When I was a young boy every year about this time we would begin gathering firewood for the coming winter.
A large tree would be cut down and cut into rounds, then with the use of a wedge and a maul I would split those into smaller pieces.
Then I would take an ax and split those into even smaller pieces that would fit the fireplace.
This process would go on for days and days until we had enough wood to last the winter.
It was a lot of work and the tools I used would cause thick callouses to grow on my hands to protect them.
At first, my hands would be bloody and blistered from swinging the tools, but soon the callouses would grow over those wounds and I no longer felt any pain from the ax.
The callouses were good and necessary protection from the work I had to do.
We also grow spiritual callouses and those are not so good, but they still function to save us from pain.
Sometimes our problem isn’t that we don’t believe the Word of God, it’s that we believe it all too deeply.
When our experiences don’t match what we read and believe, we begin to grow callouses.
When we read and believe that people we know and love may spend eternity in a place terrible beyond words, we grow callouses.
When those who we thought represented God betray and wound us, we grow callouses.
When our faith causes painful friction with our souls, we grow callouses to protect ourselves from that pain.
I’m growing a few myself.
I’ll confess that I’ve given up on prayer.
I read the word and believe the word, but too many years of silence and pain have choked my voice.
It just doesn’t seem to work and I’m tired of trying.
The callous grows thicker every day.
That’s a hard confession to make, especially when you carry the label “pastor”.
I make it because a great many people reading this morning have grown callouses as well and none of them befit the label “Christian”.
Yet, you are still Christians and maybe even pastors with a thick callous over some part of your heart.
Sometimes callouses appear as aberrant doctrines, sometimes as doubt, sometimes as isolation, sometimes as arguments, sometimes as prayerlessness, and sometimes as an absolute certainty that if challenged might rip through a carefully built callous.
God has not given up on us even if other Christians have.
Because I know that God has not given up on me or you I purposed long ago to not poke at other believers callouses, lest I tear them off and expose a wound again.
That privilege belongs to God alone and when He does so, He is also preparing to heal.
When we do so, it’s because other peoples callouses are ugly to us or are pricking at our own.
We always do so in the name of ‘orthodoxy’ and “defending the faith”.
Mostly, we’re just protecting ourselves.
God isn’t though with people who do that either.
His grace and love are bigger than our callouses and someday He will heal what’s under them all.
ESV, NIV, NASB, KJV, HSB, NKJV,NLT, RSV or another from the alphabet soup?
Study bible or simple bible?
Why did you choose that one?
Bonus question: There is a big controversy in some quarters over the new ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible…because the some of the articles were written by women…who will thus be teaching the men who read it.
Is this an issue for you?
I use the ESV Study Bible…and the reason for that is because J.I. Packer was the editor for all the notes.
That’s the whole reason…all of these bibles are good translations of the Scriptures.
1. There are three kinds of skeptics about the Christian faith. Those who want to believe, those who don’t want to believe, and those who really don’t care. There are sufficient answers available for the first group, no answers will ever satisfy the second, and the third doesn’t even know the questions. I only concern myself with answering the first group…
I can’t even tell you how weird that sentence is to me…the only thing stranger were some of the quotes from this years celebrity for Jesus. This was my personal favorite;
“Laurie then asked Phil how he met his wife, Marsha “Kay” Carroway.
“Miss Kay was 14,” Phil responded. “California, all you young bucks out there, you’re listening? If you marry these girls at about 16, they’ll pick your ducks, if you wait till they’re 20, they’ll pick your pocket,” he said jokingly.”
That’s a hoot… unless you’re a female with a shred of self respect.
3. “Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if you will hear My voice and open the door, I will come in,” Laurie said, urging the people to do that publicly.” This proves once again that God even uses scripture taken out of context and misinterpreted to do His work. Jesus is knocking on the door of a church, not a person…but the implications of that may not fit the purposes of crusade evangelism.
4. Behold American evangelicalism…shallow, flashy, entertaining,celebrity driven, and above all, pragmatic. If it “works” it must be of God. The fact that all those things are contra a Gospel centered life is irrelevant.
5. I missed the crusade because I was drafting my fantasy football team. The good Lord enabled me to pick Adrian Peterson, who is also a Christian. Coincidence? I think not…
6. The most provocative book of the year is “Fight: A Case For Christian Nonviolence”. I can’t recommend it highly enough because it challenges the heart of how we view the Christian walk in a violent world. Indeed it challenges every notion you may have about nationalism and militarism while making a case of Christian non violence in every sphere of life. The right will crucify this guy…and he has made me quite uncomfortable as well.
7.Shouldn’t we be doing evangelistic crusades aimed at older people ? They’re the ones running out of time. I wonder what the entertainment lineup for that one would be…
8. When I went to work for a major bank in 2002, the first item in orientation was a video applauding diversity featuring a gay couple. I mention this to remind you that the current triumph of the gay agenda was begun and financed by corporate America after identifying gays as a specific economic class.
9. Every week we are visited at home by Mormon “elders”, every other week we are visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve never had an evangelical come by the house, nor have I gone knocking on doors myself. Maybe we save it all up for crusades…
10. If you don’t have at least one book in progress…you need to find one and start.
You are God, high, lifted up, majestic. As we say, “Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory . . forever.”
You are high and lifted up; it dazzles us that you work your will through human agents-those whom you call and choose and empower, even the weak, the lowly, the nobodies.
You are high and lifted up; it stuns us that you have worked your will through such human agents as David, the runt of his family, almost left behind and forgotten, and you called him to power and obedience and success.
You are high and lifted up; it staggers us that you have worked your will through this Jesus of Nazareth, he of no pedigree, he of no form or comeliness, he who emptied himself in obedience; and you have raised him to new life, before whom every knee shall how.
You are high and lifted up; it astonishes us that you work your will through human agents like us, people of little consequence and limited capacity.
You call us beyond ourselves; you send us beyond our imagination; you empower us beyond our capacity, and we become your agents in the world, day by day doing justice and mercy and compassion.
At the end of the day we still say in astonishment, that you are high and lifted up and majestic.
We are your creatures, and we give our life hack to you, filled with gratitude, eager for the rest that only you can give.
Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People (pp. 153-154). Kindle Edition.