Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 24th March, 2019
For most of this year already, we’ve had messages that have been focusing on our foundations. I’m not going to repeat any of that this morning, except to say – this is a time when we need to know that our foundations in Christ and His Word are strong, secure and deep.
If you have been following the unfolding events in Christchurch since last week’s horrific attack on a community of Muslims as they worshipped at their mosques, you’ll have noticed what I think are some really unusual responses.
I thought at the beginning of the week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern showed incredible leadership, compassion, strength and determination as she gathered her nation together in the face of terror and grief. She has rightly brought all the governmental assistance and resources to the families that have been directly affected. No matter what race, creed, religion this has been focussed on, people need to be supported and cared for, and given everything they need to help them get through.
However, as the week went on, I couldn’t get over the fact that just about every photo I saw of Jacinda Ardern has her wearing a head covering.
At the beginning, I thought, oh well, she’s just trying to show her support for those who are part of the Islamic community. But as the week went on, I noticed reporters and news presenters were starting to wear them as well. Then there was a push for a prayer time on Friday for all women in New Zealand to wear a head covering. Girls were wearing them to school. And the doors of the Mosques were opened Friday to people of all faiths to come a pray in the Islamic places of worship – so many Christians and others did.
During the two minutes of silence, the Islamic prayer would have sounded – which includes the line – “there is no god but Allah.” In fact, that prayer was going to be broadcast to the whole world.
I have to be clear. Everyone has their choice to follow whatever religion they choose. We, thankfully, have that same choice and right.
And we are talking about New Zealand. This is not Australia. But I just think this is a strong example of how close to the edge a country can come to shifting off its foundations.
I get it – that the people want to stand in solidarity against terror and bloodshed. A nation needs to stand as one. But unless these woman who are covering their heads, and the Christians who are going to pray at the mosques and have someone say over them, Allah alone is god… unless they are happily taking on the religious and spiritual significance of these gestures… then they are hypocrites. And they have no idea what they are doing!
In my research to try and understand why Muslim women wear a head covering, I came across this quote which seems to reflect what many say… “For Muslim women, wearing a veil or head covering acts as a show of obedience to the Qur’an and to Allah”
So why the heck are New Zealanders choosing this particular way to show support?
Please don’t ever let me go into in politics. I’m sure I get myself into enough trouble as a pastor.
Anyway… that all leads me to a scripture that I’ve never preached on, and in fact have never taken much notice of before.
Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?”
I’m not implying that New Zealand’s foundations have been destroyed. I just see a strange shift that has just happened. And it’s probably spiritual more than anything else – without most of them even reading it.
But what about us? Look at what’s happened to the foundations of marriage in our nation – the legislation of same sex marriage. And apart from that, the foundation of even traditional marriage is under stress. Divorce rates are soaring. And that’s why I preached last week about the foundation of marriage and what it means when we correctly place marriage in the same kind of relationship that Christ has with His Church.
Look at what is happening with the push for fluidity in gender… You don’t get much more foundational than being either a male or a female. Well, not according to some apparently.
I’m not sure if other states have done this, but apparently in Tasmania, it’s optional now whether parents put the gender of their baby on the birth certificate. Gender is no longer relevant. And when a child reaches 16, they can simply fill out a statutory declaration and change their gender on the birth certificate anyway.
Don’t even get me started on full term abortions…
Foundations! They are all changing. They are all shifting.
Actually, as David declared in his Psalm, the foundations are being destroyed.
Should we be surprised? Of course not.
But the question looms large – what can the righteous do?
I want to read the seven verses of Psalm 11, to get it all in context.
Now you know, that my “go to” bible version is the NKJV. That’ll never change.
But sometimes I find that the Passion Translation expresses the heart and passion of the Hebrew and Greek language beautifully. So I want to use that Translation this morning. And then I want to tease out a few thoughts about how in fact a righteous person does respond to destroyed foundations.
Psalm 11:1-7, (Passion). ‘For the Pure and Shining One, by King David.
Lord, don’t you hear what my well-meaning friends keep saying to me: “Run away while you can! Fly away like a bird to hide in the mountains for safety. For your enemies have prepared a trap for you! They plan to destroy you with their slander and deceitful lies. Can’t you see them hiding in their place of darkness and shadows?”
It sounds like a similar place that we find ourselves right now – we can’t even trust that what the media says is true. In politics – it just seems as though deceit and slander is common.
“They’re set against you and all those who live upright lives.” But don’t they know, Lord, that I have made you my only hiding place? Don’t they know that I always trust in you? What can the righteous accomplish when truth’s pillars are destroyed and law and order collapse? Yet the Eternal One is never shaken — he is still found in his temple of holiness, reigning as Lord and King over all. He is closely watching everything that happens. And with a glance, his eyes examine every heart. For his heavenly rule will prevail over all. He will test both the righteous and the wicked, exposing each heart . God’s very soul detests those who love to resort to violence. He will rain down upon them judgment for their sins. A scorching wind will be their portion and lot in life. But remember this: the Righteous Lord loves what is right and just, and every godly one will come into his presence and gaze upon his face!”
I’ve fallen in love with the Word again… you’ll be glad to know I never fell out of love with it… but when I read scriptures like this, it all comes alive again and again.
You know, especially as the end of this world draws near, there will be those who say, run to the hills. Fly like a bird to the mountains. And that might be the right thing for some… but thankfully, we’re not there yet.
There is a plan to destroy Christians… it’s happening around the world in huge numbers. There have been Christians blown up in churches and in buses even since the Christchurch terror attack – but we’ve heard nothing in the mainstream media about that. No one seems to be forming solidarity with Christians in the Philippines and in Africa and places where they are currently being persecuted and killed.
Slander and deceitfulness and the powers of darkness are at work. The devil is definitely at work in the hearts of men.
But here is the key to what the righteous should do. This is what David did.
He says – don’t they know that I don’t need a hiding place up in the mountains? Because my hiding place is You!
David used this expression all the time. You are my hiding place; you are my refuge; you are my strong tower; I’ll hide in the shadow of Your wings.
Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah”
There is no safer and more protected place than running into God’s presence. The battle might be raging around you – all the natural, worldly foundations of your very life might be pulled from underneath you – but there is a foundation that nothing can remove – And that is your perfect place of love and grace – it’s at the feet of the Father.
It’s a place of surrender – but also a place of great strength.
Whatever you are going through, don’t think you have to run and hide somewhere. Because you are already hidden in Christ Jesus. He is your hiding place.
We had Shirley Stuart’s Funeral on Friday. What an incredible lady. We’ve had a few pillars of faith – mighty men and women of God – pass over into eternity. But the courage and peace that Shirley portrayed, even in her last few days, was extraordinary.
I didn’t share this at the funeral – but last Sunday afternoon we popped in to see Shirley. Her body was failing – but it was still Shirls behind those deep set eyes.
And she reminded us of something I said to Peter recently. Peter, her son, had asked me, if possible, to record our recent worship Night – because Shirley would have loved to be there, but just couldn’t.
So of course I said yes. But I made the comment to Peter – it’s probably illegal because of copyright issues to normally record these songs and distribute them… but I said, for Shirley, I’m prepared to take the risk of going to jail… I said it with a smile on my face.
Anyway – the point is – even though she could barely speak last Sunday – she managed to repeat the story to us, and had a little chuckle. She thought it was hilarious. Within a couple of days she was gone.
I just share that because Shirley knew she was dying. She knew she was leaving us all. But there was such a peace and trust in Jesus, that she could even have a little laugh, just as her body was at the same time shutting down.
She had no fear. She was already in her hiding place – wrapped in the arms of Jesus.
David said in the Psalm, “Don’t they know I always trust in You?”
It’s like for Shirley – I know I’m dying, but I’ve got nothing to fear – nothing to worry about – and I can still find the strength to have a chuckle.
So let that be an encouragement for us. Whatever you are going through right now – say to the devil’s slander and lies – “Don’t you know that I trust in Jesus?”
The Psalm goes on to say – “The Eternal One is never shaken – He is still found in His temple..”. He’s still reigning as Lord and King!
So what do the righteous do when everything familiar around them is slowly being destroyed? They remember – God is still on the throne. He still reigns…
There are numerous verses about things being shaken. This is one of them:
Hebrews 12:26-28, “….“Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
Here’s the thing… there’s a shaking going on.
There’s a shaking in the economy – there’s a shaking in churches – there’s a shaking in relationships – there’s a shaking in social norms – there’s a shaking in nature through natural disasters, extreme weather events…
Everything that can be shaken is being shaken.
Which is why we need to know what our own foundations are. If our security and faith is in things that can be shaken, then we might need to reassess our foundations.
When the storms of life come, are we going to find that our house is built on rock – or on shifting sand?
The kingdom we belong to is not of this world. Our values, our treasure, our hearts, are located in a realm that is far higher and far greater then anything this earth can offer.
And losing those that we love dearly, only makes heaven more real, more inviting, more beautiful.
Psalm 11 goes on to say that God is watching and examining every heart.
I guess you could say, this is where foundations are set – in the heart.
We need to protect and care for our heart – we need to examine it ourselves.
Proverbs 4:20-23, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
There’s one foundation that we believe is the source of all truth – all wisdom – and that is the word of God. Without the word, we have no solid foundation. We have no real compass in life.
Proverbs – the book of wisdom – says, give attention to My words… keep them in the midst of your heart.
Do you know why even some Christians seem to do strange things and believe strange things in response to what’s going on in the world around them? They obviously don’t have the word of God in their heart. They are living by cultural standards. They are living by emotions. They take principles and ideals of unity and love and solidarity… but they are based on their own opinion – their own reasoning – and don’t bother to look and see what the Word of God actually says.
For example, Jesus says, in His own words, John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
And yet some, in the name of unity, are willing to sit under a prayer that says, Allah is the one true god.
Hello? I feel like shouting – wake up! Get a grip! How many are going to be led astray? It’s prophesied in the bible that many will be – but to watch it before our own eyes is devastating.
The scripture that comes to mind here is – do not be deceived – God is not mocked…. and I know that relates to sowing, reaping and generosity – but it also speaks in that same place about not losing heart… it’s still about keeping our heart with all diligence…
Let this be a warning for us all… the devil is a deceiver – He is a liar – he will take what looks like nice, caring, loving, compassionate thoughts and feelings and work them for deceptive purposes – even to the extent of deceiving our own hearts.
The Psalm ends by saying: “the Righteous Lord loves what is right and just, and every godly one will come into his presence and gaze upon his face!”
This seems to be speaking of a time when we ourselves will be in our glorified bodies. And it fits with the revelation and the glory of the New Jerusalem that is described in the Book of Revelation.
Revelation 21 describes this incredible place of glory… and then in chapter 22 it continues speaking about the pure river of water of life flowing from the throne of God.
The throne of both God the Father, and God the Son will be right in the midst of this glorious place – and then it says:
Revelation 22:4-5, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
It’s only in this place – the place where our hearts are already founded – that we will be able to look upon God and not be struck down in the process. Our earthly, natural, carnal bodies could never cope with it. But our new glorified bodies will.
So Psalm 11 has come alive for me this week. I hear the Word of God speaking directly into the worldly happenings that have been going on.
And I’m encouraged – not to run to the hills or fly to the mountains – but to hide myself in the presence of Jesus – under the shadow of His wings…
That’s my safe place – whatever befalls me – that’s where you’ll find me.
And when persecution comes – when I’m tried for my faith and my trust in God – I’ll have the assurance of:
Luke 21:14-15, “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”
We started our Christian journey by faith – and we’ll finish by faith – just as others have done before us.
The world may be on a slippery slope of destruction – but our hope is not in this world – it is in our God, and the precious gift of eternal life that came through Jesus Christ His Son.
And if you should do anything this morning – it would be for those who have not yet placed their faith in His salvation, to take that of opening your heart to Him.
He has paid for your sin by His own precious blood and His life. You are forgiven. It’s a gift that He holds out before you – you can’t do anything to deserve it. And all it takes is for you to say – here I am – I receive.