17.7.16 – The Lifestyle Contest – Rachel Judge

Scripture passages: Psalm 37: 30 – 40 & Matthew 5: 1 – 12 

Good Morning, and welcome to our learning series for the next couple of months as we describe, yearn for, seek and find God’s wisdom in God’s Word, and ultimately then in our lives. We’ll be exploring the truth and presence of wisdom particularly in Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and also in some New Testament passages. I’m looking forward to this delving into some parts of Scripture with you that we might not be as familiar with as others, and to discussions with you following worship and during the week as God pours His wisdom into our lives, in the midst of our daily realities.

Now that we’ve made it out of bed, got our head around the day, remembered at the least, and delighted at our best, to be at church worshipping the Creator of the Universe and our personal Saviour, let’s for a moment anyway, allow our minds to wander. Let’s dream even!

What is it, I wonder, that blows your mind about our Creator and His miracles in our world, our universe, and our lives?

Take a minute or two, enjoy the silence in God’s presence and focus on an aspect of God’s creation that inspires you and impels you to praise and trust our amazing God with more and more of yourself.

Silence

I wonder where your God-given imagination took you in that short journey.

Let’s pray….

Mighty, everlasting God, your creativity knows no bounds. Your faithfulness encompasses us and all people everywhere. We can hardly believe that you would bother about us. Yet you long for us to worship you in spirit and in truth. You desire a deep relationship with each of us, far beyond what we experience in the human realm. So fill us now, Lord, with your wisdom. Lead us and guide us as we place our trust in you. Now may my words and our hearts be in tune with your purposes for us  so that we can receive your word for each of us and go out to obey it in our thoughts, words and actions through this coming week, we pray in the power of Jesus’ name,

Amen.

I’ve been dwelling deeply in the beginning of Psalm 19 over the past few days “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

On Thursday evening my family and I attended a mind-blowing presentation as part of the International Science Festival that’s been held in Dunedin over this past week. The speaker was Dr. Dava Newman the Deputy Administrator of NASA. We soon discovered, among many other things, that ‘administrator’ in this context, has nothing to do with typing or photocopying, but everything to do with high-powered, inspired leadership. Prior to this leadership role at NASA, to which she was appointed by no less than President Barack Obama, she was a Professor of Astronautics.  Her expertise is in multidisciplinary research that encompasses aerospace biomedical engineering,  and one of her many leadership roles  at NASA is reporting to the President and Congress on American progress in space exploration. Overwhelmed yet? I certainly was, just a few minutes into her talk, yet mind boggled, and enthused at the same time at the extent of the planning and research that seems to be on track for sending humans to Mars, and bringing them safely home again in the 2030s – say only 15 years away!

Exciting developments? Or reckless waste of money and brains? Essential to human life and expansion? Or foolish in the extreme when you look at our world, and the mess we’ve made of it? A wise, long term choice when we consider our inability to live alongside one another in harmony in this world, or to care competently and compassionately for those who struggle to thrive or even survive in our own country, and overseas? When we heard just the next day of the massacre of over 80 innocent by-standers in Nice, as they celebrated Bastille Day, we despair of human beings’ inhumanity and lack of respect for God’s precious gift of life.

Ask for God’s wisdom as you think and pray about these questions this week.

Seek God’s wisdom in His Word for these major issues, as well as discerning God’s priorities for you in the small and large decisions of your own lives.

Psalm 37 which we’re dwelling in today reminds us of our place and role in the world. David, the author of this psalm reminds us that we are to trust in God, and do good. ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’ says David, and (then) He will give you the desires of your heart.’ (Psalm 37: 3, 4) So if you want to know what you should study now or in the future, with whom you are to be friends, or who you are to marry, or how you should spend your time or raise your children, or cope with loss, or disappointment or betrayal, seek God. Verses 5 and 6 tell us “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Now that doesn’t leave any doubt at all, does it, about how much you will glow before God when you’ve whole-heartedly committed your ways to Him?

You might say the Psalmist in fact repeats himself here, so eager is David for us to know the wisdom of bowing before god, and learning from him instead of being full of ourselves.

This literary, poetic pattern, which we might call repetition, is called by the scholars ‘parallelism’ and is a recurring feature of the psalms. It is simply the practice of saying the same thing in different words, as with verse 6 of psalm 37 “He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. C.S. Lewis in his book ‘Reflections on the Psalms’ describes parallelism like this “In reality it is a very pure example of what all pattern, and therefore all art, involves. The principle of art has been defined by someone as ‘the same in the other.’ This in a country dance you take three steps and then three steps again. That is the same. But the first three are to the right and the second three to the left. That is the other. In a building there may be a wing on one side and a wing on the other, but both of the same shape….  Rhyme consists in putting together two syllables that have the same sound except for their initial consonants, which are other. Parallelism is the characteristically Hebrew form of the same in the other “(Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis, Collins, 1961, p. 11).

In a similar but different fashion the writers of the psalms, which, remember, were often composed to be sung, in God’s praise, contrast and compare many things especially the way of the righteous, and the blessings they receive, and the ways of the wicked and their subsequent demise.

In this way, we are indeed the makers of our own destiny. Our choice to turn towards God and live in His ways, or to turn our back on God and disobey his laws, defines our lives.

Either way, we will never be the same again.

Furthermore, how we come across to others, how we shine with the light of Jesus Christ, is like being competitors in a life style contest. This is the drama of human life. Our choices make us stand out – for good or bad!

Wisdom is a virtue which we can in no way earn, in our own strength, but rather we find wisdom as we dwell in Christ, as we walk step by step with Jesus, the source of all wisdom.

If you look at all the myriads of reality TV shows we’ve been subjected to over the last dozen or more years ‘in reality’ they pitch fool against fool, in many guises, apparently for our entertainment – whether it’s Survivor, or the Block, or the Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, or The Voice. (By the way, Mastermind’s in another category, in my mind anyway – but still applauding earthly rather than godly wisdom.)

What we desperately need to see all around us are countless clear and mature models of are those followers of Jesus who have committed everything to him and who serve him alone, following God’s word in every aspect of their lives. In this sense the choices we make distinguish us from one another in the great contest of life. It is ‘the meek,’ those who trust in God rather than in themselves, who will inherit the earth’ as David the song writer tells us in verse 11 of Psalm 37, the great life truth that Jesus picks up in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5: 5

Verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 37 which we’re immersing ourselves in today as we seek to become wise men and women in God, remind us not to judge superficially, on outwards appearances, or by how others view people, but to be influenced only by God’s judgements and perceptions. Worrying doesn’t get us anyway either, nor does the desire to ‘get even’ this Psalm reminds us, as again these are earthly habits rather than  kingdom values – “ refrain from anger and turn  from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. For evil people will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ – it’s not rocket science! God’s Word records and teaches God’s priorities and plans for us in no uncertain terms.

In the great Life Style contest, there is only one way to win. In the words of the psalmist again from Psalm 37, this time in verses 37 and 38,

“Consider the blameless ,

Observe the upright;

There is a future for the person of peace.

But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.”

My friends, we so need to pray – for every choice we make, for every conversation we have, for our priorities, our families, our homes, our ultimate destination.

Let’s pray now in fact with these words from Psalm 18. Make them yours too. Pray them every day as you lean further and further into the love and power of our mighty God.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

And I am saved from my enemies.”

Amen! Alleluia!

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