FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?
Food For Thought:
The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance…I am comparing it with the merely dutiful ‘church-going’ and laborious ‘saying our prayers’ to which most of us are, thank God not always, but often, reduced. Against that it stands out as something astonishingly robust, virile, and spontaneous; something we may regard with an innocent envy and may hope to be infected by as we read.
– C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Galatians 1:1-5
For All The Saints - Adoration
Jesus, I Come - Confession
Amazing Grace - Grace
The Church’s One Foundation - Response
Christ Whose Glory Fills the Sky - Communion
Earlier this year Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, wrote a thought provoking and challenging piece about segregation in NYC schools and the ongoing realities we still face. The issues are complex and raise questions and challenges around advantage, power and resources not available to all who have a vested interest in high quality public education. While Bham is not NYC it seems we face analogous challenges in our own city.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing?
Praise Him, praise Him,
praise Him, praise Him,
Praise the everlasting King.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, we confess that our glory has been our own comfort, rather than your Son's cross; that we have craved the fellowship of those already like us, rather than the fellowship of Christ's sufferings; that we have worked to save our own lives, rather than lose our lives for Christ’s sake and the gospel. Have mercy on us, Father, and grant us the gift of gospel repentance. Cleanse us by the finished work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and restore to us the joy of your salvation. Amen.
Words of Grace
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 1:8-2:2
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text: Psalm 103
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
God's love reinterprets our experiences of
1. Discipline (vv. 6-14)
2. Disappointment (vv. 15-19)
3. Devotion (vv. 1-5, 20-22)
Anyone who has ever had a bad experience at something knows that its power extends far beyond the time when it happened. I once got the flu twice in a row after eating at Taco Bell, and was hesitant to eat there for a long time afterward. Even though I knew that I was just as likely to get the flu anywhere else, I found myself going to other restaurants when opportunities arose. My experience shaped how I viewed the world. The truth became distorted, as I subconsciously had greater reverence for my experience than I did for reason. This is often how we approach God’s character as revealed in His Word. Especially when we have had very painful experiences in our lives, we revere that pain most of all, and view God through it. The result is that we often respond to God not according to who He is, but according to our distorted image of Him. We may even lament with Jackson Browne in his song, “Doctor My Eyes,” that we have seen so many bad experiences that we are now powerless to see properly anymore. Psalm 103, however, challenges our views of who God is. It shows that His love is behind all of our experiences. His love reinterprets our experiences, and challenges us to revere God more than them.
There are three themes in this Psalm that God’s love reinterprets for us:discipline, disappointment, and devotion. First, discipline comes from vv.6-14, where the psalmist describes how God dealt with Israel on their wilderness journey. V.9 says, “He will not always chide.” “Chide” means to stand against, or oppose in a legal sense. Many of us often feel that God stands against us. When we are conscious of our sin we feel that He is frustrated with us, and when our lives are not going how we want we feel that He must not be on our side. Israel likely felt both of these things in their desert wanderings. They experienced God’s opposition when they worshipped a golden calf (Ex.34), and when He did not let them return to Egypt when they wanted (Ex.16). When we sense God’s opposition to us, we often conclude that He must not like us. This, however, would be to view God according to how we have experienced humans. But what is God really like?
Vv.6-14 reinterprets our human experience of discipline by displaying God’s love. We see a God who does not deal with us according to our sins (v.10), a God who knows our breaking points (v.14), and a God whose love is like a father to his children (v.13). This means, that God is not like us. The decisions He makes toward us are not based on what our sins deserve. Then what are they based on? Like Israel, God is not content to leave us where we are, but is taking us somewhere much better. This often means He has to oppose us when we wander off. However, it does not mean He doesn’t love us. I had a difficult day disciplining my son on his birthday recently. We ended the afternoon at the Lego store where he spent his birthday money on a new set. As we walked home, he was beaming with excitement. I could not have been more proud to see him so happy. Though I may not always understand God’s discipline, this gave me a picture of the posture He holds toward me. If God loves me more than I love my son, His opposition starts to look very different. His love reinterprets my experience, and gives me reason to revere Him most. We know this even more because he sent Christ to show us how much He loves us. Christ gives us confidence that God does not deal with us according to our sins. He deals with us out of love. Let’s let that love challenge how we view God, and allow it to reinterpret what we experience.
At times we are conscious of our sin and experience God’s discipline. However, sometimes we experience struggle that has nothing to do with our sin. This often leaves us wondering whether God is there at all. Vv.15-19 speaks to this situation, and shows how God’s love reinterprets our experiences ofdisappointment. Disappointment is one of the most common human experiences. We say things like, “a pessimist is merely an optimist with more experience.” We also live in a culture of skepticism, where doubt is seen as a higher virtue than belief. This largely has to do with the fact that life is full of disappointments. Relationships rise and fall, leaving a wake of destruction behind. Bodies are strong in their youth, and fail as they age. Mentors inspire us, and then disappoint us. We often have spiritual highs, only to be met by spiritual lows. According to human experience, this could only mean that things are random, and that God is distant. But what is God really like?
V.17 shows that it is not the things of life that last, but God’s love. This means that all of creation may fade away, but the objects of God’s love never will. Those He loves ultimately will not go down, but will go where He goes. The human experience may look the same as if God were absent, but the promise of His love gives us new meaning through which to view Him. It reinterprets what we experience, and gives us reason to believe that we are headed in a very different direction than toward disappointment. I once lived in a house that got torn down shortly after I moved out. I remember passing by it one day and seeing the pile of rubble and sparse boards standing in a row. I then passed by again at a later time when they were rebuilding it, and it still looked like a pile of rubble with sparse boards standing in a row. However, the two images where heading in very different directions. Ultimately, it is God’s love through Christ by which we have confidence that our lives as Christians are not headed toward disappointment as it may appear. Christ left many disappointed for three days. However, His disappointment was not the end of Him, but only the beginning. This is the same hope for all who belong to His love by faith. What a reason to give Him more reverence than our experiences.
Finally, we may want to ask how we partake of God’s love. This psalm uses words like, “those who fear him,” and “those who keep his commandments,” to describe the recipients of God’s love. What about those of us who struggle to obey Him? From human experience, this sounds like those who obey God earn the right to be recipients of His love. However, the third theme we see here is how God’s love reinterprets out devotion.
In the first place, when the Old Testament refers to those who fear and obey God, it is referring to those who participate in the life of God’s covenant. God’s covenant people sinned frequently, but took their sins to God as God commanded them. They confessed, ritually washed, sacrificed, and enjoyed being in God’s presence. They did not earn His favor in any way. They merely responded to His grace through the covenant means. A Christian today who struggles to obey God, acknowledges their sin, and looks to God in hope of cleansing through Christ, would be considered someone who fears and obeys God.
However, this psalm does more than describe the love of God that He has toward those who belong to Him. It also shows how His people are to devote themselves to Him. It begins and ends with shouts of jubilation toward God. From a human standpoint, this type of devotion may sound like labor. However, if we know the extent of God’s love for us, it changes our devotion completely. Any sports fan knows what it is like to be watching a big game in a room full of people. When the team makes a big play, everyone shouts in unison with excitement. This is not labor, but love. This is the type of worship being portrayed in this psalm. What is so exciting? The fact that God sets free those who were in bondage, and makes them into new creatures (vv.3-5). Those who know God’s love through His great redemption have great reason to shout. True devotion is merely responding to such love in thankfulness, and longing for the whole earth to sing such songs. The redemption of God through Christ Jesus should prompt us to take notice of what God is truly like. This year, let us reflect on the reality of Christ’s redemption, and ask ourselves two questions. “What is God really like,” and “How does His love reinterpret what we experience?”
- What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- Where are you most tempted to view God according to how you have experienced people?
- Does God's love through Christ change how you see your situation, or does your situation change how you see God's love?
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 97
Q. 97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.
1 Corinthians 11:26-29
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.