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Hooked on Holiness

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Pirate Postulate #1 – Most pirate treasure is stolen from someone else.

" If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:3-10, NIV) [1]

God will never give you anything that you will not give back to Him.

God will never give you anything that you will not give back to Him.  I know that I will never be rich as long as he wants me in the pastorate.  If I had means to support myself I would be much more arrogant with people.  I might leave the ministry altogether.  I have this other feeling about my life.  Think about it with me.  I wonder at times if God didn’t call me to the ministry  because He knew that it would be the means of my salvation.  I used to think that the “call” to the ministry was a test of my obedience and that to refuse the call would result in my damnation.

"Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." (1 Corinthians 9:16-18, NIV) [2]

It was as though, once again, God had a gun to my head.  He was giving me a choice that went something like this . . . “Do what I want you to do or I will damn you eternally.”  Something like the shotgun wedding where the father-in-law is suggesting that you have a choice as to whether or not to marry the daughter.  I guess technically you would have a choice but a fairly grim one.  When I think about the fact that I am currently obsessed with God, I wonder what I would do without a job that forced me to dig into the scriptures and to try to find a superhuman strength and wisdom that I need to function as a pastor.  I’m hooked now.  I am a “God-junkie” – can’t live without a daily fix.  Really, to one degree or another I am hooked.  They say that men develop an actual addiction to exercise – working out, running – whatever.  Every morning my body craves the adrenaline and endorphins that are generated by physical exercise.  I am cranky when I don’t get that natural high.  I am also cranky when I don’t find that spiritual “fix”.  It makes my experience of life a different one.  You know what?  God wants you to be hooked on holiness.

"These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” " (2 Peter 2:17-22, NIV) [3]

Samuel Shoemaker writes in a poem called “I Stand By The Door”,:

There is another reason why I stand there.

Some people get part way in and become afraid

Lest God and the zeal of his house devour them;

For God is so very  great and asks all of us.

And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia,

And want to get out.  "Let me out!" they cry.

And the people way inside only terrify them more.

Somebody must be by the door to tell them they are spoiled

For the old life; they have seen too much:

Once taste God and nothing but God will do any more.

What I realize now after only 35 years as a Christian and 30 years as a minister is that the thing that I didn’t want to do has brought me into an intimate relationship with God.  It wasn’t a gun to my head but the most beautiful gift in the world.  Something that God chose for me that I would never have found on my own.  I don’t think that I could have ever known Him as I do without that “assignment”.

Not everyone is like me.  Some of you are strong enough and determined enough to find God and to know Him intimately without a call to the ministry.  I wasn’t called because of my strength but because of my weakness.  Let me tell you about or “boast” about my weakness.

[     I was too weak to walk the aisle.  I never was able to do that on my own.  It came to me.  I was in the front row and wanted to go to the altar but I was self-conscious, withdrawn, afraid of people.  My pastor knelt in front of me and looked up and asked me if I wanted to accept Christ.  I zipped around the end of the pew and hit my knees before anyone knew what was happening.

[     I was too weak stay in my seat.  When I was pretending, they gave an altar call for all those who had accepted Christ to come to the front.  My faith was a “front” and I didn’t have the courage to stay in my seat.  I had to follow the crowd to the front of the church.  My pastor’s wife who had never met me, turned around asked me if I wanted to pray.  I did and I surrendered my life there to Christ – stopped running from His call/invitation to preach His word.

[     I was too weak to date according to God’s standards.  I was dumped by every girl I dated because I was pathetically weak sexually.  If I had ever found a girl who loved me enough to surrender herself to me, I would have had sexual relations with her, probably an unwanted pregnancy and I would have disqualified myself from the ministry.  But He had something more for me and he protected me with pain.  I suffered with each break-up and wondered what was wrong with me.  I felt terrible about myself.  What was the problem?  I had no ability to restrain myself so God ran interference for me.  I am not suggesting that if your love life is a disaster or non-existent, that you have the same problem but I am convinced that God had to go overboard to protect me from myself.  It hurt so much.  Today, I am eternally grateful.  Eventually I met the girl who was strong enough to see beyond my possessiveness and to maintain a standard.  God trusted me to her.  She is my better ¾’s.  I’d never be here speaking to you today apart from the role that God had for this wonderful woman to play in my life

So I was called for my weakness, according to God’s mercy for me.  Look at these verses:

"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”" (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, NIV) [4]

You know, I suspect that this may be commonplace.  I think that God calls the weak and empowers them.  The weaker that you are in your faith, the more likely you are to be called by God.  What do you think about that?

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV) [5]

So whatever you do, don’t tell God that you are too weak to answer His call.  That’s exactly what He is looking for.

One of the most damaging things to Christianity is false promises.

One of the first things that a person has to settle in the Christian life is that there is little to no connection between prosperity and God.  There are those who try to make a connection and do quite well by it.  It’s not a new idea.

"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages." (Acts 8:14-25, NIV) [6]

People are attracted to spiritual life when they see it displayed.  There are people who want to be a part of it at one level or another and for a variety of different reasons.  Simon was one of those people.  The previous verses tell us a little about him.

" Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw." (Acts 8:9-13, NIV) [7]

Simon had been the main show for some time and now a bigger one came to town.  I have no idea how much of his “conversion” was pure but the possibility that he wanted to maintain his profile was real.

A person can become addicted to most anything.  I was influenced back in the “hippie” days by a real cool bunch of Baptist boys who invaded Grand Manan Island with guitars and a whole bunch of enthusiasm.  I let the guard down because I felt that I could be a Christian and still be “cool”.  From there, I was motivated to take over the leadership of my small floundering youth group.  We had prayed for years that God would send a youth minister to island who could “lead us”.  It never seemed to happen.  Finally it occurred to me that perhaps I was the answer to those and my own prayers.  There was no reason that I couldn’t do it.

With every step that I took, my boldness grew.  I actually preached sermons in my home church as a 16 year old.  Some in outdoor services where my school friends would walk by with their “catty” comments.  The fact that they mocked made me that much more determined.  The leadership of my own youth group catapulted me into the leadership of an interdenominational island youth group.  Over 70 kids meeting weekly in different churches.  I fully anticipated that my openness would bring me nothing but rejection.  The opposite was true.  It brought me great respect and popularity.  The pieces were falling together for me over and over again.

Repeatedly, in my life, I have found that the things that I have wanted have come to me as a bi-product of obedience.  The scripture says:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33, NIV) [8]

When I have tried to pursue what I want first then they have been elusive.  We’ll come back to this scripture tomorrow I hope but I believe that the desires of our hearts are realized in Christ.

"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:1-4, NIV) [9]

If you come to faith looking for anything but Jesus, you will be disappointed.  If you come to Christ looking for Christ alone you’ll find everything that you ever wanted.  In finding Christ you find everything that you‘ll ever want.

" So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:6-10, NIV) [10]

The idea that somehow there is material advantage in serving Christ, comes from a corrupt pattern of thinking.

" If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

There are certain bridges that a person has to cross in order to come to Christ.  Until you are willing to do this sI am not sure that you can actually be saved.

I talked with Val the other day about the loss of an aunt, a deeply spiritual lady.  This has left a hole in the family, a real sense of loss and Val has been wondering why it has happened and why it has happened as it did, a slow painful death from cancer.

The bridge that has to be crossed before a person can ever hope to find healing is found in Romans 9.  I am not going to read the chapter today or even get into the answer to any depth.  Just to day that before a person can follow Christ they have to determine that God will be  their Sovereign.  He is all-powerful and all-knowing.  He is never obligated to explain himself to us and to suppose that we would be able to understand the mind of the Lord is a prideful perspective.  Unless you’ll surrender to Him you’ll never know Him intimately.  I think that a good many Christians don’t come to God because they want Him.  They feel that they have to and their experience never goes deeper.

“In the 20th century we thought that offering answers was our best apologetic.  Questions such as, “Why am I here?  Where does life come from?  Where am I going?  What is my purpose?” will still be essential to the new apologetic.  But here is the difference.

In the old apologetic we acted as if we had easy answers to these questions, as if they were math problems.  Our easy answers wore thin pretty fast.  In the new apologetic we offer the faith, not because it has easy answers to the big questions (that is shallow answers to deep questions) but because the faith is the context in which we can explore the mysteries that underlie these questions.  Instead of, “Here’s the answer to your mathematical problem,” we will say, “Here’s the place to learn math,” or better yet, “Here’s the place to work with your questions, live your questions, explore possible answers and find direction to live by.  Another way to say it: A naïve mind thinks that life is a problem to be solved through easy answers.  The disillusioned mind, tired of easy answers, thinks life is a paradox to be accepted with willpower (or negatively with resignation)  The seeking mind thinks that behind the superficial problems and apparent paradoxes, life is at heart a mystery to be explored, using faith.  In the 21st century, the new church will feed the seeking mind with the savory mysteries of Creation, Incarnation, Trinity, Atonement, transformation and unity.” 

False promises lead to disillusionment.  It is false to expect that anything about faith should position a person more profitably from a materialistic perspective.  Faith is not more of the same kinds of answers that we find all around us.  It speaks to our “otherworldliness”.  Have you ever watched a weather man?  They stand in front of a non-existent map and gesture backward.  It’s like backing a trailer up.  In order to do it you have to fight your instincts.  You have to do the opposite of what seems to be normal.

Keith Green was the first Christian musician that I remember who decided that the music that God gave him should be offered freely to people who couldn’t afford it.  I have to confess that as a “cheap” Christian, I took advantage of this and never gave money to support this wonderful ministry.

There are so many “Christian” ministries today that make money off of the gospel.  It seems odd that Christian materials should be more expensive than secular materials and therefore less available to the poor.

And there are always people who come to God with an angle.  They serve Him conditionally upon the profitability of the relationship.  They refuse to be put in a position of loss and are willing to be counted for God unless there is a personal cost.

Money and God don’t mix.  Remember the story of the rich young ruler and the crux of his faith experience was that there was no room for two gods in his life.  Money had to go.

Sell all that you have, . . . give to the poor then come and follow me. . . . He went away sad because he had great wealth.  The money wasn’t the problem – the attitude toward it was.

"“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24, NIV) [11]

An improper attitude or perspective on money is not just a problem or a trap for the rich.  The poor can be more obsessed by money that the rich.

As a matter of fact, I believe that God can protect us from money just as He can protect us from anything else.  That means that He “resists” us.  In other words there is no natural flow that comes to our lives, no “fair winds” to put it in pirate lingo.  I think that there are those seasons of our lives when we are ready to sail.  We lift the sails and they catch the wind of the Holy Spirit and things just work easily.  Other times we have to row for all we are worth.

Do you realize what people trade away for money.  They sell themselves.  They give the best years of their lives, their energies and passion, their creativity and they are rewarded handsomely.  Don’t be so stupid as to sell what you can never recover too easily.

An investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, "Only a little while."

The banker then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The banker then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a nap with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I play guitar and sing with myfriends. I have a full and busy life."

The banker scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the

proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to a big city where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the banker replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then?"

The banker laughed and said that's the best part.  "When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."

"Millions...Then what?"

The banker said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a nap with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play your guitar and sing with your friends."

Bottom line godliness is not a means to anything– and it never will be.  It is the goal of your faith.  Your reward. The end itself and God won’t stop short of that goal in your life.

Who gets the best deal?

Seek first the kingdom . . .

What is the treasure of my life?  How do I identify this?

Pirate Postulates – wisdom for all ye scurvy buccaneers.

1.      Some treasures are too costly to secure.  Pyrrhic Victory – There comes a time to give up. 

2.     When on a treasure hunt, you find human bones, this is a danger signal.

3.     Most pirate or buried treasure is stolen from someone else.

4.    Other people will kill you for the treasure that you find.

5.    There is no loyalty among pirates.

6.     Never wear white in a cutlass fight.

7.    For the pirate, enemies accumulate.  It’s better to make friends than enemies.

8.    Sometimes it’s nice not to be wanted.

9.    Make sure that you parrot is on your side.

10. Beware of people who wear their eye patch on alternating sides.

11.  As long as you are the only one who knows where the map is, you’re safe.

12. Come ashore every once in a while.

13. The longer you live as a pirate, the odds against you increase.

14.You can only afford to lose one leg and one arm.  After that your pirate days are over.

15. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not really pirates.

16. It’s easier to talk like a pirate than it is to live like a pirate.

17. Pirate’s who get seasick should get a new job or throw up privately.

18. There’s more to life than piracy.

19. You may be one of the nicest pirates on the ship but they’ll hang you too.

20.            Pirates smell like fishermen.

Buried talents . . . .

Building bigger barns

Mutual exclusivity – serving God and money

Love of money

Fear Factor – what won’t you do for money?

The world needs men who  . . . . .

Shiny Things – all that glitters

Deceptiveness of riches

Parable of the sower – don’t choke on it


[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[6]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[7]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[8]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[9]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[10]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[11]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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