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Psalm 136 is a song of continual praise and celebration. Consider this song of praise that can only be enjoyed by an earnestly devout heart and a purposefully disciplined mind. God never wearies of displaying His kindness, and we should never grow tired of praising Him for His blessings to us. We have much for which we can give God thanks, even when we want more.
We Have Been Blessed: How His Love Endures Forever
From Your Front Porch Looking In: The Best Place to View Happiness
The Power of Love: Found in the Provision of the King
How Sweet it is to be Loved by Him
Well, good morning and welcome to Watermark. We are ending up a fun little thing we've done now for two years. It's called the Songs of Summer, when we take different songs that our world has embraced, and we have turned them in a way that will allow us to focus our hearts where, ultimately, those of us who have found a hope that is greater than what this world can provide can hold onto.
We are glad you're here this morning. We hope in the midst of what we're going to communicate with you today that you really understand how blessed you are, even if some of the words to those past few songs we just sang can't directly apply to you. Our heart this morning… I will tell you I am more excited about this next hour and a half we're going to share together than almost any service I can remember we've ever done here.
What we're going to do is turn our hearts toward this concept of the God who is so great to us that we should express continual gratitude to him. There is a song that is in this book of Psalms that is fairly long. It's 26 verses long. Whether you know it or not, you've already memorized half of it, because it has a familiar refrain and a chorus that in every single verse repeats itself. It's a psalm of continual praise. A song of continual celebration, of rehearsing of joy and the greatness of what God has done for us.
What we're going to do this morning… By the way, only an earnestly devout heart and a purposefully disciplined mind can enjoy this psalm. It's going to take a real effort on your part throughout the rest of this morning to cultivate that attitude of thanksgiving with an overwhelming sense of, "Man, I really have been blessed." Only somebody who truly understands the greatness of God and the extent that he is going to and is providing for us can enjoy this song, not just of one summer but of history.
It's a song of praise to our God. We invite you to know more of who he is. Even if you don't know yet, you should sing this song. By our unending willingness to devoutly, earnestly, in a disciplined way sing of his praises, we invite you this morning to a time from now until the end that we are going to sing of his greatness.
A long time ago, I picked up this little thing, and I've had it in a file that every now and then I go back and read. It is just a way to remind us of the things we have to be thankful for:
"I am thankful for the mess [I have in my house] I have to clean up after a party, because it means I am surrounded by friends. I'm thankful for the taxes I pay, because it means I am employed. I am thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means I have plenty to eat. I am thankful for my shadow who watches me work, because it means I am out in the sun. I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.
I am thankful for all the complaining I hear about our government, because it means I live in a place where speech is free. I am thankful for the spot at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking. I am thankful for my huge heating bill, because it means in the winter that I am warm. I am thankful for the lady behind me in church who sings off‑key, because it means I can hear. I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing, because it means my loved ones are nearby."
It goes on and on. What this woman who wrote this understands is there is more for us to be thankful for than we could ever recite. That is how we're going to end our Song of Summer series this day, by disciplining ourselves with hearts that are earnestly aware of God's goodness for us, by disciplining ourselves to not grow tired of singing of his lovingkindness which is everlasting.
We're going to go through the first nine verses right now. I want you to respond with a heart…as much as you can do it with integrity and authenticity if this is your sense…that you know all you have that is good. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow [in his blessing toward us] ." If you're aware of that, I challenge you to declare that for the next hour and a half.
What I'm going to do right now is read 9 of the 26 verses David wrote. I'm going to come up periodically throughout the day and read you some of the 30 verses I wrote as I meditated on who we are as a body. Throughout the rest of this service, we're going to sing about how we've been blessed. If you're a guest who is here today, if you're somebody who doesn't know our God, this is the perfect day for you to be here, because we want to communicate to you the greatness of who he is. Respond with me as best you can out of the integrity of your heart.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. To Him who alone does great wonders, for His lovingkindness is everlasting; to Him who made the heavens with skill, for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
Father, I pray, as we go out through this day, that these words would not become ritualistic or rote, but that we would mean them as an expression of our hearts.
"To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His lovingkindness is everlasting; to Him who made the great lights, for His lovingkindness is everlasting: The sun to rule by day, for His lovingkindness is everlasting, the moon and stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." He has grown our core from eight families to hundreds, giving us the ability to serve thousands, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He taught us joy, and through his freedom, he took away the sense of dread associated with attending church, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He raised up godly, gifted, and passionate people to lead us and to serve others, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He provided places to meet and servants to prepare them for our times together, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He gave us a passion to invite our friends, our coworkers, and our neighbors, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
His Spirit has created a body where we are free to be authentic and honest about our struggles and our hurts, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He has allowed little ones to die and to go to him, and even there he has given us great strength and hope to carry on, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. And his lovingkindness is enough.
This is a song of nothing but praise that could only truly be enjoyed by an earnestly devout heart and a willfully disciplined mind. He has taught us to love one another despite our differences and annoying quirks, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He has given us compassion for one another in the midst of sickness, unemployment, imprisonment, and failure, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
By his strong hand and mighty Spirit, he has protected us from gross unrepentant sin, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Each week he has given us stories to share, declaring the mark he is making by his own transforming power which continually is working in our midst, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. With consistency he has provided our every need, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He gave us a gifted staff, godly leadership, and a motivated core of members, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. New ministries giving him glory were begun, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Shiloh, Someone Cares, Hugs and Quiches, Postmarks, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Johnny; the Chuckwagon team; Celebrate Recovery, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Exchange, Going Deep, J-Crew, and more, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He has given us his Word to encourage us, to sharpen us, to grow us, to heal us, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He gives us songs to sing of him which bring us hope and joy as we reflect on his glory, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He frees us from empty rituals, deadness, and bondage to forms or the status quo, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He gives us freedom, joy, creativity, laughter, and the arts to learn about him, enjoy him, and declare his greatness to others, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He is patient with our growth, purposeful with his encouragement, and present through the community of saints he has given us, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He uses us for his glory, to love and to call his lost sheep to him, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He allows us to celebrate the profession of their trust in him at their baptisms, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Many who have come to believe in him through the ministry of this body have already begun leading and discipling others in the faith, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
He has given us Jesus, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. The cross, the tomb, the resurrection, the ascension, the return, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Forgiveness, righteousness, mercy, hope, heaven, abundant and eternal life, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. He will complete the good work he has begun in us, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. By his grace, we will carry on, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
Father, I thank you for this morning. We admit that we easily tire of saying with enthusiasm that your covenant love, your faithful love, your enduring love, your incredible mercy and grace toward those of us who believe, and, in fact, your general grace and mercy toward all who walk on this earth has continued again today with the sun rising, with the provision of air, and with the beat of our hearts. Your lovingkindness has been everlasting.
You have told us though, that there will be a day when you will call men into account. If we do not take you at your lovingkindness and trust in your everlasting perfect provision through Jesus Christ, Father, there will be an end to your striving with those who stiff-neck themselves toward you. Yet, for those of us who have responded to your offer of relationship, these words will never grow dull. In fact, we'll only be able to say them with more integrity and passion.
It's our desire, Lord, that you would do in us a work, that you would create in us such a transformation that everything about our lives, our church, and our ministry, everything about the way we treat, greet, and serve one another, says these words without our having to say them again, that others would look at us and say, "The lovingkindness of the Lord is everlasting, through the community of faith I see expressed in this local gathering," and they would learn to say, as you have taught us, that your lovingkindness is everlasting. Lord, we ask that this would happen for your glory and our good as you intended. In the name of the everlasting provision for those of us who believe, we pray. Amen.
If you did bring a Bible this morning, we would love for you to turn to Psalm 136. We're going to encourage you with what was happening here and again remind you of what we're trying to do. This whole series has been about our effort to tell you that if you love music like I do and you're a fan of the way great artists and poets put truth in compelling ways, with little hooks that grab your heart and intention, and who tell you the greatest thing you have is not when you're looking out but on your front porch looking in at the light, then I want to train you to be a lover of God's Word.
I say this a lot, but when people ask me what my favorite book of the Bible is, I consistently can say, and with integrity, it's whatever I'm studying at that moment. I'm telling you, in a way that shocked me, I was overwhelmed by Psalm 136 this week. It is a very difficult psalm to read because, like I said, you've memorized half of it. You just kind of start to shift into neutral. "…for his lovingkindness is everlasting."
I can just see them back there, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good…" They're there with David, "…for his lovingkindness is everlasting." About the time they start talking about Og, and a few others that are further down in this psalm, they're probably murmuring to each other, you know, "…for his lovingkindness is everlasting.""Yes. What else?" It's hard to stay focused and be an individual who cultivates that heart of thanksgiving.
This is one of the two commands in all of Scripture that God says, "This is the will of God for your life…" Do you know that? "…that you would in everything give thanks," and that you would do it continually. This is a psalm where David efforted to take 26 different statements and probably with no effort, just like with me… I could crank through and go as long as you didn't tire of it, about things God has done in the three short years we've been together and look around at the lives that have been changed.
We can take turns just stating names of friends and relationships that have been changed. Some marriages that have been restored, and others that we're continuing to wrestle with. Not tiring of one another with all our quirks and inconsistencies, for his lovingkindness is everlasting, and it ought to be made known in the way we love one another.
There is a word that appears about 250 times in your Old Testament, and 26 of them are right here. It's the word that is translated lovingkindness. It's the Hebrew word checed. It means a lot of different things. It's translated a lot of different ways. Sometimes as simple as mercy. Sometimes as simple as kindness. Other times, though, it means faithful love, covenant love, enduring love, or, as you see in the translation we're using this morning, lovingkindness.
It is God's word, his promise, that he is not going to stop what he said he would do. The great news is God never gets sick and tired of his grace and being gracious toward us. He never wearies in his kindness, like you and I do. That is the God we love. He is, it says right here, one we are to give thanks to. I love the way the psalm starts. It says, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good…" In contrast to the way prideful people pray and Pharisaical people pray (if you know your Bible), this psalm or this statement does not terminate in one's trust in their own goodness.
If you're new to Watermark, we want to let you know something. We are pretty excited about what God does here. We are very grateful to be a part of this body. We are grateful for what God has done in and through our lives, but when you ask us what it is, ultimately, that gives us hope, it has nothing to do with Watermark, and it certainly has nothing to do with me or with us as individuals.
Our praise terminates in the thanks of the one who alone is good. Not like the Pharisee, whose praise ended by thanking God he is not like the wicked people who are out there, who are homosexual, who are involved with abortion and immorality, or whatever our favorite pet sins of the week are as a church.
You need to know something. There are people who struggle with homosexuality who are a core part of this body. I do mean they struggle with it. They don't surrender to it. Just like many of us struggle with heterosexuality and lying and gossiping and pride. We struggle with it because we know it's not the life God intended for us. We seek to glorify him by aligning our lives to what we know he created us to be. Our thanksgiving will never terminate in praise of ourselves. Inasmuch as it doesn't, it is as unbiblical as it can be.
This psalm starts off by making it very clear who is good. "Give thanks to the LORD…" That one alone is worthy of praise, worthy of trust, and worthy of putting your faith in, because his lovingkindness is everlasting. Men will disappoint you. Churches will fail you. Neighbors will abandon you. Spouses will not fill you up. But God will.
It says, "Give thanks to the God of gods…" What he's talking about here is not that there are a lot of other gods, but as much as we can in human speech… Sometimes we attribute to people what they claim for themselves. This is what David is doing right here. As much as there is anything on this earth that is worthy of the title small-g god, God is the God of them.
Sometimes in sports you hear an individual say, "Man, he just dominated in god-like fashion." We do. We raise up heroes on this earth. Athletically. In business. Sometimes even with their moral outworking and their acts of kindness. Mother Teresa is one we have made a god-like saint. You need to know something. God is the God of Mother Teresa. As much as he wasn't, she had no hope before him.
If Mother Teresa's praise terminated in her efforts in Calcutta, God would have found her wanting, but inasmuch as she gave thanks to the Lord, for he is good, she has found herself comforted in his everlasting love, not offering her résumé but his righteousness for one as corrupt as her. You take your greatest individual in whatever area you want, and God is the God of them. How great that the God who is God of all is a God of grace.
I love what one man said. "Imagine the supreme justice and holiness and godliness existing without everlasting mercy." As David meditated on that second verse, he is "…the God of gods…" Don't forget he is not just some holy entity who is so wonderful and just that we can't get our arms around him. Let me tell you, he is never ending in his love and grace toward us. He is Lord of Lords, and there is none you should fear but him.
That's what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy when he said, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God…" As some translations would read. "…be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." What this psalm does a great job of is just focusing on all that is true of God. Any heart that is truly understanding of the goodness of God doesn't lose an effort and doesn't lose a focus in this.
I have, as you know, several kids. My oldest especially… The older they get, sometimes the harder time they have thanking God for something, because they think it's too simple to thank God for the obvious. Sometimes when I say, "Let's all go around the table and thank God for something," the ones who lock up the most are often the oldest.
That would be true if you came and sat at my table. I would look at you and go, "I want you to think of something really awesome, something really insightful, something really grand to thank God for." Sometimes in our effort to do that, we don't even know what to say. That's not the way it is with my little ones. I love when we ask Landry to pray, who is my 4-year-old.
Landry never prays with both eyes shut. She'll start that way, but as she goes through her prayers and she thanks God for the obvious things that are tattooed in the forefront of her mind, you can look over and you can see one eye starting to come open. It's about the time she starts thanking God for the olives and the lettuce and the carrots and all the other accoutrements that are in our produce for that meal.
She would go on. She'd thank God for the chair and for the legs that are on the chair, for the people whose bottoms are sitting on the chair, and the legs that are on them. She'll thank God for Ally and for Ally's hair. Now she'll work her down through Ally's face, make her way around our table, and would not stop until we'd finally go, "Okay. Let's thank God for everything, for he is good. Amen."
I want to tell you, we have a lot to learn from Landry. She is more of a psalmist than the rest of us, because we think we have to have these fantastic things to thank God for. What you're going to find in this psalm is that David just looked around Israel. He went through a history book, and he ascribed all goodness and greatness to one thing. We should never have a hard time putting the praise of God on our lips.
It says in verse 4, "To Him who alone does great wonders…" See, it's okay to have heroes on this earth, but ultimately don't idolize men and don't trust in men to deliver you. If you're not turning to the God who alone does wonders… That word there, alone, is significant if you're trusting in anybody or anything other than God, ultimately.
That doesn't mean he won't use others, but if your trust is rooted in anything other than the expression of God's goodness through a doctor, through a counselor, through a friend, through a spouse, through a job, then your want is going to be found wanting, and your wonder will evaporate.
God alone is responsible for the wonder of creation, the wonder of promise, the wonder of providence, the wonder of provision, the wonder of redemption, the wonder of sanctification, the wonder of glorification, the wonder of, eventually, universal triumph. God alone is responsible for this, and in evidence of all this, we go, "His lovingkindness is everlasting."
Then he cranks up with a view toward nature after he gets his little introduction done. In verses 4 through 9, he looks out on all of creation. He says, "…to Him who made the heavens with skill…" This psalm was written for the simplistic, not for the geniuses or the savants of the day. What he is going to do is unfold this now.
He's not going to try and be scientifically accurate when he talks about the great lights, and he mentions the moon among them. God knows, and David knew, that the moon itself does not emit light, but it's one of the great lights in the sky, reflecting the glory of the sun. This is not a scientific effort here. It's the wonders of God as they look around. They see, and they're praising him. Even in the night, when he darkens the sky to give us rest, he still gives us something we might be guided by and often encouraged by.
It says starting in verse 5, "To Him who made the heavens with skill… To Him who spread out the earth above the waters… To Him who made the great lights…" Which is just that it's saying, "How great that God did not assign us to darkness." We are not moles. We are not bats, walking around bouncing sound waves off the walls hoping we can get some sense of direction. God has given us light.
It's not enough just to mention the light he's given us. As one man would say, "We cannot be specific enough in our praise." Having now mentioned thanksgiving for the food, let's be like Landry and mention every single food item on the table. What David does is he mentions every single light he knows. He starts with the sun. "The sun to rule by day…" Then he says, "The moon and stars…" And the planets that guide us and "…rule by night…"
Isn't that the way we are? When somebody comes up to me and says, "Todd, I really appreciate your family," it encourages me. But I love when they go through and say, "Let me tell you what I love about your oldest daughter, Ally, specifically. Let me tell you what I love about Kirby and Cooper. Let me tell you what I love about Landry and Cade, as he starts to get a little sanctification shaken through his little corrupt 3-year-old body. Let me tell you what I love about your wife." They can go on there for a while.
When somebody comes up to me and says, "I want to tell you something, Todd. Your messages have really encouraged me." That really warms my heart. I'm genuinely humbled by that. But when somebody comes up and says, "Let me tell you, there was a message you gave on this passage, on this chapter. There was a specific thing you said that God, in his grace, used to transform my heart," it encourages me that much more.
I want to encourage you, by the model of David here, to be as specific as you can with God with things and not just say, "Hey, Lord, you have blessed my life." That is an okay prayer but go ahead and start to articulate it out. When you encourage a friend and say, "I'm grateful for your friendship," you tell that friend what specifically about that friendship has warmed your heart. It is great to be specific in your thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise.
When he gets to verse 10, he's going to go through now and he's going to talk about God's works, specifically manifest through his kindness to one nation, Israel. He starts right there, when he says in verse 10, "To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn… And brought Israel out from their midst… With a strong hand and an outstretched arm… To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder…"
When he gets to here, it's like he's saying, "Look, even when we thought we were doomed, God in his lovingkindness and his never-ending provision for us promised us he would do something. We could come up against the sea and, even then, God is not exhausted in his ability to provide for us."
Some of you this morning, you're standing there up against the Red Sea. You go, "I don't know how God can give me any hope. We're going to die right here. He has led me out here to frustrate me in this moment, to be snatched up and evaporated in despair." I want to tell you that God is a God whose lovingkindness and everlasting King-of-Kings Lord-of-Lords power has a history of allowing you to survive even with impending doom there coming on one side and an absolute wall on the other. It says there that even when we come against the Red Sea, we're reminded that God wasn't frustrated.
"And made Israel pass through the midst of it…""God didn't only miraculously clear the way, but he gave us the faith to follow in the way." In other words, what we could say as followers of Christ in this day is that not only did God sacrifice his Son, but when we came up against his holiness and saw the truth of his Scriptures revealed that the purpose of giving us the law was not so we might attain to it but so we might be shown how far we are from living in it, now we are at a Red Sea of holiness. Then God parts it with Jesus Christ.
What seems like foolishness to the Gentile and is a stumbling block to righteous religious people, God in his grace has allowed those of us in this room to follow in the way he has paved for us through the death, burial, and resurrection of his Son. Do you understand what I'm saying here? What I'm saying is not only did God part the Red Sea, not only did Jesus Christ come, live, and die for your sins and mine, but then God gave you the humility to follow in that miraculously provided way.
The Red Sea splits for everybody, but not everybody has the faith to walk through that wall of water and the ridicule will come, saying, "Those winds will change direction. That wall won't hold. You will be swallowed up and drown in your foolishness, in your faith in Christ." God has given us, not just a parting of the way to righteousness, but he's given us the faith to walk in the way he has led us in.
Having crossed in that way, I love what it says right here. "But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…" What it says is when God took us through that way of provision, when God took Israel through there, then the enemy still pursued him. God completely annihilated and swallowed up the ones who pursued them to crush them.
Even though God miraculously made a way and miraculously gave them the faith to walk through it, there are still those who accuse us and want to trip us up and destroy us. God says, "I have them covered. I have what is before you, and I have what is behind you," and his lovingkindness is everlasting.
Those of you in this room who have struggled with knowing you are at peace with God through Jesus Christ your Lord… You have made a decision to trust in him, and you found rest there. You walked in his way. You're surrounded by the blood of Christ as you've made your way through, but man, you hear those footsteps on your heels.
You hear the Enemy saying, "No, man. I know who you are. I know what you're still doing. You're walking in the way to deliverance, and on the way over there, you're lusting at the woman walking beside you. I know what you just said. You were on your way being delivered from Egypt to that place of promise, and you're gossiping about leadership.
You're slandering your parents. You're coveting what somebody else has as they wheel their way through. You're no follower of this God." God says, "I have your hind covered. I'm going to swallow that up and utterly destroy it." What kind of God is that? It's a God whose lovingkindness should overwhelm us forever.
It gets better. It says, "To Him who led His people through the wilderness…" I want to throw this out very quickly and make it abundantly clear to you that just because you are people of promise, it does not mean God will not lead you down the path that will ultimately take you to a wilderness. Some of you guys are going, "I made it through the Red Sea," and in the wilderness, what do most of us do?
"I'm now on this other side, but it's not where I thought I'd be right away. Ever since I've really come to depend and trust in Christ, I've been more overwhelmed. I'm starting to live with integrity, and my finances have gotten smaller, not greater. I've been faithful to acknowledge that everything God has given me is his, and so I return it with gladness, worship, and giving to him in a way that is increasingly sacrificial. Yet I continue to live in want."
"The years in my biological being continue to tick, and God has not brought me a mate to run through this way he has made for me." That hurts. So, you accuse God. You assault his name. You mock him, that he has led you in this way and forgotten you. Even then, God doesn't get discouraged at you. His lovingkindness is everlasting. He perseveres with you.
As I read this little verse 16, I wrote down, "He will lead you through what he has led you to." Some of you right now are in a sense overwhelmed with where it is God has you, as you've made your way by faith to a place of greater obedience and greater surrender. You still sense you're in some sort of wilderness because God hasn't, in your mind's eye, kept up his end of the deal.
I'm going to tell you. I don't know why you're in that particular part of the journey, but I do know the God who led you to is the God who, I believe, will lead you through as you cling to him and are honest with your frustration. Don't turn somewhere else for your provision but stay attentive to the God of Gods and Lord of Lords, the one who alone is good, who alone works wonders. Don't return to Egypt.
He knows how hard it is in the desert. He's been there for 40 days without food or water, the Scriptures tell us, in a supernatural experience of suffering. He can identify being "…tempted in every way even as you were, and yet without sin." You can go to him, and he doesn't mock you in your coming.
Stay attuned to who he is and remind yourself continually that his lovingkindness is everlasting. Don't let the Enemy accuse him of being forgetful of your state, so you would turn somewhere else and in your own effort and power turn stone to bread, which is to say, find legitimate needs met in illegitimate ways.
Yes, you'll stay pure until you're 35 but, "If God is not there by the time I'm 40, I'm going to get it my own way." No. Trust in the one whose lovingkindness is everlasting. He will sustain you. The mystery of it all is that God… As we watch certain people whose wilderness seems longer, whose wilderness seems hotter, whose wilderness seems more barren, the wonder of it all is that God gives you the grace necessary in that moment.
One of my favorite authors to read is Elisabeth Elliot because, if you know much about her, you know much of what she suffered with the loss of her husband and the loss of the husbands of many of her dear friends as she was a young missionary over in Ecuador. What Elisabeth Elliot has done is something that's a marvel to many of us. When I hear Elisabeth Elliot look at those who have suffered in other ways and marvel at God's grace in their lives, it encourages me.
When I hear her say, "I don't know how those people stay faithful to God in the midst of all he has taken them through," sweet Bev Johnson comes to mind, who for the better part of the last year has clung to life in some hospital room down there in Baylor. This morning as we were singing, "Blessed be your name… Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be your name," I thought of her and how that verse could be written on her door.
I just go, "How in the world is Bev going to come out of that room not angry and bitter at God, losing a year with her children and her husband?" I don't even know what's going to happen with her life, and yet I see that woman cling to Christ. I see he has given her what she has needed to be faithful to him there. He will give you what you need to be faithful where you are, if you'll cling to the one whose lovingkindness is everlasting.
It says then in verse 17, "To Him who smote great kings…" The promise is there, but so are your great enemies. They assail you, and they come after you. "And slew mighty kings…" He mentions a couple of them here. David is reminded of places in the past where God has destroyed those who were enemies to Israel, those who had destroyed other nations but couldn't destroy them, because God was with them.
Jesus himself, when he was here, talked about the way he delivers people from addictive habits and hang-ups and hurts and histories they don't think they can get over, but he can. He's the one who can go in and take the mighty ones, the small-g gods of this world that have enslaved you. He can go into the strong man's house and bind the strong man and then plunder him.
If you go against any of these kings, these enemies of yours, though you are delivered, will still pursue you… "…Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." If you war with any of them based on your own confidence, your own strength, and your own might, if you walk through the valley of temptation on your own effort, you will be destroyed. David says, "As we walked where God told us to walk, we met whatever enemy God brought us. With every temptation, he was able to give us the way of escape also." So, it is a promise to you and me.
It says, "And gave their land as a heritage…" Verse 22 is important. "Even a heritage to Israel His servant…" There is much debate about what land belongs to whom over in the Middle East. This little verse right here, verse 22, is an answer to much that our government is trying to strive for in diplomatic negotiations. Let me make verse 22 very clear. God gave that little tract of land to Israel, his servant.
I'm going to tell you today, and I can speak with absolute certainty, Israel will not have enduring peace in that land God gave to them upon the condition that they would be his servant. They can align themselves with the mightiest power on earth…the Egypt of the day, if you will…the United States of America, and we cannot bring them the peace that alone the God whose lovingkindness endures forever can bring them.
Israel can have treaty after treaty, promise after promise, that we will protect them, and there will be constant turmoil in that land until they are his servant. There might be weeks, there might be months, there might be even a decade where there is relative peace in comparison to times in the past, but you mark my word. We will never accomplish peace in Israel until they are his servant.
That is why, when the Scriptures admonish us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, you can see that in the same context of Matthew 28:19-20. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…" When Israel understands the great lovingkindness of God expressed through their Messiah, Yeshua the Christ, then they will have peace in that land, and not until then.
Verse 23. This God who we sing to has "…remembered us in our low estate…" Boy, couldn't we say that about us? It went all the way up there in verse 5, where it says, "To Him who made the heavens with skill…" The greatness of God is known there. Then it says way down here "…in our low estate…" Even as the psalm has descended from the heights of heaven down to the lowest state of man in his rebellion, what really happens is praise is upped, because the greater mercy, the more the praise. From God's splendor in the heavens to God's remembering you and me, this psalm builds.
What do you want when you're in a wilderness anyway? You want to know God has not forgotten you, that he remembers you. Isaiah 49, verses 15-16 say, "Do you see a woman with a young son? Will she forget this child from her womb?" as I paraphrase. God says through Isaiah, "Yes." "Even these may forget, but I will not forget you." Then he says in verse 16, "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…"
His point there is, "Listen, when you're in your wilderness, as you've gone through the way and taken his provision, rest in the fact that your God has not forgotten you. Don't turn somewhere else for hope." "And [God] has rescued us from our adversaries… Who gives food to all flesh…" His general goodness is seen throughout all of creation.
There was one guy who was a preacher in Boston years ago. His name was Edward Taylor. He's called the Sailor Preacher of Boston. He was known for his long metaphorical prayers. He was getting ready to go to Europe one day, and he was praying for his body. He was going into this long story, this long prayer for his people. Finally, right in the middle of that prayer in his church, he stopped. He said, "God forgive me. What have I done?"
The Lord had brought to mind this particular verse, he later testified. He went on to say, "God, who am I to ask that you would care for my children while I'm gone, you who gives a ton of herring to a whale for breakfast? Will you not care for those you love as much as this body?" and he ended his prayer. When we see what God is doing continually throughout creation and the fact that the sun and the rain fall on the just and the unjust, it's a continual reminder of the fact that he will not forget those who are his children, whom he has written on the palms of his hands.
The psalm closes, then, "Give thanks to the God of heaven…" In a way that angels can't even know him, he has declared himself to you and me. In an intimate, specific way, we can praise him because he has won us to relationship with him that even causes angels to wonder. What this song is about today, and what we close with right now, is just a simple reminder that your God will not forget you. Your God has defeated your enemies before you and behind you, has led you by grace in the way, and will sustain you by grace in the wilderness. His lovingkindness is everlasting.
If you're here this morning and you wrestle with confidence in your salvation experience, I take you to one place. That is…What have you made your way through to the Promised Land by? If it's God's parting, through his provision of his Son Jesus Christ, you can be sure your faith in what he has called you to is your promise that he will do what he said he will do. He will bring about to completion what he has begun.
He calls you to not forsake him but to cling to him in obedience and discipline yourself with the fellowship of the body. Avail yourself to those of us who, like you, gather here and sing of his praises, spur each other on to love and good deed, remind ourselves he is good, equip ourselves with the study of his Word, rebuke ourselves with true biblical community, admonish ourselves with a study of what it is God wants to do in us next, and remind ourselves of his greatness as we declare it to others.
You sit out there week after week, and you have not joined what God has given you as part of his provision to feed you, his child, which is a connectedness to a body that is humble before him. If this is not going to be your home, I beg you to find a church that will be, one that follows and loves Christ in a reckless way.
If you're here today, and you've never known of God who is as loving and kind as we've sung about this morning, we ask that you would give us the ability to labor more with you to wrestle through your questions and to introduce you to him. What we're going to do is close right now with a song that is this psalm, "Forever God Is Faithful." We're going to do it and lace it again with testimony from within. Let's stand together.
Male: God has really used my Community Group as a great tool to help me to develop and to learn to love others during my tenure here at Watermark. He's used it to show me an openness and a love that I'd never really experienced in a church body before. As a result of that, I've grown in the Word and that has gone into something that has helped me want to disciple others on my own.
Male: I've really enjoyed doing ministry with other believers, from the parking crew to the staging crew, and most recently through high school ministry. I've had the opportunity to be around other believers who are actually walking the walk. This encouraged me and spurs me on.
Female: All of the ministries I've been involved in here at Watermark, especially the Equipping ministry and the relationships I've developed there, really spurred me on to put God first in my life and especially make sure he's always first in my priorities.
Male: Being involved in a men's discipleship group, serving on the worship team, attending Raise the Mark regularly, and also participating in Parenting the Preschoolers group, all of those things have consistently encouraged us and challenged us over the last year to become more fully-devoted followers of Christ.
Female: Watermark continually helps to remind me that it's not about me and what I must do for my salvation. It also helps teach me and encourage me about God's grace, and as a result, my walk with the Lord is better and easier.
Female: I believed in Christ for as long as I can remember. I grew up going to a very traditional church, and it wasn't until I came to Watermark and heard the messages here that I really came to understand what it meant to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ. It's more than just going to church on Sunday and doing all the right things. It was really about having a personal relationship with God and walking with him daily.
Female: The consistent challenge to be authentic has radically changed my life. After spending years of trying to hide my struggles and appear spiritual, I'm finally admitting where I'm falling down and letting people see who I really am. The change has been so dramatic that even close friends through the years have been commenting on it.
Female: The encouragement that I have received from Watermark has been amazing. The prayers and concerns that I have received from others have meant so much to me.
Male: After recommitting my life to Christ three years ago, I felt like I had hit a plateau in my relationship with Christ, but since coming to Watermark, I've been constantly challenged to learn, serve, and grow in order to become a more fully-devoted follower of Christ.
Male: God has led me, by his Spirit, the staff, and the people at Watermark, all the way from not wanting to be a part of Watermark to becoming a member of the staff. I thank God for his patience and the loving body here at Watermark.
Female: The Equipping classes have been a real blessing in my life. They've helped me apply God's truth, and the relationships I developed have helped hold me accountable. I've been a Christian for eight years, but it wasn't until I started attending Watermark that I really began living it in my daily life.
Male: The series on biblical conflict resolution made a tremendous impact in my life, both personally and professionally. It's such a blessing to be challenged with the truth in the midst of a culture that handles conflict so differently.
Female: Through my involvement with student ministries and Leadership Retreat, Watermark has consistently contributed to my desire to become a more fully-devoted follower of Christ.
Male: This has been an incredibly exciting year in my life. I was married in October, but it's been a challenge as well. My parents were divorced when I was 6 years old, so I've never seen Christian marriage and Christian parenting modeled in my own life. Through my Community Group I was a part of and the families that are in there, I've been able to see Christian marriage and Christian parenting lived out. I've seen the way the spouses have sacrificed for one another and for their children, and that's allowed me to apply those principles to my own marriage. It's made the past eight months incredibly exciting and a true blessing from the Lord.
[End of audio]
Well, there's our psalm, and that's what we end Songs of Summer with. I want to let you know that as much as you are a part of this church, and when you hear us, the reason we have such comfort in talking about what God is doing in our midst is we're doing what is very biblical, as in Acts, chapter 2, verses 42-47. There is a sense of awe that God is using us as followers of Christ to make a difference in our Jerusalem.
This is not about us. It's about him in and working through us. No matter what happens with us in the future, in the next two or three months as we begin to talk about a facility opportunity, we want to remind you that a church is not an address. It is not an organization. It is a defined body of followers of Christ who sing of his lovingkindness forever.
This is a mission, not a place. We are a people who share the stewardship of responsibility to serve his name in this city where God has called us and, in the midst of that, to love one another. I want to tell you that I never want to get tired of saying, in this community of faith of which I am a part, "Look how faithful our God has been."
The day we can stop having Making the Mark stories and having testimonies that fill up the Psalm 136 of this generation is the day you need to find another body, which is called a church. This is not a place for me or for you. This is a place where we gather together to be equipped for his purposes, to understand our giftedness, that we might serve each other and declare his glory to a watching world, so that when we stand before him, we will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Our commitment to you is to help you be faithful in all God has called you to be, forever, as God gives us breath. I want you to be encouraged at God's working in your midst and celebrate with me that our God, who parts Red Seas, is still stilling troubled waters of your friends, coworkers, and neighbors. We want to minister to them with you here and equip you to be more effective with them there. Forever God is faithful. Amen? Amen.
Music has incredible power to touch our hearts. And some of the greatest songs ever written are found in the book of Psalms. In the Songs of Summer, volume 2, we focus on four more biblical "lyrics" to show how they capture the essence of joy, life and relationship found in Christ. You'll be challenged and encouraged as you hear how beautifully God's word speaks to the deepest needs of our hearts.