Introduction to Message with Video
Well, it's great to have all of you with us today. How many of you like that annoying song? Be positive and say you do. I love that little song. We are starting a brand new message series called Stay Positive.
I think, honestly, one of the reasons I'm so excited about this message series, if I can be honest, is because I really need it. It's amazing how quickly, like so many people, I can drift into negativity. In fact, how many of you here today at our campus or online would agree that around the world today, there's almost an epidemic of negativity, just people looking at things, seeing the downside over and over and over again?
On the other hand, the youngest child in me, that loves to poke the bear, disturb the bee hive is excited about this serious because I know that there is nothing that drives religious legalist nuts then when you start preaching about joy and having a positive outlook on life. The religious legalist love to be put on long faces like every day my faith is burden to bear, a choir to perform a rule to keep. Free us God from religious legalism. I don't know what part of the two words "Good News" relgious legalist don't understand but if our faith is anything it is positive because it is good news.
For the next few weeks, as we gather together here on our campus and our online families, we are going to discuss God's word, we're going to talk about six different, very important, positive biblical qualities. Next week, we're going to talk about gratitude. Week number three, we're going to talk about encouragement. Week number four, we're going to talk about generosity. Week number five is probably my favorite. We're going to talk about enthusiasm. Week number six, we're going to talk about being confident because of who God says we are. We're going to let God's word transform us into people who see him working in our lives and therefore, we are positive.
I got a feeling by the end of this message series there are going to be some frowns turned upside down. There are gong to be some dads who are going to be much more positive with their wives and children. Some moms that are just going to overflow with warmth and love because of how God is going to meet with us in His Word during this series.
Today, the theme I want to talk about is optimism. I've titled this message אֶשְׂחַ֣ק eschaq I'm optimistic but literally "I laugh." It comes from the Proverbs 31:21 woman who it says of her תִּשְׂחַ֗ק†לְי֣וֹם†אַחֲרֽוֹן
She is not afraid of snow for her house, for her whole household is clothed in scarlet wool.
teeschaq leyowm acharown "She laughs at the days to come." It is one of the hallmarks of a virtuous woman that she so optimistic about the future that she can laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
Could you look at the person sitting next to you and say, "I don't know about you, but I'm optimistic about the future. Now, look at the person to your right and let out a little smile and a laugh.
All over the world today, it seems like people are looking for a reason to be critical. It is not fake news that bothers me as much as "hate news." People looking for a reason to be negative. It's almost as if it helps people feel better to be incredibly negative. Think about what you hear all the time.
Even in your own self-talk, without knowing it, you can talk down to yourself, saying, "I don't have what it takes. My life stinks. I can't stand where I am in life. Everybody hates me. I never get a fare shake. My life sucks." Literally, we say that to ourselves over and over and over again until we almost talk ourselves into having a bad life. You talk to people all over today and when you get done it either feels like the apocalypse is here or it feels "icky" like man isn't there anything to celebrate, isn't their any good will, any faith, any hope any love?
The reality is there are a lot of things going wrong in our citiy, our country and in the world. There's no doubt about it. We as Yeshua followers don't deny the evils in our world or put our heads in the sand and pretend like there's not things going wrong.
At the same time, God is doing a lot of amazing things. Just open your eyes and look and see.
You see a mess, God's got a miracle coming.
You see mourning, God's going to bring dancing.
You see ashes, God creates beauty.
You were troubled through the night, there is joy in the morning.
While there are things going wrong, there are so many things going right. We will often find what we are looking for.
I just love the illustration of two different types of birds. You take a buzzard and a hummingbird. Every single day, what does a buzzard find? A buzzard swerves around and finds dead things. Every single day, what does a hummingbird find? Sweet things, day after day, proving you will always find what you look for. That's just not a cheesy rabbi illustration. In fact, scripture actually teaches that very same principle.
A person who diligently seeks good finds favor, but to one who searches for evil, evil comes to him!
In Proverbs 11:27, Solomon said this. Somebody help me out. He said, "A person who diligently seeks good." What will you find? " ... You will find "favor". But if you are one who searches for evil ..." What's going to happen? " ... It's going to find you." You want to find the negative, you want to be miserable, you can search for it and you can find it. But if you search for the good, you can also find that as well.
What's funny to me is that there are probably some of you already, you already decided you don't like this message series. In fact, you don't like the messianic movement. Why? The music's too loud. The series has a title you don't like. You don't like big bold yellow. You don't like the stupid rabbi on the video screen. "I'm never going to a synagogue with a rabbi who broadcast services. I don't like this new age, positive, feel good, preaching. Okay. I want something real. I don't want feel good preaching.
What I want you to understand is I'm not just coming at this from a pop psychology, talk yourself into a positive stance theology at all. In fact, if you're taking notes, I would love for you to write this down.
Big Idea, Message 1
I am not optimistic based on what I feel. I'm optimistic based on what God says.
EXPLAIN BIG IDEA
I want you to hear this. I am not optimistic just because by nature I just feel like everything's going to get better just because I happen to show up. I'm not optimistic based on a feeling, I'm optimistic based on a truth. I'm not optimistic based on what I feel, I'm optimistic based on what God says. I'm not optimistic because I've got some kind if view of God where I think He a magical genie in the skies. I laugh at the days to come because of what God says in His Word!
I'm optimistic because I know to whom I belong.
A psalm of David. Adonai is my shepherd, I shall not want.
EXPLAIN THE HEBREW OF 23:1
The familiar opening, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’, already conceals a number of problems in translating from the Hebrew text to English.
First, the phrase: adonay ro’ee is often treated as a verbless clause. In other words, in Hebrew we sometimes put two nouns together and you have to supply the "to be verb 'is'". First there is no actual connection between the first two words—they stand apart: ‘Adonai. My Shepherd.’
We provide the ‘is’ in translation to make a recognizable sentence, though the Hebrew could as easily be translated as two vocatives: ‘O Adonai; My Shepherd.’ That is to say, the juxtaposition of the two suggests that God is ‘identified’ as a ‘shepherd’, with all the images that this conjures up—of lonely hillsides, the shepherd as guardian and carer.
But what is more, is it tells us that this a psalm written from the perspective of a sheep. Do you hear his voice (make sheep sounds). It could reflect a moment of surprised or joyous revelation at the juxtaposition of these first two words: Adonal—my shepherd! Adonal—my shepherd! Adonal—my shepherd!
Or it could be the words of someone almost breathless—climbing a mountain in the wilderness or running from danger—in which case it would be an assertion of trust in God, despite what is going on: so that lo echsar is the sheep's way of saying, "I'm optimistic because I know who I belong to and he will make sure I lack nothing.
But what is it that God is to provide? The word chasar is the opposite of the Hebrew word malei, meaning ‘full’. When you are "malei" you are totally full. When you are chasar you are missing something significant.
Have you ever lost your wallet or purse or car keys before? Have you ever had a child disappear on you in the grocery store before? Every have a dropped call in the middle of an important conversation? That is chasar.
The sheep says, "I am optimistic because the one I belong to makes sure that I never stay in a state of chasar. The wallet gets found, the keys show up right away, The English, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’ provides a smoothness, continuity and sense of security, one reinforced by the familiarity of the sentence. In the Hebrew the rhythm is actually more staccato and the effect quite different. It is like a jolt, an amazing realization
adonay ro’ee lo echsar
I am optimistic because the one I belong to. I know the one who is directing my life. I know the one who is calling the shots. I know his name. I have seen His mighty deeds. I am not worried. I am not doubting. I am not second guessing.
I'm optimistic because I know my Shepherd is a specialist.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
When we got to Israel, I had no idea what kind of person would be leading us through the land. Our guide was amazing! Knew how to get us into the right places, knew the right people to contact so we could have a door opened for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, knew were all the shade trees were. He would tell me before we went to any place Israel, "Rabbi Michael, I am parking the bus here and we walk here because over there is a big shade tree for all the people so they will not be hot and their is water, and there is ..." Our guide dressed the part, looking like Indiana Jones. And though he did not have a whip, he cracked the whip on us from time to time because we are a Texas flock and we don't walk, we mozzy.
Everyday, I was optimistic because I knew our guide was not flying by the seat of his pants. He knew the terrain, he knew where every river was, every brook, every shade tree, every bench, across the land of Israel. I was optimistic because my guide was a specialist.
I've got some better news for somebody here who needs to know that your guide, the Lord, is a specialist. You may not know it yet but trust me he knows this world like the back of his hand. He knows every ravine, he knows every bird in the air, every hair on your head, he knows every flower of the field, he calls the starry host out by name, he commands the sea, turns back the tide, knows the depths of the earth and the heights of heaven. Your guide, your Shepherd, is a specialist.
He is leading you right now. He is taking you to the best possible places, he is leading you to places that will satisfy your soul, quench your thirst, heal your wounds, turn your mourning into dancing.
You may not know the road, you may not know there is a shade tree from the blistering heat, a pool hidden in the desert but trust me He is a specialist he knows what lies ahead and what comes behind and comes from the side. He has never been blindsided in all of history.
When Lauren and I came back from Canada I was crying out the Lord for his guidance, his direction for our life. I was telling the Shepherd the direction I wanted to go in. I was telling him the path I wanted to take.
Thank God, our Shepherd is a Specialist. He knew where to get me, knew how to get me there, and knew how to send the right people all along the way. I did not know Beth Messiah was the place I was to be, my Shepherd brought me here. I did not know any of the future of what would transpire with me coming and Rabbi Freeman laying hands on me to lead CBM into the future. My Shepherd, the specialist, led me and guided me and I am so glad that he was in control and not me.
Someone needed to hear that today. You may be wondering "what's next? Where is my life heading? What is the next destination?" Your guide is a specialist, he is taking you to peaceful waters and green pastures, he is leading you to His absolute best for your life. I'm optimistic because I know that my Shepherd is a Specialist.
I'm optimistic because my present circumstances are nothing compared to my future
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me: Your rod and Your staff comfort me.
I 'm optmistic about the trials I'm going through because I know God is working things towards a great victory. You probably say to yourself, "that is easy for you to say." If you say that, you don't have any idea of what David went through as the Lord's sheep. Psalm 132 says that
David was constantly afflicted pursuing God's will for his life. He was a shephered of a small flock facing down great predators. He was the laughing stock of his brothers. He was abused by his leader King Saul. He had to go into exile and live in caves. He acted like a mad man to save his life an the life of his family and men. His family fell apart around him. His son Absalom hatched a plan that would have forced a civil war. David knew, as a sheep, heartache and pain.
I don't know who it is right now that you're in the middle of something difficult. I'm not going to say that it's not difficult because it can be very difficult. But if you know that in one hand the Lord is guiding you with his Shepherd's staff and in the other He is fighting off the enemies trying to attack you then you know this present trial will not end in defeat but in victory.
Another, faitfhfull bellwether sheep, Jacob the brother of Yeshau, said that we can consider it crazy, pure joy (James 1:2). My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds ... Why? Because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, that you would be mature and complete, not lacking anything. I am optimistic because this is how good my God is that my future victory is greater than my present trials and pain. I may not always feel it but that is what I'am trying to tell you. I'm optimistic not just because of what I feel, but because of what God says. I stand on God's word. I can only speak like a sheep.
I'm optimistic because my mind is filled with the peace of God.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.
My mind is filled with the peace of God. To those of you who have been born into the family of God, you don't have to be dominated by fear because you have not been give a spirit of fear but of lover, power and of a sound mind. Your mind can be renewed, transformed by the washing of the water of God's word. But also by the experience of being a sheep with the Chief Shepherd.
You got to believe that no matter what storm is brewing outside of the gates, I have a got a shepherd-warrior at my side. He is my defender. Suddenly, when we see things from the sheep's perspective, your relationship changes. Did you notice in verse 4 the sheep stopped speaking in the 3rd person about the Shepherd, "he will lead, he will guide" and switched to the very personal, "your rod, your staff, you prepare a table."
When times get tough, our relationship with shepherd gets more tender. Because you see, when God decides to shepherd his flock he feeds them while fighting the enemy. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about because you've been in the middle of a horrible situation and other people are going,"How are you so cool? How are you getting through it?" You say, "You know what? I'm not getting through it on my own. My mind has peace because he has prepared a table for me."
It doesn't even have to be like really big stuff. In fact, when we were coming back home from Israel the ride back was a little bumpy and shaky. Our seats were at the back of our big air plane and granted traveling at the back of the plane is the worst place if you are sensitive to bumps and shakes or motion sickness. I did not enjoy the flight and neither did my oldest daughter.
We landed in Newark, NJ and we had to make a connecting flight to come to Houston. I was in a very negative mood, not optimistic about flying. I was complaining to Lauren about the flight, the bumps, and I even tried to throw in a classic move "we really can't talk to the kids or have meaningful discussions on a plane." So I started to propose just renting a car and driving home from New Jersey. A measly, 20 + hours
of car time.
I said, "I just don't fly well. I just don't like flying." Luaren said something
classic like, "Well, what if you change your mind and you learn to fly
well?" I was like, "look who became Dr. Ruth..." I didn't say that. I didn't
say it, but I thought it. She was right.
She was like, "What if you just think about it
I said, "But there's so many things that can go
She said, "So in 20 years of traveling, how many
times has something gone tragically wrong when you have flown on a
plane? Don't you always say that spastically it is safer to fly than to
I was like, "Look how knows so much." Did not say
She's like, "So in 20 years, God has never let you down. Why don't you just learn to fly well," she said, "and let God's peace dwell in your mind and your heart?" So I just decided I fly well back to Houston. There were still bumps and wiggles but this time I was kicking back. Why? Because the peace of God can rule my mind and not fear. I'm optimistic because my mind is filled with the peace of God.
I'm optimistic because God chooses me for blessing.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.
The minute I say something like, God chooses me for a blessing two kinds of people get all upset. The first are people who are like "I hate calvansim. God did not choose me, I chose Him." Okay, your not a calvinist I get it but no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Don't take too much credit. The other group of people who get all upset are people who just refuse to believe that God wants to pour out blessing in your life.
I don't understand that. I don't understand people who refuse to believe that their heavenly father is a good, good father. He is not. a cosmic grinch or tight-wad. That is not the God who adorned the universe and calls the heavenly host out by name. How clothes the grass of the field with more splendor then King Shlomo in all his glory.
I'm optimistic because my heavenly Father chooses me for blessing. I am His son, why would I not think this. That would be crazy to think otherwise. You know what I'm talking about? My dad owned for the longest time a successful RC shop in Sugar Land. From time-to-time in the late 80s early 90s we would have some really cool people stop by. We had a prince from Africa come to our home. He was escorted by a security detail.
It was so cool to meet an African prince. But not near as cool as when Warren Moon and Jerry Glanville came over to our home. I was so star struck. I shyly went outside to meet these really important people. My dad bragged on me in a way you can't imagine. Just for a brief moment, my dad made me feel like I was more important than those two football icons. He bragged on me and spoke so highly of me: I felt highly favored, chosen, blessed beyond words. My cup was truly overflowing.
Here I am about 33 years from that event, and every time I think of it I still feel that love, that sense of being highly favored. If that is what my natural father could do for me, how much more my heavenly father? Your heavenly father says that you are:
1. you are secure not insecure
2. you are adored not ignored.
3. you are valuable not a toss away
4. you are free not a slave
5. you are forgiven not under condemnation
6. you are blessed not cursed
7. you are the head not the tail
8. you are the leader not the led.
9. you are the influencer not the influenced.
10. you are a daughter, a son of the Most High God.”
I'm optimistic because God chooses me for blessings.
I'm optimistic because God is working everything together for the good.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of Adonai forever.
EXPLAIN "ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE"
Do you see that English word "all." It translates a very important Hebrew word, the word "Kol." Do you know what that Hebrew word means, "All." How many days are all of your life? All the days of your life. All the days of your life, goodness and mercy are like two sheep dogs helping the flock get to the shepherd's destination.
There is not a thing that will happen in your life that the goodness of our God will not transform into something eventually that brings about glory. You can look back in your life and see this. Years ago, the thing that you thought, "This is the worst thing ever," and it may have felt like that at the time. Years go by and you look back and you can see the faithfulness of the hand of God that somehow took the thing that you would never choose and never want to experience again and he transforms it to good. He's working even when you don't see him.
In fact, I heard this weird illustration of how this works. I was not there but it was a friend of mine. He had just graduated and a friend of his took him out to eat at a really high end restaurant to celebrate. It was like the best food. The food was so fancy, He didn't even know what to call some of it. How many of you have ever seen food like that? You're like, "It's expensive, it's good. I don't even know what that is. They don't have that at the cafeteria where I eat for $4. They don't have that whereI come from."
Anyway, he was putting something on his plate that looked like an olive. It wasn't an olive, but it looked like an olive. He put it on his plate and it accidentally rolled off the plate and it hit the edge of his shoe and then it shot across the ground at this really fancy restaurant. He said this was like he had just committed fancy restaurant heresy. This is the worst.
He said, All of a sudden, it was the craziest thing. There was this black curtain back there and there was a guy who was in the black curtain wearing all black and when that thing rolled across the ground, he swept up like an olive ninja, grabbed the thing, and disappeared back into the black curtain, just like that. That's the craziest thing he had ever seen in his life. he said he didn't even know that guy was there and he came out of nowhere. He thought, "That was so cool."
He took another olive. He wanted to see if it would happens again. This guy is kind of like this. Went like this and sure enough, there he was. Almost like a power roll. He's into it and he's gone back in the curtain just like this. The whole time my friend is sitting there, there he is. He's working. He's serving. He's like, omnipresent and you can't see him and don't even know he was there. But he's doing something.
That's the reality of what our good God is like. Sometimes you don't feel him. Sometimes you don't see him. Sometimes you think he's not working, but faith tells you that he's there. Faith tells you, goodness and mercy are working on behalf right now. I can trust in him because he knows the end from the beginning. Long before tomorrow ever starts, he's already there. He knows how things work out and he is so amazingly good and so powerful that he is working in all things.
I hope this speaks to somebody. The very thing that's crushing your heart right now, one day you'll see the faithfulness of God. You can be optimistic because God is working everything together for His good. He's working in all things to bring about good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
I'm optimistic because nothing can separate me from my God.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of Adonai forever.
EXPLAIN - DWELL FOREVER
No matter where you go, your at home with God. No matter what you do, our God still loves you. No matter what happens in your life, our God is still for you. You can not outrun his love. You can not do something to cause him to stop loving you. You can not runaway from his presence. He will chase you down. In fact, some of you right now, you may be trying to argue a way why this and that and you've walked away from God and the reason you're hearing is because God's coming for his sheep today, he is coming for you today. He is running you down because God hadn't given up on you.
You want to be negative. You don't want to like it, but there's something inside of you saying, "I still want to believe." What is that? That's the faith seed that God put inside of you that says, "Yes, there may be a lot of bad things going on in this world, but I still have a God who is bigger than the worst thing in this world. I have a savior whose name is above every name."
This verse is odd to me. Because the whole Psalm is from the perspective of a sheep. And when sheep go to the house of Adonai they are usually slaughtered for a sacrifice. But this sheep is not slaughtered. He dwells forever.
I am optimistic not because of what I feel or not even because of what I see, I'm optimistic because of what God says. I am optimistic because I know that I dwell eternally in the house of my God because my lead sheep, the true bellwether sheep, Yeshua the lamb of God, died in my place so I could dwell in the house of Adonai forever. I am optimistic there is nothing that can ever separate me from the love of God that Yeshua has purchased for me.
PRAYER FOR SALVATION
I choose to laugh at the future days, eschak. I choose to be optimistic. When my flesh or the enemy shows me a valley, I am optimistic because I choose to see my Shepherd's rod and staff. When the enemy tries to provoke fear in my life, when I face fearful situation I'm optimistic because my God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. When I think the way is tough and the road is hard, I remain optimistic because he will take me to calming waters and green pastures.
I'm optimistic not because of what I feel but because of what the Word of God says! I'm optimistic because:
1. I know who call me His sheep.
2. My biggest challenges are bested by His provisions.
3. My future victory is nothing compared to my present trial.
4. My mind is filled with the peace of God.
5. My God chooses me for outlandish blessings.
6. My God is working everything out in my life for good.
7. nothing can ever separate me from being with my God.