If you’ve been with us since the beginning of April, our theme has been Reconstruction, and we’ve been looking at ways to strengthen our faith, and possibly reconstruct our faith, if we’ve been struggling with what we believe and why we believe it.

Often, when you talk to people who have walked away from their faith or the church, they will use the term deconstruction.  They will say they took their faith apart, deconstructed it, and examined it, and it was found wanting.

But instead of sorting through it, and finding what might be valid, they leave it lying on the ground in a pile. 

It sounds noble and well thought through, but often that’s not the reality.

Often if you talk to them, you discover that their faith wasn’t deconstructed, there wasn’t a lot of time and examination put into their deconversion. 

Instead, it was shattered, often by something they read, or something they heard. They saw a meme on Facebook ridiculing the bible, they listened to a podcast that seemed to make sense, or they read the blog of someone who had a bad experience with the church.  Or maybe they had that bad experience. 

They were hurt or betrayed by someone in the church, or maybe they were disappointed after a moral failure of a Christian they respected and looked up to.

Or maybe they were sucked down that black hole of conspiracy theories that some believers seem to relish playing in and decided that if that is the church or Christianity, then they didn’t want anything to do with it.

I would challenge you in establishing your faith or rebuilding your faith to seek wisdom.  And if there are things that you are at odds with, take the time to examine them.

In the scripture that was read this morning, Paul is writing to a young preacher, and he tells him in 2 Timothy 2:15–16 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behaviour. 

And just in case Timothy misses this, Paul reiterates it in 2 Timothy 2:23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.

There was a time when I thought that foolish and ignorant arguments were about topics like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, or whether or not God could create a rock so large that he couldn’t lift it.

Conspiracy theories were for outside the church, they were about such things as who really shot JFK, whether it was really the Titanic that sank, or her sister ship the Olympic. And did the moon landing happen on the moon or in New Mexico?

Twenty years ago, Dan Brown published his book The DaVinci Code.  If you aren’t familiar with the book or the movie, the entire premise was there was a vast conspiracy to keep the truth of the bible from being revealed.  Of course, the book would have us believe that Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene and that somewhere in the world today is his one true descendant.  And people believed it. They would talk about it as if it were fact. It was wild. I preached an entire series on it.

But over the past ten years, with US elections, COVID and some of the stuff happening in Canadian politics I’ve seen Christians fighting over some of the strangest things. 

Things that won’t matter one iota in eternity.  And because of that some people have thrown up their hands and walked away from the church, simply out of frustration.  They think we’re kooks.

Sometimes they have had their faith questioned because they didn’t agree with someone’s choice of politician or because during COVID they either chose to wear a mask or not wear a mask, chose to be vaccinated or unvaccinated. 

I want to thank those of you who were at Cornerstone during COVID for not allowing those issues to become divisive. I know we lost people who didn’t agree with how Cornerstone handled the restrictions, but it never became an issue.  At least not publicly.

By the way, we followed all the guidelines laid down by the provincial Department of Health.

And some people thought we did too much and others who thought we didn’t do enough.

And it’s alright to disagree with one another. You put two people in a room together and it’s only a matter of time until they disagree over something. Seriously I can’t be in a room by myself for more than twenty minutes before I start to question my opinions.

But when those disagreements become toxic and divisive, I truly believe it becomes sinful.  It’s like your mother used to tell you, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. 

I recently received an email from the National Association of Evangelicals that included this statement, “On social media, disagreements often devolve into hostility toward others who think or act differently. Polarization pervades our public discourse, forging a barrier to cooperation and compromise.”

That was written about the church and it sure doesn’t sound like how Christians are told to respond in Romans 12:18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

And just so you know we aren’t taking that out of context, remember from three weeks ago, don’t just read a verse, in context it says, Romans 12:14–19 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.

To repeat Paul’s words, 2 Timothy 2:23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.

2500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote to the People of God telling them, Isaiah 8:12 Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon writes Proverbs 4:7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

The question though is “How, how do we get wisdom?” Often times we are directed to the book of James where we read: James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. And so for many Christians that is their sole attempt at gaining wisdom in their lives, “Why I asked God and he gave me wisdom.” But then they go and do dumb things, go figure.

If wisdom was simply a matter of asking and receiving than why do we still make the wrong choices in our personal lives and our spiritual lives? And I have a theory, and I bet you can’t wait to hear it.

In Matthew Jesus tells us Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

But just because God feeds the birds it doesn’t mean they don’t have to work for the food. God provides it but they still have to find it, every morning he doesn’t just dump a truckload of worms in their nest and say “There you go, food for another day.”

In the same way, I believe God gives us the wisdom we need, but he doesn’t just stick a funnel in our ears and pour it in. Instead, he offers us the opportunities to become wise.

I loved the movie Evan Almighty, does anybody remember it from 2007?  In the movie the question is asked, “When someone prays for patience does God give them patience or the opportunity to be patient? When someone prays for courage does God give them courage or the opportunity to be courageous?” And so, I would add to that, when you pray for wisdom does God give you wisdom or provide you with the opportunities to become wise? And that is the problem because people want wisdom like they want most other things in life, without paying a price.

So, the next question has to be: Where do we find wisdom?

We Receive Wisdom From Books This should be a no-brainer but it really isn’t. We gain wisdom from reading. And not just reading anything, I firmly believe that we will gain the most wisdom from reading books. For thousands of years wisdom has been passed down in books of one kind or another and it is no different today.

And I know some folks will say “I read articles and news online.” That’s not the same, they are great for news and entertainment but that’s not where you find wisdom. Can you remember the last time you were reading a periodical and had a eureka moment?

And don’t even get me going on the “I read what I need from blogs and podcasts. I get my information from Facebook, TikTok and Instagram.” That is like approaching a total stranger and asking for their advice, you have no idea what they know or don’t know, what their background is or for that matter who they are.

I am constantly amazed by people look for medical advice on the internet. I’ll just check with Dr. Google. We have a number of medical doctors and dentists who attend Cornerstone, I’m not sure that any one of them would think that is the best idea.

It was Mark Twain who said “Beware of health books. You might die of a misprint.”

We encourage our children and teenagers to read all through their school years and if they don’t like reading or don’t enjoy reading, we want them to have remedial help. When does that change? And why do people brag about not reading? I hear people say, “I haven’t read a book since I finished university.” That is nothing to brag about.

If you just don’t like reading or you struggle with it, consider audiobooks. They are available from the library, or you can purchase them and listen to them in your car or while you walk or work in the garden. I love to read but there are some authors that I get the audiobooks and listen to them because it’s just easier for me.

And the books you read don’t have to relate to your profession. Sometimes we get into a rut where we only read those things that we have to, stretch yourself.

I’m a prolific fiction reader, and I’m always surprised when I come across a sermon idea or illustration in the most unlikely spot.

Francis Bacon said, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

Seek wisdom in what you read.  And read alternate views.  Another problem with digital reading is the algorithms eventually keep feeding you the same views.  I’ve discovered that very little is recommended to me on social media or shows up in my feeds that disagrees with my views.  And we begin to think everyone agrees with us. Nope. 

We Receive Wisdom From Others. How many parents do we have here today? How many of you are concerned about who your kids hang out with? Sure you are. We all know the importance of the right peer group for our kids, I saw a neat T-shirt the other day it said, and I quote “Resist peer pressure all the cool kids are doing it.”

We understand that our kids will be influenced by those they hang out with, that if their friends are into drugs or having sex or using foul language that our kids are at risk for acting the same way.  

It was no coincidence that when our daughter graduated from High School with honours that the kids she hung out with graduated with honours as well.

We kind of understand the principle of “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you hang out with turkeys” when it comes to our kids. So do we think there is a magic age that we are no longer susceptible to the influence of others? I once read that we are the average of our five closest friends.

Choose your companions carefully because they will have an influence over you. How they speak, what they believe and what their attitudes are. If you spend your time with negative people, you will become negative. If you spend your time with lazy people you will become lazy.

If a negative person doesn’t bother you maybe it’s because you have accepted their negative views as “normal”.

Be careful who is having an impact on who you are.

And the converse is true as well, if you want to have a successful marriage then find couples who seem to be doing it right and look to them for wisdom.

Are you looking to succeed in your profession? Then hang out with those who have succeeded.

Do you want to be a better Christian, find someone who is doing it. And be willing to be accountable to those people.  That is one of the reasons that small groups are so valuable.  Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Author Andy Andrews wrote that he often asks people “What is a true friend to you?” He goes on to say that more than 80% of the time people say “A true friend is someone who accepts me the way that I am.” And I notice some of you are nodding.

Here is Andrew’s response “My friend, that is dangerous garbage to believe. A true friend is someone who accepts you the way that you are! The kid who works at the drive thru at the local fast-food restaurant accepts you as you are — because he doesn’t care about you. A true friend holds you to a higher standard — he or she expects you to do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. A true friend makes you better by his or her presence.”

When you are making a decision ask others what they think, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:10 Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.

I Don’t know about you but sometimes the reason I don’t ask for advice is because I don’t want it. My mind is made up and I’m afraid of what I might hear. Other times it’s a matter of pride, we don’t think we need any advice; we act as if we know all there is to know, and no one else has anything to offer.  

When our son began primary, Angela was getting him ready for his second day, and he asked his mother, “Why do I have to go back, I learned everything yesterday.”  Which might be fine for a five-year-old, but. . .

In the book of Acts when the early church struggled with theological issues the issue wasn’t simply resolved by Peter or Paul declaring that they were the final authority. One example is given in Acts when the issue came up concerning whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. We pick up the story in Acts 15:6-7 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them. . ,”

They called a meeting and they discussed the issue. They were combining their wisdom to come up with the right answer.

It was Ben Johnson (not that Ben Johnson) who said “Very few men are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching. For he that was only taught by himself had a fool for his master.”

There are times I come up with a good idea; I mean a really great idea, a stellar idea. The idea of all ideas and then I run it by the rest of the staff, or the leadership team and they say “What about . . .”

Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about that.

And so, when you are seeking wisdom, take the time to borrow wisdom from others.

And last, but not certainly not least, We Receive Wisdom From God Let’s go back to a scripture we had looked at earlier James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. The secret here is this should be at the top of the list not at the bottom. For too many people they go to this promise when they are down to clutching at straws. Instead of starting with this, it’s where they go when they have already done something stupid. And their prayer is “Oh God get me out of the mess I’ve gotten myself into.”

Hopefully, you’ve been paying attention to my messages through the years, and you are at least acknowledge that it was your choice that got you into the mess in the first place.

So how do we find God’s wisdom? First in prayer. Take the time to lay it out for God. Let Him know what you want to do or what you need to do, and then take the time to listen to him.

Do you feel peace about your decision, or do you find yourself trying to convince God and win him over to your side? That’s not the purpose of prayer.  It’s prayer not a debate.

The second way to hear from God is by reading his word. Over the pasts few weeks the preaching team has stressed the importance of reading your bible.. God has already given us the answers that we need in a lot of cases and they are found in his word. Rob and I have both referred to 2 Timothy lately, and it’s hear we read Paul’s instruction to a young pastor, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

And we find scriptures like Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. Time and time again we go back to this. In His word, God spells out what he expects us to do and what he expects us not to do. And the way to read His word isn’t pouring through it like an advice column when you get in trouble. It is reading it and knowing what it says. How does that happen? David gives us a hint in Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

You shouldn’t have to pray about whether you should be honest or not, whether you should steal or not, or whether you ought to cheat on your spouse or your income tax because that has already been covered in the book.

Through the years I have had to confront people over obviously sinful behaviour, as hard as that might be to believe. And they will assure me: I will pray about it.

No, you don’t have to pray about it, God has already given you the answer just read the book.

And then to go back to the second point ask Godly people, “What do you think I should do?”

I don’t know all of the decisions that need to be made by this group, but I would challenge you to seek wisdom.

Decide to read a book, ask others about the decision you are about to make, pray about it and start reading the word of God.

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