Saturday, May 15, 2021

Grace and Peace Episode 34

 Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Grace and Peace Episode 34
Presbyterian Church of Easton
May 8, 2021


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:2

Heidelberg Catechism
65Q.  It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?
A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

66Q.  What are sacraments?
A. Sacraments are visible, holy signs and seals. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and seal that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to grant us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace because of Christ’s one sacrifice accomplished on the cross.

67Q.  Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
A. Yes! In the gospel, the Holy Spirit teaches us and by the holy sacraments confirms that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

68Q.  How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
A. Two: holy baptism and the holy supper.

God instructed Abraham that the people of God, specifically the sons, should be circumcised.   This was a sign and seal of the promise of God to bless Abraham so that Abraham and his descendants could be blessings to all the families of the earth.  Circumcision was a sacrament instituted by God for his people to continue generation after generation.

Christ gave us two sacraments.   These are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Like circumcision, these are signs and seals of God’s promise that he will bless us so that we may be a blessing for others.   And Jesus wants these to be continued generation after generation.

This is the responsibility of the church.   We are to go into our community and tell people how God has blessed us.   We are to invite people to church.   And when they accept faith in Christ we baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   And we nurture the faith monthly by serving bread and juice as symbols of the heavenly feast we will one day have with our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray.

Lord Jesus, just as you were baptized in the Jordan river so too are we baptized in the church.   Help us to bring people to faith so we may baptize them in your name.   Also, Jesus, just as you gathered your disciples around a table we gather around the communion table monthly to remember you and worship at your feet.  Make these signs and seals of your promises.  Amen.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sermon Psalm 98 “Sing A New Song”

Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Sermon Psalm 98 “Sing A New Song”
Presbyterian Church of Easton
May 9, 2021

God is calling all of us to sing a new song.  God has heard the songs we have been singing, but now God wants a new song of worship and praise.  I am not talking about the kind of music we play in church, whether we have classic hymns, or bells,  or taize, or something else.  What I am talking about is the song we sing to God whenever we approach God in prayer and worship.  God hears the song we sing, but according to scripture, God wants to hear a new song.

But before we get to all of this, will you pray with me?  Holy Spirit, fill each of us in this congregation with a new song from God.  Fill us with the desire to praise God with our whole hearts.  Fill us with God’s love so that our hearts will burst with overflowing love for others.  We pray this with you, the Son and the Father. Amen.

Psalm 98
1 O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

This morning I will be sharing with you four stories of people singing new songs.  
The first is about a woman who came to pray with the pastor.  This is not the first time she had come for prayers.  She and the pastor had prayed for her health and for the reduction of pain.   She and the pastor had prayed for her family.  And she and the pastor had prayed for her finances.  As she drove to the church she remembered these prayers.  It was then that she realized that the prayers she had been offering up to God were always about her problems and her concerns.  So she wanted to pray in a different way this time.  She wanted to offer prayers not asking God to do something for her.  Rather she wanted to do something for God.  She wanted to praise God with her whole heart for all blessings she had received.  She wanted to sing a new song.

She arrived at the church and met the pastor for prayers.  The pastor, as usual, was ready with a passage from scripture.   They opened their Bibles to Psalm 98 and they began to read it out loud.

Psalm 98:1-3  O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.  2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.  3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

The pastor had selected, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the perfect word of God for that moment.  Through Psalm 98 the pastor and the woman were able to praise God in highest seeing themselves not as helpless beggars asking for something, but as children of God praising God for his great love and steadfast faithfulness.

The woman left that prayer session singing a new song.  Her own concerns, although still important, seemed so small when compared to the grandeur of our creator God.  And after experiencing God’s abundant love, her heart was filled to overflowing and ready to confront the day with a new song on her lips.

My second story is about a seminary intern who was coming for his weekly supervision with the pastor.  As usual, they prayed for the intern’s ministry and for the church.  Together they offered prayers for individuals in the congregation who were having hard times.  Some in the congregation were looking for work.  Others needed housing or access to health care.  Some were dealing with the effects of old age.  Some were concerned for their families.  Some were fighting addictions.  Everyone in the congregation had some concern to take to God, and it was the pastor’s and the intern’s responsibility to bring these concerns to God.  Over time the pastor and the intern began to think that there were so many concerns that solving them was impossible.  They had focused so much on the problems of the church they had failed to see what God was doing in the church.  They needed to sing a new song.  So they opened a Bible and began to read from Psalm 98.

Psalm 98:4-6  4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.  5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.  6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

The pastor and the intern then realized what the problem was.  They had been praying so hard for the concerns of the congregation they had forgotten about God.  Their prayers needed to include praise for God.  So they resolved to sing a new song by including prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  And they realized as they planned the worship service for the following Sunday that everything we do in worship, the sound of the organ and piano, the voices of the choir and soloist, the prayers, and the proclamation of the Word were all acts of praise to the God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, whom we worship.  The intern left the supervision meeting praising God with a new song running over and over again in his head.

And my third story is about a woman singing a new song after studying scripture.  The pastor stopped in on a weekly Bible study.  A small group was talking about spiritual maturity.  They were wondering how you would know if you have obtained the “full stature of Christ.”  One participant was worried about her own spirituality.  Problems at home often left her depressed.  And when feeling depressed she did not feel connected to God.  At times her problems just seemed to overwhelm her.  Satan seemed to be challenging her every step of the way.  The group gave their ideas about how she could overcome her difficulties and grow in spiritual maturity.  What she really needed was to sing a new song.  When it was the pastor’s turn to speak he offered these words from Psalm 98.

Psalm 98:7-9  7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.  8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy  9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

The pastor reminded this woman how she had kicked a serious drug habit a few years before.   He also reminded her of how hard she had worked trying to bring her children to Christ.  So he suggested to her that a God of righteousness and equity would surely approve of what she had done and that any lingering sin that might still cling to her would surely be washed away by the blood of Christ.

With the realization that God would treat her fairly and with great compassion she was raised from her depression and began to clap her hands and shout praises to this amazing God.  The evil spirits which had tormented her were cast out by the praise and gratitude she offered toward God.  This was the new song she had been waiting for, a song to replace the hurt and sense of failure she had experienced for so long.  As she left the Bible study she smiled broadly because she had a new song to sing, praising God, thanking God for the joy she had experienced in God’s presence in the Word.

The fourth story I would like to tell you is about the Apostle Peter.  He knew his old song very well.   God was the God of the Jews.   Gentiles, non-Jews, were excluded.   Jews were to have nothing to do with Gentiles.  Don’t talk with them.  Don’t go in their homes.   But the Holy Spirit nudged him out of his comfort zone.   He found himself in the home of a Gentile family.   He saw that these Gentiles were God-fearers, they believed in God.  And Peter watched as the Holy Spirit filled these Gentiles.  And with that Peter began to sing a new song.

Acts 10:47-48 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Each of us has our own old song we continue to sing.  Each of us has regrets and failures.  Each of us has fears and concerns.  We all experience pain and sorrow and disappointment.  We offer all these up in the old songs we have been singing to God for so long.  But isn’t it time to begin singing new songs of praise to God?  With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins have been forgiven and we are offered eternal life.  So why keep singing the old songs of sin and death.  Let’s sing the new songs of forgiveness and life.  Let’s sing praises to God for all that God has done for us.

Bob leads us in singing every Sunday.  The reason we sing these songs is to learn them so that as we live our lives during the week we can hum familiar tunes and remember familiar lyrics.  If we learn songs here in church then we can continue praising God throughout the week.  So I urge you to sing enthusiastically in church today and carry a new song of praise in your hearts as your leave this place.  Whenever you sing, whenever you pray always remember your new song and praise God for all that he has done for you.  Let’s pray.

Father in heaven, we praise you for what you have done for us in Jesus Christ.  We are overjoyed with the gifts of forgiveness that we have received and the gift of eternal life that we anticipate.  So we offer our praises up to you in gratitude for all of your blessings upon us.  Receive these offerings of prayer and praise in the name of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Grace and Peace Episode 33

Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Grace and Peace Episode 33
Presbyterian Church of Easton
May 1, 2021

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:2

Heidelberg Catechism
62Q.  Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God or at least a part of our righteousness?
A.  Because the righteousness which can pass God’s judgment must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law.  But even our best works in this life are imperfect and stained with sin.

63Q.  How can our good works be said to merit nothing when God promises to reward them in this life and the next?
A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.

64Q.  But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
A. No.  It is impossible for those grafted into Christ through true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.

Most believe that if they lead good lives God will bless them with forgiveness and they will go to heaven.  Nothing is farther from the truth.   No matter how well we live our lives it is impossible for us to be good enough.   God demands perfect righteousness that we can never achieve.  But we receive Christ’s righteousness imputed upon us.  When God looks at us he sees Jesus and declares us not guilty.  This is a gift of God’s grace.

So why should we live good lives?   If we are saved by the grace of God, then why lead lives of obedience?  The answer is, “out of gratitude”.  We are so thankful for the grace and blessing we receive we express our gratitude by doing what God wants us to do.  As Christians, we grow more and like Christ and become more and more thankful and more and more obedient.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your gracious gift of forgiveness.   In our gratitude, we respond by living as you would have us live.   Help us Lord to know your will and grow in obedience.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Monday, May 3, 2021

Sermon Psalm 22:25-31 “When You Fear the Future”

 Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Sermon Psalm 22:25-31 “When You Fear the Future”
Presbyterian Church of Easton
May 2, 2021


We are continuing today with our look at the Book of Psalms.  This book is filled with the most beautiful ancient poetry and tells us so much about God.  I hope you are enjoying all of this.   Let’s pray.

Holy God, we approach you in worship today in gratitude for the blessings we have received and in the hope for the glorious future, you have planned for us in your kingdom.  Give me the gift of preaching today so that I may communicate this hope to the congregation.  And open their minds to receive this wonderful gift of hope from you.  We pray this with your Son and our Lord, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Psalm 22:25-31
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

Psalm 22 is a familiar one for us.  You may remember that we talked about it just a few weeks ago on Palm Sunday.  The opening lines of this psalm were spoken by Jesus from the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”  These words were probably written by King David after a military defeat.  He must have wondered where God went to during a disastrous battle.  We too often wonder where God is when we need him and he seems to be nowhere in sight.  The experience of the absence of God is frightening because without God we have little control over the present and no control at all over the future.  Only God knows the future and has control over it.  So we need God to calm our fears about the future.

That is what is happening at the end of the psalm.  God is calming our fears about the future.  God is telling us not to fear the future because he is in control.  And if God is in control then everything will turn out alright.  What we need is the gift of faith so that we can trust God with the future and leave our worries behind.  And when we receive this gift of faith, and worries of the future leave us, we just can’t help but jump up and down and praise God.  So let’s look at the promises of the future that God made to David which results in faith and praise for God.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

This section of the psalm begins with a promise.   This is common in the psalms.  Essentially a contract is being offered.  God will bless the psalmist.  And the psalmist promises to do something for God.  And this something, praise and a sacrifice will be done in the midst of the congregation in worship.

We too must remember that God blesses us richly every day.   And in thankful response to those blessings, we need to use our resources to care for people in our community and the church.  Let’s go back to the psalm.
  
26 a The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
   
The first thing we know is that the future will be characterized by justice and righteousness.  This means that everyone will receive their daily bread and no one will go hungry.  This aspect of the Kingdom of God has been partially accomplished.  Here in Easton, the poor receive Food Stamps and other forms of support.  The area churches supplement these benefits with programs of their own.   At this church, we support organizations that distribute food, including the Talbot Interfaith Shelter, and we have grocery store cards for anyone who comes into our doors looking for food.  As you can see the prediction of the Psalmist that the poor will be fed and satisfied is partially being met here in Easton and the churches still have more work to do.

 26 b   those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

The second thing that we know about the future is that everyone who wants to know God will be filled with praise.  This too is happening in Easton as many churches are reopening their doors for worship and praise every Sunday.  We are here, every Sunday at 10 to worship and praise our creator God.  But this part of God’s kingdom is also only partially met in Easton.  Although there are many churches in our community not everyone who is longing for God in Easton comes to worship.  This is our great opportunity as we go about our daily lives in this town to invite people we meet to come here for praise and worship.  Believe it or not, there are still many people who would love to come to church, but no one has invited them.  This is a golden opportunity for us to grow this church.

27 a All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;

The third thing that will happen in the future is that all who have known God and worshiped God but have fallen away will remember God and return to the church.  We all know people who used to come to church but stopped.  God’s promise is that no matter how far someone has drifted away, God’s love is so powerful that they will be pulled back.  This is our great hope for our children who have wandered away from the church.  God still loves them and will find a way to bring them back to the church and to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Just keep praying for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that God will give them the gift of faith and the need to praise God in worship.  

27 b and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.

The fourth prediction, for the future in this psalm, is that God will give the gift of faith to all the families of the earth.  This will result in universal worship and praise of the Lord our God.  Of course, this has yet to occur.  Although faith is rapidly increasing in parts of the world including South America and Africa there are still large areas where the faith is present in only small portions of the population.  And faith is decline here in America.  This is why the church must continue its missionary work among people who have yet to hear and receive the gospel.  It is vital that the church continue and expand this effort to bring about the conversion of all the people of the earth to the true faith in Jesus Christ.

28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

The fifth prediction for the future is that God will have dominion over all the governments on earth.  Although the Kingdom of God is our ideal we are still waiting for it and it has not yet arrived.  Few, if any, governments on the earth put God at the center of their policies.  Many, like the current United States government, believe in a wall between church and state.  But we know that one day all the kings, premiers, presidents, and dictators will bow down to the one true God.  And on that day the Kingdom of God will be firmly established for eternity.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.

The sixth promise for the future in this psalm is that those who have died will be given the opportunity to worship God.  This is why we say in the Apostles Creed that Jesus Christ “descended into hell”.  The saving grace of Jesus Christ extends even to the souls of the departed who may one day bow down in worship.  This gives us great hope that those loved ones who have died without ever receiving the gift of faith will one day receive that gift and join us in heaven worshiping and praising God.

30  Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

And the final promise of the Psalm is that future generations will be told about God and Jesus Christ.  That is our mission as the church.  We are here to proclaim the gospel, generation after generation until everyone has been brought to salvation through Jesus Christ.  Our work with children is especially important because this is how we ensure that praise and worship of God will continue into the future.  And this is the work of mothers and grandmothers and Sunday School teachers.  You have the responsibility of teaching your children about God so that they might receive the gift of faith and bow down in worship to almighty God. 

So according to David, we have no reason to fear the future.  In the future, the poor will be cared for.   Those seeking God will be filled with praise.   Those who have fallen away will return to the faith.   Everyone in the world will hear the gospel and respond in faith.  God will rule the world in justice and righteousness. Even those who have died will have the opportunity to respond to God’s gifts.  And the generations that follow us will continue to praise and worship God.  With this good news about the future, what is there to fear?  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for the glorious future you have ordained for us.   We pledge to work for the advancement of your kingdom and Earth with our tithes to the church and service to the community.  Bless us, our church, and our families as we live into your promises.   This we pray in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Grace and Peace Episode 32

Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Grace and Peace Episode 32
Presbyterian Church of Easton
April 25, 2021

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:2

Heidelberg Catechism
59Q.  What good does it do you, however, to believe all this? 
A. In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting. 

60Q.  How are you righteous before God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction,  righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.  

61Q.  Why do you say that through faith alone you are righteous? 
A. Not because I please God by the worthiness of my faith. It is because only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me righteous before God and because I can accept this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than through faith.

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

If we appeared before God today to account for our lives, what would say?   Would we tell God that we have perfectly obeyed all that he commanded?   If you did that we would be lying.   Every day, in numerous ways, we disobey God.   And the punishment for disobedience is death.  But if we believe in Jesus Christ, if our faith is in him, then when we appear before God the sentence is not death but eternal life.

The reason for this is that Christ lived a perfect life.  He was obedient in every way.   Jesus was perfectly righteous.  And if we believe in him and trust in his love then his righteousness is imputed for us.   

When the day comes and we appear before God to account for our lives, God will look at us and see Jesus.   We will be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.   And God will pronounce the sentence, “not guilty, all your sins are paid in full, welcome to heaven and your eternal life”.
This all comes to us as a free gift of God’s grace.   This gift is available to all who believe in his Son.  

Let’s pray.  Heavenly Father, we ask you for the gift of faith in your Son, Jesus Christ.   Bless us with saving grace.   And we thank you for promising us eternal life.   All this we pray in our savior’s glorious name, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sermon Psalm 4 “When You Can’t Sleep”

Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Presbyterian Church of Easton
Sermon Psalm 4 “When You Can’t Sleep”
April 18, 2021


We have all had nights when we cannot sleep.  We go to bed but our minds keep on working.  We continue to think over the day’s events, the troubles that befell us, our worries and concerns.  We close our eyes and try to go to sleep, but we can’t.  So we toss and turn, go to the bathroom, get some cold chicken from the refrigerator to eat, watch late-night television, turn on the radio, or get dressed and go for a walk.  We do all of these things hoping that we will become drowsy and go to sleep, but nothing seems to work.  The Psalmist was having one of these nights when he wrote Psalm 4.  But before we look at this wonderful Psalm will you pray with me?  

Father in heaven, open our hearts this day to receive that grace you have for us.  Bless us with the gift of understanding as we hear your word read and proclaimed.  Bless me with the gift of preaching as I proclaim your word to this church.  And help us on those nights when we can’t get to sleep with your assurance, peace, and love.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Psalm 4 To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

King David has written a psalm about sleep.  David was an expert on sleep.  In our first reading today David helped King Saul who was having trouble sleeping.  Saul was plagued by an evil spirit that kept him awake at night.  David would play the lyre which had the effect of helping Saul get to sleep.  So in a way, David is an ancient authority on getting to sleep and his wisdom on this subject is contained in the fourth Psalm.

I usually get to sleep pretty well, but occasionally I toss and turn and just can’t get to sleep.  My favorite way of dealing with sleeplessness is by drinking some warm milk and then going back to bed.  This usually works, but when it doesn’t I turn to prayer and then to some late-night television.

Sometimes I have trouble getting to sleep on Sunday nights. After meeting people all day Sunday and praying for them I sometimes find it hard to fall asleep.  The day’s events keep replaying in my mind.  I am in a continual conversation with God about those things that are happening to people coming to our church.  So sometimes I toss and turn and find that sleep comes much later than normal.  Monday mornings often require a second cup of coffee.

When David couldn’t sleep he turned to God in prayer.  He reminded God of times past when God had relieved him and gave him rest.  So he asked God to calm his fears and settle his mind so that he could get some rest.  And David was confident that God would listen to his prayer and give him the rest he needed.  So let’s look closely at how David got to sleep.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

This is where we should start when we can’t get to sleep.  We remember how God has cared for us in the past.  We remember how God has graciously blessed us.  And so we join our voices with David and ask God to settle our minds and help us to sleep.  But even though we pray for sleep we still can’t sleep.  We toss and turn and think about all the things going on in our lives.   Listen as David describes what he is going through, all that is bothering him.

2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah

People are slandering David.   They are telling lies about him.  And David is tossing and turning in bed worrying about this.   But with the assurance that God does hear the prayers of the faithful, David returns to prayer.

3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

So David was convinced that during his sleepless night he could turn to God and find relief.  As he turned to God he remembered all the things that he has done to displease God.  He remembered his sinfulness.   

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah

David knew that there were some concrete things that you could do to keep yourself from becoming emotionally upset to the point of disturbing your sleep.   The first step is to refrain from sinning.  Sin will keep you up at night.  If you drink too much, or cheat on your spouse, or lie, or steal or do any of the things we know are sinful our consciences will warn us by keeping us up at night.  Most of our worries are that our past sins might be catching up with us.  But if we refrain from sinning we will sleep better at night because we will not be tormented by what we have done.  If we have sinned then a sleepless night is an indication that it is time for us to confess the sin and repent.  Then when we have experienced the forgiveness of God we can simply be quiet, lay our heads on the pillow and get the rest we need.  And then there is something else we should do.  We should be in worship regularly.

5 Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

David tells us about one way of getting to sleep is to always put our trust in the Lord.  If we depend solely on our own abilities and resources we will surely fail and this concern will keep us up at night.  But if we trust in God to care for us this relieves us from the burden of depending on ourselves and allows us to get a good night’s sleep.  We trust that God will provide for what we need and will guide us in the right paths.  All we have to do is to follow God.  By following God we can get to sleep. 
Sin separates us from God, and that separation is also there when we pray.  So prayers are not always answered by God the way we hope. David realized the problems his own sin had caused.  He knew that to get a good night’s sleep you have to stop sinning and honestly confess your sin to God.   Only with the assurance of forgiveness can we once again get a good night’s sleep.  And forgiveness can be found in worship.   In worship, we confess our sin and received God’s pardon.   So regular attendance in worship will help you to sleep.  

I have found that a daily habit of prayer is a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep.  I can also get the rest I need knowing that I will have the opportunity to talk with God about anything bothering me the next day.  This cuts through my worries and lets me get to sleep.  By praying every day, by meditating on scripture every day, or by reading a devotional every day we form a habit of bringing all our concerns to God.  And once released from the burden of carrying our own concerns we can get to sleep.  

So I urge you to start a daily practice of worship. Join us for prayer services during the week or find something that is right for you.  Daily worship will free your minds from your concerns because you would have given your concerns to God.  Once David was assured that God had forgiven him he started to remember all the blessings that had poured down on him from heaven.

6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

So on those sleepless nights when you toss and turn in bed, honestly confess your sins to God and ask God for forgiveness and a good night’s sleep.  Remember all the ways God had blessed you.    As the old-time pastors used to say, “Count your blessings”.  Then close your eyes and get some sleep.  Here is how David put it.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

When we toss and turn and can’t get to sleep at night when the events of the day keep us awake, what should we do?  Start with prayer.  Confess and repent your sin.  Begin a daily practice of worship and prayer.  And count all the blessings you have received from God.    Then you will be blessed with the rest you need.
Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.


Lord Jesus, as we follow you we ask that you forgive our sins and help us to lead new lives.  Help us to become the people you created us to be.  Help us to trust that God will provide for us all that we need.  Take all of our cares and concerns on your shoulders and help us to get the sleep we need. Amen.

Grace and Peace Episode 31

Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Grace and Peace Episode 31
Presbyterian Church of Easton
April 18, 2021


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:2

Heidelberg Catechism

58Q.  How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?

 A. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.


Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?"  14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."


We will enter heaven clothed in white robes.    These robes may be the clothes we died in:  the hospital gown covered in vomit, the tee-shirt and jeans covered in blood after the car wreck,  the wet bathing suit after the drowning.  But our clothes will be clean having been washed in the blood of Jesus, our sins will be forgiven, and we will be ready to receive eternal lives.    

In our eternal lives, we will have bodies to wear the clothes.  We will have noses that smell the incense, the animals, and the blood of the lamb.  We will have ears that hear the voices of the elders, the angels singing “Holy, holy holy”, the harps, the trumpets, and the prayers in every language on earth. We will feel the shaking of the earth, the palm branches in our hands, the shade of the tent shielding us from the scorching sun,  and the satisfaction of having plenty to eat.  We will have tongues that taste our own tears and the cool spring living water.  And we will have eyes to see the glory of heaven, God sitting on a throne, his Son to his right, the 144000 children of Israel, the 24 elders, the 7 blazing lamps, the four horses and their riders, the sun turning black, the moon turning red and the stars falling from the sky.   There will be no hunger or thirst.  The weather will be perfect.  Eternal life in heaven will be the most joy-filled time you will ever have.   And it will just be the beginning.  It will get better and better.

This is the promise made to all who believe in Jesus Christ.  And Jesus will be with you, caring for you, like a good shepherd.  Let’s pray.

Holy Spirit we ask that you assure us of this glorious promise of eternal life.   Fill us with saving faith, comfort and strengthen us as we move toward that day of eternal bliss and happiness.   This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.