Deuteronomy 12:7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
We sometimes forget that church is to be a joyful place, and gathering before the Lord a joyous occasion. There are indeed times when we need to weep before the Lord in repentance, but those should be the exception rather than the rule. We are to be respectful before the Lord, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t to have fun. We often forget that apart from the burnt offerings, the majority of the animal sacrifices specified in the Books of Moses were actually eaten by the worshipers. That’s why it specifies which part of the animal was to be given to the Levites. Following that logic, it’s not inappropriate that churches should be nice places, benefiting those who have given offerings. However, if the motive for giving becomes your own comfort or pleasure, that’s not really an offering to the Lord. It is important to remember that God supplies everything, so our tithes and offerings are tools to help us remember where it all comes from and to express our gratitude. We are indeed to use church funds for all sorts of projects, starting with missions and evangelism and extending to all sorts of benevolences, but we are to do it with joy, and not as a grinding obligation. Some people indeed give that way, and God is hardly pleased with that. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Yesterday we had a barbecue after the church service, and I think it was entirely appropriate that we did so. It’s easier to get people to come for a barbecue than for a lecture! I need to be careful that I don’t come across as stern and demanding, because like it or not, people’s image of God is going to be colored by what they see in me. The Lord has told me personally to rest, relax, and rejoice in Him. Anything else is disobedience! I am to present the righteousness of God and call people to repentance and faith, but I must never forget that the result of genuine repentance and faith is “inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8) Taking God lightly and for granted leads to the sort of admonition James was prompted to give. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10) Rejoicing before the Lord is never to be flippant, but based on an awareness of who He is and what He has done for us.
Father, I didn’t know where this was headed when I started, but then that’s true of all of life. Help me focus on You as You desire and intend, so that all of Your good purposes for me may be fulfilled, with joy for many and glory for You. Thank You. Praise God!