Psalm 34:1-3 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 34:4-7 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
QUIET PREPARATION— Psalm 34:17-18, 33:22 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
SERMON — “Seven Simple Words to Start . . . Everything” – Genesis 1:1
This past Sunday Pastor James’ message conveyed the message that God’s grace is something that we accept and benefit from yet may never be able to fully explain. Without it we would be abandoned to an eternity in Hell. With it we can spend eternity in Heaven as part of His family. We can examine its effects and benefits and be reminded of our need for it. One of our hymns described it in a word that we often fall back on when something is beyond our reasoning– amazing.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of another song that speaks about God’s grace. It is one that our quartet performed many times when I sang many years ago. It was written by Kirk Talley when he was a member of the Cathedral Quartet, and is called “No Other Word for Grace but Amazing.” Consider the lyrics:
Red can’t explain the beauty of a rose, White can’t tell the magic in the air when it snows; Marvelous can’t half convey the grace of the King, The only word for grace is amazing.
There’s no other word for grace but amazing, No other explanation will do; Unmerited favor, the song that I sing, No other word for grace but amazing.
Now the Father looked behind all the failures I had made, He didn’t seem to notice all those times that I had not obeyed; You see he overlooked all the scars of sin I had in me, But the grace, that grace he shows well it still amazes me.
There’s no other word for grace but amazing, No other explanation will do; Unmerited favor, the song that I sing, No other word for grace, there’s no other word for grace, No, no other word for grace but amazing.
How sweet the sound, Amazing Grace!
The song has simply two verses and a chorus. Those two verses attempt to capture our human understanding (or lack thereof). The chorus recognizes that God’s grace is beyond our explanation, yet we have it nevertheless. Verse one reminds us that mere facts can’t explain some things. We appreciate the red of a rose, and the pure white of snow. Yet those colors alone don’t capture the intricacy and beauty of a red rose or a snowflake. Why did Kirk mention red and white? I believe it is because those are two colors that we always associate with Christ. His red blood was given up as He suffered and died on the cross for us. His blood was necessary to purify us: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22) We also see our sins described as scarlet in contrast to being pure and white after they have been forgiven. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18). John reminds us that Jesus cleanses us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9).
For us as believers there is beauty in the red blood of Christ because of what it means to us. We will one day be clothed in white for eternity, without sin, because of His sacrifice. Lord, please never let us forget Your sacrifice that changes us from a sinful red to a pure white. Indeed, there’s no other word for grace but amazing!
Please listen to the song as performed by Brian Free & Assurance:
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 33:1, 8-9 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 146:8 The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
Amazing Grace (Chains)
QUIET PREPARATION— Psalm 33:20-22 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
SERMON — “Why is God Worthy to be Worshipped?” – Genesis 1:1
This coming Sunday, in addition to being our worship day, is also designated as Father’s Day. It is not strictly a faith-based celebration, but I think believers often have a special appreciation of their fathers when considering our Heavenly Father. Many Scriptures mention fathers and parenting responsibility and relate it to the way God cares for us. Fathers (along with mothers) raise and guide their children to maturity physically, mentally, and spiritually.
A song came to mind this morning that I hadn’t thought of in quite a while. It was a popular country song from almost 40 years ago, written and recorded by Holly Dunn. It is called “Daddy’s Hands,” and was intended as a gift of sorts to her father, who was a minister. I can remember my own father saying that the song reminded him of his father, who was also a minister. Please read some of the words of the song:
I remember daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer And reachin’ out to hold me, when I had a nightmare You could read quite a story in the callous’ and lines Years of work and worry had left their mark behind
I remember daddy’s hands how they held my mama tight And patted my back for something done right There are things that I’d forgotten that I loved about the man But I’ll always remember the love in daddy’s hands
Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’ Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand There was always love in daddy’s hands
I remember daddy’s hands workin’ ’til they bled Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed If I could do things over, I’d live my life again And never take for granted the love in daddy’s hands
I think that both my dad and I thought of the words of the song as being somewhat metaphorical of the entire man. I never knew my grandfather personally—he passed away long before I was born. My dad described him as strict in following Scriptural instruction and respecting morality. He worked long hours in the lead mines, trying to provide for his family during the depression. He wouldn’t accept money for preaching, but lived in the churches’ parsonage, and accepted gifts of food and coal for heating from church members. At the same time he helped provide food to those more needy. Dad remembers walking to the small neighborhood store with him (they didn’t have a car) to pick up groceries, and being thrilled when his dad bought him a piece of candy or a bottle of pop. Dad knew that he loved his children very much and tried to give each of them personal love and attention. Dad also felt really bad emotionally when he thought that he disappointed his father in some way; he didn’t want to let him down.
These memories resurfaced when he heard this song that mentioned the same qualities that he saw in his father—the man of prayer, hard work, discipline, self-sacrifice, and genuine love and care. I can easily see that these qualities carried through to my father. I imagine that in character and personality my father must have been very much like his father. Thinking about this song and the history it represents brought one Bible verse in particular to mind:
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6, NLT).
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 29:1-2, 10-11 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
The message this past Sunday was a reminder of our awesome God and His awesome nature. Preacher Jim (rather than Pastor James) reminded us that God cares for us in ways that we sometimes don’t realize or appreciate. He created us, the world for us to live in, and most importantly gave us His son to provide for our salvation and the ability to spend eternity with Him as He had planned from the beginning. His rules and covenants over many years were designed for our benefit, not His. He doesn’t need them. Even when we mean well, we sometimes don’t do well. His love and forgiveness is necessary for us.
The word that Preacher Jim kept returning to as best describing God was “Awesome!” I was reminded of a Psalm but couldn’t remember exactly which one. After a bit of searching, I found it- Psalm 66. I will do something I don’t often do and share the entire Psalm. Please read it:
1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. 4 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah 5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, 7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. 13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, 14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on[a] my tongue.[b] 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Many of the psalms were clearly written by and carry the name of David as their author. This one does not. We are familiar with the life struggles and feelings of David through the many psalms that he wrote. He faced some very unique challenges from any that we have, yet we can recognize very similar feelings from our own life events. The unknown writer of this psalm may have been a priest or Levite, considering the content of verses 13 through 15. These verses mention coming “into your house” to offer burnt offerings. If this was meant in an official sense only priests or Levites would have been allowed to enter the temple to do so.
Regardless of the author, we can recognize a pattern in the message of this psalm (intended as a song) that is much like patterns we see in proper prayer. The first 4 verses are recognition of who God is and why He is worthy of our worship. Verses 5-7 remember how He blessed Israel in the past. Verses 8-12 are an exhortation for the people in general to recognize and appreciate how God has continued to provide what His followers need. These verses especially connect to the sermon last Sunday—sometimes challenges and difficulties happen to us, but the result is for Him to bring us to “a place of abundance.”
Verses 16-20 call attention to the personal nature of a relationship with God. The writer acknowledged that he tried to be sincere in following God and avoiding sin (“If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”- v. 18). His conclusion was that God had listened and heard him, and “attended to the voice of my prayer” (v. 19). In verse 20 he thanks God for listening and loving him with steadfast love.
I pray that we will look at our lives and pray in a similar way. We should also acknowledge God’s greatness, remember His past action in our lives, look to Him for guidance in how to live as His children, follow Him rather than sin, and thank Him for hearing and loving us. We will recognize and know God’s awesomeness!
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 92:1-2,4
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night, For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
It Is Good To Sing Your Praises
How Great Is Our God
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 71:1-3
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
There once was a Bible college that did the extraordinary – prayer. The president of the school led the campus to set Friday apart, to make it much more than the end of the school work. He led the school to set aside Friday to ask God to do the impossible.
Asking God to do the impossible has been on my mind for a while and a part of my own prayer list. It is because of Daniel, watching him making pleas for mercy as he prayed. I have been thinking of pleas of mercy simply as asking for God’s help (that it is how it is labeled on my prayer list). Another way of asking for God’s help is to ask God to do what only God can do.
There is more to it than that, that is, other ways to word “pleas for mercy.”
My Bible reading for yesterday was Matthew 19:16-30. It is the account of the rich young man who was an upstanding, even righteous young man. The point of the account is that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 19:24). The disciples hear this and respond, “Who then can get saved?” Listen to Jesus answer them. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). So why make pleas for mercy? Why ask God to do what only God can do? It is because these are impossible things for me. I cannot do them. But all things are possible for my God.
Listen, this was not some new idea that Jesus was teaching. All the way back in the book of Jeremiah, God said this: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Notice how this begins. Behold, I am the LORD. Asking God to do the impossible begins with beholding the fact that God is . . . God!!
Is any of this yet amazing you?!
Today, my Bible reading was Ephesians 1:15-23. Here the Apostle Paul shares his prayer list with a local church. His prayer list contains the things he is praying for this local church. Actually, there are four things that he is praying for this local church. These four things are found in verses 17 through 19.
1. That God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.
2. Having the eyes of your heart enlightened (this is connected to the first prayer request), that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, (notice that comma)
3. Having the eyes of your heart enlightened (this is connected to the first prayer request), that you may know . . . what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
4. Having the eyes of your heart enlightened (this is connected to the first prayer request), that you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,
Those are four amazing and specific requests. To know the riches of his glorious inheritance?! That is amazing and something only God can do. So, these four requests are to ask God to do the impossible. But these four requests are also specific – these are for a local church.
So, I am praying these four impossible requests for you – Calvary Community Church. And I am encouraging you – Calvary Community Church – to pray them, too, on this very Friday.
While I was vacationing in Florida I had the opportunity to visit friends who had moved to Spring Hill from Grove City, Ohio about 5 years ago. They had a cocker spaniel for many years that passed away a year or 2 ago. After a while they decided they missed having a dog and contacted a cocker spaniel rescue group. They ended up meeting a dog that nobody else seemed to want. He was a stray picked up from the streets of Miami. He was about 7 years old, and effectively blind. Those 2 factors led to him being ignored by potential adopters. When the dog was taken in by the organization, doctors believed that one eye was totally blind. The other was severely affected by cataracts. They thought that with surgery some vision might be restored in that eye. Mike and Patty adopted the dog and took him home. Surgery was planned by the rescue group.
They named the dog Snickers because his fur was about the color of a Snickers bar. He growled at them at first, until he learned that they were his friends. He growled at anyone strange that he met. He learned to make his way around the house somehow, although he often bumped into things. Life has to be hard for a blind dog. He finally had his surgery, and the doctors were able to tell that it was at least partially successful—he could see at least some out of the eye. After he returned home they said he was like a different dog. He was much more relaxed and friendly. He genuinely seemed happy to see them (both actually and figuratively). He was now enjoying life instead of suffering through it. When I visited, he was very friendly with me, and put his legs and head up on my lap for me to pet him. He brought me toys to play with him. He seemed like a sweet dog.
Events like this often cause me to think of Scriptures. In this case it was Matthew 6:22-23:
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
In the context of the rest of this chapter, we know that Jesus is talking about being guided by the light of God’s will, rather than by other leaders like self, others, or worldliness. If we follow the light, all will work for our advantage. If we don’t, we will have darkness and difficulty.
It was obvious that having his vision restored, even if only partially, changed Snickers’ outlook on life. I don’t doubt that times when I feel more down or depressed happen when my eyes aren’t focused on the light like they should be. Getting refocused on God keeps me pointed in the right direction. It’s easy to get bogged down in life’s problems and difficulties without realizing how we got there. I am thankful that life brings me unexpected reminders of God and His love. For instance, a 7 year old half blind cocker spaniel.