Confidence During Chaos
Campbellsburg First Baptist Church, Campbellsburg, IN, Guest Speaker Mike Furey
June 22, 2008
This Psalm came to my rescue back in 1985 when I first moved to the Louisville, KY area. Before then, I spent 4 years in a fundamentalist Baptist Bible college in Chattanooga, TN and then another 3 years working in a factory near the college where every Wednesday night we took turns preaching during lunch breaks. Half the men I worked with at the welding shop were student preachers. I met my wife the first day of class and we were married that next summer. So for seven years I lived in a kind of sheltered monastic life, and the four years before that I was in the USMC. I had brothers in Christ with whom I could fellowship everywhere I went. I didnít realize back then how wonderful it was to be around so many people who loved Jesus and who discussed and lived out the scriptures every day. It was our Holy Land. On March 17, 1985 I interviewed at Pewee Valley Baptist Church and preached for the youth pastorate position*, and then on July 27, 1985 ten days after our second child was born we moved to Louisville. I was now a youth pastor and a plumberís assistant.
Actually I took this position at PVBC because my in-laws were members there; I felt like the Lord was giving me a chance to get to know my wifeís parents and serve him with them. I have always had a great relationship with my wifeís parents and I love them so much. I was very disappointed when they moved to California six months after we came to Louisville. Now I was all alone except for my wife and 2 children. My father-in-law, David, was a tremendous help to me; but now he came down with some undiagnosed illness at the time and the warm climate in San Diego was a big help to him. When he moved, I had no soul mate to partner with about man to man things, about the Lordís business. The pastor and I at that church never meshed. He seemed to be annoyed by me the entire 3 years I was there!
When I started working on the plumber job I was really shocked.** The men I worked with talked so sinfully and relished in it. Their minds and hearts seemed so perverted to me. I was absolutely shocked and felt so isolated. I was the freak!
Needless to say, for the next 3 years as youth pastor at Pewee Valley Baptist Church, and as a full time plumberís assistant, I worked very very hard. At nights I came home so tired, I would just about fall asleep at the dinner table. I led the youth and the bus ministry. We had a great bus ministry and I loved the kids; every Saturday we spent 2 hours visiting the riders and looking for new riders. Sometimes our teenagers came with us to do soul winning and outreach. Every Wednesday the teens had their own service and I donít know how I ever prepared my lessons because at 28 years old I was exhausted from never stopping. The worst thing about that 3 year period was that my books stayed packed in the closest for that entire time. I did not get to read much. I read about a book a week these days, but back then I read hardly nothing and it drove me insane. When I went to work, the thing that slammed me the most was having to hear WQMF, a nasty rock station. On the construction site, there was always a radio going and it got on my nerves. Then the morality of the men with whom I worked was not very high. One guy kept a "library" on his plumbing truck. It consisted of pornography. The men would talk a lot about subjects I found totally offensive as a believer in Christ and it drove my spirit to weariness. One day while setting a toilet on the third floor of an almost completed buidling, I was on my knees and just broke down crying and hugged around the newly set toilet. I felt so alone. I felt so beat down. So tired. So sick. There is nothing wrong with me. The whole world is looking insane to me at this moment. The whole world is in love with sin and is sick with the garbage overflowing in it. How am I going to make it in this world? I am a freak! I was a freak because I loved my wife enough not to look at those pictures and laugh with those men. I was a freak because I didnít think 2 girls taking a shower together and singing on the radio live was funny. I was a freak because I wasnít going to go to a bar that night and pick a fight with some other drunk and show the world how tough I was. I was a freak because I was going to read a bed time story to my children and not drop my kid off to my ex olí lady which everybody seemed to have. I was a freak because I was going to church on Sunday morning to worship God instead of jumping on a motor cross bike and risking my neck on some muddy dirt track.
God put this Psalm in my heart. I found so much strength in this Psalm and still do. The world is still crazy and I know I am not. I am not a freak. Confidence during chaos.
Eventually, finally, God put me with a regular partner at that company who became a good friend and he was a decent man. I worked at that company for 7 years. I was known there as "Father Mike" or the padre. I think the shock from going from a sheltered life on the campus of Christian fellowship to the desert of a new town hit me hard, but the Lord brought me through it through his word. Confidence during chaos.
Psalm 11 is a Davidic Psalm as per the superscription. David declares his confidence in the Lord. David lived through a lot of crazy days. Being the youngest kid among many brothers is hard. They say the youngest is usually the wildest. The older kids teach the younger ones the bad habits. The older kids are slower to sin and the younger ones faster to sin; therefore, it affects them mentally. David is said to be the man after Godís own heart, but he sure has a wild life from killing wild animals, the giant, working for the king, being a general, being a king and loads of adventure stories in the Bible about him and his decisions. Just study David and his relationships with women and you see how wild he looks compared to you and me. Even on his death bed there is a young maiden trying to keep him warm.
Yet, for all the crazy times in Davidís life, he is a true believer and he gets into some deep and intense situations. In verse one he is in another situation, most likely when Saul was trying to hunt him down and kill him. He says, "I am confident in the Lord, I put my trust in the Lord, I take refuge in the Lord." When you are in a fix and you say that, it counts, it means something. Confidence during chaos.
He has some kind of group advising him to take off and run. David did run many times in his life from enemies, even his own sons. But in this situation, it wasnít a time for running. He says, "How can you even advise me to run? You want me to run like some little birdie up to some high mountain!" He felt like his faith was calling him to stick in this situation.
In this situation, evidently, based on verse two, his enemies were attacking him in some kind of stealth mode, behind his back, at night, in the dark. In Davidís case, it seems violence is involved. But he feels like he should not run. Curiously in this Psalm David does not even pray. He is not talking to the Lord anywhere in this Psalm. Instead, he gives spiritual advice to the listeners, to the persons who had offered him advice.
In verse 3, he asks this fantastic question: When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? This made perfect sense to me back when I was feeling isolated and alone and it still makes complete sense twenty plus years later. A commentator, Charles Spurgeon, pointed out that David is probably referring to the unrighteous government of Saul. I once read a psychological expose on the mind of Saul, which said that Saul presents the first picture of a mentally ill person in the scriptures. He is a manic depressive***, up and down mentally, violent mood swings. One day he loves David, the next day he is hurling javelin spears at him. When Saul is first called to be king we see him hiding among the baggage. At first you think this is a sign of humility, but after you look at his life history you see it as an early manifestation of this fear which drove his life. Saul is truly a paranoid man afraid of what just might happen. Well, with the king insane, you could say the foundations are being destroyed.
Today in society many foundations seem to be destroyed. Legal foundations: Lawyers used to study the Hebrew scriptures because our laws were grounded in biblical thought. Now if you quote a verse in a trial a mistrial could be declared. If you want to get out of jury duty, just say "The BIBLE says Ö." Worse, I am very concerned about the bill of rights. It has been attacked more in the last several years than ever before; and we seem to be turning into a Hitlerian state.
Cultural foundations: I love movies, but when movies and TV shows with names and themes like Sex and The City are number one, I think we have a fundamental, foundational issue here. I am very concerned about the type of programming out there for kids. With Nickelodeon programs I would say our kids are getting a steady diet of trash for their souls. Parents need to take charge of what their kids are taking in. Read the Bible to your kids at the supper table. A chapter a night.
Mental foundations: Because of the ascendancy of lust based content in culture, our ability to think and reason is compromised. We agitate the flesh to the point where our minds donít think straight; we are driven by impulse and chemicals. Therefore we see a rise in irrational behaviors in society; lots of people doing a lot of stupid things.
Spiritual foundations: Today many churches are biblically illiterate. Even church people barely know the Bible. Most preachers I hear preach a cute warm and fuzzy sermon. What ever happened to the concept of obedience to God, the lordship of Christ, or the message of Godís wrath? These concepts are not in style among Godís people these days. I havenít heard the word "hell" in a sermon in at least 2 years in the current church I attend. I am told how special I am every single Sunday. You are special. Itís true. But, if you donít confess Christ and make him your spiritual foundation, you are not saved.
In verse 4, David shows us the foundation of all foundations. There are 7 verses in this Psalm and this is the dead center of this Psalm; therefore, it is the most important part of the Psalm. A study on the web said the words "in heaven" was the arithmetic center of the Psalm. He counted all the letters and found "in heaven" as the central focus. Heaven is "Godís vantage point from where he observes and tests human beings."
The temple mentioned here does not exist as a fancy building yet. The temple is not built until Solomonís day. At this time the temple is still the Mosaic cloth based temple. But in this text I believe it refers to the heavenly temple, the place where God dwells, the place where his throne sits. God is still ruling and reigning even though society looks broken down and the foundations are being destroyed. God is still watching and he puts his people through testing. He was putting me through a test. He broke me down and showed me how to love people. Donít look at their sin. Look at how Christ died for them. Love them like Christ loves them.
In life as a believer, you should have the attitude that I am going to go from one test to another, from one kind of trouble into another kind of trouble. David went from dealing with a bear to a lion. After the lion, he faced a giant. After the giant, he faced an insane king. While dealing with this king for 14 years, he faces Philistines. Then he deals with his crazy wife Michal who winds up hating him; he deals with the craziness of administrating over a kingdom, a crazy son who tries to take over his thrown, on and on it goes until old old age comes and then death. Trials, trials, trials; troubles, troubles, troubles.
He finds strength in knowing that God has always been in control, that God loves those who do good, and that God will punish the wicked. Confidence during chaos.
In verse 6 I believe it teaches about hell. Years ago, I preached a message on hell in the book of Psalms; the Psalms have much to say about the next world, in particular on heaven and on hell. I will only mention this verse. Psalm 11:6 can be interpreted as divine retribution either now or later, in this life or the next life, in this world or in the world to come. The verse says God will rain snares. When you see this in your mind, you can see people trapped in this rain of fire; God allows peopleís sins to ensnare them in traps of their own making. You can imagine easily from all the video games out there seeing a picture of escaping from one danger after another. It speaks about a terrible fire storm. It is awful; yet it is part of the reality we live in. God is warning the wicked about the future that they choose.
Back at that time in 1985 when I felt so alone and was taunted by co-workers for being a freak and I was re-adjusting to secular society, I donít remember if I drew strength from the fact that my "enemies" might face a future of eternal punishment. I would like to think I was a bigger person than that. But I can say as a human being that there is a strange comfort in knowing that if you leave the judging in Godís hands, you can love people who are harsh towards you. I know that for several decades I have practiced this truth: Leave vengeance in Godís hands; love the people around you. I know for a fact I never said an ill word to those men. Nor have I thought myself better than them. I wasnít better than them then nor am I better than any body now. It is all about God being righteous and awesome. I am still a sinner saved by grace.
Verse 7 God is righteous and loves righteousness. Many today will find fault with a God who sits as judge and allows people to spend eternity in hell. It certainly is not my favorite topic, but I never would have found God without the fear of going to hell. Now I know God does not want anyone to perish, but has gone way out of the way to provide a way to freedom Ė through Jesus. Jesus paid the price for my sin and your sin. If you turn to Christ, you will one day see God face to face. If you turn to Christ, you will see Christ long before you get to heaven. You will see him in this world now by faith; you will have plenty of stories to tell about how God saved you from your bears, your lions, your crazy situations, even from your very self at times Ė and all those times when the foundations around you were being destroyed. Confidence during chaos.
*Which by the way paid no salary; I received $300 in 3 years and was so broke I had to borrow $20 to use the emergency room for my son.
**Sad to say, I am a hardened seasoned "veteran" and if I were the way I am now back in 1985, it would have been a totally different experience. Today I support civil unions for gays and lesbians. I am agnostic about whether or not homosexuality is a sin based on biblical interpretation. Based on the Bible it is a sin to mix cotton and polyester or eat shrimp; so which laws are still valid? Judaism tells me the law was never meant for Gentiles, except for the Noachide laws in Genesis after the Flood. Paul condemns homosexual behavior in Romans 1, but the cultural filter can be applied here as well as anywhere else in the scripture. Jesus is silent about it. There is an obvious moral evolution in the scriptures, for instance, in the area of women's rights and slavery. The only thing I am worried about is loving God and others. I will let God be the judge. There is a hell, but I think more so-called believers will be there than the "Sodomites." What we should be getting fighting mad about is why aren't Christians the most loving examples in the world!
***Currently called bipolar disorder.