"Facing The Future"

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place
Pulpit Series Volume 17 Issue 6 02/25/2007

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want Psalm 23:1

Let me ask you… Would you like to learn the secret to facing your untried to-morrows with calm confidence and hope?

Our text this morning is probably the most familiar passage in the literature of the world. More of you can quote it from memory than any other single passage in God's Word. If this Psalm could write its own biography, what a thrilling story it would have to tell! There is not an ocean it hasn’t crossed, no country it hasn’t visited, no road it hasn’t traveled.

These are the words of a man who has lived much and thought much, who has greatly sinned and has been greatly forgiven. The writer knows that has been lovingly sought out and redeemed! Isaiah 62:12 redeemed, Sought out

No matter what - in all his wanderings he was able to proclaim, The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

What an amazing discovery! Look at! He dares to claim God as his very own. He doesn’t say that the Lord is a Shepherd.

Having dared to claim God as his own, the writer’s next words are the most logical ever uttered.
It is the very epitome of common sense. If the Lord is my Shepherd, "I shall not want." This to him this was as natural as night following day!

We’ve all heard the expression, “money talks”, and perhaps that is true to some degree; but, in the presence of the deep wants of the heart, money is as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

What are some of the wants that our Good Shepherd supplies?

If the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want for rest and refreshment. He is our satisfaction for the hungers and thirsts of our souls. "He makes me to lie down in green pastures." The sheep lie down because their hunger has been satisfied. They feel secure.
He that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.
John 6:35

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

With the Lord as our Shepherd, we shall not want for leadership and guidance. He leads me beside still waters. This means he goes before us into our unknown tomorrow.

After the old geographers had mapped the known world, they wrote on the seas that lay beyond the confines of the known such words as these: "Here be dragons. Here be demons that devour men." But the author of the 23rd Psalm had a sure confidence. He believed that it was not dragons and demons that were waiting for us, but that God was there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall your hand lead me and your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:9

Whatever lies beyond today, we may be sure of this, that God is there. He goes before.
Not only does the Good Shepherd go before us, he gives us righteous guidance. He leads me in the paths of righteousness. We are in desperate need of such guidance!

How often we stand at the forks of the road not knowing which way to turn! When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you. John 16:13

He restores my soul. This word restore has two possible meanings. It means to bring back to health and strength one who is sick. Then to restore means to seek that which is lost and to bring it back to the fold. For sure the writer here is speaking out of his own experience.

This year that is ahead need not be simply just another year. It can be a new year, new because we ourselves have become new. I know that to some this sounds like a lot of double talk, but some of you have given up hope of ever being anything different from what you are right now.
I am not saying that you are satisfied with the lean, drab lives that you are living, rather that you unfortunately see little chance of ever changing for the better.

A new year usually brings about the making of resolution after resolution, but never changing.
Resolves and re-resolves then we die the same. But here is one who stands in a world grown old and gray and shouts, Old things are passed away; behold they are become new. II Corinthians 5:17

With the Lord as our Shepherd we will not want for companionship and comfort in sorrow.
The Good Shepherd leads us in green pastures and beside the still waters. But sometimes the road changes suddenly from green pastures to wild rugged mountains. However, our Shepherd does not, nor will He ever forsake us in those dark and desperate hours. In fact in those dark shadows He draws closer to us. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me….

He not only walks with us in the darkness, He brings us through it. The Good Shepherd will not leave us in the dark valley. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. O’ man, O’ man, if we would just get this. The rod is a marking rod, signifying that we are branded as being the Lord’s. This speaks of coming under the rod and into covenant with God.

Finally, with the Lord as our Shepherd, we shall not want for a home at the end of the journey.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Now give yourself a shake and come to know that Jesus does not love us and lead us all through our pilgrimage here on earth only to forsake us in the end! There is a heaven to gain!

Jesus is with me as the storm clouds gather,
He stands by my side when I hear the thunder roll,
He holds my hand when I begin to tremble, when the winds of this are blow’n strong.

Jesus holds our hand when the greedy and muddy ditch that we call the grave reaches out its icy fingers! I for one refuse to believe that He who saved us is not able to keep us! I am confident, more than confident that when the shadows gather, Jesus being the Good Shepherd that He is, is going to lead us home; that where He is, we may be also. Somebody say Amen!

"Almost Fainted"

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place
Pulpit Series Volume 17 Issue 5 02/18/2007

I had fainted, unless I had believed. Psalm 27: 13
Fainting: a sudden (generally momentary) loss of consciousness, or blacking out..

This guy’s knees had gone weak, his world had grown black about him… he had been at the point of fainting. Perhaps more than once! However, there was one thing he hung onto, one thing he leaned on, and that one thing was his belief. His faith.

Have you ever fainted? I have. The moment before I fainted I was, to all appearances, an eager and interested best man. I was supporting my friend Jake in his wedding, here I was making a gesture of support. But as soon as I fainted all that was over. By my fainting, I not only ceased to be an asset, I became a liability.

For every one who faints physically there are thousands who faint spiritually. Once they could be counted on to be in their places at every service. But that has passed. The fires of their enthusiasm have gone out. They’ve lost interest. Now no longer a help they become a hindrance.

They’ve fainted - no longer participating - adding nothing.

Had you and I been present when that famous race between the hare and the tortoise was run, who of us would have staked anything on the slow-footed tortoise? But it was he that won, not because of his fleetness of foot, but because of his staying powers.

Much of Thomas Edison's success is no doubt due to his keenness of intellect, but to his ability to hang on to his dream with Bulldog tenacity, until his dream became a reality.
Friends, we need “Bulldog Tenacity”.

If lack of opportunity and lack of ability have slain thousands, fainting has slain its tens of thousands. I pray that one day we will have the same quality of belief that was found in Abraham. This man never gave up, he never once believed that God was going to let him down. He staggered not at the promises Romans 4:20

And refusing to faint, he at last realized his dream.

God sometimes allows us to enter into discouraging situations for the primary purpose of testing our faith. At such times we must refuse to give up in despair. Like Jonah in the belly of the great fish, we must turn to the Lord when our soul is fainting within us, trusting Him completely.

What can you do when you are about to faint physically?
Nothing! Nada! You can’t do anything!

In your weakness you just fall upon the shoulders of some strong loved one, lean hard, resting until your strength returns. The same is true when you are tempted to faint under adversity. The Lord’s message to us is Be still, and know that I am God? Psalm 46:10

Some of the causes of fainting:
A bad atmosphere. This causes us to faint physically. Even more often it causes us to faint spiritually. In fact, I doubt if we have ever rightly estimated the power for good or evil of a right or wrong atmosphere.

There are atmospheres created by the individual and by the group that give hope and help.
Peter created such an atmosphere, according to The Acts, that his very shadow had healing in it Acts 5:15

There are also churches like that. The people are friendly, reverent, and worshipful. They seem possessed of good tidings. To enter such a service is to be made to say: Surely God is in this place Genesis 28:16

To be a part of such a congregation is to be enriched. The Gathering Place has members in it who by their prayers and sympathy lifted me on eagle wings. But there are churches whose congregation create an atmosphere that chills like an east wind, biting like a killing frost.

I’ve left there feeling as if I never wanted to preach again.

Beware of negative atmosphere…
· After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, a 1933 memo from the MGM testing director said: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
· An expert said of famous football coach Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.”
· Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was advised by her family to find work as a servant or seamstress.
· Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
· Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.

We faint from weakness. Sometimes our weakness is natural. Sometimes it is the result of utter weariness.

There is a weakness born of hunger. Many saints have fainted for this same reason. They have forgotten that their spiritual needs are just as pressing as the physical.
It was the realization of this that enabled Mr. Stedfast to win where so many others have failed. His Word, he declares, did I use to gather as an antidote against my fainting Pilgrim's Progress
Others, faint from chastisement. The writer of the Hebrews was facing this fact when he said, My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him Hebrews 12:5

Others faint because of discouragement. (I believe this to be #1)
A number of years ago during a “Smoke House” evolution I was instruction for the fire department, we had several incidents of fainting. One fellow in a state of confusion and panic (although in a safe environment) ripped his protective mask from his face. He was literally inches from the door that led to safety. Had it been a real fire, he would of died. Fear overtook him. He fainted, in part, from loss of hope.

Another fellow in the same type of scenario found himself in a corner and simply gave up… curling up into a fetal position he stopped trying to find the way out …. discouragement overcame him. He fainted, in part, from loss of hope.

There is the number one reason multitudes who undertake the Christian life fail. They struggle and struggle, till at last they allow themselves to become convinced that they are failures. They become discouraged and faint. However, in spite of all the temptations to faint the writer of our text today somehow managed to stand firm. I had fainted, he tells us plainly, unless I had believed. In the face of difficulty he kept believing.
What, did he believe?
He believed in the Church. Psalm 27:4-5 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

In the strength born of this vision, he was able to walk and not be weary, to run and not faint Isaiah 40:31

He believed in prayer. He declares with quiet confidence. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord Psalm 27:14
Jesus said, that men ought always to pray and not to faint Luke 18:1
He believed that God was able to see him through.
Daniel 3:17-18 our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. But if not, know this, O king, we will not serve your gods…

He believed in the final triumph of righteousness.

There is nothing more weakening than the belief that we are fighting for a losing cause. The Apostle Paul tries to strengthen us when he says: let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

"Good Trouble"

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place
Pulpit Series Volume 17 Issue 4 02/11/2007

It is good for me to have been in trouble. Psalm 119:71
The writer is looking back over his past, his yesterdays. It certainly hasn’t been a picnic - it hasn’t all been through green pastures and beside still waters. Oh no there were dark canyons and rough mountains. More than one storm, cold winds and rain, lots of rain.
The few treasures he had clung on to, were ripped from his hands. His face had been moistened by hot and blinding tears. But as he looks back on those stressful days he is aware of the fact that they didn’t end as disastrously as he thought they would’ve when he was passing through them. In fact, he sees with amazement, that those bad days brought no lasting harm at all. The very trouble, he thought was going to be his undoing has been the making of him.

His losses became gains, his troubles converted into capital. It is good for me to have been in trouble, he humbly cries. We are a lot like the writer in that we have had our troubles.
We, too, have been through trying conflicts... some of us still carry the scars. At times our eyes too, were blinded by tears. We’re not exactly sure what type of trouble he faced, but we are sure his life had not been without its tragic experiences.

Neither has yours or mine. It hasn’t been all sunshine, but thank God it hasn’t all been dark shadows.

Have you ever had your bright skies suddenly grow dark.
Have you discovered the light at the end of the tunnel to be the train.
We may sail for many days on smooth seas. Then suddenly without warning the storm is on us.
My dad was an avid sailor, and he can attest to this fact …
Smooth seas never make a successful sailor.

None of us have been dealt the same hand, some seem to have it much easier than others. But to all of us, sooner or later, comes the joker - gray days of bewilderment and trouble.

James states that all of us will have trials. Considering this, we better know how to deal with these seemingly unavoidable calamities.
From what I’ve discovered there are 3 attitudes toward our troubles:
Attitude of surrender.
Those who give up at the very first wound they receive. Those who merrily walk along until some cruel fate trips them up and they fall flat. Instead of getting back up, they lie there whining and boo whoing. They become spiritual invalids.

I’ve watched people become so engrossed in their pain due to family troubles, they forget that the rest of the family is suffering too. They end up alone, shutting themselves up with their sorrow, surrendering unconditionally to the misery of their life.

The same tragic blunder was made by Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (Charles Dickens). She was to be married... The guests were gathered. The wedding feast was being prepared. The wedding cake was on the table. The bride was decked in her bridal costume. But the bridegroom never came. Therefore her watch and every clock in the house was stopped at 20 to 9 the hour of her humiliation, the hour of her first great sorrow.

All sunlight was shut out of her home. She lived in the dark except for the light of candles. Her wedding cake stood on the table till the cobwebs wrapped around it, eventually becoming the home of spiders and mice. Her once white wedding gown hung in yellow decay about her shrunken figure. For her all life had stopped at the hour of her tragic disappointment, 20 to 9. She, met her sorrow with unconditional surrender.

Secondly, we allow our troubles to make us hard / cynical. Just another way of surrender. These people become rocklike in their nature. Great loss when you lose the ability to sorrow in a healthy manner.

Unhealthy sorrow only servers to embitter.
Healthy sorrow tenderizes us, allowing us to be sympathetic.

There is a great loss when we allow our suffering to make us hard hearted, bitter and cruel.
Lastly there is the group that refuses to surrender to sorrow.
Refusing to quit, refusing to becoming calloused and hard, they instead, make profit out of calamities and change losses into gain. It is in this group you find great worth. People with this attitude are those who have been to school in Gethsemane, their very want has become wealth.
Capitalizing on our calamities is one of the finest of all fine arts.

How valuable it is to learn the art of changing our crosses into crowns. The Apostle Paul had a burning passion to preach the gospel in Rome. But, he was thrown into jail, where he remained for a long time. It looked as if his dream had come to nothing. However, after some time we find him writing a letter from a prison cell in Rome. In this letter we read this….I would have you know that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. Philippians 1:12

That is, the very things that seemed to block his progress became the vehicle for him to see his dreams fulfilled.

So often did Paul find his losses changed to gain that, he reached this conclusion: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Romans 8:28
In order for us to capitalize on our troubles we must recognize that not every sorrow is in accordance with the will of God. Many things we suffer are simply our own doing.
Why doesn’t God prevent them? Simply because he can’t.
Face it - if you’re bent on doing wrong God cannot prevent it.
Because we so often fail to recognize this, we blame God for our suffering. We may have been hurt by some member of the Church, or by some minister of the gospel. But think about how much those actions hurt God, you really can’t blame God for wrongs that hurt Him more than they hurt us!

It would also do us good to understand that while God cannot prevent much of the evil we suffer, if we remain true, He will bring us through with honor. He will if we allow Him, make us the richer for our losses.

You meant it for evil, said Joseph, speaking of the awful wrong he had suffered; but God meant it to good. Genesis 50:20

Think about it, Our own rebellion is often what defeats us. In Joseph’s case he refused to rebel. His path of pain actually became a roadway to spiritual growth and wealth. I believe this same result can be yours and mine, if, in spite of our trouble filled pathway, we walk it in fellowship with Christ. What a wonderful Savior we have! What an awesome gospel we have responded to!

There is absolutely nothing that will destroy us as long as we live in the circle of His will.
With the storms of life beating on our faces, disease preying on our bodies, the thief ripping treasures from our fingers, we can still be undismayed. We can shout with Paul, We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

I know there are times when we can’t possibly understand how this can be true. But if in spite of our difficulties we hold fast in faith, then one day we too, shall be able to sing, It is good for me to have been in trouble.

See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction Isaiah 48:10

"Joy Will Come"

Preached by Rev. Ed Brouwer at The Gathering Place,
Pulpit Series Volume 17 Issue 3 02/07/2007

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

WHAT a wonderfully encouraging portion of scripture! Of course you must believe that this is more than nice poetry. There will always be those who boo who it. There may be some who because of their hard life do not believe this verse.

Do you hear the faith of this psalmist?

He is daring to tell us that in this world of change and decay, in this world where our hearts are so often broken and our faces so often wet with tears, that joy may be a more abiding guest than sorrow.
He doesn’t promise exemption from sorrow. Rather, he says that weeping may come and spend the night, but it need not stay the week-end. Tears may come, but they will be transient. With the rising of the sun they will vanish like the dew. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

It seems his view is just the opposite of the commonly accepted view. Are we not constantly reminding ourselves of the transience of our joys? We go on endlessly with our songs of “Wasted days and wasted nights” But here is a glad voice raised to tell us that it is weeping that is soon gone. It may tarry for a night, but joy will surely come with the morning.

Do you see that his faith is not born out of a stubborn refusal to face the ugly facts of life. He real believes that weeping will only last for a night.

He faces all the terrifying enemies that surround us and still he clings to his faith.
When, this singer tells us that, though weeping may tarry for a night, joy will come with the morning, he is telling us a truth he has come to know by the painful path of experience.
He threw himself in his weakness into the Everlasting Arms of God described in Deuteronomy 33:27 and God did not fail him.

He has turned for me my mourning into dancing, he sings proudly. He came, he declares, like a wise and tender nurse and removed my galling garment of sackcloth and decked me in a garment of gladness. And what God has done for me, he declares with assurance, he will do for you. Weeping may tarry for a night, but joy will come in the morning.

What good is this kind of faith?
It keeps alive our hope. Keeping alive our hope, it also enables us to carry on with patient courage. It is hard to see things through with honor if hope is gone. Some manage it, but it is very difficult.

As a firefighter and first responder I have looked into the face of one who had committed suicide. It was a pathetic face, it was one of hopelessness. He had lost heart and gave up the fight.

Friends the night of weeping may be long and lonely, but we will not give up, if we are sure that joy is coming in the morning. Not only will this faith give us hope and thereby minister to our courage and patient endurance, it will be light to us during the night of our weeping.
Q. What is it that makes sorrow so bitter?
A. Hopelessness.

If we could only feel there is a cure, it wouldn’t be so hard.
If we could just believe that weeping is but temporary!
If we could just believe, that joy comes in the morning.

For instance, when my mom and dad were unaware of my whereabouts, or whether I was alive or not, they were pretty desperate. You can imagine their desperate cry to God in their new found faith. For months they cried out without any kind of answer. Just a desperate pleading.
Then to their amazement there is postcard in the mail box informing them to read the story of the Prodigal son and that I would see them in the spring. A moment later although my whereabouts were still unknown, the despair was gone from my parent’s heart. A great joy had come in its place. And then when I did come home - the said they had expected me!
To those of you who are passing through a long night of weeping, I beg you to hear this message. Hear it, and your heart will sing. Joy is coming in the morning.
Nobody can be utterly cast down who believes that.

Psalms 37:23-25 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

But is such a faith possible for us who live in these trouble filled days?
This psalmist seems to think so. He himself had been suffering from some deadly disease. He had been so close to the gates of death that he saw himself as being among the dead. In his desperate plight he had cried to God, and God had heard and healed.

Can we, too, then believe that God will always heal the sick and suffering that cry to him?

There are those who pray just as earnestly as this poet, who, in spite of all their prayers, in spite of the prayers of those who love them, go quickly down to death. Then there are others who go on suffering for long, torturing years. Paul was such a one. He pleaded earnestly and insistently for the removal of his thorn, but his request was not granted. But while God does not always see fit to give physical healing in answer to our prayers, He does something that may be even better… He gives to him who really prays an inner strength, a calm courage that enables him to bear whatever load is laid upon him.

I Corinthians 10:13 God is faithful, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it.

Friends, God Himself gives in answer to prayer a quiet heart, an abiding peace, and a fullness of life. We learn with Paul that God’s grace is sufficient and we too shout, Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest on me.
II Corinthians 12:9

We need to hear Christ say, You may be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

Isaiah 55:12, 35:10 For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands…...And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

We believe that this is going to be true in a fuller sense in the eternal future.
We further believe it is true in the here and now. Let not your heart be troubled you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. John 14:1
These are the words of our Christ. Since they are true we are safe in cherishing the wildest dreams for the future. In the presence of pain and change, in the presence of death itself we sing with calm confidence: "Joy will come in the morning.”