Something That Matters, Today!

Last week, I wrote about wealth. One of Job’s friends was trying to equate Job’s physical condition with his spiritual condition. Eliphaz was saying that Job’s lack on the outside (his loss, his health, etc) was an indicator of his lack on the inside (God wasn’t pleased with Him).

In the book of Job, the three friends (and later a fourth) and Job go back and forth a good bit. Sometimes it seems that Job is being wise; at other times, he really seems to be missing the point. But I like what he said in chapter 28, and it is a good follow-up to my last blog post that I just summarized.

Job 28:12-28

12 “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? 

13 Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. 

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ 

15 It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. 

16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. 

17 Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. 

18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. 

19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. 

20 “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? 

21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.

 22 Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

 23 “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. 

24 For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.

 25 When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, 

26 when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, 

27 then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. 

28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

We’re talking about something far more valuable that earthly riches here. Something that can’t be bought (v15), priced (v16), or bartered (v17). What is it?

The fear of the Lord. Wisdom. To turn away from evil.

 We’re not talking about 3 different items here, but rather, 3 items that are linked together – “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

It is mentioned in other places in Scripture as well:

Psalm 111:10

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Proverbs 9:10

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

If we really wanted to get “ahead,” we would pursue Him, more than the excellence of career, or finances, or personal health, or the other things that we can easily prioritize over our spiritual walk and our Creator.

I do believe that our God wants us to be good personal stewards of our own body and health. There are multiple scriptures for this – here’s one:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

As long as we don’t over-prioritize it over what really matters.

1 Timothy 4:8

8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

So, be the best we can be. But to do that, in our pursuit of excellence, we must remember where it starts, and what matters most.

Job 28:28

28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

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Promising what wasn’t his to give…

My rambling for the day…

In my study this morning, I read a passage that I had not recollected reading before (isn’t it amazing how that happens?)

Job 22:21- 30

“Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.  Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. 

 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents,  if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,  then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. 

 For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.  You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows.  

You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.  For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly.  

He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

These are the words of Eliphaz’, one of Job’s three “friends,” and a spreader of deceit and lies.

It seems that one of the themes of my personal spiritual walk these last few months has been the importance of solid, sound doctrine. I’m of the persuasion that some Christians could not identify sound doctrine if it tattooed itself on their heads, and as a result, that many Christians can and do fall for false doctrine.

We see this throughout Scripture. I was just reading in 1 Timothy 4:7 in Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.

Often, false doctrine is lunacy. However, in many cases, false doctrine is persuasive because it so closely resembles the real thing. Just as people ignorantly sometimes possess and pass counterfeit bills, unable to tell the difference (unless they are an expert at doing so) between the counterfeit and the genuine article, so it is with doctrine.

And so, the words of Job’s “friend,” Eliphaz. We see throughout Job that his friends walk on the doctrinal fence, blending popular sayings and clichés with gospel-ized opinions and truisms. And as I was reading in chapter 22 this morning, I was asking myself – “Is this prosperity doctrine?”

The wiki definition of Prosperity Doctrine – Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.

As a child, I still vividly remember doing a church visit with my father. We had learned of a lady in our town who needed groceries. We stopped to get her some groceries, then took them to her…shack. It was no house. She was ancient. It was a dilapidated house, needing to be condemned, unsafe to live in. It had no power, and thus no way to prepare food properly and safely.

After prying, my father discovered that she was sending all of her money to a preacher on the TV who was promising his believers many financial returns on their seed gifts. She was sending no money to the local church, nor was she attending one. She was grateful to receive the groceries, and I’m not sure what happened to her after that visit.

Just as that preacher was promising this lady riches that were not his to give, if only she would bestow him with her material possessions (and he was made very wealthy off of people like her), Eliphaz is promising with authority that is not his that Job will be prosperous if he only repents and seeks God.

Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you”

Mind you – Job had done nothing wrong to deserve what he had, and yet he was in great anguish. The link between physical and material riches, and spiritual “good behavior” is not existent in this case.

I don’t mean to use this post as an entire description and rebuttal of the “prosperity Gospel.” I do think it ironic that people can justify leading a life looking forward to material blessings, promotions, and riches, all while claiming to follow a Shepherd who despised those things and even preached against them. When Jesus encountered a rich man, what did He say to him?

Mark 10:21-23

 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

There’s a difference between a gospel that promises riches to our flesh and a Gospel that promises security to our souls.

And so we have Eliphaz counseling Job that if he would just get his act together, God would make everything rosy. Job would be restored and be taken care of. The problem is, Eliphaz has it all wrong, from the very beginning. Sometimes the test is being obedient in suffering, not living in an eternal spiritual state of earthly blessings.”

God can and often does bless, provisionally speaking. And I’ve been known to pray that needs would be answered, and I have seen them answered! But that is not to be our focus, our expected reward, or the climax of our spiritual journey.

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God promises much better things than the paltry wealth of this world. Live for those things, and they will make today’s wealth seem like what it is. And we will find the true meaning of wealth and prosperity!

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A Testimony of 8 Years

Now that I’m finally on the other side of a major transition, I’d like to briefly describe it. The transition I’m about to describe is the reason I haven’t written much in a while. We decided to take a hiatus from certain activities until the dust settled.

This is going to have alot of “I” and “Me” and “We” in it. Not at all to try to make everything about us, but just wanting to describe the testimony from our vantage point as we ultimately remember Who is in charge and Who is sovereign.

On to the story…

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When I was serving as a worship pastor in Ohio, I attended a promise keeper’s rally in Columbus. This was about 8 years ago now. It was the only one I had ever attended; I haven’t attended one since (for no particular reason). But I do remember how amazing the worship was and how strong the Spirit moved. The Katina’s did what I consider the most God-reflecting music set I’ve ever seen or heard by a “major Christian artist.” And then a speaker got up to speak.

This speaker – and I couldn’t tell you his name, though I remember his face and his voice, which I shall not describe here – this speaker was the man through which I felt the call to pastor. Not just lead music, but pastor – get in peoples’ lives, declare the Word, under-shepherd the flock – pastor! This speaker weaved music into his message in a way that I had never seen before; it was as if God was telling me that music would be a part of who I was, not a limitation.

I sat down with my pastor at the time and shared my heart. Over the years that followed in Ohio, I was given plenty of chances to “train” in the pastorate. Sermons, weddings, funerals, hospital visits. I was able to attend deacon’s meetings, stewardship meetings, etc. It was a time in which I felt I was obviously being prepared to enter the senior pastoral ministry.

In 2009, God did something we didn’t expect. He pulled us out of that situation. I honestly expected to remain in Ohio for years, if not my career. But His ways are not ours. We were presented with an opportunity to go to Florida, and felt very strongly in our Spirit that this opportunity was afforded to us from above. Isaiah 55.

We spent just over 3 years in Florida. It was a very music-heavy position, when compared to my position on Ohio. I honestly at many points questioned whether I had really been called back at the promise keeper’s rally or not. I think the world of those folks in Florida. They were delightful people – they really were! My impact there was smaller than I was hoping for, at least in my field of vision. My job was music moreso than pastoring, even though I tried to figure out the balance between the two for the duration of my tenure there. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t free to pursue my passion on a scale that I would’ve wished for – getting in the lives of people. I didn’t understand why God suddenly and seemingly put me on the sideline of where I thought I was going. Isaiah 55 again. In hindsight, we were learning lessons. We were just learning different lessons, in a different way.

In and around January of 2012, Sarah and I began fervently praying about where God was leading, and why did we seem tasked to be musicians when we felt called to be something different. We began asking people outside of our local church to pray with us in this regards.

We talked to a number of church planters, at the advice of some of those people. This would’ve been in the early spring of 2012. One church planter in particular seemed desperate for us to be a part of a work in the northern part of the country. We were invited to come up and look at possible locations for a church. We thought that was a possibility, but God made it pretty obvious that it wasn’t what he wanted.

Over the summer, I found a small group of pastors who began praying for me and giving me counsel from time to time – one in Ohio, one in Tennessee, two in Alabama, and one in Kentucky. These were in addition to the pastors in my family (both sides). These folks weren’t holding copies of a resume and trying to find something for me – they were just supporting with their encouragement and their kindness and their prayers.

Time continued to march on. The rift in my personal spirit became more pronounced. I felt like a person who speaks English in the middle of another country. I was a worship pastor, and doing my best to be one, but I also felt like I wasn’t in “my world” anymore. My soul and my life yearned to migrate towards what I felt God was calling me to do – to love on people as their pastor without a dual commitment that would prevent me from doing so (for example, being a music minister, and the hours required to be one).

We had much advice from many folks. Tears were shed, prayers were said, counsel was sought, scripture was read (oh, I just rhymed!).

Fast forward to October. I was contacted by a church in Robertsdale, Alabama of all places.

You see, I thought for sure the Lord would call us back up north – to a place where snow falls in abundance, and people speak funny. Where many people have never attended a church, unlike the south, when most Christians simply hops to or starts another church when someone upsets them. We loved it up there, and 2 of our children were born in Cinci. The north needs churches badly. Surely the Lord would bring us back, right? Isaiah 55.

But here I was, talking to a church in Robertsdale – mere minutes from my original hometown. In the south, where it is hot in the winter and mosquitos carry off small children in the summer. The 4 seasons are 1. hot, 2. still hot, 3. Christmas, and 4. about to get hot again. Where there are many churches, and many churches being started, sometimes because the churches that exist just can’t get along. And guess what.

On December 30, following a process in which God was in from beginning to end, Bethel Baptist Church of Robertsdale, Alabama recognized that God was calling us to be their senior pastor by a vote of the membership. Given the confirmation afforded to us by the vote and the inward confirmation of the Holy Spirit, we accepted this calling the same day and agreed to become the Pastor of this church.

So tomorrow, February 10, is my 2nd Sunday as pastor of the church and my first opportunity to preach in the morning service (we had a concert last week!). It has been a blessing and a blast so far, and these are wonderful people that we are just blessed to be able to serve and serve with. I look forward to growing with them and seeing my family grow with them.

Hindsight reveals God’s moving so much clearer than present-sight or foresight. He doesn’t promise a taxi ride to our destination. Sometimes it is a long process, filled with questions and struggles and tears. But now, at the end of one part of our journey and only at the beginning of the next part of it, we are filled with joy at his sovereignty, which has afforded us this season to reflect on it as we begin the new work at Bethel.

More tears will come again, and struggles, and questions, but also joy, and happiness, and reward.

None of us are even close to perfect, but consider the encouragement of Paul in the 3rd chapter of the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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