FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
Hate is our emotional link with the spirituality of evil. It is the volcanic eruption of outrage when the holiness of being, ours or another’s, has been violated. It is also the ugliest and most dangerous of emotions, the hair trigger on a loaded gun. Embarrassed by the ugliness and fearful of the murderous, we commonly neither admit or pray our hate; we deny it and suppress it. But if it is not admitted it can quickly and easily metamorphose into the evil that provokes it; and if it is not prayed we have lost an essential insight and energy in doing battle with evil. – Eugene Peterson
How should Christians think about their politics, especially those who might identify themselves as evangelical? Obviously this is a loaded question with a variety of perspectives and answers. However, here is a thoughtful piece that stirs the pot admirably and in doing so keeps the true evangel, the Lord Jesus, the main thing.
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Psalm 130
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing - Adoration
Jesus, I Come - Confession
Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Grace
Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe) - Response
Hark! a Thrilling Voice is Sounding - Communion
Doxology (Tallis Canon)
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Nahum.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Abide With Me
Abide with me;
fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens;
Lord with me abide.
When other helpers,
fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
abide with me.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Father, we confess that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of this behavior is mistrust and self-love. We do not love one another as we should, because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only righteousness. Amen.
Words of Grace
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text – Psalm 129
A Song of Ascents.
1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
4 The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”
1. The life of faith is dynamic, not static (v. 1-3)
2. The life of faith includes hatred (v. 5-8)
3. The life of faith knows God to be righteous (v. 4)
Hatred, anger, indignation. Trust, forgiveness, love. How do these two groups of seemingly opposite experiences fit together in the life of faith?
Perhaps another way to ask the question is, how resilient is the life of faith according to scripture? Can true faith survive imaginable mistreatment and pain?
Psalm 129 tells us, YES it can! "Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me." (v. 2)
Among the reasons it gives let me offer three for you to ponder.
First, true faith perseveres because we don't experience mistreatment and pain alone. Though verses 1-2 are spoken in the first person, the writer of the Psalm calls all of God's people join into its singing. Why is this important to notice? Because when we are in pain, we often feel alone and isolated. But the truth is God's people rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
Second, true faith perseveres because it prays its hatred of its enemies to God. (v. 5-8) We don't tend to talk this way. In fact it may make you a bit uncomfortable. But what do you do when someone inflicts pain on those you love, whether in your own home, or other brothers and sisters in Christ? Apathy and indifference is the death of persevering faith. Hatred and indignation against evil and injustice is a sign you care. Hatred connects us to the spirituality of evil and the truth that something must be done far beyond what we could ever think or do. Psalm 129 schools us in praying our hatred. To be clear Psalm 129 doesn't legitimize hatred, it uses it to turn us toward God! As Eugene Peterson says, "Human hate is not a very promising first step to the establishment of righteousness. Nevertheless, when prayed, they are steps, first steps into the presence of God where we learn that he has ways of dealing with what we bring him that are both other and better than what we had in mind. But until we are in prayer, we are not teachable.”
Third, what does praying our hatred lead us to discover? What are we taught when we pray our hatred? The Lord is righteous! (v. 4) Persevering faith discovers it isn't our determination or commitment that sustains us through unimaginable pain and mistreatment at the hands of the wicked (v. 4), those who hate Zion (v. 5). It is God's stick-to-itiveness. The word translated righteousness means God will always maintain his perfect relationship with his people. He sticks with his people. He rescues his people. How can you be sure God will always stick with you? Because God's righteousness isn't an idea but a person! "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it." (Rom. 3:21) That righteousness is Jesus! In the gospel, God in Christ, identifies with our pain and grief and bears the consequences of wickedness himself. (Is. 53:3-6)
How does all this address our hatred? On the one hand, the cross shows us how much God hates wickedness and injustice and pain. So much that he got personally involved even at the cost of his own son! On the other hand, the cross is the healing balm for our anger. For to truly understand the meaning of the cross is to see a man dying for his enemies even as he prays for them. It means seeing on the cross Jesus dying for you and praying for you, not prayers of hatred but forgiveness. Only when we take the cross into the very center of our lives, through faith, can we experience true healing that transforms our hatred prayed into love given.
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- Describe a time in your life when you hated someone?
- What is your reaction to the idea of praying your hatred like Psalm 129?
- Why do we need Psalm 129 in our lives?
Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism c. 1646
Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not cover your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.
Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.