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Praying through Grace

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Next Sunday we will begin our Advent series that will take us through Christmas eve.
Please mark it on your calendar that December 24 and December 31 the Community Center is closed, so we will be meeting at the Blacktop Comedy Club in Rocklin. Very close by the Johnson Springview Community Center. It’s on Sunset Blvd between Pacific Street and S. Whitney Blvd. It’s 4.5 miles from Maidu. It was at one time a church meeting place, so it actually feels a lot like a church building with separate classrooms for the kids, as well as a place for refreshments. We’ll be able to use their sound system, and they have chairs and clean restrooms, so it will be a great alternative for us for those couple of weeks.

Introduction: Praying through the Psalms this November

For our final Sunday in Psalms we’re going to be all the way in the back of the Psalms looking at .
This Psalm is an incredibly rich Psalm because it takes grand truths about God’s character and makes them accessible to pray and understand and relate to.
This Psalm helps us to know how to pray through the emotions of wonder and mystery and majesty.
What do you daydream about?
What fills your
What fills you with enough emotion, that you raise your hands and shout?
When was the last time you gave someone a high five or a hug of excitement?
And unless you think I’m baiting you in, I really just want you to think about this.
Was it because you got an award, a bonus, a promotion, a raise at work?
Did your kid do something special? Sing a song, take part in a play, a sporting event?
Did a friend or family member recently have a child?
The olympics are coming in February, maybe you’re an avid fan?
Or maybe you’re not a very celebratory person. Maybe what excites you is the thought of fishing, or taking a vacation, seeing family, biking a trail, hunting, but if I kept going, we would get to the place where we identify what fills us with awe and wonder.
And I’m certainly not making light of the fact that we all are moved differently. We all daydream differently.
But when was the last time that you daydreamed about grace?
When was the last time that you were moved to celebration and outward gratitude because of grace?

What is Grace?

Grace is not an easy word to define and that’s mainly because we as preachers have used and have taught some unhelpful definitions of grace. To the point where we could substitute the word chi with grace and because we see it as some sort of spiritual force, it works. But that isn’t biblical grace.
Grace is sometimes defined as God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense
Or Grace is when God does the work
And grace is unmerited favor.
Grace is the free gift of salvation, sanctification, and glorification
These definitions all help us to understand what grace is, but we still struggle to make a real life connection to the definition and the way that we use it.
“Like a lighthouse, this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.” -Charles Spurgeon
“Like a lighthouse, this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.” -Charles Spurgeon
When was the last time you knew God’s presence?
How do we know when we’ve actually experienced grace?
We know we‘ve experienced grace when God makes Himself real to you
Grace is when heaven and earth intersect
The very first mention of the word grace is found in when Moses tells us that God was about to rain judgement on humanity for the wickedness (manifested in violence and corruption) of every man on earth. But Moses writes that Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord.
Did he find God’s riches at Christ’s expense? Or God’s work? Well, it would be a stretch to say anything other than at that moment, God made himself real to Noah. God spoke to Noah and instructed Noah and then enabled Noah to do what He instructed him to do. Grace.
Grace is understood in the name Emmanuel, God with us.
Think of Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “For by grace (God making Himself real to you by the life and death of Jesus, by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit) you have been saved, it’s not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”
The point of all of that is to prod us to give thought to the greatest truth and the greatest mystery in all of Scripture and that is that God made himself accessible to mankind so that mankind could know God in an intimate way.
Charles Spurgeon (pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England in the late 1800’s) made this comment about Psalm 139 and I believe it applies:
“Like a lighthouse, this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.” -Charles Spurgeon

Where do we see grace?

We see grace in God’s knowledge of us (1-6)

Psalm 139:1–6 ESV
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
To get to know someone requires you to step in to that persons mundane ins and outs of life.
To get to know someone means that you study that person for the sheer pleasure of understanding that person.
This makes perfect sense in friendships. Friendship often begins by a shared affinity. Sports, TV show, politics, hobby, etc...
And then it blossoms as you discover more about that person. You see what she likes and dislikes, you ask questions like, “What are you thinking about?” Or “What do you think about sushi?”
You know what doesn’t make much sense? The God of the Universe having the desire to get low enough to study me. To search, to know, to discern my daily activities, my very thoughts, my words before I even speak them to the point where He is acquainted (familiar) with my lifestyle.
This doesn’t only show us that God is all-knowing (omniscient) it shows us that God cares enough to want to know not just everything, but everything about you and me.
And this is almost overwhelming to think about. How can He know me that well and 7 billion people all at the same time? It’s simply because God is not a better version of you, God is totally and utterly different than you and I. When we ponder on the knowledge of God towards us, we intersect with Himself. He is making us aware of the grace that He has given us.
Do you believe that? Than you my friend have just experienced grace. I didn’t ask if you understand it, because David said, I cannot attain the knowledge that you know me, but for an inconceivable reason, I believe and therefore I intersect with His grace.
Allow the mystery and the reality of His knowledge to guide your thoughts, your actions, your emotions. What would change if you believed in the moment of your darkest hours that Jesus knows you, knows the details of your situation, David tells us elsewhere that he knows how many times you toss on your bed and he even collects your tears in a bottle and writes them in His book. Jesus tells us that the Father even knows how many hairs are on your head.
And maybe you’re thinking, well, this is the Bible, of course it’s going to be filled with all kinds of this type of language. But we’re here in the 21st century, how do I know he knows my routines, my needs, my fears, my depression, my sorrow, my joys? How do I know this is true?
My wife shared a story that she read in a magazine with me, that helps us to begin to recognize God’s knowledge of us. The story is about an author, a father of six children, a man who wanted to have his book published, but couldn’t quite make enough money to make copies of his manuscript to send to publishers.
This man spent his time writing on the train as he spend his days working three manual labor jobs cleaning toilets, a manufacturer’s warehouse, and a food processing hot line.
As Christmas day drew near the author shares his struggled with wanting to have at least something to give to his children (the book was the present to them) but having literally no way to even print it and put it in their hands.
But
But that wintery Christmas Eve life forever changed for this family. That afternoon the man noticed a white envelope on his doormat, no name, no note, but tucked inside were five crisp twenty dollar bills. The man looked outside to see if he could catch the giver, but no one was there.
The man instantly knew what to do, so he ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items for a special dinner, a small gift for each of his six children, and to the office supply store to print fifteen spiral bound copies of his novel. Six to give to his children and nine to send to publishers.
That man received a phone call not too long after he sent his novel with the news that they loved his manuscript and wanted to publish his story.
Fast forward six years and the publishing company wanted to film a biographical sketch of the author of a now famous novel. A date was set and the location was to be at the former house of the author, the 900 square foot home where that infamous envelope was slid under the door.
The first videographer cancelled, but knew of someone who could do the shoot, the second didn’t cancel but decided to sub-contract the job to an aspiring videographer.
The day of the shooting finally came and the videographer stood outside of the house staring in bewilderment as he greeted the now famous author and asked, “How long ago did you live here?” The author replied, “It’s been about six years.” The videographer (clearly filled with wonder) asks, “Were you really struggling around Christmastime?” the author nodded, “and did you get an envelope with $100 in it?” The author quickly and slightly stunned interrupted, “How did you hear about that, I’ve not told too many people that story?”
The young man said with excitement, “That was me!”
He went on to share with this man who is now fully overwhelmed with emotion that God had impressed on him to do something extravagant and generous this Christmas to someone who is really having a tough time. But this young man went on to tell the author that he really didn’t know anyone who was really struggling, so one evening he was at the local Blockbuster and ran into a friend who he hadn’t seen in at least a year. Through their somewhat brief conversation, the young man asked if he knew anyone he could share this blessing with, his friend said, “I know just the family” and he wrote the address (not the name, not the job title) on a piece of scratch paper and that young man said that on Christmas eve, he finally got the courage to deliver the gift.
Would your thought life change if you meditated on His knowledge of your thoughts? Would your behavior change if you reflected on His intimate knowledge of your actions?
But He doesn’t just know us, He is with us...

We see grace in God’s presence with us (7-12)

Psalm 139:7–12 ESV
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
I think theologians call this grace-stalking...
David is writing this in a time period when the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell all of God’s people. Yet, David knew that God’s Spirit was always present with him.
This makes you wonder if David was writing this Psalm as the earliest Church father’s saw it, as a prophetic prayer of Jesus. Either way it is an incredibly captivating thought. God is ever with His people. God is ever with you.
The sad part about this Psalm for us is that we are so spoiled with the idea of intimacy. What we don’t think about is that for David to write this way was very provocative. In Judaism, the transcendence of God is emphasized. The high and holy character of Jehovah or the I AM is taught. To the point that practicing Jews still do not spell any of the names of God with the vowels out of reverence.
And Redemption, it would do us so good to remember that God is High and Holy, the Creator of the Universe hates and despises sin, the judgement of God is coming. Do not assume His delay of judgement is His ignorance or passing over of the sinfulness of the world. You who are living your life assuming God’s okay with your sin, He’s not and like the Psalmist wrote last week, he will rip the cover off of your sin if you tarry in it.
So this idea of intimacy and the omnipresence of God is mind-blowing. It’s not that God is following us around, it’s that God’s presence is beyond our capacity to understand. His presence is beyond the height of the heavens and the depths of the grave.
Grace is seen in His presence that somehow actually guides our path when we hadn’t sought his counsel. Grace is seen in His presence that calms our nerves and stills our fears.
We tend to believe that God’s presence is with us when things are going well, we have got to dismiss that lie - the reason there is so much military imagery in the Psalms is because the life of the disciple is a battle. And the best place to be is in God the fortress, the refuge, the shield for His steadfast love surrounds those who trust in him.
This is one reason we believe so strongly in the priesthood of every saint. You as a saint are a part of the body of Christ. You are a minister of grace. God’s presence is shown to your children when you catch them sinning. It is only an act of grace that you can send a text message or a note or a phone call at the moment when another brother or sister or an unbeliever is experiencing sorrow in their life. Don’t ever discount those Spirit-promptings. You will never know how God is going to use you as a tool of His grace.

We see grace in God’s power to create us (13-16)

Psalm 139:13–16 ESV
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Grace isn’t grace if it’s void of power. God’s grace is seen in His power to create.
The imagery is artistic imagery. Forming like clay, knitting was used of how the temple sewers sewed curtains together.
God reveals makes himself real to us through His creation of us.
And to God, you are special. Fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your height, your frame, your build, your personality, so much of who you are is the genius of God’s master plan.
So much of what we count as beauty is just paint and powder. It’s curvature, it’s endowment, but that depth of beauty is fleeting.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made because we are made in the image of God, not because of height, stature, strength, or curvature.
Grace, a young adult is how we see God’s grace in creation:
How does a mother and father who just gave birth to a child who is missing three of her four limbs find beauty and joy. Grace’s mother Birasasira literally pastes a section from this Scripture when she says:
“When I saw my baby, I just thanked God. I wasn’t shocked because I had never seen a disabled person before. I loved what came out of my womb, that which God created within me.”
Bira and her children were forced to flee their home in Rwanda when the extended family would not stop threatening to kill baby Grace. Unfortunately, Bira’s husband was murdered presumably by his own brothers.
We see God’s power in Grace’s incredibly joyous spirit, we see His presence in the fact that as soon as Bira and her family arrived in Uganda they were almost immediately introduced to Compassion international who has loved, fed, clothed, provided shelter, and education, and discipleship for Bira and her sweet family.
“My motto is that disability is not inability. With God, all things are possible,” Grace says.
Overcome with wonder, David cries out...
Psalm 139:17–18 ESV
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139:17-
The reason I began with questions about our day dreaming and our meditating and our celebrating is because true awe and wonder have legs. They go somewhere. David’s reflections lead to His worship.
Where do your reflections of this Psalm lead you?
Psalm 139:19–22 ESV
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
Psalm 139:19-
Interestingly enough, his thoughts and meditations of God’s grace don’t just end with worship.
This is line of emotion in this Psalm: humble confession to truth to wonder to worship to zeal to humble examination
hymn, praise, thanksgiving, lament, confession, meditation and prayer
hymn, praise, thanksgiving, lament, confession, meditation and prayer
And if we learn how to pray the Psalms, our prayers will begin to sound the same.

Quickened by this meditation due to a reverential fear of God, he declares himself to have no sympathy with the ungodly and profane and beseeches God, in the confidence of conscious integrity, not to forsake him in this life.”

So often our range of emotions go zeal to vengeance to explosion to regret. David is not developing a strategy, he’s doing the right thing. It would be very much as if you read a passage in Scripture about God’s love for the poor, the orphan, the widow and then you pick up the newspaper and you read a story of some orphan or widow being abused. It is right to have a zeal that doesn’t fly off the handle and go after that individual or group, but rather to pray as an interceder that God would shut down the organization, God would cut off the source of that evil.
And then as you live your life you allow that zeal to fuel your passion to share the good news of a Savior.
As we enter communion, we have much to reflect on, but none greater than the truths that grace has come in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end… He is the I AM, He is Immanuel - God with us.
He is seen in the knowledge that you are a depraved human being, and yet Jesus died when you were His enemy
His presence can be seen not only as a little baby, but as a suffering servant, and one day His presence will be seen as he will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And His power can be seen as he not only created you, but His Spirit is remaking you and me into the image of the Son.
If you know Jesus this morning, I want to invite you to come to the table and remember His life, death, and resurrection...
If you don’t know Jesus, you have not begun to know true happiness, at this point in the service I want you to think about this, He knows you, He is knocking at the door of your heart so that you can experience His presence, and He is powerful in his creation of you, and when you submit to Him, he will bring life to your dead heart.
Let’s read these last verses together:
Psalm 139:23–24 ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
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