OH! WHY DO I HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH TODAY?
*It's a beautiful, but rainy Friday morning here in Madison. I hope you are having a good day wherever you may be. If you are enjoying these daily studies please know that there is much more to follow. I don't know about you, but I am very excited about eventually getting to the New Testament. First, we have so much more of the Old Testament. So, today let's continue with the Psalms.
Everyone that is familiar with the Psalms will tell you that they have their own favorite Psalm. The Psalms offer comfort, hope and allow us to realize that others have felt the same way we have felt. The Psalms express the inner soul of the psalmist, thus we can often "sing" along with them. What is my favorite Psalm and why? I, like many, love the 23rd Psalm. However, my favorite is Psalm 100 from the King James Version. (Have you ever heard the 23rd Psalm quoted or read from another version? It just isn't the same) Why is Psalm 100 my favorite? It is short, but very deep in meaning. (Some will say just the opposite of my sermons. LOL I couldn't resist) Seriously, there is a formula found in this psalm for spiritual growth. Let's take a look.
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good: his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." (Psalm 100 KJV)
There is no doubt in my mind that the psalmist has the temple in mind when he writes this. In the temple there are various court yards leading up to the Holy of Holies. Some court yards are off limits to various people. For instance, the Gentiles could only be in the outer yard. They could go no further. Women could only go so far, but no one could enter the Holy of Holies except the priests, and then only one time a year. The temple, in its lay out, represented varying degrees of holiness. In fact, each section going toward the Holy of Holies was taller in measurement with the Holy of Holies being the tallest section. The route to the holiest place in the temple was ultimately through the high priest. The common people could only go so far.
There are three key verbs found in Psalm 100 (again using the KJV today) that are key to our understanding of this psalm and how it relates to the temple. They are: make, know and enter. They represent a process of growth on the part of an individual. They also represent the outer, and inner court and the holiest place of all.
First of all, the word "make." We are told to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." As I have said many times this is not a verse giving permission to sing badly. I know that God has not given me the gift of singing therefore I know not to get up in front of an audience to sing. Sure, I can blend my voice in with that of my congregation and things are not so bad. What does this mean? It doesn't mean that if I can't sing then I never should. Oh no! There are times when, even if I can't sing, I should still do it. Like, in the shower, in the car, on the way to church, etc. What am I saying? The key is the word "make." That word implies effort on my part.
There are times when we may not feel like worshipping. We just don't have it in us. We just feel no spirit. What do we do? "Oh, I just don't feel it today. I'm not going to church. God has left me...Woe is me!" There are many times when Zander does not want to go to school. (Like every day of the year) But, Zander has to make himself get up and go. What happens once he gets to school? He forgets all about the effort of getting up. I have to make an effort to worship at times. Is this bad? No! It is human nature. On any given Sunday morning there are families who work harder on that day than any other day of the week. Why? They have to get their children all ready for church. By the time they get the last child dressed they are worn out. *I'm speaking from experience. It is easy to say, "Oh, let's just stay in bed." But, they don't. They refuse to let the devil turn this into an excuse to skip church. No, they make themselves get ready. They put on their Sunday best (or in some cases whatever is clean) and walk out the door with the smile they have also had to put on. By the time they arrive at church they are already tired, but they are there. They are there in spite of the fact they could easily have stayed home. Before they exit the vehicle Mom says, "O.K., we're here! We are going to do this! We are going to go in and enjoy church and get something from the service." The first hymn is announced and Mom, Dad and kids stand to sing. They are still tired and wore out from getting up and ready. But, they begin to sing with the rest of the congregation. they find themselves immersed in the song. All of a sudden they are not thinking about the fight to find matching socks. Why? They made an effort. They are making a "joyful noise."
Then there is the word "know." As you may know the word "know" in the Bible is often a word indicating intimacy. Biblical writers were not afraid to write in such a way. Notice what the Psalmist says: "Know ye that the Lord, he is God." All of a sudden that mother who has had the fight of her week (each week is the same) getting the kids and her husband ready for church is hearing something that is really touching her. A tear begins to flow down her cheek. Something from the singing, scripture reading, or the fantastic sermon has resonated within her. She has heard about God all her life. She's been faithful to church, even when it wasn't easy. She has always believed, but today is different. Today, it is as though God has taken her by the hand, looks over at her, winks and says, "I am here. I'll always be here for with you. And I'll always be for you."
There is a beautiful story that was told to me long ago by a retired minister who was dear to me. I won't mention names. I trust that this story is true. I want to believe that it is. Even if it isn't, it is a beautiful story. The scene was church camp long ago. A young man was dropped off by his parents who quickly fled...I mean left. This young fellow gave the counselors and staff fits from day one. It seemed that he made it his goal to challenge them. One day the staff met and decided that if he gave them one more problem they were going to have no choice but send him home. That evening they were having a candlelight communion service. The young man was in line to receive communion. He made his way up to the altar to receive, holding his candle. He received the elements and then was returning to his seat. My friend said that he watched in horror as the lit candle kept going further and further away. He looked at the person next to him and said, "I'll go get him." He followed and found the young "trouble maker" sitting alone in the grass holding his candle. He looked at the young lad only to notice the candle light revealing the tears that were falling from his eyes. He knelt down by the boy and asked, "Son what is wrong?" The boy answered, "Pastor, I have taken communion many times. Each time was the same, as I felt nothing. But, just now...I don't know what is happening...It is as though I encountered God just now." The story then continues with this young man going on to become a highly respected minister in our conference.
God wants us to know him. Sometimes the effort on my part leads to an awakening within. Take for instance visiting an art museum. Have you ever noticed in an art museum that there are benches, or seating? What is the purpose of these "resting spots"? Are they so you can sit while the person you are with can take their time. Are they like the benches in Wal-Mart where I sometimes sit down to wait on Melody? No! They are not! There are two ways to experience an art museum. One, I can go in and look at the paintings and say "My goodness! I've seen better things come out of a kindergarten art class." Then, five minutes later leave determining that to be a waste of time and money. Two, you can walk up to a painting, have a seat in front of it and observe it. "My, oh my! Look at the...wow! I can't get over how...Look at the brushstrokes, look at..." Minutes turn into hours as you not only look at the paintings, but you observe the artist. You see, every artist's goal is that you not just see the work of the artist, but discover the artist within the work. Oh! Isn't that it? God wants us to discover the creator within the creation.
Make, Know, Enter! In the end the effort is nothing. Something has happened to us that we can't explain. We are in the presence of God. Well, there is so much more to say, but I have to leave more for later. Monday, we will continue looking at the Psalms. We will look at one of the most troubling and graphic psalms. Have a great weekend, come and worship with us on Sunday if you don't already have a home church. God Bless! -Pastor Rick