The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let's Dance

Lord, make me a dancing husband, a dancing dad, a dancing pastor, a dancing believer for your glory and the good of others!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:31-32

God is on display in the Psalms. He is glorified, prayed to, cried for, questioned--but in each Psalm, God is front-stage under the spotlight.

Reading the Psalms I can't help but think that the God of the Bible seems very different from the god often proclaimed and often denied. The Psalms lead me to cry out, Lord show me your character. I generally ask three questions of a Psalm:

1. What does this Psalm teach me about God?
2. How did the Psalmist respond to the truth about God?
3. How then should I live?

This morning as I read Psalm 30 I prayed, Lord, I pray that my dancing, gladness and song will not be painted but real. That my desire for a glad Christianity will not only be imagined but will be evident in my attitude, speech and actions.  Lord make me a dancing dad, a dancing husband, a dancing pastor, a dancing friend to your glory and the good of others.

David praises God for answering prayer. In essence he says, I cried, you heard. He is thankful that God's anger is short-lived in comparison to his eternal favor. He felt the salty tears of grief--sometimes the manly David wept all night. But the morning brought joy. God's anger and favor and our weeping and joy are beautifully summarized in verse five.

We once were children of wrath. We lived as objects of God's anger. Yet because of God's sovereign grace we have changed seats. We are no longer in the courtroom and under sentence of condemnation. By grace through faith in Christ we have been brought to the banqueting house. We now sit at his table. 

But how does that change us now?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes in Spiritual Depression:

A depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel… Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who “scorns delights and lives laborious days.

Do you think that a faithful Christian is one who scorns delights and lives laborious days?

H.L. Menken portrays the typical caricature of the Puritan attitude in these words, The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Though there may have been Puritans who viewed happiness as a contradiction to the Christian faith, such an attitude was not the norm.

C.S. Lewis wrote, But there is no understanding the period of the Reformation in England until we have grasped the fact that the quarrel between the Puritans and the Papists was not primarily a quarrel between rigorism and indulgence, and that, in so far as it was, the rigorism was on the Roman side. On many questions, and specially in their view of the marriage bed, the Puritans were the indulgent party...they were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries.

Christians weep. Christians mourn. Christians should not look through rose colored glasses, blind to reality. But Christians must look through gospel informed glasses.  

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, we must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus.

The Christian is to remember that he once was in chains, bondage and death but that now he is free.

J. I. Packer in Hot Tub Religion writes, We need to emphasize the Christian's heritage of enjoyment. Unbelief makes us fear that God is a hard and unfriendly taskmaster who will begrudge us pleasure and require us to do things that we do not want to do and cannot enjoy. Scripture, however, shows us that the opposite is true. "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Ps. 16:11). 

I have too often live the Puritan caricature. I have acted as if joy must be found that it might be dismantled. I am gradually discovering that dancing Puritanism is really biblical Christianity lived out.

I am still stumbling as I try to dance. I trip over my feet. Joy is too often not evident. My writing reflects my desire, my prayer--more what I want to be than what often I am. 

Is there a time to weep?  Yes.  Is there a time to dance? Yes! (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

Lord, make me a dancing husband, a dancing dad, a dancing pastor, a dancing believer for your glory and the good of others!