Avoiding Shortcuts To Nowhere

Years ago, our family lived in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. After spending most of my life in Denver, where the streets run north and south in straight lines, Philadelphia threw me for a loop. Literally.

Many of the roads in Philly date back hundreds of years. One of the main roads in an outlying town is called “Cowpath Road.” Obviously, the road was a converted cow path. Cows don’t walk in straight lines. This is just one of many examples of Philadelphia’s meandering roads.

So at times, when the traffic on the two-lane roads backed up, I tried taking side streets to get ahead. On more than one occasion, my “shortcut” brought me back to my starting point. I was literally driving in circles.

That’s often the case when we take shortcuts in our lives.

Shortcuts To God Will Lead You Nowhere

Growing up in the church, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in church leadership. At various stages in my life as a pastor, I must admit that I’ve done my part in presenting a poor example of leadership as well. So please understand that I’m not casting stones.

Our human nature gravitates toward following charismatic individuals who speak to us on behalf of God. Often, this is the result of our laziness. Relying on someone who will “stand in” for God is like opting for the Cliff’s Notes version of a great novel. Rather than read the Bible for ourselves and seek an intimate relationship with God, we prefer that someone do it for us.

Moses, Israel’s first great leader, was concerned that after he died, they would follow false prophets who would lead them away from God. So Moses warned Israel, “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

When our walk with God is dependent upon the leaders we follow, we set ourselves up for tremendous disappointment and pain.

Pastors, TV preachers, televangelists, and authors all must be compared with the plumb line of Scripture. Just because they say something that sounds good, or they say something that we want to be true—doesn’t make it true! Many have led well-meaning believers astray. And history continues to repeat itself.

Not long ago, I witnessed a church split that affected thousands of people. Some of the people who were damaged by the fallout were devastated and vowed never again to return to church or trust a church leader. In my judgment, far too many of those people needlessly followed the Senior Pastor rather than God.

My friends, please join me in following Moses’ advice. Let’s follow God and avoid the unnecessary disappointment and pain that inevitably meets people who depend on fallible men and women for their walk with God.

Shortcuts in our walk with God lead us nowhere.

What shortcuts have you tried in your walk with God? Where did they lead you? If you were hurt from the experience, how did you recover? Have you recovered?

Why would God want us to avoid following people instead of him?

What does this tell you about God?

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott.


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12 responses to “Avoiding Shortcuts To Nowhere

  1. Georgie-ann

    Very important message. We don’t necessarily “get to heaven” riding on someone else’s “charismatic coattails”,… or because “he said/she said” xyz,… In this day of glitzy televangelism, this is probably becoming a more prevalent and sad truth for some,… but I think it has always been a problem,… we will always have “messengers” who fail,… humans are not perfect, and don’t really need to be put on unduly high pedestals,… and we can see “fall-out” from these kinds of problems in all walks of life,… disappointing, yes,… surprising, not so much, anymore,…

    I really do not like to presume for another “where they are in their faith walk,”… or whether or not “true words” spoken at one time by a human who eventually severely disappoints can lose their salvific effect,… (was our faith in the words, or the person?),…

    God’s Word is true, and we can find salvation through our personal faith in His Word and Who He is,… if our hearts truly cry out for a relationship with God, — (Who DOES transcend this human level, where contradiction and deception, pretense and betrayal, are too often able to “muddy the waters”) — and if we are willing to “seek until we find”, to follow the golden thread of our own personal longing for “more than this world has to offer,” we have a very good chance of coming through everything in good spiritual shape,… (and I would be very much more concerned about this kind of spiritual “wellness” than the current over-emphasis on the physical,… not sayin’ to not take good care of physical things, however,… but if we’re going to obsess, better it should be about God,… and in a good way,…)

    Your point about laziness is all too true,… How do we seek until we “find God?”,… in the final analysis, we can hear many good and often-made suggestions, and attend church services galore, but something vital needs to be coming from within our own selves,… when we lay our head down “on our pillow,” do we find ourselves “thinking of Him?”, wanting a closer connection/to know Him (and ourselves) better?,… do we want a better foundation for our lives?,… do we want to be pleasing to God?,… to find appropriate ways to serve Him?,… to make these things into a solid and dependable lifestyle that we can live out (proudly/joyfully) before the world?,… These are all good things that can encourage us in finding and improving and building our relationship with God,…

    I have been drawn into the orbits of various “charismatic” types,… when we are very weak and unsure of ourselves, it’s kind of a default setting,… like moths to flame,… AND, I have learned “the hard way” that “all that glitters is not gold,”… unfortunately “Narcissism” can be a dangerous underlying component in many a “charismatic persona”,… and this is NOT a trustworthy characteristic, by any means,… I feel lucky/blessed to have survived as well as I have,… and certainly I have learned a lot,… I recommend becoming aware of the now well-established spiritual and psychological profiles of — (what I call “pretenders” and non-spiritual imitators) — people who set themselves up “above” others (and accountability), easily becoming deceivers and abusers and “entitled” users,… It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s more easily “identifiable” once you’ve looked into the matter more closely and at close range,…

    Having experienced how treacherous and deceiving a face you once trusted can be, can also be a good eye-opener and teaching moment for us spiritually,… as a bad example,… showing us something God is not,… We can actually learn a lot from these things,… hopefully not making the same “mistaken identity” errors again,… After an experience with “hype” and huge disappointment, I think it is just fine to “low key” things for awhile,… getting your bearings realigned, more prayer, re-evaluating “things learned” against the full counsel of God’s Word,… this can take a long time,… God is not in as much of a hurry as we are,… He will be pleased if we take the time and make the efforts “to get it right,”…


    • Georgie-ann

      edit: “muddy the soulish waters”

  2. Georgie-ann

    Romans 3:3,4
    3 “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, LET GOD BE TRUE BUT EVERY MAN A LIAR. As it is written:

    ‘That You may be justified in Your words,
    And may overcome when You are judged.'”

    God and His Word can stand alone as the Truth by which everything else should be judged. Man can neither encompass the totality of God’s realm, nor understand Him perfectly. TRUST is our best connection to God. To presume more, or to try to make His Word into infallible “success” formulas, or any other kind of formulas, is to become too trusting in our own natural human mental and emotional abilities and willful efforts, as if we can really find “the” way to (manipulate)/”push God’s buttons.” More in question than such efforts, is the motive and deeper quality of our inner being — which God plainly sees, but we often try to bypass or circumvent. Growing into the likeness of Christ spiritually, involves an actual transformation of our fallen human nature, whereby we need to let go of our (fearful and tenacious) hold on “old” things and (impassioned) personal efforts to “make things work” in certain (usually self-gratifying) ways:

    2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

    Ephesians 4:14,15
    14 ” … that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ”

    This is not to deny “great and wonderful” firmly positive aspects about a life of faith in God, — (because there is certainly much to rejoice about!) — but to keep our own human “inclinations and enthusiasms and presumptions” — (and, thereby also, those of others) — in a realistic perspective. (We’re all made of the same fallible/suggestible stuff!) Too often, we don’t know ourselves, or others, nearly as well as we think we do. It takes time to grow into maturity, spiritual or otherwise, and no one wants to “be a wet blanket” on someone else’s faith parade,… but in truth sometimes we act/push in ways that are more self-led than God-led, attributing to God “too much credit” and ourselves “too little accountability (or blame)”,… Eventually, that which is not authentic faith and spirituality “wears thin,” and some sorry stuff may show through,…

    Now that I’m older, I can say that I’ve seen it happen a lot,… and still do,… but God’s mercy and love keeps calling us onward to learn and grow “in Him”,… He doesn’t want us to “get stuck” and side-lined by these obstacles,… we can learn to “keep on keepin’ on” and flow around them,… He truly is able to give us enough insight to grow and pray and understand,… after all,… it’s all about Him, not “them,”…

    When you think about it, just like the offerings of Cain and Able, we simply see the outer aspect of what others do,… but God will discern much more deeply,… two people could be regularly “observed” doing the exact same things “for God,” but their underlying reasons and personal motivations could actually be spiritually “miles apart,”… God will know “who is who” but we may not,… God is merciful (and VERY GENEROUS!) and gives space for repentance and growth — He knows we can be “slow learners” sometimes — but His Spirit will not forever “strive with man”,…

    Genesis 6:3 “And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’”

    The old “popular” song, “Many a tear has to fall, but it’s all, in the game,” comes to mind,… The human side of Christian life is not without its spectacular disappointments, but thank God for His wonderful survival and healing abilities,…

    If God is so loving and generous to us, should we not also open our hearts to Him to guide us through these woeful pitfalls of human ignorance, stubbornness, rebellion, or whatnot, that we encounter,… even open our hearts to pray for those in such darkness, needing the Light the most?,… we can’t “fix” what’s glaringly wrong with other people, but we can pray for them,… as we might also decide to “move on down the road,”…

    In such a move, I found a nice place/spiritual home for myself, and enjoy many benefits of contemplation as the Lord ministers in Holy Communion to His beloved bride, the Church,…

    • Georgie-ann

      edit: … we can’t simply “fix” (by our own volition) what’s glaringly wrong with other people, …

    • Georgie-ann

      2 Timothy 4:14-18
      14 “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

      16 “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.”

      [The Lord Is Faithful]
      17 “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

      We are not alone in facing human “thorns” and persecutions,… it has been “so” from the beginning,… Paul is speaking here,…

    • Georgie-ann

      edit: “whereby we need to let go of our (fearful and tenacious) hold on “old” things”,…

      comment: if we do not want to release “old” things, habits, and patterns, how will we ever find out what the freedom of “new life in Christ” is really all about, or be able to experience the reality of its true benefits to us personally? In this way (like Peter “walking on water”) we do need to overcome a chronic tendency to passivity and lassitude that would keep us more inactive in our salvation process than God intends,…

  3. Georgie-ann

    One of our BIG problems, from the human standpoint, is that “Adam” (our fallen nature) really really really believes that what “he” thinks and feels (according to that nature) is actually “the way things really are”,… when often it is really NOT the way things really are,… but even quite the opposite of Truth,… “Adam’s truth” is very often a spiritual lie (if not almost always),…

    For example, if you get too many “Adams” together, you won’t find a whole lot of agreement among them, unless it is an extremely homogenous group or a “mutual admiration” club, and you could probably more accurately predict quite a lot of clashing,… one man’s “blue” is another man’s “yellow” and all that,…

    This is why knowledge of God’s Word is so EXTREMELY important,… PLUS the willingness to reference one’s “automatic” sense-realm-dominated thoughts, behavior patterns and actions to scrutiny in comparison to God’s Word,… and, by extrapolation, these same actions, patterns and “beliefs” manifesting in others,… IF OUR ACTIONS AND DECISIONS AND INCLINATIONS DO NOT LINE UP WITH THE WORD OF GOD — (ARE NOT CONFIRMED IN ESSENCE BY THE LAWS AND WORDS AND PATTERNS WRITTEN DOWN IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS) — IF WE ARE TRYING TO RATIONALIZE “OTHER” BEHAVIORS AND BELIEFS THAT DEVIATE FROM AND CONTRADICT GOD’S STANDARDS, WE ARE CATEGORICALLY IN DANGEROUS TERRITORY, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING,…

    Deuteronomy 12:8 “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—”

    Psalm 36:2 “For he flatters himself in his own eyes, When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.”

    Proverbs 21:2 “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.”

    Proverbs 26:12 “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

    Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.”

    It is not possible to be “spiritually safe” without a proper regard for God, His Ways and His Word,… deception waits at the door to capture and lead astray the one who is “wise in his own conceit”,… either by his own counsel or by that of others,…

    Romans 12:16 “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”

    Psalm 1:1-3
    1 “Blessed is the man
    Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
    2 “But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
    3 “He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
    And whatever he does shall prosper.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    Another way to look at our Christian walk, is to take a looong view,… Depending on when we are first introduced to “God”, Salvation, and the ideas of “living for the Lord”, we may find that we have many steps to take in front of us and various levels of challenges to our faith, and also maturing processes,… It may even feel as if we go through some sort of a salvation or renewal process at several times during our lifetime, if it is long and if we are blessed to begin early,… but, at some point we should come to a more solid and secure place from within, in our faith, where we realize that the most basic foundation of living out our Christian faith involves a firm personal “yes” to God and His ways, and a firm personal “no” (or shunning) to the devil and his ways, which are contrary to God’s,… and we, ourselves, are the ones who need to be clear and to take the reins in these matters,… At this point, we understand the fundamentals of a Godly life and are loathe to violate them,… (and we WILL be judged on these very things, even more so than on how much “prophesying”, etc. we’ve been doing “for God”),…

    Isaiah 28:16 [A Cornerstone in Zion]
    16 “Therefore thus says the Lord God:
    ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
    A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
    Whoever believes will not act hastily.'”

    Matthew 21:42 “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?””

    Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

    To continue in a “laissez-faire” uncommitted, excuse-laden, “follow anything that moves”-style, impressionable, “walk before the Lord” is not only a stage of immaturity, but eventually will even yield a foolish and unfruitful path,…

    For myself, to first come to the desire “to not offend” the Lord, and thus make sincere efforts to avoid that which He has forbidden/warned us against, and then to also desire “to please the Lord”, by choosing activities and efforts that are in line with His basic teaching and precepts, gives me plenty of life-style choices that are focused on Him and on carrying out His Will,… when we finally “get down to it”, it’s not all that complicated,… and it does feel quite clear and satisfying,… If we listen and study well, we can see that God has already helped us to make many “right decisions” just by honoring the advice and instructions in His Word,… it is very important to arrive at this place “in our faith”,…

    When we are more concerned about “honoring God” in the way we live our lives, than about anything else, most likely we will also have an inner peace and contentment that is its own reward,…

  5. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 7:21-23 [I Never Knew You]
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES THE WILL of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not PROPHESIED in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

    I would never have the “time and energy” to accomplish/do ALL the good things that God has set before us to do,… it is beneficial and advisable to seek God’s will for the focus He has in mind for us personally,… between the “good options” and prayer, we can have a very full and rewarding life,… personally, I like to also think that I really don’t have time to waste on “evil”,…

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