Pastor Ray Paul Sermon for Sunday, March 29, 2020
March 22, 2020 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)
“Facing Our Fears with Faith”
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare, and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will
be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he
acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
It just so happens, that at this particular time, I had planned for weeks to speak on this particular passage of Scripture – Psalm 91. It is much in league with the assurances there are in Psalm 121, which we addressed last week. This 91st Psalm is zenith of all the odes of the Bible - in making its audience aware of the confidence we can, and should have, in the constant care and defense that God undertakes - for people who trust and seek refuge in Him. It makes a strong case for the fact that we ought have a deep and abiding confidence in our powerful, gracious, and loving God - for our safety in times
As we together venture through this time of pandemic and uncertainty, I am confident that all of us want to be guided more by faith - than by abject fear. We, as a church, have taken steps to be cautious and careful - for the sake of those who may be in jeopardy due to the virus, and I believe that we are right in doing so. But rather than caving in to rampant fears, what we are doing is out of concern and love - for our neighbors, community, nation, and world – and particularly for the safety and well-being of any who have health issues beforehand.
The authoring of this Psalm is uncertain. Some say it is from Moses, while others claim it to be from the hand of David. It has been around for a long time, and it is a treasure to behold.
The first thing I would like you to see, is that Satan used words from this Psalm (vs. 11-12) in an attempt to corrupt Jesus - in Jesus' 40 day fast in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6-7). Here Satan suggested that Jesus jump off the pinnacle of the Temple, and thereby gain the attention and acclaim of the people – because - “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you
will not strike your foot against a stone.” Satan knows Scripture, and he is quite adroit in using it to his advantage. But Jesus answered back from the Scriptures, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God!” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
We are not here to put God to the test. A rebellious people in another wilderness experience, under Moses, did test God, and it didn't turn out well for them at all. Satan's interpretation or version of this verse was that of Presumptuousness. Jesus' version was that Trustfulness.
The questions are – how far do we need to go to put God to the test? Who are we to test our Creator? Can we not just take Almighty God at His word, and trust in His care? Where is faith, if we need some sort of miracle or sign at every fork in the road? Why in the world would - even the very Son of God desire to defy the law of gravity as ordained by God? Just for a bit of human applause? Satan presumed far, far too much. The Tempter does not know the meaning of trust, but Jesus knew it full-well.
I would encourage you to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 91, because I want you to follow along as we examine the truths of this magnificent passage of sixteen verses. So, now let us look together at other features of this hymn to Gods care and protection:
See how the pronouns change from 'He' in 1-4, to 'You' in 5-13, and then to 'I' in 14-16. The 'He' in 1 & 2 regards people of faith, while the 'He' in 3 & 4 is in reference to 'My God' as the 'He'. The idea of a close and personal relating with the Supreme Being is coming forward as part and parcel of having a 'shelter' in “My God”. Due to such closeness there can be refuge, and bulwarks - that make for explicit trust.
Now look at the benefits enumerated, one after another, in 5-13: You need not give in to your fears. FDR in the crisis of the Great Depression, and the Second World War, got it right - when he said “The only thing we need to fear is fear itself!”
Fear is the polar opposite of faith, much more so than is doubt. So, remember that God is greater than all the terrors, pestilences, destruction, wickedness, plagues, (including Corona-virus). Notice that - in the midst of the listing of things that threaten our faith and well-being, there is - in verse nine - a parenthesis reminder of what was claimed in opening verses - of “refuge” and a “dwelling place” in the midst of these storm-like calamities.
And do not overlook the six “I wills” of the last three verses. I believe that these are promises for those who reciprocate the love of our God: “ I will
deliver him; I will set him securely....; I will answer him; I will be with him; I will rescue and honor him; and I will satisfy him – and let him see My salvation.” Here is the Divine 'I', in the first person, offering affirmation and confirmation of God's intentions - toward those who will trustfully shelter themselves under His 'wing'.
Does this Psalm imply that the people of God will be exempted from all difficulties, harm, or pain? Not so, if I read it closely. 'Deliver', 'answer', 'be with', 'rescue', 'satisfy', 'honor', and even 'salvation', are terms that indicate some measure of involvement in hard or even impossible circumstances. No need for being delivered if there is no problem. No need for the answer if the question is easy. No need for being with if there is no need for comfort or companionship. No need for rescue if there is no threat way out of a predicament. No need for satisfying if everything is satisfactory. No need for honoring if this is no dishonor. No need for salvation is if there were no sin or guilt. These all take place in times of some identified need, but we are promised that we are not without notice and care from Heaven above.
I truly believe that a most pressing need in this day of uncertainty is that of faith and trust like that of our Lord's, when He face the Tempter, and the
vicissitudes of life – including, betrayal, denial, abandonment, false accusers, a 'kangaroo court' trial, scourging, mocking, and pain and death by Crucifixion.
His deliverance came by resurrection, and ultimately that may be ours as well. In the meantime there needs be faith and trust! Amen.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your help and protection – in times past and in this day and hour. Calm our fears with the assurance that You never leave or forsake us. In this time of pandemic help us to trust You more, and to be more a part of the solution than of the problem. We pray for the well-being of our neighbors, companions, associates, and friends. Be our protector, our helper, and our refuge. Help us to trust in the love and care that You so graciously offer to all who call upon Your name. We pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One in three and three in One. Amen.
CURE FOR CORONAVIRUS
HALT THE SPREAD OF THE PANDEMIC
HEALING OF THE SICK
COMFORT FOR THE BEREAVED
WISE LEADERSHIP IN GOVERNMENT
PROTECTION FOR THOSE WITH HEALTH ISSUES
HOSPITAL PERSONEL - AVAILABLE SUPPLIES AND BEDS
MORE TESTING SUPPLIES
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS WELL-BEING
FAITH TO OVERCOME FEARS
TRUST IN GOD'S HELP, HEALING, AND INTERVENTION
THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIRING
FOR A RESURGENCE OF 'UNITED WE STAND'
YOUR FAMILY OF FAITH
YOUR FAMILY OF BLOOD OR ADOPTION
THE HELPLESS, INNOCENT, POOR, ELDERLY, MARGINALIZED
PERSONAL NEEDS ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD - ETC. ETC. ETC.........
God Bless You Everyone!!
This is the sermon preached by Pastor Ray as part of a Lenten series having to do with – Becoming awake and aware to God’s workings in our lives – though we are sometime unaware or not fully awakened to it. During this time of precautions by forgoing regular worship services, and perhaps on into the future we will be making these available on our web-site, and likely on other media as well. Keep well – both physically and spiritually. That is my prayer for you all!
March 15, 2020 (Third Sunday of Lent)
“When – I Lay Me Down to Sleep”
1 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”
Some of you are facing work problems, family problems, friendship issues, school problems, financial issues, difficult decisions, health problems, insecurities, Parenting problems, fears of failure, guilty consciences, grief and sorrow, or any number of other kinds of loss, difficulties, conundrums, issues or problems. You need to know that you are kept by God.
Some of you don't feel like you have any particularly serious problem. You still need to know that you are kept by God, because problems will come! It may be coronavirus, if not something else.
God has promised His presence and help to the Christian who has problems. Throughout the Scriptures God tells of His readiness to help, defend, and bless his people. One of the most well-known passages that affirms that we are kept by God is Psalm 121! Christians please realize that:
1. NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD Vss. 1-2, 8, Psalm 139:7-10
2. NO MATTER WHAT THE OBSTACLE, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD. Vs. 3a
3. NO MATTER WHAT THE HOUR, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD. Vss. 3b-4
4. NO MATTER WHAT THE CONDITIONS, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD. Vss. 5-6
5. NO MATTER WHO THE ENEMY, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD. Vs. 7
6. NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES, YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD. Vs. 8, Psalm 23:4,6
The last two weeks we have talked about becoming awakened to the spiritual realities happening around us. First, we referenced the stories of the Transfiguration and the disciples becoming fully awake to what was happening there, and second, we spoke of the Genesis account of Jacob’s dream/vision of a ladder between Heaven and earth, which caused Jacob to come to the realization, that though he was unaware, God had visited that place, which he then named “Bethel” (meaning ‘House of God’) Today, we will look at awakenings and awareness from a different angle. What is it that keeps you from going to sleep, and getting the sleep you need? I think I may have enumerated a number of hinderances to a sound, peaceful, and restful sleep experience - at the onset of the message. God knows we need proper rest, that is why He instituted day and night, and on top of that - appointed one in seven days as a day for rest. Not only do humans have need for rest, but all of nature benefits from seasons of rest, and therefore God gave laws even for giving the land its rest every seven years. If rest comes hard to you, if worries keep you tossing and turning, or if you simply neglect getting proper rest, you need to hear this word of God. Perhaps you need to be awakened, reawakened, or made aware that our God never sleeps, and is therefore - there for us - in in all your waking or sleeping hours.
God is my KEEPER!
HE WILL PROVIDE - Vss. 1-2 WILL PREVENT - Vss. 3-4
He's on 24-hour guard duty. (He does not slumber or sleep)
HE WILL PROTECT - Vss. 5-6 HE WILL PRESERVE - Vss. 7-8
With such assurances from the Creator of Heaven and Earth, perhaps just a little faith in Him and His continuing care would make a big difference on how we approach life’s changing currents, and how we rest and relax - in the certitude that we have a 24/7/365 Provider, Preventer, Protector, and Preserver.
God does not nap, go on vacation, take work breaks, go on sabbaticals or furloughs, go AWOL, mail in His work, take sick days, ask for leaves of absence, or take the weekend off. He is always there 24/7 for His people. He is always looking out for our best interests. He ever knows what is best for us, and His will is - that we live according to His design – the life that is abundant and eternal.
The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.
Is that not that a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father? How often, and unbeknown to us, is God standing guard in our darkest and most frightening circumstances?
The following is a true story of how God used a hymn-song to protect the life of one of His servants and hymn writers: Ira Sankey, well known for his hymn writing,, was traveling on a Delaware River steamboat, and was asked to sing one of his hymns some of the passengers. He preferred to sing a song authored by another writer. As
he sang “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” a man stepped from the shadows and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union Army?” “Yes,” Mr. Sankey answered, “in the spring of 1860.” “Can you remember if you were doing guard duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?” “Yes,” Mr. Sankey answered, very much surprised. The man answered “So did I, but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post, I thought to myself, ‘That fellow will never get away alive.’ I raised my musket and took aim. At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised your eyes to heaven and began to sing. ‘Let him sing his song I said to myself, ‘I can shoot him afterwards.’ The words stirred up many memories. I began to think of my childhood and my God-fearing mother. She had many times sung that song to me. When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim again."
Five years after the end of that terrible war between the States, Mr. Sankey met the famed Evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, and they collaborated in holding revival services all over Europe and the United States. Ira was the song writer and song leader for Moody’s campaigns. Together they introduced what would be seen in more modern evangelistic ‘crusades’ like that of Billy Graham and others.
God did not slumber nor sleep then, and for that matter before or since. Be keenly aware, dear friends, that God is wide awake - even when you and “I lay me down to sleep’. Amen.