A Reality Check
By Iverna Tompkins
As transcribed by Jane Vaughn
This message was originally delivered to a small church at the dedication of a new building. The truths spoken are so universal, we decided to put this on the website for all to benefit from what the Lord says about growth through Iverna. Some statements are obviously focused toward this specific church, but please draw out His meaning for your personal situation. jv. ed.
I want to take us to a Psalm today – one that talks about growth in the Lord – Psalm 127. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late and eat the bread of sorrows; for He giveth…” – many of the translations say this: “…for He giveth His beloved in their sleep.” You can begin to expect some spiritual thoughts – and maybe dreams – to come in your sleep. The reason for that is, our spirits are quiet at that time.
Verse 3. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” (Sometimes that’s very hard to remember! :-)). Verse 4. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Verse 5. “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies at the gate.”
The title of this message is: “A Reality Check.” You have made a tremendous step of faith up to this moment in time. (I’m speaking to this church particularly now, but I am certain as the Lord ministers this to other situations, it totally would be valid as well.) This fresh moment in time is filled with as much purpose as your last moment. The last moment was to get the new building in order. This new moment . . . I believe it will happen as quickly as the last moment – if you put as much energy to it as you have this phase. This next moment is to get the people ready. And then, after that, we’re going to start having children – meaning, we’re going to start bringing in other people – new people who need what God brings forth in this place. Do you see what I’m saying? God works through a process.
We’re looking here at Psalm 127: “Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain…” Well first, let’s look at just this much: the house. Barnes says this Hebrew concept of “house” may refer to any of three things: an ordinary dwelling, the Temple, or to a family, as in “This is the house of…” or, “This is the household of….” We are the family of God, but we “labor in vain” unless the Lord builds us.
How many are tired of trying to be good? :-) On your own steam? Just plain tired of trying to do everything right? Last Sunday I asked a congregation: “How many of you are just tired of feeling guilty?” I was – not actually amazed – but it was interesting to see how many hands were raised in agreement with that statement. "How many of you just want to be guilt-free? All the time?"
If you read the New Testament carefully, you will see that is Jesus’ intention of coming to earth. Yes, it’s absolutely true. He came and did what He did, lived as He lived, and spoke what He spoke so that we, through His forgiveness, never shall have guilt again. “Well, but I failed in this and fell short in that and…” So? Jesus paid for it all on the cross! The Blood of Jesus Christ is efficacious for every situation. That means the shedding of His blood is sufficient to cover every sin when we come back to Him in repentance. Just come back to Him when you have failed and confess your sins: “I blew it again, Father.” Ask Him to forgive you – again – and He will! That’s a freeing thing! (1Jn.1:5-10).
This church represents that kind of freedom – as expressed in your worship. There’s absolute freedom there. The danger, in a church like this with a worship team like you have, is that we (the congregation) simply become thrilled with watching them – and never enter into that same level of relationship with the Lord for ourselves.
I love to watch your pastor worship! I do! I’d come here just to watch her – and she was calm today. :-) She was! But when she gets into it – Oh! my spirit rocks! :-) It’s exciting! It truly is! Because the Lord has built something into her. Her worship is what it is, not by her Latin heritage, but by what God has done in her and for her over the years – building up her life in Him. She has yielded a few things to grow into what He so desires for all of us.
“Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.”
There’s been no vain labor here – this building is gorgeous! You tore down the old – are you hearing the inference? You’ve torn out the ugly and have beautified this building until there is no shame in inviting anyone into this place. I commend you. You have worked long and hard to accomplish your goals and it shows!
If we were only talking about the church building we’d say: “It’s all done!” But you see, I have to remind us of the three ways that word“house” is used in the Hebrew Scriptures – the three applications that are theologically sound from the root word of “house.”
The first is an ordinary dwelling – or, an ordinary person, if you will. You can read it throughout the scriptures. If you’re a person that doesn’t like messages from the Old Testament, go to the New Testament. It’ll tell you the same thing: you are the house of God. You’re of the household of God. You’re the Body of Christ. We are His Bride. All of those terms fit.
I think it is applicable to understand – unless the Lord builds us – we just work really hard at being good. We try so hard to do the right things – all the time. We check out our thoughts and behaviors and dig down into our own depths trying to find what’s wrong so we can correct it. And when we do that – self-introspection – the enemy freely comes in, because self-exposure without the Lord is an open door for the enemy’s accusations.
Remember now, he’s the accuser of the brethren, Revelation 12:10 says, and he will accuse you to yourself! Be careful you don’t open yourself to: “Lord, just show me everything wrong in me...” (Do you know how I know not to do that? :-) Hmmm. ) Allow God to reveal what He is after in you, and when He is after it.
When I plead: “Lord, just show me everything…” and He opens me or allows me a glimpse of what He might see that needs correcting, I walk away from Him and make my own introspective checklist. “Okay – He didn’t like this… and He didn’t like that … and I’m going to change the other thing…” Am I making sense to you? And I labor in vain – “unless the Lord…” Don’t you see it? We have to learn to throw ourselves on the Rock! Let Him build you. The other side of that, of course, is allowing Him to do it. Cooperating with what He IS showing you and obeying what He is directing, when He directs it.
“The things I would,” Paul says, “I don’t do them! And the things I wouldn’t do – yeah, I’m good at those!” (cf.Rom.7:15-19). Paul just beat himself up for all the things he did wrongly. Then he said, “Who shall save me from this mess?” And the next verse is: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ!"(vvs.24,25).
We sing it, and boldly so: “My help…” We sang it this morning – “My help comes from the Lord” (Psa.121:1). From the Lord! He’s building you! He is building you – as an individual.
Barnes also let’s us know secondly, “house” refers to a family. Oh, that we could understand that truth in this day and age! Families are so split today. I know families where the husband goes to one church and the wife goes to another. Who knows if the kids even attend anywhere? If they’re fairly little, they probably accompany the mother.
There’s something missing in that kind of separation. “Well, I like this church because…” “And I like that one…” What a wonderful thing if families would come together and pray to find out: “Where do You want us to go to church, Lord?” Find out what His direction is, and then settle into the congregation, the Body, with great support of that place, its vision and leadership. Bring the children along, allowing them to grow up hearing the same things the parents hear!
We must come back to family-spirit because if we don’t take care of our own children in the natural realm, forget it in the spiritual realm.
I’ve been in the church a long time. You know the truth of that. I’ve been in church-work almost all my life. During that time, I have seen parents who would just ignore their children throughout the week – absolutely no prayer with them – no Bible reading encouraged alone or together – nothing spiritual during the week at home – but anger and resentments are allowed to build up there because of that kind of neglect. Then on Sundays, those same parents would come and volunteer to be – children’s workers. :-) Trust me – I have seen it multiple times!
Now, these same parents would do all the right things according to the Nursery or the Youth Department or Sunday School or in whatever specific area they choose to serve – where their own children are. They would do all of the right things: help the kids do this and this and this – on Sundays. But there’s a spirit that is so loud when you’re dealing with children. There’s a spirit in you when you’re serving – particularly with children because they’re so sensitive – a spirit that ministers far louder than your nice words – or any little clay thing you’re helping them to make.
God is after something higher from this congregation. You have known that from the very beginning, haven’t you? Pastor stands up here during worship and dances and clicks the little castanet and all the no-no’s in some churches – and she doesn’t care. Actually, she couldn’t care less what people think about all that – because God has spoken to her: “Just honor Me and I’ll take care of everything else.”
That’s a – I want to say “gutsy” – but I’m not going to use that kind of vernacular. :-) She is a bold and courageous little lady. Your pastor knows when she hears from God. And she’s been given a mandate from Him to have a church that is real in worship. If you don’t want to worship in excellence, you’re going to be miserable in this church :-) because she’s walking you through praise right now – just walking you through praise. She’s taking you to a higher level of worship – one that is not common in this Valley. Now, that’s the good news. Do you want to hear the bad? :-)
The bad news is: if you, as an individual, have not been built by God, and you have only learned to function in the worship service – without that same level of response to God being displayed in your daily walk – the power of testimony will never go outside these doors and no one will believe you when you tell them: “The glory of the Lord is manifest in this place.” That’s because the people you meet out there in the world around you see your life evidencing everything other than what you say!
That’s what’s happening in this moment. He’s building individuals. If you withhold your tithe, your giving, your offerings – if you don’t treat your husband or wife correctly – if – all these things – if your life is not changing and being built by the Lord – the people on the outside of this building are seeing that and there is no life-changing testimony – even if you take finely-crafted flyers around that say: “Come to our church – this is what’s happening here that’s wonderful!”
People don’t care what you say about your church, because the first Bible they read is – you! If you go the extra mile on the outside of this door – if your co-workers see the joy of the Lord on your face – if you’re not using the same language that those who hate your God use – if. . . .. Are you there? This sounds like an old fashioned Pentecostal sermon, doesn’t it? :-) That’s okay – maybe we need to return to some of that kind of exhortation.
So first, the emphasis right now is on the individual – it’s not on this church as a whole in this moment. The emphasis of the Holy Spirit is on every individual.
Secondly, it’s on your family. If you have kids that are away from God, you should hit your knees every single day on their behalf. But don’t pick up guilt: “Oh, if I’d only done this…” or “I’d only known that…” You can’t do anything about the mistakes of the past now. Are you going to beat yourself till you die? No. But you can ask the Lord to forgive you – that you weren’t wiser back then – and pray: “But now, Lord, wherever they are – whatever age they are – married or single – go after my kids!” :-)
When my son was away from the Lord as a young adult, I prayed fervently – fer-vent-ly! The way I prayed was: “Lord, let every friend he makes be a Christian and let him not even know it at first – not until they show it in their lives!” :-) And I prayed: “Lord, let him work for Christians.” Shortly after that prayer, I received an email from him saying that he had landed a great job. Then several weeks later he wrote again, “Mom, my boss is a born-again Christian!” :-)
Let God do it any way He wants! Because they’re not going to come back to Him just because you preach at them! So, you go to God on your knees and He’ll do a great job of handling every situation! “Go get them, God! Don’t let them go or do… They’re hooked, Lord – now, reel them in!”
When we do that – when our families are in order…. Now, your family is in order if those who area way from God are being prayed for every day – by you. Your family doesn’t get into order when you see the results of your prayer. It’s by faith! That’s how God sees us – finished, completed, builded (Oh! How I praise Him for that!). It’s because of and through the finished work of the cross that He sees His children! Does that make sense to you? Does that set you free? You see, your family’s not in order if they’re away from God and you’re not praying for them.
What we have to do is cooperate with the Lord – through prayer. We have to ask Him to get involved in their lives (Mt.7:7,8). We always have to do our part. We could sit back and say, “Oh yeah, we support you, pastor – do whatever you can with this building.” But it would never have gotten finished. Well, I’m not sure about that completely. The work might well have been completed, knowing your pastor, :-) but they needed your help and your involvement.
And that’s the way life is today.
Go to Part 2