weight’ in the vendor’s bag actually weighs only a little over four ounces. And you’ve been cheated … not only on this market day, but on who knows how many other market days in weeks and months past.

That’s what Proverbs 16.11 is talking about – the integrity of weights and measures. God sees when the wheat vendor’s weights are intentionally fixed. He sees when the lady at the butcher shop leans her pinky finger on the back of the scale to add an ounce or two to the weight of every sale. “All the weights of the bag are His concern.” And that is good to know, isn’t it? God knows if we are being cheated. And He will someday settled accounts.

Or is that good news after all?

It’s only good news, it seems to me, if we are the ones being cheated. But what if we ourselves are the ones doing the fudging? ‘O, I would never do that’ someone says. Hopefully not. But do you give the clerk at UDF her dollar back when she accidentally gives you too much change? Do you smile knowingly when she gives you the wink-wink at charging you for a small when you really got a large? Do you think to yourself: ‘Well, they’re a big company after all. And so it’s no big deal if we recalibrate things just a bit. Nobody will miss the few extra cents. And certainly not when we’re dealing with the government. After all, they bring in billions of dollars. What’s the big deal if I fudge my expense reports a little bit to save a few tax dollars? And if my business books are a little cooked, who will really know?’

Well, the fact is that the government or the convenience store may, in fact, never know. And indeed, the cost of your dishonesty may be so small in their eyes that they wouldn’t do much about it if they did know. But God knows! And God cares about your integrity! “All the weights of the bag are His concern.” And we do well to remember that!

To illustrate this point, the 18th century preacher Lachlan Mackenzie repeated to his people the story of a woman who sold milk, but added water to what she sold until the product was diluted by one third. Well, she eventually went on an ocean voyage with her 'earnings'. And, as the story goes, a monkey that was being transported on the same vessel somehow got into her sleeping space, found her little sack of coins, climbed the rigging of the ship with the sack in hand, and began tossing the coins out of the bag – one into the sea, two onto the deck, one into the sea, two onto the deck – until a third of her earnings were buried in the ocean … exactly the amount she had exacted by her false measurements!*

God sees when we are falsely weighting things in our favor! And He has His ways of evening things out! So learn the lesson! Be a man or woman, a boy or girl, of absolute integrity. For “all the weights of the bag” are under the watchful eye of a just and holy God!


____________________________
*This vignette from Mackenzie's ministry comes from John Kennedy's book The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire, as quoted by Iain Murray in The Happy Man: The Abiding Witness of Lachlan Mackenzie.  I have summarized, rather than fully quoting, Dr. Kennedy's account.

June 24, 2014

Gullible

“The naive believes everything,
But the sensible man considers his steps.”
Proverbs 14.15

We have recently begun a series of sermons in the book of Jude – that fantastic little epistle which warns so strongly against false teachers, and urges its readers to “contend earnestly for the faith.” And one of the things Jude points out is that the false teachers against whom he is writing have “crept in unnoticed.”

In other words, false teachers don’t generally walk into the church wearing a badge on their lapels with the word heretic inscribed in italics under their names! They creep in. They may unfold their heresies only in bits and pieces, here and there … such that people often inhale them quite calmly, like cigarette smoke, without realizing the long term destruction that is being slowly but surely wrought upon them. And so it seems to me that, implicit in Jude’s warning against false teachers is not only that we must “contend … for the faith” (and, thus, against their errors) when false teachers arise; but also that we must be alert to the fact that they are creeping in in the first place! We must not let them sneak into the sheepfold right under our noses without us ever smelling a rat! We must not be like the “naive” man who “believes everything” (Proverbs 14.15).

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must not be drowsy when it comes to assessing that which we are being taught – whether in our own congregation, or over the internet, or on radio and TV, or in books! Some of it is quite helpful and accurate. Much of it is pure froth – fairly harmless, but not really all that helpful either. And some of it is outright dangerous. But I wonder how many church-goers actually see the danger? Do our antennas go up when preachers preach a gospel that says little or nothing about our sin? Do we sense that something is wrong when men (and women) teach us about heaven, or hell, or the last days, or how to have relationship with Jesus based on their own visions and experiences, rather than on what is printed in the Book? Could we piece through the Jehovah’s Witnesses' Watchtower and see in it the signs of false teaching? Or does it go right on the coffee table next to our family Bible? Do we trust someone’s teaching simply because it’s on the radio or television, or do we do a little research to find out exactly what they believe (and how they live!)? Same thing with Christian music artists – from whom many people get an entirely disproportionate amount of their theology. Do we believe what they sing simply because the local Christian radio station chose to play their song? Or do we compare what we hear with scripture?

I am not suggesting we be alarmist. But what I would say is that, if false teachers had an inroad in Jude’s day … how much more in our own, what with all the additional media they have through which to communicate their message! And so we must be on the alert. We must not be na├»ve, but test everything against the plain teaching of the Bible.

“The naive believes everything,
But the sensible man considers his steps.”

June 17, 2014

"Brethren, pray for us"

“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3.1

Traditionally, our church has held a Vacation Bible School for a week in the summer – an opportunity to reach out to our neighborhood children (and their parents) with the good news of our good Lord Jesus. We have found, however, that we have not succeeded at getting as many families onto our campus as we would like. The minivans just haven’t streamed into the parking lot for VBS like we would wish them to. And we’re not in the kind of neighborhood where many children would just show up on foot, looking for something to do on a summer’s eve. And yet we still need to reach families with the gospel, right?

So, trying to adapt with our circumstances, we’re taking our VBS on the road this year – in the form of 3-4 Backyard Bible Clubs. We’ll be teaching the same curriculum that we have taught before, only over the course of just two days. The most important difference, though, is that we’re heading out to where the kids are! We have one club lined up that will be, literally, in the backyard of one of our church members. We’re also trying to line up one or two more in a large apartment complex nearby. And still another is being efforted in an open space in the next community over from the church. And I am writing these few lines to solicit your prayers in these endeavors.

Would you pray for:

Logistics. That dates, locations, snacks, supplies, restrooms, and so on would all come together so as to make our efforts successful.

Weather. At least 2 of the Clubs are being planned as outdoor events. Would you pray for clear (and maybe also relatively cool!) weather … and for suitable contingency plans if the Lord sees fit to give us rain?

Children. Ask the Lord for lots of them … as many as we can adequately handle! And ask, more importantly, that their hearts will be open, and that the good seed would begin to take root through the biblical teaching they’ll be receiving.

Parents. We always want to influence, not only the children, but the parents who raise them … and who each need the Savior, too. So pray for meaningful connections with moms and dads (and grandparents). Pray also as we try and briefly share the content of the Bible Club (and thus, the gospel) with the parents during a pizza lunch at the end of the Club.

Workers. Ask the Lord to prepare their hearts, too! And their minds! Pray that the truth would come forth clearly, powerfully, and winsomely; and that the love of Christ would show through their every action and word to children, parents, and one another. 

So "brethren, pray for us”, as the apostle Paul requested of the Thessalonians, “that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.”

June 10, 2014

"Oaks of righteousness"

I sometimes find myself absolutely fascinated by trees – these gigantic woody stems bursting up from the ground, seemingly out of nowhere; and opening up into great canopies of leaves; and all of it with its genesis in a tiny little seed that fell (seemingly randomly) into the ground. How is it possible? And isn’t it magnificent?! I still remember standing in wonder at the base of giant spruce trees in Washington State who trunks were significantly wider in diameter than my wingspan … and which rose to heights that I had no way of estimating! And then there is the persimmon tree on the parsonage grounds – amazing in a far different way, draped as it is every fall with hundreds and hundreds of sweet little fruits! And it’s all quite marvelous to me – the phenomenon of the tree!

And then I am reminded, from a few different portions of scripture, that God’s people are also like trees! For instance, I read this week Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would come, among other things, to bring about blessing among the people of God so that they would “be called oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61.3). And that got me thinking again about trees, and specifically about how God’s people ought to be like them. And I so thought I’d just jot down a few characteristics of trees which, it seems to me, ought also to be true of God’s people …

Height. Do you ever just stop and wonder at how tall many trees are? Just step outside and marvel at it some time – how far into the sky even some of the medium-sized varieties stretch; how they tower over all the other plants, and over most manmade buildings, too. And that is how we Christians ought to look to our neighbors – we ought, morally and spiritually, to be the trees in our families, workplaces, classrooms, ball teams and so on. People ought to look up to us, and to see that Jesus makes a man or woman stand tall (though not proud!) in the realms of ethics, kindness, generosity, and so on.

Strength. Many other plants can be snapped in half with little more than human elbow grease … or maybe some limb loppers. But let a tree grow for a few years, and it is much too strong to be so easily felled. And again, so is the maturing Christian. Christ came so that we would be “oaks of righteousness.” That we possess an oak-like fortitude, and strength, and immovability such that, while we may sometimes be bent pretty low when a storm comes through, yet we do not topple.

Depth. The reason trees can grow so tall; and the reason they are not blown over by every storm … is because their roots are deep and sturdy. And so it ought to be for the Christian. We will be steadfast in our faith, and rise to great heights in our character and love and example … to the extent that we have gone to great depths in the soil of God’s word, and in prayer, and in humility before God’s throne.

Longevity. Trees last, don’t they? This is one of the reasons why they can grow so tall, and so strong, and so deep. Because they do not spring up overnight. They grow gradually but steadily … over the long haul of many years and even decades. And we should expect these things of ourselves – that we will not be mighty oaks within the first year or two of our Christian growth; but that, if we are genuine, we will still be growing and changing and standing and producing fruit many decades hence.

Fruit. This is one of the great blessings of a tree, isn’t it? It produces apples, or plums, or persimmons, or various sorts of nuts … all of which are useful to the owner of the tree! And so it must ever be with the Christian (Psalm 1) – “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season.” And, says Psalm 92, “they will still yield fruit in old age” (there is longevity again!). Fruit! Usefulness to God’s kingdom! That’s what characterizes God’s trees!

So just take some time this week to step out into nature and marvel at the trees – the oaks, the walnuts, the apples, and so on. Observe their glorious height and their mighty strength. Picture, in your mind’s eye, the great roots that reach deep beneath the soil. Think about how long they have stood in this same spot, immovable … and how many of them will still be growing there when you and I have long gone. Consider the usefulness (and flavor!) of their fruit. And pray that God will make you, more and more, an “oak of righteousness”; a “tree firmly planted by streams of water” … that “will still yield fruit in old age.”

June 5, 2014

Unity

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity! 
Psalm 133.1

Sunday night is our church's annual Joint Summer Picnic – the second installation of our five-part Summer Second Sundays joint meetings with a handful of other area churches (Hyde Park Baptist, Bible Chapel, Valley Chapel, and Liberty Baptist). And I am so glad that we at Pleasant Ridge can once again be a part! It truly is a joy and privilege to spend a Sunday evening in fellowship with the people of God – and especially so when we can demonstrate our kinship by gathering together across local church boundaries. What a reminder that God has “many people in this city” and that we are building the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church!

I fully expect it to be a “good” and “pleasant” evening. Maybe not weather-wise! But it should indeed be “good” and “pleasant” to see the assorted people of God gathered together in “unity.” People from numerous different pockets of our city – some of them from little neighborhoods on the west side that many in our own church may have never even driven past. People of various social and economic backgrounds. People with various accents – ranging from Kentucky bluegrass, to non-descript Midwestern, to various international flavors as well. Some will be carrying canes, others diaper bags, and still others smart phones. Some will join wholeheartedly in the various activities, others will sit quietly on the side. Some will talk until we’ve learned learned their whole life story, while others will be more shy. There will probably be a handful of different preferred Bible translations. And differing views on the timing of the Lord’s return. And (praise God!) there will be multiplied skin tones, too! And, of course, we’ll be coming from five different churches, and so have five different pastors, and five different sets of readymade table-mates. And so we could clump together in various little groups, centered around one or other of the identities listed above. And some of us will, I am sure … and not necessarily in bad ways, even.

But what I am looking forward to most (and I hope I am alert enough to just pause and take it all in) is seeing all these different people dwelling “together in unity!” I am looking forward to seeing God’s people, in spite of all that could keep us apart, enjoying one another; getting to know one another; counseling one another. Finding new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Feeling an immediate kinship with and love for people that we are meeting for the very first time … and committing to pray for them, even though we don’t know if and when we might see them again. And all of this without the slightest consideration for the various earthly identity markers that might otherwise keep us apart! That will be “good” and “pleasant”!

I am looking forward, Sunday evening, to a little reminder of what the kingdom of heaven will be like: a vast gathering of people – incredibly more diverse than our little gathering – and yet all part of one family. All eyes fixed on one Savior. All loved by the same Father. All washed by the same blood. All drawn by the same Holy Spirit. All captivated by the same words from the same Book. All gathered around the same throne. All singing the same truths. And calling the most unlikely people ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ and truly loving them – because we have found something (or rather, someone) in common who is far more magnetizing, even, than race, or culture, or nationality, or upbringing, or heart language, or peer group, or any other earthly identity! Jesus! He is our common bond. He is our unity. He is the one who brings us all together into this thing called the family of God! And on Sunday we'll get just a little glimpse of just what that larger family looks like … and how special it really is. I hope we'll stop and take it all in (and that you will do the same in your local setting, too): just “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”