Why does God make life so hard? Why not just smooth out every bump in the road and fill every pothole? Why not remove each obstacle and take away every tear from sorrows that burden us down? Why not heal every disease and quiet the cry of every broken heart? Why not stop the storms and calm the seas and prevent the floods from destroying all we’ve worked for?
James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In God’s economy, life is hard for a reason: to help us depend on Him. As we depend on Him we gain His strength. When we stand in His strength we overcome. When we overcome we rise among the victorious.
There are things in our lives we can only gain through struggle. Paul didn’t discover God’s grace was sufficient for every weakness until he got the thorn in his flesh. Hard things sharpen us to help us cut through the darkness of life and live faithfully before God. How so? They make us look to Him.
When God gave His people the Old Covenant, He gave them expectations that were impossible to meet. Why? To make them need Him. He didn’t want them to have a religion they could use to accomplish life without depending on Him. The goal was to bring them close. That’s why when life gets hard we look up.
Act 15:10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
What Peter pointed out was how inadequate the people were to live under the Old Covenant. Why? Because the Old Covenant was impossible by man’s strength. With God all things are possible. Without God, forget it. But that inadequacy was designed to draw them to Him.
When God phased out the Old Covenant and initiated the New Covenant at Calvary, He was changing the focus. Instead of the people trying to reach Him, He was now reaching out to them. And when He reached them, the ability to live faithfully became real because He was present in their lives to make it happen.
2 Cor 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant.
One of the problems with the old covenant was limited involvement. There was a network of priests who basically did everything for the people. They performed the sacrifices. They served God on behalf of the people. They made the connection between God and man. The people brought their offerings and the priests did the rest.
This was holy work and only the holy can perform the work. You see the exclusion.
Then there were the prophets. God spoke to His people through His prophets. Regular folks didn’t hear from God directly. They listened to what He said through designated spokesmen. The barrier was strong between God and His people and only a few could get through that barrier. Hear the exclusion?
It created two problems: (1) it gave the impression that connecting with God was only for a select few and (2) it limited the people’s understanding of God because their knowledge had to come from what others wanted them to know.
In the late 300s AD, the Church wanted to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots. Since the New Testament is a largely Jewish book, written primarily by Jews who had realized their fulfillment in Jesus, the historical and spiritual connection between Christianity and Judaism was and is strong. Unfortunately, it was too strong for early church leaders, so they forbid Christians from reading the Bible for themselves. Why? To disconnect the people from their Jewish heritage and tell the people what the Church wanted them to know.
Try to push indulgences or the immaculate conception of Mary or purgatory when your people could check it for themselves in their Bibles. Even paintings of Jesus were of a European white man and not a Middle Eastern Jew.
By the 1200s a Council was convened where it was decided: “We prohibit that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.”
At that time, the Bible was only available in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. No common person could read any of these languages.
In 1536, William Tyndale was for translating the Bible into English. According to Tyndale, the Church was forbidding to control and restrict the teachings and to enhance their own power and importance.
But from that English translation and later German, the people could now read the Bible for themselves. When they did, they realized it was God’s story of the favor He had granted His people to teach them, lead them and empower them. They understood they were a people created to hear His voice and follow Him specifically and personally.
God’s people can all hear directly from God—not just the prophets. We all can go before God and serve Him personally—not just the priests. We can all draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:16
You can see why some churches don’t want you to know that. It levels the playing field. It makes everyone of equal importance. It values everyone. Each of us carries meaning and the purpose of God stamped our hearts. There are no big shots and little shots. We all matter. We matter individually and collectively because the church is a redeemed community designed to connect together.
You can fake church but you cannot fake connection. Some think church is like a bag of marbles. Their goal is to collect more and more marbles. It doesn’t matter how many marbles you have in the bag they don’t connect. Instead the church is like a puzzle with interlocking edges. My life connects with your life until we produce a picture that defines what God has called us to be.
What’s a fake church. It is a church that sets its own goals and acts toward its own purpose, targets who it wants to attend, desires people for what it can get out of them. Has no interest in who they are and what God wants to accomplish through them. All they are is fodder, steerage, place holders, pew warmers, unless they can be used to help hold up the organization. A fake church is a throwback to the hierarchy era when all the church wanted was attendance and money. These churches have counterfeited God’s design. Why would they do that? They want the value of connection but don’t want to lose control.
You don’t counterfeit worthless things—like a paper sack or a rubber band. Hey buddy, make you a deal on a paper sack…Or, got some find rubber bands here. You counterfeit things of value you can’t get any other way. Money, diamonds, ladies hand bags or designer clothes. Things made to look like the original but don’t have the value of the original.
In NY, a guy from Nigeria stopped me and was showing me ladies designer hand bags from a box on the sidewalk. That should have been my first clue. Suddenly, he took off and left me there with the box. I looked up and saw a police car at the intersection. When the police turned a different way, the man came back. After I bought Jan a purse I realized the stuff was all counterfeit and I could have been arrested just because I had it in my possession.
People produce counterfeits or buy counterfeits when they want what they don’t know how to have any other way. Even churches.
They want what other churches have but don’t know how to make that happen, so they try to create a church by their own methods. Which may work for a while but soon will fade away. Paul lays it out. It is simple: it’s not the programs; it’s the people. It’s not the promotion; it’s the prayer. It’s not the product; it’s the life. It’s not the production; it’s God.
The church isn’t an organization, it’s the body of Christ. For it to function properly there can only be one Head and everyone else must serve through their gifts, providing the body the parts the church needs to do what the Father wants.
1Co 12:12-26 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Somebody’s got to be the big toe. Somebody’s got to be the liver. Somebody’s got to be the elbow, the hands, the feet. It takes each of us and all of us to be the body that goes by the name North Shore Church. That’s why you’re here.
Like an orchestra. At the end of the performance, you don’t applaud just the percussion section or the trombones. You applaud the whole orchestra. Each instrument did their part but it was through their part added to the rest that made a successful performance.
A great orchestra is one where each instrument is tuned to all the others, with each musician playing from the same score, following the same conductor, intent on performing their best to make the whole complete.
The church is a group of Believers, tuned in heart to God and each other, reading from the same Book, led by the same Master, with the shared desire to please the Lord.
- If I asked you to find one word that describes what you think God’s opinion of you is, for many that word would be disappointed.
- We feel God is disappointed because we don’t think we measure up to what He expects from us.
- Failure or the fear of failure creates anxiety that drives us inside ourselves so we can remain safe and not risk any more disappointment.
- Actually, it’s just the opposite; if anything disappoints God, it is His people not living according to their potential.
- North Shore Church gives you permission to deny your fears and open yourself up for opportunities to be blessed and to become a blessing.
- You are valuable here.