A Dwelling Place Beyond Imaging!

Notes & Transcripts

10/04/2009 A Dwelling Place Beyond Imaging! Knox 16 PC

243/348/11/350 Psalm 23 2 Timothy 4:16-18

OOPS! A farmer was known for his negative attitude. A neighbor stopped by for a visit one day and, noticing the man's wonderful crop, said, "You must be extremely happy with this year's harvest!" "Well, yes, it surely looks like the best I've ever had." The farmer grudgingly continued, "But a bumper crop is awfully hard on the soil."  
  UGH! A friend of mine, even in the most difficult of circumstances, reminds me that I am blessed and highly favoured. Do you always feel blessed? I don't always feel blessed. Especially in the middle of trouble and trial and difficulty.
Is it possible to feel blessed when you are losing a loved one to a terminal illness? This is a question which Philip Keller raises in his book on the 23rd Psalm. He tells about a long term struggle of his wife with cancer which eventually took her. It was hard to feel blessed in the midst of those circumstances.  
  Is it possible to feel blessed when your health is failing and the body begins to break down? Is it possible to feel blessed when you lose your job and you don't know where your next paycheck is coming from? Many people are asking that question in the midst of this downturn in the economy.
Is it possible to feel blessed when you are breaking up after a long-term relationship? Many couples are going through that this very day in this very hour. Is it possible to feel blessed when your children's lives are falling apart in front of your eyes and you know that there is nothing that you can do? Is it possible to feel blessed when you watch your mother or your father's health go down steadily and they find themselves unable to do the simplest things in life?  
  Can we believe in God even as the world is falling apart in front of us in every way imaginable? How would we respond if we were among those peoples swept up by the latest tsunami? How would we respond if caught in any of those natural disasters that are increasingly coming upon the earth?
One morning R. C. Chapman was asked how he was feeling. "I'm burdened this morning!" was his reply. But his happy countenance contradicted his words. So the questioner exclaimed in surprise, "Are you really burdened, Mr. Chapman?" "Yes, but it's a wonderful burden--it's an overabundance of blessings for which I cannot find enough time or words to express my gratitude!"  
Seeing the puzzled look on the face of his friend, Chapman added smiling, "I am referring to Psalm 68:19, which fully describes my condition. In that verse the Father in heaven reminds us that He “daily loads us with benefits.”  
  AHA! Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. The blessing of God follows us everywhere, every day of our life.
WHEE! It is like a lover who seeks to court us and even when we think the lover has given up on us, that is not so. This great love that pursues us, the beloved, is most profoundly summed up in the cross. On that cross, Jesus died in order to remove all the obstacles in the way of his grace and mercy. That act upon the cross is most profoundly relived in the celebration of this sacrament which we are doing this morning.  
  The apostle Paul has that attitude of goodness and mercy following him all the days of his life as he sums up in his letter to his son in the faith, Timothy.
At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me? May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him the glory forever and ever. Amen.  
  What an amazing testimony given to us by the apostle Paul. His world is falling apart. He is getting old and unable to get around as freely as he used to. Those who should be his friends are turning out to be his enemies. In his quest to be a blessing to others he draws on the blessing of God. Every single one has deserted him. But the Lord is God is right beside him to sustain him and to support him. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Keller: With my limited understanding as a finite human being I could not always comprehend His management executed in infinite wisdom. With my natural tendencies to fear, worry and ask "why," it was not always simple to assume that He really did know what He was doing with me. There were times I was tempted to panic, to bolt and to leave His care. Somehow I had the strange, stupid notion I could survive better on my own. Most men and women do.  
  But despite this perverse behaviour I am so glad He did not give me up. I am so grateful He did follow me in goodness and mercy. The only possible motivation was His own love, His care and concern for me as one of His sheep.
  And despite my doubts, despite my misgivings about His management of my affairs, He has picked me up and borne me back again in great tenderness.
As I see all of this in retrospect I realize that for the one who is truly in Christ's care, no difficulty can arise, ,, dilemma emerge, no seeming disaster descend on the life without eventual good coming out of the chaos. This is to see the goodness and mercy of my Master in my life. It has become the great foundation of my faith and confidence in Him. I love Him because He first loved me.  
  His goodness and mercy and compassion to me are new every day. My assurance is lodged in these aspects of His character. My trust is in His love for me as His own. My serenity has as its basis an implicit, unshakable reliance on His ability to do the right thing, the best thing in any given situation.
A Christian lost his home and mill when a flood washed them away. He was brokenhearted and discouraged as he stood surveying his loss. Just then he saw a glittering object that had been uncovered by the waters. It was gold! The disaster he thought had made him a beggar had actually made him wealthy.  
  Two little teardrops were floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked the other, “Who are you?” “I am a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him. But who are you?” The first teardrop replied, “I am a teardrop from the girl who got him.”
As we move along in life we will be confronted with choices to make. This is among the most important. The choice to whine or the choice to praise. We have been created and given a blessing to bless others.  
  Philipp Keller points out in his book on the 23rd Psalm the following. This psalm proclaims from the beginning to the end the tremendous care that the Shepherd has for His sheep. This parallels the relationship with God and his children.
Sheep are an interesting animal. A well-managed sheep flock can be taken to an area that has been devastated and is in rack and in ruins. But when they're finished grazing that particular pasture is in far better shape than it was before they arrived.  
  We may be entering into one the most negative workplaces on the face of the earth. Or we may be involved with one the most negative organisations on the face of the earth in our retirement years. It is toxic. But, after we leave wouldn't it be great to leave them in better shape than before we arrive?
Once an author wrote a book called "If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I down in the pits. Life is not always a bowl of cherries. But goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. Even in the most difficult circumstances we will be able to praise God because he is always close at hand.  
  The Psalmist makes a powerful statement in Psalm 36:7. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
One of God's faithful missionaries, Allen Gardiner, experienced many physical difficulties and hardships throughout his service to the Savior. Despite his troubles, he said, "While God gives me strength, failure did not daunt me."  
  YEAH! In 1851, at the age of 57, he died of disease and starvation while serving on Picton Island at the southern tip of South America. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry in his little book showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly. It read, "I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God."
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