I opened the pew Bible and searched for folded pages to smooth, a practice stemming from both my compulsion to line things up in parallel rows and my need to fix things. To make things right.
And things were not right.
The only page that needed smoothing was in the book of Matthew. Even though it felt a little like playing Bible roulette, I read the words that had been hidden under the folded paper:
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,
“why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14: 29-31
Why do I doubt? Do I not believe God can do anything? I say I believe it. Why the doubt?
I had come to the church campus that Wednesday morning for a Christian yoga class and after yoga, I found myself walking into the empty sanctuary instead of to my van. I picked up a pew Bible and climbed the steps to the stage to sit in the same spot I stand when I sing with the praise team. Then I opened the Bible to the wrinkled page and read about Peter’s doubt.
About his little faith.
I sat there in the quiet, staring out into the empty sanctuary. I had come to pray for revival in my church. For the individual members of the church congregation, for my pastor and for the praise team. But before I could even begin, God pointed out the elephant in the room. Or should I say the elephant in the sanctuary?
I intended to pray for revival while saturated in doubt.
I believe God can do anything.
But I doubted He would do this.
I turned the wrinkled page and looked at the back side. Like an arrow, the beginning of the wrinkle pointed to the first line of Matthew 15:8. Words spoken by Christ, printed in red. I read, continuing to verse 9:
“This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
That was harsh.
But I couldn’t discount it.
I couldn’t deny it.
It was the thing that compelled me to slip into the empty sanctuary and pray that morning. This was the thing that was not right. The thing I couldn’t make right.
It was the thing I doubted God would make right.
Not because He couldn’t, but because He wouldn’t. Although it grieved him, the father allowed his prodigal son to leave. The father didn’t go after him and force him to come home against his will. And the son, believing he knew what was best for himself, did not return.
Until he was broken and desperate.
My church is broken, but blind to the brokenness. Desperate for the Father, but unaware of the need.
My church is a victim of the drift.
“Their drift has not been one of overt rebellion but of an inner twisting of the heart, a loss of appreciation for the gospel and all its ramifications.”
from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
This post is the first in a mulit-part series, written mostly in late summer/early autumn 2012, published now for the first time.
The second post in the series: “the assumption of Christ“
3 thoughts on “irreconcilable differences.”
Ouch. Double ouch. Thank you for the slap. I needed it.
So Julie, the first scripture that came to mind and goodness I drift all the time…..and your articles cause me to think and pull out the bible, and past lessons and look up scripture LOL. I should read your articles and musings more often…..was James 1:6-8 (NIV) I just finishing up a six week study on Jonah: Navigating an interuppted Life by Priscilla Shirer and this is a scripture in the last week I remembered when I reading this first article. It says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” I think that people authentically believed that God is fully capable and willing they would have a heart change, they would understand the meaning of worship at church. Instead of what a number of church goers do, which is go to get what they can out of “worship”. Instead of worshipping as a verb, they treat it like a noun.