Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
During my first trip to Jerusalem back in the early 80s, I had a personal guide that kept saying, “Everything holy here!”
From kids trying to sell me a piece of the “true cross” or some creepy old guy who swore he’d sell a “really nice” picture of Bathsheba to me to a stone dating back to Solomon that I stole from the Temple Mount that’s in my study and will be returned when I get my one-way ticket back from the church, it was a rude introduction to idolatry that’s always been a problem with religious people no matter how much God warned against it in Holy Scripture as distracting from His best for us.
While I’m sure this will provoke some hate mail and though I’ve been there many times and love art and architecture dedicated to the glory of God, the recent “sky is falling” wailings over the fire at Notre Dame in Paris punctuate the prophetic point.
Again, as bikers say, if I have to explain that to you…
If I have to explain that to you, it means your religion about God dwarfs any personal relationship with Him.
Everything turns back to dust.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about what lasts forever in heaven by grace through faith in Him.
Our souls are eternal.
Just about everything else turns back to dust.
Kansas remains right.
Again, as bikers say…
Truth is God designed and created us in His image; meaning we are at the apex of His created order and especially loved and ultimately preserved for paradise by grace through faith in Jesus.
That’s why the Bible says over and over and over again, we are holy or especially separated from the rest of creation for a personal communion with God not limited to time and space.
Yep, Israel, Notre Dame, the corner of Lincoln and Main, Wrigley and Soldier Fields, Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and all of the rest are important and worth our preservation and protection yet not as valuable to God as any one of His children.
Annnnnnnd the more we think like God, the more will be our care of His children than bricks and brass plaques and things of lesser value.
You and I and everybody else are God’s ultimate handiwork or artwork that esteems humanity over everything else.
That’s the big theme of Psalm 50: “Gather My consecrated people to Me who made a covenant with Me to be Mine…I will show them My salvation.”
I really like Peterson’s paraphrase: “Round up My saints who swore on the Bible their loyalty to Me…Time’s up for playing fast and loose with Me…It’s the praising life that honors Me…I’ll show you…[them]…My salvation.”
It’s that other great, great, great theme of Holy Scripture: “Those who honor God will be honored by God.”
If so, so.
If not, not.
We are consecrated or holy or separated from people who don’t know God and make Him known.
It’s our covenant/agreement with God.
Paul wrote, “Present yourselves as a living sacrifice to God. Be holy and pleasing to God. Don’t be like everybody else. Be a non-conformist to the world. Conform to God!”
That’s the consecrated/holy covenant/agreement.
Again, Peterson: “So here’s what I want you to do…Take your every-day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering…Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.”
I’ll never forget Dr. Macleod chastening us about preaching: “When you get in the pulpit, say something! For God’s sake, say something! If you don’t have something to say for God, don’t get in the pulpit! Your preaching must be more than 3 points and a poem! Comfort the afflicted! Afflict the comfortable! Say something for God’s sake!”
Then there was Dr. McCord who almost seemed to be scolding five of us as he drew on a 60+ ring Cuban on the fifth floor of the Hilton Hotel in Baltimore during a denominational meeting back in the mid-70s, “For Christ’s sake, do something! I don’t care whether you succeed or fail but, for Christ’s sake, do something!”
That came to mind as I chatted and prayed with our beloved Mona Sorensen on April 17, 2019 as she was traveling home to Jesus.
I sent a text to our staff about our time that day: “Extended wonderfully warm time with Mona…These early mornings have become so especially precious considering all of the other stuff that I endure…Anyway, après updating her on the renovations and Holy Week, we talked about heaven, my covetousness about it, her calm about it, and why neither of us ever considered retirement.”
That last part: “and why neither of us ever considered retirement.”
She laughed when I said, “No way am I retiring! I’ve avoided those honey-do lists for over 40 years. No way!”
Then we got serious and she said, “As long as your health holds out, keep going, Bob!”
That’s what Mona did!
Not only did she understand her call to help align our hearts to God through music, she never stopped until her body did; even playing for our first Sunday worship service just weeks before traveling back to Jesus.
Parenthetically, she also had been giving her compensation from the church back to the church because she knew the church needs it more than she did; and understood the call of Jesus to those holy in/through/for Him: “Serve God by serving people and don’t serve yourself at the expense of serving God by serving people. Seek to serve not be served!”
I know that’s a big reason why Mona, far more than most, traveled home to Jesus with such “strong calm sanity.”
Mona was consecrated.
She was holy in/through/for God.
Holy people never stop until they’re stopped.
Holy people keep keepin’ on.
That’s the consecrated covenant between God and His faithful family.
Not everything is holy.
Not everyone is holy.
Pero to those who are trying while relying on Jesus to fill the gap between what is and ought to be in the end by grace through faith comes the reassurance of Psalm 50: “Gather My consecrated people to Me…I will show them My salvation.”
Blessings and Love!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
While I'll spell this out sometime around Pentecost, the Lord chastened me during a devotional moment on our back porch on May 4, 2019.
Accompanied by spiritually audible gutturals reminiscent of Hebrew classes in seminary, the Lord compelled me to confess my repeated sin throughout life and ministry of enabling, accommodating, embracing, and sometimes even participating in behaviors antithetical to Christianity as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture coupled with excuses, rationalizations, and other evidences of intentional as well as instinctual infidelity.
The Lord reminded me that deliverance ministries as well as most other psychospiritual therapies are rarely effective if the demonized or psychospirtually dysfunctional are compromised by mood-modifying meds.
In other words, it's a waste of time to try to heal someone who is under the influence of legal or illegal dope.
Similarly, providing pastoral care for someone who is not "regular" in worship - the only indispensable activity of faith and surest way to increasing intimacy with God - is a pret' near waste of time.
The conclusion reached through that apocalyptic moment is we are not called to enable, accommodate, embrace, and participate in behaviors contradicting Christianity and then make excuses and offer rationalizations for those infidelities.
Practically, it means I will not waste any more time with people in pastoral care that are not worshipping regularly, not baptize the babies of people that are not worshipping regularly, and not preside at the weddings of people that are not worshipping regularly; and just to be clearer than crystal, that doesn't mean worshipping on the corner of Lincoln and Main. It means worshipping regularly in a church that honors Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book.
I think of Jesus who asked a man that wanted His healing touch, "Do you want to be healed?"
If a person really wants to be emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, or physically healed, increasing intimacy with Father God, Saving Son Jesus, and encouraging/enlightening Holy Spirit through worship is a prerequisite in far more than less instances.
Of course, whenever I've suggested this prescription to amelioration, there's always somebody who says, "You never know. If you baptize or marry 'em, they may become active in our church!"
If the people that told me that they were going to become active in the church apres a baptism or wedding actually did become active in the church after their occasionally religious sojourns in the holy land, even a dozen worship services every day on the corner of Lincoln and Main would not suffice to handle 'em and the toothy guy in Texas wouldn't be leading me in books sales by over a trillion to one.
I'll say more about what I believe He said to me on May 4 around Pentecost.
For now, we'll scratch the surface of holy behaviors as introduced by Psalm 50.
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