Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme! Each week, we share a scripture that has touched our hearts, whether it’s an old favorite or new light from the Holy Spirit. If you’d like to join us, post your scripture, with as much or as little commentary as you choose, and leave a link in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other posts! You’re also welcome to use this photo of my favorite Bible.
Last week, we had a record number of participants, so I’m going to start today by acknowledging them:
- Miss Szymanski of In Defense of the Christian Faith posted for the first time. We’re so glad you’ve joined us.
- Hercules Mulligan of Hercules Reflections, after a short hiatus, shared a two-part meaty post. Welcome back, Herky.
- Rebecca of Freaky Frugalite blessed us with another from-the-heart post. Thanks, Rebecca.
- Lisa from Queen of Pith, once again, called it the way it is. I’m glad you share your views with us, Lisa.
- And Jim from The Chestnut Tree Cafe continued his review of the book of Isaiah. That’s no small task, and I’m glad you’ve stuck with it, my friend.
And now, my Word for Wednesday.
Strong’s 350 from 336 & 3519
When young children get presents to open, they are delighted. They love the bright colors of the wrapping paper and the crinkle sound it makes when they squeeze it.
They love the ribbons and bows, and often adorn their parents in new hats.
They think boxes, especially big boxes, are the next wonder of the world. They open and close them multiple times. They put them on their heads and laugh with glee. If the box is big enough, they climb right in it to play hide-and-seek.
To their parents chagrin, however, they often prefer the wrappings to the actual present.
And so it is with God. His children often delight themselves in the wrappings and ignore the real present.
We delight ourselves in buildings and programs and organizational structures – and ignore God, who gives us life.
We “practice” our religious beliefs, whether from the words of Augustine or Luther, Calvin or Wesley, Asuza Street or the Jesus movement – and ignore Jesus, who is The Word.
As the Pharisee did in Luke 18, we stand before God and point to the excellence of our good deeds, whether that includes prayer and Bible study, feeding the poor, or fasting and tithing – and ignore the Holy Spirit, who alone can lead us to those good works.
In large part, our practices, our wrappings, have become our foreign gods.
I think the most heart-breaking situation, though, is when God leaves us to our buildings and denominations and good works – and we don’t even notice that the present is missing. We continue to play with the wrappings, and declare that God is with us, while the Holy Spirit has left us to our own devices.
Before you start throwing things at me and declaring, “But of course God is with us!” let me qualify this a little.
I agree that God is always with us on an individual basis. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts to teach us and comfort us – as individuals. This does not, however, mean that God supports every church, or everything done in His name. It does not mean the Holy Spirit can’t be grieved when we reject what He teaches us. And it doesn’t mean His Glory is present at every church service.
While I know that there are probably exceptions to the following statement, I believe it’s true of the American church overall:
Most churches have a remnant of born-again Christians as members, but most churches are not run by the Holy Spirit or blessed with God’s glory.
For decades, or even centuries, established churches and denominations have largely been devoid of the power and presence of God. Even charismatic/pentecostal churches, where I spent several years, recognize that God’s presence is missing from other churches, but don’t acknowledge the problem for their own. Whether influenced by flesh or satanic spirits or simply holding to standard practice, they declare, “thus saith the Lord,” and ignore the fact that their words have no power. They continue to play with the wrappings and don’t notice that the box is empty.
When the Philistines defeated Israel and took away the Ark of God, Israel noticed. The priest Eli fell over backward and died. His two sons, admittedly not paragons of virtue, were killed in the battle. His pregnant daughter-in-law went into labor, gave birth to a son, and also died, but not before she spoke.
And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.” (1 Samuel 4:20-22)
The ark is missing and the box is empty in America. Will God rise up and return His Glory to our churches? Will he deliver us from the Philistines who have taken over our land? Only He knows, but we would be wise to listen to the words that Samuel spoke to Israel when the ark of God was taken:
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3)
Clearly, the Lord has put the power of nations in the hands of His church. Will we heed His call, or continue to be satisfied with empty wrappings?