he part of the Old Testament that Christians read most often is the Psalms. In fact, most of us have an edition of the New Testament and Psalms. It is clear that we read them for the comfort and encouragement that they give. Psalm 23 says that even as we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death" we will not be afraid because God will be with us. The feared Grim Reaper of death has no final say over our eternal lives. Even in death we can look up and live.
Our Psalter reading is the oldest Psalm, attributed to Moses. It reminds us of the eternal nature of God, of our temporary mortal nature and encourages us to make the best use of the days that remain in our life span. The first twelve verses are spent in dealing with the fact that time is not critical to God. "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it has passed." (v.4, KJV) However, we can not expect to live many more than eighty years, and then "we fly away." (v.10) "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (v.12)
If this Psalm/Poem/Song ended with the twelfth verse it would not be a favorite; however, the last five verses have a more positive note. It becomes a call for a restoration of the once vital relationship between God and His People. "Come back to us Take pity on your servants so we may sing for joy Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery Replace the evil years with good Let us see your miracles again Let our children see your glory at work." (V.13-17, NLT) Other Psalms speak of our need to look up: "Those who look to Him are radiant" (34:5) "I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven." (123:1)
We know that eventually God sent His Son to open up a potential relationship with the original Chosen People, and with all people everywhere. God has given all of us the second chance that Moses prayed for.
Jesus set the example to keep looking up toward God. At the tomb of Lazarus, "Jesus looked up to heaven and said, 'Thank you for hearing me." (Jn. 11:41, NLT) At the close of Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer" He looked toward heaven and accepted the fact that His time had come and that He was now ready to make the sacrifice for our sins. (17:1) Later, as Stephen, the first martyr was being stoned to death, "he gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand." (Acts 7:55) The position of Christians is to keep looking up to capture the hope that it brings.
The Christian's secret of a happy life is in maintaining a positive attitude even though outward circumstance may be grim. Our joy is not based upon our situation, but upon our salvation. Our relationship with God is based on our looking up to Him and His looking down upon us.
By now you have possibly seen my Mother's little plaque from her bedroom wall, which is now hung as the highest thing on my office wall, just above her painting of The Sallman Head of Christ, which reads, "Keep Looking Up!" I am glad that I grew up in a home with such a reassuring motto on the wall. Sometimes on special birthday cards I will write, "Keep Looking Up!" I draw a caricature below whose eyes are gazing upward. The two O's in the word "LOOking" have eyes gazing down. It's a kind of "full faced chap," and thus a picture of me. I hope that's you too, who's keeping your eyes fixed upon Jesus, no matter what the plight of our present situation.
Sometimes things happen that lift our spirits. We have all been buoyed by the news last week about the discovery of Joseph's ossuary, which bears the first century inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Of course, not even the most skeptical archaeologists doubted that Jesus was an important figure, but it was wonderful to read his name on the side of that coffin. I put a photocopy of the inscription on the back of Thursday's Worship bulletin. It touches my soul to sit and stare at the last name in that line, JESUS!
I limped by to visit my dear Aunt Frances last week. She could tell that my spirits were down. We talked a bit, as many do who come to her like a Mother Teresa. We caught a part of a favorite TV preacher's sermon dealing with the anointing of God upon the lives of His people, and we reminded each other that we have the anointing of God upon our lives, and that means that we always will find victory. We had a prayer and I left walking just a few inches off the ground, and Looking Up!
Lots of folks in our world need a lift. The five million who have been in the sharpshooter's scope for three weeks are now able to come outdoors. The stock market is gradually climbing and folks have hope of new jobs. Charities, arts groups, and churches are learning to live on less, but we are still alive. Most of the hostages in the Moscow Theater are free at last and we all feel a welcome bond with Muscovites. We also feel united as Christians and Jews against the radical terroristic groups that see us as a hated enemy. It seems that our Homeland Security has prevented some terroristic attacks. And we can keep looking up to God who seems to have a hand in all of these little gifts at a time when we need it.
One of our older
ladies phoned this week with an emergency. Her prescriptions had run
out and she had not counted on ever being a recipient of assistance
from her church. I told her that we did not have any funds because so
many of our folks have gotten behind on their giving. She reminded me,
that there is no problem too big for God! Furthermore, if I would tell
of her need, somebody would volunteer to be God's agent in helping her
out. So, now somebody has a chance to be looked up to--- it could be
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor