Lord, it is because of you I can and will…

In today’s world, our personal battles against sickness, broken relationships, sin and temptation seem endless. The church is in battle against the world’s sinful, increasingly anti-Christian ideology and the woes of this very complicated, lost world. These things can cause us as believers to despair. Maybe we think the best way to handle these issues as if these things don’t exist. However, we walk in the constant hidden fear that one day that denial will catch up with us. We still laugh, smile, and love but at the same time we constantly feel the heaviness of life nipping at our heels.

Because of all these issues, we are constantly hearing one heavy sermon after another. Or we may be inundated with sermons of fluff which seem out of touch with reality.

In this Sunday's message, we are going to attempt to walk that fine line of acknowledging the heaviness of our times while at the same time taking a deep breath and allowing the Lord to bring refreshment and restored hope to our soul.

Psalm 116


2016-07-31 MW
Prayer: God, we’re so thankful that when we gather, we’re not in a place for the perfect. This is the place where the weary and struggling can find hope, peace, a place where we can be accepted. I thank you that you are the true essence of love. People have twisted who you are, and have a distorted idea of love.
When I look at your Word and how you loved us and gave your Son. No matter where we are and what we’ve done to you, you want to come and meet us right where we are.
If someone here is weary, broken, beat up by life, I pray now for your great work. That your Holy Spirit would comfort, bring healing, relief in the name of Jesus so that everything that the enemy has set up against them will be broken down. 
I pray for peace and joy to be restored. I pray for a hedge of protection. That you would surround them with your righteousness. That they would not be able to be harassed. That they would experience your gentle touch and your great love.
We worship you. There’s no one like you. You are God. Almighty. Majestic. Holy.
As your people, your children, I pray that all you have purposed for us, that we would yield to you. That we would be who you purpose us to be.
I’m reminded this morning about a heaviness I had on my heart. I believe this dream I had last night was orchestrated by you. In the dream, I died and was in your presence. And I was grieved. I realized that as I walked on this earth, I trivialized the importance of your Word. My faith had been so shallow. I’d never really walked completely in your promises. 
I pray for each of us that we today would hear the depth of your Word. That we would continue to be stirred, shaken. Your Word is truth. mighty. transforming. That we would yield to the truth of your Word. That we would truly be peculiar people for you. When the world sees us, we’d be so wrapped in your Word, such fools for Christ. And that foolishness would draw men and women to you. 
We need you, worship you, celebrate you.
I pray our hearts would be open. I fall so short. I pray that I would  be out of the way and that you would have your way. We look to you. Let your name be praised. Your kingdom come and will be done.
I had a dream in which I went to heaven and, now experiencing the fullness of God, I was walking in a shallow way. I’d never yielded completely to the truth of his Word. I’d stopped on so many opportunities. And things God wanted to do through me and in me.
As I awoke, I asked what He wanted me to do. All I can do is say, “Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief. Increase my faith.” That’s my prayer for all of us today.
God’s Word isn’t just a good book. That we would truly see and experience life-transforming encounters when we hear proclaimed and read his Word.
I pray as we open up his Word that it would be a life-transforming experience.
I went [somewhere?] and had the best meat I’ve ever had ever. I had tears in my eyes. The flavor was amazing. This only happened one other time. Some of these officers back here made amazing meat. And my mouth was bursting with all these flavors. I kissed these officers.
When I look at Psalm 116, it is so full of truth, of so many promises and different directions about how we’re to live out our Christian life. It’s just BURSTING with truths and promises. I pray I can do a minute form of justice with this passage.
First, the passage was possibly written by King Hezekiah or one of the other kings. He had experienced extreme pain, to the point of death. And he was brought back to life. He was broken before God. God heard his cries and delivered him. He was so grateful.  He said he would walk with God and proclaim his truth.
It’s part of a group of psalms, 113-118, known as the Egyptian Hallal. The Egyptian Hallelujah, sung by the Jews as they celebrate Passover. It was how God delivered them from the tyranny of the Egyptians and set them free to worship God.
If you come from a Catholic or Lutheran background, during holy week, on Maundy Thursday service, the “command Thursday” service. They stop and celebrate a Passover and are thankful for what the Lord has done and how they’ve been delivered and set free. This is a song read or recited during Maundy Thursday.
In 1988, a man was diagnosed with a serious ailment. [Reads account from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-116.html5] He had the most acute case of spinal stenosis. Inoperable. Many treatments were tried. God heard prayers and healed. The doctor was astonished at the complete recovery. “It is my medical opinion that the Great Physician on high healed you.” The patient made this passage his theme song in life. It encapsulates what he experienced of the deliverance of the Lord. It’s a believer’s statement of faith.
 116:1 ¶ I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘‘O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!’’
 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
 6 The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
 9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
 10 ¶ I believed, even when I spoke, ‘‘I am greatly afflicted’’;
 11 I said in my alarm, ‘‘All mankind are liars.’’
 12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
 14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
 16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.
 17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
 18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
 19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
We hear a proclamation of praise. He was brought so low—literally on his deathbed—and he experienced the healing of God. He says, 
“Because I’ve encountered God and his promises, I will make a vow before God and his people. I will be a testimony of what God’s done to me.”
Everyone in this room should have this same statement of belief. Each of us has experienced eternal death. 
There are people here today experiencing physical pains, crying out to God. God is great. He is God. He is who He says He is. The same yesterday, today, forever. He can bring deliverance hope, peace to your life. We must be the testimony God’s called us to be.
Let’s look at this again.
vv1-2 - I love the Lord BECAUSE.
Love = /ahab/. It’s a covenant word. It’s in 1Samuel 16:21. God brought him to the closest place a man could be with a man.  A love that’s connected, united with someone.
1Sam 18:3 -   2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.
 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.
 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
Jonathan loved David to the degree where Jonathan said, “I’m one with you. Every ounce of my identity is connected with you.” 
And the psalmist applies that to his own love for God: “Because you’ve heard my cry, everything about me, all I am and have is connected with you. I am yours. I bow my life. I am connected with you.”
He says he love the Lord BECAUSE he has HEARD. Heard = He listened with the intent to act.
How many times have you prayed really expected God to hear and respond to your prayer? Well we should!
Sometimes we pray out of religious obligation rather than truly understanding that when we pray he HEARS.
He “inclines” His ear to us. He leans in to listen as a father listens to his child. So as the pray-er was speaking, God leaned in with an intent to respond.
We should pray to God with this same attitude. He listens with the intent to respond.
So he said, “I love the Lord because He listened and responded. Therefore I will CALL on him as long as I live.”
This is a vow he’s making. Because I know you hear me, I will constantly, all the days of my life, no matter the situation, no matter how small, how much peril, I will call on you in every situation as long as I live.
This is how we should respond to God as well, brothers and sisters.
CALL = call out someone by name. “God I will call you out by name as long as I live.”
The SNARES OF DEATH - pangs, sharp piercing woe, deep pain, hurt. I suffered distress and anguish. I was literally on death’s bed. If this is not hell, it’s close.
THEN. I called on the name of the Lord. And as he called out, the Lord bent down and leaned in as a father to a son, listening with the intent to respond. Oh Lord, deliver my soul. My life.
Not just physically overwhelmed, but psychologically I’m brought to that place as well.
He’s giving this testimony. “Let me tell you something about God. He’s gracious.” 
 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
Gracious = he meets us right where we are at. Exactly where you are. He’s been gracious to you. He knows your situation. As he ministers to you, he is gracious and righteous.
Righteous = there’s no fine print. (We had a tree fall on our house and we’re finding out about the fine print.) But what God says he’ll do he’ll do. What he says he is he is. He is who he says he is. HE’ll do what his Word says he’ll do.
Merciful = What I love about mercy is, I can be the biggest knucklehead there is. Sometimes we don’t want to call out to God because sometimes I’m the one who got myself into this mess. I DESERVE what I’m getting. The consequences of my sin.
This is where mercy comes in. Even when you deserve the things you’re suffering, God’s merciful. Even when you deserve something, he’ll give you something you don’t deserve: He’ll be compassionate and merciful. He’ll administer deliverance and healing and hope and peace. If you’ll call on his name.
 6 The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
simple - that’s me all the way. It means to be foolish, childlike. He preserves those who simply believe God’s Word is what He says it is. They don’t try to explain it away. “It was that way back then.” But people need to see who God is today.
The Lord preserves those with a childlike heart.
How many of you have been in that low place? You may feel like you’re in that low place right now.
Here’s the deal: that low place is one of the best places you can be. Know why? When things are going good, you can be self-reliant. But in the low place, when you say I have nothing left…
low = emptied.
You’re in a place where you say, “God I have nothing. I am spent.” 
In that low place, God met him and says, “I’ll preserve you.”
If you’re in that low place, I want you to receive this with a childlike heart. Picture God leaning in. He’s saying, “I don’t care if you had fits of anger.” He’s saying, “When I was brought low, he saved me. He rescued me. Healed me. Delivered me. When I had nothing left.”
When I have nothing left to give and it’s taking all I can to breathe, even then God can bring deliverance.
 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
That place of rest means to be restored in a place of complete peace. To know that God wants to restore you to a place of complete peace. Not only that, but he’s BOUNTIFUL, rich in his mercy, able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine.
 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
 9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
 10 ¶ I believed, even when I spoke, ‘‘I am greatly afflicted’’;
 11 I said in my alarm, ‘‘All mankind are liars.’’
He’s saying he was at a place where he was struggling, prone to sin. How many of you get to a place where you just want to walk in rebellion because you’re just hurting that bad? [several amens]
When we wrestle looking for wholeness and realize God’s lovingcare, even when we’re broken and undone. We say, “I’ve trusted people and they’ve let me down.” Even if you have an OUNCE of belief, God’ll hear your cry.
What happens after this—after he experiences deliverance and healing—he says, “I’m bowing to you. This is what my life’ll be about.”
If you’re in that place today—the enemy is such a /blehch/. Enemy will lie to you. “You’re a man. Suck it up. Deal with it yourself.”
You know I’ve had back surgery. Friday I was in a lot of pain, “Lord, why aren’t you healing me?” The next day, I came to my wife. I said, “Honey, I’m a bad patient. I need your help. I need you to tell me…I give you permission to say ‘no’. I give you permission to carry my backpack. To get my daughter to carry things for me.”
I had to lay down my pride.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we don’t experience the graciousness of God because our pride prevents us.
You may have a physical or even a spiritual ailment that’s destroying and eating us up. “I’m a man.” “I’m a strong woman.” “I can stand on my own.” Why struggle when you can allow yourself to be brought low and humbled and experience God’s grace.
As we sing this last song, please listen to this. Don’t let dignity get in the way. Don’t let that junk get in the way.
I want you to be able to say, “I am walking in life.” Don’t be prideful. Let’s be real before God. Let’s respond.