There are many paths we take throughout our walk of life. During our walk, there are moments when we can feel God's presence. We can see Him moving, answering our prayers, opening doors, making our lives flourish abundantly. There are other times where maybe He's meeting us when we need Him the most, taking us from the valley to the mountaintop and showing His power and victory in our lives.
But, what about the moments when God seems silent? It may seem as if this in-between path lasts forever. How do we stay faithful when everything is still? It may be easy to look for God when He's speaking to us and it may be easy to live for God when we've been fulfilled, but what do we do in-between?
Well, good morning to everybody and also to those who watch via the internet and mobile app. Could we give it up for our creative team? They really try hard to make these good bumper videos. They're awesome.
Well, we're starting a new series called "In Between," and this is going to be a six-week series. And I don't know how you all are, but I know when we start a series that I'm excited because I put a lot of time and effort into this stuff and it's like it's just boiling over in me and I just can't wait to share it. I hope you're as excited as I am. If you're not, just please play along with me and make me feel like you are. Okay? And, if you're watching via the internet or mobile app, be like, "Yeah! Go Chip!" Even if you don't mean.
Anyway, we're going to do the next six weeks on this idea of "in between" and I want to sort of bring everybody up to speed as to what we're going to try to accomplish here in this six-week series. I think most of us – and listen, if you're brand new here, maybe you've never really come to faith, maybe you're trying to figure out this God thing, maybe you did the God thing a long time ago and you don't know what you're doing with the God thing right now, just listen in. I think this stuff will still be beneficial to you.
But, I want to talk to a minute for those that at least have some faith or at least have come to faith at some point in their life. I think everybody can remember at least one moment in their life – if not many – where God was just real. I mean, you just could feel God. I mean, it might have been at a concert where somebody was singing a song and you were like, "Man, God, I love You." It might have been when you came to faith and it was like overwhelming. It might have been when you got baptized. Maybe that was just a moment for you. It might have been a number of things. Maybe you were reading the Bible one night. Maybe you were in prayer one night. Maybe you were at church some time.
But, at some point, it was like God really was there. The presence was real and it was just so easy to worship God and to be into God. And then there's the other side of it where maybe you've been praying or I've been praying for a long time and, all of a sudden, those prayers start to get answered or maybe God spoke to you something that you knew that He spoke to you and all of a sudden it's coming to fruition and it's like you're going, "Yeah, man. God's real in my life. I'm feeling His presence. Man, He's doing what He said He would do."
And, in those moments, it's sort of easy to live for God as well. But, the fact of the matter is most of us don't live in those areas. Most of us live in the in-between. Most of us live in just the mundane things of life. And even in our spiritual lives that's true. But, it's also true not in our spiritual lives. So many of us are, you know, maybe you're single and you're looking for that spouse and you're living in the in-between of that. Maybe you've sent off for school to get accepted and you're waiting for that letter to come back. You're living in the in-between. Maybe you're in a relationship that you really want to work. I mean, you're praying about it, you're seeking God about it, but it's just you're in between and it is what it is what it is what it is and that's just where you are.
That's where most of us live our lives and, quite honestly, most of us aren't really equipped for that. We're equipped when life's going good. I mean, it's like, "Yeah, man. I love God." But, in the in-between, what do we do? How do we live in those moments? So, over the next six weeks, we're going to work with that, look at some tools that we can put in our toolbox so that we can have an abundant life in the in-between. But, to do that and to get this series kicked off, we're going to have to do what I call a reorientation. We're going to have to reorient. What we're going to do is we're going to look at an entire Psalm today and I think you're really going to enjoy it.
The psalmist is living in the in-between. And what I would tell you is is in this Psalm it's maybe some of the most brutally honest writing in all of the Bible. Many of you are going to go, "Whoa." You don't even have to make a comment. "
This is just me. This is where I'm at."
This is going to speak to you, I promise. And not only that, then at the end we're going to do some practical take-home stuff and I believe with all of my heart that there's not one person, wherever you're at in your relationship with God, that's not going to leave here today differently than when you came in. The Psalm that we're going to look at is Psalm 73. It's a psalm of Asaph. And we're going to look at this. It's incredibly, brutally honest. It's living life in the in-between. But, in the in-between, something happens for the songwriter. He has a reorientation in his life and I'm hoping and praying for all of us today that we will have a reorientation in our lives.
Sound fair? You with me? Everybody with me? Okay. Let's get started. Psalm 73.
Psalm 73 starts off: "Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart."
The Hebrew word for "truly" can be translated "surely." It can also be translated "yes." It can be like, "Yes. God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart."
Now, this is a confessional statement. I don't know if you were raised in a confessional church. I was raised in a church where, oftentimes, the pastor would get up and do a reading response with the congregation. They would read something and then the congregation would read something back or he would read something and the congregation would go "amen." This is like a creedal formula. You know, sort of a thing that you would say in the household of God back in the day that these psalms are written that, "Yes," or, "Truly, God is good to Israel."
Now, we don't know what "good" is. We're going to maybe find out what "good" is as we read through this. But, we don't know sometimes what "good" is. We run around church going, "God's good all the time," and everybody's like, "Yeah, man. All the time God is good." But, do you ever stop for a minute and say, "What does that mean? What does the good mean in all of the things that we say?"
We say a lot of things, but what do they mean? So, the psalmist says, "Hey, here's what we all say: 'Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart; to those that are trying to follow God; to those that are trying to honor God; to those who are trying to do everything they can to live for God.'"
And I've underlined the word "heart" because there's going to be six instances in this psalm of the word "heart." And I think what we're going to realize is is that we're going to see that living in the in-between is a real matter of our heart, and our heart needs to be reoriented as we're in the in-between.
Now, as you start off this psalm, you'd be expecting "truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." You probably would be expecting for the psalmist to tell you about the good things that God has done. What does it mean for God to be good? But, in fact, the next verse sort of goes off the rails very quickly, because this is a brutally honest psalm.
The psalmist says, "This is the confession that we make: yes, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart...
"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped."
This is incredible wording here because, if you read the wisdom literature of the Bible and you read it well, you'll see that they tell you – and the wisdom literature's filled with if we'll follow God's Law, if we will follow God's plan, we don't stumble; we won't fall. It's that lamp in front of our feet that illuminates the path in front of us so that we won't stumble as if we were in the dark.
He says, "But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled. I mean, I know I was saying that God is good. I was saying that He's a good God. I was saying to those who are pure in heart. But, as for me, my feet had almost stumbled and my steps had nearly slipped."
The idea in the Hebrew is like they turned to water. His legs had turned to water. He was just sort of slipping out from underneath him. He says, "This is my experience. I know we're saying God is good, I know we're talking about God is good, I know we're saying for those who follow God with a pure heart He's going to be good. But, as for me, my experience was I'd almost stumbled and I'd almost slipped because I was envious. I was mad. I was upset. I was disappointed of the arrogant when I saw, living in the in-between and the mundane parts of life with my eyes, what I saw to be an injustice. I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
The word "prosperity" here, if you are a Hebrew buff, is the word "shalom."
"I saw the wicked living in shalom."
"God, I mean, I'm saying to everybody You're a good God. I'm saying to everybody that if you live this way it'll be great. But, in all sincerity, in the in-between when I start looking around, it doesn't look that way. It doesn't look like that's the plan, because I see people that are arrogant and wicked and not living for Your ways, God, that are just totally rejecting You in every way, and they're living good and I'm not."
Now, I know nobody has ever had that thought in their mind. It's those 9 o'clock people and 11:30. But, I'm sure some of us have had these real thoughts before. "God, I'm irritated at the injustice that's in the world. What's going on here? Why is there so much injustice? I'm envious. As for me, I know I was saying with my mouth 'God is good.' I was testifying that God is good. But, on the inside, in my heart, I was having a real problem. My feet had almost stumbled and slipped out from underneath me because I saw the wicked living in the shalom that I thought I should be living in in serving You."
"For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek."
"God, you know, here we are as your covenant people trying to live for You and sometimes we go without food, sometimes we know what it's like to have hunger pangs. And these people don't. They're fat and sleek. They're well-fed. Life's good for them. Their bodies are sleek and they're fat. They've got everything that they need. They're not in trouble as others are. I mean, I look out in the world and see people that are just absolutely wicked living it up. Big house, big car, all kinds of stuff, eating at good restaurants. And they aren't serving you and here I am trying to say that you're a good God. Trying to live a pure heart life. And the fact of the matter is what I see is an injustice."
"They're not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore, praise is their necklace."
They run around going, "Yeah, you know. If you worked as hard as I did or you did it the way I did, you would be living like that. I mean, I've got it together."
"Violence covers them as a garment."
In the Old Testament, the idea of violence is not necessarily always violence the way we see violence. Violence means the way you treat your neighbors. When you don't treat your neighbors good, you're violent in the Old Testament. See, violence covers them as a garment.
"Their eyes swell out through fatness."
In other words, they're eating so much they've got so much. You've got to understand: this is written in an Agrarian society where food mattered. Just a little on the side here. I don't know if you know this or not, but this is an interesting study. Big school did a study. They took 100 United States people and put them in a room and had them read the prodigal son, and then they took 100 third world people and put them in a room and had them read the prodigal son. And, when they talked to them about what they had read, only one person in the United States saw something in the prodigal son's story that all 100 of the third world people saw, and it's this: there was a famine that arise in the land.
See, we as Americans, we don't even see that. We don't even read that in the prodigal son. And it's actually a major point in the prodigal son, because famines are huge in the Old Testament. So, just because we don't see it certain ways, he says, "In this world, man, they had food. In fact, they had so much they were swelling with fatness and their hearts overflow with follies. I mean, God, I'm saying this thing that You're good. I'm saying that You're a good God. But, what I'm looking at here, I'm trying to keep my heart clean and I'm getting just absolutely beat up in the in-between, and these jokers who are doing everything that they want to do, saying whatever they want to say, acting however they want to act, they're living good. What gives, God? Why's it like this? I'm living in the in-between, and it's tough."
"They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth."
"I mean, they just say whatever they want to say, act however they want to act. And here I am trying to keep my heart clean, trying to believe in You, God, and I don't understand."
"They say, 'How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?'"
See, what they do is they look at you and they go, "Oh, you really believe there's a God? Do you? Do you think He knows what's going on in your life? Is that what you think? You think He's all-powerful? Do you think He's got all the ability and He's all good? Well, why's He not acting on your behalf? Why's He not doing something for you?"
That's what they say. "You think He knows? You really think He knows? I mean, look: I'm living my life however I want to live. I'm not doing the God thing. I'm not trying to live this thing out. I'm not trying to anything, and my life is good. And you're trying to live the God thing. It ain't working out so good for you."
This is what they say.
"Behold, these are the wicked;" – "These are the people, God." – "always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence."
The word here "all" is actually the same word that's used in verse 1 for "surely," "truly," or, "yes." He says, "Yes. I've been saying with my mouth, 'Yes, God is good.' I've been saying with my mouth, 'Yes, God is good to those with a clean heart.' But, the fact of the matter is, the real 'yes' is I've been doing all this stuff and it's been in vain. That's where I'm at. Because, trying my best to live this thing out and the wicked are prospering and here I am trying to believe in a good God that I believe has all power and can do everything and He's not acting on my behalf and I'm done. Done done done."
"For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed the generation of your children."
This is the first cognizant moment the psalmist has. He's like, "It's a good thing I didn't tell everybody what was going on in my heart. Because, if I told everybody what was going on in my heart, it would've really messed some people up. But, this is what was going on in my heart, living in the in-between, looking with my eyes what I see in seeing the tremendous injustice that's going on in the world."
"But when I thought how to understand this," – "This whole thing, all of it. When I sat down and said, "Okay, I'm going to philosophically, intellectually try to explicate this, try to make sense out of this, try to sit down and really understand what's going on, it was just simply a wearisome task, because none of it made sense. It just was what it was what it was what it was. Living in the in-between, seeing what I see and the injustice in the world and wondering why God doesn't act."
But then, something happened to our psalmist. He had a moment of reorientation. Something major happened.
"Until I went into the sanctuary of God;"
It doesn't tell us what happened. He doesn't say, "I opened up the Scripture and read something."
He doesn't say, "Maybe one of my brothers or sisters prayed for me. Maybe we sang a song and I just felt..."
He just says, "I went into the sanctuary of God. I was living my life just the way it was, in-between, and, all of a sudden, there was a moment where I had a massive reorientation."
"I went into the sanctuary of God and I discerned their end."
"No longer was I seeing with my eyes. Me and God had got together in such a way that, all of a sudden, things changed. Maybe it wasn't philosophically, maybe it wasn't intellectually, maybe it wasn't that it made sense, but I discerned something when I walked into the sanctuary of God. I had a moment with God that transformed the in-between."
"Truly..." – now he picks up the word "yes" again. Remember, he was saying, "Yes, God is good," then he was, "Yes, I've done this in vain."
Now he says, "Yes, I see that the ones that are really in the slippery places and the ones that really are going to fall are the ones that are walking on the path that I wanted to go after. They're really not on the right path. Even though I wanted to be on that path, the path that I'm on is really the right path. And, even though I had almost stumbled and almost fallen, I hadn't done it. The real path that's going to slip out from underneath them and really fall is the path of the commodity driven world. Defining good by all the things we have.
"God, You're just not good because I don't have all these things. God, I need all these things. I'm looking around with my eyes and other people have got stuff and I don't got stuff."
He says, "But, all of a sudden, I had a moment with God where I saw the end of this thing and I saw where it ended and I saw where it went."
"How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms."
"Like a bad dream. Like, you remember the dream for a moment but then you don't remember it anymore. That's the path of this world that I'm thinking I want to follow that's getting me all messed up. But, all of a sudden, I had a reorientation with You in Your sanctuary and what I realized is...
"When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in my heart,"
"When I was having all these struggles, God, I was sort of like a breast towards you. I was like an animal towards you because here's what I realized in the sanctuary of God:
"I'm continually with you; you hold my right hand."
"It's not my hold on You, God, that gets me through the day. It's your hold on my hand that gets me through the day."
There's a reorientation here. All of a sudden he's in the sanctuary of God and he's having a moment of seeing God for who He is and seeing the paths for what they are and he says, "I'm with You always. You're with me. I'm one of Your children.
"You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel."
"You're the one guiding me. Not me. If it was up to me, I'd be off the bunny trail. I'd be off the path. I'd be stumbling and slipping."
"You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory."
"God, all I could see was with my eyes. All I could see was what I wanted. All I could do is define good by the culture in the world that I lived in. Until I went into the sanctuary of God and, all of a sudden, had a moment where I realized You're holding me, You're guiding me and You're going to receive me to glory."
"Whom have I in heaven but you?"
"God, You're the good. I'm trying to find the good in all the things of this world. I'm looking around with my eyes and seeing what I think is good and what I define as good and what I'm realizing through this process is the good that I'm looking for is You. Who else do I have in heaven but you?"
"And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
"God is the one who leads me. God is the one who guides me. I went into the sanctuary of God, I was looking around with eyes and I was upset and I was mad and I saw everything the way I saw it based on the way the world looked to me until I got ahold of God and, when I got ahold of God, I realized it wasn't me that got ahold of God, it was that God got ahold of me. He was the one holding my hand. He was the one leading me. He was the one that took my heart that fell and He gave it strength, because God was for me."
"For behold, those who are far from you will parish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me..." – and here's the "good," here's the inclusio, here's the "good" from verse 1 at the end of the psalm.
"But for me it is good to be near God."
"God is the good. I'd so got off track looking at all of the things of the world and trying to figure out all of these things that were unjust to me when I realized where my eyes needed to be was on the good, which is You, God."
"I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all of your works."
What a beautiful psalm because the psalmist has gone in saying things in his mouth that he doesn't believe in his heart. He's got ahold of God in God's sanctuary and realized that the hold of God was not the hold that he had, but the hold that God had on him. And then he realizes that all of those people that he was looking at and envying are the people that are on the wrong path. And he moves from self to, all of a sudden, now wanting to go tell others of all God's works because he realizes that people need to hear about the glory of God because it's so easy to get caught up in the in-between.
What a beautiful psalm, huh? We could just stop now. But, we're not going to because we're going to keep going. Okay. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to do the take-homes here. This is where you get out a sheet of paper. Maddy made the note in the plug that I wish I had a place to write notes. You do on the back of your bulletin. Come on. That's good. You know? Bulletins are cool. You know they are. They open up, man. It's pretty cool stuff.
Anyway, get your bulletins out or your phones, you know? Your Windows phone, your Android phone, your iPhone. If you're like a really long hold out, I mean, you just are a traditionalist, maybe you still have a Blackberry. You can take notes on that as well. But, take some notes. Here's what we want to learn.
Number one: in-between, we need to realize the need to reorient ourselves in church. I want you to listen to me here. I want you to hear my heart. I don't want you to come to church so that we can have more people here. I don't want you to come to church so we can just get a bigger building. I want you to come to church because I realize the need that you and I have for a reorientation after going out into the world for six days and getting beat up and falling off the wagon of how important it is to come back in here and remember who Jesus is and remember that God is a good God and remember that we're supposed to turn the other cheek and we're supposed to love our enemies and we're supposed to have a moment with God that sets us back on the right course.
We need to be reoriented. For those people who go, "Well, I don't need church, man. I don't need any of that stuff," I'm going to tell you right now that's absolutely not true. We need to be in the sanctuary of God. It's where we reorient. And he doesn't tell us how he reoriented. It might have been somebody prayed for him. It might have been somebody spoke something into his life. It might have been a song. We don't know what it was. All I can tell you is, in my life – and I don't think I'm the only one in here – so often I walk in here on a Saturday or a Sunday and I've had a tough week. And, all of a sudden, the songs start playing and, all of a sudden, my mind starts changing and, all of a sudden, things that were bothering me before weren't bothering me anymore.
Because, all of a sudden, I start to reorient that Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I sit around watching everybody rip each other up on Facebook all week. Sometimes it's just good to be in the house of the Lord and to remember who the ruler of this world actually is. And His name is Jesus. We need to reorient ourselves in church. It's imperative. And, when we reorient, there's some things that'll happen in our life.
Secondly, we reorient to make sure our passion for justice does not supplant the only one who can administer it.
Let me try to explain this to you. Here's the deal. Listen to me, because many of you all are looking around the world right now and you're looking for justice. I get it. God lives within you and you want to see a just world. When we reorient, what we do is we realize we're not the one that can administer the justice that we want to see done. The only one who can administer justice is God. He's the only one. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord. It's not ours. And when we're not reoriented, what we do is we start getting all upset and all mad at all of the things that we see around the world wondering why God hasn't acted.
Maybe He knows more than you and me. Maybe there's somebody that He's calling into His kingdom through some of this stuff. See, we always go, "Suffering is bad." There's people that have suffered that suffering brought them to God. They'd tell you their suffering was good. So, we've got all these ways that we define stuff. And God says, "You don't understand the way the world works. I don't either. But, I do."
And so often, we just need to reorient to realize that we can't uproot God. We can't take Him off His throne. What we've got to do is is our passion for justice cannot supplant the one who can administer it. We get so caught up in the world and the mundane of the in-between and wanting so much to see justice served. And, quite honestly, the justice that we want served is the justice based on what we think is right and wrong. We don't know these people's lives. We don't know what's gone on in their life. We don't know anything. We think we know. We read something that's probably filtered through somebody else's bias and, because it fits our bias, we like it.
I'm preaching. I'm about to stand up and start hollering. Let that sink in for a minute. Let that sink in.
Third: we reorient to see how imperative it is to tell others about God.
I want you to listen to me here. I want you to hear this. This is really important that I say this to you. Church growth is not an option when there's a heaven and a hell. Do you hear that? It's not an option. See, the psalmist ends the psalm by saying, "I want to tell everybody about Your works. I want to tell everybody about who You are."
Listen, we've ran a generation of people out of the church by being legalistic and nasty. How about all of a sudden we start, instead of trying to be the judgment seat of the world, how about we start telling everybody that God loves them and wants them to come home? How about we start being lights of the world? How about we start letting people know that Jesus ain't mad and He wants them to come home? How about we start living this stuff out? How about less definition and more demonstration of what it looks like to be a Christian?
See, when we reorient we realize – I mean, listen, this is as honest as I can get. When it's all said and done, you know what's going to matter? It's going to matter who you and I went out and did everything that we could to drag them to the finish line of faith. You'd be like, "Even our pastor. He just barely got in."
But, when we reorient and we get with God, we realize how important it is for others to know about who He is.
Fourth: we reorient to understand what it means to say that God is good. He's the good. And we try so hard to find the good in all of the other things when He's the good. Here's what I want to do, because we've got five weeks of real practical stuff coming up on how to live in the in-between. But, I can tell you this: if in the in-between, you and I do not have times where we reorient, we will find that the in-between leads us to be just like the psalmist where he says, "I basically was ready to slip and I was basically ready to run away until I got a reorientation with God in His sanctuary with His people that gave me the perspective that I needed to live in the in-between."
So, here's what I want to do for the next minute or two: I want you to make your seat your alter. I want you to make your seat the place where you just take a moment to reorient, to get all the junk of the world out of your life, to be able to just get the garbage of this season out of our life, to get all the poison and junk out of our lives, to realize that we don't want to see right now with our eyes but what we want to do is discern with our spirit who the Lord is.
If you would, if you'd bow your head, I want to pray for you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I come to you right now in the name of Jesus. Not only for these precious people here in the sanctuary here at Grace, but I also pray, Lord, for those who will watch this on the mobile app or watch it via the internet. Lord, I pray right now that what would happen is the fear that arrests Your children would be gone in Jesus' name, because perfect love casts out all fear.
Lord, I pray that the doubt that is in Your children would be dispelled, Lord, by the faith and the hope that You infuse in them as we reorient right now to who You are. Lord, I pray for those that are just bogged down and worried and all kinds of trepidation and garbage in their lives over the season that we're in. God, I pray right now in the name of Jesus that we would remember that You are the King of Kings and You are the Lord of Lords and the kings of this world are nothing in Your hand. You turn their hearts like a river, that You are in control, God. And we have nothing to fear.
God, I pray for those that are struggling with the injustice of this world and it keeps them up at night. Lord, I pray in Jesus' name that they would remember that we're not the ones who administer justice. That You are and that You will one day make everything right according to Your plan and Your timing and Your will and we need to chill and trust You instead of trying to figure out how to make it happen in our lives.
Lord, let us have a moment of reorientation right here, right now for Your glory and for Your honor because, Lord, we want to live abundant lives for Your kingdom in the in-between and we thank You for it, Lord. We thank You for it.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today that You would lead and guide us, watch over us and protect us. I pray, God, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again to learn the truths of how to live in the in-between. We thank You for it, Lord, and I pray, God, nobody would walk out of here today the same way that they came in. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.