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Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. - Psalms 100:1 (NIV)
My family is loud. At Christmas our children, siblings, and their families all gather at our house for three days of nonstop eating, board games, movies and laughing until our stomachs hurt. The decibel level is somewhere between cacophony and deafening. At the end of it all we are often exhausted, but counting the days until our next gathering. To know me at all is to know I’m all about a party.
Psalm 100 is a processional hymn, one in which the faithful are giving thanks to God for loving them so well. An invitation to the righteous to gather around the Head of the family, loudly proclaiming the joy they have in His presence. Can you hear it, Church? It’s a hum at first. Then the shoutin’ starts! Oh, it’s ON! The Hebrew words here mean to raise a battle cry, to shout in triumph. Now that’s a party, Jesus-style!
Ours is a party-throwing, feast-making God. In His presence, we will eternally experience what family is supposed to look like. I don’t know about you, but I take great hope in that.
Every tribe, every tongue, every nation will one day gather at the Father’s house. It will be loud, friends. There will be singing and dancing. It will make my Christmas gatherings look like a Book-of-the-Month Club meeting.
Here’s why this matters. There’s a lot we have to slog through in this life. There just is. Maybe your family doesn’t feel like family. Maybe they barely speak, if they speak at all. It can be a lonely thing to be distant from family. But one thing is true: the Bible says God places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). Maybe those families share your DNA. Maybe they don’t.
There’s room for you in God’s family, friend. We love you. We need you. Let’s not leave this earth without making family of as many friends as possible. Let’s all live to send as many invitations to the party as we can.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. - Psalms 100:2 (NIV)
Well, y’all, I’m tore up. I’m fresh from seeing the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s the story of the Mercy Me song that’s been heard ‘round the world, and played more than any Christian song in, well, history. It was one of those movies where, at various times, I had to tamp down the ugly cry. The sniveling, heaving-chest, can’t-catch-your-breath kind of cry.
No spoiler alert, but Bart Millard wrote the song following the passing of his father. In hindsight, seeing this movie on the same day as the funeral of a young person may not have been the wisest choice. Both events, however, point to a single truth: Bart Millard’s dad and my friend’s son now know exactly what the REAL glory of God is like.
“Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still?” (Song lyrics, for those of you living under a rock since 1999.)
Me? I’m excitable. I might be a dancer! A jumping-up-and-down, can’t-wait-to-hug-Him kind of gal. A shoutin’ bawlin’ mess kind of gal. What about you? When it comes time to look Him eyeball to eyeball, what will you be like?
Here’s why I ask: God’s Word declares that you and I can come into His presence… today. The way was made over 2,000 years ago by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All that should have kept us away from Him forever, was made forever right. The curtain torn from top to bottom, the Holy of Holies made accessible for all who would enter into relationship with the Messiah.
You and I are invited in, friends. No more separation, no more waiting. Will you move toward Him today? What would life be like if you and I lived out of the space reserved for saints?
What if we lived like we were surrounded by His glory... in the here and now?
Um, ‘cuz we are.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. - Psalms 100:3 (NIV)
These are my peeps. They are wild and wooly, never tame. Disturbed, and maybe a little on the crazy side. My family is anything but normal. But then, yours isn’t either.
You’ve got that crazy cousin. The one who brings a new guy to every holiday function, even one who showed up inebriated and flirted with every woman in the room. Who told your 80-year-old Granny that as long as he had a lap, she had a place to sit. Who did every tacky thing but pluck a hair from said cousin’s head and start flossing with it at the dinner table. (True story, by the way.) Good, bad or ugly, family is family.
The entire Bible is written in the metaphor of family. It’s why words like son, daughter and child are used to describe those who choose to call Him Father. God wanted us to understand that He sees us as His family. Family doesn’t change with the whim of decision or circumstance. Family is family.
When we join God’s family, it’s for keeps. Your position in the family can’t be changed or altered. You can’t be snatched out of God’s family (John 10:28).
Central to understanding our identity in Christ is believing that we are who God says we are. Not who the world, the flesh and the devil want us to think we are. Why? Because we will always behave like what we believe we are.
Believe you are a sinner? You’ll behave like one. Believe you are a saint? Yes, you’ll behave like one.
Is it possible, Church, that we’ve been living like orphans instead of blood relatives?
We have to get this one right, friends. A lost and dying world depends on us swinging wide the door of family to them. Promising them that no matter what family they came from, a perfect one awaits. We’re God’s peeps.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. - Psalms 100:4 (NIV)
Few things thrill me more than the sight of my children and grandchildren walking through the doors of my home. All is right with the world for a mama whose kids are gathered under her roof. I smile ear-to-ear, all 28 teeth showing! The littles run into my arms for kisses and hugs, the bigs start looking around for whatever I’ve been cooking up. When they leave, I stand in the driveway, blowing kisses and waving, until the car is out of sight. Then I sigh a little, knowing it will be some time before all my hearts beat in one place again. Home is where the heart is.
In biblical times, there was also an important gathering place in every community: the city’s gates.
Gates were significant structures. A gate was a city’s protection against foes and enemies. The hub of activity, the city gate was the place where the elders and statesmen gathered. Business transactions, court proceedings and public announcements were heralded. If a modern city’s heart is the downtown area, the gates of an ancient city measured the heartbeat. The gate was where deep community began.
Our God’s nature is social. He loves being with His people. When we are with Him, the Bible teaches us it makes Him happy. When we are away, in the far off country, he longs for us. He stands on the horizon, awaiting our return. He is a Father.
Heaven, by all accounts, will be a place of reunion, fellowship and feasting. We are urged to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise …” I pray that on the day I exit this half-life, I show up there ready to par-tay! God just wants us in His presence. Thanks and praise are the conduits to His heartbeat.
Friends, I pray your breathing in and breathing out are for His worthiness, His glory. May the praise on your lips be a delight in His sight.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. - Psalms 100:5 (NIV)
Who loves ya, baby? When my sweet man wants to let me know I’m still his “one,” he’ll playfully utter those words. He has faithfully loved me for much of my life. We met at 14 years old, in this very church. High school sweethearts, though it would take much longer to actually make it down the aisle, Mr. Man’s love for The Redhead is immutable.
We’ve had decades of marriage that bear it out, every day. That kind of love makes a person feel safe, confident, hope-filled. It’s not a love I put to the test repeatedly, making sure he’s for real. It’s a love I lean into, like a hug. I know the strength this union brings to my life, to our children’s lives, and to our grandchildren’s lives. Generations have been changed because Greg Hatton chose to love me like God loves me: sacrificially, unconditionally.
I know Greg’s love is real because I first experienced the love of my Savior. I knew what to look for. Someone once advised me, “Run fast and hard toward Jesus. Look to see if a man is running alongside you, chasing not you, but his Savior. That is the man for you.” My Little Mama once told me, “God did not create you to love Him so much to then simply pair you up with someone who just thinks He’s okay.”
As much as my husband loves me, it pales in comparison to God’s love. It’s a fine example, for sure. But it cannot touch a love that endured death on a Cross for me. A love that ensures my salvation and eternal life. A love that affords me identity, spiritual authority and protection. A love that will not and cannot fail me in the darkest night or deepest valley.
Only Jesus can offer that kind of love. And He is enough, friends. It’s an awe-inspiring thing to know that the God of the universe daily says to you and me, “Who loves ya, baby?”