Sunday, August 11, 2013

[Matt's Messages] Lessons from Our Summer Vacation

“Lessons from Our Summer Vacation”
August 11, 2013 :: Psalm 148

I want to do something really different with today’s message.  Yes, we are going to read and think about Psalm 148 together because that God’s Word–that’s where the power is. My words are not powerful but God’s Words are.

But I also feel led to share with you some personal stories of what God was teaching me while we were away last month.

You know when you get away for a time, it can really be helpful for gaining a new perspective. You get your head up and see things differently, not so stuck in a rut.

And our time away this year was really good for that for me.

I think there were some areas in my life that the Lord wanted to put His finger on and show me some things, and I’d like to share some of them with you.

Kind of like a report when you get back to school in the Fall, “What I did on my summer vacation by Matt Mitchell.”

I’m going to call this message “Lessons from Our Summer Vacation.”

This is us at Banff national park in Alberta, Canada in the Canadian Rockies. You can see a snow covered mountain or two in there in the background. The signposts point to many of the Canadian national parks including this one in Banff.

Again, I’m calling this message, “Lessons from Our Summer Vacation.”

And these lessons are going to revolve around 4 key words: Creator, People, Prayer, Grace.

Some of those will connect more directly with this Psalm and others will just be from my experience of the Lord on this vacation.

Psalm 148 is one of the great Hallelujah psalms that round off the Psalter, the book of Psalms.

The last 5 psalms all start and end with the phrase, “Praise the LORD!”  Or Hebrew, “Hallelujah!”

And they just build from Psalm 146 to Psalm 150 which ends with “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

That’s why we started our service today with Hymn #8.

And the psalmist repeats that phrase over and over again in our Psalm for today Psalm 148. “Praise the LORD!” “Praise Him.” “Praise Him.” “Let them praise Him.”  “Praise the LORD.”

It’s hard to miss the point of this Psalm.  It’s pretty obvious.  It is a call to praise the LORD.

Verses 1-6 are praise to the LORD from the heavens. The places and beings above the earth.
Verses 7-14 are praise to the LORD from the earth. The places and beings that live on the earth and in the oceans.

So you get the picture of everything praising the Lord.

Everything above. “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”
And everything below answer ing. “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

So the whole earth is filled with praise!

And we’ve been participating in that today.

We sang, “God, You Reign!”
And we sang, “Hallelujah!”
Praise the Lord!

And there are a number of reasons why the psalmist calls the whole world (and us) to praise the Lord in this psalm.

And one of the biggest one is that our Lord is the creator.


Psalm 148, verse 1-6.

“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.”

Our Lord is an awesome creator.

Now, I already knew this. I’ve said it many times before and sung the songs.

But this time away, I really saw it with my own eyes.

Our family visited some really amazing places.

Let me show you a few by some pictures I stole from Heather’s camera. She kept 700 pictures that she snapped while we were away.

This is one is at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park in Washington, State.
 We rode the train from Altoona to Glacier National Park where we met Heather’s Dad, John Lundeen and rode with him across Montana, Idaho, and Washington State and then stayed with Heather’s family in Sequim, Washington for about a week.

Hurricane Ridge is one of those places that makes Heather’s heart beat faster and mine stop!

Here’s another one from there.

This one shows the ridge better. There are 15 or so mountains that are amazingly visible from up there.

And this park is just an hour from the ocean.  We sat on Dungenness Spit for hours on end and watched the waves beat the shore.  Heather saw this little lobster guy there. Or crab or whatever he is.

You see that’s what I’m not good at. I don’t know the distinctions between all of these natural things.

But as I was sitting there on this beach, I realized that my God had grown pretty small.

I think that I had begun to think of God as God right here. A God who was powerful, sure, but I didn’t rejoice in that, and I didn’t take His power seriously enough.

And I didn’t think about just how big God is.

Verse 5. “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he command ed and they were created.”

Vv.7-10 “7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds...”

I think that we saw all of those things at some point in our travels over the 2 countries, 10 states, 2 provinces, 6 trains, 2 ferries, and one motorboat in our 6,000 mile trip.

And this time, I not only saw those things, but I SAW those things as CREATED by our Lord and calling out for me to PRAISE Him.

On another day, we went to Cape Flattery which is the northwesternmost point in the continguous United States.

And this is what greeted us at the end of the trail.

Water so blue. Birds Heather had never seen before. Beauty as far as the eye could see.  Pictures just can’t really do justice to it.

And our Lord made it all.  V.5

“Let them praise the name of the LORD for he commanded and they were created.”


Now, I could go on an show you another 500 pictures that Heather took of the flowers at Butchart Gardens, the ride through the Juan de Fuca Strait or through the Canadian Rockies.

But I’m going to move on to the next lesson.

But before I do, let me reiterate what this lesson is.

Our LORD is an awesome Creator and that calls for our praise.

You don’t have to go anywhere to see this. Especially if you live in beautiful Central Pennsylvania!  Because I had eyes to see it again, I was bowled away when we returned home to see how gorgeous it is right here where we live.

And my heart is led to sing,

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

Praise the Lord!

Lesson #2. PEOPLE.

This is a picture of our family visiting Heather’s grandparents in Sequim Washington. This is Grandma and Grandpa Wood. Grandpa Wood is in his early 90's.  This is Heather’s Mom’s parents.

Notice in verse 11 and 12 that it isn’t just the inanimate creations or the animal kingdom creations that are called to praise the Lord. It is all people everywhere. V.11

“[K]ings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”


Here’s how the Lord was talking to me about people.

He whispered reminders to me of how much He loves lots and lots of different kinds of people.

Everywhere we went on vacation there will people and they didn’t come in just one shape or size.

And they spoke all kinds of different languages.

Canada is bilingual, you probably know. So everything is in both English and in French. All of the signs, all of the product information, etc.  When you go to a national park, the guides welcome you in both languages.

But those are not all of the languages that you hear.  We heard many languages spoken that I’m not even sure what they were.

And people looked so different. We get used to a kind of “sameness” here in central Pennsylvania.

But where we were the people were all different colors and shapes and sizes and ethnicities.

In Calgary, where Heather is from, there is a large population of Sikh’s. Which is a  religion based in India. All of the men wear turbans on their heads.

We went out to a movie while we were there, and alongside the Hollywood shows there were Bollywood shows straight from India with subtitles in English.

We only were in two countries while we were away but there was a lot more of an international feel when we were on the West Coast.

And the Lord whispered to me Revelation 7:9&10.

“I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

I was reminded of how much our Lord doesn’t just love us and people like us. The loves people from every nation, tribe, people and language.

And He’s calling all of them to come to the Lamb and worship Him.


“Kings of the earth and all nations...Let them praise the name of the Lord.”

And I was reminded that if that is the heart of our God, then it should be our heart as well.

We should love those who are different from us and who don’t speak our language ...and even right now don’t believe in our God!

And love them for Jesus’ sake.

And I got a renewed commitment to world missions to evangelism.

That’s why I’m so excited about our 3 new missionary families.
And about our Oaxaca missions team and their trip in February.

And about the Good News Cruise!

It was so encouraging to come back and see how everything is getting ready for our big event in just under two weeks.

And I want to tell some people about JESUS!

Because God doesn’t just love rocks and trees and skies and seas.

He loves people like you and me.

And people not like you and me.

And I need to do the same.

Lesson #3. PRAYER.

Here is a flower opening itself up in praise to the Lord.

Heather does an amazing job of capturing flowers with her camera.

Psalm 148 is a call to prayer.

Again and again it thunders the call to praise the LORD.

And we do that in prayer.

But the kind of prayer that the Lord was teaching about was about asking for good things both big and small.

I pray a lot, especially with people. But not as much on my own in secret and for big problems.

I know that I need to pray, but I often fall into the trap of thinking that I can handle more things on my own.

But I was reminded again and again, especially as we traveled that I don’t have very much control of my life but I know the One who does!

Does this building look familiar to anyone?

This is the Pittsburgh railway station.

The nice part is actually now an apartment building.

What we were stuck in is now the plasticy, small cramped, smelly downstairs section where you wait for the train.

We knew that our train from Altoona was to get in at 8pm and that we wouldn’t leave with our next train until 12am which is staying up late for Heather and I and our 4 kids.

But we didn’t know that the train was going to be 3 hours late! And that we were going to stay up with our kids until 3am to leave for Chicago on the very first day of our trip.

And that night, we prayed.  We all prayed desperately that we would get 6 seats together on the 3am train.

And you what happened? We got them. There they were.

The 6 seats together on the next train–that we prayed for.

And then coming back, 6 seats together on the first train out.

And then that train was 4 hours late and we were going to miss our connection by 2 hours!  And maybe be stuck in Chicago an extra night or put on bus to creep across Indiana and Ohio to get home.

And we prayed again. And Amtrak decided to hold our train 2 hours for us (and I assume a whole lot of other people) to get on it and go to Pittsburgh and then held the train to Altoona for us, too.

Which is what I asked God to do.


I was reminded, not just by those stories, but by the Lord speaking to my heart that I need more personal prayer and that I need to ASK more in prayer.

Our Lord said

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  ‘Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 6:7-11)

I know that. And I’ve preached that many times.

But on vacation I heard the Lord telling me that I need to take it to heart again.

When I came home, I was excited to be home, but I came to home as a pastor to hearing about many of our flocks’ trials and burdens.

I’ve been reconnecting with you since I got back and heard stories of health problems, job problems, the fire at the Ranch, relational problems, problems, problems, problems.

And I can’t solve all of those problems. I don’t have the power.

But I know who does. And I want to do more to take things to Him and ask Him to solve them.

I want to do more with praying with you here at church and the rest of the week.

I want to gather your requests and pray for you.  I think that a major thing that I can do as your pastor is to uphold you in prayer and take your problems to the Lord in intercession.

It’s been a while since I took a half-day retreat and just prayed through the directory and gathered family prayer requests from you. I’m going to do that again soon.

And I’m going to encourage more people to pray on your own and in small groups and at our prayer meeting.

We need more prayer.

I love that this church is a praying church.  But we can’t rest on our history of praying we need a future of praying.  Praise God. Hallelujahs.

But also asking God.  To give us what we need.

Now, you also have to be careful what you ask for.

Two Sundays ago during the singing at church, my son Andrew fainted.

I looked over at him. He had his hands in his pockets and he just went down on his knees and then pitched forward so that his head pushed the chair in front of him.

I thought he was having some kind of a seizure and I picked him up, and he wokeup and asked how long he’d been asleep!

I said just a few seconds.  When did you start feeling like you were going to faint?

He said, “We were singing, ‘Lord take my breath away.’”

So, be careful what you ask for!

By the way, he seems fine. He probably is just going through a growth spurt.


We need to ask our Lord for more and more grace.

And that’s lesson #4.

#4. GRACE.

Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

This is a picture of a sailboat Heather saw gracefully slicing through the ocean.

Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

And while I was away, I was reminded by God of how much He has given me that I do not deserve.

My vacation for example.

I know that I was in desperate need of a vacation.  Before we left, I had just burned my candle down at both ends.

So it was a much needed vacation, but I can’t say that it was a much deserved vacation.

I recognize it as grace. As a gift from the Lord.

And a gift from you.

Thank you, Lanse Free Church Elders and Family, for being so generous with vacation time for our family.

Thank you for being okay with us being gone for a whole month out of the year. This year, all at one time!

It is grace to be allowed to go and get that refreshment and see that family. Heather doesn’t get to see her family like many other do. It’s really important to see those grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins, cousins, cousins.

And it is grace to come back to a church like this.

We were in 4 different churches over the last four weeks and enjoyed each one of them.

But there was none like Lanse Free Church.

You are a grace-filled church.  And you are grace to us.

It is a joy to be your pastor. And it is grace.

The thing to do about grace is not to try to earn it but to live in thanksgiving for it.

Grace is here in Psalm 148. Not just in creation but in redemption. V.14

“He [the LORD] has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD.”

Now that sounds to us like it’s saying that God has raised a musical instrument up to play a song.

But that’s not what it’s saying. If you have the NIV you see a footnote saying, “Horn here symbolizes strong one, that is, king.”

The horn was a symbol of strength like we might hold up some deer antlers to show how big and strong that buck was.

And the horn here was a leader, a ruler, a king that the Lord had given to His people, Israel.

It’s probably talking about King David in its first application.

And this Fall, we’re going to learn a lot about the raising up of the horn of King David as we study the book of 1 Samuel (perhaps starting next week).

But I’m pretty sure that the ultimate fulfillment of verse 14 is Great David’s Greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the praise of all his saints of the people close to God’s heart!

Jesus Christ is grace to us. A great gift that we could never earn or payback.

His sacrifice on the Cross and His resurrection are the greatest gifts every given to humanity.

We don’t deserve Him but we receive Him in faith, and we rejoice in Him in thankfulness for ever.

And I mean forever.

Though very beautiful this world is broken.
It is not what it was created to be.
And we feel that every day.

But the grace of God has come in Christ and will one day make everything right again.

As the song says:

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD form the heavens, praise him in the heights above.


Praise the LORD from the earth.

For earth and Heaven will be one.

Praise the LORD!