Todd Wagner finishes the series, Lyrics, in which we've compared the lyrics of some of the most popular songs with the truth of the Psalms. Todd compares Hozier's "Take Me to Church" with the words of Psalm 84. Both concern the question of where true life and fulfillment can be found, but they offer very different answers.
Take Me to Church
See Who Again?
How to Shake It Off and Deal With Bad Blood
Well, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier. He is an Irish young man. We are Watermark Community Church, king-makers of musicians. For the last three weeks, we have focused on the lyrics of a song of modern day, and the following Monday it became the number-one song in the country. That is a fact.
"Take Me to Church" that likely won't happen with, because it was really a 2014 song. It has already been at the top of the charts in 13 different countries. It was the number-one downloaded song last year on Spotify with over 87 million downloads. It had 7.5 million hits on the Grammy performance that Hozier and Annie Lennox did when they sang it at the Grammys.
This song has had a massive influence on culture, and I love it. Not that it has a great influence; I love the song. I love what it says in terms of how going to church is the one place you want to go. The problem with Hozier's church is it's not the place where, ultimately, you can find life, but man, has it ever had an impact.
The fact that it is the number-one song in his own native land of Ireland, I don't think, is any small coincidence. Ireland, just a few short weeks ago, became the first civilized country in the history of the world that democratically voted to endorse marriage defined any way you want to define it in terms of human companionship and love. This song, the church of Hozier, is a place where you bow at the idol of deep human sexuality and experience. Let me read you the lyrics of this particular song. He says:
My lover's got humour
She's the giggle at a funeral
In other words, "The lover I'm talking about, she's kinda that awkward lover who you don't maybe want to talk about. Everybody disapproves of her. I wish I would have worshipped her sooner."
If the heavens ever did speak
She's the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday's getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
"We were born sick"
You heard them say it
In other words, "The church, the organized church, says we're sick because of our love of the pleasure that is the gift of sex." Then Hozier says:
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me "worship in the bedroom"
The only heaven I'll be sent to
Is when I'm alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Then he just goes and says:
Amen. Amen. Amen..
Take me to church
I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life
It's an amazing, very creative play on words. In other words, "I'm not going to go to your church that's condemning what I love, where I tell you what I love and you sharpen your knife to tell me I'm broken. I'm going to go to my church, and man, I am going to worship at that altar," and there is no place like the altar of human love and deep sexual experience.
Now Hozier himself is not a homosexual. He wrote the song after breaking up with his girlfriend, who was an individual he deeply loved. He was just talking about how much he loved it and longed for it, but he was glad to say, "Hey, that's just what I love. You love whatever you want to love."
In fact, the person who then made the music video of it decided to talk about how the church, and specifically some of the oppression that was in Russia at the time, was keeping some people from loving each other the way they wanted to. It is no small coincidence that the country this man came from said, "You know what? How can we keep people from going to their church, from finding life where they want to find life? Let them drink deeply."
There is a reason we're doing this series called Lyrics. Lyrics are powerful. After the very first week of doing that, my buddy Jason, who helps here back of house. There's so much stuff he does that he volunteers. He makes all the media, the camera, and all that different stuff work. He sent me an email. He said, "Todd, let me just tell you something. I don't know a lick of Spanish, but I know every single word to this song from one of my favorite bands from the 1990s."
It was a part of the alternative rock movement. It was really the band that launched the entire Lollapalooza rock concert world. Part of the grunge rock movement that started in Seattle made its way to LA. It's a band called Jane's Addiction. Have you ever heard of Jane's Addiction? They had an album in 1990. It had a song on there called "Stop." This is how that song started, and this is the Spanish Jason knows:
Señores y señoras:
Nosotros tenemos más influencia con sus hijos que tú tiene, pero los queremos
Creado y regado de Los Ángeles, ¡Juana's adicción!
Here we go!
Yeah, here we go, baby. Let's launch. That album is called Ritual de lo Habitual. The Ritual of Habit. Jason listened to that album so much he had memorized that Spanish. He goes, "I had no idea what it said." This week when I was saying, "Hey, I want to use this to talk about the effects of lyrics," I started playing it. My buddy Chris Mano, who is on our staff, who helps with all of our video stuff, he starts saying the Spanish word-for-word.
He goes, "Oh, I know that. It's on the song "Stop." He spits out Spanish. I go, "Chris, do you know Spanish?" He goes, "I have no idea what that Spanish is." So watch this. This is what Jane's Addiction said in their album Ritual of Habit in Spanish with the English translation after it:
Señores y señoras:
(Ladies and Gentlemen:)
Nosotros tenemos más influencia con sus hijos que tú tiene, pero los queremos
(We have more influence with your children than you do, but we want them)
Creado y regado de Los Ángeles, ¡Juana's Adicción!
(Bred and spread in Los Angeles, Jane's Addiction!)
Yeah. I think they're right! In 1990, my buddies were memorizing lyrics in Spanish. Their parents couldn't get them to even think about memorizing truth in English. Lyrics are powerful. They just wash over you. Let me just say to you again. There's a reason we gather in this place every week to sing songs.
We are careful with the songs we sing, because we want those lyrics to be written on your heart. We want them to come to your mind in times of trouble and crisis. We want them to influence you because your Father wants you to know who he is. So we sing songs about who he is. Listen. Let's go! We're going to dive in, and we're going to look at where we ought to go to church.
I'm going to tell you. What's so amazing about this… This is my favorite psalm. It is my favorite psalm. I've quoted this psalm, probably little pieces of it, more than any other psalm in the 15 years I've been preaching to my friends here at Watermark, the couple of years I've been with you in Fort Worth, and the couple of months we've been with you in Plano. I mention this psalm all the time. It just rolls off my tongue.
You've already sung this psalm this morning. Scott Kedersha mentioned the psalm already in what he said. It is a psalm that basically could be titled, "Take Me to Church." That is really basically the title to this psalm, and I pray it influences you and your children, because it will lead to life. I mean listen. Play "Take Me to Church" again. I just love the melody.
I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Take me to church. I just love it. That song really had a whole other life in 2014, a year ago from right now, when LeBron went back to Cleveland. Beats made that the song that showed LeBron putting that music on walking back home to his place of ultimate comfort and peace. Let's go, man. Let's go home. This is what you're created for. You know what?
I'll just say this real quickly about Hozier and what he is writing. I don't have any problem with what these guys are writing in their songs. It's what they should write about. It's what they love. It is their father. Their father is their flesh, and I can relate to that. I hope Hozier listens to this. I hope others who like Jane's Addiction listen to this stuff. I hope you share it because I get it. That's where I would worship. It's the altar of self that I would lay myself down before, and I would try and find life there if I didn't know there was life, real life, somewhere else.
There is somebody who has come, and he has stolen ultimate life from us. He has killed us, in fact. He has destroyed us. He is a liar, and from the very beginning what he said is, "You don't want to worship at the altar of God. You need to do what you want to do." In fact, if you go and look at the Satanic Bible and you look at the golden rule within satanism, it would simply be this… We often say the Golden Rule within Christ-teaching is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Confucius stated that negatively. Confucius, a long time before Jesus, said, "Don't treat people the way you don't want to be treated." Jesus made it proactive. He said, "You do treat people the way you want to be treated." That's the law of love. Love doesn't just wait to see how you're going to treat them and then respond. Love initiates. Love runs.
I'm going to tell you something. God isn't waiting for you to come and bow before him. He has run to you, and he has shown you what love looks like. When you know God and all of his goodness and all of his glory, you will run to him. In fact, here is the thing I'm going to repeat consistently throughout this little message today: If you don't want to know God more, it is doubtful if you know God at all.
I'm going to say it to you one more time because I want to keep repeating it. If you don't want to run to where God is, if you don't want to know God more, I really doubt if you know God at all. Because if you knew God, full of grace and glory, the One who, "No good thing does he withhold from those who love him," who, "In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forever," you would go, "Take me to church! I want to bow before that."
That is the God who is revealed in the Scripture, but there has been a massive, massive marketing campaign that has infected all of our lives and that is (it starts way back) the liar from the very beginning said, "Hey, man. Don't you go to somebody else's church. You make your own church. You worship there. You don't need God. God is not good. You don't need God. His Word is not true. You don't need to worry about God. Disobeying him is not that big a deal. Do what thou wilt." Listen to what Hozier wrote.
No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
"As I just get naked and go after it with you, baby. Take me to that church." Can I just say this? I am fan of sex. Sex is good. Sex is a gift. Sex is God's idea. I've never spoken poorly about sex to my kids. In fact, I just gave away my very first daughter. One of the last things we did on our last daddy-daughter date is I just reviewed that with her.
I said, "Hey, let me ask you a quick question, Ally. Do you have anything you want to ask me? Because in just 6 short days you're going to wake up, not in the house of another man, but with another man. Do you have any questions for me?" She goes, "Dad! No. I went to Merge. All right? We covered that. We talked about that there so we wouldn't have to do this here. Now. With you." Those words weren't there, but I got that message, right?
I said, "Great. Okay. Well, look. I'm not going to make you talk about it with me, but I do want to ask you one question. Have you ever heard me say anything bad about sex?" "No." "That's right, Ally. You haven't. I've always told you sex can be used in a way that would be destructive to you, but I've also told you it's one of God's greatest fleeting gifts he gives us here on earth. I want you to listen to me."
She goes, "Dad!" I go, "I want you to listen to me. I want you to hear me tell you this. Sex is a great gift. If you don't use it and operate in it and develop your ability to enjoy it, it will hurt you in your marriage. I want you to know when God talks to you about sex in the relationship you're about to move into, his words to you are, 'Drink deeply, O lovers.' He is thrilled that you would enjoy that gift.
I don't ever want you to think you're doing something or a part of something… I've never said anything that would make you think that. I'm just reviewing for you. If you ever lie there and you think, 'What would my dad think if he knew what we were doing right now?' you need to know something. Your dad is fired up, and not only that, even more important, when God is watching you, he is cheering. You got it?"
"I got it, Dad!"
"Do you want to go get some ice cream?"
"Good. Let's go get some ice cream."
That's how it went down. That was some of the last intimate time between a dad and his daughter. Let me just tell you something. You know. I did. I asked my son-in-law a little bit later. I said, "Hey, man. Look…" He just went, "Hey," and gave me some knuckles. That's all we had. I said, "Look, Bro. I want you to know that is the job of a godly man to make sure he rightly represents God and his Word and truth."
If you are a father and you are trying to keep your kids pure by telling them sex is bad and to stay away from it, you are hurting your children and hurting their marriage. You are setting Hozier up to be somebody's pastor. I am a fan of sex because God is a fan of sex. It's his gift. Just use it where it should be used. I'll say this; I've said it before. It's the most obvious analogy in the world. It simply goes like this…
It's like fire. I love fires. I build fire if it gets below 60 degrees. I love it in my home. People gather around it. There's a reason in Texas we put fireplaces out there. A bunch of them. We put a fireplace inside. People are like, "Man, you don't get to use that very much." I know we don't, but when we do, guess what it does? It attracts people. It puts a scent in the air that there's nothing like. We gather around it. We sit. We talk. We watch. We enjoy.
That's what sex is like. But if you take fire out of the fireplace, the right place for it in the home, and you put it in other rooms, it will destroy that house. That's what I've always told my kids. I love to build fires, and I love sex. You just have to make sure it goes where it belongs. You gather around when it's time to gather around, but don't you drag it where it doesn't belong. It will scar you, choke you out. Isn't that awesome? Take me to church. Tell me more of a God who gives me a sweet thing and doesn't have it hurt me.
Psalm 84. We have to go. Psalm 84 is written by the sons of Korah. I just have to talk about Korah real quick. Who is Korah? Korah is one of the two families of major song leaders, the sons of Asaph. I mentioned him when I did Psalm 73. The sons of Korah are guys who also were major temple singers. Their job was to, basically, be in the temple courtyard to work at the door and to praise God so when people would come, they would come to singing. We are a singing people. That's what we are.
What's so amazing is the Korahites had rebelled against God. They had made their own self-exaltation their church. If you want to go back and do a little study on your own, go read Numbers 16, because the sons of Korah rebelled against Aaron's right to be God's priest and Moses' right to be God's leader and said, "Hey, man. We can lead ourselves." Sound familiar? "Hey, we're clean enough." Sound familiar? There was great horror that came into the camp that day. The Korahites, then, had come to their own senses.
By the way, Jane's Addiction (Dave Navarro, Perry Farrell, and the guys who were a part of that band) when they wrote that song "Stop," they go, "We don't even remember making the Ritual of Habit because we were so strung out on heroin during that time. We don't even remember those couple of years of our lives." They got into a ritual of habit they just became slaves to, and it almost destroyed them. It broke up their band, even when they were rising to the heights of all they had dreamt about. It was destroying their lives.
There was a way that seemed right to them, but in the end their church led to death. I have a feeling Hozier is going to find that out. When you try and find love, meaning, joy, and acceptance in a woman, it's going to ultimately let you down. If you try and find it in a man, it's going to let you down. But if you find it in your Father it will, out of the overflow of your relationship with him, allow you to love a woman and enjoy a woman, and enjoy a man the way he intends.
The Korahites had figured this out, and they wanted to sing about it. I love this. "How lovely…" I'm not going to do it, but this is like he doesn't even give you the words because he doesn't have the words. He just goes, "How lovely! I can't even say how lovely you are. It's beyond my ability to articulate." "…are Your dwelling places." Can I just say this to you, gang? This is the theme of my ministry.
The theme of my ministry is God is not looking to rip you off; he is looking to set you free. When you know who God is, when you finally understand why he wants you to come to him, it's not so he can impress his other god buddies and other leaders of world religions (of which there are none) that he has more people seen of him than them. It's because he loves you. The more you look to him and find instruction from him, the more you're going to be set up to have a prosperous life.
We are perpetual adolescents to think our ol' man is out of touch, and he's just growing in his weakness as he gets older. He's trying to hold on to some vestige of power. I, as a young lion, am about to devour him, and he knows it. I'm about to rule this little pride, and so he is trying to hold me down. In my little adolescence, I don't humble myself before my dad. I'm not grateful before my dad. I think my dad and all his friends don't have a clue what they're talking about. I want to go and worship where I want to go and worship.
Then something happens, sometimes, when a kid hits about 25 or 30 years old. They start to realize how much their dad knew and that their dad was just trying to keep them from pain. Listen. I'm trying to call my son away from things that scarred me. God is not trying to call me away from stuff that scarred him; he is just trying to call me into the world of how sweet it is to dwell with him.
I don't know what you think of when you think of God, but if you don't think of the most outstanding, loving, kind, gracious, blessed, life-giving, king-making person and place in the world, you have bought the lie. How lovely is it, God, where you are, where you are tabernacled, where you reside. "O LORD of hosts!" the psalmist is saying. "My soul longed and even yearned…" It faints. I don't want to stop and take a drink of water. I want to run there so fast! All I want to do is be in your presence.
This is a biblical view of a person with a right understanding of God. Can I tell you something? I have to read this psalm all the time because I always want to go back. Even as a person who has seen God and understood his goodness, my flesh still wants to worship at the church of Todd Wagner. It's always calling me to go bow like a dog before some god that's no god at all.
I have to be controlled by a different Spirit. Not the spirit of man, but the Holy Spirit that now indwells me. What has changed in me is my understanding of God, but what has not changed is the strength of my flesh, the allure of the world, and the power of temptation. The lies of the Enemy are still very real to me, but I am continually being transformed by the renewing of my mind.
I remind myself all the time, "Listen, Todd. You've gone to church there before. How did that work out for you? Did that make you a more glorious person? Did it allow you to walk in the light? Were you excited for everybody to know about every aspect of your life over there when you were following Todd, the way of the world, and your flesh? Do you remember it? Or were you just so numbed up and wasted away all you could do was steal, beg, and destroy to get some more numbness because of the depth of your pain?"
I have to remind myself. I have to preach to myself continually. Can I just tell you something? If you don't want to know God more, I doubt you even know God at all, because the God of the Scripture is not wanting you to show up and build a resume. He is running to you and showing you true righteousness and life. Listen to this verse. "Don't be like the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you might prove out…" In other words live, experience. "…that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
That verse is not saying, "Hey, be good and be acceptable. Be perfect, and then maybe God will let you be his son." That's not what it's saying. It's saying, "When you listen to your Daddy, when you walk in his ways, it's going to be the good life. It's going to be acceptable to you." You're going to go, "This is working." You're going to go, "This is perfect. There's no guilt. There's no shame. When people hurt me, I offer them forgiveness. When I'm hurtful to others, I ask their forgiveness."
Together, because we've learned to love like our Father, we forgive each other, we repent, we make amends, and we get this thing going in the right direction again. This is the way men should interact, and it's so sweet. I don't know what your view of church is, but if you think this is where you're going to come and be scolded, you're not listening. This is the gospel of peace. It's the good news. God is not mad at you.
I taught at the Porch two weeks ago. We're kicking off a series on Tuesday nights with our young adult community called Summer on the Mount. We're walking through the Sermon on the Mount. I just said, "Gang, what do you think would happen if God, in your deepest, darkest moment, the time when you ran from him… He had been silent because you had been so wasted away in your sin, and all of a sudden the door was kicked open. I mean, like boom!
You're there, doing that thing, those things that you go, 'I don't ever want anybody to know I did those things.' You were doing them in that moment. What do you think God is going to say to you when he walks up, just kicks in the door, and you're there? In that darkness you've been hiding in and imbibing in and indulging in, the light of the glory of God comes flooding in. It is all there, exposed to everybody, specifically God in all his holiness. What do you think is going to come out of God's mouth?" I asked them that.
Now most of us think it's going to be, "What are you doing?!" That's what we think we're going to hear. That's because you have been buying a lie from the one who comes to steal the joy of a relationship with the God who is grace and kindness and peace. I can show you biblically. That's what I did with them; I began to walk them through…
After 400 years of silence in the darkest of Israel's times, the door was kicked open, and God came rushing in. The very first thing he said is, "Hey. I see what you're doing. I've known what you're doing. I don't need the door to open for me to know what you're doing. I know how cold and dark and lonely and I know how sad you are. Do you want to be happy? Can I show you the way to prosperity? Can I restore you to blessing? Come here. Come here, son. Come here. Daughter, come here. Shhh. Put this on. Come here. Come here. I love you so much."
That's your Bible. You're like, "Oh man, I can go home to that?" Yes. You see, the psalmists knew that. They knew. Korah knew. He was a rebel who mocked God and his anointed. God through his severe mercy…there was some significant judgment…taught his people, "Hey, you don't want to… Disobeying me is a big deal." Not only is disobeying God a big deal, but obeying God is the place of blessing. The Korahites got it, and they couldn't stop singing about it.
"My soul longed, even yearned, to be with you, Dad. The truth is I never thought you'd love me. I thought if you knew what I did behind those doors, you wouldn't say, 'Come here.'" But that's what God says. "Come here." Don't you long to go home to that? "The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God." Some of your Bibles say, "Even the sparrow has found a house and the swallow a nest…"
Let me just make this quick observation, because really what the Korahites are saying and a lot of times when people are moving towards the temple, they look at how birds will come and fly. Swallows, specifically, like to nest in cliffs or in buildings, in houses. That's where swallows live. They could go, they could always be, in the temple. They could fly in over the courts of restriction. They could fly right near the Holy Place. He goes, "I'd love to be like that bird who can get near you, God."
Now what's interesting is it says sparrows and swallows. We know sparrows are the most insignificant of bird. Jesus said, "Aren't five of them what you can get for 2 cents? But if one of them drops, your Father knows about it." Let me tell you, sparrows don't live in high places. Sparrows live in the brush, in the thicket, in the weeds. Their nests are not highly exalted places. Their nests are made of brambles, hair, and feathers. That's a sparrow's living place. Guess what else a sparrow does? It doesn't even sometimes build its own nest. It will steal a swallow's nest.
I love that the psalmist says, "Swallows, who nest in high places, who know the glory of high places? You welcome them. And sparrows, these thieves who live in the lowlands, whose home is filth, dirty, and thistles? You welcome them. Everybody is welcome." He is just saying, "Listen, if you have come to understand this is the glorious place to live, come. If you're sick of the filth in which you live, come. I love you. I'm your Dad. I made the sparrow and the swallow."
If you're here this morning and you feel like you're a sparrow, the song says rightly, "His eye is on the sparrow." Even though five of you are worth 2 cents, he is saying, "You're worth my Son." I hope today the door is going to be kicked open on your sparrow thistle land, that you hear the light come in, and your Dad is not mad at you. He is just saying, "Come here, man. I know you're a thief. I know you steal things from other people. Come here. I love you."
Psalm 103 says, "He restores your youth like an eagle." Not some little sparrow, but this bird of nobility. That's what your Father wants to do. If you're here this morning, come on home. Come on home. I bet your dad didn't know this Father, and so maybe he was abusive. I don't know, but this is the Father all of us dads really want to be. This is the Father who is your God. Take me to that church. Amen?
That's really what selah means. Verse 4: "How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You." They never stop. Selah just basically means stop. Shhh. Just sit in that for a second. Let me just give you 15 seconds of selah. Close your eyes. I want you to think about the Father.
Father, our flesh, this world, and the Enemy do such a number on us it convinces us that you're angry and you're judgmental. Some of us as dads have added to that perception people have of you, and we hate it. We long to have relationships with our children. We long for our children to have relationships with you.
I pray, Father, as we just pause right here, that when we hear that song, "Take Me to Church," we go, "Yes. Take me to church, the true church, where God hangs on a cross for me and pays my sin and debt because I'm a thief and a sparrow. I've been living in dark, hairy, wooded places, and you make me glorious. You're not on a cross anymore, but you've paid the debt of my sin. You've been raised to glory and life. Now you offer that to me."
Father, I pray when we think of going to church, we would bow before that God and we would see that you're a Dad who wants to lift us up and go, "Hey, come here. You're my son. You're my friend. You're my daughter. Reign with me. Enjoy me." Amen.
Verse 5 says, "How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!" In other words, "How blessed are the folks who make that pilgrimage journey." If you go back and look, Psalm 120 to Psalm 134 are called Psalms of Ascent. It's when you are making your way up to the hill that is where Zion is. It's the Temple Mount. It's where God's temple was eventually. It's where God tabernacled amongst Israel. It was a representation of his holiness that was there.
People who came there would sing these 15 different songs. On their way there, as they would sing them, they would remind themselves of the goodness of their God, the blessing of the nation that knows God. It was a perpetual seventh inning stretch on Sundays at major league ball parks, where they're saying, "God bless America, land that I love."
Israel was not just singing that in some ritual. It was saying, "God has blessed this land. He has called us out of bondage, slavery, servitude, and oppression. We are free. Our God has done that. He has made a people who weren't a people, a people. He has atoned for our sin. He protects us. He is our sun and our shield. We're going to go be around other people who know that, and we're going to celebrate that together."
Can you imagine that journey and that hike where you would meet up with other pilgrims who were on their way? They would sing songs the whole way up about the goodness of God and how blessed they were to know him and not to destroy each other by coveting each other's wives, stealing from each other. Not hoarding and building up greater vats for themselves but seeing need and meeting need. What a great community that must have been.
That's what it's saying. These people who go to you, "Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring." Baca was a desert valley. It's a word that would also be used for balsa wood. When you think of balsa wood you probably, if you're like me when you were a kid, would go, you would get a little bit of money, and you would maybe buy little wooden airplanes. They were usually made of balsa wood.
Balsa wood is very light because it's incredibly arid in the region that balsa trees grow. There is no water there, so it's not dense as a wood at all. It's very light. You can snap it. I broke all of them right away when I was building them. It's an arid, desperate valley. You can't find any life there, but this tree grows.
What he is saying is, "People who know who you are, who understand we're in a world that has been ruled and wrecked by sin but who know they have been saved from sin and are making their way through his earth, telling other people how God wants to deliver them from the wreckage and the death that is sin, he is going to restore them to great beauty, you can go through this little life knowing it's not going to be perfect, still singing because you know this isn't your home."
What he is saying is, "Look. When you make the journey…" For instance, up north from Galilee. If you make your way down through Jericho and then back up through the wilderness up to Jerusalem, it's an arid place. Even in those arid places, you still sing because you're going to the blessed city where God is, and you're reminded of what he has done for you, where sacrifices are made, sin is atoned for, and peace with God is had. We know there are enemies all about, but we can tell them about our God.
When he continually thwarts their plans to destroy us, we can tell them. Why? Because we know the one true God. Though we will die and be thirsty, this isn't the end. That's our story, gang. We're journeying through a world that sometimes is deep valleys and arid regions, but we still sing because we know this isn't the story. They go from strength to strength, and the world just marvels. "How can you guys sing in the desert?" We say, "Because we're not surprised by the desert. We're on our way to the garden."
God gives us some gardens here. I love to tell my friends, when something really sweet happens, one of my little favorite metaphors. I go, "Just drink deeply. Don't feel bad when God is blessing you. Drink deeply. Life has enough bitter root." This is very biblical. This is, "Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you're going to die."
That doesn't mean you're going to die when you're 80. If it's right now, a lush mountain meadow with a great view, take it in. Just don't set up camp there. You're on a journey, and you're going to go, probably, down in the valley at times. Keep singing. But it's okay, every now and then, to raise your favorite beverage and go, "Yes!"
"O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!" Just sip in how good it is that God is sufficient in all circumstances. Verse 9: "Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed." This specifically is them praying for their king. We're called to do this in 1 Timothy 2, praying for kings and those who are in authority. "O God, would you look at them? Because we know as leaders go, so the nation goes."
Dads, look at me. I'm not talking about Obama. As the leadership in the home goes, so go the kids. Do your kids see you and go, "Man, take me to church. Let's go. Let's run!"? And do you run to God? When your kids see you worship, are you worshipping at your job? Are you worshipping at your little fitness program? Are you worshipping at your little Boondoggle's with your buddies? Are you worshipping your latest house or car? Are you worshipping their athletic career? Are you worshipping their reputation in the community? Is that your church?
One of the things I do with my kids is I will every now and then give a little survey. I will ask them questions about me and about our family. Like, "What have been some of the best times you've had with me this past year? If you had to give me some advice on how to be a better dad, what would it be and why? If I could sit down with you and talk about anything, what would that thing be? What are some of the things making you anxious, fearful, or discouraged right now so I can pray for you?"
Then one of the things I always ask them (and there are more questions) is, "What do you think your dad is most passionate about?" If they go, "Man, Dad, you are passionate about my jump shot." Or, "Hey, Dad, you are passionate about my AP score." My kids have never said that, by the way. They said, "Dad, you are most passionate about God's Word, God's name, God's concerns, God's people, and folks who don't know him." My kids have said that, every one of them, every time.
I'm a wretch, but I want to tell you something. By God's grace, Psalm 84 is how I've lived. When my kids go, "Take me to church…" My kids know there are times we'll enjoy a ball game. My kids know there are times we'll enjoy blessing. But when I go to church, I'm not looking for Rocky Road ice cream. I am grateful for the rugged cross, and that's where we worship.
When your kids think about what you, Leader, are passionate about, what is it? Most of our country wants our leader to be concerned about economic prosperity, and we worship at that altar. Or sexual freedom, right now. We worship at that altar. That church won't lead to blessing.
"Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed." May he know this, what we know. "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Listen, gang. I have been to Vegas. I have been near the Wynn. I have heard about the pool parties. There is a part of my flesh that wants to go take a swim through there.
What this is saying is, "I would rather be in the desert outside of the neon city enjoying my God than in the deep end of the Wynn's pool at the height of its rebellion with all the ladies around me, not clad very well, because I know that church is a lie." When you know how good God is, you would rather walk to the desert to be with him than to have a moment and fleeting piece of the pool party. The most favorable conditions on earth are not one one-thousandth as much of a delight as the joy of God's will and way. That's what Psalm 84:10 is saying.
Man, Hozier, I don't have any problem with you wanting to have deep sexual contentment, but bro, let's just talk about this. That fleeting moment of pleasure that later that girl may reject you, and her body is going to deteriorate? It's not going to be as fun. The law of diminishing returns might kick in, and you might want to go somewhere else. That's one one-thousandths, at best, what it would be to really worship at the true altar. That's the claim of the Scripture. You either believe that or you don't.
Can say this to you? If you don't want to know God more, I doubt you even know him at all. "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory…" That's what he gives you. Can you imagine a friend…? What does that friend give you? "He gives me grace. In other words, things I don't deserve, he gives to me. He gives me glory. He makes me the man I've always wanted to be, that if everybody knew this is who I really was, they would respect me and say, 'May more men be like you.'" That's what God does when you start to follow him.
I don't know what your Father's Day is going to be like with your kids, but I'm going to tell you something. If you get serious about walking into the discipline of seeking this God and loving where he dwells, your next Father's Day is going to be different. There are going to be kids who go, "Hey, Dad, this last year you have been the dad I've always dreamed about, and I am so thankful."
That's what God does. That's what he gives. "…no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." None. That means if you are missing something right now and you are abiding with God, you don't need it. Health, money. I don't care. No good thing does he withhold from those who love him.
I'm just like, "Lord, right now I'm in a valley. I'm in a valley of this diagnosis. I'm in a valley of this treachery against me. But do you know what, Lord? I'm going to get to sing right here, and that's the way you're going to use me in this moment. I know your strength will be sufficient for my weakness." "O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!"
You know, this week has been an amazing series of events that have transpired, where our country is starting to see the beauty of Jesus. He has shown it in an incredible valley up in Charleston. Earlier this week you and I both know that Dylann Roof had walked into a church in Charleston. He was worshipping where he thought he should worship, which was the altar of his own hate and delusion. He thought he should do what he wanted to do. He thought he should carry out his mission.
It was interesting. One of the things Dylann Roof said when he was caught across state lines… The cops, when they asked him why he did it, he goes, "Can I tell you something? I was there for an hour with those people praying and studying the Bible. They were so nice to me, I almost didn't do it." But there was a lot of delusion.
Right after the media started to say, "Hey, this is the guy they are looking for, one guy jumped on the Web, just started to Google this guy's name, and ended up on Dylann Roof's Facebook page. He was the only guy who did it. He was the only guy who had a chance to put a comment on his Facebook page before they took it down.
Facebook took his page down, but this is the guy. His name is Marcus Stanley. There's a picture of him. This is Marcus. I want you to first read what Marcus posted. Now you can tell Marcus is African American. He looks just like the folks who were murdered there at Emmanuel AME Church. This is what Marcus wrote. Let me just read it because it's kind of long. Marcus wrote:
"I don't know you, but when I searched for your name from the news outlets it led me here. You're not captured yet, so there is a chance that you may see this message. I don't look at you with the eyes of hatred, or judge you by your appearance or race, but I look at you as a human being that made a horrible decision to take the lives of 9 living & breathing people. Children do not grow up with hatred in their hearts. In this world we are born color blind. Somewhere along the line, you were taught to hate people that are not like you, and that is truly tragic.
You have accomplished nothing from this killing, but planting seeds of pain that will forever remain in the hearts of the families that lost their lives and countless lives around our country. If you're still out there and you have your phone with you [which means you can look at this]… Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness [seeking that]. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act that you have done. I love you Dylann..."
Do you see who is kicking in this door right here? "…even in the midst of the darkness and pain you've caused, but more importantly [your Father] loves you. If you would like to make that confession, then repeat these words. Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus…" He's saying, "Hey, Dylann, listen to me." All you sparrows out there, listen to me. It's Father's Day.
"I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to you that I'm a sinner, and I'm sorry for my sins and the life I have lived. I need your forgiveness. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness. I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.
You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved. Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved."
Dylann, say this: "Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself. Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Amen. God bless you Dylann. Marcus."
A few days later when some of the victims stood up and addressed the media, one after one, one family member got up and said, "Dylann, we forgive you. We don't like what you did. It's going to forever stick with us. But Dylann, we forgive you. We pray God's mercy on your life. We pray you would come to know our God. This is a valley; it's the valley of Baca, but we're going to sing to our God. Our God was not asleep in that church. He's not asleep now, Dylann. He's awake, and he's waiting for you to turn to him and repent."
He just goes, "Dylann, let me tell you something. I would rather my mom have her faith than yours until you repent." Take me to that church, baby. Take me to that church. That's Jesus. Marcus isn't just writing this in theory. Marcus was shot in 2004, seven times, point blank by a bunch of kids as he was walking down the street going to get Gatorade. Marcus was walking down the street. Some kid walked up to him and said, "Hey, homie, I'm sorry." Boom. He shot him with a .45 seven times in his chest. They left him paralyzed there, dying on the street.
Marcus, for six years, lived in bitterness and hate. Marcus, in 2010, came to know Jesus and forgave the guy who shot him. It's a miracle he is alive. Seven times. He lost his spleen. His colon was severed. Half his stomach is gone. He was paralyzed on the right side of his body. And he found Jesus. He said, "I forgive you, man." All that for a gang initiation. "I forgive you." Take me to church.
Our country has stepped up and taken notice, because the church is acting like the church in Charleston. God bless our brothers and sisters in Charleston. God will bless you, friend, if you understand who he is this Father's day. Hey, Dylann. Hey, sparrow. Come on. God is kicking the door in this morning, and he is not angry. But make no mistake. By no means will he let the guilty go unpunished.
AME Church did exactly what it should do. The state of South Carolina should do exactly what it should do. He should be executed, but I pray he finds forgiveness before he meets his appropriate earthly end. I pray he comes to understand Jesus was executed for his sin. I pray you find that same truth.
Father, take me to church. May I never, ever long for anything but you. Lord, I doubt I know you at all if I don't want to know you more. If there's anybody here this morning and they are passionate about anything other than you, I pray they would doubt in their own heart that they know you fully and truly.
I pray this morning would be a time where they are called back to repentance, where they come to their senses, and they learn to run to you, they run to your arms, knowing that you alone can satisfy. Father, take me to church. I pray when people come to church they find us here singing, forgiving, loving, reconciling, preaching, declaring, offering grace, equipping to glory. Amen.