God’s Shalom Triumphs over Leviathan’s Chaos
There is only one rule of faith and life. Doctors give you opinions; they are highly educated opinions. Statisticians give you opinions; they are highly educated opinions. Physicists give you opinions; they are highly educated opinions. But only the Word of God is infallible. Only the Word of God never changes. God speaks to his people today in a variety of means, but all of those means are to be tested by one thing, Holy Scripture. And that is where we rest.
1 Corinthians 14 verse 29: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion [or disorder] but of peace.” That is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, shalom. “...but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
May we pray?
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we come to you this morning with an anticipation and a desire to hear the Word of God preached. The doctrinal standards of our church, going back to the 17th century tell us that the most important way we encounter the Word of God is not in our personal quiet time, even though that is so important, but in sitting under the preaching of the Word because it is as we gather as God’s people to listen to the Word of God opened to us and to compare it with Scripture that we encounter you, the living Jesus, in a life changing way as in no other way.
Lord, we pray that as you speak through the inerrant and infallible Word of God to our hearts today you will change your minds and change our hearts and you would, by your Holy Spirit effect within us what needs to be affected for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
As some of you are aware, I think most of you are aware, that beginning about 10 years ago as I would pray for the coming year, I would have a sense of direction from God about how to pray.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I am special. If you are a real Christian, God speaks to you from his Word, not simply giving you understanding of what Scripture says and means, but also how it applies to your life. God speaks to you every day.
Well, the trouble with me was that early in my Christian experience I learned to tune God out and to use logic and approach the Bible as if it were merely a dead letter that I had to understand merely with my mind and any idea of deviating beyond a logical explanation of Scripture, I was suspicious of. But in the course of time, as my life was wrecked here and there with various events happening, the... one of the first great events of our life was when our daughter, our oldest daughter, when I was pastor of the second church that I served out in Kansas, the second Presbyterian church that I served, came down with Osteomyelitis and was going to be crippled. And I didn’t believe in healing at that point.
I basically believed the Bible is in the inerrant, infallible Word of God, but I didn’t believe that it applied today the way that it applied in the first century. You know, you... why do you pray? I thought. You pray so you can cope with all the mess that comes your way. Prayer changes you. It doesn’t change circumstances. That is what I believed.
But I got desperate for my little daughter, and I really began to pray for God to heal her. And then a short time after that I was called to serve the third Presbyterian Church of my life, the one where God has—if God speaks to me and he does—where I am supposed to serve through the end of my days as a pastor. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a little task here and there. But somewhere along the way, not when I first came, God indicated to me some years ago that this would be the last church that I serve as a regular pastor.
So as God began to speak those words, I began to notice things. In the beginning I didn’t share them with anybody because I thought they were just for me. But then I became impressed that I ought to share them, and the most dramatic of those words was the word “destruction.”
I remember how it happened. I had been sharing words—and I didn’t write them down—for some time. And one day I was over at the Ratliff’s house for Sunday Night Prayer Meeting. It was in either late November or early December of 2004, and Diane Falcone came up to me just before the prayer time, when I had gone back for coffee. “Has God given you a word for 2005?”
Now, at that point I had no word, and immediately I opened my mouth and the word was “destruction.” I knew when I spoke the word it was God’s word to me.
2005 began with the death of 300,000 people with a tsunami that hit. Before 2005 was over, our state was hit like it has never been hit, and it has remained in great difficulty since, for Katrina hit us late August and then a couple of weeks later Rita hit us on the west side and we were devastated.
In fact, the story that I hope you followed in our local newspaper about our levies being decertified, which can have the profoundest economic impact to individuals who owe money on their homes because you would be required to buy very expensive home owner’s flood insurance if you have a mortgage. And it affects businesses.
That decertification is a direct result of the destruction that came to our state with Katrina when our levies around New Orleans failed, and so in the typical mode of all people, and in this case of people working for the federal government, the Army Corps of Engineers rapidly proceeded to cover their backsides, and they have begun decertifying levies.
A couple of years passed, and the word that God gave me at a point was the word “provision.” And when God gave me that word “provision,” it was a sense that there was a negative side to this, but God was giving, like Joseph, as he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, an opportunity to prepare for the future.
The very next year the word was “collapse” and that was the word I got in 2007 for 2008. And 2008 set in motion the entire economic debacle that we still are profoundly in, including the thing in the stock market last week. It isn’t over, and politicians who tell you it is over are simply trying to allay your fears.
In the words of the late... my late cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt—a very distant cousin. Both he and I were descended from the same crooked politician who came over on the Mayflower who, being the Lieutenant Governor of the Plymouth Colony, absconded with the other colonists’ money. Anyhow, as he used to say to his little dog, Fala, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Well, that is not true.
And then for 2009 God gave the word “darkening.” And as I prayed about that word, I had the sense of John’s gospel, chapter one, verse five almost immediately. “The light shines in the darkness.” There was a positive word. Yes, it is going to be darkening, but we have a great opportunity.
When God gave me the word for 2010, I very much felt that God did not want me to speak it. I did not know whether he would give me permission to speak it or not.
As I prayed about it, I thought there were a lot of reasons for me not to speak the word. I thought it would be a very frightening word. The word is “chaos.”
And I also was concerned that people had gotten to the point, with all the things that had happened, of asking me, “What is the word? What is the word?”
And I am not a prophet. I am no different than you are. I am simply a Christian. And that means I hear from God and you hear from God, too. You have just got to tune in.
As I was meditating on it, I asked God if I could share that with my wife and felt that he indicated I could, and so I did, and she said, “I think you heard from God. You are not to share it.”
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of... a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
However, this past Tuesday evening, as my wife was taking a nap across the street in the recliner after dark, before we had other business to attend to in town, before going home, I was pretty tired and so... but I had studies left. So I got some ground coffee and a spoon and chewed it up. I needed a quick kick. And I began to read. It is not that bad, by the way, if you like black coffee.
And I was reading in Isaiah, and when I read Isaiah 27 God released me to speak the word. And why he did is what I am about to share with you.
I want you to notice these words here in verse 33, 1 Corinthians 14:33. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
Now, that is not the Greek word chaos. Chaos is actually a Greek word. Chaos, in the mythology of the ancient world was the state of the material universe that God did not create, because the pagans did not believe in what is called in Christian theology, creatio ex nihilo.
What does that mean? Creatio ex nihilo refers to creation out of nothing.
But let’s look at the book of Genesis for a moment, chapter one, verse one, and we see that the Bible teaches explicitly, clearly and unambiguously, contrary to all of the Modernists’ commentaries, that creation was out of nothing.
Look at verse one, Genesis 1:1, the very beginning of the Bible.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God created the universe out of nothing. He created it by the word of his power. He created it through his Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
And when God created the world, we have in the very next verse a description of the way he created it, for he did not create it as an ordered, thing, but simply a mass of molecules.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1, 2).
Our concept of chaos in paganism comes from the events that are described in verse two.
So you need to understand something. Pagan mythology is very helpful, sometimes, in interpreting the Scripture. Why? Not because the Bible came from paganism, not because Biblical prophets were guided by pagan myths, but because the Bible and pagan myths both have a common origin in real history that happened in God’s revelation to man. The Bible accurately describes that history. Pagan myths give it in distortion.
So there is a document called Enuma Elish. Enuma Elish is the ancient Babylonian creation epic. In Enuma Elish there is this great goddess by the name of Tiamat. It is interesting that that particular language spoken then is very similar to Hebrew, as it is also to Arabic. They are Semitic languages. And in all Semitic languages you have three consonants that are the basis of any particular word. And so all words that have those three consonants are from the same root.
The word that is translated “the deep” in verse two is the Hebrew word Tehowm, the deep. It is interesting that the Greek translators that the Jewish rabbis who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek translated the Hebrew word Tehowm—this is technical. I will get it transcribed and have it on our Grace Prays for you to read, God willing, in a couple of days. Tehowm and Tiamat have the same root, the deep. The Greek word is abussos. It sounds like our word, abyss, and it is an interesting word, because if you trace it through the Bible and into the book of Revelation, all of the chaos that is released on our world comes out of the abyss (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).
Satan and his demons come out of the abyss to torture human beings. Satan is thrown in the abyss during the Millennium. The abyss, the abyss is the Tehowm. It is the deep.
And here is the picture: God created our world as a mass of molecules, and then by the Spirit of God, he began to order that mass of molecules. In other words, the original universe that God creates is good, but it hasn’t yet been brought into order, and the days of Genesis record for us this series of visions that Moses had on Mount Sinai, as God revealed to him the process of bringing order out of what was not ordered.
But as we look at it, there is a hint of something that is coming in verse two.
Genesis 1:2. “The earth was without form, and void.”
It was not ordered. It was a mass that needed ordering.
And this other part, darkness, for darkness is the antithesis of light, and darkness comes especially in the New Testament, to be seen as a thing that is evil, even though the darkness here is not evil.
It says that darkness was on the face of the Tehowm. And this Biblical revelation of truth that absolutely gives us what happened: as people moved away from Noah, as they moved away from Shem, as they went on under Nimrod to build their tower of Babel, they took the story of creation they had learned from their fathers, and they began to distort it and so the deep, Tehowm, became Tiamat, a great female goddess. And inside of her were all these other little gods. And these little gods stirred things up, and it made it difficult for her to sleep because it was like a pregnant woman, when the baby kicks, except there were dozens of gods kicking inside of her. And they even got together and reproduced themselves.
And so Timat’s grandchild was a god by the name of Marduk. Marduk was the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon. And one day these gods lined up against Tiamat and Marduk killed Tiamat, sliced her body up, and out of the body of Tiamat Marduk, created the world from the body of his grandmother.
That’s the Babylonian myth.
Now it is interesting. If you read your Bible, you discover that this Babylonian myth is woven throughout the prophets of the Old Testament. Why? Not because they believed the Babylonian myth, but because they were saying to the Jewish people who encountered the Babylonians, “Their gods are demon gods. Their gods are no gods at all. Our God, the Lord of hosts... he has triumphed over them.”
Let’s look at a couple of passages in that regard. Look, for example, at Psalm 74 with me if you will for a moment. Psalm 74. We find Tiamat—Tiamat is the goddess of chaos, the deep, Tehowm. Look at Psalm 74 and verse 14. I don’t want to lose you in this. And, as I say, I will try to give you a printed copy of it later because there are some technical things here. Look at verse 13 and verse 14. And this is addressed to the God of the Bible:
“You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. You broke the heads of Leviathan...” (Psalm 74:14).
That Hebrew word “Leviathan” is another name for Tiamat. Leviathan... he is a serpent. He is a dragon.
If you look at Revelation 12—and we don’t want to go all over the Bible today with this because we will miss certain things—but if you look at Revelation 12, the serpent who was in the Garden of Eden is Leviathan. The serpent who deceives Eve is Leviathan. He is that ancient serpent. He is the dragon. He is the great fiery dragon of the book of Revelation. He is the dragon who inspired Herod the Great, that megalomaniacal politician, to try to kill the baby Jesus at birth (Revelation 12:3, 4, 9). He is the great fiery dragon. He is that serpent of old. And here he is called Leviathan.
“You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness” (Psalm 74:14).
An interesting statement. Turn over to the right to Isaiah 27, Isaiah 27 which is the passage that God used to speak to me and give me release to say this word:
“In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.”
The Tehowm, the deep, the deep darkness... Do you know what that is like to land dwellers, particularly to people who live in a relatively arid climate? The deep. Have you ever been out in the deep?
I will never forget in the summer of 1966, I was in the North Sea on a small boat and there was a great storm. I was so nauseated, and dozens of times I entered into the Olympic Gold Medal try-outs for the cookie toss. I was too nauseated to be frightened.
But let me tell you. The North Sea is a deep sea. And the deep is a frightening thing.
I remember as a boy about the age of five or six, going out into the Atlantic Ocean with my father and our neighbor in a small boat and we went out beyond the horizon of land, and the swells were enormous. The deep is a frightening thing.
Within the Tehowm is Leviathan, not the pagan myth Tiamat, from which everything is made, killed by the god Marduk, but whom the Lord God calls Satan here, Leviathan. He is the monster in the deep.
Where does the antichrist come from? It is as a creature that comes up out of the sea, Revelation 13:1. It comes up out of the Tehowm, out of the deep. This monster also has the name Rahab.
Rahab is the name of the prostitute who took in the spies, but Rahab is also the name of this monster.
Turn with me, if you will, over a couple of chapters, Isaiah chapter 51 and verse nine, and we see, again, this monster called by that name:
“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?”
Why use both names? Because you need to understand that the Bible has always been about outreach. The Bible has always been about reaching those who are outside of us. The Bible was not a racist book, just for the Jewish race. It was to inspire the Jewish people to take the Word of God to the nations around them. And so the Bible... Biblical prophets instructed the Jewish people in true cosmogony—that is the origin of the universe—true cosmogony.
The Lord Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the prophets is the only God there is. And all of the so called gods of the nations are merely demonic entities who oppose the true God.
Chaos is not of God. Chaos is of Satan. Chaos is personified within the Babylonian pantheon in their cosmogony as Tiamat, the goddess of chaos out of which Marduk made the world by chopping her in pieces. And, against the Babylonian distortion of the truth, the prophets tell us that Yahweh is the only God, and he has destroyed Tiamat in all her names, whether her name is Leviathan among certain Canaanites, or Rahab among other Canaanites, the Lord has destroyed them.
Chaos, the Lord defeated chaos.
So, Dear Ones, as we think of 2010, as God gave me that word for 2010, chaos. Ritchey is right on in the e-mail he wrote to me, and it was resonating in my heart all week. He just... he just crystallized the thought. It is this. The word “chaos” is about how to pray. And what do you encounter? What do you deal with chaos with?
And the answer isn’t simply order. The problem with order is that it usually ends up creating a worse mess than chaos.
Someone told me years ago when I first came here... I had a business man come see me. This was back in 1975. He said, “You know, Central Louisiana is under some kind of control. There are four businessmen...”
And I was able to visit two of those businessmen shortly before they died, by the way.
There are four businessmen—I won’t name their names—who control Central Louisiana. It was interesting.
Are you aware? The largest city in the state of Louisiana before World War II was New Orleans. The second largest city was Shreveport. What was the third largest city in Louisiana before World War II? Does anyone know? Alexandria. How did we go from being the third largest city in the state to being way down the list? Well, it was a series of events. Government grew, particularly at the outset of World War II, and Baton Rouge took off. Baton Rouge got bigger than Alexandria.
And then, after the war, with the Eisenhower government, we had the Eisenhower Interstate system created: I-10, below us, I-20 above us. And the growth hit there, enormous growth.
Lafayette, in the early days, was tiny compared to Opelousas. Then Lafayette replaced Opelousas. Now Lafayette has replaced us. Monroe has replaced us.
You know, as I began to study the history of Central Louisiana I realized that a spirit of fear and stinginess affects Central Louisiana. And I began to question people over the decades since I moved here.
I remember one day riding with a fellow Boy Scout person up to the big meeting that we had in Monroe, and he was sharing with me about State Farm. He was a State Farm agent. And he shared this. He said, “You know, State Farm wanted to come to Alexandria.”
Why did they go to Monroe? Because those four men opposed it. “We don’t want these outsiders paying big wages to the people of Central Louisiana.”
Have you ever heard that before? I have studied it. It is an interesting history. Those four men are dead. But that spirit affects us.
When I was a National Jamboree Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts in 1997, all these other councils had no trouble with this or that. It was unbelievable trying to get support so that we could lower the cost for boys to go to the National Jamboree in 1997... that tight spirit, control.
“I can’t be prospered, if you are prospered.”
Do you see what I am saying?
Whereas, a Biblical view is if I help prosper you, I will be prospered all the more.
It is an amazingly negative thing. It is a spirit of control.
You see, the flesh looks at disorder and chaos and it says, “We have got to control it. We have got to get a lid on it.”
That is not God’s way. What is God’s way?
Turn with me, if you will, back to 1 Corinthians, our text. God’s way, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, is not control. It isn’t order. It is shalom. Look at what he says. He says in verse 33, “For God is not the author of confusion.”
We could paraphrase that. God is not the author of chaos. But of what? Shalom. Why shalom?
Now shalom is the Hebrew word, and this is Greek. But it is the Greek word that is used to translate shalom. Shalom is that important word that I wrote about earlier this week in the Grace Prays.
What does shalom mean? Shalom, fundamentally means more than peace. It means prosperity. It means success. It means intactness. It means welfare. It means a state of health. It means deliverance. And it means order, order [Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (E. J. Brill: Leiden, The Netherlands, 1958), pp. 973, 4].
Ah, look down near the end of the chapter and you see what he says here. Listen to what he says in verse 40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
That is a great verse. But unless you understand that this decency and order grow out of shalom, you end up with a wrong idea about it.
Decency and order grow out of shalom. It is God’s shalom.
Where does shalom come from? Well, we won’t go into an elaborate study of the Old Testament, but I would simply say this. The prophet Haggai prophesied when the temple was rebuilt, that the feeble little temple that was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity would be greater than the temple of Solomon because in that temple God would bring shalom (Haggai 2:9). And he did it when the Lord Jesus died.
In Isaiah 53 we are told in this prophecy in Isaiah 53:5 that it is though the death of the Lord Jesus Christ that we experience God’s shalom.
What is shalom? “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Shalom is everything you need to have for this life and the life to come. That doesn’t mean you will never have trouble. It doesn’t mean that people won’t die. Till Jesus come again, it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27). You will die unless Jesus comes again.
And sometimes that death will be through sickness, sometimes through something else. It is appointed unto man once to die.
But let me tell you what shalom means. Shalom means that it is God’s will for everyone who has fled to the Lord Jesus Christ to be free of condemnation, free of guilt so that when you pray, you are not condemned. When you pray you have boldness to talk to the Father, and you have boldness to ask the Father to bless your finances.
Does it mean God wants you to be a multi-millionaire? If you understand the nature of wealth in a fallen world, you understand it is dangerous to pray for a lot of money. Money is the most addictive substance on planet earth, more addictive than heroin and crack cocaine. So you need to pray, what?
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
But I want you to understand about daily bread. Sometimes daily bread may be millions of dollars. Sometimes it may be a car because your car won’t work. God wants to meet your needs, Dear Ones, and not in a penurious, stingy way. He wants to meet your needs exceedingly abundantly (Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 3:20).
And also for your health... Is there physical healing in the atonement? Of course, there is. I have read Bible scholars who dismissed it. And do you know what I have always found about Bible scholars? The simple English Bible, even though I read the Bible in Hebrew, in Greek and Aramaic and Latin, the simple English Bible rebuts most nonsense.
Matthew quotes Isaiah 53 about, “With his stripes we are healed and the chastisement that produced our shalom came on Jesus” (Isaiah 53:4, 5), and he applies it to the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and we are told this was in fulfillment of Isaiah 53 (Matthew 8:14-17).
God wants you healthy. Does it mean he doesn’t want you ever to get sick? No. You will get sick. Is all sickness due to your personal sin? No. Is it all due to your lack of faith? No. But it is this: The will of God for you, as a general rule, is that you have sufficient health to get up off your bed and do what God has called you to do. That is the basic truth.
This is the lie of the “Prosperity Gospel.” But it is also the lie of the “Anti-Prosperity Gospel.” God wants to give you enough money and enough health to do his work in the world.
Do you understand that? That is the truth of God. God wants to give you enough wealth and enough health to do his work in the world. It is not about your personal satisfaction and comfort. It is not to give you a ton of cash so you buy a new Lear Jet or a fifteenth home. God doesn’t want you to be a celebrity, being fattened up for the slaughter (James 5:1-5).
God wants you to be an ordinary person in the world. But always seeing that God is meeting your needs with enough health and enough wealth to do his will in the world. It is Kingdom centered. That is the difference in the Prosperity Gospel, as it is popularly understood, and the Biblical Gospel which is salvation from sin and going to heaven and our needs met in this world.
That is shalom, Dear Ones. And shalom produces order.
Now, this immediately raises a question. And it is the whole issue of the day, and that is this. You get these words, you say. And yet your interpretation of the words sometimes is not good.
Well, if you analyze New Testament prophecy, you discover people heard from God, but the way they applied it was not always of God. If you want an example of that, study how Christian people spoke to Saint Paul just before he went to Jerusalem.
Now, Paul had a word from the Lord. “Paul, when you go to Jerusalem, it is not going to be a good thing. There is pain there. There is hurt there. There... you are going to be beaten up. You are going to be put in jail. But, Paul, I want you to go” (Acts 20:22-24).
Now all along the way, God was giving words to people. Paul, when he goes to Jerusalem is going to be hurt. He is going to be beaten up. Trouble is coming his way. And do you know what they concluded from that? They got a word from God. But they concluded, “Don’t go. Don’t go” (Acts 21:4, 10-12).
Did God tell them that Paul was not to go? No, of course not. What God told them was, “Press Paul.” And this is very important. “Press Paul that dangers await him.”
Why did God give that word to all those people? This is so important, Dear Ones. So they would respond in fear and stop the apostle of God from going to Jerusalem where he would witness to the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, and then eventually witness to Caesar in Rome itself?
No. It was that they would pray for him.
You see, these words are a call to prayer. Not that we respond to a word like “destruction” and, “Oh, no! 2005 is going to be a year of destruction!”
But as Ritchey pointed out so well in his e-mail, it is about praying for God to give us wisdom to respond to destruction. And the word for 2010 is chaos. And, Dear Ones, I can’t tell you how as I spoke to my wife, as Haiti was unfolding, I said, “Look at it. It is the word of 2010, and it is coming here, too. In one form or another, not necessarily their form, it is coming here, too.”
Why such a word? To put fear in people? God, keep us from fear.
It is to pray and be prepared with boldness because the future is good and the future is bright because God hasn’t given us chaos. He has given us the antidote to chaos which is shalom. God is calling Grace Church to prayer. God is calling Grace Church to action.
Chaos is coming, Dear Ones. Do we quiver in fear? Do we tuck tail and run? Do we act like Agabus who was a true prophet of the New Testament, grabbing Paul’s belt, taking it off of him and tying Paul’s hands with it and saying, “Thus says the Lord. You know, the man who wears this belt is going to be bound this way” (Acts 21:11)?
And then all the people conclude from Agabus’ true prophecy, “Don’t go, Paul. Don’t go. Please don’t go, Paul. Please don’t go. We love you, Paul. Don’t go to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4, 10-12).
They were speaking in their flesh in response to a true word from God.
So what is the word for us? It is shalom, Dear Ones. It is shalom, because shalom includes order. But shalom includes prosperity.
Is the Army Corps of Engineers unleashing on Central Louisiana, chaos? You better believe it. What recourse do we have? Politicians? Of course. But more than that is prayer. And then act. Act in what way?
If we pray, we will know how to act. God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. God hasn’t given us chaos. Satan is the chaos dragon who is spewing his chaos into the world. If we respond with faith not fear, if we respond with prayer, not indolence and inactivity, if we respond in action to the wisdom that God gives us, we will see Central Louisiana prospered like it has never been prospered before. We need to pray and bind the spirit of those old men who have been dead now some years. As I say, I visited with two of them before they died. They controlled things in this town. We need to beg God to remove that stingy, unbelieving, pessimistic poverty spirit over Central Louisiana.
You can ride across the border to Texas, and it feels different. Do you know what I mean? It feels different.
I am not just talking about the roads. Sometimes the roads going into Texas are rougher than Louisiana roads. There is a different spirit.
Do you know what Texas has that Louisiana tends not to have? A “can do” attitude, an optimistic attitude: We can do it. We can go forward.
This is a pessimistic state in so many ways because the spirit of pessimism and a spirit of poverty is here. It goes back in many ways before the time of Jean Lafitte. Jean Lafitte who gave the people something for nothing and kept people in bondage. We need to pray against it. We need to believe God against it because God’s will is shalom.
Now what is the test here? Look at this. Look at what he says here in verse 29, 1 Corinthians 14:29:
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”
Look at verse 30. Do you see the marginal reference there, 1 Thessalonians 5:19?
Turn with me, if you will, for a moment, to 1 Thessalonians 5:19. What are the two methods that God has given to protect you from tyrannical preachers? Do you know what God has given you? Let’s look at it. Listen to what he says. Look at verse 16:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-21).
Do you see what he is saying? Test everything.
Now, I want to tell you something. God gave me the word “chaos.” What are the two things that protect you from the tyranny of somebody like me? Because, remember, I am a sinner like you are. I have the Holy Spirit, but so do you.
Here are the two tests. Does it line up with the Word of God? And, secondly, does the leadership sign off on it?
“Let one speak and let the others pass judgment” (1 Corinthians 14:29).
I have been your pastor since 1975. I have always submitted to the elders of this church. Never once have I gone against a decision of the elders, not one time. Oh, I have gone against the decision of an individual elder many times. Why? I am not even a member of the church, Dear Ones, in our system of government. I am under Presbytery. I am not a member of the local church. But I have understood that the eldership was there to help protect me. And so the opinion of an elder is no different than your opinion or my wife’s opinion or my child’s opinion.
It is when the elders speak as a group, it is when they act as a body, we trust the Holy Spirit to guide our elders. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide our deacons.
Our elders are going to meet Thursday night (February 11, 2010, at 7:00) to pray about something. Our deacons are going to meet Saturday morning (February 13, 2010, at 7:30) to think about something and pray about something. And what is that?
Last week in the second service, I shared with you a little more explicitly than in the first service, an idea. As I prayed, God has spoken to my heart this week. It is God’s will that we move. It is God’s will that we enter into negotiations with our neighbors next door who have offered us thirty acres of land for all our property and an unspecified among of money in the millions of dollars to boot. That is their offer.
And I have talked to their attorney this week. It is still on the table. It is God’s will we negotiate.
Did I say it was God’s will that we accept their offer? No, I did not say that.
But now, Dear Ones, what is the protection to keep us from chaos? Here it is, back in 1 Corinthians 14 verse 29: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”
In other words, Dear Ones, I am sure God has spoken to me that we are to do this, enter into negotiations. But in the final analysis, there is only one reliable, trustworthy word. That is Scripture. And if this application of Scripture is God’s will for our church, your elders and your deacons will confirm that word. And if they don’t, I will do what I have always done. I will submit. I have always submitted to the leadership of this church in the entire thirty-five years I have been here.
But, Dear Ones, for me to fail to tell you what I believe God is saying, is for me to be a coward and a hireling. And I didn’t become a janitor in a United Methodist Church in the summer of 1975 because I was a coward and a hireling. I became a janitor in a United Methodist Church because I was determined to follow Scripture and to follow God’s application of Scripture to my life come what may.
But, Dear Ones, I will always submit to the leadership of the church. So this is what I am asking you to pray. I am asking you to pray for your elders, especially Thursday night, to hear from God whether God has spoken through me in an application of Scripture. And I am asking you to pray for your deacons this coming Saturday morning, to find out: is God speaking through me or not. Am I wrong? Of course, I am (potentially) wrong. There is only one infallible rule of faith and life. It is Scripture.
Everything is else is to be tested by Scripture.
And then I want to urge you to pray about our city with those four old men who are now dead who controlled things here, and how I was told that in the fall of 75, and always having an insatiable curiosity about almost everything, I have interviewed people over the years.
As I say, I saw two of them near their time of death. I didn’t talk to them about this.
Pray for God to release over Central Louisiana prosperity and blessing, because as God prospers Central Louisiana, you will be prospered and I will be prospered. Pray for its prosperity.
I want to close with these words. If you would turn with me to Ephesians chapter six as we close. Ephesians chapter six and verse 15:
“Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of [shalom].”
Do you see what he is saying? The gospel is about shalom. It is about peace. The gospel is the antithesis of chaos. God slays Tiamat—not Marduk—the God of the Bible.
Tiamat is Satan, that old dragon. Tiamat is Leviathan, that twisting serpent. Tiamat is Rahab, the serpent whom God chops into pieces.
And how does he slay Tiamat? With the gospel of shalom, because shalom is as broad as life. It is that your sins would be forgiven, that they would be blotted out, and we come to that every time we have the Lord’s Supper. It is about the forgiveness of sins.
But it is also about blessing you in this life and the life to come. It is the gospel of shalom.
My closing words to you are these. Grace is an extraordinarily healthy church. But it is very sick in one way. It is like a man who is extraordinarily healthy but with skin cancers that are not yet malignant, but that need to be dealt with. And if they are not dealt with, they will turn into malignancies and bring death.
What is the area of unhealthiness? It is our failure as a church to reach out. There is a kind of snobbery. Some of you have expressed that to me over the years in private conversations. Even recently someone said, “We are not like those Baptists. They are all about growth. We are about being pure and orderly.”
And I thought, “My gracious!”
Yesterday evening as the sun set, I stood before the gravestone of our own Mark Jones’ great, great, great, great grandfather (Joseph Willis). He was the first Protestant gospel preacher west of the Mississippi River. He is also the first Baptist preacher west of the Mississippi. He was born in North Carolina, and he sought to be ordained, and he established Baptist churches all over Central and South Louisiana, and he is buried in Pitkin, well in the Ten Mile community near Pitkin. He was born in the 1700s.
You know the area of unhealthiness for Presbyterians? And it is the spirit of Presbyterianism, not of the founders, but of the spirit that came on to their prosperous children, grandchildren and so on. It is an elitist attitude that doesn’t want to reach out to lost people and invite them in.
You say, “Well, we don’t have that.”
Well, where are the people you invite? How about your next door neighbor? How about the people at business? Why don’t you invite them to come to church to hear the gospel, a gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? Are you ashamed of that gospel?
Dear Ones, God wants to move us off of 4900 Jackson Street. I am as convinced of that as I am that he spoke to me “destruction” for 2005, “collapse” for 2008, the “darkening” for 2009 and “chaos” for 2010. But I submit that to our leadership.
Pray for them to hear from God, maybe with prayer and fasting, because this cancer of failure to evangelize as a church and reach out will kill us. And as I contemplate my own death, the greatest burden that I have is that I leave behind a health church.
Do I want a monument to myself? May God almighty deliver me from that. What I want to do for this congregation is what I want to do for my wife and my children, to make sure that when God takes me, that they are in sufficient health, walking in the shalom of God to make it and to prosper in this world.
Lord, we thank you for holy communion because it takes us to the gospel. We pray that we would be ready, that our feet would always be shod with the preparation of the gospel of shalom. We are thankful, Lord, that our shalom with you is purchased at the cost of the blood of Jesus who willingly was slaughtered, unlike the dragon, so that through his shed blood, we would have boldness of access to come into your presence.
Now, Lord, we ask you to bless this bread and bless this wine that as we eat of it and drink of it, you would feed us with Jesus, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.