April 5, 2020
A New Normal: A new sermon series – Ps 34
I continue to be thankful for technology at a time like this. I realize online church can never take the place of actually meeting and worshipping together-I’m glad that eternity isn’t going to be done online-where we tune in on our phones or laptops-but that God’s people are gathered together around His throne worshipping Him. But for right now in this crazy time we’re going through on planet earth I’m thankful for phones and laptops and live streaming technology where we can still gather together as the church. That even though we’re scattered across our different homes in our living rooms, kitchens, some of you may still be in bed-but that together as the church we can worship the Lord in song and open up our Bibles to dig into His Word. Can you image if this was even just 10 years ago-when live streaming didn’t really exist. We would all be mailing each other the recorded CDs or cassette tapes of the service. I’m sure many of you might still have some sermon CD’s or cassettes at home. Or we would be passing along a VHS recording of the service from a camcorder! That’s some retro technology! So I’m thankful for the technology of today-in which God can still draw His people together.
But how are you navigating this new normal? How are you adjusting? Here we are 3 weeks into this. Have you established a new pattern or routine to your life? Probably in some ways yes and in some ways no. Again we have a lot of people who are still heading into work, being very busy-far busier than normal. But there’s also a lot of people who are simply home right now-working from home, school at home, just staying home because you can’t go into work. And while this is very serious-it’s still good to laugh a bit. I read one article where the guy said he expected his apocalyptic suit to look like some sort of hazmat, space suit or even like a warrior’s suit of armor-but what his apocalyptic suit actually is is this-pajama pants! And maybe this has been your typical wardrobe right now-that it’s been weeks since you’ve dressed up or even wore a nice pair of pants or even jeans. Another image I really liked was about pets-dog. And maybe your pets think it’s great too-you’re finally here with me all day-this is what I’ve dreamed of! Or a lot of people are using this time to get healthy and stay in shape. Who’s been outside exercising-biking, walking, jogging, running. I’ve never seen so many people out in our neighborhood by the church. I like this tweet-Lasagna. Hopefully you haven’t sunk to that level yet! But if you’re hanging around the house-it’s hard not to avoid snacking all day on a bunch of junk food! Continual grazing. Monica and I joked about remembering the Freshman 15 in college where the dorm room food packed on an extra 15-what about the Covid-19, 19?
Have you heard about Tangled? It was the most googled question last week. Rapunzel the princess was quarantined in the tower, having been forced to stay away from people for 16 years-and the name of the kingdom was called…wait for it…Corona! One guy’s tweet said-Fun fact: Corona is the name of the Kingdom in the Disney film Tangled where Rapunzel was forced into social distancing by her mother. Thanks, Disney! What other predictions await us in the vault?
But back to the question from earlier-how are you navigating this new normal? Have you found yourself at a loss at times for what to do? Here you are at home-whether working from home-or just being home because your job doesn’t allow you to come in-and you’re sort of scratching your head wondering what am I supposed to be doing right now? Maybe you see all these posts other people are making on social media about how busy and productive they’ve been working from home-and you’re thinking I’m not. Or maybe you sat at home trying to figure out how to structure and schedule your day since you’re not at the office and you feel far less efficient. Or as your job is on hold or uncertain you’ve begun to question your identity-who am I? Maybe for the first time you’re realizing that your identity isn’t in what you do for a living. Or maybe you’ve begun to question your goals in life? What am I actually accomplishing and doing with my life? When it’s all put on pause-as I’ve heard a lot of people say-life in on reset- it’s a great time to evaluate who we are. One of the most encouraging statements I’ve read came from an EFCA email where it said-at a time like this more than ever before we need to remember who we are-and most importantly whose we are. And that’s what we want to look at today in God’s Word.
Open your Bibles to Ps 34. As we’ve been going through this series on the New Normal these past 3 weeks we’ve looked at the comfort and truth from the Psalms. We first looked at Ps 84 telling us to make this time in our lives a spiritual oasis. Then last week we looked at Psalm 91 where instead of sheltering-in-place we can shelter-in-Christ and make Him our dwelling place. Today I want you to take a look at Ps 34:1. And I want you to pause there because I think there’s no better time to make that a reality in our lives than right now. Are praises to the Lord continually in your mouth? If you have the NIV it says his praise will always be on my lips. Is that true of you? During this new normal of life where everything is so uncertain and unknown, it’s easy to be continually talking about the Coronavirus. Where everything on our lips is about what’s happening, is it getting worse, when will it end, when will things go back to the way they were-and that’s obviously going to be at the forefront our minds. But what if God’s praises were continually in your mouth? That as you go about your day you spoke of the Lord and who He is and how He’s got this and is completely in control? It’s often said that we speak about and praise that which we love most. It’s not hard to find yourself talking to people about your new favorite restaurant-you’ve got to go there and try the food-or your new favorite movie-you’ve got to see it, it’s awesome. We naturally fill our mouths with the praises of the things we love. I can definitely talk about Star Wars, the best pizza places around, and sports-although there’s not a lot of sports to be talking about right now! But filling my mouth with the praises of the things I love just happens. But are we filling our mouths with the praises of the Lord who loves us?
If you jumped in on our Zoom Conference prayer meeting on Wednesday we looked at Eph 1 which gives us so many things to praise the Lord for. Just look at a few snapshots-Eph 1:3, 5, 7-8, 11-12. There is so much to praise the Lord for in these verses. If I can give out some homework this week, I challenge you to read through Eph 1 and then let your mouth be filled with praise afterwards. Because this is reminding us exactly of who we are and whose we are-as followers of Christ we’ve been adopted by Him into His family, we’ve been loved and had all of our sins forgiven by Him; we’ve been given an eternal inheritance in Christ that can never be taken away-all of this incredible hope considering the state of our world right now! Think about it-one virus has disrupted the whole world and put our future and our economy in jeopardy. I was reading about how remote islands in the S. Pacific and the Scottish Highlands aren’t even Coronavirus free-but how Antartica is the only continent that doesn’t have it. Anybody thinking that might be their next move and career change to stay safe? Probably not-there’s hardly a corner of the globe you can go to that isn’t infected. We’ve been quickly reminded how fragile this world is. Praise the Lord that this world isn’t our only hope. Look at Phil 3:20-21. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you belong somewhere else; your passport has been stamped with a heavenly stamp and one day you’ll dwell there. Because of Jesus your life, your future, your hope is radically altered-and that’s awesome. And it brings us right back to Ps 34:1-3.
I don’t know about you but I find v. 2 both really convicting and really comforting. On the convicting side is all the different ways I could finish off that sentence-My soul makes its boast in…my job, my career, my, my skills and abilities, my intelligence, my accomplishments, my looks, my bank account-all the things we naturally think about in creating our identity and bolstering our pride. And I think for a lot of us what we do defines who we are and how we feel about ourselves. What we do and how successful we’ve been becomes how we pat ourselves on the back and feel good about who we are. And yet during a time like this when what a lot of us do is put on hold or when the economy and our jobs and our bank accounts are uncertain-we’re not sure where to turn or how to find our sense of identity. You may have been at home this week-your business and work, your company have come to a halt-and you’re staring out the window wondering- Now what? Who am I? But what does it say in v. 2. And that’s the piece that is so comforting! My boasting isn’t in me, my sense of pride and self-worth isn’t in me. My identity isn’t found in me and who am I in and of myself-it’s found in who I am in the Lord, that is, in Christ. And that’s humbling-yes-but it’s a good humbling. As the verse says, it makes you glad because you were never meant to find your identity and boasting in yourself. That was never part of the plan. God made you and created you to find who you are in Him. So here’s the challenge this Psalm is giving us-Boast in who you belong to, not in what you do.
For a lot of us that might run counter to how we’re wired and what this world says. But as Paul said in Philippians our citizenship isn’t in this world, it’s in heaven where we eagerly await the return of our Savior. Or look at how this is phrased in Jer 9:23. And can I just say-that does make sense. Doesn’t a wise person boast in how smart they are? Maybe you can remember the smartest kid in your class at school. And for the rest of us who weren’t so smart, who weren’t the sharpest crayons in the box, we’re all a bit jealous! Or doesn’t a rich person boast in their wealth? Especially now as we’re seeing movie stars and musicians posting videos of self-quarantining at home trying to tell us they relate. And yet they’re stuck in their mansion sitting poolside-do tell me more how your life is like mine! But the rich boast in their riches-it’s how the world operates. And yet listen to how the verse continues-Jer 9:24. God is saying it’s good to boast-to boast in the single-greatest honor a person can-which is to know the Lord. To be in a relationship with the Lord who’s full of steadfast love for us. Now this isn’t boasting in a haughty, holier-than-thou sort of way-Well, I’m very religious and know the Lord and clearly you don’t. Not at all! This is a boasting about being given the amazing, unimaginable privilege of knowing the Lord, of being the grateful recipient of His grace, of being humbled by the fact that the Maker of the universe and the vast stars in the night sky would seek to have a relationship with you. It’s incredible-and that becomes your source of identity-Boast in who you belong to, not in what you do. And that’s so important because we’ve all been currently reminded that what we do can change in an instant. Jobs can come and go, companies can come and go, same with the economy-who knows what lies ahead. And yet who we belong to never changes. When you put your faith in Christ to forgive you and save-you are instantly adopted into His eternal family and made into someone new. Your eternal destiny becomes secured in Him and you become a citizen of His kingdom. By boasting in who you belong to you are boasting in a reality that can never be undone or changed.
And that brings us a hope for the present. Look at how Ps 34 continues-v. 4-5. This isn’t saying you won’t have fears. We all have fears at a time like this-but the Lord is the one who delivers us from our fears. That even in the midst of our fears and going through these uncertain times our faces don’t have to be full of worry or stress-instead they can be radiant because we are looking to the One in whom we belong and who holds our future. Look at v. 6-7. What a vivid image of how God is with us and protecting us! I can remember several years ago going to Cub Scout camp with Jacob and every year we went there were always heavy rains-but one year as we were sleeping in our tent the wind and the rain was raging outside and of course our group had chosen to make camp underneath a bunch of tall trees. I laid there all night thinking-this is safe-these trees are going to come crashing down-we’re goners. I didn’t get a wink of sleep-and by early morning they sounded the storm alarm and we had to go into the lodge for safety! But as the storms of life rage around us now, as the coronavirus pandemic is overtaking our globe, the Lord encamps right around you, protecting you and delivering you. You don’t have to run to the lodge for safety or find shelter elsewhere-the Lord is with you, His tent is pitched right next to yours, encircling yours and He isn’t going anywhere! So instead of laying there in your tent with paralyzing fear awake all night and consumed with worry, you can rest in confidence that the Lord will save and deliver you as the verse says. You can make your boast in Him! That doesn’t mean you won’t get sick or lose your job. Things on this earth could turn from bad to worse-but we live by faith in a God who has ultimately saved our souls by sending His Son-and He has promised to deliver us from this earth because our new identity is in Him, our citizenship is in His kingdom. In Him there’s peace both now and forevermore! There’s nothing He’s left out.
So look at v. 8. This verse is the central part of this Psalm-the heart of what it’s saying-and it’s talking about first hand knowledge and experience. This verse is a command, it’s a challenge to not just see God’s goodness from afar, or to look at it and observe it from a distance. This verse isn’t even saying to admire God’s goodness and appreciate it-it’s commanding you to experience it and taste His goodness for yourself! This verse is not like a cooking show on tv-whether it’s the Great British Baking Show, Cupcake Wars or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives where the host and the judges on the show get to taste all this amazing food-and we’re left at home thinking yes that cake looks good, yes those BBQ nachos look amazing-wish I could have a bit. And you just have to watch them taste it and take their word for it. This verse is telling you to taste God’s goodness for yourself. To experience His hand at work, to encounter His presence, to enjoy His blessings. Not to see it from afar but to experience it in your life. That’s the other challenge this Psalm is giving us-Taste God’s goodness for yourself, don’t just hear it from others. And I believe a time like this gives you so many opportunities to do that. To taste and see God at work in big ways in your life-and in small ways everyday at home in this new normal. That could be a moment of peace and stillness in His presence as you’re outside enjoying His creation. That could be a great reminder of a promise from His Word in your devotions. That could be the kindness of a neighbor who managed to bless you during social distancing. That could be a sweet time with your family at home while normal life is on hold. What are some of those small, simple ways you can taste God’s goodness? Ask yourself that and be intentional in looking for those things.
And all those ways that you taste of His goodness ultimately happens because of a relationship with Him. It happens by faith. You taste God’s goodness for yourself when you trust in the good news of the One who was willing to go to the cross and pay for your sins. There is no greater goodness in all the world than that! The cross wasn’t a general thing that just happened on our planet. It wasn’t merely a great and noble act of sacrifice that Jesus performed that we’ll always admire. It certainly was a great and noble act of sacrifice-but the cross is personal. You taste God’s goodness when you understand and trust in the glorious truth that Jesus died for your sins. That He paid the penalty and endured the punishment that your all of your mistakes and errors and sins deserved. That you are forever forgiven and said and adopted into His family, given a glorious inheritance in His kingdom-because He, your King, was willing to die for you. That’s what today declares as it’s Palm Sunday. Look at John 12:12-15. Jesus, your King, enters Jerusalem not to ascend the throne and put on a crown of jewels-but He enters Jerusalem to be lifted up on a cross and put on a crown of thorns. What King does that? What King willingly rides into the city of His death? Our King does! Jesus, the Son of God, who’s come for us. O taste and see that Lord is good when you trust in Him!