An Unintentional Hiatus

Well, clearly I’ve had a variety of pushy and demanding distractions hammering at me, like one of those officious busy-bodies in the checkout line who huffs and puffs and elbows her way into the middle of things until you PAY ATTENTION TO HER!

Yeah.

So, now, despite an every-increasingly busy schedule, I am trying, TRYING to find make time to clack away at a few keys and see where the Spirit leads me.  And by “leads me,”  I mean, upon which areas of my life will the Spirit be focusing His inescapable spotlight of attention, thereby bringing me into the kind of awareness (and hopefully repentance) such that I can share these lessons with you.  Regardless of how humbling or deprecating they may be.

Cuz, it’s what I do.

Coming soon, A Patchwork Penitience will be getting it’s own domain!  Stay tuned for updates.

WWJD or WWYHMDL?

A while back the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were all the rage.  They still pop up now an then.  Like tying a piece of string to your finger, I believe the the WWJD bracelets were supposed to be reminders to live your life in a more Christ-centric way, to evaluate your actions in the context of what you think Jesus would do in a similar situation.  It is certainly an appealing and catchy sentiment that appeals to our desires to “do the right thing.”  There’s just one problem.

It’s asking the wrong question.

Asking WWJD means that you are guessing.  You’re taking your best estimate as to what YOU think is the right answer in this situation.  You are trying to live your life like Jesus lived his.  So, does that mean that are you wondering if you should go overturn the tables in the temple courtyard?  Should you go live in the wilderness for 40 days, or get in the Pharisees’ face about their legalism?  Should you go hang out in the lunch room at IRS headquarters so you can fulfill your mandate to consort with tax collectors?

Uh….probably not.  See, the thing is, you CAN’T LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE JESUS, because he was the Son of God.  He set an unachievable goal.  He didn’t set us an example to follow…He gave us a path to follow!  He didn’t come to give us a list of do’s and don’ts…He came to show us the way to the Father.  Jesus only gave us two commandments…”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)

I propose that you can’t really do the second one until you start doing the first one!

So, instead of wondering WWJD, what we should be asking is, “What Would You Have Me Do, Lord?”

See, the thing is, we don’t have to wonder.  We don’t have to guess.   As believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have a hot line straight to God, such that when difficult situations arise, we don’t need to look to our bracelet…we can go right to The Source.

While, granted, WWJD fits better on a bracelet or a T-Shirt or a bumpersticker than “WWYHMDL,” we need to understand that relying on our best guess estimates makes us the arbiters of truth.  It becomes too easy to live life according to a series of handy, and often changeable “Jesusisms” that reduce His Word to little more than philosophical precepts.  We might as well ask what would Gahndi do, or Buddha, or Oprah.  Jesus was not just another philosopher exhorting us to live better lives.

He called us to live our lives in service to Him, and the only way we are ever really going to know what that is supposed to look like is to ask…HIM.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 14:12

The key word in this passage is the word “seems.”  There is an answer which “seems” right to us, a way that “ought” to be correct, or a solution that “feels” good.  Except that, if it is OUR way, then it is wrong. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord , and turn away from evil.  Prov 3:5-7

Lean not on your own understanding.  Rather than do what “feels right,” study the scriptures, pray, come before the Lord and ask Him to tell you what to do.

We are too easily swayed by the ways of the world to trust our own judgement when it comes to spiritual matters.  So, instead of settling for What Would Jesus Do, let’s keep asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

You may not always like the right answer, but it’s always better than feeling good about the wrong one.

You’re NOT The Boss Of ME!

As God is taking his wire brush to my innards, breaking loose a lot of the accumulated crud and gunk clogging up the works, I’m actually starting to realize a few things.  One, he’s got a lot of work to do in there.  It’s like the barbecue grill you forgot to clean after the last big cookout of the season last Fall, and so it’s just been sitting there all winter.  Now when you crack open the lid for the first big cookout of this Spring…ewwwwww.  Lot’s of mouldering gyeck and rust and spiderwebs and who knows what else that dripped down onto those little fake briquets on the bottom, congealing into something resembling a twisted science experiment that escaped from an evil scientist’s lab.

Yep, that pretty much sums up my soul right now.

Secondly, perhaps the single most illuminating (and disturbing) thing that I’ve realized is that I am resenting God.  Wha..?   Yup.  I am deep in the throes of a full-blown, resentful, pouty-lipped, widdle foot-stomping spiritual temper tantrum.  Probably have been for quite some time.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Jesus meant when He said we should become like little children in order to enter His Kingdom.

I find that I am resentful of Him forcing me to give up all my worldly pleasures and distractions.  I resent being told "No."  I resent not getting to do things my way, when I want, how I want.  I resent being forced to stay and work on my marriage rather than being allowed to follow the path of so many today and harry off on some mid-life crisis to "find myself" and pretend I’m some carefree 20-something with nothing to worry about but ME, ME, MEEE! 

I’m like some petulant teenager who just can’t understaaaaaand why she can’t go to the Nine Inch Nails concert with her 23 year old "friend."  But I WANT to!

And figure that should be enough, right? 

Sometimes, to be honest, I feel like stomping up the stairs, screaming "I HATE YOU!!!" at the top of my lungs, and slam my bedroom door with all the fury contained in my martyred and misunderstood little arms.

Forgetting, of course, that I stomped up the stairs of the home my parents have provided for me, to slam the door of the room they filled with furniture, and throw myself on my bed and listen to the Ipod they bought me, as I bemoan how they just never let me do anything, and they don’t really love me, or they’d let me do what I WANT."

Sound familiar, at all?  How like children we must be in God’s eyes!

We are like those oh-so-worldly teenagers that we all know, and many have raised, those wizened old philosophers and sages who have the world figured out at 17, and with much rolling of eyes and dramatic sighs we wish our geeky, clueless parents would just get out of our way and let us do what we KNOW is right.  Or at least what feels good.  Or what our friends tell us is "cool."  Or any combination of the three.

Only to discover, some ten years later, as we watch our own little crumb snatchers get all demanding and pissy when they can’t have what they want, when they want, and that would be RIGHT N-O-W!! just how much smarter our parents have suddenly become.

God is revealing to me one of the fundamental flaws of my character, and I am struggling to face all of the potential ramifications of it.  Despite a lifetime of faith, despite years of devout worship, study, and what I felt to be "devotion," I’m still really just as much of a drama queen in many ways as anyone else in the world.

Despite "knowing" what God wants, I "kick against the goads," fighting against God’s sovereignty, rationalizing, justifying, cajoling and bargaining in order to keep on doing this or that "one little thing."  Problem is, God wants it all.  Heart, mind and soul.

It’s time to grow up, man up, and stop demanding that God see it MY way.

Because, despite of all I may want to convince myself, or however much I may try to hide from it, the simple reality is…yeah, He really IS the boss of me. 

He formed me in the womb, knew me before I was born, and created me for a purpose.  He is infinite in His wisdom, and like that wise and worldy parent, knows the dangers of rock concerts with over-age boyfriends and the many other dangers facing us out there in the world, dangers of which we are undoubtedly blissfully unaware.  We need, I need to trust Him, to know that He has a perfect plan for my life, and that the more I fight it, the only person I’m really making it hard on is myself.

I think this poster sums it up nicely:

Thought for the Day

If you’ve decided that the Bible isn’t enough for you, that perhaps it is merely one piece of a bigger spiritual puzzle, then you are stating that you no longer believe that God and God alone is the source of your salvation.

Just be aware of the decision you are making when you set aside God’s word in favor of the teachings of another prophet, philosopher or sophist.

You deny the finished work of Christ, you deny the sufficiency and authority of God, and you make yourself the arbiter of “truth.” And, while that’s certainly a great job for anyone to have, I’m sorry to say that the position has already been filled.

It’s a simple reality, really:  You create the Universe, you get to make the rules.  So, until you can manage the former, don’t presume to attempt the latter.

Thoughts on Malachi

My studies took me to the Italian prophet tonight.

The book of Malachi is essentially God slapping the Israelites right upside the head because of their shallow, insincere, and downright insulting attitudes towards Him.  The sad/scary thing is…I saw waaaaay to much of the modern Church in these passages.

Through Malachi, God rebukes His people for the crap they are bringing Him as offerings.  A harsh word? Not really.  They were bringing junk, garbage, crap…and offering it to the Lord of Lords, King of Kings.  To say that He was a little put off is putting it mildly.

God asks if they would ever give such poor offerings to their local governor or magistrate?  The answer would be heck no!  Because they’d end up in shackles or picking up garbage around the village square on trash detail if they tried.  But with God?  Eh, whatever I’ve got lying around ought to be good enough…

God’s chosen people were offering tarnished trinkets, their lame and blind animals, rotten fruit and stolen goods as their offerings on the altar of Jehovah in the temple.  And then they seemed to be confused and surprised when God condemns them for it.

It seems a lot like the father of a clueless teenager who can’t understand why he’s in trouble when you told him to mow the yard, and then he only did half of it and quit to play X-box with his friends instead.

Then I thought about the kinds of “donations” I’ve seen people give to the churches at which I’ve been a member.  Heck, let’s be honest here, the kind of donations I have given to my own churches.  Stuff left over from the garage sale.  Stuff I found in the back of the closet or the attic, some of which doesn’t even work.  I pawn it off on the church figuring, “Maybe somebody can fix it, and anyway, it’s finally out of MY house!

I know for a fact people have used church donation drives as a convenient way of getting out of paying the dumping fee at the county landfill.

What does that say about us?  That we’ll give stuff to God that even WE don’t want anymore!?

The words of the prophet Malachi make it pretty clear that God WILL NOT BLESS YOU OR HONOR YOUR PRAYERS if you come before His altar with this attitude.   As a matter of fact, these token gestures of piety really anger our Lord, and He actually promises a curse for those who continue to do it!  I, for one, was very convicted about my peevish frustration that an 11:30 service “takes up half my day” on Sunday, instead of being able to get in at 9:30 and be out before noon so I can “get on with my day.”

Sound familiar to anyone?  Hmmm?  To think, I begrudge God two hours of worship.  I can’t spare two hours out of “my” day, to go with a willing heart to lay my offering on His altar.  I should be frustrated and disappointed that that’s ALL I get, wishing it were more, not less.  Like I said, Malachi has been hitting a little too close to home!

Malachi also makes it clear that tithing isn’t optional.  This kind of surprised me, because I’ve always heard tithing presented either in the form of a plea from the pulpit, or as a personal decision between me and God.  According to the words of God in Malachi, failing to tithe is “robbing God.”

“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.  “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you!”  Malachi 3:8-9 ESV

It is also clear that God views the marriage covenant between a man and a women as every bit as important, binding, and sacred as His covenant with Israel.  We see here again the archetype of the marriage, and foreshadowings of the NT teachings of the “Bride of Christ.”  God promises the same sort of anger and retribution for men who deal with their wives “treacherously” as those who bring corrupted offerings to His temple. Interesting.

I ‘ve also come to see Malachi as actually a pretty powerful book about…fatherhood, believe it or not.

Despite the harsh language, it’s actually a book of love.  Huh?  Yup.  Read it, you’ll see.  When I read this book of the Old Testament, I heard a frustrated father scolding his clueless children for their disobedience.  I have BEEN that guy, frustrated nearly to tears, stating for the leventy-zillionth time what should be obvious, self evident truths to children who just stare at me in bemused surprised like I just told them the sky is green.  He threatens them with terrible consequences, but he ALSO promises great rewards.  He lays it out, in plain and simple language.  He is setting boundaries, house rules, complete with punishments and rewards, in such a way that they can’t come back later and say, “Wull… I didn’t KNOW!  You didn’t tellll me THAT!

Recommended Resource site

Every so often, I will try to post a link to a site that I think merits attention.  Most often it will be another blog, a teaching site, or a Bible study resource. 

In this case, it is a link collection that is more than just a dump-and-run aggregator. 

My Christian Blogs” is the name.

The honcho of the site has actually taken the time to link individual sites, along with selected links to their content.  I like this format.

And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want MY site linked there because I think it’s just that cool.  Their site, not mine.  Although, I think mine is pretty cool too, but I think you get my point.  I hope.

Anyway, I would recommend adding “My Christian Blogs” to your Favorites or your blogroll.  It looks like a great “one-stop” for a pretty good spectrum of devotional and other writings.

Thanks in All Things

We are called by the Scriptures to give thanks in all things.  Even the silly little things.

Did God really help me find my ID card this morning?  Just because I prayed for His help?

I’d like to think so.

But I’d much rather mistakenly thank God for something I did, than mistakenly take credit for myself on something God did.

So I thanked Him, and felt blessed.

Day 6

I begin to realize that the Enemy’s greatest weapon against us comes in the form of the “Tiny Distraction.”  Kind of like the “Noisy Cricket” from Men In Black, it seems so small, so inconsequential, only to have it surprise you with its power.

Charles Hummel called it the “tyranny of the urgent.”  It’s the little, ceaseless distractions, the “oh, just real quicks” that constantly distract and divert our focus from God.  There always seems to be time to check one more blog, to finish one more level on that addicting online Flash game, play one more hand of online poker, or hit that snooze alarm one more time because you were up too late last night reading the latest Dean Koontz novel.

And we wonder how come our Walk is so fractured, so shallow, and ultimately so ineffective? 

I was lamenting today about how I’m always feeling so tired, so run down.  I feel like someone who is pulling themselves up, hand over hand, along the railing of the Titanic as it goes down, trying to get to the lifeboats, but my arms are just sooo tired, so tired, and my feet seem to keep slipping out from under me.

And then, in that clear, quiet voice He so often uses, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the admonitions of scripture to be FILLED by the Spirit, to not lean on our own strength, but God’s.  To have Him carry us through when our own strength fails.

Isa 58:11 says:

 “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Wow.  What a potent image.  Right now I feel like an office plant that someone forgot to water when they went on vacation, all dry and withered and brittle.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be a watered garden, lush, green, vibrant, rivers of living water pouring through me.  Where can I get me some of THAT?!

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “  Jhn 7:38

I believe in God, but I have not been watering myself.  I have not been drinking from this fountain, and, as the Bible promises, I have become a barren wasteland, dry, desicated, producing no fruit.

That’s what get me about these passages, where God’s word promises such terrible things to those who forsake Him.  So many detractors and scoffers want to make these out to be the threatened wrath of an angry God ready to bring down ruin on those who don’t obey!

The fact is, we bring this ruin on ourselves.  These are not promises of wrath, but warnings of inevitable consequences.  God KNOWS how the system works.  He CREATED US.  We were created to love Him, to have fellowship with Him.  There is some essential nature in us that needs His presence in our lives.  Without it, we cannot truly prosper.  Our lives can never blossom into the fullness he would have for us.  God is trying to warn us of what happens to us individually, and as cultures and nations when we forsake his protection, his provision, and his life-giving Word.

God is telling me that the problems I am facing are a direct result of my allowing all these other tyrannical disctractions to come between me and Him.  On the other hand, He’s also trying really hard to get my attention!

I am thirsty, I am hungry, and oh LORD am I ever tired.  I am reminded of the words to one of those worship songs I’ve sung so many times throughout the years:

Holy Spirit,
Flowing through me.
Holy Spirit,
Come and fiillllll me up,

Come and filllll me uuuup!

I no longer have the strength to do this all on my own.  It is time that I returned to the Source, and start letting HIM fill those places I have allowed to run dry.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;  then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.  (Prov. 3:5-12 NIV)