Let’s give our band some love! Man, they are KILLING it in this series!
We are in the middle of a series called The ‘80s here at Connect, and we’re having some fun remembering that crazy decade. Because like we said last week, if you can’t have fun at church, where exactly CAN you have fun? At Connect, we believe the church should be a place of joy and celebration and, yeah, fun.
And speaking of fun, let’s take a minute and remember some of the fun we had back in the ‘80s. And yeah, like I said last week, I know we’ve got a lot of people who weren’t even alive in the ‘80s. That’s why we let Kevin Bacon set you straight last week. And if you weren’t here for that, hey…you miss a week, you miss a lot.
Anyway, we knew how to have fun back in the ‘80s. All you’ve got to do is look at how we dressed. All you millenials have no idea of the totally bodacious fashion that you missed out on.
For example, acid wash jeans. Acid wash jeans were jeans that were soaked in chlorine to remove the top layer of denim and left the jeans looking white with blue or black undertones. It was a rad look!
And if you wanted to be really cool, you had to peg your jeans. Anybody remember doing that?
Now, if a lady wanted to really dress things up in the ‘80s, she had to have shoulder pads. Because every lady wants to have shoulders like a linebacker. But it wasn’t just ladies. Some guys got into the act, too. Purple rain, anybody?
Now guys, if you really wanted to look good, you had to have a silk shirt. I had them. And I ROCKED them. Nothing gave me confidence with the ladies like my silk shirt.
But of course, the 80s were all about standing out. And anything neon would do it. We just thought that the way to make clothes look better was to make sure you could see them a mile away.
But now, that’s just clothes. What about hair? If you really wanted your hair to look good, you had to have the comb/spray bottle combo. And it might sound weird for a guy to say this, but I had one. Of course I also had hair back then, too.
And speaking of hair in the 80s…I think this just speaks for itself. I’m not sure that I have anything to add to that.
Now, that takes care of the head, but what about the feet?
Back in the 80s, we were rocking Eastlands. LA Gear. K Swiss (in fact, I think I had that exact pair). And girls were definitely sporting the Jellies.
This stuff was awesome back in the ‘80s. And I really do feel sorry for all of you who weren’t alive to see it. But I hope that we’re helping to raise your ‘80s awareness in this series.
We are having a ton of fun in this series. We’re remembering the craziness of the ‘80s. Our band is playing some awesome songs from the ‘80s. And I’m even preaching from the ‘80s…just not the decade. I’m preaching from the 80th chapters of the book of Psalms. And when you go to the 80s in the Psalms, you get some basic, foundational truths about God.
This is a back-to-basics series. We are exploring some of the key, foundational truths about who God is and what God does in our lives.
Today we’re going to be in Psalm 81. When you read the book of Psalms, you see that some of the Psalms are people speaking to God. But others are God speaking to His people. And most of Psalm 81 is just that. It is God speaking to His people.
In the Old Testament, the people of God were the Israelites. Today, the people of God are the church. But this message that God spoke to the Israelites in the Old Testament holds so much truth for God’s church today.
Last week, we explored the truth that God Restores.
Today, we are going to unpack this truth: God Provides. Let’s pray and then we’re going to listen as God speaks to us through this Psalm today.
In Psalm 81, God said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10, NIV)
Now, I realize it sounds incredibly unpastorlike, but when I was planning this series, I laughed when I read this verse. These words just hit me as funny. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
I laughed because it made me remember a game from my youth ministry days called Chubby Bunny. Anybody ever played Chubby Bunny? That game was a children’s and youth ministry staple back in the day. This game was huge back in the ‘80s, and it carried over into the ‘90s.
The game is simple. Every kid puts a marshmallow in their mouth, and then says the words, “Chubby Bunny.” Then they put another marshmallow in their mouth and say, “Chubby Bunny.” And you keep going and going until there is only one kid left. Everybody else has spewed out the marshmallows, and it’s incredibly disgusting. And you’re left with the winner who has a few dozen marshmallows in his mouth.
I always thought the game was hilarious, and the kids in my youth group always loved it…until I had a parent tell me that some kid died while playing this game. And I was thinking, “Wow. Thanks Captain Buzzkill.”
That kind of put a damper on the whole game. To be honest, I really didn’t believe it. I thought it was just an urban legend, but I Googled it this week and apparently there have been at least two confirmed cases of Chubby Bunny deaths. So, in case you’re wondering, our kids and our students are not going to play Chubby Bunny here at Connect. All of you worried parents who were getting ready to email me, you don’t have to. Chubby Bunnies don’t live at Connect.
But this is still the first thing I thought of when I read these words from Psalm 81. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” But obviously God wasn’t creating a youth group game that would eventually kill people. He was reminding His people of this simple, but powerful truth. God provides.
One of the most basic, foundational truths about God is that He is our Provider. We are completely, totally, absolutely reliant on His provision in our lives.
So here’s my question. If that’s true…if God really is our Provider, why do so many of us feel unfulfilled? If God said, “Open your mouth and I will FILL it,” why do so many of us feel so EMPTY?
God gives us a couple of answers in Psalm 81. Listen to what He said. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” (Psalm 81:10-12, NIV)
God wants to provide for us. He wants to fill us. But a lot of us are going through life on empty, and God gives a couple of reasons why in these verses.
First of all, we’re empty because we’re disobedient. And disobedience leads to emptiness.
Everybody repeat that after me. Disobedience…leads to emptiness. Let’s do it one more time, because this is incredibly important. Disobedience…leads to emptiness.
God wants to provide for us. He wants to fill us. But His provision is linked to our obedience.
Look again at what God said. God said, “I want to fill you…I want to provide for my people…” “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” (Psalm 81:11-12, NIV)
Anybody here got a problem with stubbornness? Anybody married to somebody who has a problem with stubbornness?
My wife is listening intently right now, because she has told me one more than one occasion that her husband has a tendency to be just a little bit stubborn. I don’t think that’s true, and I will argue that I’m not stubborn all day long!
Actually, it might be just a little true. For example, I told you all that I was in a little accident a few weeks ago and I fractured my elbow. Thankfully my arm is healing, but I’m still under some restrictions. There are a lot of things that I’m still not supposed to do. And my wife has been annoyed because there have been a few times that I kind of, sort of, maybe ignored those restrictions.
And her response is to shake her head and say, “You’re such a man.” Now, she didn’t say it like, “You’re such a MAN!” See, that would be a compliment. I’d be digging that. But she didn’t say it like that. She said, “You’re SUCH a man!” Translation: you’re really stubborn.
And I am, but I also know that I’m not alone. A lot of us have a stubborn streak in us. And when we get stubborn with God, it costs us.
God said, “I want to fill my people, but I can’t do that when they are stubborn and refuse to listen to Me. When they won’t submit to Me. When they disobey me.”
Disobedience leads to emptiness. So many times in our lives, we completely ignore what God says, and then we’re shocked when our lives are empty. Let me give you some examples.
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul said, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13, NIV)
God gives us a clear command. Forgive. In fact, we are commanded to forgive other people just like the Lord forgave us. God’s forgiveness for us is complete. Total. And it is undeserved. And that’s the kind of forgiveness that God told us to extend to other people. They don’t have to deserve it. They don’t even have to ask for it. We simply give it to them.
And that’s hard. That doesn’t feel good. That’s not fun. And so a lot of us say, “You know, I don’t think I can do that. It’s a whole lot easier to hold onto this grudge. It feels more right to hold onto my anger. It just feels better to hold onto my bitterness.”
God gives us a clear command. We make the decision to disobey. And you know what we get out of that deal? Emptiness. Be honest…does bitterness REALLY feel better? Is your anger REALLY helping you?
It’s not. You can be stubborn and argue with this, or you can own up to the truth. It’s not helping you. It’s harming you. It’s holding you down. It’s not filling you, it’s draining you. That’s what disobedience does. Disobedience leads to emptiness.
Another example. In Psalm 119, it says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NIV)
And in Colossians 3, Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3:16a, ESV)
These are clear commands to spend time in the Word of God. To read, to contemplate, to memorize Scripture.
How many of us are doing that with any kind of regularity? The command is clear, but it’s so easy to think, “I’m just so busy today. I’ll get to it tomorrow.” And then tomorrow is just as busy as today. And we go a week, several weeks, months, and even more without spending any time in the Word of God. And that is a guaranteed recipe for emptiness.
Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you RICHLY.” Richly. Abundantly. Overflowing.
That can’t happen if your only exposure to the Bible happens in this room on Sunday mornings. If you depend on this hour to sustain you through your entire week, you’re going to be empty. Now, what happens in this room on Sundays is good. It’s really good. I love the worship experiences that we have here at Connect. But no matter how good our band is, no matter how powerful the preaching is, it’s not enough to sustain you for a week. We’re good…but we’re not THAT good. If this is the only time you worship, if this is the only time in the Bible you’re going to have this week, you are going to be empty. God wants to fill you, but you are disobeying Him. Disobedience leads to emptiness.
One more. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV)
God has always commanded His people to be generous. Giving, generosity, tithing…it’s always been a hallmark of God’s people. And it comes with a promise attached. If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly. If you sow generously, you will reap generously.
It sounds counterintuitive, but God said that you will be filled when you give. But that’s not easy, is it? Not with rising gas prices, food prices, etc. Not with medical bills and utility bills and car repair bills. It’s tough. It’s just easier to think, “Well, when things get better, then I’ll be generous. Then I’ll give.”
But we all know the truth, don’t we? That day will never come. There will always be another reason why you can’t be generous.
And many of us are living out this truth of Scripture. We sow sparingly, so we reap sparingly. We are running on empty. God wants to fill us, but we shortcircuit His provision with our disobedience.
If you’re not tithing yet, take a step today. Sit down and map out how you can increase your giving over time. Grow into it. Give yourself a little grace to grow into it. But be intentional about it. Budget it. Plan it. Otherwise, you’re never going to do it. And that means that you’re never going to experience the fullness that comes from generosity.
Are we tracking here? These are just a handful of examples. Disobedience leads to emptiness. God wants to fill us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But for a lot of us, the tank is empty because we have been stubborn. We have refused to submit to God in some area of life. We have been disobedient. And disobedience always leads to emptiness.
Now, let’s go back and look at what God said again. He gives us another reason why we live with this sense of emptiness.
God said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” (Psalm 81:10-12, NIV)
Disobedience leads to emptiness. One reason we live with a sense of emptiness is simply because we are disobedient to God.
But another reason is because we choose supervision instead of submission. Instead of submitting God, we want to supervise Him. Instead of listening to Him, we want to advise Him. Instead of following Him, we want to critique Him.
Look at verses 11-12 again. Pay special attention to the end.
God said, “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” (Psalm 81:10-12, NIV)
God let His people follow their own devices. Other translations say, “their own counsels.” (ESV) Or, “their own ideas.” (NLT)
The picture here is of people who decide that they know better than God. They have their own ideas. They have their own standards. And God needs to live up to those standards. Instead of submitting, they are supervising. Instead of listening, they are advising.
God said that He would fill His people, but a lot of us have our own ideas of what that means. The reason we are living with a sense of emptiness is because God hasn’t filled us in the ways that we believe He should have.
We follow our own ideas. We have redefined what provision looks like for us. And instead of listening to God, we want to tell Him how to do His job better. We have our own ideas of what “God provides” actually means, and we want God to live up to our ideas. And when that doesn’t happen, we feel empty.
And I’ll tell you how this happens most often in my life. The times when I feel the most empty are the times when I start comparing myself to other people. I start comparing what I don’t have to what they do have. And whenever I do that, it always leads to feelings of frustration. Resentment. And emptiness.
And I know I’m not the only one that does this. Somebody here needs to hear this Word today, because you’ve lost at the comparison game. And by the way, it’s a game you will ALWAYS lose. Whenever we get into comparisons, we lose. If we compare ourselves to someone that has less than us, we feel prideful. But much more often, we compare ourselves to someone who has more than we do. And when we do that, we feel empty. Either way, we lose. Comparison is an unwinnable game.
And yet, we’re constantly bombarded with this temptation to compare. We live in a culture that leads to constant comparison, probably more than any generation before us.
Anybody ever heard of Pinterest? Yeah. I know a lot of ladies are already preparing to get mad at me. Apparently 81% of Pinterest users are women. And if you’re a dude who’s on Pinterest…you’d better be pinning stuff about monster trucks and fishing lures and guns and steak marinades. If you’re on Pinterest, your mancard is already in danger, so you’d better be pinning a lot of man stuff.
If you don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s a website. Here’s a Wikipedia definition for you. According to Wikipedia, “Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes.”
That’s one definition of Pinterest. And it’s not bad. But I listened to a sermon by Steven Furtick this week called The Problem with Pinterest. The problem with pinterest is that, for a lot of us, it fuels comparison.
So with that in mind, I want to give you a second definition of Pinterest.
“Pinterest: a visually-driven social media platform strategically designed for non-stop, 24 hour a day, seven day a week reminders that your kids are not as well-dressed as your neighbor’s kids, the décor in your home is junk, the pictures you take on your own phone are comparatively artless,
you did a terrible job planning your wedding, and that you live a generally tedious, monotonous, painfully dull existence that is slowly draining the life out of you, unlike everyone else in your life whose lives are categorically awesome all the time.”
Now obviously we are not a “social media is bad” kind of church. We’re on Twitter. We’re on Facebook. In fact, if you haven’t liked Connect on Facebook, you’re really missing out on a ton of timely information. We leverage the heck out of social media.
Social media itself isn’t the problem. But it becomes a problem when it fuels comparison.
On Pinterest, tons of people post their presentation of perfection for all of us to observe. On Pinterest, we get this airbrushed picture of perfection.
But then, there’s another website. It’s called Pinterest Fail. And I like that one. I like that a lot more than Pinterest.
On Pinterest Fail, people post pictures of reality. And I can relate to Pinterest Fail a lot more than I can relate to Pinterest. Let me show you a few examples.
Here’s a picture from Pinterest. And it’s perfect. Honestly what parent wouldn’t want that picture of their baby? It’s cute. It’s Christmasy. It’s just totes adorbs. (I hope you enjoyed that, because you’ll never hear me say that ever again.) Seriously, it’s just perfect.
So one mom decided to try it. She saw it on Pinterest and decided to give it a go.
And here’s her picture.
Now, let me ask you something, parents. Which one looks more realistic to you? The second one. I can relate to the second one. I’ve seen the second one in my own house.
Here’s another one. This girl posted some pictures on Pinterest of a “no heat” method of curling your hair. And let’s be honest, her hair looks perfect. This looks like it came out of a magazine. It’s perfect.
So, a lady saw it on Pinterest and decided that she would try it for herself.
Here’s the result.
Which one is more real? The second one! And every real woman here today knows it.
Here’s another one. A lot of stuff on Pinterest is about food. And I’ll admit, this one is really cool. That is so creative. It really captures the feel of fall. And beyond that, it looks delicious.
So, why not give it a try? That’s what this person thought.
Here’s their result.
When you think about what happens in your house on a day-to-day basis, which one looks more realistic? The second one! We want everybody to believe that we can pull off the first one, but the truth is that the second one is a lot closer to reality.
Last one. This is a creative idea called clothespin painting. You can some clothespins, some cottonballs, and some paint, and you let your toddler use it to create amazing artwork. Sounds fun. Sounds creative. And this picture makes it look awesome.
Here’s a shot of reality for you. For most of us, that’s what clothespin painting would look like with our kids.
And that’s the problem with Pinterest. It gives us this picture of perfection. We try it. We fail. And we feel like losers. We’re comparing the perfection that we see with the reality that we live. When our real lives don’t look anything like the perfection that we see in others, we feel empty.
But this is why comparison is so dangerous. Comparison robs us of contentment.
Comparison elevates our ideas of what we need over God’s ideas of what we need. Contentment trusts that God has and will provide what we need.
God’s plan of provision for you might be different from His plan of provision for someone else. But if you get caught in this trap of comparing, you’re going to completely miss out on it.
You’re going to completely miss how God is providing for you. You’re going to completely miss how He wants to fill you. Instead of rejoicing in what He has given you, you’re going to be bitter about what you think you still lack. Instead of being filled with gratitude about what God is doing in your life, you’re going to be filled with resentment and anger because He’s not doing what you thought He should.
That’s the problem with Pinterest. That’s the problem with this comparison culture that we live in. It gives us ideas of what provision looks like. It gives us ideas of what it means for God to provide. It gives us ideas of what we think God should do, how we believe God should measure up, and ways that we believe God needs to step up His game.
And it completely robs us of the contentment that is ours in Christ.
Listen to these words from Hebrews 13. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)
Be content with what you have. Why? Because God promised to never leave you or forsake you. And we have that promise because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection.
Like everything else we will ever talk about at Connect, it’s all about Jesus. I can be content in Christ, because God has already blessed me in Christ. He has provided everything I need in Christ.
In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3, NIV)
It’s all about Jesus. God’s greatest provision for us is found in the crucifixion and the resurrection. At the cross, God provided the payment for my forgiveness and my freedom. Because of the cross, even when I find myself empty because I have been disobedient…even when I’ve allowed comparison to warp my perspective…I always get a second chance. God never walked away from me, even when I walked away from Him. He ever gave up on me when I questioned Him. He never let me go even when I doubted Him.
And because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, God provides a new life for me. I can walk in freedom, knowing that if my God can conquer death, there’s nothing in my life that He can’t handle. There is no greater weapon to overcome emptiness than this.
My life is NOT empty because the tomb IS!
We give you a chance to respond to Jesus every week here at Connect, and today is no different. If there’s any way we can serve you or pray with you, we would love to do that. And we invite you to come to the back during this last song or catch me or one of our leaders after church. We are here for you.
Before we sing this last song, I just want to share what God is personally teaching me. My life cannot be empty because my God is my Provider. My life cannot be empty when my God loved me enough to come into my world, to live the perfect life I couldn’t live, to die the death I should have died. My life cannot be empty when death could not hold my God down. And empty tomb is there to prove that my God is alive. My God is with me.
It doesn’t mean that life will be easy. It doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never have questions or fears or doubts. But it does mean that my God is with me. I don’t have to compare myself to you, because my God is with me. I don’t have to question my worth or my value, because my God is with me.
My God will provide. My God has already provided. His greatest provision came through the gift of His Son, Jesus. And that’s why I follow Him. That’s why I obey Him. And that’s why when I screw things up…and I do, believe me…He always welcomes me back. He always provides more love and grace and mercy and forgiveness than I will ever understand. Because God is my Provider.
Let’s stand and worship Him because He has never left us. He will never forsake us. He is our Provider and He is always faithful. Let’s worship Him because of all that He is and all that He has done.