I heard a sermon this weekend on a whirlwind 72-hour round-trip drive from home to Mobile, AL and back. Steve DeNeff of College Wesleyan Church made a simple statement. It, along with a steady variety of highly emotional stimulants, seems to have struck a nerve which is still resonating. His comment was something like this, “We are at odds with God as long as what we desire is not what our Father desires for us.” He went on to say, “We remain at odds with God as long as we pursue our desires in ignorance of God’s best.”
I don’t know exactly where to place this thought.
Dawn and I were binge-listening to the Christianity Today Podcast, "The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill" on the visit to Alabama. It chronicles the meteoric rise to becoming the largest church in the United States and the church’s pastor’s subsequent fall from common grace. My opinion about what went wrong or who failed is much less important than the fact that it and they did.
As I listened to the trek from what clearly was a God-ordained movement to a leadership structure that is tagged as abusive, I saw a failure of nuance. Big things did not bring down a ministry. Rather, it was little foxes, a wide variety of unwise alliances, power plays and, most importantly, division, and mistrust.
I have said all-to-often in recent years, Satan’s job does not need to be destruction. He simply needs to create doubt and subtle misdirection and in turn, he will have what he wants- division. We’ll do the heavy lifting of destruction on our own.
There is a Christian phenomenon these days. While we critique the world for its cancel culture, we are busy making sure that flawed leaders and spiritual mentors are beaten in the town square and then run out of our Christian world on a proverbial rail. Nobody is better at cancelling opposite or contrary beliefs and believers than us.
This is because we are missing three pieces of truth.
- As long as rightness is our objective, we will be “right” at the expense of love.
- We are all fatally flawed humans who have no right to throw stones… at anybody.
- Grace is not only what you need. It’s what I need.
On Sunday night, as I was experiencing worship at CRF South Central’s Shed, I couldn’t stop crying. I was pretty glad I was in the very back of the room or I would have lost “tough guy” points. I’ll admit I was overtired, emotionally conflicted, plagued by TMI and off my game, but when I came into the presence of God’s worship, I was broken by one question: “What do you really want, Doug?”
I answered pretty easily. “I want this, God. I want you to keep me close enough from nuancing you. I want you to bless me still. Keep me protected by your grace. Make me dilute of grace for others. Do not let me disqualify myself from being your mouthpiece.”
As I wrestled with God, I realized that Luke Marshall, our CRF Harrison Ministry Director, was speaking about Jacob and his iconic match against the heavenly visitor. Hanging on to God’s blessing is a matter of walking in lockstep with God’s will.
What I want, every time, is to be walking with Jesus. Everything else places me as king. I’ve read the Old Testament. There were 39 combined kings between Israel and Judah. There were only eight that walked with God. I don’t need that kind of conflict.
What do you really want?