Oh, hey, look– BlogDude is back!

Yeah, I’ve been gone too long. Lotsa stuff happening, but still… I’ve been letting this get away from me.

NOT cool.

BUT: I’m back. And hopefully we won’t be seeing any more of thee protracted absences.

Today’s post won’t be a long one; in fact, it’s really more of a question. Of course, I’m long-winded so this question will probably take at least a hundred words to take form, but hey, that’s me!

Okay, so, I’m laying in bed. It’s dark, I’ve spent my prayer time, and I’m laying there waiting for sleep to show up (you think I stay away for a long time; you should see how that Sleep fella treats me. It’s a travesty). As usual, my mind is working overtime– I think a lot. Which isn’t to say I’m particularly smart, just that I notice a lot of bright shiny objects in my daily travels. But I digress.

In the course of my thinking, I start wondering how cool it would have been to have actually seen God blow life into Adam. I mean, seriously. How freakin’ cool would that be? To see the Lord take this little pile of dirt, do His thing, make a little model of some dude (or “the dude,” since there aren’t really “dudes” to qualify the distinction of “some”), and then breathe on it. POOF, the dude is alive!

Now first of all– I mean, really, its hard to beat the idea of God breathing on dirt, and all of a sudden it’s alive. But then I start thinking, “I wonder what the expression on Adam’s face was, when he just popped into existence.” For real, that had to have been golden! This is the only guy that was ever just poofed into life, fully formed and aware; he didn’t have an adjustment period, parents (at least, not in the sense that you and I have parents)… he just wasn’t… and then he WAS. I gotta ask him how that felt, one day.

Anyway, I’m thinking, “Man, it’s too bad I wasn’t there for that. It would been AWESOME.” And then my thoughts moved on, and I started contemplating eternity and stuff. You know, cuz we’re gonna live with Christ forever, which is also a really, really cool thing to be thinking about. But then, because I tend to meander in thought as well as in motion (have I mentioned that I’m sorta clumsy?), I got to thinking about how God– who lives in eternity (that is, outside of time) can see everything in the history of everything as if it were all happening in the same eyeblink. Also very cool. And we’re gonna be living with Him in eternity. What an awesome deal!

Wait…

So that means…

If God lives in eternity…

… and He can see everything that ever was…

… and we’re gonna live with Him in eternity…

… then it stands to reason that we’re gonna be able to see as He does! In fact– I gotta look this up, seriously, I think it was Paul that said something about it (I love Paul, such a cool dude)– I’m pretty sure Scripture confirms it. So if that’s the case,

WE MIGHT GET TO CHECK OUT CREATION IN PERSON!!!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is worth the price of admission even if that whole, “salvation, justification, sanctification,” thing wasn’t incentive enough.

 

Maranatha, Dude. Let’s get this show started…

 

Love all of you folks. Sorry to have been gone so long, but I’m glad to be back. I hope you’re glad to see me again, too.

 

~BlogDude

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Proud to be Humble.

I think I’ve noticed a bit of a recurring undercurrent in a number of my threads, lately. Pride seems to be coming up quite often.

It makes sense. I have a real problem with this one; not only is it the root of all other sin, but I actually have a problem with the bald, naked sin of pride itself. My guess is that the Spirit has been leading me to confront it directly; I have to do that from time to time, and I think I’m probably past due.

When I first got straight with Jesus, I spent a lot of time reading commentaries and the like, trying to get every last ounce of meaning that I could from Scripture. I also flailed around, reading different books about various Christian virtues and values and theologies. I hadn’t found a church, yet—or, rather, I hadn’t come home to Bethel, yet—so I was kinda flying blind in a snowstorm. One book that I found helpful, though (there were a lot of books that weren’t helpful at all, and more than one that actually wound up in the round file), was Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney. It’s a quick little read, not at all difficult to understand, but it is definitely an eye-opener.

After reading it, I had a better understanding of how damaging pride is, how insidious it is, and—most importantly—how to get loose of its grip. The following list is adapted from C.J. Mahaney’s.

  1. Start your day by acknowledging your need for and dependence on God. For some of us, it requires an act of divine grace just to roll to the edge of the mattress and slide off the edge feet-first; for everyone else, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to remember to do this.
  2. Start the day by giving thanks to God. I’m usually thankful that the previous maneuver (rolling out of bed) doesn’t culminate in a face plant into the rug. Usually.
  3. Be spiritually disciplined.

    a. Pray! Do it all day long. Have a running conversation with the Lord. He’s right there, all day long—what are you gonna do, ignore Him? That’s a bit rude, isn’t it?

    b. Study His Word! Seeking meaning in Scripture reinforces our recognition of our dependence on God, and helps us in our daily walk-and-talk with Him.

    c. Worship! This goes along with “a” and “b”, but it goes much further, as well. Acknowledge how awesome God is, every chance you get (a good friend of mine is in the habit of saying, “God is wicked awesome, dude. Wicked awesome.”) See a cool cloud formation? Give praise for the artistry of His creation. Enjoying that crisp autumn air? Thank Him for the season. Just washed your car and drove under a flock of pigeons unscathed? Head directly to your nearest house of worship and immediately break into song.

 

If you commute, what are you doing with that time? Are you using it constructively? If not, maybe you could take the opportunity to catch up on God’s Word while you drive into work, or home again (jiggety jig!). I hear that they’re even putting the Bible on CD these days! Technology—who knew?

  1. Quit sweating the small stuff—and it’s all small stuff.

 

“Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:3,4)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7; emphasis mine)

  1. Every night before bed, acknowledge all that the Lord has done for you and through you, that day. Give Him the glory for all of your successes, acknowledge your fault in all of your failures, and be reminded that we have and do nothing absent His grace—even the act of breathing is a gift from God!
  2. And finally (and a lot of readers are gonna like this one): sleep! Remember that sleep is one of our most precious and important blessings. It renews and refreshes us (better than Irish Spring, even!), recharges our minds and energizes our bodies. (At least, it’s supposed to. If it doesn’t, there may be some lifestyle issues involved. I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’.)

When you lay down to sleep, remember to thank God for this awesome gift that most of us get to experience every day. On warm summer Sundays—if looking around at the congregation is any indicator—sometimes more than once a day. (At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Summertime is when I have the most eye trouble, so I have to pay special attention to the insides of my eyelids.)

Well, that’s it: the primer on keeping ourselves humble! On a more serious note, I really need to practice what I’m preaching here, because trust me: this stuff takes discipline to do it every single day. But I speak from experience when I say that it is helpful—and effective, as long as you continue to practice it. So I’m going to recommit to doing these things every day. Starting with #6.

(Okay, #5. Yeesh.)

Bad Dreams and King David

Sunday night, I had a bad dream.

This wasn’t a nightmare, just a very unpleasant dream. It was also a dream that contained a lot of symbolism. For me, a dream that has a great many recognizable symbols usually catches my attention. It’s usually important.

I say that it’s usually important, because in my experience over the last eighteen months it usually turns out to be God, trying to tell me something. In this case, it was telling me that my life was getting to be a mess again.

Well, I kinda already knew that it was headed in that direction, but I was having trouble figuring out why, exactly. I had been praying about it for a couple of days, but to be honest, I was starting to wonder if I was going to get an answer, or if the answer I got would be obvious enough for me to take notice of it.

Yes, I know, I shoulda known better. The dream was a wake-up call (figuratively and literally). Troubled by the fact that it was my own voice that had awakened me from an otherwise sound sleep, I got up to an almost oppressive impulse to get into God’s Word, and try to find some meaning beyond what I had just seen in bed.

As is my habit when I’m looking for something specific in Scripture, but I have no idea where to begin looking, I just flipped the Bible open to a random page. It came up on the story in 2 Samuel 2, about the battle at the Pool of Gibeon. This sort of got my attention because I had just written a blog about the Pool of Gibeon and had actually just been speaking to my Dad about it, last night. So I started to read, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere; it was all, “David was victorious. The LORD gave David’s enemies into his hand. David kicks major tail all over the land of Israel,” et cetera, et cetera… how does this apply to my situation? David isn’t having any trouble! In fact, in all of this, the only really negative thing that happened was Uzzah getting smoked by the Lord for grabbing the Ark, when it nearly fell off the wagon!

(It was only while writing that last line that I remembered God’s sense of humor leaning toward the ironic. Hopefully you’ll get it, in a minute or two.)

Frustrated, and more than a little impatient, I read this line in 2 Samuel 8:4:

And David captured from him [Hadadezer] 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; and David hamstrung the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots.

Okay, really? I’m getting nothin’ here! So, I figure, “One more chance,” and just flip the back pages of the Bible with my thumb, figuring maybe something will pop this time. A chunk of pages rolls over, and the first thing my eyes fall upon is this line:

And David took from him 1,000 chariots and 7,000 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers, and David hamstrung all of the chariot horses but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots.

~ 1 Chronicles 18:4

Um, ahem, okay, sorry, Lord. There’s obviously a reason that I’m supposed to be reading this. I get it.

I read on. Still, all I’m seeing is “David rocks, David kicks butt, David is da man,” but now, at least, I know that this is leading somewhere. And then:

Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)

I still didn’t quite get it. Sometimes I’m a little thick. And then, I got to this line:

And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (1 Chronicles 21:8)

and,

And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great.” (1 Chronicles 21:13)

I still didn’t get it. But as I read that last line, I had a feeling that I had gone as far as I was supposed to. I needed to discern what the Lord meant, though, so I prayed that the scales be removed from eyes so that I could understand the message He meant for me to receive. The answer came to me almost before I finished asking for it.

Satan made David forget—for a moment—that God was the strength behind all of his victories. David took a census of his fighting men in order to ascertain his “strength.” David, in a moment of pride (I assume it was pride behind the error), put his own abilities and resources above the blessings of the Lord. When David realized his error, he begged forgiveness from the Lord; God gave him three choices to pick from by way of punishment for his transgressions.

Two of the punishments took place at the hands of men; the last would be a punishment from the hand of God. David, recognizing the Lord’s merciful nature, asked to be delivered into the hand of God.

The parallel to my own situation became very clear. Recently, I have been falling deeper and deeper into a sense of false security, thinking that God would be with me almost no matter what I chose to do. I was relying on my own judgment, on my own wisdom, to make decisions and do things “my way.” (Note on irony: David was transporting the Ark improperly when Uzzah got smited; rather than do what God wanted, I was doing what I wanted. There was also the obvious “fell off the wagon” reference, floating around in there somewhere.) A lot of this, I think, came from the notion that things weren’t going for me as I had hoped; money is still tight, the things I wanted to accomplish have been held up by circumstances, people that I have wanted to help out have been struggling and I have been unable to help because my own situation has left me unable to.

So I had taken to trying to make it happen on my own, getting impatient, and trying to talk God into hurrying up, already, I just needed a little break and I could take care of this stuff.

I could take care of this stuff.

Lack of faith. Pride. Those are my sins.

Everything happens according to God’s plan for us, and in His good time. I forgot. I ask that He forgive me for my sins. I know that He will. And from now on, I’m going to try to just relax and let Him handle it.

But I also gotta ask that he doesn’t smite 70,000 people because I screwed up. It’s hard enough, getting readers for this blog.

The Gospel and Harold Speed

”… New facts are but the addition of new instruments to the orchestra with which the artist creates his symphonies. They increase the range of possibilities open to him and enlarge the scope of his work. But they immensely increase the difficulties of composition, and… become so intricate and engrossing that they are apt to occupy the whole of his attention… The orchestration becomes the subject of the symphony, instead of its means of expression. The point is reached when the instruments of expression are too difficult to be controlled… and themselves begin to control the work.”

 

~Harold Speed, Oil Painting Techniques and Materials

So today’s article will be mostly targeted at folks that are fairly new to their faith. You should know that what I’m writing about, I write from intimate personal experience; struggling with finding a balance between what God expects me to do, and what I want to do for God, has been a serious and very real challenge for me since I came to Christ.

On the one hand, I want to do everything I can for the Lord. I went through a period in which I tried to do everything that I thought would please Him, with the result that I wasn’t getting anything done. It took me a little bit of time to realize that the Holy Spirit had endowed me with certain spiritual gifts for a reason; that reason was to focus on the specific tasks that God knows I am best suited for. For instance, public speaking is probably not my forte’.

On the other hand, I have these spiritual gifts, and I want to use them constantly. The trick is to find that balance. Jesus, in the parable of the soils, talks about believers who fall into this category. He tells of those who “fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil,” and as a result they immediately sprang up, because they had no “depth of soil.” But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and having “no root, they withered away.” (Matt. 13:5, 6)

My son calls people like this, “try-hards.” What it amounts to is that we get so wrapped up in the ecstasy of the moment that we forget to root ourselves before we start trying to branch out. Getting back to the art metaphors, “Do far less with your brush, and much more with your head at first.”

When I first got saved, I remember becoming fascinated with apologetics (I still am). I thought, “Oh, awesome! I can argue and be a good Christian? This is wicked cool!” The only problem with this was that I was learning the arguments before I learned the reason for the arguments. As a result, there were a couple of occasions where I fear that my arguments did more harm, than good; not having a firm foundation in the spirit of the argument, I let the argument itself become the point of the discussion. I regret to say that the two people that I am thinking of in this example have probably become even more entrenched in their resistance to Christ, as a result.

God, in His perfect wisdom, used this as a lesson to me. He has also put people in my life who have an almost eerie tendency to say exactly the right thing at the exact moment that I need to hear it; in this case, the lesson was reinforced when one of these people suggested that sometimes we get so busy doing for God that we forget about God. Yikes.

So, I backed up, and started reading more Scripture. I got into the Word about spiritual gifts, and at just about exactly the moment that I start wondering, “Well, what the heck is my gift? And how do I find out?” Pastor Reggie gave a sermon on—yup—spiritual gifts. Double yikes. Twice in ten days. Like I said—eerie.

Here was the information that I needed! After a couple of false starts—the direction in general was the right one, but it was the wrong path, both times—I finally found a couple of things that I could do for the Lord without having to compromise the quality of my work for Him. One of them, obviously, is this blog; the best part of this for me, in a spiritual sense, is that where I might get lazy about reading Scripture the way I should, writing this forces me to stick my nose in the Word pretty much daily so that I can be sure that what I’m writing is true to Scripture. It works great—I get to work for the Lord, I get to do that work by doing something I enjoy, and it actually forces me to grow spiritually! Awesome!

Of course, I try to do everything with God foremost in my mind. It wouldn’t do if this blog were the only thing that I dedicated to Him, so no matter what I do now I try to do it in a way that I know would be pleasing to Him, and with the knowledge that if it weren’t for His blessing I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all. But by just listening to the Spirit, I was led to the right outlet for my gifts—and my weaknesses.

“Everyone stumbles upon some methods that suit his particular temperament.” Experienced painters say that it is more important to focus on the foundational basics of the craft, than to focus on style. The problem is that most beginning painters get wrapped around the axle trying to be unique in their own way, rather than learning how to paint and letting style come about as a natural extension of their growth as artists. As Christians, I think we can be guilty of the same mistake. We get a taste of how great it is to be saved, and we want to just run out and start “being saved,” rather than building on that first stone and letting the building take shape as God intended. The result is that we get tired, frustrated and lost—which is what the Devil would love for us to do. “It’s better to burn out, than fade away,” as the song goes (yes, I’m dating myself, hush, you) but as Christians, this isn’t what we want to do. We want to finish the race, and finish strong. Just listen for God’s instruction, and take your time. He knows how best to use us, so stay out of His way, let yourself be attentive to His voice, and realize that what He wants us to do will be to His glory, and to our benefit.

God bless us all, and I’ll talk to you again on Tuesday!