A Man of God… Obeys

So, we started talking about Noah this week at Church of Monroe.  It’s our little church that anyone and everyone is casually invited to Sunday mornings at 10 AM at our home.  We’ve spent about 6 months talking Romans, so it just felt like the time was right to move on.

So move on we did.  And in our moving on, I felt like it would be a good idea to look at the lives of the men and women of the Bible.  I mean, it’s one thing to be able to sit down and talk theology for a while, but it’s another thing to be able to practically see theology in action through the lives of these servants (sometimes that’s a really loose term) of God.  In doing so, the first person I found interesting for this purpose was Noah.

One thing that we took away from Noah was this:  Noah pleased God.  Now of course, that goes without saying, since God chose Noah to repopulate earth.  But we can see Noah’s obedience in action even in his actions explicitly recorded in scripture.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

(Genesis 6:14-22 ESV)

It’s easy for us to miss the details, because most of our experience with Noah began on a flannel board in Sunday school, and has steadily progressed to boxes of animal crackers and Precious Moments figurines (man, I HATE those). But, we really miss the meat and potatoes of this story when we take such a “10,000 foot view” of Noah. These are the details I really want you to walk away with:

Noah was not exactly a shipwright (I actually looked that term up).  Noah was a farmer.  So, you can imagine first of all the shock of finding out that he was now a shipwright.  Second, God didn’t exactly send him out to build a pontoon boat with the little cup holders and party tables on board.  This boat was 440 feet long.  To put that into perspective, took a football field (including end zone) and add another 25 yards.  It was also 75 feet wide, and 43 feet tall.  This was not an amateur boat building undertaking.  In addition, God laid out very detailed wood needs (“Gopher wood”, whatever that was), and he also made Noah an amateur zoologist in charge of collecting animals.  Now, any of these chores in and of themselves would be a gargantuan undertaking, but BOTH?  And, keep in mind, whilst building his pleasure yacht and zoo, Noah was also involved with the daily process of feeding his family.

For me, I could understand if Noah were to try to circumvent God’s exact directives.

“Maybe we could make it 250 cubits instead of 300?”

“Do you really mean ‘ALL of the animals?’

“Hey, what IS gopher wood, anyway?  Can’t I use something simpler?  Can I use more than just gopher wood, because there are some other trees around here I COULD use.”

I could definitely see that happening if it were me instead of Noah.  Instead, the Bible records Noah’s response to God’s commands…

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
(Genesis 6:22 ESV)

How different is that from what we do?  In today’s society, we like to cut corners with God’s commands.  Things that God makes very clear, we tend to muddy the lines a bit.  Take homosexuality, for instance.  The Bible explicitly says that it’s wrong, and yet, we tend to figure out each and every way to circumvent that.  Some people act as though we are far too cosmopolitan now to not figure out that homosexuality is fine, and the Bible is instead old and antiquated.  Or, we misunderstood the meaning of it.  Regardless, we find it difficult to take God at His word because we are such an educated bunch and no doubt no more than the being with infinite wisdom.  You see where I’m going with this, right?

The lesson we need to learn from Noah is this:  one of the essential keys to being a Man/Woman of God is to obey.  Just obey.  God does NOT need our wisdom, anymore than He would have needed Noah’s.  God knows the situation, knows the outcome, and He is infinitely trustworthy in any and every situation.  It’s just our job to obey.  It is in the obedience to God that we are able to fully watch as His story unfolds, and understand the depth of His wisdom and love.  Without that, we struggle against the circumstances, work around God’s wisdom, and never really get to see His hand at work. Let these last words of Genesis 6 sink in…

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
(Genesis 6:22 ESV)

How should a Christian view holidays?

So, we have passed Halloween and we are now entering the real meat of the holiday season.  Autumn will close out with a celebration of Thanksgiving, and winter will debut with silver bells, tinsel, and frustrated shoppers ushering in the Christmas season.  It’s this time of year when we as Christians are confronted with a bevy of questions about the proper way to approach holidays, particularly Halloween and Christmas.  What is the proper response we should give for holidays?  Are we supposed to avoid them?  Celebrate them?  Somewhere in between?  It’s enough to drive a person mad!

It’s helpful at first to remember this:  The Bible never speaks of a need to celebrate or not to celebrate these holidays.  First, neither existed at the time of the writing of scripture, so we don’t have any real references.  What we have are a few references that require some inductive reasoning into what we should do.  First, let’s look at the value of the Jewish holidays in light of the advent of Christ.  We can gain a lot of insight on how we are to look at holidays by what Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

(Romans 14:1-6 ESV)

Paul is writing here in order to bring further clarification on a point he was making in Chapter 13, which was essentially, the Law of God is fulfilled through love.  To paraphrase Paul, he is saying that both the person who believes in celebrating a day (the Sabbath here, most likely, in this particular case, but applicable nonetheless by the basic principles at work) as well as the person who does not believe should welcome one another in love.  So, I think Paul’s point is this:  We don’t fulfill God’s law with our own piety towards a holiday or event.  God’s law is fulfilled only by our love for one another.  Now, let that sink in.

Should we celebrate Halloween?  Does it matter?

Should we celebrate Thanksgiving? Does it matter? (Ultimately, I’m going with celebrating this one just because of the twin celebration of turkey and football)

Should we celebrate Christmas?  Does it matter?

I think you probably get where I’m going with this.  You can come up with all of the reasons you want to celebrate or avoid the holidays, but are you doing so out of love for one another?  You can choose alternative celebrations such as Reformation Day, but are you doing so out of love for one another?  I feel that our motivations for doing what we do should be to fulfill God’s ultimate law for us, which is to love.  And yes, certainly there are some traditions and missteps in holidays that drive me mad.  I cringe when I see some parent that thinks there should be no problem dressing their six year old as a bar maid.  I hate to see people utterly RUIN Christmas by acting like fools on Black Friday, so much so that I believe Jesus will one day judge those who participate in Black Friday as pagans and heathens (I’m mostly just kidding there).  So, as a Christian, how do I respond to that?  Simple.  I tend to not do those stupid things, and tend to explain openly why I don’t.

Personally, I view the holidays like this, and please, don’t take my word as law.  One of the beautiful things about our faith, and one of the tenets we hold at Church of Monroe, is that if we haven’t figured it out in 2000 years of church history, we aren’t gonna suddenly stumble on it now. I look at holidays as a wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel, to bring together a community of people, and to rejoice in the fact that we have a Creator that is so enamored with us that He even allows us to have celebrations like these.  I live in a small city that is burdened with spiritual hardness.  I have neighbors across the street that are skeptical of the Gospel but seem like they want to hear more.  I think that we, as Christians, can maturely celebrate holidays, or we can maturely decline to celebrate.  But, most importantly, it’s not our job to cram our views down someone else’s throat, or to lord it over someone that we believe the way we do.  That’s the meat of what Paul is trying to say.  These are peripheral issues that are absolutely impertinent to our salvation.  So, celebrate Halloween!  Eat candy, take your kids trick-or-treating in an innocuously cute costume (Our little daughter was the cupcake princess).  Celebrate Christmas!  Eat yummy foods, sit by the fire in the glow of a Christmas tree, give gifts.  Or, don’t celebrate Halloween.  Spend that night with your family.  Spend time witnessing to scores of children that come to your door.  You may be the only Christian witness they ever meet.  Make the most of it!  And whatever you do, look inside your heart.  Are you doing it out of love?  If not, you need to rethink your positions.

What’s so Amazing about Grace? Part 2

There’s nothing more enjoyable than the unexpected break. So, as I have one this morning, I wanted to go ahead and reflect on one of those three points I made on grace. I know there’s more to grace than just my three little points, but for the sake of having something to connect to grace, I came up with three.

Grace is Expensive

If you have ever read What’s So Amazing about Grace by Philip Yancey, you may be familiar with the story of Babette’s Feast. It’s featured prominently in the very beginning of the book, and it created an indelible impression in my mind as to the cost of grace. To paraphrase the story, a French woman escaping from the French Civil War makes her way to a small Danish fishing village populated by a very puritan sect of Christians. She serves diligently with the leaders of the village in the kitchen for her room and board. Her fortunes change when she is notified by some friends in Paris that her ticket has won the French lottery. She asks the leaders if she could finally prepare a real French meal for the village. She does so, and as the villagers eat her delicious meal, they begin to repair old wounds, and are able to come together in a way that would never have happened.

The finale of the story is touching. As the leaders thank Babette and express their sadness over Babette’s assumed departure (she did win the lottery after all :), Babette drops the bombshell that she had spent her entire lottery earnings of 12,000 Francs on the village feast!

The story reminded me very much of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. In both instances, someone gave up something very valuable in order to give an unmerited gift to another person. The point of both stories is the simple point of grace. And in much the same way, God gave a very precious price for us to experience His grace. The cost of His grace was the life of His only Son. So, what does that mean for us?

Well, I immediately think of the number of gifts I have received over the years, and I start to realize a few things. One, gifts that have been given to me that are very valuable and expensive (like my new ESP guitar) are highly precious to me, and I do everything I can to cherish those gifts. Likewise, the giver of the gift also makes the gift more important to me. My wife’s gifts to me (like the guitar, so you can imagine just how precious that guitar is to me 🙂 are held in MUCH higher esteem than gifts from places like the National Gardening club (like a set of Fiskar’s sheers). Finally, the longevity of the gift is important, as well. Someone giving me a box of Toffifay (don’t get me wrong, I love Toffifay) is not going to make the impact of someone giving me a study Bible, because the Toffifay will last about thirty seconds around me. The Bible will last far longer.

Now, what does all of this mean? Well, we have been given a gift from God (the ultimate being) that cost Him His Son (the ultimate price), that will affect us eternally (the ultimate in longevity). How does that affect your opinion of God’s grace? Is it something to treat like a tie from your kids? Or is it more important than that? I think it’s of infinite importance, and it is big enough that it should affect our way of seeing our entire lives. We should live out our lives in such a way that it says we are aware of the preciousness of God’s grace, unwilling to profane it by our silliness, and unwilling to hide it from the world that has not experienced God’s amazing grace.

What’s so Amazing about Grace? Part 1

We have been studying Romans at Church of Monroe for several weeks now, and we have kind of taken a mental beatdown for the past few Sundays.  See, Paul’s been really busy building an airtight case against all of humanity so that there is no wiggle room.  Like a seasoned attorney, Paul is systematically removing every possible objection that people can have to God’s justice in condemning each and every one of us to an eternity of separation from Him and His love.  We now are at a point where, if anyone is really paying attention to Paul here, we don’t stand a chance with God.  None of us are righteous.  None of us are good.  In fact, all of us stand rightfully convicted.  As it is, unless God has something really shocking up His sleeve, we are all spending an eternity separated from Him.

As it turns out, He DOES have a trick up His sleeve!  It’s called grace.  In non-theological speak, grace is basically something good that we totally don’t deserve.  Specifically, in this particular passage, God’s grace is unmerited forgiveness and accreditation of righteousness.  We call that justification.  So, God justifies us and considers us righteous, declaring us just before Him.  But, as we go through this passage, we are going to learn three things about grace that make it truly amazing.  I’m going to go ahead and list them, and then we can talk about them throughout the week.

Grace is EXPENSIVE.

Grace is EXTRAVAGANT.

Grace is UNDESERVED.

I’m hoping by the time this blog post series is over, you will see exactly what is so amazing about grace.

The Need for Honesty about Who We Are

I’ve been slogging through the first three chapters of Romans with my fellow believers at Church of Monroe, and as we continue to work through the material, one thing keeps coming back to me.  We have spent several weeks now discussing the sinfulness of man.  As one person said during service “man, aren’t you a Debbie Downer!”  It was funny, but I couldn’t escape the feeling of discomfort of feeling like we were focusing so much on mankind and sinfulness.  Why did Paul take so much time dealing with this?  Couldn’t he have made it really simple, like “well, we are all screw-ups, so let’s all thank God for saving us?”

The short answer is this:  Sure, Paul could have made it a lot simpler, he could have given token ascent to the fact that we are all sinners and left us without all the guilt feeling.  And after all, isn’t that really what we want?  Don’t we want to experience the best God has to offer and still be left without all of the guilt that comes along with conviction?  I still remember when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came out, many pastors spoke against the movie, saying “we already have too much guilt.”

You know, I can understand where they may be coming from if the evidence supports the conclusion.  But really, let’s be honest.  Look at Christendom today.  If you take a long hard look, it doesn’t really seem like anyone feels all that guilty.  I mean, we have debates within the church over whether or not abortion should be a right for women.  We have churches that affirm the concept of gay marriage and practicing gay relationships.  We have churches and pastors who teach universalism.  I actually sat through a service at my parent’s Methodist church in their hometown where the pastor said she couldn’t really speak with any authority on the falsity of other religions.  Ultimately, I would like for someone, anyone, to show me these auto-flagellating Christians who are already too guilty from the realization of the depths of their sin to be able to function in the Holy Spirit.

I think I could probably wait for quite a while for one of these poor “guilty Christians” to show up.  Because the reality is that we, for the most part, are far too oblivious to the depths of our depravity to understand just how royally screwed-up we are!  Most of us are too busy telling ourselves we are ok to notice how really not ok we are, and until we see just how deep of a spiritual grave we are in, we will never… ever… ever be able to fully appreciate God’s grace.

That’s the reason Paul spends three chapters on a universal indictment of mankind for our sinfulness.  Any less than a full understanding of the depths of our guilt prevents us from experiencing the full measure of God’s grace.  Any goodness we can (falsely) ascribe to ourselves diminishes the real goodness of our God.  Paul is not trying to whip people to make himself feel better or to make himself seem morally superior.  He’s trying to point out that we are so far from God’s standards of holiness that we absolutely must lean on God’s grace.

Where are you at?  It’s a simple question, really.  Are you a sinner?  It’s ok to be honest, really.  I’m a sinner too.  I have to rely on God’s grace every day.  And really, you have to as well.  But, if you aren’t willing to be honest about it, you never really get to see just how deep God’s love runs.  Don’t miss out on that.

 

…only there Is, do.

Ok, so cryptic title there, isn’t it?  Well, it’s appropriate for our upcoming sermon in Romans 2 at Church of Monroe.  You see, Paul is continuing the process of taking hypocrites to the theological woodshed, and he’s driving at this point that is unmistakable.  You can hear it in the tone of his letter, because it’s the kind of tone you take when you want to drive a point home.  It’s kind of like that face Kobe Bryant gets when he’s going to take over a game and there’s nothing you can do about it.  He’s going to deliver a beatdown.  Paul’s kind of going at the same thing here, but he’s not taking on the Spurs.  He’s dealing with people who feel like they get a free pass to heaven because of who they are and what they know. Ultimately, his message to these people, to steal the words of master Yoda, is “only there is, do.”

You see, Paul saw his fair share of hypocrites, and laid eyes on more than a number of people who liked to think that just because of what they knew and who they were, they were safe from God’s judgment.  It’s not really that different today, really.  People think they can shove themselves in a seat at church, put the kids in a youth program, and slap a sticker in their window with “Insert cool, trendy name of a church here” Church on it, they get tickets to the big dance.  The only problem with that line of thought is that it is unbiblical, incorrect, and it’s gonna cause a lot of problems for  a lot of people.  Paul’s message, as we will see in this final stretch of Romans 2 is this:  Knowing and hearing the law means absolutely nothing if you aren’t applying it and doing it.  If you aren’t, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

We will keep visiting this over the next week, but it’s important to know that, as Christians, we can’t decide that just because we are on the “Jesus bandwagon” that we are going to the big dance.  If you are just a fringe guy, and you aren’t totally sold on God, and you aren’t giving him everything (except for a 2″ by 8″ section of your back window), there’s a passage in the Bible that you may want to consider:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
(Revelation 3:15-18 ESV)

If that’s you, there’s time to fix it.  But, you have to stop resting on your bumper stickers, your trendy graphic-art church t-shirt, and get in the game!  You ARE NOT a follower of Jesus just because you go to church.  You are a follower of Jesus because you trust in Him, want to obey His will, and put His desires above all else.

Hypocrites ‘R’ Us…

So, my sermon today was on hypocrisy.  You can listen to the full sermon at this link.  Specifically, today’s message was on the first half of Romans 2.  Paul is addressing the Roman church, and specifically addressing a problem with hypocrisy.  For reference, here is the text:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

(Romans 2:1-11 ESV)

Last week I preached on God’s wrath from the end of the first chapter, and one of my fellow learners said “Man, this is a downer.  Is it going to be better next week?”  I started to look at the text from the same angle, especially when so much time is spent on God’s wrath and divine retribution, and started to question why Paul spent so much time on the subject.  A cursory glance at 20th century history, though, gives startling evidence as to why Paul spent so much time on wrath.  The combined regimes of Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Adolf Hitler combined for over 100 million dead.  Then, toss in various other genocidal tragedies such as Rwanda, and you start to get the picture.  Throw in the fact that we have 40 million fewer Americans than we should thanks to abortion, and you really see why this is so important to get.  Paul spends a lot of time on how evil we are and how wrathful God is because we, as a species, are just really … really … really BAD.  And look, I didn’t even get into our current post-modern quagmire of relative moralism, so I’m really cutting the common person a lot of slack here.  But, the point stands, that Paul spends a lot of time talking about evil because we ARE evil.

So how does that relate to this passage of Romans?  Well, the key to understanding here is that, in order to fully get the benefits of reading from this passage, we have to realize that, rather than being separate from the previous text, it is an admonition aimed at a particular group of people, namely, those who do not do God’s will, but judge others for the same sins they commit.  We like to call people like that hypocrites.

I posed this question today:  Do you know, or have you ever known, or have you yourself, ever felt like hypocrisy was a valuable trait? Of course, the answer was no.  Hypocrisy is without a doubt, universally condemned.  But, it runs rampant in our church today.  It’s one of the many reasons trotted out why people don’t have a personal relationship with God.  But, if any passage in the Bible should speak reassuringly to those who do not like hypocrisy, it should be this one.

The situation Paul is speaking into is this:  the common tendency in the time of Jesus (and ours as well) was to believe that those who were blessed with material/physical blessing were being blessed for their obedience to God.  So, the formula was simple:  wealth good, poverty bad.  blessings good, lack of blessings bad.  And when you think for a moment, it doesn’t take long to realize that our society still operates off of the same guidelines.  So, rather than evaluating their standing before God, people had a tendency to justify themselves based off of their blessings.  The result of that was this:  lots of people failing to follow God’s will, but feeling as though they were righteous simply because of their blessings, rationalizing with the idea that if they were outside of God’s will, He would not bless them. Hence, the root of hypocrisy.  Because it’s easy to judge others for their sins, then glaze over your own, because if you are living a “blessed” life, that’s all the proof you need that you are doing God’s will.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Don’t we still measure our own favor before God with our success?  I mean, I’ve heard many Christians say things like…

God has blessed us for our obedience with a big house for ministry…

God has blessed us for our faithfulness with a raise at work…

And don’t we do that with our churches?  Don’t we make the assumption that because our ministries are just so stinking successful, that we must be living right, doing right, and making God super happy?  The thrust of Romans 2 is this:  Don’t be so sure. For those of us who have been blessed by God, His blessing is not proof of our righteousness.  That’s sheer and utter foolishness.  It’s proof of nothing more than the fact that God is overflowing with kindness, and we have to be aware of that.  The only way we can accurately measure whether or not we are in relationship with God, and actively seeking His will, is to… be in relationship with God and actively seek His will.  I know plenty of folks that think they are in God’s graces because He has blessed them.  I know churches that operate in a way that is totally ungodly, who cover up their dirt under the nice fat blanket of “being successful.”  Paul’s warning is simple:

If you are being a hypocrite, judging others for your own sins, being a fan of Christ instead of a follower, using God’s kindness as carte blanche for your sins instead of humbling yourself before Him, you are going to experience the exact same wrath that will befall every pagan and sinner that you so ruthlessly judge!

Let me say that more clearly.  God’s response to hypocrisy is to lovingly try to steer you in the right direction.  If you are so proud and hard-hearted as to not humble yourself before God’s mercy and grace, He will justly deal with you in your sins.

Where is your heart?  If it’s set on yourself, and you view God’s blessing in your life as your own stamp of approval, BEWARE.  Your sins will find you.  If it’s set on God’s will, then God will be with you both in times of plenty and in times of little.  He will nurture you, initiate you into life with Him, and will conform you to the image of His Son Jesus.

God’s Wisdom, Man’s Lack of Perspective

I’m not much for ranting, but I felt the need to post this.  I make no bones about my recent calling to start a church in Monroe, NC called Church of Monroe. A small group of believers have been meeting with my family every Sunday in our home, studying the word, praying with one another, and looking to affect the community of Monroe in a positive way.  There are plenty of challenges here.  One is city zoning.  The city of Monroe will not allow churches to open inside the area they have zoned as the Central Business District.  The idea behind this area is that it is supposed to be an area for business and trade, and the city planning board feels that churches would make that difficult.  I would argue the lack of merit in that idea, but there’s really no point to that argument, as cities can’t legally zone to disallow religious gatherings in a business district.  It’s unconstitutional, so really there isn’t much to argue.

There’s a reason why I’m going there in this post.  It’s just one small part of a larger problem we have when we listen for God’s calling in our lives.  Part of this calling that I feel God has staked out on us is to reshape this downtown area.  It is very close to a lot of at-risk and down and out communities.  The area is literally crying out for some attention.  However, I know a lot of pastors locally who would think I was mad for wanting to open a church in Downtown Monroe.  Conventional wisdom to most pastors is that you open the church on US Highway 74, a very large thoroughfare that carries thousands of cars daily through Monroe.  It’s unfathomable to most people when you talk about planting a church that you would want to drop it in the middle of beat-up, broken-down, downtown Monroe when Highway 74 is just beckoning for you.

Therein lies the problem.  If you want to know what cripples most people in their quest to serve God, it’s this:  We hear God’s calling long enough for us to fill our brains with it, and then we proceed to use our own logic to make it happen.  Put another way, we get the very first part of the memo from God, and then throw out the rest of it in favor of using our own resources.  I had a pastoral acquaintance recommend a book for me, and after reading through parts of it, I started to get a feel for why church feels so staid, stale, and programmed.  It’s because it’s staid, stale, and programmed.  I mean, look, God does not need me and my bright ideas to grow a church.  He doesn’t need a very well thought out book on church planting, or a very good cell team to start a church.  He didn’t use any of these things the first time, so why does He need them now?

I’m saying all of these things because I’m tired of “connect-the-dots” spirituality.  I’ve gotten sick of the 12 step guide to planting a church, and I’ve grown weary of the idea that we just need to hit on the right formula to grow our very own mega-ginormous-humongo-monstrous church!!!!  God doesn’t move by formulas.  He doesn’t work by hitting the right points in Launch, and He sure doesn’t move by surrounding yourself with other people who helped grow a big church.  God doesn’t need your brilliance, or Nelson Searcy’s brilliance, or Rick Warren’s brilliance, to grow His church!

It started with 12 disciples, one of whom actually sold Jesus to be killed.  It was four fisherman, a political rebel, a tax collector, and a couple other nobodies.  Jesus was by far, according to our standards, the WORST church planner ever.  Yet, in all of this, He started a church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against.  So, why all the drama?  Why do we continue to lift up our own ways of doing this, while we tend to ignore the single… most… IMPORTANT part of planting a church, or doing ANYTHING for God, for that matter?

So, what is that most important part?  It’s listening to the Holy Spirit!!!  It’s not reading the right books.  It’s listening to the Holy Spirit!  It’s not doing what makes sense to men.  It’s … well, you get the picture.  So where am I going with this?

Here’s where.  Given the opportunity to listen to the “wisdom” of men, or the wisdom of God, take the second one.  The first has very limited perspective and is doomed to fail from the beginning.  The second is timeless and meant to prepare you for exactly what you need.

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