Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms #57
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“The Cold Showers and Living Waters of Following Jesus”
Whenever people expect too much from others and sometimes even themselves après a confessional moment prompted by the mirror’s reflection, I often ask, “Did you miss the course on original sin?”
Everybody’s tainted by it.
It’s in our genes.
It’s the bad behavior that we’ve inherited and learned.
It began in the garden.
It’s our first family called the Adamsons.
We are the daughters and sons of Adam and Eve with the instinct to insult God’s holiness and injure God’s people with regularity.
That’s why we’re so respectfully grateful to God for Savior Jesus by grace through faith.
Our only strong calm sanity in time is fueled by our faith in Jesus that guarantees paradise a nano-second after the last breath.
Knowing time is limited and heaven is not, we overcome and endure and live triumphantly.
Certainly, every day is not a hot fudge sundae; yet any day without intimacy with Father God, Savior Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit is hopeless, hapless, helpless, and hellish.
He is Father God’s gift to us by grace through faith with the Holy Spirit always compelling increasing intimacy with Him and respectfully grateful worship.
Jesus describes our relationship with Him this way: “Anyone who believes in Me will have rivers of living water flowing from Me into her/him and will be as refreshing as refreshed by Me.”
Following Jesus is when we really come alive to the beauty of His creation and relationships and romance and aren’t pulled down into the many variations of doom and gloom and depression and disappointment and defeat that have become the hallmarks of people without heaven on their minds and in their hearts and guts.
Yet, even if we haven’t missed the course on original sin and have been saved from its hellish consequences by grace through faith in Jesus, there are many cold showers in time to remind us of that sin and our need for Jesus to save us from it.
I’ll never forget when Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship that following Jesus means leaving the monasteries of safety and security and going out into the world with the gospel: “When Christ calls a man, he bids come and die with Me…It may be a death like Luther’s who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world…or it may be a death like…”
It’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed in a denomination irretrievably apostate under current management; or as Hans Evans told me back in 1977, “Stay in our denomination. It’s the best mission field open to us today.”
I learned those lessons so starkly and sadly and devastatingly within weeks of leaving my monastery aka seminary for my first church as undershepherd to the Good Shepherd.
My first pastoral call was a cold shower.
I was only 25 and filled with enthusiasm and wanting to save the world for Jesus.
Though I was a tad deluded in thinking it was possible to take a 200 member congregation in a town of 2900 with nine other churches and be the Heartland of our day, I thought churches really want to grow and glow for Jesus with people hungering and thirsting to know Him and make Him known.
It didn’t take long before I realized I had missed the course on original sin.
There was a church picnic after worship on my first Sunday.
Jeff, the reigning arm wrestling champ, came over to me and asked with a smirk if I’d like to give it a go.
Noticing everybody was watching and that he was measuring his masculinity against mine, I begged off and said he’d kill me for sure and that I was a little tired anyway and…
“Our new pastor’s a chicken,” he said and people laughed.
Now I don’t like to talk about my limited positives in messages, preferring to tell people that I’m as messed up as they are and need Jesus just as much as they do, yet God has given some strength to me that I don’t like to talk about and only use when necessary.
Ask me about Stanley in Clark, New Jersey some time.
Anyway, he baited and baited and baited and eventually hooked me; and I put him down in less than ten seconds.
It was the first time that I learned there are lots of people in churches that prefer emasculated preachers.
If I have to explain that to you…
Then there was our first session meeting.
Elder Don asked, “Pastor, what is your vision for our church?”
Immediately upon sharing my vision for the church, he said, “If you think we’re doing any of that, you’re crazy?”
It was the first time that I realized there are lots of people in churches that don’t really want their pastors to be their undershepherds to the Good Shepherd. It’s the lead-us-but-we’ll-fight-you-every-step-of-the-way-we-were-fine-before-you-got-here virus that has infected all churches.
My favorite lesson came from Jack.
Jack was a big shot in the local steel mill about five miles down the road.
Greeting me after worship on my first Sunday, he whispered into my ear, “If you’d like, I will do for you what I’ve done for your predecessors. I will leave a brown bag with a six pack in it on your back porch every Saturday morning. No one will have to know and you won’t get caught at the liquor store.”
I said I like cigars.
He said, “Pastors shouldn’t smoke.”
It was the first time that I realized churches aren’t big on the truth, lie a lot, rationalize their infidelities, and don’t think the Bible is bigger than their favorite parts.
Seminary didn’t teach me about that kinda stuff; like the time that a florist asked one of my assistant pastors and me on an early Sunday in the sanctuary, “How would you like me to arrange the flowers for you?” I said, “I forget, Stimp, what did they teach us about that in seminary?”
The point is there’s a cold shower or sin’s reality coming even after bathing in His living waters.
Our challenge is to get out of those cold showers as quickly as possible and dive back into His living waters.
David’s Psalm 57 comes to mind.
Most folks think he wrote it while hiding in a cave somewhere close to the Dead Sea while be hunted down by Saul.
The particulars aren’t as important as the problem; or as Dr. Stuart told me in one of the few helpful things that I learned in seminary, “You can’t build a theology on broken pickle jars.”
Anyway, David is hiding from danger again with the note that history proves followers of Jesus are not immune to life’s dangers.
As the desert fathers often said, “Life’s challenges never end. As soon as one challenge is conquered, another comes.”
Bikers put it this way: “There’s always rain. You’re either in rain or out of rain riding into rain. There’s always rain.”
Faith in God is the only way to overcome, survive, and thrive.
So while acknowledging the challenge, David finds strong calm sanity in knowing it will end with God’s help.
Again, he acknowledges the challenge and asks God’s help: “Be good to me, God. Help me now! I’ve run to you for dear life. I’m hiding under your wings until this tornado blows over. Save me! Deliver me! Be true to Your word! They want to kill me for sure and I turn to You to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”
Then, David praises God for saving him even before it happens because he knows God always comes through for the faithful sooner than later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “I’m ready to praise You, God! Wake up, everybody, and praise God for His blessings that flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! God, I am praising You! I am worshipping You! You save! God is great and God is good! Let us thank Him for everything!”
Psalm 57 repeats a common theme throughout Holy Scripture.
Challenges come and go and come and go and come and go and there’s always somebody who wants to tinkle on our parades and drown us in cold showers.
The most important truth in life as preface to eternity is God saves those who trust Him with His best intentions that last forever.
I’ll never forget hearing about the coach that said to a player, “Son, I don’t understand you. Is it ignorance or apathy?”
The player said, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”
I think a lot of people are like that today.
So many don’t know what God has done for them.
So many don’t care what God has done for them.
Just look at…
Again, if I have to explain that to you…
Pero, if you’re still reading this, you know and you care.
Now run through that cold shower and dive back into your relationship with Jesus!
Don’t stop there!
Invite everyone to swim with you!
Everybody gets wet.
Not everybody has to drown.