You know, discouragement comes to all of us at one time or another. And when it does, the following words from Gary Wilkerson can serve as a reminder about what is truly important and what we think is important.
Be encouraged, as I was, when you read the following.
Discouragement can hinder but it can never halt God’s plan for victory. Gideon fought against 100,000 enemy soldiers with his band of 300 and won such a massive victory that only 15,000 of the enemy were left. After the victory some of his brethren asked him, “‘What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?’ And they accused him fiercely” (Judges 8:1).
The people of Gideon’s own nation questioned his leadership, his decisions, his motives and his actions. Some of our most disheartening, soul-wrenching struggles often are not out in the battlefield of life but are in the fellowship of believers. Sometimes our own brothers and sisters hurl accusations at us and seem to find much to complain about. We expect such things from our enemies but we can be caught off guard and surprised when one of our own brethren fiercely accuses us.
Gideon was not discouraged, distracted or diminished in his faith, however, when he was questioned— He stayed in the battle! I love what he did: “And he said to them, ‘What have I done in comparison with you?’” (8:2). Gideon was saying to his accusers, “What are my victories compared to yours?” Instead of getting upset and into a fight with them, Gideon did what Nehemiah had done when he was building the wall and his enemies said to him, “Come down here. We need to discuss what you are doing.” Nehemiah responded to his enemies, “I don’t have time to discuss what I’m doing; I’m too busy doing it” (see Nehemiah 6:1-9).
The Bible says that Gideon and his 300 men “. . . came to the Jordan and crossed over . . . exhausted yet pursuing” (Judges 8:4). Gideon chose to get back into warfare with the enemy. He crossed over to the other side of the river and got back into the battle God had called him to fight. When you live out the mission that God has called you to; when you are not discouraged and dissuaded by what others say about you; when it is your holy ambition to do what God has called you to do— that becomes your victory.
Stay focused on your battle, stay focused on your calling, and God will give you the victory!
In reading the 11th chapter of Proverbs, I was struck by two simple questions: One, who are the Righteous that the Proverbs speak about and two, how do you become one?
Let me explain.
Proverbs 11 is basically a summary of the contrast between the wicked and the righteous (whatever that means). It shows, like Psalm 1, how each responds differently to situations or circumstances or experiences, good and bad, that are common to man. And the lesson learned is the righteous win and the wicked lose. Big time.
But the one promise that keeps repeating itself over and over again in this Proverb is that the righteous will be “delivered” from trouble, destruction, death or whatever calamity the wicked plunge headlong into.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
But the wicked takes his place.
With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished,
But the descendents of the righteous will be delivered. *
You know, there are some promises here that we would do well to hold on to. But they are conditional promises— made only to those who are righteous or blameless or upright in their integrity. Can we, in all honesty, claim these promises are for us today? Can we truly say that our righteousness and desire for holiness is as great as… say, the early church? How about Believers living during the time of the Great Awakening or during the revival movements of the last 150 years or so. Does our righteousness come close to that of the Spurgeon, Wesley, Finney or Edwards? How about our passion for the holiness of God? How do we compare to Watchman Nee or George Muller or Brother Andrew? How about our desire to see all men saved? Where do we rank in comparison to Hudson Taylor, William Carey or Gladys Aylward?
Can we look at the plight of Job and assume that, faced with the same horrific set of circumstances, we would hold on to our righteousness as he did? Would we, after the death of our children, the destruction of our security and the failure of our health, echo the words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” *
Or would we crumble in despair, blaming and cursing God, shaking our fist at heaven, claiming that He failed to keep His promise to us— the promise of “Your Best Life Now!” Geez.
I don’t know.
But I do know that Jesus said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (the ones who later attributed Jesus’ miracles to Satan), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” * Really? That’s sobering. Scary.
So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Because I’m sure that very few of us spend as much time trying to be as righteous as the Pharisees did? For most of us, it’s not even on our radar.
One last passage from Proverbs 11.
The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their walk are His delight. *
Ah, that’s it. To be His delight.
Can you imagine? Can you wrap your mind around what it must feel like to know that you are the very delight of the Lord? That you are blameless in your walk with Him and others? How does that happen? How can someone become His delight? Or, the righteous? Or, as Jesus said, “the people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”? *
I think it begins with a conscious effort, a determined spirit, a fierce commitment to find out what pleases the Lord and then make it our single ambition in life to do it. Just Do It! Because in the great scheme of things and the brevity of life, what else matters than to please the One who created and saved us?
What? Fame? Money? Sex? Acceptance? Ease? Come on, compared with being the delight of the Lord— all the stuff the world offers is nothing more than chump change. Cheap shiny trinkets and pieces of cut glass. Nothing of real, lasting, eternal value.
After all, isn’t that what Paul said to the Corinthians?
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as (what) our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Join with me, will all that is within us, to make it our ambition to please the Lord.
Adveho quis may. Come what may.
Will you join with me? Come what may.
Proverbs 11:4, 8-9, 21, 20; Job 1:21; Matthew 5:20; John 4:23; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
I still get a big ol’ catch in my throat every time I watch Andrew Peterson’s video, Family Man. It is my story, indeed.
Thanks to my family for helping me become a Family Man.
As Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
And they are changing at light speed for the church in America. Actually, they’ve already changed.
Let me elaborate.
For years, decades actually, we as the church have been pretty much satisfied with sitting on the sidelines with our hands stuck deep into our pocket so as to not soil them with the dirty things of the world— with sin, and sinners, and a culture that laughs at our God and at His Word. Now don’t get me wrong, our reluctance to engage the encroaching sin in our nation and in our neighborhoods has nothing to do with us living the supposed “sanctified” or “separated” life the Scriptures talk about. It has nothing to do with us quoting, like a worn-out excuse, our mantra of “friendship with the world being enmity, or hatred, toward God”— or something spiritual sounding like that. * As if living a holy life was a sincerely held belief among the church today. Please. Our separation is not a sign of our spiritually, but of our apathy and our fear.
We desperately believe that, if we leave them alone… maybe they’ll leave us alone.
Ya, think? Well, think again.
[ Continue Reading… ]
Spirit and Truth
I am awed by the words the Lord spoke to His disciples after they returned from Wal-Mart with some groceries and supplies and found Him conversing with a woman from Samaria. If you recall, the heat of the Gospel was burning close to this woman and bringing her to point of crisis in regards to Who this person was that was speaking to her. “Sir” she said to Jesus, “I perceive that You are a prophet.” And then, as it to deflect the gaze of Jesus to a side, debatable issue, she restated the common question of her day pitting the Jews and the Samaritans at odds with each other. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people (ouch!) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” In other words, come on big guy, deal with that! My racial prejudice is showing.
Jesus responded, in part, with a statement that has filled my heart with longing. A simple, single sentence that has brought me to this point of deep hunger, at any price or personal cost, for a deeper relationship with Him. The words Jesus spoke have given me purpose and a goal. They have, in effect, been the calling of my life.
Jesus said, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.” *
Wow. Did you catch that?
Jesus clearly said that there is a time, which existed then and now, when the Father will seek those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Now, in seminary and from the Sunday pulpits, we have focused almost entirely on the topic, “What Does Jesus Mean by Spirit and Truth?” and have missed the focus and truth of what He was saying. We have gone for the academic and ignored the spiritual, the practical applications. I guess you could say we have looked at only what this verse says that won’t offend or force us out of our comfort zones.
“Hmmm, interesting topic preacher. I never quite thought about spirit and truth that way before. Really enjoyed it a lot. See ya next Sunday.”
But what Jesus said is that there is a group of people whom “the Father seeks to be His worshippers.” Now sit back and let that sink in for a few moments.
What Jesus told the woman at the well was, in all of created humanity, especially those called out of darkness into His marvelous light, those whom He knew from the foundation of the world, there are two categories of Believers— two categories of worshippers, if you will.
There are those who worship the Lord in their own way, with all sincerity and good intentions, who faithfully stand, or raise their hands, or sing hymns or choruses, who lug big ‘ol King James or soft-covered NIVs to church each Sunday morning, evening and even Wednesday night and enter into a described and predictable time of singing, sitting, giving, standing, listening, sometimes sleeping— and who believe that this is all there is to worship. You know, faithfulness, dependability and service within the church setting. “Just doing our duty, ma’am.”
But Jesus said there is a group of worshippers who worship the Lord in “spirit and truth” and all that conveys, and it is these worshippers “the Father seeks to be His worshippers.” In other words, there are groups of people who worship the Father the way He wants to be worshipped— the way, or in the mode, that puts a smile of His face, that gives Him the biggest blessing. And, these people are so pleasing to Him that Jesus said the Father literally “seeks to be His worshippers.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I want to be in that group. Don’t you?
And, if I were brutally honest and transparent, I know that I haven’t been. My experience in church, the predictable form and mode of worship that leaves me longing for more, is not the kind of worship the Father seeks. Not by a long shot. I know He also longs for more from His children… and especially from me.
Hence, this section titled, Leaving Laodicea. Here I will post items that show what Leaving Laodicea looks, smells and taste like as well as posts that will help move us from lukewarn faith into the realm of Spirit and Truth Worship.
Come join with me in this quest to rediscover Spirit and Truth Worship and let us leave Laodicea behind.
Adveho quis may.
Come what may.
* John 4:23, Joshua 4:6-7, John 6:13