Monday, November 16, 2015

Demons in the Night

Watch the sermon VIDEO here

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  This I declare about the Lord:  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.  Psalm 91: 1-2(NLT)

Have you ever felt like you live in Stress-City?  Do you worry about anything?  Do you have fears? 

In the Vatican hangs a painting of a shepherd-boy, brandishing a spear to protect his flock from lions.  Some time ago I watched a PBS nature show about cheetahs; how they hunt the deer and gazelle, only to have their catch taken from them by larger jackals. 

I was reminded watching that show of an old African proverb that says something like: 

Every morning on the African plain an antelope wakes up with the innate understanding that today he must be faster than the fastest lion if he wants to live through the day; while every morning on the African plain a lion wakes up with the innate understanding that he must be faster than the slowest antelope if he wishes to live.
Hunt - devour - be devoured.  It’s not just the animal kingdom way; it also seems to be the prevailing climate in today's world of human beings.  Big corporations devour the little businesses.  Lawyers devour witnesses.  Crime devours cities.  And government devours everything. 

Three of the best selling drugs in America are Tagamet (ulcers), Inderal (hypertension), and Valium (CALMER-DOWNER).   I took a test one time that was called Life-Event Stress Level[2].  You check off things that have happened in your life within the past two years, and it tells you what kind of “stress-shape” you’re in; my score was 238 - enough stress to predict a 51 percent probability of experiencing a change in health. 

It's enough to wake a person up in the middle of the night, certain the demons have circled the camp.  To quote Charlie Brown, "Ahhhhhhhh!"

The authorship of Psalms 91 is attributed to David.  David knew about demons in the night.  King Saul, who was supposed to be his friend, fiercely pursued him to wipe out the threat of David's popularity with the people.  He'd hidden in caves; he had to pretend he was crazy so the Philistines wouldn't kill him.  David was a survivor, but he knew demons in the night.  You become well acquainted with them when you're a target!


Live in the Shelter of the Most High

To live in the Most High’s shelter literally means to marry with.  When you marry, you settle-down, and keep a close relationship going. 
The shelter is a reference to the cover on The Ark of the Covenant, the ornamental chest kept in the Temple, where the presence of God was seen by Moses.  That cover was called the mercy seat, the covering of sin.  So the verse indicates we are to marry-with, or settle-down with God's presence, His mercy.


Simply Accept the Antidote

Notice the first three words of verse 2, This I declare 

This I Declare

·       This – This indicates it is a volitional thing.  God will not force you to worship Him.  He offers salvation freely.  Believe and you will be saved, is the message of the Bible.  You choose this as you choose to marry…not because you’re strong, but because you recognize God’s way is so much better than yours.

·       I - This antidote is personal; no other person in the world can take your medication for you; you must decide:  He is MY Lord

·       Declare - This is public.  God wants open commitment. 
Jesus died for our salvation, and our sanity; he publicly hung naked on a cross.  Our open and corporate worship of Him is not unreasonable!

The question before the house, then, is: 

What Happens if I Make a Personal, Volitional, and Public Choice to Marry-Up with God’s Mercy?

The answer before the world is: 

God Takes Care of the Demons in the Night and Gives us Gifts in Exchange!

Psalm 91 was part of the ancient hymnal, used in worship.  It was sung as a praise to God.  Let's use our own hymnal to proclaim the Precious Name[3] of Jesus and learn about the great stress-exchanges God can make in our lives:

·      God gives JOY to replace our SORROW.

Take the name of Jesus with you, Child of sorrow and of woe;
 It will joy and comfort give you, Take it then where'er you go.

We could use some joy in today's world.  We need a sense of humor to answer the demons in the night.  We need a sense of humor, even in church.  Norman Vincent Peale once said, People are so stressed-out today they can't even fall asleep in church. 

Joy is the one commodity that the world truly can't give.  But Jesus said His desire was that His own joy would be complete in His followers. 

God does that...It's a promise!

·      God gives FREEDOM to replace TEMPTATION.

Take the name of Jesus ever, As a shield from ev'ry snare;
 If temptations round you gather, Breathe that holy name in prayer.

The best advice for temptation is what the man got when he limped into his doctor's office in great pain, and said, Doc, you gotta help me, I broke my leg in two places.  The doctor replied:  Stay outa them places!"

You cannot prevent temptation from coming your way.  In your own strength you cannot prevent yourself from going along with temptation.  We are frail sinners, and Satan has had a lot of practice with such. 

But marrying-up with the grace of God effects an exchange of grace to maintain your strength against the stress of temptation 1% higher than the temptation itself! 

God's promise is a shield from hidden snares (verse.3), and the fears of real and imagined terrors (verse.5). 

God does's a promise!

·      God gives ACCEPTANCE to replace REJECTION.

O the precious name of Jesus!  How it thrills our souls with joy,
When his loving arms receive us, And his songs our tongues employ.

Fear of being rejected is one of the great stress-events of life.  Rejection happens:
·       when friends aren't! 
·       when a loved one dies
·       in a divorce. 
·       In school or job when people are afraid to be kind

By comparison, Jesus' love and acceptance towards us is unconditional, unstoppable, and unmeasurable. 

The devil's best tool is doubt.  He cannot convince most people that God doesn't exist.  But he plants great seeds that suggest God really couldn't love someone as unlovable as me; his doubt-seed is that you are not accepted.  The acceptance of Jesus of ALL who come to Him is without exception. 

A lady caught her husband throwing-out an old hammer while they were sorting for a garage sale.  The claw part is broken, nobody'll buy it, he protested.  But the wife persisted, and the hammer was put out for sale with the rest. 

It was the first to be bought (by another woman)!  The man was beside himself.  Why would you buy an old hammer with a broken claw?  The new owner said:  Mister, whenever I drive a nail, I have no intention of pulling it out! 

The same with Jesus!  The whole world may reject you, but He has no intention of pulling out!  Ephesians 1:6 declares that Jesus has made us accepted in the beloved. 

God's like that... it's a promise!

·      God gives KINGDOM to replace UNCERTAINTY.

      At the name of Jesus bowing, Falling prostrate at his feet,
    King of Kings in heav'n we'll crown him, When our journey is complete.

When anything threatens to over-stress, remember whose kingdom in which you live. 

Pastor Steve Brown shared this parable:

There once was a fish who lived in the great ocean; and because the water was transparent, and always conveniently got out of the way of his nose when he swam, he didn't know that he was in the ocean. 

One day he began to do a very dangerous thing; he began to think, Surely I am the most remarkable being, since I can move around like this in the middle of empty space.  Then the fish became confused because of thinking about moving and swimming, and he began to have a severe anxiety attack, thinking he'd forgotten how to swim.  At that moment he looked down, and saw through the crystal clear water, the yawning chasm of the ocean depths, and he was terrified that he would drop. 

Then he thought, If I could catch hold of my tail in my mouth I could hold myself up.

And so, he curled himself up and snapped at his tail.  Unfortunately, his spine wasn't supple enough, so he missed.  As he went on trying to catch hold of his tail the yawning abyss of the depths below became ever more terrible, and he was brought to the edge of a total nervous breakdown. 

The fish was about to give up, when the ocean (which had been watching with mixed feelings of pity and amusement) said, What in the world are you doing?

Oh, said the fish, I'm terrified of falling into the deep, dark abyss.  So I'm trying to catch hold of my tail in my mouth so I can hold myself up. 

Said the ocean, Well, you've been trying that for a long time now.  You still haven't caught your tail, but you haven't fallen down - How come?  Oh, well, of course not yet, stammered the fish, because....because....uh, because.....I'M SWIMMING! 

Well, came the reply, I'm the great ocean where you swim.  And I have given all of myself to you in which to swim.  And I support you all of the time you swim.  But, here you are; instead of exploring the length, breadth, depth and height of my expanse, you've been spending all your time pursuing your own end!

From then on, the fish put his own end behind him and he set out to explore the ocean.

With Jesus there is joy, freedom, acceptance and the most powerful kingdom ever.  Becoming a follower of Jesus replaces the stress of sorrow, temptation, rejection and uncertainty. 

The one thing we must remember is that those promises are for those who DWELL with Him - not for those who occasionally drop by, or pick up the phone when there's trouble.  Those promises are for the dwellers. 

And His promises don't wither or fade - They last forever!

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

[1] Title Image: Sascha Schneider, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] The Holme's Life Change Chart
[3] UMC Hymnal #536, Lydia Baxter 1870

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