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  • Writer's picturePastor Jimmy Cason

God's Dream For Us

Please remain standing, as you're able, in honor of the reading of God's Word coming to us today from Psalm 139. 

You have searched me, Lord,    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,    if I settle on the far side of the sea,


even there your hand will guide me,    your right hand will hold me fast.


If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me    and the light become night around me,”


even the darkness will not be dark to you;    the night will shine like the day,    for darkness is as light to you.


For you created my inmost being;    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;    your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.


My frame was not hidden from you    when I was made in the secret place,    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes saw my unformed body;    all the days ordained for me were written in your book    before one of them came to be.


How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!    How vast is the sum of them!


Were I to count them,    they would outnumber the grains of sand—    when I awake, I am still with you.

And then there are some verses that I'm intentionally skipping today. You may want to read them for yourself at some point. They seem not to have a place in the psalm, because the writer is expressing a lots of anger, and maybe that's why he ends the psalm by saying:



Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.


See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting. 

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Please be seated. 

As always, Lord, I pray that you would deliver me from me, hide me behind the shadow of the cross, so that people see Jesus instead of me. And now may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, o Lord, our strength and our redeemer, amen. 

I have lost 2,000 pounds in my life. In fact, since June I've lost 60 pounds, so I was able to bring a couple of suits out here that I haven't worn in a while. The only problem is that even though I've lost 2,000 pounds, I have gained 2,100 pounds. 

I love to eat, and so all my life my weight has gone up and down and up and down, because I deal with the sin of gluttony, and I have discovered folks that gluttony is the only sin that not only will church members allow you to get away with, but they will encourage. 

Several years ago I was going through a bookstore and I came upon this book entitled, “A Devotion for Dieters.” I thought, well, the book might not really help me any, but it couldn't hurt me, and so I purchased it. And there is a story in that book that has stayed with me for years. 

The author has a friend named Homer. Homer is a recovering alcoholic, and the author one day asked Homer, “Homer, how have you been able to lick your problem with alcohol?”


And he said, “Well, you know, it's still a work in progress. I haven't licked it, but I'm working on it. But said a lot of times, at night, I will walk out into the night sky, away from the pollution of all the city lights, and I will look up at the night sky and look up at all the stars and I will ask God, God, show me, Homer, the way you first dreamed of me.” 

What did God dream about when He first dreamed of you? 

Maybe another way to ask the question and the answers that the questions and the answers that the psalmist gives us is what kind of God first dreamed of me? This God that we serve knows us better than we know ourselves. Before a word is on my tongue, God knows it. 

My mother used to teach me that you didn't have to say everything you thought, and even though God knows it, you don't have to say it. But none of us would like for Parker to be able, with his technology, to all of a sudden be able to display every single thought that you've had this week. Wouldn't that be embarrassing? I don't think any of us would like that. But the God I serve knows me completely, knows every word, every thing about me that's not pleasing to me little along to God, and yet still loves me completely, without reservation. Without reservation, with no conditions. 

I used to have a picture of Jesus on my bedroom wall. When I was growing up. I got to the point of where I didn't like that picture so much, because there was something about the picture that every time I moved it was like the eyes of Jesus moved and it was like he was always looking at me and there were sometimes I was doing things and sometimes I was thinking things that I didn't necessarily want him to know about. 

And then I've had this experience, and I don't know why it's always a group of men, but sometimes I've walked up on a group of men and they're talking, and they're talking. They don't see me coming until one of them, sort of at the last minute, sees me coming, and obviously they've been telling an off color joke or something that they don't want the preacher to hear. And even though Jimmy is a very common name and very easy to remember, it's all of a sudden like the one person that spots me coming has forgotten my name and he says hello there, preacher. 

You know what he's doing, don't you? He's warning everyone else in the circle that they better stop what they're talking about, because the preacher is coming and I want to say it doesn't matter what the preacher thinks, it matters more what God thinks, and God has already heard everything that you've said. God knows me completely and yet he'll love me. 

And then the Psalmist says if I ascend to heaven, you're there. If I make my bed in Sheol, which, in Hebrew way of thinking Sheol, was the place after one died. It was a waiting place for the dead. They were still developing their concept of an afterlife, but another way of saying it in modern terms if I go to heaven, you're there. If I go to hell, you're there. And I know some people that their life has been a living hell and you wonder why so many bad things have happened to such a good person. 

Now there's both comfort and disturbance in knowing that I can't run away from God. If you're trying to run away from God, guess what you can't. And if you've got a gray-haired grandmother praying for you, you might as well come on to the altar before I finish this sermon, because I believe God hears the prayers of gray-haired grandmothers.

And many people can tell about how they spent their entire life trying to run away from God. And God is that hound of heaven that's always running after me, always looking for me. I'm that lost sheep that God was willing to leave the 99 that was safe and depend to go looking for me and for you. 

But there's also comfort in this passage no matter what I endure, no matter what you endure, god is always with you. There is no trouble, there is no heartache. And this morning I could tell you, time after time after time, that I've witnessed God being with someone in the very depths of sorrow and tragedy, and we have a choice when we face those. We can become what someone has said: we can become better or bitter. And I've people I've no people that have become stronger Christians because of the heartaches they experienced. And I've known other people who have become bitter and resentful and bitter toward God and don't want anything to do with God or God's people. So it's both a warning and a comfort. 

Now we get to the point of where the psalmist goes on to talk about how we were knit together in our mother's womb Before there was anything that showed up on a scan that perhaps revealed to us the gender of the baby that we were carrying. God has already seen my unformed substance before I ever was born. 

To me, one of the most beautiful sacraments in the church that we practice is infant baptism. I know that there are those who will criticize us for baptizing a baby that knows nothing about what is going on, and my response is well, you don't remember your birth, but you still celebrate your birthday. 

When we have a baby that is being baptized, we are reminded of the prevenient grace of God. We are reminded that here is a baby who can do nothing for themselves. It is dependent upon someone else to feed them, to nurse them, to change their diaper, everything that they need somebody else has to provide. And you know, no matter how old, I will say to you, the oldest person here in this congregation today is just as needy and just as dependent upon the grace of God as that tiny baby. 

And what we say when we baptize a baby? We say that God's prevenient grace. From the moment of conception to the moment of conversion, God is working in that child's life. God is placing before that child people like us. And you know what we promise when we baptize a baby. We promise that we will surround that child with steadfast love. 

Now, I don't know what steadfast means to you, but it means that I'm going to love that child, whatever he or she becomes. That love and support and nurture for that child is just as real when that child becomes 35 or 55 or 75. And sometimes the church has not done a good enough job of surrounding that child with steadfast love. 

Well, when the psalmist realizes that God is so wonderful, that God is so loving, that God is so knowing, and that he knows everything about me and still loves me, then there's a need for confession. And that's why the psalmist ends with search me, o God, try me, test me, see if there's any wicked way in me and lead me into the way everlasting. 

One of my favorite verses is found in Psalm 103. Now I'm guilty. You'll hear me say many times this is my favorite verse, and then the next Sunday this is my favorite verse. There are so many wonderful verses of scripture, but the psalmist in Psalm 103 says as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us. 

I used to read that and think about what's so significant about as far as the east is from the west, why not as far as the north is from the south? Well, let's imagine something today. Let's say that we're going to leave Starkville, Mississippi, and we're going to attempt to go north. And we're going to go north traveling in the same direction. What happens when we get to the north pole? We start going south. 

But let's say we're going to, you know, leave Starkville and we're going to go east and we're going to pass through that wonderful state of Georgia. But you know, as long as we keep going in the same direction, do you know that we'll go around and around, and around and around? And as long as we keep going in the same direction, we will never, ever go west. That's how far the east is from the west. 

That's how far God, when we confess our sins, when we ask for His forgiveness. That's how far God has removed our sins from us. 

The psalmist says in another place, God chooses not to remember our sins. “God, you know that sin I committed 10 years ago.” “No, I don't remember it.” 

Someone else has said God throws our sins into the sea of forgetfulness and puts up a sign that says no fishing allowed. But how many times, how many times did we hold on? I've had people say you know, pastor Jimmy, I know God has forgiven me, but I can't forgive myself. 

And I'm saying you're claiming to have more power than God. God, who is all knowing, chooses not to remember our sins against us. Oh, it's so wonderful when you can be authentically who you are and that's really, as I've gotten older, that's one of my goals for ministry. What a wonderful thing it would be if people found the church to be a safe place to be authentically who God created them to be. 

My first understanding of grace, I didn't know to call it grace at the time, but it happened to me when I was in the second grade. I had misbehaved. Now I know it was someone else that got me in trouble, because I know I was perfect, but somehow my name got up on the blackboard. 

Now you older people, you remember blackboards. Now it's whiteboards and computer screens and everything else. But at that time it was a blackboard and she used the chalk to put my name on the board along with some others and as punishment we were not allowed to go out at recess. 

The new year came, we went home for Christmas holidays and we came back for the new year and I knew that I still had four or five more days as punishment and, sure enough, there was my name still on the blackboard. But the teacher said it was a new year, it was a chance to start over. 

And do you know, even though it's been 65 years ago maybe 63, still a long time and that teacher is dead, I can still see her going to the blackboard and getting the eraser. I can still see the motion of her hands made as she wiped my name off the board. I knew I was free from any more punishment. I had done nothing to deserve that. She would have been within her rights to have continued ever have any more days of punishment. I had. But she reminded us that we can always start over, we can always have a new beginning, and it was years before I could look back on that and realize that that was a beautiful, wonderful picture of the grace of God. 

And you know, whenever we understand the grace of God and whenever we are allowed to be authentic and to be who God already knows we are, then we are able sometimes to take tough stands and to work for righteousness and justice. I have with me, I'm not gonna take the time to read it, but I have with me the speech that I have, a dream speech that Dr Martin Luther King Jr made in the march or Walk on Washington for civil rights. 

Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi went through a tough time during the 60s. Many times the church was afraid to be the church. You know, when you're not really sure about how much God loves you, when you carry baggage yourself, then it's easy to project that baggage on others, and we were not able as a church In most cases. Oh, he's ahead of his time. What does it mean to be ahead of your time? Is it ever right to be behind? What are the issues today and that's a sermon for another day. 

But I want to close with this story. 

Max Lucado in his book “No Wonder they Called Him Savior” tells about a young teenager in South America, beautiful teenager, raised by a single mother. She was so beautiful that all the teenage boys kept calling on her, but she would reject every single one of them because her dream was to go to the big city, Rio, and her mother kept telling her that she didn't have the money to go to Rio. And she began telling her what a young woman would have to do to support herself and be by herself. 

One day the mother walked into Christina's room and her worst fears were confirmed the bed was unmade. She knew that her daughter had run away from home. She panicked. She thought I've got to go after her. I've got to run after her. And so she got a bus ticket to Rio and she had a little bit of money left over and she saw this little machine that you could take pictures of yourself. And so she went in that little booth and she had several pictures made of herself. She wrote something on the back of each picture and when she got to Rio she went into every bar, every hotel lobby, every phone booth, everywhere she could think that her daughter might have been, and she would take that picture and tape it to the wall. She soon ran out of money and ran out of pictures and, devastated, had no choice but to return home without her daughter. 

It was several months that went by before the young Christina descends a flight of hotel stairs. There's no brightness in her eyes, there's no joy on her face, what she had had to do to support herself, and that night had spent the night with several different men. She descends those stairs as a defeated person. But she looks over on the wall. She sees something familiar. She walks over to the wall and she realizes that it's a picture of her mother. She takes the picture off the wall, turns it over and finds these words: “it does not matter what you have done, it does not matter what you have become. I love you, I forgive you, please, please, come home.” 

We have the cross here at the center of the altar. What if we saw and imagined that on the front of the cross is a picture of Jesus, and we take it off the cross and we read on the back a message for each one of us: “it does not matter what you have done, it does not matter what you have become. I love you, I forgive you. Please come home.” 

Something beautiful, something good. 

All my confusion, He understood. 

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife. 

But He made something beautiful of my life. 

And is it wonderful to know that God can make something beautiful out of each of our lives. 

Oh God, you have searched me, you have known us and yet you love us so unconditionally. As the psalmist says, such knowledge is too wonderful. I can't even begin to understand it, but I accept it With all of my sins, with all of my shortcomings. God, you made an exchange. You took my sins, you took our sins and exchanged it by giving us your grace, your amazing grace, far beyond our understanding. But, lord, help us to remember that just because there is a limit to our understanding does not mean there has to be a limit to our faith. And now, in the quietness of this moment, I pray that, like the psalmist, that we would search our hearts, that we would allow you to test us and try us and see if there's any wicked way in our lives and then lead us to the way everlasting. This is our prayer and the precious name of the one who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We pray Amen. 


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