Intake And Outflow - Psalm 27:1-14
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Intake To Outflow - 05.14.2023
When I was in seminary I had the unique opportunity to travel to Israel. It was a great trip, and one of the highlights of the trip was that we got to stop by the Dead Sea. Now, if you’re not familiar - the Dead Sea is very famous because the water is insanely salty. The salinity level is something like 35%, compared to the ocean - which is like 4% or something like that. Now the salty water has two big effects - first.) it kills everything. Hardly any life can survive in the dead sea, the water is just too toxic and the second effect is that it’s super fun to float in the dead sea. The salt level is so crazy high that when you float in the water you just bob along right at the top of the water. It’s a lot of fun. Now if we compare that with the Sea of Galilee - if you don’t know, the map of Israel is like this little rectangle. The mediterranean sea is on the left, there’s a little rectangle of land, and then on the right side there’s the sea of Galilee, a little squiggle of the Jordan river and then the Dead Sea below that. But the Sea of Galilee, just a little squiggle bit north - is thriving with life. They’ve got fishing and tourism - it’s a wonderful little place, the sea of Galilee. They’re in the same region, they’re actually connected by the Jordan river - so why is the dead sea dead?
It’s not a trick question, the answer is really easy. The Sea of Galilee has outflows. Water comes into the sea, and water passes out of the sea - and in between you get vibrant life. The Dead Sea, however, does not. I think it’s actually the lowest point on the surface of the earth. It’s something like 400 meters below sea level, and it’s got mountains all around it. Water and minerals and stuff comes in - but it never gets out. The water will evaporate, but there’s no outflow. So the minerals and the salt and all that stuff stays behind in the Dead Sea. The difference between vibrant life and toxic death, is that one has intakes and outflows, and the other bottles everything up. Actually, it kind of works that way with people too, doesn’t it? If your life has intakes and outflows, you can live a vibrant thriving life. But if you do not have an outflow, if you just take in and bottle things up inside - you’re going to get a little salty.
Today we are continuing our study in the Chronological bible study. If you’re just joining us - welcome to the party! We are reading the Bible through in a year, and we are all the way up to the book of Psalms if you can believe it. Now, if you’re just joining us - don’t worry! This book is so awesome that you can jump in at any point and still catch the picture we’re trying to show you. The more you study the more you get out of it - but any level of study will still help you find the good news of God’s story in these pages - so let’s dive in.
Now this past week we’ve been diving DEEP into the Psalms, that was basically the whole week was reading all these awesome Psalms. The last couple weeks we’ve been checking out King David, and David wrote a giant bulk of the Psalms - so it makes sense that these would come up. So I picked one Psalm, chapter 27 and we’re going to dive into that one, but there are super common themes all throughout the text and I could have chosen any number of them and we’d find the same good stuff. [read v.1-3]. So right off the bat, there’s such a key thing to learn. First - the world is a mess. And I think this is so important, because I think sometimes Christians feel this pressure to always be positive and always be upbeat. But David went through some stuff in his life, and he was not afraid to complain about it. So what we see in the Psalms, the permission that David is giving us is - it’s okay to be upset! It’s okay to look at the world and say, “Hey, I don’t like this thing that’s happening.” There’s actually this whole category of prayer called lament. If you don’t know - lament is defined as a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. It’s that moment when you look around at your life and say, “something about this feels wrong.” And there’s a discontent in your heart and you’re upset, and maybe confused and maybe even scared or uncertain. And what we see in the Psalms is that we are allowed to express that. I’m trying to give you permission this morning - you are allowed to complain. To God. Not to me. Don’t complain to me, complain to God. [chuckle]. But see here’s the thing - I think some people mix up lament and worry. If you lament, sometimes people will think that you’re not trusting God. If you complain about your situation or if you express that you’re sad or heartbroken or mad - sometimes people come back to you and say, “well you just have to trust God.” But lament is not an issue of trust, it’s an issue of expression. I can trust God and still be sad about what’s going on. I can trust God, and KNOW that he is in control and believe with all my heart that eventually somehow all things will work together for the good of those who love Him - I can know that with certainty, and still be heartbroken. That’s how David was. And so that's the first teaching we pull from the Psalms - you are allowed to express yourself. You are allowed to cry out to God when things don’t feel right with the world.
It keeps going, [read v.4-6]. I bring all my stuff to God, and he will conceal me, wrap me up in his presence and hold my head up above the raging waters. I want to dwell with God, to spend time in his presence - singing and praising God. And so the second thing we see is not just that we are allowed to complain to God, that we have permission of expression - but also that God cares. That God is in this with us. We are invited, not just to express, but to dwell with God. You see this in the book of Ephesians as well. It says, [read v.18-19]. I think this is such an incredible picture of the church - because a solo is great, that music can be so powerful, self expression is great - but when you join one voice with many, lifting up our expressions together - now we have community. David says, I just want to DWELL in God’s house.
Quick story - I grew up in the church. I’m a born and raised Christian. And not just grew up in the church, but I’m a Pastor’s kid. So I really grew up in the church. I sang the songs and I prayed the prayers. I was the know-it al kid in Sunday school. To be honest, I was fairly insufferable. I was so good at being a Christian, at least - that the way it looked on the outside. I sang because I like to sing. When I prayed I was just closing my eyes and saying what I was supposed to say. My life wasn’t faithful, it was religious. I was just jumping through hoops like a show dog - and I was happy that way. Don’t get me wrong. The church, when it’s healthy, is a wonderful place to be. There were no scandals or abuses - just good people loving God and loving one another. But you know, sometimes when I would try to pray - it just felt like I was just talking to the ceiling. My music wasn’t worship, not really, it was just nice music. But then one day, I went to this big Christian rock festival called Ichthus. If you’ve never heard of it, just think Woodstock, but like a Christian version. Four days of nonstop concerts with speakers and something like 30 or 40,000 people. I was 13. And one of the nights there was a speaker - I don’t remember the name, I can’t remember hardly anything he talked about. But I remember he used the metaphor of keys. He held up a set of keys and said, “Most Christians like to give God some of our keys, but not all of our keys. We give God the key to Sunday morning, maybe a bible study during the week, maybe Wednesday night. But we’re not going to give him ALL the keys. We all have things in our life, we want to keep back. We don’t want to give our WHOLE life to God. And I realized he was right. And so I decided to give my life to Christ. And I closed my eyes to pray, like I’d done a thousand times before, but this time it was different. This is one of the only supernatural experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. I closed my eyes, and remember I’m sitting in a field with like 30,000 people around me in the middle of the day. But the moment I closed my eyes, I was alone. I was just sitting in this white space, and it was just me and God. And I talked to God, and for the first time I realized that there was actually something listening to me. I’ll be honest, it kind of scared me. I don’t remember hardly anything else, even though I’ve told this story a hundred times - all I can remember is walking away with this insane realization that God was really out there. And from that moment forward my life looked almost exactly the same. I didn’t have some crazy transformation where I gave up a drug addiction or something. I still prayed the same prayers and still sang the same songs - but something was different. Because now I was praying TO someone. Now I was singing TO something that was actually out there. There was an authenticity to my faith. And I want to be clear - I’ve only had like a handful of those sort of radical prayer moments in my entire life.. where I have this assurance of God’s presence and I can j just dwell with God. But I’ve been chasing it ever since. We are invited, not just to complain, not just to express - but to actually DWELL with God.
The Psalm keeps going, [read v.7-8]. Oh man, this is such a great Psalm. It's just so simple and so straightforward - My heart has heard you say, “come and talk with me” and my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” We are given permission to express ourselves, we are given permission to dwell with God, and if that was not enough - there's actually an invitation. Not just permission, like you're allowed to speak to God, but an invitation - God WANTS you to come and speak with him. It says in verse 9 and 10 that God doesn't turn his back on us, even if our family lets us down - even when nobody else wants to listen - God is inviting you to speak with him.
It keeps going in verse 11, [read v.11]. There is expression, there is dwelling, but there is also growth. When we spend time with God, it's not just hanging out - it's like teaching. When we walk closer with God, it's not just that he will be with us in the hard times, it's not just that he listens to us - but also that he will lead us to the right path. Let me try to explain it like this - You ever look at the floor in your kitchen, or your bathroom and you think - this floor is clean. And then you move the trash can or or like the laundry hamper in the laundry room - and you see the color of the tile and you think, ah - I was mistaken, this floor is actually dingey. It’s kind of like that when you spend time dwelling with God. God is so good, and so beautiful, and so loving - when you spend time with the real thing, it changes your perceptions of beauty and goodness and love. And this is stamped all over scriptures. It reminds me of Colossians, where it says [read 3:16] Do you hear the echoes? We’re still dwelling - you’ve got that piece about singing and spiritual songs and all that - but if you let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your life - you will grow. The Psalm finishes up, [read v.11-14]. I am confident I will see God’s goodness.
Okay, so we read this (and other Psalms like it), and I always like to ask the questions: okay, what did I learn about the character of God? What does this passage teach me about who God is - and I think the answer is pretty simple. The good news we see today is that God invites our expression. The good news is that God says, “come and talk with me.” God wants you to communicate with him. Whether that’s prayer, songs, time spent in the presence of God with your Christian community - God invites our expression. But here’s what I want you to realize. Expression is an act of discipleship. It’s an act of growth - what you express is what grows inside of you. If you express the beauty of God, you will find the beauty of God growing in your heart. If you express gratitude, you become more grateful. Have you ever done that? The thanksgiving challenge? Sometimes you see it in November, around Thanksgiving people say, “I am going to list one thing that I am grateful for every single day in the month of November.” And that process literally changes hearts - it creates a more grateful mindset. You can see this in relationships too. If you’re starting to get annoyed with your spouse, starting to criticize them or tear them down in your mind - try saying one nice thing about them every single day. If you express appreciation, appreciation will grow in your heart.
Now here’s my favorite part in the whole sermon. If you fell asleep, that’s okay, just wake up for this one moment and then you can go back to sleep. We express the beauty of God, and we express the agony of this world - and when you put those together you find the glory of the cross. The beauty of God is that vertical focus, our eyes are trained up in awe. The agony of this world is that horizontal focus, our eyes are trapped down as we shake our head back and forth. But if you put them together you have the sign of the cross. The beauty of God and the agony of the world show us the glory of the cross - and if we express that, we find Jesus in that place. Jesus on the cross is that moment when we take the beautiful gift of God’s love and the horrible sin of the world and put them together - and what we find is redemption. Forgiveness. You can talk about the agony of this world. You can express yourself and share your broken heart with the God in heaven who invites your expression. The God who says, “come and talk with me.” You can do that, because he can take it. The agony of this world does not overcome the beauty of God - and that’s very good news.
My challenge for you today, with this good news that we have learned from the Bible - my challenge for you is to EXPRESS YOURSELF. God says, “come and talk to me” so GO and talk with God! Let’s look at King David as an example for us. Actually, hold on a second. If you’ve been hanging out with us the last few weeks you might be wondering - is David a hero or a villain? Like, is David a good example or a bad example? And the truth is - neither! Or both! Sometimes I hear people say stuff like, “Well, it’s in the Bible - that makes it okay!” And I’m just like - “whew, no…that is not how this thing works.” The bible is full of stories out of history that work together to tell God’s story. But in every story there are good examples and bad examples. The good examples we hold up as inspiration - yay, be like this guy. The bad examples we hold up as a warning - wow, do NOT be like this guy. And David is one of those characters that has moments of BOTH. Which, actually - when you think about it - makes him exactly like every single one of us. Right? Like, let’s do a quick show of hands. How many of you in this room have done something you were proud of? Like you had a moment in life when you did a good thing and you were like, “yeah, that was a good thing I did.” Now let’s flip it - how many of you have had a moment in life when you did a bad thing? Any sinners out there? Okay, these aren’t real questions - I’m just up here learning which ones of you are the honest ones. The bible is full of good examples AND bad examples - and that’s why it’s important for us to study and learn the difference - and in this moment David is the good example. For all his bumps and bruises, for all his horrifying sins and serious problems - David knew how to communicate with God.
So my challenge to you is to EXPRESS yourself, and the text highlights three ways to do this. First, David sang about the BEAUTY of God. In our Psalm, verse 4, let’s hear it again [read it]. And remember what you express out into the world is what you are cultivating in your heart. So if you spend time telling God how beautiful he is, how perfect he is, that will grow admiration in your heart. What I’m trying to say is that it will help you admire God. Let me tell you something, as a Pastor, as a preacher - people can be so kind. Just so affirming. But when I hear people say, “that was a great sermon” or “you are a great preacher” - I know I’ve messed up a little bit. But I don’t want you to think about ME at all! The deepest desire of a good preachers heart is not that people will walk away and say “that sermon was awesome” - but that people will walk away and say “wow, God is awesome.” To spend time talking to God about how amazing and powerful and perfect He is grows admiration in our hearts - and make no mistake God is so worthy of our admiration.
Second, David sang about the agony of the world. You hear it in verse 2, [read v.2-3]. Now personally, I’ve never been in a military engagement - I don’t actually know what it’s like to be surrounded by my enemy. But I do know what it is to feel completely surrounded and overwhelmed. The modern world struggles might be very different than what David went through - but our hearts have been through the same trials. Recognizing the agony of our world and talking to God about it - it’s like draining all the salt out of the dead sea - it would bring new life to us. It helps us to endure. If you bottle up that bitterness it turns to poison in our hearts. But if you express it, you put it in God’s hands, you can grow endurance in your heart. You can weather the storm longer if you are able to bring your troubles to God. We talk about the Beauty of God, and it creates admiration in our hearts. We talk about the agony of this world and it create endurance in our hearts.
The third and final thing that David sang about is the GLORY of God. You see it in verse 5, you see it in verse 11, you see it in verse 13. Hear this, [read v.13-14]. It’s like I said earlier, the beauty of God’s goodness and the agony of this world come together to make the picture of the cross. God’s triumph over evil, and rest for our weary souls. And if we sing about the glory of God, and how Jesus overcomes the agony of the world, that helps us worship. Not just admire God, but to fall on our faces and worship him with everything we have in life. My challenge to you is that I want you to express yourself to God. Sing about God’s beauty. Sing about the agony of the world. Sing about God’s glory. And then watch what it does to your heart. It will help you admire. It will help you endure. And most importantly, it will help you worship.
I think about the sea of Galilee - it’s this vibrant body of water that smells like fish, because it actually has fish. There are intakes and outflows and that’s health. And then I think about the dead sea, which just collects and collects, and then evaporates the water and all the salt stays right there in the middle. If there’s no outflow, there’s no chance of life. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you dwell richly in God’s presence. Remember that what we put out there is what we cultivate in our hearts - so express yourself to God. May you sing about the beauty of God, the agony this work..And most importantly may you sing about how the beauty of God and the agony of this world come together to create the glory of the cross. Amen.