The BlogShipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Yesterday we looked at the word saints and how the Lord continually used it to describe each of us that have been redeemed by the blood of His Son. As you will recall, the word translated saints (hágios) means “holy, with the idea of separation, consecration, sanctification, and devotion to God” and is the standard name in the New Testament God uses to describe believers. The verse we are using to help focus our prayers is Ephesians 2:19 which reads:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – Ephesians 2:19.
But for many of us, the idea of being called a saint is unsettling and uncomfortable. Why? Because we view sainthood as perfection or something like a title given to someone far closer to the Lord than we are or who has done something for Him much greater than anything we have ever done. And that is unfortunate. Not that we haven’t accomplished what some heroes of the faith have accomplished. What is unfortunate is our faulty view of how the Lord sees us in His Son. For Him, we are saints, and that should settle the issue once and for all, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. But you and I both know that it doesn’t.
So maybe this will help.
As we get ready for another Sunday, let me encourage you to prepare your heart this morning to meet with the Lord. Remember, how you worship in church with others is just an extension of how you worship with Him alone. So begin today with just the Lord and worship Him by prayer and adoration. And then, come and worship with the rest of the “called-out” ones this morning.
To help focus your prayers we are looking at Ephesians 2:19 and especially this strange description the Holy Spirit calls each of us: saints. Read it for yourself.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – Ephesians 2:19.
Note the transition from the many to the few. We go from “citizens” to members of a “household.” Note also the description of those who are also citizens with you, the “fellow” part of this verse. They are called saints or, literally, “holy ones.”
We will speak much more about this on our website beginning in mid-July. But for now, read this and consider what Doug says.
Will You Survive the Coming Blackout?
There are many never-ending debates between Republicans and Democrats. Impeach vs. don’t impeach; capital punishment vs. life in prison; wall vs. no wall; legalizing marijuana vs. not; self-driving cars vs. human drivers; Red Sox vs. Yankees; takeout vs. home-cooked; or Gone With the Wind vs. any other movie.
All of these issues are stunningly important, right up to the second where cataclysm falls and creates a nightmare scenario that so many fear.
That cataclysm is a complete loss of electricity and every mode of convenience and survival we take for granted.
The following are a few 2019 Bible Reading Plans from various sources. Make a commitment today to faithfully read the Scriptures more next year than you did this last year.
After all, the mantra “no pain, no gain” also applies to spiritual disciplines.
Genesis Through Revelation Bible Reading Plan
Read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with daily readings of three to four chapters. From www.heartlight.org.
52 Week Bible Reading Plan
Read through the Bible in a year with daily readings from the Epistles, the Law, History, Psalms, Poetry (Job, Proverbs, etc.), Prophecy, and the Gospels. From www.bible-reading.com.
Chronological Bible Reading Plan
Read through the Bible in chronological order. This is one of my favorites. From www.esv.org.
Duration: One year | Download: PDF
Historical Bible Reading Plan
The Old Testament readings are much like the order found in Israel’s Hebrew Bible and the New Testament readings are in the order in which the books were written. From www.blueletterbible.org.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan
This is the classic M’Cheyne Bible reading calendar that will let you read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once. From www.edginet.org.
5 Day Bible Reading Program
Read through the Bible in a year with readings five days a week. From www.BibleClassMaterial.com.
For a little Christmas cheer, I’ve listed below the latest actual pastor criticisms from church members. And a special thanks to Thom Rainer for these.
- “You didn’t send me a thank you note for my thank you note.” Thank you.
- “You are too happy!” I’ll make a point of being a total grump around you.
- “I will leave the church if you don’t put tissue seat covers in the bathrooms!” Please flush on the way out.
- “I would be happy to take your wife to the store to help her select some appropriate clothes.” Please do, but don’t return.
- “I guess I have to die to get you to wear a suit and tie to church again.” The pastor did so the next Sunday. He’s waiting on the member to hold up his end of the deal.
- “Every sermon you preach is better than the next one.” Thank you . . . no, wait.
- “Why do we have to follow something an apostle wrote 2,000 years ago?” Yep, that Bible is overrated.
- “The VBS hot dogs are too cheap.” What? We got them at LifeWay!
- “You don’t tell enough jokes when you preach.” Yes, I do. I mentioned your name in my last sermon.
- “You need to stop talking about making disciples.” Yes, that criticism came from an elder.
- “When you changed the name from Sunday school to small groups, you took Jesus and the Bible out of the church!” I agree. Read Hezekiah 4:11.
- “You didn’t give good advice about the family vacuum.” Now, that’s important.
- “I heard you are going to cancel Christmas.” Yes, I consulted with the Grinch.
- “I don’t like the color of your beard hair.” Thank you. I plan to dye it pink.
- “Your hair color is too dark for someone in your profession.” Don’t worry. The more I hear from you, the grayer it gets.
You can read more of Thom’s church wisdom at his website, www.thomrainer.com.
The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship. And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).
I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.
Read ‘Em and Weep
The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship. See if you can relate to a few of these.
1. While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.
2. Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm. Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out. As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self. These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies. Churches are FULL of these folks.
3. Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love. Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.
4. Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is. I mean, how could they? They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them. Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land. Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring. Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.
5. Face it. We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith. Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race. So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.
6. We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle. We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance. Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith. Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances. And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.
7. We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes. Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving. So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love. But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.
8. We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting. And we wonder why we’re so screwed up. We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible. We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace. And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are. Logical?
9. The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives. Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth. Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.
10. Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us. We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing. And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.
Do any of these resonate with you? They do with me. Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks. And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.
Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him. Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). And begin that faith journey with Him today.
In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom. They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met. Fulfill the condition, receive the promise. Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free. It’s that simple.
The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.
Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.
The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children. He says:
Proverbs 4:3-4 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”
Get Wisdom! Get Understanding!
The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding. In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:4) Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1 Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2 So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God. It’s not a theological point to be debated. It’s not a mere mental exercise. It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God. Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Great question. How would you answer Him?
The First Promise
Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses. Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met. There are three do’s and one don’t. Let’s look at the don’t first.
Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.
To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3 And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4
So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child. Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution. She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy. And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).
Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things. She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord. If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.
And nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because He doesn’t. God doesn’t live in our box.
As the Lord says in Isaiah:
Isaiah 55:9-10 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
I think that should settle it, don’t you?
In Exodus 30 the Lord gives Moses, in great detail, instructions about how to make the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:22-33) and the incense (Ex. 30:34-38) to be used in the temple worship. And He gives specific commands about each. For the anointing oil He said:
Exodus 30:25-30 – “And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.”
God then tells His people the importance of what He has just commanded them to do.
Exodus 30:31 – “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.’ “
But there’s a warning. What has been deemed holy by the Lord is not to be used for personal pleasure or gain. Man is not to benefit from what is reserved for God alone. He said, “This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me (not to you) throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:31).
The Lord knew then, as He knows now, how easily we can turn worship into something we like and forget about the One it’s designed to honor. We play the worship music we enjoy, preach the sermons that make us feel good, and anoint anything we feel like anointing. Our times together to worship the Lord often digress into something that makes us feel better about who we are and not about Who we belong to.
Listen to the warning God gives about making a profit from what belongs only to Him.
Exodus 30:32-33 – “It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.”
You are not to pour My oil out on whom you desire nor make some for yourself using the recipe I have given you. This is for Me and Me alone.” He said, “It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.”
God gave the same command and warnings about the incense. After detailing the specific combination of spices He desired, God then tells His children exactly where to place the incense and why.
Exodus 30:36 – “And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.”
This incense is to be placed where God has chosen to meet with His people, a most holy place. And “it shall be most holy to you.” It is not to be used in your home, sold on Amazon, or used in any other way God has not specifically prescribed. Why? Because its purpose is to prepare a place for God to meet with man – a most holy place. And not to make your car smell better.
Again, there’s a warning.
Today, I am amazed at how Proverbs 18 shines light on the current situation in this country. Just turn on the news and you’ll find the truth of Proverbs 18:2 splattered all over your screen. Does this sound familiar?
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool (dull, stupid, arrogant) has no delight (pleasure, desire) in understanding, but in expressing (venting, revealing, disclosing) his own heart.
We watch these pundits shoot their mouth off about any and everything that comes into their minds as if it dropped from the lips of God. As if they, and they alone, had the keys to all truth. They consider themselves wise in this age because of the platform we’ve given them. That’s right, we’ve elevated them to where they are by giving heed and importance to the words that come out of their mouth. We, by our continued involvement in watching them vent the foolish bile that flows from their heart, have given credence and credibility to what they say. If we watch and listen to them, their platform inevitably grows. And if we turn away from their foolishness, they will soon be gone. We hold the power to their influence in our lives, not them. Maybe it’s time we began to use it.
This proverb sums up their life and motivation quite well. Their delight is not in understanding the issues of today or the truth of those issues. Their delight and pleasure comes from venting what they think or feel or what seems right in their own eyes. They tirelessly promote their agenda and twist the facts to support their talking points. They assume that they alone are the standards of truth and we are too simple to understand the facts ourselves. We obviously need them to tell us what to think and what to do. Yet we forget the Proverbs call these type of people fools— dull, stupid, and arrogant.
As Forest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” But is he talking about us? Or them?
Toxic Verbal Waste
The words that come out of a fool’s mouth are designed to stir up fights and foster controversy. There’s no value in speaking truth unless it pushes forward the agenda. Consider the following:
Proverbs 18:6 – A fool’s lips enter into (to go in, to bring) contention (strife, controversy, quarrels, disputes), and his mouth calls for blows (strikes, or a slap to correct insolent behavior).
That’s exactly what happens with the media today. They pour out the anger and hatefulness in their heart, criticizing everyone and everybody who does not think like they do, and create contention for the sake of stirring up controversy. But, as the Proverbs say, what they need is a punch in the mouth, a fist in their face, a belt in the chops. A classic John Wayne moment.
But maybe we need the same thing. Maybe we need a slap in the face for listening to the dribble that comes out of their mouth. Maybe we need a wake up call. Maybe we need someone to slap us back to reality. Maybe we’ve become just as arrogant and stupid as they are by listening to the arrogant and stupid things that come out of their mouth. Maybe we also delight in contention, quarrels and strife.
Maybe we’re no better than they are. Maybe we’ve got blood on our own hands.
These are just a few of the encouraging truths found in Proverbs 15. I pray they will be a blessing to you today.
Truth One: God is Sovereign
In your times of trouble, remember these encouraging words:
Proverbs 15:3 – The eyes of the LORD are in every place (He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and so much more), keeping watch (beholding, guarding as from a high tower) on the evil and the good.
After all, He is sovereign. And nothing catches Him by surprise. As someone once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” Rest in this truth today.
Truth Two: Actions Matter
How important is prayer and a life of striving to live righteously before Him? It’s the key to becoming the beloved and delight of the Lord. Consider the following:
Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice (offering) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) the prayer of the upright (straight, just, pleasing, in a moral and ethical sense) is His delight (pleasure, will, deemed acceptable).
It gets more intriguing.
Proverbs 15:9 – The way (path, journey, manner of life) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) He loves him who follows (to chase, run after, pursues) righteousness (blameless in conduct, integrity).
Note the distinction. The difference between becoming His delight or being horrendously offensive to the Lord is the condition of your heart. Wickedness brings pain and rejection. Living upright, holy and righteous, as He is upright, holy, and righteous, bring His pleasure and delight. And He loves the one who pursues, in both actions and attitude, His righteousness. You see, actions do matter.
And just in case you’re not yet convinced your actions and attitudes have eternal consequences, look at who gets their prayers heard:
Proverbs 15:29 – The LORD is far (distant, remote, far away) from the wicked, but (by contrast) He hears (to listen, have regard for) the prayer of the righteous (just, those blameless in conduct both morally and ethically).
God hears the prayers of those who live like Him. But for the wicked? He’s moved on, out of town, not interested. That’s scary.
Truth Three: We Don’t Have All Day
Looks like it’s a choice we make to determine which team we want to play on: the righteous or the wicked. I don’t know about you, but my desire is to live righteously for Him and to become His delight. Is that your desire also? Are you chasing after Him in hot pursuit? Then let’s get to it. We don’t have all day.
Maybe this will give you something to shoot for this week. After all, nothing else really matters, does it?