Psalm 133

A song of ascents.  Of David.  "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."  Psalm 133:1-3

We are hearing a lot about unity lately.  Our nation needs to be united; our community needs to come together to combat this pandemic in unity; our church needs unity in order to grow.  Yet, we find discord, distrust and even hate.  The psalmist writes that when God’s people live together in unity it is good and pleasant.  Living together requires us to be compassionate.  Compassion requires empathy for one who is suffering and feeling compelled to reduce suffering.  It is a fuller, truer definition than feelings alone, and it’s a very biblical understanding.  Scripture tells us to love what is good, and hate what is evil.  Good is morally right and righteousness, it is to be desired.  Evil is morally wrong and wicked.  In the simple sense Jesus is good and satan is evil.

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The Bible says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance”  (Luke 15:7).

The clear trumpet blast calling men and women to repentance is conspicuous for its absence from the modern pulpit.  We have preached the dignity of humanity instead of our depravity.  We have declared our goodness rather than our wickedness.  We have vindicated ourselves rather than confessed our guilt.  We have made of ourselves, despite all of our inherent sin and evil, little cherubs of perfection with halos on our heads, harps in our hands and wings on our shoulders.  Gone is the mourner’s bench; gone are the tear-stained cheeks of godly sorrow for sin; and gone is the joy in Heaven over wanderers returning to the Father’s house.

None of us wants to accept blame for our sins.  But either the Bible is wrong or we are wrong.  When we look at the fruits of this unrepentant generation, I am convinced that we need to blow a loud blast on the trumpet of Biblical repentance.

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Seven Elements of Repentance

We repent enough to be forgiven, but do we surrender enough to be changed?  In Mark 1:15, Jesus’ first message to the crowds was to repent and believe the gospel.  When we sin, we have turned our backs on God.  To repent is to turn away from sin and turn instead to God.  Here are 7 elements of repentance:

Conviction - The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and helps us see what we could not see before.  Our prideful spirits are softened, helping us become aware of the simple fact that we are wrong.

Surrender - The Holy Spirit supplies us with a willingness to be honest with ourselves and with God.  With His help, we are willing to to recognize and admit we are wrong.

Godly sorrow or remorse - An appropriate response when repenting for sins is to experience Godly sorrow or remorse at having gone the wrong way and disappointed God.

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Sail On

In his January 20, 1961 inaugural address John Kennedy spoke of a new beginning, a renewal, a powerful challenge.  Near the end of his speech he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  Fifty-nine years later First Presbyterian Church has the opportunity for a new beginning, a renewal, and a powerful challenge.  We are forging ahead looking for a new pastor while dealing with the restrictions of following safe guidelines related to Covid-19.  Our attendance is down.  People are practicing social distancing waiting for the all clear.  Some are searching for a new home that offers the comfort and companionship they seek, not realizing it is here at FPC. 

Yes, Lon has retired as our pastor, yet Jesus continues as our Shepherd.  We are His sheep and First Pres is still one of his sheepfolds.  We are not literally at a new beginning, but we are at a time of renewal and it will be a powerful challenge.  Borrowing from JFK we need to ask how can we serve our church and our community.  We need not worry about how the church is serving us, but how we are serving The Church of Jesus Christ.  If we do so, watch how FPC prospers in the process.

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Live His Plan

For five months or so, we have been told to fear the unknown.  Follow political leaders who tell you to avoid others, wear a mask, don’t go to church, hide in your house.  Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit those in prison (whatever that prison may be).  He tells us to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey God’s commands, and to follow Him.  AND, if we do these things, we will never be alone.  Many are alone today because you are living in fear.  Do you remember: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For thou art with me.”  If God is with you, why do you fear?

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Submission to Authorities

Romans 13:1-8
History has shown that there is an adverse reaction to people with authority.  It would seem that orders always come from the top to the bottom.  While reaction to the orders from bottom to top.

The desire to attain independence fosters negativity toward authority figures when we're young, while the desire to maintain independence can foster animosity to those in authority when we are older.  Things we could do when we were younger, we may not be able to do now without assistance, and that can foster the idea of losing self-worth.

Negative attitudes to those in authority start with the simplest of commands - “Clean up your room;" "You can't leave this table until your vegetables are gone;” “Get your homework done.”  There is negativity towards teachers, those in other professional occupations, lineups at the checkouts, and even down to entertainment.  Wherever we look, there is an animosity to those in authority over us.

It is also true that we want to be the people in authority.  We want to be the one making the decisions and giving the orders.  We want to be the one people look up to and we are so sure that we can do a much better job than the one who was there before us, and the animosity won't be there with those who work for us, as it was in the past.  On occasion this may be the case, but generally it's not the rule.

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Life and Death

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.  Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.  Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.  Show respect to all people and grovel to none.  When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.  Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.  When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”  Chief Tecumseh

I don’t know if Tecumseh read the Bible, or not.  However, if we know Jesus, we shouldn’t fear death.  We should respect one another.  We should love.  We should seek God’s purpose for our lives.  We should live our lives as nobly as possible.  We should realize that we are equal in the eyes of God.  When it is time, we should die knowing that God sent His Son so that we can live with Him in eternity.

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