The Courageous Church: Faithful In Care
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” vs. 12
bShow each of these items to the congregation and ask:
What do these 5 items have in common?
- 1 gallon of milk
- AA Battery
- Jar of Pepperoncini peppers
- A bottle of aspirin
- My iphone
Answer: They all have expiration dates or a shelf life. If you think about it for a second, most of the things in life have a limited amount of time to exist; plants, animals, buildings, etc. Guess what? Even we have a limited amount of time. In Genesis 6 God even states in verse 3 that the length of a person’s life will not exceed 120 years; so even we have a shelf-life or expiration date. But there is good news – A recent article I read on Yahoo! stated the average age of death in the U.S. has gone up: men 76 women 81
We are starting a new 7 week series on the “theology of care.” Theo is God and ology is study so we are embarking a study of God and God’s Word on how he cares for us and how we are to care for each other. Today we want to build a foundation of that thought based on Psalm 90. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.
Read Passage – Psalms 90
A prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” 4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: 6 In the morning it springs up new, but 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 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. 12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 13 Relent, 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 on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.
Dealing With The Discomfort
Psalm 90 is considered to be the oldest of the Psalms and was written by Moses.
It was written during a very bleak time in Hebrew history. Moses was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt after being slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years. After the God works some incredible miracles to free them from the Pharaoh, he also provides a miraculous escape through the Red Sea. Moses leads the Israelites toward the Promised Land God had for them, a land flowing with milk and honey. They reach a place called Kadesh Barnea, a beautiful oasis that was supposed to be the launching place for them to enter this new land God had for them. From there, Moses sent 12 spies into the land to check out the people. Ten of the spies came back shaking in their boots. They reported that the people were too big and too strong for the Israelites to attack. But two of them, Joshua and Caleb, said that God had given them the land. They knew God had promised them this land and they told the people to trust God and do what He had said he would do. They choose not to believe God. By the time they got to the door of the Promised Land they had turned their back on God and really wanted to go back to Egypt, back to slavery! The consequence for this disobedience was the death of an entire generation. The Hebrews wandered in the desert for thirty-eight years. Exodus 12 tells us there were 600,000 men plus women and children. That means in the next 38 years they would wander in the desert, over one million people died. If you do the math, that comes to about eight-seven funerals a day! So 38 years times 365 days is 13,870 days. That means approx.. 72 people a day had to die for that whole generation to turn over in that time. Moses and the Israelites were surrounded by death. This man of God then took out his journal and began to pour out his prayer to the Lord that we read in Psalm 90.
Generally speaking, people don’t want to talk about death. Oh, it’s true enough that we are aware of its there. Most of us are honest enough to admit it’s going to happen to us one day. But the fact remains that we still don’t want to have an honest discussion about it. It’s morbid. It’s depressing. There is a lot of discomfort when we talk about death.
Ex. I read the birthdays in the paper everyday. BTW did you know Rod Stewart turned 70 yesterday? I also read the obituaries. Could you imagine the obituaries list if you were traveling with the Israelites in the desert?
Developing A Caring Culture
Moses didn’t seem to have a problem talking about death. It’s hard to avoid when it’s all around you. I really have felt led for us to cultivate a more caring culture in our church and that means we need to be honest with ourselves and talk about some difficult things; things like death, illness, struggles like finances, mental health issues, physical health issues, and many other tough issues. If we are going to develop a caring culture we have to be willing to discuss these things.
Our Caring Community Chooses:
So let’s talk about what a caring community chooses to do. There is a key verse in Psalm 90 that we really need to take note of, it’s verse 12:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” vs. 12
This verse is saying that we accept that we have an expiration date and not to avoid that date but to embrace it so that we live life to the fullest. We live life to the fullest when we gain wisdom and when our heart is embraces wisdom.
- To Accept Our Finitude
First, our caring community chooses to accept finitude. Finitude is the concept that things are finite, limited, that there is a definite beginning and ending to something. Moses states in verse 3:
“You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’” vs. 3
Here is the issue of man: we want to live forever. If you think about it, God’s original design didn’t include death. But, sin enter and death became a reality. Ever since, man has been trying to discover ways to live forever.
Ex. Some examples are:
- cryonics, is the low-temperature preservation of animals and humans who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. Most Famous: Ted Williams
- Our fascination with zombies
- Our desire for space travel and longevity
- Botox and other medicines designed to make look younger
The thing is, as humans, apart from Christ’s return, we will face death. That’s affirmed in the Bible in Hebrews 9:27:
“…people are destined to die once…” Hebrews 9:27
It’s not pleasant for most of us to think about but it is a reality. It is actually more healthy to learn to discuss it and talk about our finitude, our struggles and our limitations than to avoid it.
Ex. I remember as a young pastor I was meeting with someone in a convalescent home and they brought up the subject of death. I responded, ”Oh, we don’t need to talk about that, we have plenty of time to figure all that out.” They died the next day. I realize now how important those conversations are.
To become a caring community we embrace our finitude and we realize that we all have the same destination. So, we care because we all have the same destination.
- We Care because We All Have the Same Destination
Our hope is that we can help each other understand God’s love and provision for us and that we can all spend eternity with God. I know personally, I look forward to seeing my grandparents, my loved ones, my friends that have past on. You, my church family. It is important that help other understand that too.
- To Live with (or without) God
Second, our caring community chooses to live with God. God gave us an important gift; the gift of choice. We have the choice to choose God or to reject God. We can choose to live with God’s love as Moses expresses in verse 14:
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” vs. 14
One of the things that we discover when we choose to live with God is the deep satisfaction that comes with his love. It brightens our day, it makes us happy and glad as Moses states at the end of the verse. But…it is a choice. Remember when Joshua who lead the Israelites into the Promised Land was preparing to die he challenges them about their faith in God. He wants them to choose God but he realizes that it is a choice and he challenges them in Joshua 24:15:
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15
The answer is classic: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” See God cares for us. He cares for you. But he will not force you to choose him. And, he loves those who do not choose him just as much as those that do. But…there are consequences for our choices. This relates to us being a caring community in this way:
- We Care because God Cares for Us
We care for others because god cares for us…and them. For you and I we know God’s love. We know how satisfying it can be and how much joy it brings. We need to bring that to others.
- Who We Spend Our Time With
Third, our caring community chooses who we spend our time with. Notice how Moses started this poem in verse 1:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” vs. 1
I remember as a kind we would go to church about 8 in the morning and wouldn’t come home until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We have Sunday school, then church, then we usually went to someone’s house for lunch or we had someone over to our house. Then there was the communion service on Sunday nights. Church was an all-day affair. It was natural for us.
Again this is a choice. We all give ourselves to something. You hear the term “family” all the time now. Work places call themselves a family, sports teams call themselves a family, etc.
Challenge: If someone were to look at your life, what would they say is your God, your family, your priority? Is God your dwelling place? Or is God an occasional stop or maybe even interruption in the busy-ness of your life?
One of my favorite contemporary songs is a song called Better Is One Day. That song comes from Psalm 84:10 which says:
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10
Now this relates to us in that our caring community really enjoys being together.
- We Care because We Are Part of a Bigger Family
It is good to belong. It is good to feel you are part of something beiger than you. Part of our charge is to embrace one another and build the family, the family of God. We do that through caring for each other, helping each other, and spending time together. Sometimes churches get a bad rap because they seem to place such a high priority on attendance. But it’s hard to build a family if you don’t spend time together. You can be related but a real family spends time together and then cares for each other in the times of struggle, hurt, and difficulties.
- To Acknowledge Realities of the Cycles of Life
And finally, our caring community chooses to acknowledge the realities of the cycles of life. Moses states in verse 6:
“In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.” Vs. 6
I love this analogy because it is so real-life. We have cycles in life, times where things go well and times when things are difficult. Choosing life in God and in God’s family gives us a support structure and encouragement for those times when we are in need and hurting. In fact, isn’t it amazing how refreshing things can be after a good nights sleep? That’s God’s love and care. It springs up new but we can be sure each day will bring struggles of its own. That reminds me of a few verses in Lamentations 3:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22-23
God is our refreshment when we are hurting and struggling. His great love brings compassion and nurturing. We are a caring community when we bring that same love and care to others.
- We Care because Our Caring Shows God’s Love to Others
Part of our life is to experience God’s love and then to pass that along to others. That is being a caring community. God’s love is infectious. We care for people because Jesus lived that in his life by bringing healing, peace, joy and love as a visible sign of God’s presence in the community.
The Favor Of the Lord
This Psalm has a wonderful ending that we read in verse 17:
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” vs. 17
The words hands here are important for us to grasp. That’s representative of action. Remember, Christ worked in the community: he provided food, (fish and loaves), he healed, he brought words of encouragement, etc. His hands established the work of God and we are to do the same.
Christ is still working in and through us. He is seated at the right hand of God and interceding for us and we are to be his visible hands in the community.