Life’s Questions – Week 35 Notes

By September 15, 2019Sermon Notes

What if a certain human proved to be the smartest person to have ever lived…no doubts about it.

She knew everything, as far as we could tell, that can be known…all the various subject matter experts on everything quizzed her and she was perfect in her knowledge. 

She had perfect recall, perfect ability to apply her knowledge about everything in ways that consistently worked in the real world…not just facts(not just a computer)…but she was wise in application…emotional intelligence as well.

Then let’s say you had a personal issue, like…financial, or medical, or relational problems and this brilliant person gave you advice that didn’t really make sense to you.

Maybe your mind told you there was a better way…or you read on the internet that a lot of people thought differently about this than she did.

Would it be reasonable or unreasonable to trust this person even if what she said was different from what you thought?

I had shoulder injury…So I did what made sense to me to do in order to make it better (my method had worked on another injury)…I tried this for over a year…my shoulder got worse.

Finally I went to an expert who told me to do things that didn’t really make sense to me…fortunately I trusted this expert (he was a friend)…and what made sense to me was not working anyway.

It took some time to get things turned around…but my shoulder recovered completely.

Was it reasonable to trust this expert when what he was telling me to do…didn’t really make sense to me all the time?

Or wasn’t working right away?

How is working that muscle in that way going to help where I am hurting?”

When is this going to work”

Well…what had made sense to me…clearly didn’t work…so I was ready to trust someone else.

Are you doing what makes sense to you…but it isn’t working?

“I’ve tried to do the Bible, if that’s what you mean…it didn’t work either.”

Well, you don’t actually “try the Bible”…as in “do a few things here and there”

-show up for church, try to be nicer, read it…and conclude it isn’t working.

The Biblical describes the world, your life and mine as they are.

To do what the Bible “prescribes” (says to do or not do)…is not something you just try…like test driving a new car…or a new diet…don’t like it, doesn’t work for me.

The Bible describes a whole life commitment to Jesus and a life aligned with the world as it is…the Christian life…when lived holistically…always works.

It’s not a life strategy…it is “new life”…Jesus said we must be “born again”

People who say “I’m going to try marriage and see if it works”…most often find that it doesn’t.

People who keep their marriage vows…nurture their commitment…most often find that marriage does work.

This year: Confidence in the Bible to speak with authority to every area of our lives.

*We have looked at how the Bible speaks accurately and with authority in a variety of aspects of our daily lives.

*Ultimately questions like:

-Why are there so many translations

-so many different opinions

-so many contradictions

-It was just written by humans

-so many scientists who say it’s wrong.

There are answers (rational, real answers) to these questions:

But personally the questions and others like them come down to this:

Is God there? Is he good?

If he is there and he is good then he would speak to us and tell us how to live.

-That’s what good fathers do

Is God there? Is God powerful?

If he is there and he is powerful…it would be quite easy for him to give us a book that is accurate…using human minds and hands to write it…preserving it over the years…protecting its integrity…this would be enormously easy for a being such as an all-powerful God.

This month as sub-category we are asking…What does it means to love God with all of our minds.

Faith and reason are partners in the life of faith.

God is the smartest, most reasonable being in existence (understatement)

His demand that we place our faith (confidence) in him is always a reasonable one…because he’s really, really smart.

To place our faith in ourselves (when it comes to issues he has spoken clearly on)…is unreasonable.

For the scientist, for instance…to trust his or her findings in regards to new kinds of anti-biotics, or new rocket fuels…when observation and experimentation have shown these findings are accurate…is reasonable…smart.

For that same scientist to conclude that they know the ultimate origins of human life, or the purpose of human life, or the destiny of humanity…merely by use of their reason…is non-rational…not smart at all…and it is certainly not science.

For that scientist to decide to relate to others in ways that makes sense to them…but continually fails to work…they keep blowing up relationships…but refuse to trust anyone other than self…is not rational.

Rational people…tend to be selective in their use of reason.

*There are a lot of really smart people…who make dumb decisions that mess up their lives.

So people can think up computers and air conditioners and cell phones…and be near totally irrational in their approach to relationships…or their own personal habits for that matter.

Reason…human minds…can take us only so far…I am very grateful for where human minds have taken us.

But it cannot take us where we most need to go…”Why am I here?” “How am I to live a thriving life?” “What really matters most at the end?”

How can I have peace with God…the one who made me…can I be forgiven?

Today we continue to look at what it means to “love God with all our minds.”

It’s part of the Great Commandment that Jesus gave in Matthew, Mark, and Luke…from the Shema in Deut. 6.

Today…specifically…loving God with our minds…by using our minds to worship God.

Psa. 19:1   The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

This was C.S. Lewis’ favorite Psalm, in fact it was one of his favorite pieces of literature period.

This is saying a lot for a man whose expertise was literature.

Bach, and many other composers have written musical works using this Psalm.

It was written by David…the poet, musician, warrior King of Israel.

I wonder when he wrote it…

-Maybe as a teenage shepherd?

-Early on as a young king who felt like he was in over his head.

-Maybe later as a disgraced king…who traded greatness and closeness with God for a one-night stand…but God restored him.

-Or as an older king…who saw his life with the perspective of time.

Maybe he worked on it, tweaked it, over the course of the years.

Perhaps he started it as a shepherd boy…”The heavens declare the glory of God”…as he sat under the stars…wide-eyed, whole life in front of him…no idea what was coming.

Finished it as an old king “Forgive my hidden faults”

It has three sections, sort of…6 verses on Nature, 5 on God’s word, and 4 on personal reflections.

I say “sort of”…because it is actually seamless though it appears to abruptly jump from section to section.

Verse 6 to 7 from the pure and penetrating light of the Sun to the pure and penetrating light of God’s word is really no abrupt jump at all.

Verse 11 to 12 from the penetrating power of God’s word to David’s own awareness of his need for God’s word to cleanse his heart…and a desire for a heart and words that please God…is also a seamless transition.

So there are three sections…but it is a single narrative.

Creation speaks

God’s word speaks

God’s cleansed servant speaks

This Psalm brings together the reality and glory of God revealed in:

-His cosmos (creation)

-His word (The Bible)

-His servants (redeemed humans)

But I want to focus on the “mind and worship”

-As all the feelers in the room…groan collectively.

“Terry we put up with your tendency to rationality in your sermons…don’t try to bring that stuff into worship…leave that to us feelers.”

I’m kidding…never met a feeler who didn’t think, or a thinker who didn’t feel.

People tend to group themselves into “feelers and thinkers”…or others group them there.

The most famous conflicted person in Western media culture, in this regard, is Spock…who had the misfortune of having a Vulcan dad and a human mom.

But as Spock struggles with his mind and emotions…it becomes clear that this struggle is a strength…even though it’s a painful process to deal with the struggle.

Every human is a mind/emotion hybrid…some lean thinking, some lean feeling…but all thinkers are feelers and all feelers are thinkers.

I say this because if you lean feeler…you might find it easier to enjoy worship in certain ways than the one who leans thinker does.

And visa-versa.

Then there are just personality and cultural differences when it comes to worship…some like it loud and large…others small and quiet.

We were in a Navy Chapel Service in July and I was worshipping like I like to do…and the guy behind me asked “Are you okay?”

He thought I was in great distress…sitting, bent over, head in my hands…I was actually really enjoying my time of worship…I was doing good.

Not how he would worship.

When I was a sophomore at WSU on the sidelines of a football game…my defensive back coach, Coach Z…was a great person but he was a “feeler”…some would say he was crazy.

I was standing, watching, thinking…focused…he came by me blood dripping from his hands because he had smashed them against a helmet…and he asked “Williams are you fired up?”

Actually I was…I just didn’t look like Coach Z.

Coach Z looked crazy…but behind all that passion…he was thinking…taking in data, making decisions, calling plays.

I was quiet on the sidelines…but I had raging emotions…real passion…inside me.

He was loud full of overt passion…but he was thinking deeply about plays and players.

We all need to lean into the wind that blows in our lives: Feelers need to use their minds to engage more than emotion.

Thinkers need to use their minds to engage more than just their rational brains.

What a minute…you said feelers and thinkers both need to use their minds.

Yes, we need to use our minds…we need to engage the full creative energy, the force of our God-given wills to choose our thoughts, engage our minds…to worship God more fully.

We cannot contain God in our minds…but the God who made our minds has allowed us limited access to who he is through the use of our minds.

Let’s go back to David’s Psalm…

David was surely a man of great emotion…you see it clearly in many of his Psalms…but look at the use of his mind to drive him to worship…he is thinking deeply about things here.

And of course, he used his mind to develop this Psalm, choose the words, and write it down.

  1. He uses his mind to contemplate God’s general revelation. (The Cosmos)

*General revelation is knowledge of God that is available to everyone, everywhere…some things about God can be known by what he has made.

Psa. 19:1   The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 Of course his cosmology was not 21st century cosmology…and if there is a 42nd century….it will not be 21st century cosmology

But David’s view of the Universe from planet earth…was and is an accurate one…and always will be no matter what we discover.

I quoted scientists two weeks ago who are drawn to God’s glory by their study of the cosmos he has made.

Maybe David is thinking back to his shepherd days…or maybe this is a Poem he wrote as a young shepherd.

When he had lots of time to look into space and think…as he kept watch over his flocks at night…more time to think than we do.

Or at least more time than we think we have to think.

*Try to find someone just thinking anymore…when is you last time you saw someone on a park bench, or even walking…not on a phone?

I’m exaggerating…but not by much.

It’s not new…my classmates went to sleep in front of TV…but you couldn’t carry them around with you like now.

David…had lots of time to think…and his thoughts took him to great places in regards to relationship with God

He had many starry nights and he had many hot days when he was trying to find relief from the seeking, scorching rays of the sun…it took great mental energy and creativity to make these amazing comparisons between the Sun and God’s Word.

His mental reflection, his thinking about what he saw and what he knew of God…caused him to want to write a Psalm of worship.

  1. He uses his mind to contemplate God’s special revelation. (The Bible)

Special revelation is a term that describes God speaking to us through his word and through the Lord Jesus.

Listen to how he uses his mind to come up with all the ways God’s word is a gift and blessing to his life.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

There is a lot of emotional energy here…but it is released by the full use of his mind to think deeply about how much of a treasure God’s word is…and how it has helped him personally.

  1. He uses his mind to contemplate relationship with God.

12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.

-He admits what we all should admit…we don’t know what we don’t know.

-What we don’t know…can and does often hurt us…God help me.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

-He is asking here for God to help him have the will to obey. (no willful sins)

-As we discussed last week…limits equal freedom…to throw off God’s limits is to embrace slavery not freedom.

How could he become blameless, innocent?

-He has asked God to forgive hidden sins and keep him from willful ones…so his confidence is not in self but in God’s grace…to forgive sins and to keep him from sins.

It is living within the limits of God that he is blameless.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The word “words” is the same one used earlier when David wrote “creation pours forth speech.”

He wants his life, like the created order itself…to communicate God’s reality and glory.

His desire as he comes to the conclusion of this Psalm of “thinking and feeling…worship”…is to reflect worship with his life…inside and out.

This is seen in the phrase “words of my mouth and meditations of my heart.”…he wants them both to reflect the reality of God.

Jesus said that out of the abundance of heart the mouth speaks…what is most fully in us…is what most consistently comes out of us.

APPLICATION:

CS Lewis was said to have spent much of his personal devotions thinking deeply about God’s attributes.

He wanted his heart and life to be shaped by the reality of God’s glory…to this end, he gave energy to think deeply about God.

“That’s CS Lewis…he had more thinking power than I do.”

When it comes to thinking about God…we are all children…and in fact children often are better at this than adults

As Adults we have might have lost the ability to experience wonder.

I think Lewis spent mental energy to think about God…not because he was so mature and smart…but because he wanted to get back to childlike wonder.

Tuesday night I was sitting with my grandson Oliver and he asked about how “owees” get better.

We looked our hands and I talked about how skin heals…he was quiet and said “wow!”

He went off to bed and I looked at my arms…and thought “Yeah, wow.”

His emotional response…”Wow”…began with rational thought…curiosity…imagination.

Since we are not going to be free of technology any time soon…use it to draw your mind to God’s greatness.

Watch shows of the cosmos…if the narrator has an agenda…ignore it…pay attention to what you are really seeing.

*I mentioned PBS has been doing what it has called “The Summer of Space” in honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Lunar landing.

Watch the series on the planets…see how fantastically diverse planets in our solar system are.

Listen for how often you hear things like “We didn’t’ expect that” or “This completely changed how we view this” from scientists.

Watch the great show “The Privileged Planet”…so how obviously designed the cosmos is.

Go outside…leave your phone inside and stare at the stars…consider the heavens.

*Read this other great Psalm of David when you go back inside..

Psa. 8:3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Or if you can’t bear to leave your phone inside…download Skyview light and point your phone at the sky and see what’s up there.

Oliver, on the same day we discussed how “owees” heal…asked about the Sun (as we drove to his basketball practice)…then he asked about the planets.

He asked if other planets in our solar system had people…I said “no”

He asked “Why did God make them?”

I thought of several reasons but I just said “He wanted to…thought it would be fun”

Oliver’s reply…”Like me making things with my Legos!”

“Exactly” I said.

We sometimes try to “bring emotion to our worship of God”…that’s good, or can be.

But we need to actively bring all of who we are to love God…including the fullest use of our minds.

We can, if we will…go in our minds to far places where our bodies can’t go.

-This is a gift God has given us.

We cannot ever fully comprehend God…but we can, it we will…think deeply about his nature…what is called his attributes.

Things like his wisdom, his love, his power, his holiness, his eternal nature, his creativity…and on and on.

We can look around…and in our minds…think far thoughts about all he has made.

The last chapter in Proverbs is about the “Wife of Noble Character”

The author lists a bunch of qualities this exceptional woman has.

In the end he says “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Earlier in the book there are warnings against the trap of merely “charming or beautiful” women (or men that for that matter)…who lack godly character.

The book ends with an appeal to focus mental attention on the qualities…that matter most in a person.

I have a friend who did this in regards to his wife for a year(read the chapter daily, thinking about his wife)…he focused mental attention on his wife’s qualities…what do you think happened?

He grew closer to her “emotionally” and their relationship grew.

How can this be?…it was largely at first…an exercise of the mind.

We are wired to be mental/emotional/volitional beings…they are not separate things in us…not like…food on a plate that you don’t want to touch…they are like stew…all mixed together.

I encourage you to think as big of thoughts as you can muster about God.

Use the imagination he has gifted you with, contemplate his greatness in every way you can.

Use books, videos, music…but engage your mind to worship.

It is very likely your emotions and your will, will be touched as you do.

If you reach out with your mind to contemplate God and what he has done…if you reach places where your mind is blown…the tendency for some is to begin to doubt God.

How can God always have been?

How can God have created everything?

How does his Sovereignty and human choice work? How can it work?

Beware of having too much confidence in your ability to get your mind around God…you cannot…when our minds are blown…we shouldn’t doubt God…we should recognize we have reached our own mental limits.

Of course my mind will eventually be blown if I think deeply enough about God.

Part of worship is having our minds blown…but it never requires us leaving our minds behind.

 Worship of God requires loving him with all of our minds…never mind that our minds cannot contain him…we are transformed in our lives when our minds are filled to overflowing with thoughts of him.

Jamin is going to come and talk to us about the painting he designed for our sermons series this year.

Art touches mind and emotions.

But paintings like this come to our minds and emotions through our eyes…photons are bouncing off the image and our retinas collect those photons and our brain turns them into images…then thoughts.

All you have to do to “see” the image is to look at it.

To be impacted by what we see…we must use our will to think deeply, to put ourselves in the painting.

This year we have looked at the Bible as a single narrative…the story of God…we are part of that story…we live between the first and second advent of Christ.

Think about being there when God created the cosmos…just for the joy of it.

Genesis is written to lead us in our minds and emotions to see ourselves as watching, experiencing the creation…this takes a lot of mental and emotional effort.

The better we get at using our minds in worship…and in reading the Bible and putting ourselves there…the more worship and Bible reading will impact our lives in transformational ways.

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