For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew chapter 6, verse 21; from the New International Version (NIV)
This morning, reflecting on what to write about today, my mind went back to my childhood and magnets. I remember being fascinated how that I could move a magnet towards a screw or nail, and magically that screw or nail would move–quickly move and attach itself to that magnet. I could pick up that magnet and that nail or screw would stay attached. For today’s younger folks that may sound silly. But remember, I didn’t have iPads, smartphones, or game consoles. And Al Gore was still developing the internet.
And what does this silly reminiscing have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked that question. It comes from today passage. The power of our treasure is just like that magnet–it pulls on our heart. Just as a piece of metal is powerless to fight the attraction of that magnet–so are our hearts unable to resist the pull of that treasure, whatever it might be. I know there are those who think and believe Jesus is speaking against monetary wealth; as if monetary wealth is the only Treasure. You know, money, cars, fancy houses, jewelry, and such.
Treasure can and IS more than money and what money can buy. The Greek word that Matthew used is thēsauros. It means the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures. Quick Greek lesson. It comes from the root word tithēmi which means to make (or set) for one’s self or for one’s use. Now get this, thēsauros can be literal (meaning money and all the stuff money buys) or figurative. It’s descriptive of other things as well.
Now, some people think that it’s their heart that is magnetic–that their heart does all the pulling. They declare this to be so. There’s another name for this other than magnetism. I call it good intentions. Truth is, our heart does not do the pulling–the heart is being drawn towards the magnet–that treasure–whatever it may be. Treasure is what we believe gives our daily existence purpose and life. And herein is the real problem.
Many have turned away from the tried and true Bible to whatever it is their heart tells them. If they feel or believe something–then that begins to pull on their heart until it has captured it. And to no avail, they believe that they can just draw God into their heart–just like a magnet. Really?
Why can’t our heart be the magnet? Well, here’s what Jeremiah had to say about it: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. This is exactly why Jesus said that our hearts are drawn to our defined treasure. Be it money, power, sex, and even our feelings.
Now, allow me to go back to an earlier statement: Treasure is what we believe gives our daily existence purpose and life. And it has to be coming into that relationship with Jesus–and on God’s terms. Wood isn’t drawn towards that magnet. Duh! And because of sin–our hearts cannot be drawn towards God. This is why we need the New Heart–being born again. It’s the new heart that’s drawn towards God. Make God your Treasure! Be drawn towards what God wants for your life. And what God wants for your life is right there in the Bible.
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 3 thru 5; from the New Living Translation (NLT); emphasis mine
Some may think I am disqualified for saying anything about the United Methodist Church (UMC) because I left. If they want to think that way, feel free to do so. But I spend 66+ years in the Methodist/United Methodist Church. They had abandoned me long before I left them. And I have friends who still think it’s OK to stay in the UMC. Therefore, I am still qualified to speak into the 21st century version of the Titanic. And a recent article only affirmed that I was listening to The Holy Spirit in the choice and decision to leave the UMC.
On 8 February 2023, the United Methodist News Service shared an article by Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards titled Using Our Brains: A Proposal for General Conference. He would have the delegates for the upcoming 2024 General Conference rely on their brains rather than good solid biblical and Holy Spirit inspired theology. Well, here’s some of what Rev. Burton-Edwards wrote:
How can next year’s General Conference make good decisions about the future of The United Methodist Church? I’d like to offer a perspective and several concrete suggestions about how to make sound decisions — and feel good about them — grounded in what neuroscience and neuropsychology have been discovering over the past several decades. There are two pairs of best practices in decision-making one can derive from this literature. One is about reducing: Reduce the number of options and stressors. The other is about building: Build consensus and satisfaction. The first two relate to how our brains are structured to help us make significant decisions about new or complicated situations (neuroscience). The second two relate to internal and external factors that can influence our ability to persevere through a difficult decision process and feel good about it when we’re done (neuropsychology). Attending to these best practices can set up the Charlotte meeting of General Conference in 2024 to deal successfully with perhaps the most momentous decisions it will have made since the Dallas meeting in 1968 that created The United Methodist Church.
Don’t misunderstand me. I want the UMC to be healed and move forward in God’s Kingdom. It would fill me with Great Joy to see a revival break out like it has been happening at Asbury. His answer to the quagmire of the United Methodist Church is neuroscience and neuropsychology. When I read that, my brain went immediately to the Scarecrow from The Wizard Of Oz. If he only had a brain! Now, I’m not against thinking and using our brains. God knows I wish more people would! But to base the future of a church solely on the brain? And then expound that it will solve the spiritual problems and move them forward into a better future? Geez, Louise! It seems to me that brains without The Spirit is what led the UMC to this point in history.
Now, I am like an umpire or referee. I only call it like I see it. And here’s how I call it. Neuroscience and neuropsychology have become the Baal of the modern United Methodist Church. Did I offend someone? Oh, well. The Truth has a tendency to offend at times. This is one such time. To remain a United Methodist is to bow down to Baal–the Lord of neuroscience and neuropsychology, rather than The Lord Of Lords and King Of Kings. It’s replacing Jesus as the Head of the Body of Christ with the head of neuroscience.
Does anyone want to speculate on the final outcome if this madness continues? Without knowing it (but then again, maybe he did) John Wesley made this comment, and I will leave you with it:
I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.
For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.
Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.
And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.
What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.
And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:
“I grieve the harm you have experienced. I am committed to the support of your callings … I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …“
Bishop Ken Carter
So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”
John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)
Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!
Calling this a crazy world out there doesn’t do justice to describing our current culture. Crazy doesn’t come close to describing the malady of our times. When you look at the development of civilization the most imediate thing that is clearly in focus is that even the most primitive civilizations recognize that there exists some “higher being”–A.K.A. a “god”. This is a powerful acknowledgement–to realize there is “someone” out there with more power and wisdom than us punny human beings. And thanks to The Bible–yes, that outdated and irrelevant book for our times–we know that the ONLY “higher being” is God–or using His name that He revealed to Moses–Yahweh!
The Bible reveals to us seven indesputable, ironclad, unassailable, and undeniable facts about Him and ourselves. And here they are:
We ain’t that God! Many an empire has fallen into dust because their king wrongly believed they were a “god”. Check out history as it actually happened, not the revisionists version.
God doesn’t need us to improve upon Himself, or help Him out! God doesn’t need our approval nor even our validation to exist. And He certainly doesn’t need our help when it comes to what is right and what is wrong.
We human beings are messed up and we can’t fix ourselves! I mean, if we could fix ourselves then why even need God? Yet throughout the history of civilization we see human beings doing this very thing–and without success. Look, if human beings could fix themselves, then why is civilization (if you want to call it that) today so messed up? The philosophy of liberalism that emerged in the 1950’s believed we had what it takes to straighten up this world. And even changing their name to “Progressives” hasn’t fixed one problem. If you doubt me on this, just read Facebook!
Though we are all screwed up, only God has the remedy for us! We call this Grace! We don’t deserve to be redeemed. We can’t earn His redemption. It’s free for us–but on God’s terms, not ours.
We must admit we are fallen, messed-up, screwed-up sinners! We call this “confession”. Confession doesn’t mean writing down every sin we’ve ever committed. Confession is the Admission that I Am A Sinner! Maybe that’s exactly why so many are tearing out so many pages from their “Bibles”. We don’t want to admit that we’re broken, and if we do admit it, then we want to fix outselves. One way that’s being promoted today is to embrace our brokenness and simply ask God to bless our mess and sanctify our stuff. Rather than BEING JUSTIFIED, so many want to JUSTIFY their mess and stuff. They call it their “feelings”. So, since God is love, all one needs to do is love God and love others–then God will approve of their mess and stuff. Then Voilà! They are no longer a sinner! And those who believe to the contrary are simply mean and ugly!
We need to turn away and go in the exact opposite direction! We call this repentance! And it comes from and through the acknowledgement of the truth that we’re a mess. When we truly allow God’s love into our hearts, then the desire to stop sinning rises up within us. Without the desire to give up sin–there is no repentance. And though our redemption is free–it never becomes the power we need for becoming that New Creation until we desire to give up our old life.
And God will forgive and redeem us when we come to Him on HIS terms, not ours! God isn’t a negotiator. And He certainly isn’t a car salesman where we can give and take in order to come to a deal. But in His Mercy and Grace, He will transform us from a mess into a message. Read what John wrote in 1 John chapter 1, verses 8 through 10: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (from The Message)
God will never let us down when we come to Him on His terms, and not our terms. And His terms are simple and straightforward: Unconditional Surrender! Unconditional surrender doesn’t mean we become slaves to Him. It means we become His Sons and Daughters, Princes and Princesses! After all, that’s why we were created–to become just like Him!
To refresh your memory, this series is about becoming How To Change The Culture!. Hopefully last week we learned that in order
for God to use us To Change The Culture,
we have to become the weakest of the weakest.
One thing that hit me is that we often operate with
the mindset that we can Change The Culture and the church by Working
Through God. Allow me to explain
what that means: Working Through God Means
We Take Our Ideas And Our Plans And Our Beliefs And Expect God To Bless It And
The Church is designed a different way. Rather Than Us Working Through God, The Kingdom
Is Designed For God To Work Through Us.
I know this is a subtle difference, but can you see the difference?
It would not be Gideon doing this through God, but God doing it through Gideon. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 15 when he describes our relationship as He being the vine and we becoming the branches. It’s About Yielding To The Presence, Power, And Purposes Of God. The flow is from the Vine going into the Branches. Fruit is produced because of what the Vine is putting into the branches. The branches don’t tell the vine what to do. The Vine defines what the branches do.
Today Gideon shows us the next step in becoming
qualified for the God Sized Purpose in life.
Let’s look pick up the reading in Judges
Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me,
show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my
offering to you.” He answered, “I will
stay here until you return.” Gideon
hurried home. He cooked a young goat,
and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the
broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was
under the great tree.
The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the
unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat
and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the
rock and consumed all he had brought.
And the angel of the Lord disappeared.
When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the
Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to
face!” “It is all right,” the Lord
replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there
and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of
the clan of Abiezer to this day.
That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second
bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and
cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.
Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary,
laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice
the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the
Asherah pole you cut down.” So Gideon
took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at
night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and
the people of the town.
Early the next morning, as the people of the town
began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down
and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built,
and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed. The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful
search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.
“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of
Joash. “He must die for destroying the
altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.” But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted
him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will
you argue his case? Whoever pleads his
case will be put to death by morning! If
Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down
his altar!” From then on Gideon was
called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down
God has informed Gideon that he has been chosen to Change
The Culture and that He, God, is with him and that He would fight for
Gideon. Now we come to Gideon’s
response. Every time we encounter God
requires a response from us. It is the
nature of the Divine Encounter. Even if
we think we’ve made no response, we have made a response. There’s no way around it. We either grow deeper into that relationship
or we go further away from that relationship.
And growing deeper inevitably requires taking action.
And here is the one thing you need to remember from
today’s message: Before The Culture Of This Nation And Our Tribe Can Change,
You Must Change Your Culture.
I have parable for you this morning. There are 5 frogs sitting on a log. 3 of them decide to jump. How many frogs do you have left? Is your answer 2? 5-3=2.
Is your answer 0, because if one frog jumps, then all the others will
join? Are you ready for the answer?
The answer is 5! How did I arrive at that answer? Easy.
I never said they jumped, just that they made a decision. And here is where the church is at today: We Haven’t Taken The Leap Of Faith Into
The God-Sized Purpose Of Changing Our Culture.
With the assurance of His presence and the promise of
His power, Gideon acts. But notice the
way he acts. He doesn’t get his sword
and round up an army. He doesn’t go
looking for a fight.
The truth is that his first response has nothing to do
with the problem of the Midianites. It
deals with His Own Personal Culture.
And here’s the first lesson about accepting the mission of this
God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture:
To make sure he has heard everything right, Gideon
asks if it’s appropriate to offer worship.
I can just see God in heaven. He
smiled when Gideon said, “I’m too weak!”
And when Gideon asks for permission to worship first, God did more than
smile. He danced! Those end zone dances you see in the NFL are
nothing compared to when God dances.
So off Gideon goes to prepare the sacrifice for
worship. He cooks a young goat and makes
unleavened bread with an ephah of flour, that’s what the KJV says. An ephah of flour is over a half a
bushel. A young goat and a loaf of bread
made from over a half a bushel of flour.
Don’t you get what’s happening?
Remember the first half of this chapter.
Most of their crops have been destroyed along with their flocks and herds.
They are reduced to starvation. But Gideon takes a young goat and a half a
bushel of flour and with that, he worships God.
He’s not offering God something out of his abundance.
He’s offering God what is probably the bulk if not all
that he has in worship. Worship Is
About Surrender—Surrendering All That We Have And Are To God. There are 168 Hours In A Week and many think
that because they spend 1 hour out of 168 in a sanctuary on Sunday that they
have worshipped God. Time spent in this
sanctuary amounts to .59% Of Your Week.
A little over a half a percent.
Now, would you consider that an acceptable offering to
God? If God is going to Change The
Culture of our nation and tribe through us, then worship needs to be an
offering of our best—our time, our heart, our energy. It must be your heart every moment you are
awake; the attitude we carry in the home, to work, to shopping, to everywhere! Worship is about keeping focus on the Presence,
Power And Purposes of God.
When Gideon offers this worship, look at what the
angel says: Put the meat and bread on
the rock, and then pour out the broth on it.
Now, for Gideon’s world this was ridiculous. Gideon could have protested, “Look, I slaved
over this meal and this is perfectly good soup.” But he doesn’t. He does exactly what he is told. The angel took his staff and touched the
offering and fire came from the rock and consumed it all.
Here’s the Lesson that seems to have been forgotten by so many: We Provide The Instruments For Worship, But Only God Provides The Fire. The angel disappeared and Gideon knows he’s been in God’s presence and thinks “Well, I cooked the goat, but now my goose is cooked!”. But God speaks to Gideon words filled with hope. God’s voice doesn’t boom out from heaven, but in a gentle way God says, “Don’t Be Afraid!” And this leads us to the second thing you must understand about accepting this God-Sized Task of Changing The Culture.
2. Gideon’s Culture
Changed Because Gideon Was Changed First.
He names that place Yahweh Shalom—God Is Peace! Before Gideon could change the culture of his
nation, he needed to Change His Own Culture. Gideon had been afraid and blaming God. But now Gideon’s heart has been changed. Even with the fear and all the questions he
had, Gideon learns a most important lesson:
He Learns To Trust God.
In that trust he discovers the Peace Of God. We are not going to change our nation by
forwarding emails and signing petitions or gripping about our leaders. The Process Of Change Begins With Us. God changed TheCulture but He
started with Gideon.
God can and God will change Our Culture, but it
starts with the person you see in the mirror.
Now Gideon is in a position for God to use him. And God goes right to work using Gideon. And here is the third a final lesson today
about being qualified for the God-Sized Task:
3. Gideon Had
To Cut Down His Asherah Pole.
What’s an Asherah Pole? Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility. She was the wife of the god known as
Baal. She was the one they were thinking
could bring fertility to the ground—abundant crops—multiply livestock—and cause
their wife to produce a lot of children.
These were all signs of prosperity and strength.
The more crops one had, the more livestock and kids
one had, the more they thought they were strong. They believed their strength came from the
As Long As They Thought Their Strength Came From The Asherah
Pole, The Asherah Pole Held Them In Prison And Bondage.
So Gideon goes out to do it, but at night. Why at night?
Because he’s afraid of what the others might do to him. Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well,
there goes Gideon the Coward again!” But
there’s another way to look at this:
Even though Gideon still has some fear issues in his life, it doesn’t keep him from doing what God wants, and as you will see, it will not disqualify him from what God is yet to do. The results are the same. If you allow fear of this God-Sized task keep you from doing anything, God cannot use you to change The Culture.
The Asherah Pole had to come down before he went into battle against the Midianites. Why? So that no one would think their strength came from the Asherah Pole, but only from God. Before They Could Set The Nation Free, They Had To Be Free.
And what about your Asherah Pole? Asherah Poles are all around us today. Oh, they don’t look like the Asherah Poles of Gideon’s day, but they are just as real. What is your Asherah Pole? Idols are still present today, they just look different.
Is your Asherah Pole the desire to be comfortable? Is your Asherah Pole the desire for
convenience? Is your Asherah Pole what
you consider important? Is your Asherah
Pole contentment with complaining and doing nothing, but complain? Is your Asherah Pole fear? Anger?
Despair? Selfishness? Apathy?
Do what Gideon does:
Cut It Down And Put It On God’s Altar. God cannot use you to Change The Culture
of this nation and church until you cut down your Asherah Pole. But if you will, God will Change You, Then
Change Your Culture And In Changing Your Culture, He Will Change The Culture.
Last week you were given a choice for your next
step. Join up with all the complaining;
or give up that anything will ever change; or step up and become the next
Gideon. Here’s this week’s Next Step
1. You Can Hold
On To That Idol, Whatever It May Be. OR
2. Cut Down The
Asherah Poles In Your Life. Get rid of
those things that are holding power over you.
Your confidence and strength comes from your relationship with God—a
relationship that comes through Grace, Grace revealed on the Cross.
(Note: This is the third in my Lent Series “Give It Up!” It is about the things we need to give up and not take back up at Easter)
2 Kings 6:8-17The Message
8 One time when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, after consulting with his officers, he said, “At such and such a place I want an ambush set.” 9 The Holy Man sent a message to the king of Israel: “Watch out when you’re passing this place, because Aram has set an ambush there.” 10 So the king of Israel sent word concerning the place of which the Holy Man had warned him. This kind of thing happened all the time.
11 The king of Aram was furious over all this. He called his officers together and said, “Tell me, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is the spy in our ranks?” 12 But one of his men said, “No, my master, dear king. It’s not any of us. It’s Elisha the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom.” 13 The king said, “Go and find out where he is. I’ll send someone and capture him.” The report came back, “He’s in Dothan.” 14 Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city.
15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”
16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.” The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!
How Big Is Your God? This question is the one I wanted to open this message with today. I allowed it to float around and started developing more thoughts around it—until—until the Holy Spirit screamed at me: “Have you lost your ever-loving mind? That’s the wrong question to ask!” Then He gave me the right question:
Is Your God Too Small? What fueled this question for me is from a book written by J.B. Phillips called Your God Is Too Small. It’s interesting that God brought me back to this book. J.B. talks a lot about the “modern church”. By the way, J.B. is not one of those young skinny-jeans-wearing preachers who doesn’t understand preachers do better wearing a suit, or even better wearing a robe. What makes this unique is that J.B. wrote this book in 1953—modern church of 1953. And now, I see this book as prophetic, for many of the issues he raised in 1953 that were tumors in the church are 65 years later, full-blown malignancies in the church of 2018.
And if you can remember only 1 thing from today’s message, this is it: One Of The Problems Of Church Today Is That Many Have A god That Is Too Small. God cannot be reduced to what we want him to be. The God we envision, in some ways, will always be too small. And when your god is too small on any level, that god in whom you believe is not the true God.
Putting it this way:
If your god’s job description reads “Make my life more comfortable and easy.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says things to you like, “Don’t take a risk, just play it safe.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god operates on your time-table, if you are in control of his calendar—Then your god is too small.
If your god’s job is to obey you, by doing what you want when you want him to do it…if your god is a genie that exists to grant your wishes—Then your god is too small.
If your god is a white guy that has a closet full of suits and ties… if your god always wears a white robe, looks old and has a long white beard—Then your god is too small.
If your god loves Americans more than Muslims—Then your god is too small.
If your god is always saying “Come” but never says “Go”…if he always says “Learn” but never says “Do”—Then your god is too small.
If your god never wrecks your schedule, or messes up your plans, or never asks you to do something that’s not in the budget—Then your god is too small.
If your god needs a certain president in office to achieve his plans and purposes for this nation—Then your god is too small.
If your god has never filled your eyes with tears because of his grace and left you breathless because of his power—Then your god is too small.
If your god always agrees with you…if your god likes only the things that you like….and dislikes everything that you dislike—Then your god is too small.
If your god always thinks that your opinion is the most important one… that the decisions of the church should fall in line with your opinions—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you spending just an hour or so a week with him on Sunday in church—Then your god is too small.
If your god doesn’t convict you to speak up when you know something is wrong, or he says, “Oh, it’s OK to remain silent. They won’t listen to you and it will make it hard on you, so I’ll just have to work around them.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god is OK with you withholding his tithes and your offerings because you don’t like the preacher or like a decision the church made…if he is OK with you giving to a designated fund rather than the operating fund—Then your god is too small.
If your god looks at your sin of lust or greed or gossip or whining and says, “Oh, that’s no big deal. You’re better than most.”—Then your god is too small.
If your god says you’re too messed up, too broken, too guilty, too poor, too ignorant, too young, too old to make a difference—Then your god is too small.
If your god fits nicely into a box—then that’s not God. And if you would take the time to look inside that box, you will find that God is not there because God Doesn’t Do Boxes.
Today’s scripture is about a man whose God wasn’t too small. Elisha knew that God would never fit into any of our human boxes. Here’s the story. The King of Aram had been trying to ambush the army of Israel, but every time, Elisha would warn the King of Israel.
If you were commander-in-chief of an army, and your enemy knew everything you were doing, what would you think? “There’s a spy among us!” Logical, right? And you know what happens to spies. But his military leaders quickly reveal the real problem—it’s Elisha. When the King of Aram finds out its Elisha making the problems, he sets out to find him and capture him. He finds Elisha in Dothan and surrounds the city one night.
That next morning, Elisha’s servant goes out and sees the city surrounded. He did not know what to do. In his mind, the situation was hopeless. But God has something else in mind. When you think there’s nothing that can be done about a situation, God has something else in mind. But to see God’s “something else”, you must choose what kind of god you are going to give your heart to—the god created by your minds or the God who created you. In today’s story, there are 3 things you need to learn from Elisha to help you give up your god that is too small:
1] Elisha Remembered The Mantle.
What’s the Mantle? Glad you asked. The Mantle was the Mantle of Elijah. It was like a cloak and it represented 2 eternal truths: Authority and Power. Elijah had the Authority and Power to speak on God’s behalf and to do what God wanted done.
Before God took Elijah into heaven, Elisha made a request: to have a double portion of the Spirit that lived in Elijah. Elijah said he could have it, only if he was with him when God came for him. And Elisha was there. As Elijah was carried into heaven by the Chariot of Fire, his mantle fell to the ground and Elisha had a choice: give his heart to a god that was too small or pick up the Mantle. He chose the mantle of Elijah. When he looked at the mantle, he remembered that the Authority And The Power was still there.
Our mantle is the promise of the authority and power of the Holy Spirit!
We carry into our daily lives the Mantle of The Holy Spirit—that God promised would bring power and authority, dreams and visions—to everyone. Young and old, men and women.
Gods that are too small have no such mantle of power and authority for anyone. Only the Holy Spirit brings that, and only to those who have that desire to be filled with the Double Portion. You then live in and live out what the Holy Spirit wants—not the things you want.
2] Elisha Kept The Vision
He saw the Chariot Of Fire take Elijah into heaven. He knew the plans and purposes of God. He knew what the King of Aram was doing. He could not go to the kitchen without Elisha knowing what kind of sandwich he ate, whether it had mustard or mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. Elisha even knew what kind of bread was used.
Elisha wasn’t worried when the news came, “We’re surrounded”. He saw the Chariot of Fire take Elijah into heaven, and he never lost sight of that Chariot of Fire. It was a Chariot of Fire, not a Prius. He wasn’t worried about the enemy’s army, he knew that the was surrounded by the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies. The sight of Elijah being carried away stayed with him, even in the tough times.
God’s Vision Is Always Something You Cannot Do Without Him.
When you follow gods that are too small, they give visions that are too small. Gods that are too small give visions of things that you can accomplish with your intellect, your abilities and your strength. In other words, small gods give you projects to complete. It takes Fire, Authority and Power to live in and through His Vision.
3] Elisha Lived In Confidence
Elisha saw the army of Aram around the city—but Elisha saw more. He saw the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies! He knew the battle did not belong to the one who had a powerful army. He knew the battle belongs to the Lord of Hosts who has ALL power at his side!
Elisha Wasn’t Concerned About His Physical Circumstances Because He Had Confidence In His Spiritual Circumstances.
He knew those hills around him were alive with the presence of God. This is the kind of faith that sustained Elisha and so many others. And it’s the faith that will sustain you in times like these. The challenge of faith is to see that the hills around your life are alive with the Living Presence of God!
Gods that are too small will never give you confidence about your future when the enemy surrounds you. Your focus will be on what’s wrong or what’s missing, rather than seeing your situations through faith. Hebrews 11 says that faith is trusting and having confidence in what isn’t seen with the eyes or understood by the mind.
There’s a simple rule of human behavior that states: What You Take Seriously, You Treat Seriously.
Today I have my conception of God. That conception is different from when I was a kid, different than when I was saved, different than when I started to preach, even different from 5 years ago. And hopefully, will be different in another 5 years. My understanding of God must change as I discover more and more about Him. When my concept of God becomes static, that there is nothing more I need to know about Him, then my god is too small. So, I keep growing…
And now you must choose: Have you given your heart to a god that is too small? Or have you given your heart to the True God who is more than all other gods combined. Life is not always simple, but this issue is simple. For Lent, give up your small god.
The hope for your communities does not lie in who occupies the pulpits nor who sits in these pews, but in Who occupies your hearts and minds with the double portion. And that is a choice that only you can make.