Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 21
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“Among the Biggest Reasons for Low Church Attendance”
Among the biggest reasons for low church attendance are pulpiteers and pewsitters.
If you didn’t know that, it’s because you haven’t been listening to children.
Ask most children why they don’t like to go to worship services, they’ll say, “It’s B-O-R-I-N-G!”
Too many churches are boring.
It’s been said, “If churches were dynamite, they wouldn’t have enough to blow their noses.”
I think of little Dougie Watson, sitting in the first pew of Clark, New Jersey’s Osceola Presbyterian Church, nudging his mom and whispering in desperation after I announced the closing hymn so many years ago, “Just my luck. Six verses.”
Then there was the rather enthusiastic fellah who visited a church like some on most Main Streets in mainline America by mistake and really got into it. He started waving his hands and shouting out hallelujahs.
An usher rushed over to him and scolded, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t do that here!”
The man protested, “But I got religion!”
The usher snorted, “Well, you didn’t get it here!”
O.K., enough of the…reality…of too many very religiously rote and boring churches that are about as related to Jesus as socialists to our Constitution.
Why are they like that?
Donald Grey Barnhouse, the firebrand preacher of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, wrote in The Love Life, “If you aren’t joyful, I mean radiantly and abundantly joyful, you don’t know what God has done for you.”
That’s David’s message in Palms 21.
Verses 1-6 esteem God not himself or others or circumstances or anything or anyone else as generating his irrepressible joy no matter who, what, where, when, or why: “Lord, the king finds joy in Your strength! How greatly he rejoices in Your victory!…You!…You!…You!…For the king relies on the Lord! Because of faith in the Most High, he is not shaken!”
Verses 7-12 emphasize the victory of God and the Godly over all enemies sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “God’s hand will capture all your enemies…God will make them burn like a fiery furnace…The Lord will engulf them in His wrath…Fire will devour them…Though the enemies of God and the Godly intend harm and devise wicked plans, they will not prevail…”
Verse 13 is the end game exclamation point: “Be exalted, Lord, in Your strength. We will sing and praise Your might.”
David and every other true believer know God wins sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end…and look like winners!
Believers don’t walk around like dogs with tails between their legs.
Believers don’t look like losers.
Just like the entire tone of Psalm 12 echoed throughout Holy Scripture and in the true Church that knows and follows Jesus by the book, believers know the existential assurances and joyous buoyancy of victory, deliverance, and salvation.
Believers knew about the power of positive thinking long before Peale coined the phrase.
Surely, David wasn’t suggesting a mindless singing of This is the Day as if every day were a hot fudge sundae and believing in God is immunity to the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life.
David knew the sufferings attached to betrayal and war.
Saul, Absalom, Philistines, Ammonites, Sheba, Adonijah, and so many other enemies of Israel’s greatest king come to mind.
Pero he also knew, as Charles Spurgeon noted, “A holy confidence in Jehovah is the true mother of all victories.”
Sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end, God wins and God’s people win with Him.
That’s the irrepressible joy that overcomes all of life’s challenges.
That’s what compels us to sing, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”
So here’s the truth.
Barnhouse remains right.
If we aren’t joyful, radiantly abundantly joyful no matter who, what, where, when, or why, it means we have no idea of who God is and what He has done for us and our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.
Let me put that concisely.
If we aren’t joyful, we aren’t close to Jesus.
It is impossible to be close to Jesus and be a crank; though some churches should be renamed Cranks for Christ.
Joy, as Francis Schaeffer suggested, may be the most distinctive mark of a Christian.
Joy is listed by Paul in Galatians 5 as proof/evidence/fruit of intimacy with Jesus.
In short, joy is what is missing in boring pulpiteers, pewsitters, and churches; and when joy is missing, Jesus is missing.
That doesn’t sound right.
Let me try again.
If joy is missing, the doors of the church and hearts of the people inside have been closed to Him.
The only One missing in boring churches with low attendance is Jesus.
Don’t lock Him out!
Let Him in!
Make room for Him!
Open up your heads and hearts and guts; and let Him in!
You’ll be glad you did and the church will become as He intended by incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and everlasting reign.
That’s the Church that knows Him and makes Him known.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!