Many will open this post, scroll down, be intimidated by it’s length and go on to click meaningless advertisements. Those who persevere and meditate on the truths below will be challenged and blessed. Unfortunately many have forsaken the art of thinking for oneself and chewing on ideas. And thus, culture is lost, and our people are void of substance… but here goes my thoughts on the topic at hand:
I want to spend some time contemplating and reflecting on the inner part of our hearts for a moment in regards to our perception of our church gatherings. There are many scriptures one could cross reference pertaining to this topic, but for the sake of my own enlightenment, I am going to choose to focus on one passage: Psalm 84.
It is supposed that this Psalm was written by David while he was away from his beloved homeland. Perhaps he was hiding from his enemy; perhaps he was camped out with his army. Whatever the case, he was not home and he longed to be with his people in the temple worshipping the Lord in His Holy place.
How Lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of Hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints,
For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
I meditated on the writings of Charles Spurgeon as I studied this Psalm. If you are familiar with his writings, you will hear a lot of his thoughts plagiarized amongst my own. As they have so become a part of me, it will be challenging to separate the two so I will include quotations in places I am aware that I am, in fact, quoting this great man of faith.
Spurgeon stated, “Lovely to the memory of the mind, of the heart, of the eye, and of the whole soul are the assemblies of the saints. Earth contains no sight so refreshing to us as the gathering of believers for worship. Those are sorry saints who see nothing amiable in the services of the Lord’s house.”
All David wanted to do was be in the Lord’s house, to meet with God’s people, and to participate in the public service and worship of God. True subjects of the King love the courts of their King. Spurgeon so rightly said it when he wrote, “Some need to be whipped to church while David is crying for it. Holy appetite is a better call to worship then full chime.”
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young –
Even Your alters, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house
They will still be praising You.
David was envying the bird who was able to make his home in the temple of the Lord. It was able to nest there, raising it’s children directly in the courts of the Lord where God Himself met with His people. Where worship, praise, sacrifices, and Torah studies were the daily norm. As parents, this should be our highest aim and ideal! To be able to nest in a Bible-Believing church! To be able to dig our roots deep in the fellowship where service happens: the hungry are fed by our kitchen tables, worship music is written by our worship leaders, evangelism is happening in our city, diseases are being healed in our families, marriages are being mended and fought for in our home fellowships, intercession and the laying on of hands are happening in our afterglows. Our children have the most coveted position of being fully and utterly immersed in this culture!
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covered it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
The Israelites were commissioned by God to travel to Jerusalem for the appointed feasts. It was the desire of God’s heart to have His people gather together, in once place, so that He could be worshipped by them as a whole, and so He could speak to His people. The Israelites were required to accumulate all that was necessary for this homage including finances, time off of necessary vocational matters, accommodations for livestock and children, as well as food, water, and any other instruments of protection and comfort for this long journey.
Were they not filled with the excuses of not planning appropriately? Were they not bogged down by the burden of details demanded by this endeavor? Did some just brush off this gathering as “unnessessary”? Did some not whisper into their own ears, “I get enough fellowship in my own city” or “I hear from the Lord enough in my own synagogue meetings right here. There is no need for me to travel all the way to Jerusalem.” or even still “I simply cannot afford to take the time away from my livelihood, my wife is with child, and the timing is just not right.”
I am sure they had the same excuses that our corrupt and deceitful hearts, our weak and self-centered flesh, our clouded and unenlightened minds are also plagued with. And yet we make so much more money, have such faster means of transportation, and are rich beyond measures in comforts and accommodations, yet we refuse to set aside the necessary purpose to make the simple church retreat, women’s retreat or men’s conference.
Does God not still desire to see His saints come together in one place at one time for this very same purpose?
And the strength that comes in our gatherings! Even when that road of pilgrimage is hard, when the times of dryness and suffering are upon us, the joys of communion cause us to forget all our sufferings! “Oh that we would mingle in our religious gathers and delight our hearts in the presence of God together!” That we would show up early on Sunday mornings and stay late with the desire to not miss a single note of worship or allow a single gem of the treasure of God’s Word to fall through our finger tips as it’s being taught from the pulpit that morning, or to rush away from the opportunity for iron to sharpen iron in our fellowship and conversations with our brothers and sisters! Perhaps the very struggle of our week is the healing salve that keeps a wound of another from going septic and infecting the lives around us.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob!
O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day is Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of the wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and a shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
“Under the most favorable circumstances in which earth’s pleasures can be enjoyed, they are not comparable by so much as one in a thousand to the delights of the service of God.” Even the lowliest position in the ministry of Jesus Christ – let’s imagine washing the toilet, or the unseen ministry of setting up folding chairs before and after bodies have filled the fellowship hall, or in the unforgivable nursery ministry being tasked to cleaning the diaper of a screaming infant – all these are better and should bring more fulfillment and joy to us then the highest position among the godless heathen around us. One should have it in their mind that it is so much better for me to serve in a ministry at my local church than it is to be the CEO of the company that I work for. If one had to go, it would be my place among the heathen before I ever let go of my place as a doorkeeper in the courts of my King. It may be a lowly position, but it is one that brings the eternal weight of grace and glory.
Ministry can become a tiresome thing for those of a more stewardly position. The responsibilities and tasks can easily become the focus of our minds and we forfeit the recollection of the tremendous opportunity we possess. It’s when this perspective is thwarted that we convince ourselves we can no longer go on. When we allow our thoughts to meditate on the potentials outside of the calling that the Lord has placed on our earthly souls that we slowly fade from a solid, energetic servant into a dissolved, dejected employer. We prescribe our state of being a change of vocation instead of a change of heart, and thus, we quit and progress to things outside of service in the Lord’s court, and for a time we attribute the thrill of freshness to God’s supposed blessing. However, the faithful Holy Spirit is not absent as He reveals in time how far from the path we have come as we step by step allowed our rationing to be the bit in our mouths that led us off the way of those who walk uprightly. Our innate response at this point is to blame our standing on the very thing that we left: the church. We then can choose to slip into the abyss of the world or we can repent and get things right. ’Tis the struggle of the American Christian since we have this luxury.
But for those who serve through the drudgeries that the work of the ministry promise, not leaving the place from whence they’ve been called, not forsaking the assembly of the saints, for them, God is a sun revealing to them where their perceptions are wrong, and a shield to protect them from the pull of the world and the deceitful lusts of their own heart. He will provide for His conquering laborers grace and glory and will withhold no good things from them, if they would just press into Him and ask Him for this act of His great mercy!
Oh Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!
This is the key and the conclusion to all these matters: “A man must know the Lord by a life of real faith or he cannot have true rejoicing in the Lord’s worship, in His house, in His Son, or in His ways.” This is a call to you oh saint, to stop walking in your 5-year plans, your career goals, your ideas for your family life and children’s education, and to walk with God on the paths of the upright.
David esteemed the most favored and highly place for a human to be is constantly engaged in the service and worship of God. There surrey is no choicest heritage that the son of man can possess than to serve in ministry.
Oh ignorant, silly Americans! You know not the blessings that are bestowed upon you. You actually loathe the many benefits upon which your gracious God has gifted thee. You’ve grown discontent in the freedom to worship, the liberty you possess to give your life to the God who gave His for you! You rationalize your lack of public commitment to your local church with the self-righteous idea that you can do this alone. You cannot. God doesn’t desire that for His people. He never has.
Oh wicked heart of mine! Remember these words that you have poured upon these pages. Repent when you have strayed to the fancies of your flesh, when you’ve allowed your lusts to be driven down the road of conveniences and taken comfort in the simplicity of a life not sold out for the Lord.
December 4th, 2018