It ain’t Baptist!

 

Before the Passover Feast, Jesus, knowing that He had but a few hours left in the world, got up from the super table. He took off His robes and dressed himself as a servant. He approached the disciples with a basin of water and began washing Peter’s feet.

Peter was taken aback, and a little indignant, saying to Jesus, “Lord, Dude, what are you doing? You don’t wash my feet! You’re the Lord!”

 Jesus replied, “Look, man, you don’t get it right now, but eventually you’ll figure it out.”

Peter got even more heated, and said to Him, “No way, no how, nuh-UH, I am gonna let the Son of God wash my feet. Ain’t happenin’.”

“Pete, dude, settle down,” said the Lord. “If I don’t wash your feet, you have nothing to do with me.” Jesus let that sink in for a minute. Peter looked thoughtful as he mulled it over. Peter spent a lot of time looking thoughtful.

And then, suddenly, it was as though he’d had an epiphany. He jumped to his feet (which were still in the basin—water splashed all over the place), held his arms out (an irony which was not lost on Jesus, who kept His thoughts to Himself) saying, “If that’s the case, how about we take care of my head and hands, too!” Flippin’ Peter.

 

Jesus shook His head and looked around at the other disciples as if to ask, “Do you see what I have to deal with?” A snicker went around the table, except for Judas Iscariot, who was fiddling with something on his belt. Jesus looked up at Peter. Peter looked down at Jesus. Water dripped from Jesus’s beard, back into the basin. Jesus said, “He who has bathed only needs to wash his feet to be completely clean, and you are clean.”

 

Peter looked thoughtful again. Then he lowered his arms and said, “You were speaking symbolically again, weren’t you?” Jesus nodded. “Oh. Sorry. Carry on, Lord. I’m gonna shut up now.” Peter sat back down as the other disciples giggled.

 

~John 13:1-10 (totally unauthorized paraphrase mine)

So: it definitely wasn’t Baptist.

 

Right now, a lot of readers are asking themselves, “What is BlogDude on about this time? And what’s with that paraphrase?” Patience! I’m getting there!

Last night I had an opportunity to attend the Monday-night service at another local church, on the invitation of a friend. I knew going in that the church had a slightly different perspective on worship, but I wanted to hear the Word, and not for nuthin’, but my friend isn’t unpleasant company, either. I wasn’t quite prepared for it—the pastor was preaching barefoot (and as someone with neuropathy in both feet, I can tell you—I was envious of the pastor), but the message was very good.

The message was actually taken from Isaiah 47:1, but it related to what I paraphrased, above. The message was about being a servant to the Lord, but it was also—mainly, I think—about recognizing the Lord when He comes into our lives, and how the Israelites didn’t get it because they had laid their own expectations on God and forgotten God’s word on the subject. (That’s it, roughly—not the subject of this blog, though, so I’m glossing over a lot.)

What this got me thinking about, though, was service, specifically servanthood. Being a servant. Now all of us have known for a long time that the Lord expects us to do His will on earth as an outward sign of our inward faith (James 2:14-26). But until last night, I had never really given thought to how this works; now that I am giving it thought, it’s making me a little bit mind-bendy. Because in the past when I read those lines from John, I just went with the idea that Jesus expected us to be of service to others in keeping with his teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, namely, “Do unto others as you would have others do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) I was missing the most important part of this whole thing, though!

God led by example. I know. I just heard someone in the back of the room say, duhhhh. Hush, you. I’m a bear of very little brain; Peter and I will probably have a good time together in the afterlife. But to my point, and this is the part that hurts my head: God—sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that is or ever will be, Lord of the universe, its contents, and the architect of all human existence, came to earth not to conquer, but to serve. (I just heard that “duh,” again. Stop it.) Here’s a Guy (and I use the term “guy” in the most general sense possible since God is, you know, incorporeal) that basically left the nicest house in Hollywood Hills, where He paid no rent, no utilities, had glowing folks serving His every need and keeping the room cool with the beat of their wings, in order to move into a Warsaw ghetto and serve the Nazis. I mean, that’s really what we’re looking at. Jesus came to earth, served the thankless people that would eventually kill Him, and then— in the act of dying—saved all of them from the noose.

“That’s it. I’m done. I’m gonna wipe these jokers out and start over.” (Numbers 14:12… sorta.) That’s what I woulda done. But God is a lot more merciful than I am (that whole “perfection” thing that He does, remember) and He not only didn’t smite us like we deserve, He gave us a way to become unsmite-able! There’s a bad joke about Christmas in there, but the literal parallels make it more of a bad pun, and I try not to punish you guys too much…

So: if God can come to us as a servant, how much more that we should serve each other? We can’t pay God back—what are we gonna do, “Hey, God, here’s, uh, eleventy dollars, and I have some change, and the title to my Yugo, and lessee, OH! I baked brownies!” Really? GOD MADE THE BROWNIES. I’m not sure He wants credit for the Yugo, but the rest of that stuff is ALREADY HIS. We got nothin’, and He proved it to even the most foolish of us by coming back and serving even those that were the least deserving of His love. Heck, most of us can’t even bring ourselves to tithe, for cryin’ out loud, and that’s the one demand God makes from allllllll the way back in the Old Testament. Even the cheapskates get into heaven as long as they accept that “gift of salvation” thing. He gives, and He gives and He gives, and what do we do? Waste the salt.

Seriously. This baffles me. This actually hurts more than trying to contemplate eternity. I don’t get it, so I’m trying to share the headache. Not that He did it. We know that He did it. Why did He do it? Why? He didn’t have to. Love? Okay, great: now (answer honestly) do you think you can even comprehend that kind of love? What do you do with a dog that tries to tear your baby’s throat out? You don’t give it a bowl full of kibble and bacon treats! But that’s what God has done for us. (Oh, and by the way: continues to do for us daily, in the form of answered prayer.)

I need some Excedrin. Talk to ya’ll later.

 

~BlogDude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Prayer

Pray, then, in this way: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

 

~Matthew 6:9-13

 The perfect prayer. Given to us by God Himself.

Here’s a bit of personal testimony:

 About 2 years ago, I was driving up to New York, to visit my girlfriend and her daughter. It was a pretty dark time in my life, just a few months before my conversion.

As a practicing pagan, I had opened myself up to demonic obsession. As I was driving through Pennsylvania I heard a voice in my car with me, telling me that if I just let the car go I could end all of the pain and all of the doubt I was having about my life. All I had to do was get to the top of the next hill and let go of the steering wheel.

 That voice was so soothing, and it made so much sense… I knew that I needed to do something but it seemed like there was a fog in my head. And then the first words of the Lord’s Prayer came to mind, and the words began to spill out of my mouth.

At first, it was from the head. I was a pagan, after all. But the voice in the car hesitated as I recited the prayer. The voice would get louder, and then I would get louder. Every time I came to the end of the prayer, I would start over from the beginning. Eventually I was driving through the midnight darkness of the Pennsylvania mountains screaming the Lord’s Prayer, watching the road through tears and driving snow, wondering if I would careen off the road and into one of the many deep gullies that bordered the highway. I don’t remember anything except saying the Lord’s Prayer over, and over, and over again.

I lost an entire hour of that trip—I simply did not remember getting to where I was. You can decide for yourself how that happened; I don’t know, God knows… but I was safe. There was nothing in the car except the sound of the tires burrowing through salty road slush and the soft blue glow of the dash lights. I was about thirty miles from where the “argument” had begun, in a small town, sitting at a stoplight. I was safe.

In this case, reciting the Lord’s Prayer by rote saved my life. It was the fact that I was so familiar with it that allowed me to pull it up and speak it, even when I couldn’t actively think for myself.

I’m not going to say the Lord’s Prayer can’t be used alone. It most certainly can be, if it’s said from the heart, and not the head. The problem that many of us run into, however, is that we tend to pray the Lord’s Prayer by rote. I know that this is a problem I have had in the past—I am so familiar with this prayer, that I can say it without feeling it. That’s a problem, because God insists that we seek His face earnestly. Just shuffling along, saying the words while you’re thinking about something else just doesn’t cut it. But in general, I have found that unless I’m saying it out of desperation I often repeat it mechanically, without feeling. So what I have taken to doing is using the prayer as the outline for my own prayers. This way, I know that my prayers are said in way that is pleasing to God; by not repeating the prayer verbatim, I am forced to really focus on each part of it as I say it. It also constructs my prayer in a way that gives glory to God before asking for my needs.

God wants us to ask for His help, but He wants that we should be humble about it. When we pray, we should be seeking His face, not His hand; “… seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

 I’ll be unpacking this in the next few articles, but here’s the basic scheme:

  • “Our Father, who art in heaven”: come to the Lord with an admission of God’s Lordship over us, by acknowledging that He is our Father and confess that, being “in heaven,” He is higher than us in stature and in power, omniscient and omnipotent
  • “hallowed be Thy name”: the name of God is above all other names. “I AM THAT I AM,” eternally and infinitely. We ask that His name be honored above all others, and that He be recognized as sovereign over all Creation.
  • “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”: we acknowledge and ask for His return in glory, we anticipate His kingdom; we ask that all things be in accordance with His divine will, not only in heaven, but also in this corrupted, perishable earth
  • “Give us this day our daily bread”: we ask for His provision for our physical, bodily needs—food, shelter, clothing—in order that we have the health and strength to glorify His name
  • “and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors”: we not only ask forgiveness  for our own sins, but we affirm that we have forgiven those who have wronged us “in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:45, 48)
  • “and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil”: God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13), but He may allow us to fall into temptation in order to test us, or humble us (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is a petition that He not allow us to come into temptation before we are ready; to give us grace to recognize and avoid temptation; and an acknowledgment of our weakness and dependency on Him.
  • “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen: The final verse of the prayer is not in the oldest New Testament manuscripts, but it is still worth noting. After asking for our own needs to be met, this is a final affirmation of God’s power and glory, and our promise to recognize His sovereignty.

Wow. This has been a longer post than usual! Y’all are probably sitting there with your eyes rolling back in your heads, muttering, “BlogDude, puhleeeeeeease let this end!” Well, I will, for now. But we’ll be coming back to this subject again in the near future; I just think that it’s important to understand a few points that I couldn’t cover today.

Have blessed day, everyone. I love you all—truthfully, I’ve been through some difficult spiritual times lately, and it has been a blessing and an encouragement to know that I have a family in Christ. It gives me the spine I need to face my own shortcomings, and just try to be a better man and Christian. I’ll see you back here on Tuesday.

~BlogDude

Power Perfected in Weakness

…There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

 

I’m sleeping in a rose bush, man.

 

Sometimes, it seems like I’m just covered with thorns: pain, fatigue, relationships, loneliness, living conditions… there are so many things that I would like to change, but every time I try to pick a direction, it seems that I just spin my wheels. I’ve been beset by temptations, and failed more than a few times. I’ve seen opportunities to serve, and allowed doubt to make me hesitate, just long enough that the opportunities slipped away.

 

I’ve been praying. I’ve been reading Scripture. I’ve been trying to listen with my heart; the silence has been deafening. For some reason, the Lord seems to have turned His face away from me.

 

”My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

 

I have been clinging to that promise. Certainly, others have a better claim to hardships, than I do—I haven’t been shipwrecked, or scourged—but I do hope and pray for some relief.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

 

This sustains me. I know that not everything I go through is necessarily for my good, but it will serve to magnify His glory. Somehow. But whatever the reason for this season in my life, there is a reason.

 

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

 

So I’ll get through it. I’ll pray for patience, for discernment, for courage; God never promised not to give us more than we can handle, but He did promise never to abandon us. I don’t know where He is right now, but I do know that He’s there– even if, for now, He has left me to struggle on my own.

 

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

No matter what else, His promise of salvation is everlasting. No struggle that I face in this life can diminish my hope for the glory of the next. Praise God for our trials, for when we are weak—then we are strong. And to God be the glory forever.

 

Verses cited:

 

…There was given to me a thorn in the flesh…  II Corinthians 12:7-9a

And we know that for those…  Romans 8:28

I can do all things through Christ… Philippians 4:13

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses… II Corinthians 12:10