I will not neglect the Word (Psalm 116)

Preached on: Sunday 7th June 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-06-07-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 116:1-16; Psalm 1
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 119:1-16 (International Children’s Bible)
Sunday 7th June 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

SCENE 1 – In the kitchen

Gill – What are you two doing?
Scott & Hope – We can’t hear you!
G – What are you two doing?
S&H – We can’t hear you!
S – Let me turn down the music. Then we can hear Mumma.
G – What are you two doing?

S – Oh, what are we doing?

H – We’re just making some bread.

S – We’re making some bread. So, what do we have? We have some…

H – cake mix!

S – we have some bread mix, that’s right, and some water to put in. So, we’re making some bread, aren’t we? Have you made bread with Mumma before?

H – Yes!
S – Yeah. You like baking, don’t you?

H – I like making chocolate cake, it’s my favourite.

S – that’s your favourite! Why don’t you pour that in just now and I’ll talk to the boys and girls at church.

Hi everyone, welcome to our kitchen – and yup, Hope and I are making some bread and we couldn’t hear Gill because the music was too loud. I’m going to turn it down just a little bit more so that you can hear me.

So, that reminds me a lot of what it’s like in life. Every day there are lots of noises all around us trying to get our attention. It might be our friends, what’s on TV, it might be our favourite celebrity or social media influencer,…
it might be TV programmes or announcements from government or science or health professionals – lots of voices shouting for our attention and it can be hard to hear God’s voice.

Just like we had to turn down the so that we could hear Gill, sometimes we need to turn down those other voices so that we can hear God’s voice through His Word, the Bible.

In our Psalm today, the man who wrote it was also surrounded by many voices – the voices of the arrogant and the rulers, the wicked and the oppressors. But the psalmist didn’t choose to listen to those voices, instead he chose to listen to God’s voice; he dials down the other noises and tunes in to God.
So, here’s a question to think about at home for 1 minute: what are some of the voices that we need to dial down, and how can we better tune in to God, listen to God’s voice? Over to you for one minute!

Welcome back everyone – I’ve started to make my sandwich, but I’m not really sure I’ve got it right, what do you think I’ve done wrong? I’ve got here my turkey and salad to put in the middle, and I really like brown sauce, so I’ve got HP here, no messing around with anything less. And I’ve got the two parts of the recipe, one for the top and one for the bottom!

Do you think this will taste any good? Give me a thumbs up for yes and a thumbs down for no! (WIGGLE THUMB)
I reckon, actually, that it’s going to have to be a thumbs down – I cannot imagine eating some paper is going to taste any good, can you? No! What do I need in here? Shout it out! That’s right – I need bread! The recipe is of course important, but the goal is to make bread and have a great sandwich! The goal is not only to have the recipe.

And that reminds me about another lesson from our psalm today. Again and again the psalmist talks about ‘your orders’, ‘your commands’, ‘your word’, to ‘obey you’, ‘not sin against you’, ‘you have spoken’. Now, who is this ‘you’ that the psalmist is talking about? Who is it? It’s God! God has given us His Word, the Bible, which is full of information about how to live and what God is like; it is full of God’s commands and also revelation of Him.

But God didn’t give us this just so we could have a list of instructions and become really knowledgeable about the
Bible, nor is the Bible to be the thing we love the most. What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? It was: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.’ (Matthew 22:37-38) We are to love God, love Him above everything – even above His Word – and that’s because the goal is not simply to read and know God’s Word, the goal is to know God Himself. Not just to know about Him in our heads, but to know Him as a person, to know Him in our hearts.

The Psalmist says in verse 2: ‘Blessed are those who…seek him [God] with all their heart.’ The goal is not just to have the recipe, the goal is to have the bread, the bread of life, as Jesus was called.
So, here’s another question for you to think about: as you read the Bible, are you seeking God, or are you seeking to know and follow His rules? I’ll give you thirty seconds to think or talk about that just now.

Well, here I am, at the dining table with my sandwich. We’ve baked the bread; we’ve put it all together as it should be, I’ve even remembered to replace the recipe with slices of bread. But is it enough to leave the sandwich sitting on the table? Am I going to be fed by it sitting there? No! Of course not! If I want to be fed, I have to eat the bread, the sandwich has to become part of me. Because the sandwich goes into my mouth, down my throat, into my tummy and there my tummy does things with the food that give my body strength and energy… But to get that strength and energy, I need to eat the bread.

And that’s our final lesson today, from this psalm: it’s not enough just to have God’s Word, it’s not enough to know God’s Word and even to know God through His Word. Quite clearly this psalm tells us that we need to put God’s Word into practice in our lives. Verse 9 says: ‘How can a young person [any person] stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.’

It verse 11 it also says: ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ What we learn about God and His ways is meant to become part of our lives, it is meant to change our hearts, the place of our will, and so that we will the things of God.

Many of us will have seen this picture online or in the paper or news this past week: of Donald Trump holding up a Bible in front of a church. The Bible Society wrote a very powerful article about this event and they quoted the bishop, whose church was used for this event, she said: ‘Let me be clear, the President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of [Christians], and one of the churches of my diocese without permission, as a backdrop for a message [opposite] to the teachings of Jesus.’

And she said that because the Bible was used as a prop, that church was used as a PR location, and violence was used to make it possible.

It’s not enough to have a Bible, it’s not enough to know some things from it, to even know something of…
God based upon the writings in the Bible, and that’s because God counts as His children, the Lord Jesus counts as His disciples, those who seek for His Word to become part of who they are, to shape their hearts and lives.

There is a place for Christians to call out the President for his behaviour, that day and so many more besides. But let’s remember, that when we point a finger, three point back at us. A man called C.K. Chesterton, once replied to a newspaper which ran the question: ‘What is wrong with our world?’ He replied: ‘Dear Sir, I am. Yours sincerely, C.K. Chesterton.’

These past weeks, as we have rightly championed Black Lives Matter, and responded to the injustice faced by
George Floyd and many others, I have had to take…
a hard look in the mirror, on my own life and ask the tough questions, because this psalm excludes a faith which idolises the Bible, for we are to worship God alone, but equally, it also reminds us, that God says a faith which takes little heed of God’s Word, a faith where our heart and will do not seek His ways, is a faith which in the words of the book of James, is worthless.

So, friends, let’s stand with Black Lives Matter, let’s be actively anti-racist, but let us also eat the sandwich, let us heed God’s Word and allow it to shape us. For as I read in an email this week: ‘World change usually starts with my change.’

Let us tune in to God’s voice, seeking Him as our first love, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.
May it be so. Amen.

I yearn for the Kingdom (Psalm 72 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 2nd June 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Psalm 72
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Tuesday Evening Sermon – 2nd June 2020

So Psalm 72, this royal sum which speaks of the king and the kingdom and is a prayer that people would have prayed for hundreds of years. As we saw on Sunday morning, there is so much in this Psalm which links the king and God and God’s kingdom so closely together, so entwined together and really what we’re seeing here is that we’re to understand that through the king of Israel God’s rule would be seen.

And that comes across in a number of different verses. We could start with verse 1 for example, there we read of this prayer: ‘Endow the king with your justice, O God, with your righteousness.’ The prayer is not simply for the king to be just or to be good, but to have God’s justice, God’s righteousness.

That’s further developed with him to judge God’s people in verse 2 and then we see later in the Psalm things that you just can’t really imagine for a purely human king. For example verse 5: ‘May he endure as long as the son as long as the moon through all generations. ‘ she Sun and the moon obviously not understood quite as we understand them in our scientific age, but seen us as signs of things which that lasts forever and So asking this prayer that the King would endure for as long as these bodies in the sky. Yet, how can this be for a human king? It boggles the mind

And what is more there’s that prayer further down in verse 8 for him to rule ‘To the ends of the earth’; indeed for ‘all nations’ in verse 11 ‘to serve Him’. There’s this idea here that the kingdom is going to extend and whilst they didn’t know the full extent of the world and their day but as far as they knew they imagined the king ruling that for and further to the whole. Yet what human king ever had yet, even in the great nations of the time? And later as Israel was ruled by other powers – to still hold this prayer to pray this prayer and imagine and pray for a king that that rules beyond just the land of Israel, beyond even the peak of Israel’s history with David and Solomon. to yearn for him to rule even further? No human king in Israel’s time managed such a thing.

And then if we go further down again to verse 17, there is the prayer that his name would ‘endure for ever’. But what’s striking is that just a few verses later it’s ‘praise be to God’s glorious name for ever’ and if you look at the Psalms, it’s the name of God that is the focus of praise – not the Kings name. Yet as we saw in verse 17, ‘May his name endure for ever’ – may the name of the King endure forever. And connected in the same verse of 19 is this idea that ‘may the whole earth be filled with his glory’ and we saw earlier about the nations, of his the kingdom extending to all nations, that the whole earth be filled with his glory – again this entwining of God and the king in God’s kingdom together.

It really starts to raise the expectation that much more than just some ordinary king is is yearned for or expected. There starts to be nurtured in Israel this expectation of one who will come, a king who will come, who would be much more than just a human king – there has to be a messiah, someone special, set apart, anointed in some way beyond what they can comprehend, to fulfil this prayer.

Now that the seeds of it, as we know from Samuel, were sown in David’s time, that David was promised by God in second Samuel chapter seven. God said to David that he would establish a house for David and that God would raise up David’s offspring to succeed him, that God would establish his kingdom and that Kingdom the throne of his kingdom would be established for ever. And what is more God said ‘I will be his father and he shall be my son’. The seeds of it are sown in David’s time and it develops over time, greater clarity comes such that in the time of Isaiah later on and a portion that we would often read more at Christmas time than in the heat of this summer we see in Isaiah chapter 11 how this prophecy developed. And so we read there in Isaiah

Friends, there develop that expectation that one would come a messiah, an anointed king, who would be of the Lion of David, who would inherit the promises made to Abraham, promises from Genesis 12…

And what do we see in our Psalm, we see this idea that the nations will be blessed through the king. But the king is only blessed because God’s blessing is upon him. And so it’s really from God and so God is entwined with the king here and God’s kingdom with the king – it’s all entwined in the rule of God.

And so we know, now looking back, it can never just be a human king – yes, he would be of the line of David, but there had to be something more to him to bring about what Isaiah spoke about of a kingdom of a world where what is natural is completely turned on it’s head, and things changed so radically and powerfully.

And so people had to keep praying for the kingdom of God to come, for one to come, the Messiah to come and then one day Jesus came, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near, it was breaking in with him to this world and everything was going to change. The prophecies of Isaiah would begin to come true, the prayers of God’s people like in Psalm 72 were to begin to come true. And of course who did Jesus minister most? He ministered most to the poor and needy, giving them life and wholeness beyond what they could ever imagine. And we know from the letters to the church, from the Apostle Paul in particular, but elsewhere as well, Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 1 that God had a plan and it was put into effect when the times had reached their fulfilment o bring unity of all things in heaven and on earth under Jesus under the Christ, the Messiah – and so when the time was right he came.

Friends only Jesus, only Jesus could be this king and only because of the cross and his resurrection. It was he who conquered death, the first to rise from the dead to prove that he had conquered death. Friends he is King and he now sits at the right hand of God reigning there, given the Spirit to pour out on his people his kingdom might be extended. He sits in the position of power and authority at God’s right hand even now because he conquered, he was victorious, he was proven to be the promised king and messiah.

So, what does this mean then for us? Well a great deal clearly. One of the things that I’ve been pondering recently and I spent some time during my week off reading about it was about ‘discipleship’ – about how do we go about seeking ways to disciple others, to invite them in, to equip them and encourage them as disciples of Jesus? And it’s got me thinking as I read this Psalm alongside what I was reading there it’s got me clearly thinking of Matthew 28 and from Jesus the Great Commission to the disciples to ‘go to all the ends of the earth’ to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey him.

And it gets me thinking that we’re to be part of how this kingdom extends. Yes we’re to pray, to pray that God’s kingdom would come and will come more to that and a few moments. But we also have a part to play – disciple making is not just going to happen; God has no plan B. We are it friends, the church, we are called to go make disciples and that is principally how Jesus imagines his kingdom to grow. As we see in Acts chapter one, that they are to be his witnesses in Jerusalem Samaria Judea and to all the ends of the earth, just like our psalm.

But the witnessing was more than just being a body of people in a place. It was more than just loving their neighbour. It was more than gathering for worship on a Sunday. It was active disciple making because by making disciples the world starts to change. The things, the facets, of God’s kingdom start to come about, which is why I said on Sunday do we want to see hopelessness decrease? Do we want to see isolation decrease? Do we want to see a crime decrease? So many things happen and change and can only change really when the kingdom of God comes.

We might think of the stories of revival, I particularly think of the Welsh revival and I remember reading that in the Welsh revival they actually had to ask the police officers to stop doing their jobs effectively because there was no one in the jails, there was no one in the cells, because God’s Spirit came, brought revival and people became disciples of Jesus, the kingdom of God came in their midst and not only did people come to faith but lives changed.

There was that question from Sunday: do you want to see our world become a better place? Then pray for the kingdom of God to come. Because we have a king who has a glorious Kingdom and he wants it to come in our world. He wants it to extend to the ends of the earth and principally that happens as his church, you and I, share our faith, meet Jesus and see people become disciples.

Now how we do that we all need to learn. I need to learn as well. Because no one really discipled me, it has mostly been guesswork and trial and error and even now it’s trial and error and guesswork because part of my training in the Church of Scotland was not actually how to go and make disciples, which tells you an awful lot about the Church of Scotland frankly. But there are people, there are ways, to learn how to disciple others and if we want to see the kingdom of God come in our parish, in the Braes area and our nation and world, then we need to learn how to go and make disciples.

You’ll be hearing about later this week in the notices, probably in an email too, you’re going to be hear about an invitation from the Strategy Group, which is a group within the Kirk Session, they’ve been looking and clarifying what are our purpose and values for Brightons Parish Church and what is there in our DNA already? What is there in the Scriptures? And trying to bring some clarity on that because, well, it’s quite hard to carry around a whole Bible with you. And so we need some touch-stones, we need some kind of foundation clarity on things, and the invitation is going to be there for you to join in some focus groups that the strategy group are doing it and the ‘purpose’ includes a clear focus on this idea of discipleship because of this teaching that is there throughout the Scriptures: the God as our King, Jesus is the promised King, He proved it, and he has a kingdom and he wants that kingdom to extend to the ends of the earth.
But principally how he does that is through his church, His church going and making disciples.

So look out for that email, look out for the notice, read it, get involved in what we’re asking as we’d love as many people to get involved to help bring clarity to our purpose and our values as Brightons Church in this new season of our life, to bring clarity to what our strategy might be in the future.

But going back to our Psalm, one of the things that I picked up in the commentaries I was reading was the structure of the Psalm and what’s very striking is that the Psalm begins with God’s justice, and righteousness, and particular righteousness is repeated several times verse 1 verse 2 verse 3 and then come things like compassion for God’s afflicted people, for the children of the needy, then comes things like Shalom, peace, which we’ll look at in a moment – the goodness, the prosperity of the nation and the kingdom and to the world.

But first comes righteousness, and this wasn’t an idea that was unknown to God’s people, the Mosaic law spoke of it as well that, first of all, was righteousness, even before compassion there was to be no favouritism to poor or rich. Righteousness was to come first and this was because It was core to who God is.

Psalm ninety seven says: ‘clouds and thick darkness around him, righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.’ They were key to who God was/is, and so they were key to his kingdom. And so there’s this prayer, for the King to have this justice and righteousness from God, from these the rest might flow, and so for example you see in Isaiah that righteousness is the soil, the atmosphere, the climate within which peace can flourish and he same is true in the Psalm.

And it’s unhelpful in the NIV actually that in verse 3 it says ‘may the mountains bring prosperity to the people’ and an unhelpful choice of word there because if you go back to the Hebrew, the word is Shalom, which would normally be classified as peace. And so maybe the translators are trying to get away from ‘peace’ because we think of peace as a lack of conflict, of a peace of soul like calmness and so I can see what they’re trying to do. But prosperity just doesn’t quite catch it, and maybe they’re not quite ready yet maybe to go with a word like wholeness, which I think would catch much more of the meaning of Shalom. It’s used by many commentators: wholeness or well-being, and this is a wholeness or well-being that’s multidimensional.

I quoted in a sermon somewhere in the last year or so about Tim Keller. He has a really helpful article in the NIV Study Bible and you can get on the NIV Study Bible website, it has a really helpful article about Shalom and he says Shalom is ‘multidimensional – it’s complete well-being, physical, psychological, social and spiritual. It flows from all of one’s relationships being put right with God, with and in one’s self, and with others.’

And so this idea of Shalom is so rich and wide and varied and deep. It’s much more than peace, it’s much more than prosperity and it’s not just spiritual. We often equate with this peace with being just spiritual but it’s more than that, but the spiritual is core to it because from that spiritual can come the rest. From that righteousness, that right relationship with God, that walking in his ways, can come peace, can come compassion for the needy. It’s interesting that the needy are spoken of a couple of times, ‘to save the children of the needy, in verse 4, ‘to save the needy from death’ verse thirteen, and what we have to remember is that in the wisdom literature in particular death generally was not seen as just happening and often death would come about through your choice. Obviously that’s not always the case but saving the needy from death, this way of life that they were maybe trapped in because of the injustice around them, and so this idea that the most defenceless, those most unable to protect themselves, had to be helped, had to be protected, that this was part of the king’s role and calling, and so part of his kingdom and part of what he expects of his subjects, you and I as well.

And so, we are reminded that they are ‘precious’ verse 14, those who suffer from oppression and violence, those who are needy and weak, that ‘precious is their blood’ or is their life to him. And we know this of our Saviour, we know he speaks of His father, whom he represents on earth, Jesus speaks of the Father saying he knows how many hairs upon our head, he speaks of a Father who so loves us that he gives his Son for this world, for you and I, for the weak the oppressed, the needy.

But first comes that righteousness and why I’m kind of labouring this point is that if we are going to change our way of life, if we are going to give ourselves for the purposes of God, if we are even going to learn what way is, then we need that righteousness – not just that right relationship with God, but to train us in his way of righteousness, to train us in his ways, to have his heart.

And to have that, as 2nd Timothy 3:16 says, teaching, training, maturing us in righteousness – that we need God to help us see the ways that we’re just not seeing what he is about, we’re just not seeing his priorities, we need to be taught and rebuked and we need to be corrected and trained in his ways – not just to be a nice person but to love with a radical, dangerous, even zealous love we might say.

And I think part of why this is on my heart just now is another book I was reading in my week off, and I’ve been reading it for a while, is a book I was recommended, that I’ve heard many people speak of it, and a number of people follow the author online.

Wow, it’s an incredible book, emotionally charged because of the topic but what he writes, and he was a missionary so he’s steeped in the scriptures, but his understanding of God’s ways, of His righteousness is second to none, particularly in this subject matter and so I’ll finally give you the name and title, it’s Krish Kandiah, and his book is ‘Home for Good: making a difference for children in need’ and he’s writing particularly about fostering and adoption, in particular in the UK. He is a British Christian and he is part of a campaign called ‘Home for Good’ which is seeking to encourage the church to consider how it might support and get involved with adoption and fostering. There’s so much in the book that that really struck me, but I guess one of the things that’s kind of stuck with me a little bit is that we often look for ways, I guess in our context: how can we show the world that we care, that Jesus makes a difference? What is the issue of our time that can speak to our nation, can be prophetic to them, can help them see the ways of God and the love of God? And Krish makes a
very convincing case for adoption and fostering to be that way and he said something that was really profound and striking for me. He said that if one family or one individual in every church in the UK was to get involved in adoption or fostering and be supported by their church family then the church alone could eradicate the need of and the lack of fostering homes and adoption homes in the UK. And I wondered, does that stack up? And so I know from Falkirk Council that they need something like forty five fostering places and then for Falkirk Presbytery alone of the Church of Scotland there are 35 churches. There must be at least another ten in the Falkirk area, we’ve got a couple just up the road in Madison for example. So easily the church could meet that need. So I’m just throwing it out there in case it speaks to someone and because as you as you read the Psalms and God’s ways, meeting the needs of the needy, who could be more ‘needy’ verse 4 ‘saving the children of the needy’ as Krish clearly paints in this book – these desperately needy children and maybe part of how the kingdom comes in our time is that disciples like you and I allow God’s Spirit to convict us, to challenger us, to rebuke us, even correct us, to train us in righteousness and the ways of God that we might take that zealous, dangerous, risky step of faith and open our homes to the children who are desperately in need. I wonder if that’s how the justice and righteousness of God in our time comes to fruition and the kingdom is extended – not to convert these children, to love them. We don’t turn them into a project, but we love them, and we evidence that God is on the move.

But you know, this is all quite challenging. How do we see this come about? How do we have the strength, the courage, to take such steps? How do we see God’s kingdom come through us? Well on Sunday we spoke about praying ‘thy kingdom come’ but Sunday was also Pentecost, and I just didn’t have the time or the space to weave in a whole other thread, so forgive me that I missed an incredibly important aspect of how the kingdom comes. But I wanted to focus on Sunday on the kingdom, on praying for the kingdom.

But as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, as we pray thy kingdom come, we open ourselves up to the influence of the Spirit – for him to identify the ways that we need to grow and change and get to know God better, and so often the church entwines praying for the kingdom with praying for the coming of the Spirit. Because it’s only going to be by the Spirit working in us and through us that that we will see the kingdom come. We have to break this idea in the Western Church and especially I’m afraid in the Church of Scotland, that if we somehow have the resources, that if were just clever enough or creative enough or strategic enough or have good enough management or enough money or a good enough building that it’s all going to fall into place. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at changing people’s hearts, I’m not really very good at changing people’s minds, and I’m not very good at making people become less of a sinner. I don’t know how you are, I just know that I’m not very good at it and that’s because these things are the work of God’s Spirit. And so we need to be praying thy kingdom come and come Holy Spirit upon us, upon our area, upon our nation because we can’t do it in our own strength – as the prophet Zechariah reminds us (chapter 4 verse 6) that is not by our strength not by our own might but by the Spirit that God’s kingdom comes.

One of my favourite letters about the Spirit is Ephesians because Paul speaks of the Spirit there so much and so if you’re wanting ideas of things to be praying about in relation to the Spirit go there. For I realise the Spirit is not the person of God that we feel most comfortable with. God the Father, yes, Jesus, sure, but with the Spirit we often feel like, “Who and what does he do?” So often we call him an “it” which really we shouldn’t because it sounds like we’re just making the Spirit into a force like in Star Wars but the Spirit is a person, a “he”.

Paul, who is so steeped in God’s ways, has as these prayers laced throughout the verses of, such as Ephesians 1 verse 17: that ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation would be given so that you may know God better’, get to know our Heavenly Father better. Or what about in chapter 3? Praying for the Spirit to be given so we would have strength through his power, the power of the Spirit, ‘in our inner being so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith’: that he would be a home in our inner person, in our hearts and our souls and our minds and so he would rule there and lead us in his ways of righteousness that bring His compassion, that bring his justice his righteousness and so His kingdom would come in our midst and through our lives.

Understandably then Paul speaks in chapter five verse 18 that we are not to get drunk on wine not to get drunk in alcohol not to give way to that, but to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ – we are to keep being filled with the Spirit, asking to be filled with the Spirit: “God fill me with your Spirit so that your kingdom would come, that I might know you better, that I may embody the love of Jesus, that I may embody his justice and his righteousness that compassion would flow, that justice would flow, that your wholeness would come in my life and through my life to others”.

Again thinking about the work of the Strategy Group we have very deliberately in the four values that we’re beginning to test and suggest, everyone mentions the Spirit because of this, because it’s not feasible by us in our own strength, or by our own resources. And it’s not even just by having His Word, because his word is alive and active because of the Spirit, breathing it to being in the first place through the various writers and it is the Spirit that makes it alive and active and sharper than any sword, piercing to the very core of our being – the Spirit upon the Word and through the people of God to bring the righteousness, to bring the kingdom, of God in our lives, in our midst, that the blessing of God, the wholeness of God may come to our parish, to our nation, to you and I, to our families and friends.

My friends, do you long for this? Then pray thy kingdom come, come Holy Spirit. So, why don’t we take some time to do that just know? Let us pray.

I yearn for the Kingdom (Psalm 72)

Preached on: Sunday 31st May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-31-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 72
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 72 (International Children’s Bible)
Sunday 31st May 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – what am I saying?
Do you know? Could you remember? It was the start of the prayer Jesus taught us, we prayed it today:
‘Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come…’
(Matthew 6:9-10)

We say this prayer every Sunday and hopefully you’re starting to learn both the prayer and the sign language so that you can join in and say it with us.
Now, Jesus wasn’t the first person to encourage us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come into the world because about one thousand years before Jesus this psalm was written. Our psalm today is one example of a prayer where God’s people prayed for God’s Kingdom to come, and they probably prayed it when a new king of Israel started to reign as king. It might have first been used when Solomon was starting out as king and the people would have prayed this psalm, asking, hoping that Solomon would be a good king and receive from God, God’s justice and righteousness, God’s goodness, so that God’s Kingdom would be seen on the earth. I wonder, can you remember any other names of kings in Israel? I’ll give you 30 seconds to see what you can come up with.

So, I wonder what names you remembered – if you want, you can share them in the live chat just now. You might have said good kings like David or Josiah. Or, you might have said some bad kings, like Jeroboam or Ahab. But even the good kings were not perfect, not as perfect as what the people prayed for in this psalm. Also, none of the kings stayed as ‘king’ for ever, and none of them reigned over as big an area as the people prayed for – they prayed for all the nations to be blessed because of the king (v17), for they wanted everyone to know God’s justice, protection, and peace, or we might say wholeness. And so, the people had to keep praying this prayer, until one day someone very special came – who do you think this was boys and girls? Who was this special person? Shout it out loud of me! (PAUSE)
That’s right – it was Jesus. When Jesus had grown up to become a man and started going around teaching people about God, He said this:
‘The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15)

Jesus was saying, that because He had come to earth, then the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world and starting to change the world. Another time Jesus said:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
(Luke 4:18-21)

As Jesus started going around helping people, healing people, teaching people, the kingdom of God started to come into people’s lives and change their lives. That prayer, which God’s people had been praying for hundreds of years, was coming true through Jesus, because Jesus is the perfect King, the King of God’s Kingdom, and so people started to experience God’s justice and righteousness; they started to experience God’s peace, His shalom, the gift of wholeness; the people knew that what Jesus said of Himself was true: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…’ (Matthew 11:28) or another time He said, ‘…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (John 4:14)
The hopes of that psalm were coming true in Jesus… because Jesus was God’s promised King, the King the people had been praying and waiting for, the King through whom God’s Kingdom would come upon the earth and change people’s lives.

So, why did Jesus include a line in His prayer, which says, ‘Your Kingdom come’? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that. (PAUSE)

Again, if you want to, you can share your ideas in the live chat just now because there’s probably lots of things we could say. But I wonder if part of the reason is that Jesus wanted to shape our agenda, because what you care about, you pray about. I wonder, what do we pray about?
How high up the agenda is God’s Kingdom in our prayer life?
Or, do we simply jump into ‘give me my daily bread’…
and rarely get past that? Not that God doesn’t care for our daily bread, He told us to pray about it after all. But, do you want to see this world get better? Do you? Do you want to see justice reign and love for neighbour to grow? Then pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you want to see the poor treated right and to know life in your own soul and mind and body? Then pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you want to see crime and addictions and isolation and hopelessness decrease? Then pray for the Kingdom of God to come. Maybe Jesus includes that line, and puts it so near the top, so as to challenge us, to recalibrate our priorities, and to call us to seek His Kingdom and pray for His Kingdom, because it is the coming of His Kingdom into this world and into our individual lives that will bring the wholeness, the blessing, which our psalm spoke of.
So, in these difficult days, are we praying for God’s Kingdom to come? Are we praying for light to come into darkness, and for love to come where people are lonely? Are we praying for creativity and understanding in the issue of a vaccination? This too is to pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

And what about the situation here in the Braes area, as we face a future with 2 ministers instead of 5 – how high up our agenda is the Kingdom of God? Or is our focus more on our little area, our stuff, our buildings, our reputation, our minister, our comfort, our needs? Or can we pray, ‘Your Kingdom come’? Because if we pray this, then our focus may move from ourselves and to the wider concerns of God’s Kingdom, through which blessing and wholeness will come to our area and beyond.
There is much more to say, and I’ll share some of that in our Tuesday Evening Sermon, so join me then, if you’re able or get the recording later in the week.

But let us be a people who pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come’, not simply by rote, not simply because of tradition, but because our hearts yearn for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus to come in our midst, that the people in our parishes, in our workplaces, in our families and circle of friends, might experience in increasing measure the kingdom of God, and so know with certainty that one day they will experience the fullness of God’s kingdom when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face.

Until that day, we pray, Thy Kingdom come. May it be so.

I will open my mouth (Psalm 78)

Preached on: Sunday 17th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-17-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 78
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 78 (International Children’s Bible)
Sunday 17th May 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, one of our activities this morning was to make this: a paper chain! Have you started yours? If you do make one, please share your pictures with us in our Facebook groups so we can see all your hard work.

Now, when you are making the paper chain, one of the things we’d like you to write on the links are the things you think we should remember about God and Jesus. You might write about the amazing things God has done, or what Jesus was like. For all of us, young and young at heart, what would you include on the links? What deeds or attributes of God would you remember?…
I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or discuss at home!

Boys and girls, if you haven’t already started, I hope you’ll take some time during the service or this afternoon to make your own memory chain at home. Now, if I decided to cut this link what would happen? Can you guess? (CUT) The chain falls apart! Or say, someone passed me a new link for the chain (PASS – THANKS!), but then I just put it to the side and forget to use the link, what would happen then? The chain would stay broken! It’s only when we use the links that we keep the chain whole and it works as it should, because a broken chain is not a very pretty thing.

So, why are we talking about chains and remembering things? Well, in our psalm today, we are given a challenge…
to remember, to remember what God has done, and pass that on to the next generation.

The psalmist said:
‘…I will tell things that have been secret since long ago.
We have heard them and know them.
Our fathers told them to us.
We will not keep them from our children. We will tell those who come later about the praises of the Lord. We will tell about his power
and the miracles he has done.’ (v2-4)

Like an unbroken chain we are meant to pass on the stories, the testimony, of what God has done and what He is like, so that a community of faith continues.
I was really encouraged on Tuesday night to hear people from Brightons Church share their stories of faith, talking about the difference Jesus has made to their lives. It was so powerful – and if you’ve not listened to them yet, I encourage you to check out our YouTube channel, for these stories remind us that God is at work today, changing people’s lives and that we can all know this God.

But what do we mean by the “next generation”? Are we simply thinking of children and young people? Equally, could it also be people who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s or older and know nothing of what God has done? So, whether child or adult, how do we enable this whole generation to know our incredible God?

Well, broadly speaking, we need to be that link in the chain – actively passing on the faith, some way, some how – so that we put the words of Jesus into practice, He said: ‘go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19-20) How we do that, what that looks like, we still need to figure out a bit and equip one another to do it in Brightons, and in the Braes area. But let me flag up two things with you.

Firstly, this passing on of the deeds and character of God, has never simply been about head knowledge – the goal is not for children or adults to be super knowledgeable about the Bible. No, God’s goal has always been that the next generation should experience, should meet and know the Creator and Saviour of all as they are told… about Him, responding to Him for themselves.

Now, we might find that a bit uncomfortable, because that’s not necessarily what was taught to us – we were maybe taught stories and good morals, and to fulfil religious duty – but that’s not what God is ultimately seeking. He is seeking a people, a family who know Him, and actively love and follow Him. So, as we seek to be a link in the chain, to pass on the testimony of what God has done, we might need to step out of what we find comfortable, if we truly want to help the next generation love God with their heart, by experiencing Him, knowing Him, not just knowing about Him.

And to achieve that, there’s a second thing I want to flag up, which has its roots in an old proverb which says:
“it takes a village to raise a child”. Similarly, it takes a whole church, even a family of churches, to reach and raise the next generation in the knowledge of the Lord. And so, we really do, even in lockdown, need to learn how to pull together across the Braes area, across the generations in Brightons Church, because research suggests that for a child to grow towards a healthy faith, they need five adults, outside of their family, investing in them. And for one adult to come to faith, they may need to hear the Good News of Jesus up to 30 times.

I think of the many children involved in our Sunday School, or our Boys and Girls Brigades, and I wonder: who are the five investing in each of them? I see the adults in our community, and I wonder: who’s sharing the Good News with them? So, this a big ask, a huge investment… of time and energy, and to make this possible we need to be intentional about it, this doesn’t just happen. So, I hope that in the coming months we might see ideas come out of the various teams within the church to facilitate this, to equip us in this calling to be a link in the chain.

Now sadly, as the psalm remind us, too often God’s people allowed the chain to break. The first generation who were rescued from Egypt:
‘…turned against God so often in the desert!
There they made him very sad.
Again and again they tested God.
They brought pain to the Holy One of Israel.’ (v40-41) And yet despite God being grieved so badly, future generations did not learn the lesson, indeed those who settled in the new land:
‘…turned away and sinned just like their ancestors… They made God angry by building places to worship false gods.
They made him jealous with their idols.’ (v57-58)

Both generations forgot – they forgot what God had done, and so they grieved God, with their forgetfulness and then with their adultery, paining the heart of God by spurning Him and breaking the chain.

Yet, the psalm not only calls us to learn from their mistakes, this prayer also reminds us of God’s faithfulness, that He made promises and He will keep them…

And so, the psalmist talks about someone – boys and girls, can you remember who is named at the end of this psalm? If I gave you a clue, could you fill in the blanks? It’s…David! That’s right, the person who wrote this prayer remembers that God brought David, from being a what? Can you remember what David’s first job was? He was a…shepherd, he looked after sheep and so God brought David to look after His people instead; David was to lead them and care for them as their King but like a shepherd.

What we’re supposed to see here, is that God is faithful to His people and to His promises, even despite His people, because God is full of love and grace and forgiveness. He will keep His promises, even if that looks very different from what His people expect.
Jesus also made several promises. For example, He said,
‘…I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20) But He also said, ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ (Matthew 16:18) Jesus will build His church, His universal church. He will remain faithful to that promise, and the degree to which we give ourselves to our role, as a link in the chain, to go make disciples, that will affect the likelihood of our local churches continuing for future generations by helping those generations know and follow the Lord.

Jesus said of Himself: ‘I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ (John 10:10-11) Jesus came to fulfil the promise of God and the hopes of His people. Jesus came to offer us life by… laying down His own life. Yet He rose again victorious over the grave, to be our eternal Shepherd, then, now and for all the days to come. A shepherd who would never leave us nor forsake us, a shepherd who would fulfil His promise, build His church, and ensure the gates of Hades never prevail.

Friends, I pray that we may know the Good Shepherd, know Him close in these difficult days, and as we remember His deeds and character, especially His love shown on the cross, may we find new hope and new conviction so that we resolve to be that link in the chain, and enable the next generation to know Him for themselves. May it be so. Amen.

I will confess (Psalm 32)

Preached on: Sunday 10th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-10-Morning-Message-PowerPoint-Study.
Bible references: Psalm 32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 32 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 10th May 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, do you like stories? I love a good story and during lockdown I’ve been reading books by my favourite author. Shout out for me your favourite story at the top of your voice! (PAUSE) Wow those sound like amazing stories and I’m sure you’ve read them lots of times!

But we don’t only read about stories, we often tell stories to each other – hands up if you’ve been video calling friends and family? Me too – we’ve been calling people to tell them what we’ve been doing, and it’s been lovely to tell our stories.
There might also be things around our homes which help us remember important stories in our lives. Let me show you some things which do that for me, in my home.


In all our lives there are moments which are important, which shape our lives, and there may be pictures or ornaments that help us remember those moments.

I wonder, boys and girls, what big things can you remember doing with your family? I’ll give everyone thirty seconds to talk or think about that at home. (PAUSE)
Our psalm today is another prayer by David, and it is thought that David may have written this prayer… sometime after events in the Bible when David made some bad choices; it’s the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah. Because of David’s selfishness he chose to commit adultery and then to lie and then to cover it all up. Psalm 51 was probably written at the time when David owned up to his mistakes, but Psalm 32, our reading today, was written later on, as he reflected on what had happened and how it had shaped his life.

So, it’s really interesting that David chooses to write a prayer about this – it’s like he chooses to hang up a picture about his past mistakes and invites people to remember his story! I suspect many of us would find that a little bit uncomfortable. So, why does David do it? I’ll give you another thirty seconds to think about that or talk about it at home. (PAUSE)
Let me share with you what I think David’s psalm teaches us about why he chose to share his story. Firstly, it seems like David has found happiness, joy, by coming to know God’s forgiveness. In verses 1 to 2, he says: ‘When God has forgiven someone’s sins, they are truly happy!
They may have turned against God, but when God forgives them, they are happy. They may have done something bad, but when the Lord says, ‘Not guilty!’, he has truly blessed them…’ (v1-2)

And David is not alone in feeling that way; many people can speak of knowing greater peace, contentment, hope when they have asked God to forgive them. Sometimes people may feel this because they were worried…
about the future, or about what happens after we die, but I think many more people have experienced joy, peace and hope because when they received God’s forgiveness they also came into a meaningful relationship with God. That was my experience, and I’ll tell some more of my story on Tuesday evening.

Yet David speaks of this himself as well – did you notice how he structures the psalm? First there’s forgiveness and flowing from that comes knowing God as his refuge (v6-7), then having God as a guide into the “right way” or the best way to live (v8), then in verse 10 comes knowing God’s unfailing love and finally in verse 11, having a true and deep sense that you ‘belong to the Lord’. It’s really no wonder that David says people are happy and blessed when they have their sins forgiven.
But I wonder if that all sounds too good to you? Or, I wonder to what degree it matches with your experience of being a Christian? And to each of those questions, I want to share something specific.

Firstly, on Tuesday evening, in place of a sermon, I’m hoping to have 5 or 6 of you share your story about the difference God’s forgiveness has made to your life. I’d like to get all sorts of stories – from men, from women; from the young and the less young; stories of people who came to faith in a moment and stories of those who came to faith over time.

My hope is that hearing these stories may help us all. We may learn a different kind of story and so expect more of
God. We may hear a story a little like ours and so…
feel affirmed. We may hear a story and yearn for God to do that in our lives as well. So, join us on Tuesday evening as we hear the stories of others.

But I’m still looking for 3 or 4 more stories, so please get in touch this afternoon if you are a Christian and can share how God’s forgiveness makes a difference in your life. Please don’t allow fear to stop you – because what if your story, like David’s story, is the one people need to hear to help them find hope? Imagine if David had kept quiet about his experience – would we realise that God is ready and willing to forgive any, and all, of our sins? Without David’s story, would we realise that it’s only when we quit the pretence of being perfect, and own up to our mistakes, that it’s only then do we come into a right and meaningful relationship with God?
I’m so grateful for this psalm because of what it teaches about God and the kind of relationship we can have with Him. So, friends, I look forward to hearing from you this afternoon, because it’s important we tell our stories.

But what if this psalm doesn’t match with your experience of being a Christian? Specifically, some of you may say you’ve never really known God as refuge, or guide, or any sense of having Him surround you with His unfailing love, or you belong to Him. If we were meeting together I might ask some questions and try to understand some of your story, even though I wouldn’t necessarily have an “answer”, but I’d be curious to know what your relationship with God is like. Because I’ve known a little of those feelings myself – before I came to know God’s forgiveness, I believed in God, but…
He seemed pretty distant. I did not know Him as a refuge or guide, nor did I have any sense of belonging to Him.

I think that’s because, until that point, I didn’t truly understand forgiveness. You see, most of us grow up with an idea that God is so loving and nice that we can ask God for forgiveness, He’ll just give us it, and then we can carry on as normal. But again, notice the progression in the psalm – David is forgiven by humbling himself, and stays humble by being open to God’s teaching.

Boys and girls, can you remember our second song this morning? If I did the actions, would it help? (ACTIONS)

That’s it – “I’m following the King”… “I’m ready to obey, to listen to His Word.” In my own life,…

I must have asked for God’s forgiveness many times in Sunday School and church, but it wasn’t until around the age of 19 that I came to the point of bending the knee to Jesus, of truly accepting Him as my King, or as the Bible calls Him, my Lord. And that meant allowing Jesus to call the shots; allowing Him to teach me what values, principles, priorities to have.

You know, if you look around my home, you won’t actually see any pictures of faith – there’s no pictures of Jesus, there’s no pictures of the cross. And it got me thinking – most of us don’t have pictures of Jesus or faith around the house, and that’s OK, because it should be in our lives that people see Jesus, it should be in our lives that the story of us bending the knee to Jesus should be seen.
So, if I looked at your life, if I look at my own life, what would I see? Would I see the values and priorities of Jesus? Would I see the ways you bend the knee to Him? Is your life somehow different because of the forgiveness you have received through Jesus?

It’s my experience, that when we bend the knee, heed His teaching, and allow Him to be Lord and King over every area of our lives, that then our relationship with Jesus becomes meaningful and we come to know Him as refuge and guide, with a true sense of belonging to Him. But it begins first, most often, with forgiveness.

I wonder friends, do we know the forgiveness of Jesus, and with that have we welcomed Him as Lord and King? I pray that we might, and so come to know the same joy… as David and have a story to tell of God’s grace which speaks to others in our day and in the days to come.

May it be so. Amen.

I will declare Your Name (Psalm 22 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 5th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-05-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 22
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 22 (NIV)
Tuesday 5th May 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Once again in tonight’s sermon, I’m going to draw upon the parts of the psalm left out from Sunday morning so as to help us see what else these contribute to the all age message which was shared. Because clearly the absence and action of God are core to this psalm, and so it wonderfully weaves together raw honesty with worldchanging hope, and these ideas are still there in the other verses of our psalm.

Having now heard this prayer a second time, we might begin to feel quite familiar with the struggle David is facing. He feels forsaken, he feels that God is absent,… and this just doesn’t make sense to David, and so he cries out, “My God, my God, why…”

The specific occasion that raises this question for David is not revealed to us, yet we see in some of the later verses, the affliction he faces. There are enemies which treat him so badly that David says: ‘I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.’

David feels reduced and degraded below the status of a human being by the taunts of his enemies; he is dehumanised by their attacks such that he sees himself in these early verses of lament as little more than a worm.
This fierce attack reduces David to fear and weakness. He describes these oppressors in the imagery of animals. The lion and the ox represent the epitome of power; the dogs and pack of villains evoke a picture of helpless prey being surrounded. As such, his strength departs like water poured out on the ground so that his body feels awkward and out of control. Similarly, the psalmist’s heart, his courage, melts away like wax before a fierce flame. He feels weakened by fear and unable to speak as death approaches. So desperate is his situation, that he speaks of his ‘precious life’ – his only life – now hanging in the balance.

Yet what makes this even worse for David is that he feels that these vicious animals can only have come close because God is so far away, and that is a scenario… he never expected, it boggles his mind and rends his soul, because he feels forsaken, he feels like no one is there to help, not even his God.

And that is a struggle for David because God has revealed Himself, and been praised by Israel, as ‘the Holy One’. To name God in this way is short-hand for affirming that God is set apart, unique, from human beings, as such God is seen as pure, righteous, and so should always be known and praised for His faithfulness to His promises. As one commentator said:
‘To say that God is holy in the midst of lament about unanswered prayer means that God is not indifferent or impotent like the pagan gods – He is different; He has power; and He has a history of answering prayer.’
(Goldingay, Psalms, page 327)
In the tension of who David knows God to be, and the experience of what he faces, the psalmist cries out: ‘My
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

As we saw on Sunday, this prayer can be a model for us when we are in the midst of terrible times, moments when we face the apparent absence of God. We can, as the saints and people of God have done over the centuries, we can take these words to our lips, take this form of prayer, this very lament, and use it to echo the depths of anguish we may feel. The psalms give us permission, as does Jesus, to come with raw honesty before our God.

Yet, it’s also fitting to remember that these psalms were later compiled and used within the corporate worship… of Israel, indeed, the later part of this psalm itself raises the very idea. So, this psalm, and the other laments we find in the Psalms, were not only for individuals but also to facilitate the corporate voice of Israel, the corporate voice of lament. And that raises two ideas for me.

Firstly, is not such a psalm fitting for our times, as a nation, as a world even, to give us all a voice, a form of words, a form of prayer, to echo the rending of our souls in these difficult times?

But secondly, to find such a psalm in the Scriptures, to know such a psalm was used in the corporate worship of Israel, and not cast aside, but allowed to remain and be seen as inspired by God such that it should form part of the Word of God – does this not maybe challenge us about our corporate worship? Do we have space in our time, in our songs, in our prayers, for lament? Would we even know how to weave that in and facilitate it? And would we be willing, in an age which hungers for answer and ease and contentment, would we be willing for the raw, honest questions to be raised and even sometimes left hanging, unsure of how it will be answered?

Part of my faith journey has been learning to live with mystery, with questions unanswered. I have found that to be hard, frustrating, soul rending at times, rending not only once, but year on year, when an anniversary comes round or an event happens, and once again the mystery raises its ugly head and the pain returns. I wonder friends, if you are in that place, or know of that pain? And do you say with David, ‘My God, my God, why…?’
But as I’ve also said, even in recent weeks, there are some things I cling to, and likewise, David had things he clung to as well. About the middle of the psalm, David finally, and only once, uses the covenant name of God: ‘LORD’ in the English, or ‘Yahweh’ in the Hebrew. By invoking that name of God, David can recall the very great promises given to him, and to his forefathers. We looked at this in detail in our autumn series on the kingdom of God. We saw there that God made this promise to David in 2nd Samuel:
‘“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom….I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me…”’
(2 Samuel 7:11-16)
David remembers this promise as he calls on the name of the Lord, but maybe he also remembers that far older, even greater, promise made to his forefather Abraham: ‘The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’
(Genesis 12:1-3)

Maybe David, by the Spirit of God, calls both promises to mind because from verse 19 the tone changes. Another way of translating verse 19 is this:
‘But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid’

In verse 11, David said there was ‘no one to help’, yet now, he remembers that the Lord is his help, for the Lord has made great promises to David and to his father Abraham. From verse 19 David grows in confidence, his hope returns, and eventually he is able to envisage a future where that great promise to Abraham comes to fruition, and all the nations remember and turn to the Lord, to Yahweh. In that future, the nations are drawn, as if by a magnet, to worship the Lord and to know His blessing. As they submit to His power…
‘the poor will eat and be satisfied…the rich of the earth will feast and worship’ (v26, 29) – there is a levelling of the rich and poor – and those who have gone ‘down to the dust…who [could not] keep themselves alive’ – they are there too and enjoying the reign of God.

All this David appears to hold on to as he calls upon Yahweh, the Lord, the one who has made covenant with him and with his forefathers. I wonder, in the midst of our searching, our wrestling, what promises do we call to mind? Do we even call these promises to mind?

I guess that will depend on what we make of these promises. Are they simply wishful thinking on the part of David and previous generations? Is this prayer just a poem, or a corporate worship song, rather than anything more?

So, this is where we need to remember Jesus. Yes, what I said on Sunday still stands – this prayer, said by Jesus, speaks of His identification with our suffering and our sense of abandonment. But equally, the psalm speaks of prophecy, speaks of God’s will…being done.

As I highlighted a little in our service, much of this psalm can be seen in the life, and especially the crucifixion, of Jesus. Of course, we know that Jesus prays verse 1 Himself on the cross, but verses 6 to 8, and verses 12 to 15, remind us of the mockers who gathered around Jesus and said:
‘He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him…’ (Matthew 27:43)

Or the incident where Jesus’ clothes are divided up by the casting of lots, which is written in verse 18 of our psalm and highlighted in John chapter 19, verses 23-24.

Then there’s the verse which speaks of hands and feet being pierced, verse 16. If you look at the various translations, you might notice that there is some variance in the words. The Good News says: ‘they tear at my hands and feet.’ The NRSV says, ‘my hands and feet have shrivelled.’

The issue here is largely due to how you translate one particular Hebrew word, but ‘pierce’ seems the best fit, not due to the crucifixion of Jesus, but because when the Hebrew version of Psalm 22 was translated into Greek around the 3rd century BC, the translators at that time chose ‘pierce’. This means, at least two hundred years before Jesus, the Jews thought that the word should be ‘pierce’. Two hundred years before Jesus, was a prophecy, initially given at around 1000 years before Jesus, that someone was pierced in the hands and feet, that that person had their clothes divided by lot, that person would be surrounded by mockers, that person would suffer as an afflicted one, that person would lead to the conquering of death and the affirmation that God has done it, it is finished. To my mind, this all points to Jesus and indeed Psalm 22 has been seen as containing prophecy concerning Jesus since the early church.

So, if God could bring about the fulfilment of that part of the prophecy, then God is able to bring the rest of the psalm to fruition as well. God’s will, will be done…
God is present and He is working out His good promises, including that day when we will see the nations return to Him and know His blessing. What God promises, He brings about; no if’s, no buts – for there is a King, of the line of David, sitting now upon the divine throne, even if all evidence might cause some to mock and call into question the very existence of God, as the mockers did in David’s day.

But holding on in faith to the promises of God is nothing new for God’s people; indeed, the early church did that very thing, for as Paul reminds us:
‘Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.’ (1 Cor. 1:22-25)

The wisdom of this world, or own human wisdom, might seek to either rubbish the Good News of Jesus, or even simply downplay it. But in His wisdom, God has chosen to act in the person of His Son, and that doesn’t answer all the questions; even with the coming, death and resurrection of Jesus we still face mystery. And yet, He also gives us ground for hope, a world-changing hope: that God is faithful to His promises, and one day, one day, the dead will rise, the old order of things will pass away, God’s blessing to extend to the nations, and we will all say, ‘He has done it.’

In the meantime, we have that call to share in the choice of the psalmist: ‘I will declare Your name…’ (v21) – yes, beginning with the people of God, but as the Great Commission of Jesus shows, we are called to ‘go make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey…’ the Lord (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s quite hard to teach without making known, without declaring. You and I might have quite different roles in this, but we are all called to share our faith, to make known what God has done.

Now, what we read in verse 22 onwards is likely from a thanksgiving service where David fulfilled a vow (v25). David had prayed and then he was delivered, and the Old Testament Law encouraged those who had vowed some service to God, and found their prayer granted, well they were to fulfil that vow with a sacrifice,…
followed by a feast, which might last as long as two days. They were not to keep their happiness to themselves, but to invite servants and other needy folk to eat with them in celebration of God’s faithfulness.

Strikingly, I came across a quote this week, which I’ve heard before, yet never knew where it came from. It is accredited to Indian missionary D.T. Niles, who once described Christian mission as ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.’ We are to share the feast with others; we are to invite them to the feast of God, that they too might ‘proclaim His righteousness, declaring…He has done it.’

So, how might we do that? It’s interesting, I’ve had conversations even in the last week which have sown ideas and encouragement. For example, I was talking with one member of our congregation and she was telling me about how she was inviting friends, family and even neighbours to come watch the church service online.

Or there was the discussion we had within the Discipleship Team last week about running the Alpha Course online from September, just as many people are doing, even now. The church where Alpha is based out of, were starting a weekly online course during the first month of the pandemic in the UK, such was the interest in an online course. We may very well go with the idea, but ultimately Alpha works by people being invited, and they’ll only be invited if you are in their life and ready and willing to invite them. So, I’m just sowing the seed, because sometime over the summer you might want to bring up the idea with them.

Or, how about sharing a summary of the Sunday message if it was helpful to you, or a prayer from our Facebook page or website, if those were helpful to you? There are lots of easy ways we might share our faith and help others to begin a journey of finding hope through Jesus.

Friends, brothers and sisters, in these days, may the words of Psalm 22 be an encouragement to come before the Lord with raw honesty, knowing that He has shared our experience of the absence of God. But equally, may Psalm 22 also encourage us to say with David, “I will declare Your name…” and then go on to fulfil our vow, one beggar to another. May it be so. Amen.

I will declare Your name (Psalm 22)

Preached on Sunday 5th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-03-Morning-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 22
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 22 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 3rd May 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, what do you think this noise is? Listen up! (PLAY SOUND OF ROARING LION)
Can you guess what that noise was? Shout out your answer! The right answer is…“a lion”. Well done if that’s what you said!

The sound you heard was a lion roaring. Do you think you can hear a lion roar from very far away (stretch hands) or only very close (put hands close)? Where will you put your hands? What you going to pick?…the answer is very far away, sometimes even miles away.
Now, why are we talking about lions?! Well, in the psalm we read today, we heard another prayer of David, and he begins with these words: ‘My God! My God, why have you left me alone? Why is my help far away? I am crying out in great pain!’ (v1)

How do you think David is feeling at the start of this prayer? Thumbs up if you think he’s feeling good…thumbs down for not feeling good…I think David is…not feeling good. I think he is feeling sad, hurt, scared by things that are happening around him and to him.

And so, David cries out to God in prayer, he roars to God, as loud as a lion because God seems distant; God seems absent. I don’t think David is looking for an answer to his questions; I think he just wants God to act!
Because what makes this even more difficult for David is that God has acted before, both for David and for his ancestors. David says: ‘Our ancestors trusted in you…[and] you saved them. They called to you and…you did not disappoint them.’ (v4-5) David cannot make sense of God’s absence, God’s distance, because that has not been the case for others.

Also, David remembers that God was like a midwife to him when he was young: ‘Lord, you brought me safely to birth….From the day that I was born, I was already in your care. You have been my God since my mother gave birth to me.’ (v9-10)
God brought David safely into the world and laid him upon his mother – so again, why is God absent, so distant, that the roar of David’s soul is not heard?
Now, I wonder if we resonate with David’s words here? Does God seem absent and distant to us? Do you feel in the depths of anguish and doubt just now? Is your plea also for God not be far from you and to help? And if you are in that place, or if you’ve been in that place, I wonder if you think your faith is failing or imperfect?

Last week I mentioned a few times when I had experienced difficulties, and in one of those periods of life I remember being on a weekend away in Pitlochry with friends from church. We invited a speaker to come that weekend, a minister, and in some of my free time I spoke with him about how I was feeling, that what I had experienced had rocked my faith and I felt at my lowest, I felt far from God. I thought my faith was diminished.
But then he said, “what if this is the moment when your faith is actually at its strongest? Because it would be really easy to give up on God, to walk away, and yet you are holding on and seeking God even in these hard times. That speaks of faith to me, a strong faith.”

David says, ‘My God! My God…’ (v1), even when all the evidence suggests that God is absent, maybe non-
existent. David still holds on to his relationship with God because he sees what God has done in the past and so he continues to put his hope in God now. This is maybe the moment when his faith is strongest.

Boys and girls, there’s also something else very important about this psalm – do you know who else prayed these words? If I used some sign language, could you guess?
(sign the cross – palm to palm)
Who do you think prayed these words?…Did you guess? It’s “Jesus”! Many years after David, Jesus used the words of this prayer when He was facing the most difficult moment in His life: dying on the cross for our sin, dying there because He loved us. And when He was on the cross, and our sin was like a weight upon His shoulders, Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46)

As Jesus prays the words of David, upon the cross, it shows us that Jesus understands our hard times, He understands those moments when Father God seems distant, absent. Jesus encourages us to come to God with raw honesty and to see that as a sign of faith, maybe even the darkest moments of life.

This psalm of David is a prayer of lament, anguishing over the apparent absence of God, and yet it can be a model of prayer for us in these times as well.

But boys and girls, towards the end of the psalm, what David is feeling changes, he uses different words. Is David feeling upbeat (raise hands) or very low (lower hands) at the end of the psalm?…He’s feeling really upbeat, David is full of praise for God. So, why the sudden change?

Well in the middle of the psalm, we read these words: ‘Lord, please do not stay far away from me!…Keep me safe!…Save my life…I know that you have answered my prayer…God did not forget to help…He did not turn away…’ (v19-21, 24)

At some point God acted, at some point God broke the silence, He came close again and helped. And so now David is able to gather with his people and praise God, in fact he says: ‘I will tell my people how great you are…’ (v22) and then he calls others to join in praising God, to see that God is worthy of praise.

Now, this may feel similar to the “I will…” statement of last week’s psalm, but it is different. David is not simply talking to God about what God has done, David is talking to others about what God has done, first to his fellow Israelites, but then he envisages this good news of God rolling out to the nations and to future generations. This good news is that God is still Lord, God is still King, He is still on His throne despite the experiences we have which cause us to cry out, “my God, my God”.
What great action of God might we look to? What great action of God shows that He cares for us and for the nations? Well, of course, it’s the death and resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate sign of God’s love for this world, the way He broke the silence, speaking to us in the person of Jesus, drawing close to our brokenness, because Jesus is
Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)

Psalm 22 is used 24 times in the New Testament because again and again there are words and ideas here which point to Jesus and only Jesus. Never in the life of David does verse 16 actually happen: ‘a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.’

So, here is another prophetic word from God through
David, written hundreds of years before Jesus…

so as to help us see that Jesus is the promised one, the one who would be afflicted, broken, for the sake our world, to give us hope, a world-changing hope, the hope of Psalm 22.

Jesus, on the cross, roared out, “my God, my God…”, but He also said, “It is finished…” (John 19:30) Not a cry of defeat, but of victory – that His death was ushering in a glorious hope, even more glorious than what is painted in the psalm. Because our hope through Jesus is that one day a time will come when we see Him face to face, and ‘He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.’ (Rev. 21:4) Friends, this psalm, and the very life of Jesus, acknowledge the hard realities of our world; that we experience brokenness and the depths of anguish. Yet at the same time, both the psalm and the life of Jesus, remind us that God has acted, God has heard and delivered; ‘He has done it’, ‘it is finished’.

And so now, there is a call to take up those later words of David as well: ‘I will tell…how great you are…’ (v22 EEV), ‘I will declare your name…’ (v22 NIV) Brothers and sisters, in these difficult days, yes, this psalm invites us to be honest, but it also invites us to share the hope we have, because of Jesus, with others: that ‘He has done it’ (v31 NIV), ‘it is finished’ – God has broken the silence, He is not absent, but has acted and came close in Jesus. To Him be all glory, now and forever. Amen.
We’re going to take a moment to pray now, and in our prayer, we’re going to use the sign language for “Jesus”, which is this…we are going to do that four times, and each time remember or pray for something. So, let us pray.

Let us make the sign of Jesus and remember how He felt left alone, just as you might feel alone today.
Let us make the sign of Jesus again and remember that He died for us.
Let us make the sign of Jesus again and remember that Jesus rose from the dead, giving us hope.
Let us make the sign of Jesus one more time and ask to God to remind us of someone who needs to hear the good news of Jesus this week.
Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

I will praise (Psalm 16 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 28th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-28-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 16 (NIV)
Tuesday 28th April 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

In tonight’s sermon I’m going to focus much more on the remaining verses of the psalm, then come back to some of what I shared on Sunday because the all age message focused very much on verses 1, 2 and 7. Nevertheless, the theme of trusting God, even in the ‘dark nights’ (Psalm 16:7 EEV), will be the core of our reflecting tonight, because this psalm is all about trusting God, beginning in v1 and then detailing that through the other ten verses.

I think what this psalm teaches us, through the life and experience of David, is that trusting is having our identity in God, v3-6; trusting is also having our hope in God,… v8-11; and finally, trusting is living consciously before God, as we saw on Sunday.

So, let’s turn to v3-6, trusting is having our identity in God. This psalm is identified as a miktam, a form of prayer, and most of these have a description that tells us they were written whilst David was fleeing as a fugitive from Saul. So, it’s highly likely that this psalm too was written during this period of David’s life, a time when he had to live in the wilderness, far from home, far from the land of his forefathers.

Now, every Israelite clan was secure in their possession of a portion of land, with clear boundary lines determined by the throwing of the lot, and this was seen as their inheritance in the Promised Land. As such, we need to be mindful of this when we hear verses 5 and 6, which said:
‘Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.’

So, the language here would normally be understood in terms of the land and how it was apportioned and valued. But, remember the circumstances David finds himself in here – he is without land, without home, driven away. Normally, this should lead an Israelite to be mournful, destitute, feeling cast adrift and uncertain of their life and value because theirs was an identity tied to the land, much more than any affiliation we might have in our day to our land, whatever our nationality.
Yet, that is not what we see of David. Instead, we see someone who now sees the Lord as his portion; the Lord is his inheritance, and in this, in God, David delights, because trusting is having our identity in God. It is by losing that which would normally be of greatest value to an Israelite, that David is enabled to come into a deeper place with God, to have a greater depth of trust.

As such, we read of David’s resolve to trust only in the Lord, for he said:
‘Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.’ (v4)

What ‘suffering’ David mentions is unclear, though it could refer to realising that these other ‘gods’ are impotent and unable to fulfil the wishful hopes of their followers.

Nevertheless, David’s resolve is to worship, to trust, only the Lord. He will not participate in the ritual pouring and drinking of sacrificial blood within the false worship of these other gods, neither will he call upon their names in prayer, ritual or rites. Instead, it is the name of the Lord, Yahweh, that will be upon David’s lips alone, even though, at this time of his life, those around him encourage otherwise. We reed about this in 1st Samuel: ‘They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, “Go, serve other gods.”’
(1 Samuel 26:19)
But David will have none of this, for he trusts in the Lord alone, and in the journey of loosing his inheritance, this refugee, finds in the Lord a greater refuge and inheritance than he ever knew before.

In my devotions last week, the Lectio 365 app said this:
‘God’s greatest gift is always, ultimately, simply himself.’
(repeat) I wonder, is God so real to us, like He was to David, that we can affirm this notion, and so say with David, ‘Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup’, or as our version on Sunday said, ‘You, Lord, are all that I need…[You are my greatest gift].’ Have we come to that place, where trusting in God means we have found our identity in Him, that He is our truest and best inheritance?

This idea is echoed in the words of Robert Murray McCheyne who said: ‘what a man is on his knees before God, that he is and nothing more.’ McCheyne knew that this life is fleeting, what we have is here today and gone tomorrow, and so like David, he also knew that it is what we have in God that lasts and is of eternal value, we are what we are in that secret place before God. So, are we a people who have our identity in God? Is He our portion and our inheritance? Do we find our security in the Lord, or is our security dependant on things and circumstances? The words of David in this psalm testify that even at the most unstable and threatening moments of our lives – when all other forms of security fail and leave us without defence – even then, the Lord is still our portion, our cup, our future.

And in case that sounds a bit hard to believe, in case that sounds trite or fanciful, or a notion based on a comfortable Western, middle class life, then I encourage you to dig into the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Protestant Lutheran Pastor and theologian during the Second World War.

Due to his opposition to the Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer was arrested and executed in a concentration camp in the last month of the war. It is said of Bonhoeffer, that ‘even during the privations of the concentration camp, [he] retained a deep spirituality which was evident to other prisoners. Bonhoeffer continued to minister to his fellow prisoners. Payne Best, a fellow inmate and officer of the British Army, wrote this observation of him: “Bonhoeffer was different, just quite calm and normal, seemingly perfectly at his ease…his soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison. He was one of the very few men I have ever met to whom God was real and ever close to him.”’

Bonhoeffer and David, trusted the Lord and part of that was finding their identity, their security, in the Lord, even in the most desperate of times, and so they would not turn from Him, though advice or circumstance might encourage otherwise. Because although their inheritance was unseen, it was not insecure, and though their portion was intangible, it was not unreal.

The Apostle Paul says something quite akin to this in his writings to the Philippians, he said:

‘What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…’ (Philippians 3:8)

Friends, may we so grow in our trust of God, maybe especially in these times, these ‘dark nights’, that we too can reach that place with Paul, with David, with Bonhoeffer, that we also realise the worth, the inheritance, we have in knowing Christ Jesus, and so through that trust find our identity, our security, in Him.

Secondly, this example of trusting God involves having our hope in God. David wrote:
‘I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ (v8-11)

Trusting God is having our hope in God, maybe especially in the face of death. David speaks of ‘the realm of the dead’, in some translations this phrase is given its technical name from the Hebrew, Sheol. It sounds strange to us, but that’s because we may not realise that Israel’s understanding of what happened after death… was slowly revealed by God over time, there was progressive revelation.

Nevertheless they knew, even in David’s time, that death is the opposite of life, and God is the source of life, and so to die, they thought, was to loose God, to loose His presence and the pleasures of His presence; death wasn’t simply about losing our present existence. The Hebrew understanding of death and its aftermath held out little or no hope of resurrection into new life, regardless of whether they were judged righteous or wicked. That’s part of the reason why the Sadducees in Jesus’ day held to the idea that there was no resurrection, but Jesus put them right when He said, that ‘[God] is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ (Matthew 22:32)

Yet, here, is one of those signs that God by His Spirit was revealing something through David, was inspiring hope of a future beyond death. This allows David to speak of knowing the Lord at his own right hand during his earthly life, and so not being shaken and knowing deep gladness and contentment. What is more, in the same psalm, David speaks of a hope of knowing God beyond death, by being at God’s right hand for eternity, and so of knowing His presence and pleasures. Trusting is having hope in God, especially in the face of death.

It was a trust also echoed in Jesus, who said with His last breath, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ (Luke 23:46) It is a trust found in the writings of Paul, who again said to the Philippians, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Philippians 1:21) To live now is to know Christ by His Spirit, but to die is to go and be with Christ in person.

This hope is only secure because of Jesus. The early church recognised that the language used in Psalm 16 had to point beyond David, because Peter, in his first great sermon recounted to his fellow Israelites these words: ‘I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.’
(Acts 2:29-32)
Jesus alone was not left in Sheol; by His resurrection, He alone was saved the corruption of His body. As such, Jesus our Lord, is preserved by God, given an eternal inheritance, and so He will never be moved nor shaken, for He is secured from death, and ushered into the presence of the Father where there is fullness of joy.

But because of Easter, through faith in Jesus, we too can share in the victory of Jesus, and so, the hope of Psalm 16 becomes our hope as well through Jesus, because trusting is having our hope in God.

This psalm is a really powerful, challenging prayer, spoken by a man under the influence of the Spirit, amidst uncertain times, dark nights, and yet it is infused with confidence and joy, because David has learnt that trusting God is having our identity in God, and it is having our hope in God as well.

But how do we cultivate and sustain that kind of trust? Well, clearly this psalm doesn’t have all the answers, yet as we saw on Sunday morning, it does give us some important ideas, which I’d like to draw on again tonight.

In the all-age message, I spoke of how thankfulness and praise help to keep our horizon filled with God, because as we realise all that we have from our good heavenly Father, and realise who He is and appreciate all that we have through Jesus, then with thankfulness and praise, we keep our focus on God and sustain our trusting in Him.

One commentator said this: ‘trust is not merely a warm feeling or a passing impulse in a time of trouble…it is a structure of acts and experiences that open one’s consciousness to the Lord as the supreme reality of life.’ (James L. Mays, Psalms: Interpretation)

That’s a bit of a weighty statement, but a meaty statement to feed our minds and build our faith. ‘Trust…is a structure of acts and experiences that open one’s consciousness’ – and we might say, keep open one’s consciousness. As we said on Sunday, thankfulness and praise keep God at the centre, they keep Him in focus, by keeping us open to Him and conscious of Him. The great and terrible deception of the enemy is to turn our minds from God, to darken them, and make us believe in no god, or that God is distant and uncaring…
But with thankfulness and praise we keep that from happening, we open and keep open our consciousness to God, so that we live consciously before Him and with Him, rather than God being an after thought or put in His box and kept for Sunday.

In the introduction to the reading on Sunday, I spoke of how Google searches for prayer are up significantly since the start of the pandemic. It would be good to pray that in the midst of this, people’s consciousness of God would open such that they find Him and come to trust in Him. Yet, let’s also pray, that their consciousness stays open, that they go on to live consciously with God for the rest of their lives, bearing a great harvest to His glory.

And let’s take note of that for ourselves as well, that we might be doers of the word and not only hear it, for thankfulness and praise are only a few ways given, to us by God, to help sustain this consciousness of God and keep Him at the centre of our horizon and outlook. If you’re looking for more ideas, you might want to review the sermon and material from 17th March last year, it’s still on our website by the way. In that service I spoke on spiritual temperaments, and if you review the material then you can figure out which temperaments match you, because each one of us will have ways that help us meet with God and keep us open to Him and centred upon Him. I would also encourage you though to try out the other temperaments, just in case you find a surprising new way of building your trust in God by living consciously before Him.

In all of this, it’s worth noting that David’s difficulties did not vanish as he said this prayer. The insecurities of everyday life still remained for him, and they do for us as well. Yet, as we weave in thankfulness and praise, to strengthen and deepen our trust in God, living consciously before Him, we are then empowered through Him to find the path of life, both within and through these painful times, even when we seem to approach the very gates of Sheol itself. I pray that we will be a people who keep trusting in these days, by having our identity and our hope in God as we weave a rhythm of thankfulness and praise into our lives.

May it be so. Amen.

I will praise (Psalm 16)

Preached on: Sunday 26th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-26-Morning-Message-PowerPoint (1).
Bible references: Psalm 16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 16 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 26th April 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – adults even: do you find it easy to pray?
Give me a thumbs up for “yes” or down for “no”.

I must admit, I don’t find it easy to pray – even after nearly two decades of following Jesus. And in these uncertain times, when things are hard and life is not normal, there’s a part of me that’s not sure what to pray.

So, I think the Psalms, these prayers of God’s people might help us at this time, their content might help us to express both our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our fears.
This psalm, this prayer, was written by David – boys and girls, do you remember David from the Bible? I think we put a picture or two on our Facebook page to colour in. When we first meet David in the Bible, what’s he doing? Do you remember? Is he singing a song? Is he looking after sheep? Or is he fighting against Goliath? Which picture would you pick? (PAUSE)

The right answer is: he is looking after the sheep. He’s a young man and no one thinks very much of him, yet God sends the prophet Samuel to tell David that David will be the next king of Israel. But between that point and eventually becoming king, David had a lot of adventures.

Now, boys and girls, how do you think David’s adventures made him feel? Hands up for happy, hands down for worried or scared. (PAUSE)
I think it might have been a bit of both actually. David had some really great times, but there were others which were hard for him. Just because he had been chosen by God to be the future king, did not mean that David had an easy life. In fact, it’s very possible that this psalm was written whilst David had to run away for his own safety.

But in those times David learnt many powerful lessons. Maybe this lay behind his words in v7: ‘In the dark nights, you help me to learn what is right.’ Is David meaning the dark nights of the soul, those dark seasons? Is David meaning that he sits up a night, maybe with worry? But in those wee hours of the night too, he learns, he grows, he is instructed by God to see God, and his own life, and his problems rightly. We don’t really know and that’s part of the beauty of poetry.
Our psalm begins with these words though: ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help.’ (v1) It sounds like David is in a tough time, so David goes to God for help, David takes refuge in God.

Boys and girls, have any of you ever been camping in a tent? Why don’t you come out with me just now to my garden where I have a tent? (MOVE)

Welcome to my tent. I wanted to tell you a story about the first time I went camping as a Cub Scout. I was only about 8 years old at the time and I was super excited. But can you guess what happened that weekend? (PAUSE)
It rained – it rained a lot. In fact, one of my few memories of that weekend is that it rained. So, we had to shelter in our tent.
But even though it was my first time away from home and was raining so badly, I did not feel scared or want to go home. I think part of what helped me was that the tent became a refuge but it was the presence of my Cub Scout Leader, Liz Ferguson, who really helped to make it feel like that, and if Liz is watching just now, hi Liz!!

Liz made that tent more than simply a tent, she made it a refuge, a place of shelter, even in the middle of a storm. Her presence, what she said and did, got me through, and when I think back to that experience, the only picture in my memory, is looking out the door of the tent, with Liz sitting near the entrance, and rain falling in the background. On one level I was aware of what was happening outside, but on another, I wasn’t, because that tent and the presence of Liz, filled my horizon, I wasn’t worried, and so I was at peace and I knew joy.
David said, ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help…[in you I take refuge]…in the dark nights, you help me…’(v1, 7b). Friends, where are you sheltering in these difficult days? What is capturing your attention and filling your horizon? Is it only the problems, is it only the rain? Or is there space in your life for God? Will you allow Him to fill your horizon?

But how do we do that? Well, let’s go back inside. (MOVE)

So, how did God fill David’s horizon? And how did David allow that to happen? The psalm gives us a few ideas.

V1 – David says he’s in trouble and he needs God’s help. But in v2, he says, ‘You are my Lord’: You are my God, You are my provider, You are the one who gives life says David.
And so David recognises that all the good things in his life come from God, they are God’s gift, and that’s an idea picked up by James, the brother of Jesus, who said: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…’ (James 1:17)

So, here’s an idea – by yourself or with others, make either a list or begin a mural, of the good things God has given you? We put up that idea for families on the Facebook page, so you might have some resources to hand already. Because remembering God’s good gifts changed the whole outlook for David and it can change our outlook as well, even in tough times.

I had to put this idea into practice recently, because I was wrestling with something, something that I found really hard. But in the song I spoke about before Easter,…
‘Alive and Breathing’, I found words which helped lift my eyes to God and change my perspective. Instead of only seeing the one thing I struggled with, I started to see the good things of God and He began to fill my horizon.

So, maybe this afternoon or this week, write a list, make a mural, find a song, but do something which enables you to remember the good things in your life, each of which is a gift from God.

From this place of trust and thankfulness, the rest of the psalm flows, building to verse 7 where David makes a choice. He says, ‘I will praise the Lord…’ – I will. I wonder friends, have we learnt that lesson, the lesson of choosing to praise God, even amidst our circumstances?
It might not be joyful or happy praise, but we can choose to praise. Our circumstances just now may make us feel worried, scared, even powerless. But you still have a choice: a choice to praise God, to say with David, “I will praise the Lord, who is my Lord, my refuge, my portion” – and when we choose to do that, God again fills our horizon because our focus is then on God.

I remember an occasion about 9 years ago when I was finding life hard. At that time, I was working for the Scouts actually and driving home from the Borders. I had some worship music on, as I usually did, but I was holding back from singing because of my circumstances. Yet in the course of that journey, I chose to worship, I exerted my will, and it was like a door opened for me; as I chose to praise God I came into a new depth of relationship…

with Him, and I began to grow in faith, hope and peace once more. I wonder, do you need to choose praise this week so that God might fill more of your horizon?

The final verses of this psalm are quoted in Acts chapter 2 by the apostle Peter, for he sees in them a foretelling of the resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus was not left in the deep hole of death, His body did not spoil, but rather He was raised to life to be with His heavenly Father forever. We thought of this only a few weeks ago at Easter and that Jesus is our living Lord who gives us hope.

I wonder friends, are we giving the living Lord space in our lives? We may be in the dark night of the soul, but as we find ways to weave in thanksgiving and praise, which are expressions of trust, we create space…
to refuge in our God, and from there He can fill our horizon, changing our whole perspective, and infusing us with renewed hope.

I pray that we would be such a people, because as we give ourselves to God in this way, we will come to share the words of the psalmist, knowing for ourselves that ‘He [the Lord] is close beside me…[He] will lead me along the path of life’ (v8, 11).

May it be so. Amen.