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God is our fortress! – Psalm 31

God is our fortress! – Psalm 31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 20, 2017

When you hear the word “fortress” what do you think of? Perhaps a castle built high on a cliff made of strong stone, a thick concrete-reinforced bunker deep in the ground bristling with barb wire, or an impenetrable stockade with massive cannons. The word “fortress” conjures up thoughts of safety, security, or protection for those faced with an enemy that seeks to destroy them. The Christian lives in a world where we face such an enemy and where we need to find a strong and secure fortress.

David in his distress seeks to find such a fortress and he does in the arms and strength of the Lord. It is a fortress every believer can reach and find safety in a world of darkness and sin. It is a place of quiet rest in a restless world and shelter from the windswept storms of life. David describes for us such a fortress; therefore let’s find out what he writes concerning the fact that God is our fortress…

READ: Psalm 31

As a boy we built tree houses and dugout bunkers that were strictly for “boys only”. Each had a myriad of alarms and traps just in case some wily girl found her way even near them. Of course this never happened because the girls we defended against never cared a thing in the world about our fortresses. David shares with us the fact that…

I. God is our fortress where we find shelter! (Vv. 1-8)

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

1. Here is another one of David’s Psalms sung during a time of being despised, defamed, and persecuted. David desired others know that they too could turn to God during these times. So David sings, “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.” And notice how often David refers to God as his safe haven or stronghold: “Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” David does so at least six times using terms such as “refuge, fortress, rock, or rescue”. David wanted God to listen to his prayer; he wanted to be delivered from his sin, and he wanted to be protected and guided through life’s entrapments. It was “Into” God’s protective “hands” that David “committed” his spirit. Sound familiar? It should. Jesus used these words as well when he gave himself up as our Sacrifice. David saw God as his redeemer, the truth in a world full of “worthless idols”, and one he could completely trust. This is why he sang, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” David felt protected: “You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” where he could see the enemy coming at him from far away and thereby make preparations. David knew that God is our fortress where we find shelter!

EXAMPLE: There was only one place to run to and that was to a huge bunch of blackberry bushes. When you decide to take a shortcut across a farmer’s field and discover that there are several large bulls on the other side of some bushes you run as fast as you can to any shelter you can find. My friend and I had been out shooting, our vehicle got stuck, and we needed to hike back to town. And the shortest distance between us and town was through this field; with a few obstacles (angry bulls) in our way. Scratched, cut, and bleeding we came out of the safety of the blackberries on the other side. God is our fortress where we find shelter!

There was nothing better in the world when things like your big brother picked on you to find comfort in a parent’s understanding and sympathetic arms, which I never did because both of them usually asked immediately, “Now what did you do to provoke your brother?” In this Psalm David shares with us the fact that he found that…

II. God is our fortress of compassion! (Vv. 9-13)

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends– those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.

1. When David needed understanding, even if he had sinned, he knew he could go to the Lord. This is why he sings, “Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.” In his sin David felt like he was ill and indeed he was sin-sick. And of course when you are caught in sin or you know you are wrong you feel like everyone is against you; whether they are or not. David felt like he was literally a leper and lamented that “Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends– those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.” Cast aside, dust in the wind, and forgotten David turns to God. He pleaded for grace because his life was in “distress”, in “sorrow, “grief, and anguish”. David was so distressed he was at the point of becoming paranoid, “For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.” Sin will do that but in God one finds mercy and David reminds us that God is our fortress of compassion!

EXAMPLE: “No one understands me!” is the battle cry of most adolescents. Teenagers over the centuries have lamented the misunderstanding of the adults around them. We find it in the love story of Romeo and Juliet to the selfish demands of Samson demanding his parents do what he wanted done concerning a girl. I am so glad I skipped that in my life, aren’t you? Right? We may think or feel that there is no one who understands us or cares for us but there is. We learn, as we mature, that there is always one who cares no matter how we may feel and David reminds us that God is our fortress of compassion!

Revenge was good but trust is better especially when your big brother is seeking revenge on you and you have to trust him not to punch your lights out like he promised. How good to know then what David realized that…

III. God is our fortress that keeps us safe! (Vv. 14-18)

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave. Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

1. In his self-induced sin condition David longed for relief and he finds it in God. “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’” David realized what many have forgotten in our day and age that his “times”, his entire life was “in” God’s “hands”. God knew David’s life from its beginning to its end and therefore it was God alone who could “deliver [David] from [his] enemies and from those who” pursued him! David had been chased first by Saul and later in his fractured reign by his own son so he understood what it meant to trust in God and sang “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave. Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” Wow, he just sang for the death of his enemies and anyone who would “speak arrogantly against the righteous”! In our day where many live politically correct lives instead of what Scripture actually teaches this may seem harsh, old fashioned, or out-of date, but David had come to understand completely that God is our fortress that keeps us safe!

EXAMPLE: Now the reason my brother want to “punch my lights out” was simply over peanut butter. He liked it and I gave him some of mine. Of course what happened was that I had set him up in the first place by making myself a peanut butter sandwich with lots and lots of peanut butter on it. I knew my brother would want it and thereby take it from me so when he came into the kitchen and saw what I was making he demanded that I give it to him. I did this by way of smooshing it into his face. (Yes, “smooshing” is a word; my word.) I had to run like crazy. Unlike David I discovered I had no place to hide. David discovered that God is our fortress that keeps us safe!

Being rescued is a wonderful thing whether it is being rescued from the rocks at the beach by the Coast Guard; being rescued from the bad guys by the police; or being rescued in the midst of life’s struggles and pain. But sometimes, there is no immediate rescue, what then? David teaches us that…

IV. God is our fortress of hope! (Vv. 19-24)

How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

1. In reading David’s Psalms one comes away with a good picture of a man who struggled with his own sin, relationship with God and others, and how he worked through these things. Kind of like us! He comes to the realization that God has his best interests in mind and responds, “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.” In a world of fear, doubt, and personal struggle he began to understand that those who trusted in God that “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.” And this was no esoteric moment for David but a harsh reality a spiritual wake up call for him! David had sometimes doubted God still loved him. I believe it was because like a lot of us he sinned and knew it and knew he did not deserve God’s unfailing love; but God gave it anyway. The word here for “besieged” can also mean “strong”. So David cries out, “Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged (strong) city. In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” That was David’s fear and doubt talking. “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” How often has that been true in your life and if not, to whom do you go to for spiritual protection? David learned this life lesson and shouts to anyone who would hear, “Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” God is our fortress of hope!

EXAMPLE: I began this sermon by asking, “When you hear the word ‘fortress’ what do you think of? Perhaps a castle built high on a cliff made of strong stone, a thick concrete-reinforced bunker deep in the ground bristling with barb wire, or an impenetrable stockade with massive cannons.” For me it is none of these things. For me it is a picture of hope. Hope not in the “wish-I-may-wish-I-might” kind of hoping but in the security and certainty faith brings. As Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV) This is what David reminds us of that God is our fortress of hope!

Conclusion:

God is our fortress where we find shelter! God is our fortress of compassion! God is our fortress that keeps us safe! God is our fortress of hope!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The righteous person! – Psalm 1

The righteous person! – Psalm 1
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 18, 2017

Many base their entire lives on their feelings. Emotionalism will get one into trouble if it isn’t tempered by rationality. The one thing my Dad taught me was to rationally think things through, whether it was fixing something, doing a job, or my school work. Sadly, much of the church today is influenced irrationality. Colleges, the media, and politicians have all sold their souls on the altar of selfish emotionalism. Morality is often dictated by how it makes someone feel so personal sin is regarded in the same way. The Psalmist teaches us that the righteous person does not live their life this way.

The Christian is to live their life by their faith in Jesus and his teachings not their feelings or how we think he might have felt. Feeling good or bad about something does not make it righteous. Believers are to live holy lives. Our foundation is not in people, feelings, or what makes us happy for the moment. Holiness is found in walking with God; let’s discover what the Psalmist teaches about the righteous person…

READ: Psalm 1

Society’s attitude about contentment has changed a lot in the past several thousand years or so since this Psalm was written, however, the basic have not changed much. We still want food and water, shelter and safety. Yet there is more to life and the believer is taught that…

I. The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! (Vv. 1-2)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

1. Right away the writer of this Psalm establishes how the righteous person is to live their lives: “Blessed” or happy “is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Notice the progression. First we find our happiness not in people, places, or things; the believer finds all they need in God alone! So much so they will “not walk in the counsel of the wicked”. In other words they would never give any credence to ungodly notions that are counter to the Word of God. The wicked world’s advice has nothing of value the righteous person should consider. The righteous person also will not “stand in the way of sinners”. The meaning does not mean that they would block a sinner’s way but rather it means the righteous person will not stand with those who like to sin or who live in sin! In fact ungodliness would be abhorrent to them. And finally the righteous person does not “sit in the seat of mockers”. Jude says that these kinds of scoffers or scorners “are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4 NIV) Each expression becomes more intense and signifies a progression from a casual influence of ungodly people to complete collusion with them in their scorn against God and his righteous people! Rather the righteous person’s “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night”! Instead of joining in or trying to be liked by the ungodly world the righteous person finds their inner and outer joy in God’s ways and in fact thinks about and meditates on it as he walks with his Lord moment by moment! Jesus taught that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIV) The righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

EXAMPLE: When we are younger we wanted to please those who were in charge of us like parents, coaches, or teachers. We found satisfaction in achieving goals and gaining the approval of those I mentioned. One of the harshest things for young people to hear is if those they hold in high esteem are disappointed in them. I still remember when my father told me he was disappointed in me after I had promised to work in the yard for my mom but went and played instead. The Psalmist wrote that the righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

In order to live a life that is full and truly free one must have a good foundation in which to base their life on. Like a strong tree that can weather any storm…

II. The righteous person has deep roots of faith! (Vv. 3-4)

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

1. Paul wrote that the believer’s “faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5 NIV); that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 NIV); and the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Why is this truth important to understand? Simply because we have either forgotten what faith is or we do not practice it as we should! Faith is not some kind of wishful thinking or hoping. Faith is based on a certainty, biblical truth and spiritual foundation. The writer of this Psalm understood this and wrote that the person with faith “is like a tree planted by streams of water”. The idea conveyed is one of being firmly rooted in a place whereby the person receives their spiritual sustenance from the living flow of God alone! The Hebrews rightly knew that a flowing stream was healthier to drink from in that day than stagnant pools of standing water. In fact the writer noted that a deeply rooted fruit tree would yield “its fruit in season”. This was also important to them because a tree that produced good healthy fruit was important for daily survival; one could dry its fruit for future use as well. I am reminded of when Jesus went to a certain fig tree wanting to find fruit and found that it had none so he cursed it and it never bore fruit again! (Matthew 21:19) The well watered tree “whose leaf never withers” is blessed and produces in season what it is supposed to just as those who remain in the living stream of God. In fact “Whatever he does prospers.” Yet, we learn: “Not so the wicked!” Those who are easily influenced by the ungodly world wither in their faith and blow away at the latest politically correct notion. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They soon leave their church, their Christian friends, and blow away like dried up spiritually worthless husks! However, the righteous person has deep roots of faith!

EXAMPLE: We live in a society that seeks to find deep happiness in the moment. This is impossible no matter how many Hallmark made for TV movies we watch. Life is more than pithy sayings found on greeting cards or Facebook re-postings. Interestingly recent statistics show that more and more couples are opting for marriage rather than living together. Many have discovered that a lasting relationship begins with trust which begins when you are willing to say “I do” without reservation and mean it. Even though my father was critically ill we kids knew he loved my mother more than anything. The righteous person has deep roots of faith!

Some go through life as if it were some kind of personal game not thinking or caring there are consequences for their actions. There is an outcome in life in making either good choices or bad ones and the Psalmist finishes his thoughts by relating that…

III. The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord! (Vv. 5-6)

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

1. The prophet Job would ask, “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?” (Job 21:17-18 NIV) The answer to Job’s question was every time unless they repent of their sin and walk with God. John the Baptist warned that the Messiah (Jesus) would baptize believers “with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12 NIV) Jesus also explained that the kingdom of heaven was like a net full of fish where the good ones were separated from the bad and that “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV) Jesus taught over and over there were serious consequences for rejecting him as the Messiah. In fact Jesus would declare, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18 NIV) The Psalmist wrote, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” The righteous person will be rewarded. Jesus taught that one day the Lord will stand in front of all mankind and only some will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness… For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:23, 29 NIV) Jesus knew the reciprocity, the relationship, between God and mankind. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

EXAMPLE: The other day it poured rain and as I looked out our living room window I noticed that three squirrels and quite few different birds found refuge during the downpour. The maple tree in our front yard works as a great natural canopy protecting whatever is under it from the hot sun or spring rains. My father’s arms felt the same way when I was little. When things got bad he would put his hand on my shoulder or wrap his arms around me and I would feel safe. The Psalmist describes for us that the righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

Conclusion:

The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! The righteous person has deep roots of faith! The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Correlation Not Causation!

Correlation Not Causation!
By Lee Hemen
April 30, 2017
It amazes me that the same dupes who totally swallow what is causing climate change and are angered if anyone dares disagree with them are ready, willing, and able to swallow a study that does not prove what they think it does concerning diet drinks.
Recently there was a study done concerning diet sodas. What you may not know is the entire facts concerning the study. When it first came out and all the networks were repeating the same thing I told my wife “something does not smell right concerning this” and I was correct. The news came out that artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to an increased risk of stroke and dementia, according to a recent study by the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed journal Stroke. The researchers looked at 2,888 people over the age of 45 (with a median age of 62) for stroke risks and 1,484 people over the age of 60 (with a median age of 69) for risk of dementia. After adjustments were made for age, sex, education, caloric intake, diet, exercise, and smoking, they found that diet soda drinks “were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” (The study cites correlation rather than causation.) And this is the key phrase that every worried nanny missed: “correlation rather than causation”. What this means is that in the groups, which by the way were age specific, the studies for these groups are made up of people who would be over weight, old, and already have these problems and were drinking diet sodas or diet drinks in order to help with the problems they already have!
Unless you have forgotten there were several other recent studies that linked diet soda and cardiovascular disease and showed a correlation (if not a causation) between cancer and aspartame. However what they did not tell you is that a person would have to consume enormous quantities and would probably drown first! The beverage industry says people who are overweight and already at risk for heart disease may consume more diet drinks in an attempt to control their weight and the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe. And guess what? They’ve also determined that drinking too much water is unhealthy as well! Go figure.
There has been found no direct link to diet drinks, dementia, and or Alzheimer’s disease just that people who are already at risk for these diseases drink diet drinks. That’s’ correlation and not causation.

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