Final Sermons: Numbering Our Days

On August 20th, 2017, the Patterson Avenue Baptist congregation conducted its final worship gathering.

News about our disbandment is available on this blog.  You can find it when you click here.

Beginning in June, when the congregation made this difficult decision, I began a series of messages aiming to prepare us spiritually for that eventuality.  These sermons focus both on the congregational grief, as well as the HOPE that is always ours under God’s grace.  The sermon is this blog is the third in that series, titled:  Numbering Our Days

I am recently hired PT as the Subscription Sales Manager for two great lectionary resources for the whole church (clergy, adults, and teenagers)  that can help the whole church engage the scriptures in an interesting and exciting way.   It’s called “Reading Between The Lines.”

Please follow the company on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be able to keep up.   I will be producing videos for them by Advent,

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Numbering Our Days
Psalm 90:12; Romans 5:1-5

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.(Psalm 90:12)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Donald McCullough references the actions and comments of some famous people who experienced the sting of disappointments.

Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India.

John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the U.S.A. wrote in his diary: “My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of many great works of literature, wrote for his tombstone these words: “Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much.”

I’ll be many of us have felt the sting of disappoints as well:

• You had great hopes for a happy marriage, but those hopes were demolished by divorce.

• You had expectations for a well-paying career after earning college degree, but you’ve been stuck in a dead-end job that is unrelated to your education or ambitions.

• You anticipated retiring early and entering a lifestyle filled with travel, excitement, and adventure, but ill health has hindered your dream.

You’ve experienced disappointment, haven’t you? Maybe you identify with Chippy, a pet parakeet referenced by Max Lacado’s in his book Eye of the Storm.

One day Chippy’s owner was cleaning the bird’s cage using a vacuum cleaner, as she had done many dozens of times before. The bird was in the cage, but this had never been a problem. Everything was going well under the phone begin to ring. Turning to pick up the phone, the vacuum cleaner quickly sucked up poor little Chippy.

When the lady realized what had happened, she immediately turned off the vacuum cleaner. She opened the contraption to find her loving little pet. Digging through the dirt and dust the lady was surprise to discover Chippy was still alive, though covered with dirt. She cradled the tiny bird in her hand and ran to the sink, turned on the cold water, and cleaning the little fellow off.

After a few moments Chippy was cleaned, but there was another problem. The tiny parakeet was shivering from the cold water. So she ran to the bathroom and grabbed the hair dryer, giving Chippy several doses of hot air to dry him off and warm him up.

Somehow the events of Chippy’s ordeal were communicated to a local newspaper that decided to do a story on the little parakeet’s ordeal. In the interview, the reporter asked if there had been any changes in the Chippy’s behavior since that day. The woman replied:

“Well, Chippy doesn’t seem as happy as he once did. Before he would sing all through the day. Now he just sits in one spot and stairs at me!”

Sometimes I feel a little like that bird. I feel shell-shocked by the events of my life. It feels like the events of my life have suck me up, wash me over, and blow me away.

You probably understand that feeling. The days of our lives are accentuated by disappointments. Let me illustrate. I am going to mention a date in history. You tell me what tragically disappointing event happened on that day.

December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor)
November 22, 1963 (JFK assassinated)
September 11, 2001 (9-11 attack in NYC)

I’ll bet there are days like that in your own personal history. If you’ve lost a parent, spouse, sibling, or child, you probably know the date of that tragic loss. The month and date on the calendar that represents that loved ones passing becomes a constant reminder of life’s great disappointments.

The Psalmist says: “Teach us to number our days…” But when he wrote that I don’t think he was advising us to mark up our calendar with all of life’s tragedies.

Nor do I think he was advising us to place a mark over the dates on the calendar as the day draws to a close. That’s what Tom Hanks did in the movie Cast Away. Each evening for the four years he was a cast away on that uninhabited South Pacific island, he placed a mark on the wall of the cave in which he resided. I don’t think that is what the Psalmist meant when he advised us to number our days.

So what he he mean? Listen as I read that verse from a more contemporary translation:

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

That’s what it means. It means “to make the most of our time.” It means that no matter how brief and sorrow-prone our lives might be, we should strive to make the most of them. We should aim to live each new day to its fullest. We should live each moment aware of God’s love and grace. We should live with the awareness that our lives count for something.

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

That’s good advice. So how can we start living that way? You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Live like today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live in the spirit of the Latin phrase carpe diem. Seize the day! Grab hold of each new day; go for the gusto; live out loud. We do not know what day will be our last day, so make the most out of every day.

A Family Circus comic strip has this classic caption. “Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called ‘the present’.”

Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s a present we often leave unwrapped. So here is the Psalmist advice: Pounce on each moment of everyday in your life. Unwrap the present moment knowing is it a gift from God. Learn how to number your days so that you may gain a heart of wisdom and live each day as a gift from the Lord.

The Psalmist speaks of the wisdom of numbering our days. He teaches us to treat each new day as a precious gift, no matter riddle it might seem with disappointments.

Wisdom teaches us to remember the ONE who is the source of each new day.

Wisdom teaches us to be proactive and purposeful.

Wisdom teaches us not to waste time.

Wisdom teaches us that time is a sacred gift from God.

Wisdom teaches us to measure and savor each day.

Annie Dillard once said. “Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.”

That’s excellent advice. So how do we spend an afternoon? How do we number our days in ways in such a way that each day brings glory to God?

In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul speaks of how Divine grace justifies us before God. In God’s eyes, we are not broken, sinful, despicable creatures. Rather, we are completed, justified, fully accepted and dearly loved.

That is how God sees you. That’s what Paul is saying when he mentions justification. Justification refers to the action of God at removing the darkness of sin’s domain over our lives. God declares that we are RIGHT, forgiven, shown mercy, and given grace. God declares that we are liked, loved, accepted, included, and adopted.

Now when we realize that this grace has been credited to our lives, we discover with it ALL the blessings of Divine love. We realize we are at peace with God.

If you spend your life trying to justify yourself before God, you will be miserable.

If you spend your entire life feeling like you have to earn your keep with God, you will be miserable.

If you spend your entire life trying to attain a certain standard of righteous behavior, you will be miserable.

The Christian life is not meant to be lived in struggle, misery, and guilt. It’s meant to be lived in joyfulness, gratitude, and the awareness of our inclusion.

If you are trying to justify yourself, you can never be at peace with God, because you can never do enough. You can never earn your keep. You can never attain righteousness by your behaviors. You can never make peace with God. The more you try the more miserable you will feel.

Justification is a gift of God. It is a gift that can ONLY be experienced by faith; the byproduct of which is the awareness that we are at peace PEACE WITH GOD.

I know that several of you are finding it hard to accept that peace right now. You feel that you (that we) have failed God. I understand the emotion. And I have heard the conversation.

“We’ve just not done enough!”

“We’ve just not been committed enough!”

“We failed God!”

Let’s me respond to that as clearly as I can on a Sunday morning from the pulpit: “That sort of thinking is pure, unadulterated, baloney.” (If you want, you can insert a more graphic word in the place of baloney).

God does not want us to spend our last two months as a congregation feeling guilt, grief, and inadequacy. God wants us to feel confident in His love for us. God wants us to celebrate the assurance that we are at peace with Him. God wants us to know that HIS GRACE has gifted us with justification.

Listen: God has been faithful through you in this place for many, many years. God was faithful through Park View Baptist. God was faithful through Calvary. God was faithful through Patterson Avenue Baptist. THE ONLY THING THAT HAS ETERNAL SIGNIFICANCE (the only thing that really matters, Paul is saying) is that GOD HAS BEEN FAITH TO AND THROUGH US.

Because of God’s faithfulness – because of what God has done through us in this place, lives have been changed, people have been transformed, families have been blessed, ministry has been done, and the message of grace has been declared.

From this day forward, we need to celebrate God’s grace. And when we have that final benediction, we should celebrate that God’s work will continue to take place at this location for decades and decades to come.

Converts will be baptized;
babies will be dedicated;
teenagers will hear the call to ministry, broken families will be healed;
the Bible will be taught;
missions will be done;
ministry will be conducted;
all because of your faith in God’s grace which we expressed last week following worship.
Since the word of our vote was made public last week, I have received non-stop calls, texts, letters, and emails, from pastors, denominational leaders, missionaries in foreign countries, and believers literally from around the world, commending this congregation for its acts of generosity.

What really got to me were the comments from friends who are non-believers. One sent me a note saying,

“When a church is willing to give itself away like yours did, it makes me think that there might be something to what they are saying. Your congregation’s act represents the best of what Christianity has to offer.”

So, here’s the challenge. When we gather, praise God. Express your confidence in the Holy Spirit. Celebrate the grace and peace that is ours in Christ Jesus. Remember that the account is fully justified and you have been set free.

Here’s the message from today’s scripture lesson that you and I should remember every day; as Paul wrote:

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit



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