Idols In Disguise…

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As usual, this 21 day fast has rendered some amazing self-reflection and correction in me.  Throughout this period, I read a book by John Bevere, Killing Kryptonite.  God has used John’s message to flat out correct some of my personal theology.  Primarily, as John intended in the book, killing the idols in my life. An idol is truly anything that we give our attention to or allow to steal our attention from God…ALL of God and ALL of His characteristics.  Like so many of us, I like to focus on the characteristics of God that suit me and make me feel the best about myself.  That my friends, is a false Gospel, an incomplete Gospel, and quit honestly not the Gospel at all…that is heresy on my part.

John brings up a story which caused me to see something in my own life.  Exodus 32 is a story we all know pretty well…it is the story of the golden calf.  The Israelites had just been miraculously rescued by God from the Egyptians.  God had taken care of His people by providing divine direction through the wilderness, feeding them with heavenly manna and miraculously providing quail, because the people wanted meat. As Moses was on Mt Sinai encountering God and being given the Ten Commandments, the people were down below trying to fit God into their personal-sized box; one they could comprehend with their own limited minds.  Aaron and the people took all their gold jewelry and formed the golden calf.  In Exodus 32:4 Aaron says, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”.  The word “god” is actually Yahweh. They were not necessarily creating an image to wholly replace God with a golden calf, they were simply fashioning an image of God…the golden calf…something they could see with their own eyes.  They were trying to focus on a single characteristic of God, His image.  They lost their faith and created an idol.

And did you know that God’s grace could become an idol?  I have allowed over the years, mostly because of mainstream teaching and my own desire to not “offend” anyone, to accept God’s grace in favor of true repentance.  It is much easier to talk of God’s grace, rather than about the fact we should turn from our wicked ways and live a holy life.  Paul says,

“So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 5:21 – 6:2)

 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

I will be honest, as I was reading God’s word, a holy fear struck my heart.  I had allowed God’s message of grace to overshadow all his other characteristics.  I have allowed my thought process to be that I would simply allow the Holy Spirit to speak to that person and deal with their sin.  While there is not anything inherently wrong with that, I was making the assumption that only the Holy Spirit can speak truth, when in fact God gave us His Word to speak.  The Holy Spirit speaks to people through the WHOLE WORD of GOD, not just the message of grace.  When all I do is speak of God’s grace and not repentance of sin, I risk seeing someone who I thought was my brother or sister turned away at the seat of judgement.  That hurts me even typing those words…

Here is my problem…my brain likes to focus on one thing at a time, it gets stuck in the this OR that mode.  But when we are talking about the character of God, you cannot focus on only this or that.  It is not either grace or repentance, it is both.  It is both turning from our sin and accepting the grace of God.  It is speaking the TRUTH of the Word of God, as Paul was doing to the Corinthian church, in a compassionate way.  Do you think Paul was speaking those words in a demeaning way, talking down to them, speaking in a hateful manner, telling them they were going to burn?  Absolutely not, Philippians 3:18 says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ”.  Paul called people to repent, but he wept for them at the same time.  He loved them so much that his conscience would not allow him to only speak of God’s grace; it mandated him to talk about repentance of sin.

God is changing me in some pretty crazy ways, challenging a lot of what I believe, but leveraging the compassion and love for His people that he built into my DNA.  My challenge to you is do not run from that which makes you uncomfortable.  Back to what I said in the last blog post, do not allow a short-sighted perspective to cause you to forget that we are dealing with eternity.  When we choose to not talk about the whole Gospel message, we are risking someone’s eternity.  Love dictates that we push through discomfort to deliver truth with a compassionate heart just as Jesus did.

Blessings while you seek out the whole character of God!

Scott

Valleys are Just Spiritual Mountains

mountain-reflection_FotorI am going to stray from Nehemiah on this blog and talk about a subject the Lord put on my heart this morning.  My hope is, although a tough subject for some, I can help us change our perspective a little and give someone hope who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

We all go through tough times, but our experience is often dictated by our perception What do I mean?  You can walk through the experience feeling like it is hell. Your emotions and your ability to learn will follow; your brain will record the experience from that vantage point, risking a hardening of the heart.  Conversely, you can seek the depths of God through the valley experiences and allow them to shape and form who you are, essentially strengthening your character and ability to endure all the while maintaining a soft and pliable heart.

Many of us are overwhelmed by the challenges we encounter and our natural proclivity can be to enter survivalist patterns.  Have you ever met a “doomsdayer” or a “prepper” who had a positive outlook on life?  Why is that? In many cases they are preparing for the worst, not stopping along the way to reflect on the beauty of creation, and far more importantly not looking out further than death.  When I say further than death, I mean into the eternal home we have in Christ.  I heard it said by someone (I think John Bevere) that one characteristic of Americans is that our hope ends at death, even in the church.  We do not look forward to the hope of eternity with our Father.  We focus on a 70-80 year temporal perspective.  In summary, we are short sighted and it effects our attitude negatively.

I want to give you a practical example of what I am talking about.  About 12 years ago, Danielle and I found ourselves seeking the “American” dream.  We had two vehicles and just moved into our nice country house with 3.5 acres and a large pole barn.  It was a beautiful country setting and from a visual perspective was the epitome of relaxing.  Pictures of sitting in the back yard, sipping lemonade and watching the sunset over the corn fields is exactly what I imagined.  It was the exact opposite.  We were laden in debt, drove a combined 150 miles per day, and Danielle was pregnant with Sidney (our second).  This was the valley of the shadow of death for me; I was a giant ball of anxiety.  In the end, we let the house go (stressing relationships), sold a car, Danielle quit her job, and we moved into an apartment about 13 miles from my work.  We lived on $29k a year.  Danielle would take me to work when I didn’t ride my bike, and we ate at home for every meal.  Danielle and I learned how to be good stewards of what God had provided for us.  We met amazing friends, became members at a Daybreak Church, whose leadership truly changed my life, and I went back to college to finish my degree.  Out of the valley of the shadow of death came life and hope.  I would not trade any of this for any worldly blessing we could imagine.  Nothing was more valuable than walking through the valley with a positive perspective.  Was it always easy?  No!  But my brain has recorded that event as significant personal growth…a blessing in disguise.  Out of the ashes came life.

Jesus fully understood this.  He was fully God, but fully human in His earthly home.  He understood that through suffering, perfection came.  Yes, he was already perfect, but perfection in this case is a kind of completion.  Suffering completed Him and us.

“For it became him, for whom are all things, and through who are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)

Jesus Christ is the Author of our Salvation!  If he could walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side bearing the scars of trial, yet healed and whole, how much more can we?  He did it for us.  He provided the path for life.  He single-handedly offered us the path to walk through the valley of the shadow of death triumphantly.  Now, do not give the enemy one single ounce of credit for the valley, because the valley was offered to bring you to full completion, not to give the enemy glory for stealing something that never belonged to you in the first place.  Christ arose from the dead, so that we could be renewed.  Hear Paul’s words…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Change your view to one that is eternal, not temporal…focus on the lessons of completion through all seasons of life, NOT on the loss of worldly things.

Blessings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Author of our Salvation…

Scott

 

 

Staying the Course Despite Resistance

20171201_gettyimages-462881839_FotorGod never promises that we will experience easy times, never encountering resistance; after all we are in the midst of the most significant war in history.  In this war, the soul of every man and woman hang in the balance.  I’m not sure I even understand the scale of this war.  It is a war that’s ending is already known, but every single man and woman on this earth has a choice…to follow the ways of Christ and submit to His Lordship or follow the ways of the world and submit to its lordship. To either experience freedom…or bondage.  I believe Nehemiah understood this war. His choice to take the resistance he encountered to the Lord, seek His wisdom, then take action, is a clear identifier that he understood.  (For a better understanding of the personal battle we face, especially as believers in the western world, please read Killing Kryptonite, by John Bevere).

Nehemiah had a few people who were relentless in their pursuit of making his and the builders of the wall lives completely miserable…Sanballat and Tobiah.  I am not sure these two knew it, but the enemy’s goal through them was to prevent the protection of Israel and its people and to ensure they continue to be blended into the world so as to remove their identity in God. Ultimately, his goal was to ensure their soul, in this great war, fell on the side of hell. They harassed Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall.  And this was Nehemiah’s response:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6)

A couple points I want to make about this passage and what follows in chapter 4 of Nehemiah.

  1. Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews who were rebuilding the wall were being criticized and threatened. The threat was real and it was physical in nature.  At the beginning of the chapter it was noted the Samaritan army was involved and later, Nehemiah and the people took up arms.  BUT, in the face of a real and significant threat, Nehemiah’s gut reaction was to pray and seek the Lord FIRST.  Nehemiah’s prayer displays the fact he refused to take matters in to his own hands, but instead asked the Lord to deal with the threat.  What is your reaction to a threat?  Fight or Flight?  What about prayer, even in the midst of a threat?  All God needs to hear is an open heart and a cry for help…He will respond.
  2. Nehemiah took action after he sought God’s wisdom, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh 4:9). He charged his men to take up arms and every man had a sword on his side…they built with one arm and defended with the other arm.  Nehemiah himself kept a man with a trumpet next to his side, so in the case there was a battle, all parties could gather at the sound.  Throughout this ordeal Nehemiah kept encouraging the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” and “Our God will fight for us.”  Nehemiah prayed, took action, encouraged his people, and trusted the Lord.  The results? “When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Neh 4:15).

James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20b); I would suggest that prayer without action is powerless and weak prayer.  What kind of faith does it take to sit down and pray for the Lord to build the wall in the middle of all my enemies?  None what-so-ever!  On the other hand, what kind of faith does it take to seek the Lord, hear His voice, and begin rebuilding the wall under a pagan king, surrounded by people that hate you? SIGNIFICANT FAITH.  Now, I want to caution you that action without seeking the Lord is just as foolish…action for the sake of action, success for the sake of success, trying to prove your worth…is simply an idol in the way of the Lordship of Christ and God’s will for your life.

Stop now!!! And ask the Lord where he needs you to take action today.  If you are willing to pray that prayer and truly mean it with no exceptions, He will use you in a significant way.  Just get ready for the adventure!!!

Blessings!!!

Scott

 

Fasting For Breakthrough

Presence

Todays post is written by my friend and pastor, Matt Wagner.  I met Matt in 2001, while Danielle and I lived in Bartow, Florida. Matt is an amazing leader who is driven to make disciples who make disciples.  He has church planting flowing through his veins, successfully planting six churches to date, with another 999,994 on his heart.

Exodus 33:15

Over the years I have not blogged much but have found myself standing at the window peaking in, desiring to experience the power and transformation that comes from a consistent and steady diet of articulating thought.  So, here goes!

As many of you know, we as a church recently started a 21 day fast.  What is interesting is that I have done fasts for many years now.  I have fasted for a few days and I have fasted for 21 days.  I have fasted and fallen off the wagon and I have fasted for some breakthrough only to find that my discipline ended up being nothing more than a glorified diet.

You see, historically speaking, when I have fasted in the past my goal has been for the hand of God to be extended in some area of my life, but not necessarily Him.  I have wanted the impact of God but not necessarily the presence of God.  I have wanted the faithfulness of God, the dream of God, the power of God, the influence of God, but not necessarily His presence.

This is a new-found revelation for me, for if you would have asked me in years past if I desired the presence of the Lord I would have said, “Of course I do.”  It was just that my prayers to God communicated something different.

In Exodus 33, we find a young man by the name of Moses sitting on Mt. Sinai with the Lord.  And it is here that we read Moses had an intimate relationship with God.  As a matter of fact, the Bible makes it clear that Moses was a friend of God.  He experienced God in a personal way.  It was that personal understanding of God that allowed Moses to remain humble and aware of the presence of the Lord.

In this passage, God tells Moses that He is going to keep His promise to the nation of Israel, and He will continue to watch after them, but He himself would not go with them due to them constantly violating His standards.  It is here that Moses makes a powerful declaration, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight.” (Ex. 33:15, NKJV)

As I read those words, my heart was cut because suddenly I realized that I wanted the impact of God in my life, but did not necessarily want Him.  I guess I would say I could not honestly answer whether or not I would have said the same thing Moses did.  I probably would have said, “Lord, we are going to miss you.  Thank you for blessing us.  We will come visit often.”  You see, I wanted the promised land, without the promise keeper.  Here is the problem with that…if you ever want to forfeit your impact, then short change your intimacy with God.

This fasting season, I encourage you not to focus so much on the breakthrough but rather focus on His Presence.