6.5.16 Ps 90
Life’s Greatest Questions
*I recently attended a spiritual care in disaster training.
*Experts from a variety of fields, testimonies from a number of responders to disasters sharing their experiences…bombings, floods, mudslides, hurricanes.
*Disasters can overwhelm cities, counties, states, even entire countries. *One thing that was said over and over…All disasters are ultimately local.
*A state, or regional, or national level disaster…still comes down to -Individuals who are hurt
-Individual homes…flooded, buried, exploded, or burned.
*No matter how big the disaster…they are always local.
*Even when national help comes in…the locals know the area, the people, the culture. *Local government controls the scene
-It is their homes, their town.
-They will be there dealing with the loss…long after the outside help has gone away.
*All theology is ultimately local as well…personal. *Theology is the term given to the study of God…Theos=God
*Also the term given to the subsets of all studies related to religion, faith, ultimate things…the study of church, salvation, hell, heaven, angels, demons, etc.
*I don’t mean that all theology is about “me”
*I also understand that we live our theology in community.
*But what I mean is that all theological study, thinking, application is done by individuals.
*There are families, churches, denominations, cultures, nations…with certain theological leanings.
*But in the end…no matter how many people are collected into a group…that group is made up of individual people…and groups don’t technically believe anything…people do.
*”What about Group think?”…just a phrase that means a number of people are influenced by others to believe in certain ways…but the group doesn’t have a collective brain…life is not sci-fi.
*All theology is local…personal.
*All people have a worldview.
*A worldview…the lens through which they see things, all things.
*Some have a stated worldview, but another actual, lived out worldview.
*So you can have a Muslim in name only, or Christian in name only, or atheist in name only, etc.
*It is life’s greatest questions; that form the heart of every worldview.
*Life’s greatest questions are not:
1. Is there life on another planet?
2. Who will win the election?
1. What or Who is UR
2. Who or what are we?
3. What is our problem?
4. What is our solution?
5. What is our purpose?
6. What happens when we die?
*Many, maybe most have not thought these through and would not be able to give a coherent response
*But all have ideas about these and those ideas drive their choices, values, moods, how they vote, spend money, spend time, relate to others and themselves.
*”No, Terry, what about those who say they have no view on them.” *That is a view.
*If I believe I can’t know who or what humans are, or what ultimate reality is, or what my purpose is…that is a very distinct view on these things…agnosticism.
*It’s saying, “I know that I don’t or can’t know.”
*So the person will then live more or less consistent with that view.
*If they truly don’t believe they can know answers to these questions…then to be consistent they will have far fewer, if any, opinions about these things…which is almost never the truth.
*Historically those who say you cannot know about ultimate things…meaning, morality, life, death…speak and live as if you can in fact know.”
*”I don’t know if there is meaning, or morality…but I am very angry about…or happy about…”
*They generally have lots of opinions…so they are agnostic in name only…in fact they do think they know answers.
*You cannot help but have a view on these things…you may or may not live consistent with your view. *Everyone believes something about them…not everyone believes correctly.
*Everyone lives out of their beliefs…not everyone lives consistently with those beliefs.
*Make no mistake about…these are beliefs…faith issues.
*Everyone lives by faith…everyone.
*Some would profess faith in science…even if they fail to understand that science cannot address or answer the very questions that are ultimately most important to them.
*Some have faith in a sound bite, or cliché…
-“I believe everything works out in the end.” (What does that even mean) -“I believe everything happens for a reason.”
*These “professions of faith” are nice sounding words that have become true because they have been repeated over and over.
*Some place their faith in a “they”
*”They will figure out how to cure this”
*”They will protect us”
*”They will take care of me.”
*Who is “they”?
*”You know, them…the people who are not me…who will take care of me.”
*Katrina vs. Camille gulf coast(2005 & 1969)(time and location)
*Everyone lives by faith…not all faith is well grounded…or coherent.
*The answers to life’s ultimate questions cannot be discovered or proven by human effort and intellect alone.
*So the only way we can know is by the 7th great question, which is often put first…”How do we know what we know?”
*It is often put first because in regards to life’s greatest questions…the most important thing to answer is how do we know how to find answers.
*These questions cannot be answered apart from God’s revelation to us.
*A wise old fish once asked some young fish as they were swimming by…”How’s the water boys?” *The young fish answered back “What’s water?”
*We cannot transcend created reality to look at it from the outside and see these answers.
*We need outside help to find the answers we are seeking.
*Again, I am so grateful for science and its answers to so many pressing needs and desires in our lives.
*But science has become a monolithic belief system in the West and yet it fails to see itself as a faith or belief system…
*It can answer what it can answer…but scientists swim in the water…they need someone who doesn’t to tell them why they swim in water, why there is water.
*Many in our society do not understand that without the revelation of God to man…we are hopelessly without any answers to the most important questions of our lives.
*June, Psalm 90
*Life’s ultimate questions at a personal level.
*We will assume:
1. Ultimate reality: Triune God
2. How we know: God has revealed himself
*Part of that revelation is here in this Psalm…a poem, a hymn that speaks truth to us about life’s ultimate questions.
*We will address the questions:
1. Who are we…Made by God
2. What is our problem…Unmade by Sin 3. What is our solution…Remade by Christ 4. What our purpose…God’s glory
*Today question 1…”Who are we?”
Psa. 90:0 A prayer of Moses the man of God.
Psa. 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning — 6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 The length of our days
is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. 12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.
I. Who are we? Short-lived on the earth: like grass
*90:12…A verse that has been for me personally, a source of great comfort, perspective, and help.
*Wisdom is directly correlated here to a correct perspective on our limitations…we are going to die.
*It has been a verse that has helped shaped my values and choices.
*Recently when I was offended…and I was contemplating nursing a grudge
*My definition of the idiom “nursing a grudge” is “bottle feeding an offense so it will grow up big and strong and someday control and crush you.”
*This verse helped me go a different direction in my mind and heart. *Does this really matter?
*Will this finally, ultimately matter?
*No…okay, then stop…starve this grudge, don’t feed it.
*The Psalmist says we might get 70 or 80 years of life…some less, a few more.
*But ask an 80 year old…ask my dad…even 80 years (85) quickly pass.
*The Psalmist compares us to God like this:
-We are like fescue seedlings that germinate too late in the season…spring up green in the cool morning, but by afternoon…already burnt up by the hot sun.
-God, on the other hand, for him a thousand years is like (simile…not actually accounting)…a day, or watch in the night…4 hours.
*So, 1000 years, about 40 generations…is like 4 hours to him. *Our days on earth are so, so short.
*How does numbering them lead to wisdom?
*Just numbering them doesn’t…
*If I contemplate how short my life is on my own…then my conclusions will not make me wise.
*In fact the opposite can occur…
-Life is short therefore it is without real meaning,
-Life is short I must do what I can to be happy, often meaning…be self-serving and self-indulgent.
-Life is short there is no difference between a child and an Ape or worse, the ape has more value than a child.
*Many foolish conclusions can come from contemplating the shortness (temporary-ness) of life on our own…the Psalmist doesn’t recommend that.
*”Teach us to number our days aright.” He prays.
*”God, would you teach us?”
*Unaided human reason comes to consistently wrong conclusions about ultimate questions.
*We need God to teach us how to number our days aright.
*When he teaches us his numbering system…we do grow in wisdom.
*Who are we…short-lived on earth…grass…and not Bermuda, that you can’t kill…grass that comes and goes in a very short span.
*But as God teaches us to number our days so that we remember that we are “like” grass…he also teaches us that we are also very “unlike” grass.
II. Made in God’s image: Much more valuable than grass
v. 2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
*Before there was anything else…there was God.
*From eternity to past to eternity future his God…and he gave birth, through a word to the created order.
*Gen 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.”
*This first sentence forms the foundation of all that follows in the Bible…and the foundation for answering all of life’s ultimate questions.
1. It identifies the Creator: “Elohim”
-This title ties him to human history…He is the God of the Exodus, the covenant, the God of Abraham.
-He is not a faceless deity…he is the God of history…a history that led to the coming of Christ…the one the OT pointed to.
-He is God the father of the Lord Jesus.
John 1…in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God,…through him all things were created…without him nothing was made that has been made…Jesus
2. It explains the origin of the world
-God, the active, involved, one…the one who came save us…he is the originator of the world.
*We’ve talked about it a length in the past few years and its beyond the scope of this morning.
*But if you want to educate yourself on this topic there are many great books…I like John Lennox’s book “Seven days that divide the world.”
*Or his book “God’s undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” *Tons of well-written, well researched books.
*As I said, we are starting with a presupposition (one with vast evidence in its favor)…God is Ultimate reality and he has revealed himself.
*The world and all that is in it was made by him…including you and me.
*The creation account goes on to describe creating all that lives on this planet…vegetable and animal.
*Then it tells us that the apex of creation is humanity…male and female.
*We bear his image.
*We are related to the rest of the natural order in that we were made by God and we will perish…we are unrelated to the rest of the natural order in that we are made in God’s image…and we will live forever.
*We bear a special relationship to him to and have a special significance to him.
*This does not mean we are to be despotic and rule over creation in a ruinous way…clearly that is wrong and unbiblical.
*It does mean that human life is of ultimate value in God’s eyes and should be in ours.
*We should be sad that an interesting and important Animal was killed last week to save a 4 year old…but we should rejoice that a 4 year old was saved…and that there were people with a value system that allowed them to make that right choice.
*So we are like the grass, temporary, created, made by God AND
*We are unlike the grass, image bearers, eternal, loved by God.
III. Who are we: Temporal & Eternal
*We are like the grass…we are not all like the grass.
*The grass that comes up in the morning and dies in the evening does not suffer tragedy by choosing to miss its purpose.
*Of course it is tragic for you if you wasted money on planting fescue seed in late May in Wichita then watched in dismay as the baby grass turned brown and then to dust.
*The grass did not rebel against God.
*Scripture says that the created world has been tainted, subjected to frustration by human sin…but it hasn’t and doesn’t sin.
*The dog is a dog, the tree is a tree, grass is grass.
*Humans alone choose to live apart from their created purpose.
*Who are we?
*Image bearers who can only be satisfied when we seek and find our satisfaction in him.
*The Psalmist seems confused.
*V. 9,10…We finish our years with a moan, our lives are full of trouble and sorrow
*V. 14… “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
*Which is it…moaning, trouble, sorrow or Joy and gladness and satisfaction?
*We are like the grass (temporary, weak) we are unlike the grass (made in his image, eternal)
*To use Paul’s language…2 Cor. 5:2 “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed.”
*Paul doesn’t define what the nature of this groaning is, but from the rest of his writings we can assume that it was his sense of frustration with the limitations and disabilities of mortal existence.
*He longed to be clothed in what he called our “heavenly dwelling” (5:4).
*We live in this “between time”… we are a sort of hybrid…like the grass, unlike the grass. *We can experience joy in Christ…and we will experience the groaning of life now.
*Paul said that to “live in Christ, to die is gain.”
*Same thing, said a different way.
*It is an ongoing struggle to live with perspective that aligns with reality.
*Who are we…just like the grass…humility is the right response.
*Who are we…not at all like the grass…confidence in the love of God for us, and in our uniqueness.
*Humans tend to get messed up when they let go of the tension in this area.
*The challenge is to see ourselves and others in light of these two sides of one coin.
*We are confused, or at least some are confused about who we are.
*Babies are killed by doctors, there is outrage over the killing of an animal to save a child, abuse of children is epidemic, wars were civilians are causalities is common…intentional.
*There are places in the world, and homes all over the world…where life is cheap…no cheap implies some value…worthless.
*On the other hand there are those who understand.
* I met a chaplain recently who worked the Oslo, Washington mudslide two years ago.
-42 men, women, children were killed in their homes when the side of a mountain traveling 200 mph slammed into their neighborhood.
-The rescue mission was fairly short (8 survivors)…but the recovery mission was weeks long.
*The backhoes and workers slowly shifted through mud up to 60 feet deep to find remains of loved ones.
*When a body was found or a partial…the work would stop…the work site would grow quiet and the chaplain would escort the loved one’s remains off the mud.
*Why? Family was not around to see it. *The deceased didn’t know.
*Why? For the workers…they could not allow the remains of moms, dads, children to become no different than the mud they dug through.
*They had to maintain perspective on the value of humanity to maintain their own…it was the chaplain who led this initiative…and for the rescue workers…it had a very positive lasting impact on them.
*When people are not valued as image bearers of God…lives, societies, break down…always have, always will.
*In the NT the word we translate hell was “Gehenna”.
*It was named after an actual place where parents placed their babies and small children into the fire to pacify their gods.
*The horror of this scene would be hard to surpass…but it has been equaled through the ages, even into modern times with the Nazis, ISIS, and partial birth abortion.
*Theology impacts everything…and everyone has one…even the atheologian. *Who are we? Does it matter? Is this right or wrong?
*I met a man who teaches religion at OU.
*He worked with the Iranians during the hostage crisis back in 1980.
*He advised our joint chiefs of staff on religion in war zones.
*Why…because everyone lives out of their belief system.
*Theology has implications for everything.
*He was flown into Washington in 2005, several years after the war had began.
*He was to brief the generals on religion in war zone…they asked him if he had any questions before they began…He said “yes”, “Why are you just now asking these questions?”
*Great question…worldview is the lens through we see everything…it is inescapable.
*Lives were likely lost because we failed to take into considerations the belief systems of others.
*Who are we…is such an important question…the answer or answers has huge implications.
*Let’s look at this on a more personal scale
*How would it impact your life, day to day if you were able to more consistently capture this reality…you and everyone you see is…
Grass…here in the morning, gone in the evening.
-I must not do myself, them, or God’s glory…harm by thinking too highly of them, or of myself.
Jer. 9:23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
*We must see clearly on this…we cannot be wrongly impressed, or try in wrong ways to impress others.
*Because it hampers our ability to bless them…to live the truth, tell the truth…we cannot help others further advance the false idea that they are more than they are.
*We must die to this in ourselves.
*And we must also embrace the reality that we and everyone we see is… More than grass:
*We cannot treat others with less than the respect they deserve as creations of the living God.
*He loves them, he values them…how can we not?
*Historically we have not been able to get this balance right…apart from starting with God.
*When we begin with humans they are either worshipped or worthless…rarely is balance applied.
*Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
*What does God want from us, what is the good path for us?
*Show justice and mercy…to others…they are, after all like grass. -And they are after all, created in God’s image.
*Walk in humility before God…give others the grace we want from others.
*There is that great balance in action.
*Do not tolerate either thinking too high or too low of others.
*Look in the mirror…look around…we are all like grass & we are nothing at all like grass. *Embrace that tension.
*Remember the Video:
1. Perspective taking
2. Staying out of judgment
3. Recognizing emotion in others 4. Communicating that
*Doesn’t mean there is not a time for truth or words…but truth is best delivered through a personal connection.
*”Terry, I don’t want that touchy, feely stuff”
*Maybe not…but you do want connection…everyone does.
*To learn to connect deeply with people we need start first with a good theology of who people are. *We need to see ourselves and others more clearly.
*We are like grass…we are not at all like grass.
*God, please help us see as you see.