Wednesday is the day I’ve chosen to wonder about. . .well about life and God. And today I’m adding another point to wonder about–people. Oh, yeah, I know I’ve wondered about people before, but usually in the context of my gifts of sarcasm and snarkiness. But this morning I’m setting aside those gifts. . .because my heart is breaking for a group of people.
My heart always breaks for the least, the last and the lost–people hurting, struggling, and doubting that there’s enough grace with God for them. The group my heart breaks for this morning is. . .well, look at how God describes them:
Most preachers, myself including myself, quote this passage with the sense that God is angry. That God is criticizing these people of lips without hearts. Even Jesus quoted this passage and we envision Jesus full of anger and foaming at the mouth. So we point out with criticism and anger these people who’s lips say one thing about God, but there hearts are far from God. Could it be, that when God said that to Isaiah, and when Jesus quoted this passage that there was sadness in His heart? Could He have been crying for them?
Many times I have questioned…scratch that…criticized Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives for their attitudes and ways of thinking. But this morning…my wondering has my heart breaking for them. I’m grieving because they are missing so much of who God is and what God wants to do in their day to day life.
Lips say one thing but the heart says something different. It’s not just the aforementioned Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Progressives who are herein described. I’ve seen Conservative and Orthodox folks who fit the bill of what God is saying through Isaiah. And even yours truly has been guilty of this. Seeing and believing only what we want to see and believe, and then say it’s God.
Why have we limited God? It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s the Devil! That’s what he does!” No doubt, that IS his job. But right now I’m remembering a sign on President Harry Truman’s desk:
WE have a choice; sadly many of us have chosen poorly. So today, I choose to accept responsibility for my lips; and My Heart! I choose to wonder about the Wonder Of God! I choose to remove the fences and walls that keeps me knowing ABOUT God to KNOWING GOD! I set aside whatever I’ve thought about God. I set aside everything others have said about God. And I open MY heart to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the mysteries of God. I long for this, and so I choose to start with a clean sheet of paper and let God write what I need so that His Image becomes more clearer and brighter in me.
And thus I wonder: “How could I even think that MY understanding of God (which is spoken by my lips) is the ultimate expression of God?” Yes, we need to fight Satan in this world. But before we go to battle, let’s make sure that we honor God With Our Hearts. And the best way to do this is to quit pretending we’re the experts and surrender our heart to the wonders of God. Only as we give up our concepts can the heart be cleansed–and be drawn closer to God.
New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life. The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment. So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences. I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are. I surfed the web and here is what I found:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
Here’s what else I found: It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point. Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions. And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions? I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment. When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:
Most People are not content with their lives. In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives. According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions. This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%.
Every human heart longs for contentment. Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.
But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life? And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life? Does that sound good to you? But wait! There’s more.
What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested? Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make. Want to know what it is? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this: Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel! “Oh, is that all it is preacher? Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics? I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel! Thanks for nothing!”
And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel. We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving. And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel. But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do.
The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us. It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us. It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ. We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct. But remember Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word: Live As Citizens of Heaven.
This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace. And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength. And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse. For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us! Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.
And this process is found in ONE: One Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret. And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year. So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?
It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day. The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit. And here’s The1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message: Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit.
Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit. What Is Your Spirit? The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.” And it is, but I want you to go deeper. Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process. And this is the real problem. Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit. Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained. Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit: One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart! So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.
And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions. He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit. Here is how to develop this One Spirit.
1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace
Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace! And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace? Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace: hungering and thirsting. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled.
It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God. It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray. It is about all that God offers. And trust that God will provide His grace. When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God. When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God. And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.
2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion
Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material. Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily. But that’s not Devotion. The Dictionary Defines Devotion As: Profound Dedication. It is moving your life in the direction of God. This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to. Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion. If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football. If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self. Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence. It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere. Make God your greatest passion.
3. Live With Total Determination
It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight. It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough. Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome. To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About.
It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin. But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross. Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life. Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him.
Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are. So here’s your Next Steps:
Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible. Begin with Philippians
Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
this Lenten Journey, I want us to look at the most profound statement ever made
by Jesus while He was here in our human form.
Throughout Lent we are going to be in John’s Gospel looking some of the
sayings of Jesus—those moments and situations where He identifies Himself in a
very specific way.
lay the groundwork for today’s passage before I read it to you. Moses had this unbelievable encounter with
God. We call it “The Burning Bush”
story. God tells Moses to go back to
Egypt and inform them that God has appointed him to lead them to the Promised
Land. But before Moses agrees, he wants
to know who it is that is sending him.
They will want to know who has sent him, so Moses poses the
question: “Who shall I tell them sent me?” And in that moment God reveals His true
Name: I Am Who I Am! In Hebrew, the word is Yahweh! And God goes further with this statement:
This is my
eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.
am I telling you all this? Because
without this knowledge, nothing that we look at this season will make any sense. We are going to journey through Lent by
looking at certain moments when Jesus says, “I
Am”. The first one we
need to look at is from John 4:4-26
He had to go through Samaria on the
way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan
village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from
the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water,
and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his
disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse
to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and
I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the
gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would
give you living water.”
sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than
our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well?
How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals
enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who
drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will
never be thirsty again. It becomes a
fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me
this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to
get water.” “Go and get your husband,”
Jesus told her. “I don’t have a
husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said,
“You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you
aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the
“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a
prophet. So tell me, why is it that you
Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans
claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the
time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on
this mountain or in Jerusalem.
Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all
about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here
now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will
worship him that way. For God is Spirit,
so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to
us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”
need be begin our journey with boldest statement ever made by a human
being. Jesus tells her: I AM! For what I am about to say, some would want
to tar and feather me and run me out of town, but I’m going to say it. Jesus did not say “I Am”. Now, you look confused. “Preacher, you just read that Jesus said I
Am.” But Jesus did NOT say I Am—because He did not speak
English. Jesus would have been able to
speak in both Aramaic and Hebrew. So
when He identifies himself to her, the word He used is Yahweh!
The Name That God
Told Moses Would Be His Eternal Name, The Name That People Would Identify As
None Other Than The God Of Abraham, Isaac And Jacob.
you imagine the shock on this woman’s face when Jesus identified Himself as Yahweh? It was a name so sacred that Law prohibited
its use in public. No human being since
Moses was allowed to use that name. And
no one dare named their child Yahweh! Yet this is the name Jesus calls
Himself. What were the first thoughts
running through her mind?
“Is he crazy? Has he been out in the sun too long? Is he playing mind games with me? Is he mocking me because I’m a Samaritan?” Whatever her first thoughts might have been, they didn’t stay long. Somehow she knows His words ring true, so she runs back into Sychar with the news, telling everyone she can find: “I’ve found Him! I’ve found Him!” And the people may have laughed, “Who, husband number 6?” She catches her breath, “No, no, I think I’ve found Messiah! I just know He must be Messiah!” I know it says she asked a question: “Could
He be the Messiah?”, but it’s not a question of doubt. Hers is the question of hope. And here’s the one thing you need to remember
The Deepest Longing Of Every
Human Heart Is To Be Near To God!
may have been a tarnished hope, or it may have been a secret hope that no one
could see in her life. But somehow, deep
down in her heart, there must have been that hope that God would come near to
her to satisfy the deepest longings of her heart.
we make our Lenten Journey, we need to know that we are going to find that same
longing in our heart—to see and experience the nearness of the One, True and
Living God. And we can count on Jesus
being that just for us, as He was for her!
And it is all because of The Name:
Yahweh! Jesus is Yahweh and here’s why:
1. He Is Yahweh Because He Looks For Us
Well was the place ordained by God for this woman. He Has A Place Ordained For You, To Meet Him
Face To Face, For You To Surrender Your Life To Him. And Jesus planned it out for that moment when
she would be coming to draw water. As
Jesus and his entourage arrives at Jacob’s Well, Jesus announces, “Guys, I need
to stop and rest; besides it lunch time.
Tell you what, go into town to McDavid’s and get you something to eat,
and bring me back a #7 combo. I’ll just
wait right here. Now, go on guys.” Have you ever wondered why Jesus sent them
ahead while He stayed behind? Well, I
have and I’ve come to this conclusion.
If there had been several of them with Jesus, that woman probably would
have stayed away. But just one man
there, it’s not as threatening to her.
Jesus wanted this moment with her.
had been looking for her and the time was right. And He looks for us. There are God-ordained moments where He is
looking for us. He is looking for us to
have this special relationship with Him.
God wants us to have more than a mental knowledge about Him. He longs for us to give Him our hearts. But
God-ordained moments go further than for us to become a Christian. There are God-ordained moments to comfort us,
encourage us, strengthen us, and to take us deeper into this relationship with
Him. And you never know when they will
appear. This woman came in the middle of
the day; not the usual time to draw water.
And God may surprise you with ordained moments because He is always
looking for us.
2. He Is Yahweh Because He Knows Us
in Sychar must have known this woman. 5
divorces and shacking up with another man?
She must have been the talk at all the hair salons. They looked at her and saw someone who
couldn’t keep commitments. They saw
someone who had no morals. They saw
someone whose only contribution to the community was to keep the gossip lines
hot. They saw her as dirtied and all
women of Sychar always went to the well early in the morning, but she would not
have been welcomed then. They saw
everything that was wrong with her. They
thought they knew her. But there was so
much about her they could not see because they had made up their minds about
her. But Jesus knew there was more to
her than what was on the surface.
Only God, Only The One Whose Eternal Name Is YAHWEH Can
See Into The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Heart.
sees the secret sins we hide from others.
He knows the dark secrets we keep pushed down deep. But He knows more, much more. He knew what she was truly longing for, and
He knows what we are longing for.
Because He knows us, He knows what it will take to bring that hope alive
in us. This woman wasn’t ignorant of
God’s promises. She knew one day Messiah
would come. And though it may have been
a weak hope, there was the hope that Messiah would come to save her. Listen to your heart; your heart knows it
wants to be known deeply and loved intimately by God. Yes,
He knows our flaws and sins, but He also knows the real you—the one waiting to
be born, waiting to be released upon this world and into God’s Kingdom.
3. He Is Yahweh Because He Offers Us Life
At Jacob’s Well this God-Ordained moment was for one single purpose: To Bring Real Life To This Dirty, Broken Woman! Nothing Can Give Us The Life We Long For, Only Jesus.
people settle for a life of thrills, but there are never enough thrills. Some settle for a life of wealth, but there’s
never enough wealth to hold off the fear of losing it all. And some settle for a life of respectability—but
they are hollow and empty inside. This woman
was looking for life through one relationship after another. But none of them satisfied the cravings of
in this world can give you real, abundant, lasting, eternal life. This is something only God has—Jesus is Yahweh
because only HE has the life that we hunger for. Only He has the life that will survive
the ups and downs of life here on earth.
Only He has the life that can hold up under the fiercest
storms. Only Yahweh can offer us
this kind of life—and He offers it as The Gift.
only He paid the price necessary to take away the dead things of our life, and
put in their place Life. It’s not just any ordinary life, but the most
extraordinary life of all—His Very Own Life. In this Lenten Journey, in your life journey,
remember that There Is A Name For All Generations To Remember.
is His Eternal Name, Yahweh and He is looking, looking
for you because He knows you. He knows you need more than an ordinary life—but
the most extraordinary life of all. Paul
nails it when he describes this life in Galatians
And this is
the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
Great I Am can put real and abundant life in you—That life is Him
Has anything robbed you of
hope?The news? This
controversy going on in our Tribe?
Guilt? Some fear, named or
unnamed? Crushing grief that you keep holding on to, that you never completely
give over to Jesus? Feelings of
inadequacy? Or, how about despair, that
you’ve given up on something, something very important?
Give whatever that is up. Give it up to
Jesus. Make it your offering to
Him. He’s not looking for only the good
things to offer Him, He wants the pain, the burdens that you carry to be given
over to Him. You don’t have to keep
carrying them because He carried that weight, while on that Cross!
If you have given Jesus your
heart, then declare this truth every day, all day long:Christ
Lives In Me. When you doubt, say it: Christ Lives In Me. When you are afraid, say it: Christ Lives In Me. When that thing you gave up that was robbing
you of hope starts to weigh on you again, say it: Christ Lives In Me.
“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3
Grief is another of the tools of the trade used by our Enemy to make us dread another week, another day, even another minute. Our source of grief can be the death of a family member or friend. Just yesterday we found out our family doctor’s wife died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Dr. Wampler is more than our doctor. I consider him a friend.
And if it isn’t death that causes us to grieve, then it is the ordinary “stuff” of every day life. The loss of a job, a home, a marriage, a friendship. And if that isn’t enough to make us grieve, then there is the news—the heartaches and tragedies we see in the news. Without some comfort and relief, grief drains us of peace, hope, and even our purpose in life.
And so, we have these words from Isaiah. Did you catch the last two words? Deepest Grief! Not to minimize our griefs, He has experienced deepest griefs. His is deepest griefs not by comparison to our griefs, but because He takes into the deepest part of His heart, our griefs. All our griefs, all of everyone’s griefs. And He does this for only one reason: He Loves Us Completely And Unconditionally.
God hears our cries this morning. We can cry to Him because He has felt, feels now, and will always feel the pain of grief. We need to turn our grief over and release it to His grace and compassionate love. For it is His heart—His love that always reaches out to us, to heal us and make us whole. We need deliverance from the easy thing of pointing out the symptoms of what we think causes our griefs.
All we need to do is tell Him. Tell Him honestly everything you feel. Even if—especially when you are angry and blame Him. Then simply lean on Him and listen—listen as He pulls you against His chest, so close you can heart His heartbeat—the heartbeat that is for you. Then He will begin to heal your broken heart and bring back the peace, hope and purpose that you thought was long gone. He went the distance for your heart—all the way to the Cross. Then He went the distance to reclaim your heart—to that tomb and then He walked out of that tomb in victory!
When you know He feels the deepest grief—your grief—and remember that He does it for you out of deepest love—and will restore your heart, then you can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together this week?” Let’s pray:
Lord here is why I am grieving……..(put your list of griefs here)…… It hurts and honestly, I wonder where is the hope? Where is that peace? How can I go on? I share my questions with you because You know deepest grief. I trust You now to lead me out of my grief. You walked to the Cross and walked away from the Tomb. I know you will do the same for me. Even if I don’t see how….I know you see the way. Amen and Amen…
(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.
A stressed bald businessman with his forehead resting on the laptop computer keyboard.
For decades now, in my teaching and preaching I advocate that we should go to worship God even if we don’t feel like it. “It is in the times we don’t feel like worshiping that we need to worship the most.” Yep, that’s what this preacher said. Well, to be honest, this morning I did not want to worship God in my private time of worship because, well, I just didn’t feel like it. And to be even brutally honest, I don’t know that I feel like it right now.
I could blame this feeling right now on the fact I had just stacked 2 large stacks of firewood that had fallen over. But the reasons go much deeper, and I am not going to bore you with all the details of what is going on inside me in this time. If I did, I would sound like a whiner, and whiners are a pitiful and pathetic lot. So I’m just not going there and be like “them”. (I think I just heard some of you readers breathe a sigh of relief!)
To give you a view of my early morning disciplined habit, go back to a previous blog called Assumptions. This morning I filled up my coffee cup (Praise God who inspired that native so long ago who roasted, grounded, and poured hot water through those beans!), put in my earbuds, looked at my Spotify app, and honestly, I just didn’t want to start it. But then I remembered that crazy preacher who said, “It is in the times we don’t feel like worshiping that we need to worship the most.” Oh, well; time to practice what I preach. If I don’t, I am just another Churchian or Tenured Pew Sitter. If I ever become one of them, I hope someone still loves me enough to give me a good ol’ Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head.
Now, did my mind and attitude change instantly? Absolutely. NOT! But I pushed through it, keeping my focus on God. Now, was this the best way to worship God? Absolutely NOT! Jesus said it’s about worshiping in Spirit and in Truth. I was worshiping truthfully. I just didn’t feel like it, but I did it anyway. Somehow I think that God is pleased with my worship this morning, though it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination, my best offering. But, it reflects where I am, much like David reflected in Psalm 13:1-2 (NLT)
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Had God forgotten David? Had God been looking the other way, His face turned away from David? Has God forgotten Randy? Is God looking the other way, His face turned away from Randy? The answer to all 4 questions is…..NO! NO! NO! NO! But it sure does feel like it, and David must have felt it to. Otherwise, why did he write such a worship song? And for you who may also be struggling with mine and David’s feelings, the answer for you is EMPHATICALLY, NO! He hasn’t forgotten us and He hasn’t turned away from us.
Somehow this morning, a morning I am really struggling, that perhaps God is more pleased with this act of reluctant worship than any other act of worship I have offered since I began this spiritual discipline. HE certainly deserves better, but I now believe that God is pleased with my “It’s the best I can do right now” worship. What? Oh, I just heard some Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters say, “You’re wrong, wrong, wrong! Give me a Bible verse to back up your blasphemous claim.” OK Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters, remember that you asked for it.
In Luke 18:9-14 you will find the story Jesus told of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector who went to encounter God in the Temple. The Pharisee was full of himself and his perceived goodness and made the point he wasn’t like that Tax Collector. The Pharisee was NOT honest. On the other hand, the Tax Collector was brutally honest. He presented himself to God in worship as he really was–a sinner! Gee whiz, he didn’t even worship in the right position. His head was down when it should have been up. And in response to these 2 acts of worship (one correct in form but not in substance; the other wrong in form but correct in substance), Jesus says this: “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Verse 14)
And in this act painfully honest worship, this is what The Holy Spirit taught me and said to me: “Sing it until you believe it!” Here is the song that was coming through my earbuds in this epiphany: 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. So, I am going to keep on singing it until I believe it!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way God loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Well, by this time tomorrow, I will have had this experience–my heart burned from the inside, that is. Already had (many times) a heart rhythm similar to the one above. I have 2 choices, well, actually 3 choices.
One choice is to do nothing about it. Well, the doctor said a couple of months ago that it was not life threatening, well at that time it wasn’t and probably not at this time. I could play the odds and see if anything worse happens to me. After all, heart rates that are over 200 beats per minute can’t hurt you, can they?
My second choice would be to take some medicine, probably for the rest of my life. But really, who wants to do that? Haven’t you see all those attorney commercials about the dangers of prescription drugs? Besides, my other cardiologist (who knew there was a difference in cardiologists? I now have one who considers himself like a plumber and another who is considered the electrician) said that the medicine would probably make me feel tired all the time, instead of just after these episodes.
OK, my third choice is to have this procedure called a heart ablation. Ablation–I think that word means “to burn”. Well, Wednesday morning I will report to Huntsville (Alabama) Hospital at 8:00 a.m. And, of course, I will go without my usual coffee so say a prayer for my wife Debbie who will have to put up with me functioning without that wonderful caffeine. Coffee will be the first thing I ask for after the procedure.
My decision to allow Dr. Paul Tabereaux to burn part of the inside of my heart, well, for me that seems like the best choice. Sounds kind of strange to say, “Hey, Doc, would you mind burning some of the inside of my heart? Thanks!” The result should be no more episodes of SPVT and without the side affects and costs of a lifetime of medicine. (So no call to the Law Firm of Bad Drugs & Greedy Attorneys). It should be a permanent fix.
I go through this with complete trust in the hands and skills of Dr. Tabereaux. But what about the Spiritual Heart? Do we ever let the hands and mind that created us access to those problem areas of our spiritual heart? Oh, you don’t have any problems with your spiritual heart? Well, bless your heart! (Look up in a good southern dictionary to see what that phrase really means!)
When we have heart problems, spiritual heart problems like my physical heart issues, they need to be dealt with in the right manner. Ignoring your heart problems won’t make them go away. You might find some temporary relief elsewhere, but the problem still exists and is waiting to come out again at some inopportune moment. So why not allow God to examine your spiritual heart. He can quickly diagnose the problem areas, and can take care of them permanently.
So, if you have a moment, throw up a few prayers for me, and my wife Debbie as she waits all day for this to be over. I definitely need them and you probably need the practice. Oh, and remember: Love God with all your HEALTHY heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!