Monday, December 14, 2009

Stepping on Toes - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 159

"Stepping on Toes"
By Rev. Greg Smith

When I turned 35 years old, I took a trip to the doctor, because I wanted to hear what he might say about entering middle-age. After much poking, prodding, and blood-letting, he said, “You’re a tad overweight, and your triglycerides are a touch high.”

Here was somebody telling me some pretty negative things about myself, but did I get offended? No. I'd gone to him just so he could tell me negative things. I went to him so he would tell me what I needed to change in my life.

Often, I have finished a sermon and been greeted by a parishioner who said, "You stepped on my toes today, Pastor." Sometimes they're smiling. Sometimes they're not. Most people don't like getting their toes stepped on.

Many people don’t come to church to be challenged. They only want to hear pleasant messages. They flock to be one of thousands attending televised megachurches whose pastors preach a feel-good message without any substance. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths" But when we go to church, we need to be open to hearing from God, so that we will be challenged--so that we will be changed.

The message that John the Baptist preached was a hard one to hear. "John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Luke 3:7-9)." But people listened to his painful preaching and they gave a receptive response. In verse 10, the people say, "What should we do, then?" Verse 15 says they were "waiting expectantly."

How do you respond to the tough teachings you get from the pulpit? Do you get offended? Or do you allow yourself to be totally transformed? Sometimes a sermon steps on our toes, but thank God that Jesus only steps on our toes when we trample on His heart! Maybe it's time to listen to God's message.

Instead of coming to church wearing steel-toed boots that protect your precious toes, we need to listen to God's word from Exodus 3:5, ""Take off your shoes, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Make yourself vulnerable. Let God step on your toes, so you can be totally transformed.

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