This is the 5th post of a series. If you need some context, here are the previous posts in order by date:
Just two days later. Friday. I was back on campus for another Christian yoga class. Afterward, I found myself back in the empty sanctuary again. This time, I picked up the pew Bible and intentionally turned to the book of Isaiah.
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;
I had to read it again.
I turned to Matthew 15:8-9, the verse I had read on Wednesday. It was a pew Bible. There were no cross references. But I knew the footnotes of a reference Bible would link them.
“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.”
I glanced up at verse 7.
“You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:”
“Isaiah prophesied.” Had I seen that Wednesday? Is that why I turned directly to Isaiah on Friday? Maybe.
But that didn’t explain how I turned directly to Isaiah 29:13.
That was God. Freakin me out.
I’m not a big believer in coincidences. I was blown away by the fact that God had led me to these two scriptures. I turned back to Isaiah and continued reading verse 14.
so I will again do
amazing things with this people,
shocking and amazing.
The wisdom of their wise shall perish,
and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.
I knew what I wanted that to mean.
But the Bible is not a crystal ball.
I wanted it to mean that God would do amazing things with this church. I turned on my phone and looked up Isaiah 29:13-14 on biblegateway.com. Out of curiosity, I switched versions to The Message.
The Master said:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their hearts aren’t in it.
Because they act like they’re worshiping me
but don’t mean it,
I’m going to step in and shock them awake,
astonish them, stand them on their ears.
The wise ones who had it all figured out
will be exposed as fools.
The smart people who thought they knew everything
will turn out to know nothing.”
What did this mean?
Why did God lead me to those two scriptures?
I didn’t know. It would appear I’m definitely not one of the wise ones. But it would also appear that was a good thing.
Again, I sat on the stage where I stand to sing with the praise team during worship. And I prayed Wednesday’s desperate, “mean” prayers again.
And then I prayed some more.
I prayed for a miracle.
I prayed that the Holy Spirit would move in a powerful way.
I prayed for our services that Sunday.
I prayed for my pastor again, that he would preach Christ.
I prayed for the congregation, that they would seek Christ and
I prayed for the worship team, that we would point to Christ.
And I blatantly and unashamedly prayed for myself.
I prayed that God would equip me for His service.
I prayed for encouragement if God wanted me to stay.
Unwillingly, I prayed that God would give me a sense of hopelessness if he wanted me to leave.
I was there a while.
The next Sunday, August 19th, my pastor preached on The Book of Revelation. A letter to the Church of Sardis:
“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 3 Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.”
And he spoke the name of Jesus more times in that one sermon than he had spoken it in months!
Was that God? Freaking me out? Was this a turning point in the life of my church?
And selfishly, I wondered. Was that God encouraging me? Or Satan, trying to derail me? I had prayed for God to move and still I doubted. Was this God moving? Or was it just that the content of this particular message included Jesus as a “structural component?”
A fleece was looking pretty good right now.
I spent most of the next Monday and Tuesday writing up as much as I could remember. Everything I’ve published in the previous 4 posts and pages more. Wednesday, while writing, I was curious. What did scripture have to say about our human attempts to reach people for Christ. I Googled “Bible verse evangelism.”
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
I continued reading.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. There it was again. Was God’s trying to tell me something? Was I just too dense to figure it out? Or had God not revealed it to me yet? I know what I’d bet on. I continued to read.
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
“It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
God can do anything – in spite of us. But would He do this?
I still didn’t know.
The next Sunday, the pastor referenced 1 Corinthians 1:17. I knew that verse. I picked up a pew Bible and turned to read it, continuing on to verse 19. There it was again:
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
This was getting ridiculous.
“the Scriptures call the Gospel an offense to those who are perishing.”
As soon as I opened this blog draft today God freaked me out again. I sent my friend a text and asked where that came from.
The reply? 1 Corinthians 1:21-25.
You don’t have to scroll up too far in this post to see that I’ve quoted 1 Corinthians 1:17-25.
and I wrote the first draft of this post months ago..
(to be continued. Sorry. I know this one is a bit of a cliff-hanger, but it was already soooo long.)
“If you are frustrated with the lack of gospel-centrality in your current church culture, understand that cultural frustration always precedes cultural transformation. The frustration is good and beautiful if it leads you to long for the grace of Jesus to permeate your theology, philosophy, and practice. Paul’s concluding words to the Galatian believers are poignant: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers” (Gal. 6: 18 ESV). Paul believed the only solution to church culture dysfunction is Jesus— the only One who can build a culture of grace in your church. He is the One who brings brokenness and repentance. He is the One we must trust. He is the only One who could remedy the broken sacrificial system among His people, and He is the only One who could repair the shifting church culture in Galatia. Only He can raise a life, and only He can raise a dead culture.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with our churches.”
from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
This post is the fifth in a multi-part series, written mostly in early autumn 2012, published now for the first time.