Nobody is getting hurt…again.

You are alone again.  You like it that way.  Less muss, less fuss.  Fewer distractions, less demands on your time.  You value your free time, time to do the things YOU want to do, right?  Problem is, you want to surf the Internet for pornography.  It started simple enough.  Just swimsuits, alluring models in skimpy clothes.  No biggy.  Then it was those celebrity “fan sites” with half-dressed celebs being drunk and provocative.  Man, ain’t those paparazzi the greatest!  Then you moved on to lingerie. Maybe a Victoria’s Secret catalog that came in the mail by accident.  No harm there, just a little skin, right?  Pretty soon, though, things go from bad to worse.  At first it was just “art appreciation.”  Fine photography revealing the human form.  No harm in that, right?  Besides, if those girls didn’t want to be looked at, they wouldn’t have posed for the pictures, right?

Then, just like with alcohol and drugs, you start needing harder stuff to get a buzz.  It’s a daisy-chain of addiction, one site leading to another to another, each link taking you deeper and deeper into darkness.  Over time you find yourself going places no man should ever go, looking at things no man should ever see.

You have it all worked out in your head, have all your excuses and justifications lined up like bullets in an ammunition clip, ready to be fired off on full auto if your conscience ever tries to rise up and suggest that your lifestyle might not be the healthiest, your moral choices not the most sound.  I mean, after all, they’re just pictures, right? What’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt, right?

How many of us out there have used these excuses ourselves at some point?  Whether it’s our online poker habit, the slots at the Indian Reservation, our drinking, shoplifting, or pornography, the excuses all end up sounding pretty much the same.  It’s just a few beers, right?  It’s not like I’m drinking the hard stuff.

I’m not spending THAT much at the mall every week, right?  And besides, it was on SALE!

No, really. This will be the LAST time I hit the Blackjack tables, just until I can earn back the money I lost last week…

No matter how wrapped up in it we get, no matter how many chains we bind ourselves with, no matter how many other areas of our life we sacrifice to our addictions, we always somehow manage to clear the air by insisting that, hey, what’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt.

But it’s both a truth, AND a lie.

Because, you see, someone IS getting hurt. YOU.  YOU are getting hurt.  You are harming yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  You’re relationships are suffering, what few you might actually have left.  You’ve withdrawn from the world, slowly cutting off family, shutting out friends.  When you let yourself become a slave to these compulsions, these addictions, you are bringing the promise of ruin and pain into your life.

So when you say that “nobody” is getting hurt, what you’re really doing is calling yourself a nobody.  You are saying that you don’t matter, that it’s okay for you to get hurt.  Oh sure, you’d never intentionally hurt anyone else.  THEM you care about.  You?  Eh, it’s okay if YOU get hurt.  No big deal.  You’re just a nobody.  Nobody cares about me, really, so why should I care about myself?

And the really tragic thing?  Somewhere, somewhere deep down inside, you might actually believe it, too. 

Because, truth is? You don’t really believe all those excuses you’re so good at making.  You don’t really think it’s no big deal.  You know it’s wrong, but because you’re an addict, you won’t…or can’t….stop.  The guilt is tearing you apart inside, but instead of dealing with the guilt, you medicate the pain.  With your addiction.  You “use” to feel good, even for a little bit, to escape the pain you feel.  But you still know, somewhere down inside, that it’s wrong.  And so you feel guilty, ashamed.  Swear you’ll quit.  But you can’t.  So you drink to escape the guilt that’s driving you to drink.  It’s a vicious cycle that is tearing you apart and robbing you of health, life, and love.

So, let’s be honest here.  Someone IS getting hurt. You.  But it’s not “only” you, either.  Maybe you’ve never punched anyone, never screamed or yelled, never “abused” or hurt someone.  Maybe you’ve never hit anyone with your car while driving drunk, or never forced a young runaway girl to pose nude for a website to pay for the drugs you got her hooked on; but not all hurts leave scars you can see.  You’re hurting your wife, your girlfriend, your parents, your kids.  Your co-workers, your friends.  People who want to know you, who want you to chose THEM over the porn, or the poker, or the alcohol.  They are hurting, feeling the pain of rejection, of abandonment, of self-doubt.  Even if you never lift a finger farther than it takes to click a mouse button, you are still hurting people.  You are passing on a legacy of hurts that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their life. 

So don’t believe the lies.  Stop telling yourself that nobody is getting hurt.  You’re not a nobody.  You are somebody, somebody who God wants to know Him, to find in HIM the healing, the love, the acceptance that maybe you don’t think you deserve, or will ever find.  God wants to give you His love, whether you deserve it or not.  As a matter of fact, the less you “deserve” it, the MORE He wants to give it to you!

Jesus *said to them, “{It is} not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 2:17 NASB)

And understand that you can’t fight this alone. Trust in God, and He will bring people into your life that can help you find healing, help bring restoration and connection and wholeness where you’ve allowed your addiction to cause brokenness, destruction and pain.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  (1 Cr 10:13 NASB)

Stop hurting yourself.  Stop hurting those around you.  Stop telling the lies that no one…not even you…believe anymore.  It won’t be easy; but with the help of God, it doesn’t have to be impossible either. 

 

Here’s are some recommended resources for those struggling with addiction, especially sexually-based addictions:

http://www.13waystoruinyourlife.com/

http://www.pornaddicthubby.com/

Trapped in Temptation
http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/CBNTeachingSheets/Pornography.aspx

And He Will Heal Their Land. Maybe.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this one.  The time-worn favorite of the armchair evangelical who exhorts us to pray for our nation in that email you are supposed to forward to 25 friends.

2 Chron. 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. “

We see this verse again and again when it’s time for the National Day of Prayer, “See You At The Pole,” or a variety of other times and events when people need to feel like they are DOING something.

However, like so many other things in modern day eschatology, I think we tend to skip over a lot in this verse and focus on the “easy” stuff.

Keep in mind that praying is only ONE of the things that the verse exhorts us to do.

Another is to humble ourselves, a third is to turn from our wicked ways.  Understanding that “wicked” simply means “un-Godly.”  We tend to think of wickedness as those “evil” things like adultery and murder and stealing.  But in God’s eyes, “wickedness” is anything we do outside of His will.  Anger, strife, jealousy…delusions of self-sufficiency.  Even “good” things done with the best of intentions, if they are done based on our human (and thus flawed) intentions might ultimately be considered “wickedness.”

Isaiah 46:6 – “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

It is hard to truly understand “humbling” ourselves when we’ve never really lived under a King.  We’ve never had to physically kneel before a throne, before a man who has the power of life and death in his hands, and whose very words become law the moment they are spoken.  Humbling ourselves means giving up everything that isn’t of God; giving up the demands that we get to live life like WE think it should be lived.  It means giving up being mad at God when I don’t get my way or don’t understand my circumstance, and committing myself absolutely to accepting His sovereign authority over my life. “Seeking His face” involves a lot more than invoking his name like a spell from Harry Potter that will magically fix things.  It means daily, moment by moment, wanting to know more about WHO God is and what than means to my life.

It’s easy to say we will pray every day.  It’s easy to say that if the rest of the country would just straighten out and clean up their act…

However, is it as easy to say that we will pray…AND seek His face AND humble ourselves AND turn from our wicked ways? It’s about more than praying for our leaders, it’s about changing the way we live our lives in a very real and personal way.  ONLY THEN does this scripture promise that God will heal our land.  Prayer is certainly a great place to start, but I think it’s a lot taller of an order and a lot more work than most people want to think.  Myself included!!

I think it’s important to remember that the context of this verse is God speaking to Solomon just after the completion of the Temple.  God is actually speaking in the past-tense here.  Because the people, after they had already endured droughts, plagues and disease, humbled themselves, turned from their wicked ways and turned their face towards God, He heard their cry and restored them as a nation, complete with a fantastic new temple.

However.  Comma.

God IMMEDIATELY goes on to warn Solomon that (based on Israel’s history I’m sure) their new-found providence is still very conditional (I paraphrase slightly here):

IF, and I repeat IF you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances,  then AND ONLY THEN I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man {to be} ruler in Israel.’ (vs 17-18)

And then he drops the other shoe….

“BUT!  If you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them,  then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

“As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’

“And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’ (vs. 19-22)

And you know what’s sad?  We see in Isaiah 64:10-11  that that’s exactly what happened:

Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.  Our holy and beautiful house, Where our fathers praised You, Has been burned {by} fire; And all our precious things have become a ruin.

So what we have is a pretty clear “Either/Or” proposition. God says that either you humble yourself, acknowledge HIM and ONLY HIM as your God, or your land will be made desolate and your people scattered.

No middle ground.  Not a lot of ecumenicalism or mutli-culturalism there.  Doesn’t seem to support the whole, “we all worship the same god, just with different names” thing.  Kind of “intolerant” and “divisive” isn’t it?

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  (Heb 4:12 NASB)

It’s almost like God KNOWS the wickedness of our heart, the darkness of human nature, and our nearly inevitable tendency to follow our own hearts rather than His will.  Almost like a theme, running throughout the Scriptures, as if some things never change.

Something to think about.  And tell 25 of your friends.

A Mildewy God?

I am a bit disturbed by what I see as a growing trend.  Time and again in the news I am seeing stories of people flocking to catch a glimpse of the Virgin Mary in a water stain under an overpass, or the face of Mother Theresa in a cinammon roll, the face of Jesus in a piece of toast or a grilled cheese sandwich, or some other saintly figure in a mud puddle or a paint spill or a rust stain on the back of ’78 Impala.

You know what that is, right?  Idolatry.  Plain and simple.  Flocking to an image of a water stain on a concrete wall, stacking candles, incense and flowers all around, and then PRAYING TO THE IMAGE is idolatry.  I happen to think that praying to anyone but God is idolatry.  Praying to the Virgin Mary, praying to "the saints", praying to your dear departed Uncle Chuck, all of these are putting someONE or someTHING before God.

God’s word clearly states: 

Exodus 20:3-4, "You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. "

Judges 10:13,  Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you.

2 Kings 17:12, "They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing."

our-lady-of-grace1Praying to the Mother of Jesus and asking for her help or intercession is making her as God ("Mediatrix").  Praying to Saint Peter or Saint Theresa or Saint Bob is putting a PERSON in the place where JESUS belongs.  And it is therefore idolatry.

And the question I have is….why?  Why pray to anyone but God?  The way has been opened for you, "the veil of the Tabernacle was torn in two" so that ALL might approach the throne of God! 

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a {mere} copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; …Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer {any} offering for sin.  Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,  (Heb 9-10)

Jesus tells us quite clearly in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. "  Not through Mary.  Not through Peter.  Only through CHRIST.

The again in John 14:13-14, Jesus tells us, ""Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do {it.}  "

Jesus quite clearly not only gives us permission to go directly to Him, but requires us to go to Him and ONLY Him.  If you are praying to anyone, or anything else, you are praying to a false god.  An idol.  A substitution of the real thing.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hbr 4:13-16 NASB)

And here’s there other thing.  Our God is an AWESOME God.  Our God is the one who spun together the entire universe.  Psalm 104 talks about his kind of God: 

"Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a {tent} curtain.  He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind;  He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers. "

Does this sound like the kind of God who would be content to manifest himself as a mildew stain an a basement wall, some calcification under a runoff spout, or an odd shape of woodgrain on a toilet door?!  Come ON. Seriously.  I think it’s safe to say that an image seen in some dusty, shadowy dampness in a culvert is NOT OF GOD.  Which really leaves only two other options, doesn’t it?  Either you are trying waaaay too hard to see something that’s not there, or, the image comes from somewhere else.  Somewhere, or someone.  Someone who would love nothing better than for you to be distracted, entranced, and preoccupied with all manner of flashy, showy spiritualistic other things than focusing exclusively on the one, true God.

I remember hearing a story once of some missionaries in, I believe it was Ethiopia, who were shown what was believed to be one of the original stones used in the ephod of Aaron as commanded by God, described in Exodus Chapt. 28:

And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, [like] the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.

 I had always pictured some kind of art class project with a name etched into the top like a pet rock or a paperweight.  However, the stone the pastor described was transparent, a deep blue color, and the stone had an image of a lion, for the tribe of Judah.  They were able to x-ray the stone, and came to discover that the image of the lion itself had a three-dimensional quality and was actually made up of Hebrew words, almost like a hologram!  This seems to jibe with the description given in Exodus.  The stones were made by "Aholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver, and a cunning workman."  Cunning indeed!

Now, I admit I heard the story second or third hand, and I can’t find anything on the ol’ Internets to back it up, but that story has always really resonated with me.  If this is the kind of amazing detail that God’s people put into carving individual stones,  I can only imagine what God did when he "carved" out the 10 Commandments: 

But if the ministration of death, written [and] engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which [glory] was to be done away:  (2 Cor. 3:7)

I can’t imagine they were really just a couple of rough-hewn stone slabs with chisel marks.   They were so magnificent that they imbued power to the very countenance of Moses!  I suspect that these may very well have been what gave the ark of the Covenant its power once they were placed inside.  What I wouldn’t give to see those tablets, maybe get them in front of an MRI or mass-spectomoter!  When I look at Revelation 2:17 in light of the above story, it takes on a much greater level of significance:

and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Imagine God creating a stone which only you can read.  Each stone unique, different, magnificent, and waaaaay high-tech.

So with all that in mind, how is it that so many people allow themselves to be mystified by a patch of frost, a discoloration of some concrete, or a scuff mark on a linoleum floor?  Folks, when God wants you to know that He’s there, trust me, you’ll know.  There’ll be no squinting, and turning your head this way and that, and if you shine the light just so, it sort of maybe kinda might look like Jesus when he’s asleep underwater…

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.  (Matt. 24:30-31)

Doesn’t say anything about toast or mildew.  God does not do things halfway.  He is not a tame lion.   He’s got a flair for the dramatic.   He’s a God of burning pillars and parted seas, not potato chips and grilled cheese.

More even that the aspects of idolatry, and of diminishing the majesty of God, chasing after images and totems can lead you down a dangerous path, one which is based on deception.  If you are so quick to find solace in every "religious" icon you stumble across, if you are so ready and willing to believe that spirits are speaking to you through these manifestations, you set yourself up to be easily deceived by those claiming to speak for God, or AS God, but who are really agents of deception and betrayal.

"For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many…Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many." (Matt. 24)

Putting your faith in anyone, or anything except the Lord Jesus Christ denies the sovereignty of God and results in you serving and worshipping a creation, not the Creator.  Do not be misled!  Trust that God wants you to talk to HIM, revere and worship HIM, not a grease spot or a paint smear.

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!

Ouch.

Nothing fills a person with such remorse, such shame, and such renewed resolution as to have the experience of revealing to someone you work with  that are a Christian, only to see the look of utter surprise on their face.

Lord, forgive me.