God was never meant to be used as a means to an end

I’ve been reading old books again… and it’s struck me that this thing that we think of as new, where Christianity is valued primarily as a civilizing force, is far from new.  Because a relationship with Christ will make you a better person, and a nation full of better people will become a better place to live, we reverse things and start trying to force everyone to *act* like Christians (which is dangerous ground in the first place) so that we can have a nicer place to live out our mortal lives.  Because we notice that Christians are more likely to win at life, we value Christianity for its social utility – it makes things work better.

If your Christianity is valuable because of its social utility, then it doesn’t matter whether or not Christ rose again.  It doesn’t matter if Creation is literal or figurative.  The rules (OT or NT) are irrelevant – because Christianity is just a more sophisticated version of the “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” poster.    Faith exists *only* to be an opiate for the masses, it exists to keep people well-behaved and orderly.   Church is a social organization.

This attitude, that Christianity is valuable because it makes people nice, leads directly to post-modernist thought, where nothing is objectively true.  It leads directly to the blasphemy present in the mainline churches, where pastors are allowed to speak against the Resurrection from the pulpit.   It leads to where we are now, where half the confessing church is willing to deny key doctrines of the faith.  This isn’t *new*.  This isn’t from today.  In 80 year old footnotes, I was reading the same thing!  We compromise with the world, in an attempt to make the world compromise with us.  It never works, it never has, it never will.

The temptation to try to conquer this earth and make it into a paradise with our own hands is as old as Christianity itself.  This is one of the temptations our Lord was presented with, to exchange the worship of the prince of this world for ownership.

Matthew 4: And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

And that’s a temptation that well-meaning Christians have fallen to ever since.  I think you can lay most of the worst of what has been done in the name of Christ to that sin… when we try to force this world, this world that is intended to die and be remade, to become like Heaven.  What do we do?  We compromise.   We say, “well, this person isn’t so bad, we’ll ignore the evil things because he’s offering us part of what we want”.  We say, “well, we know we shouldn’t hurt other folks, but if we can force them to convert by torturing them… that’s all good, ’cause they converted”.  “We know that those guys on the front line taking over the country are raping and pillaging … but they let us preach to whomever is left over, so okay”.

We didn’t wait for God.  We didn’t say, “well, we’re just going to do things God’s way – even if that seems confusing, or illogical, or if it takes longer”.  We grabbed for it.  We wanted to make things happen!

We are reaping the fruit of that now.  Because the last variant of “let’s use God” was a movement away from the Truth and towards niceness, now goodness has been redefined so that our stubborn alignment with the Truth is seen as evil.    We, Christians in the West, we took the easy way.  We compromised, and this is the fruit that was borne.

Our relationship with Christ is meant to be our lighthouse, our guiding force, our center.  Our first allegiance is to God, not to man.  If you are a Christian, it is not possible to say that an oath to the state trumps your faith in Christ*.    We are Christians.  People of our faith died because they wouldn’t compromise and burn one measly stick of incense to Caesar.   Our core should be devotion and love for Jesus.   What, after all, is the first commandment?  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit.  He saved us from our sins!  He gave us new life!  He gave us new hearts!  He made us new!  He has done everything for us – including giving us a beautiful future that doesn’t involve this fallen world.

Compromise is evil.

We will be pressured to compromise.  We always have been.  Those who are already compromised will be the first ones to pressure us to do so, and the ones – because of their own guilt – who will demonize us the most for failing to do so.

Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

It is almost time for the harvest, and the wheat and the chaff are being separated.   The Church is going to be purified – those who are willing to stand on the Truth and stand up and be counted, those folks are going to start getting some flak.   We have had centuries in which we’ve allowed ourselves to think that this world is something we can fix, that this world is where we should keep our treasure, that this world is where we “win”.  It.Is.Not.

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

With whom will you align, Christian sibling?  With the world, or with God?  We cannot choose to lie to ourselves and say that following our Master will make our stay in this world a more pleasant time.  It may – for all the laws that our Lord gave to us are good laws, and were designed with us in mind, for our benefit – but it may not.   Ours is the victory because His is the victory.  In the short term, perhaps in our lifetimes, we may “lose”.  That’s irrelevant to those of us with faith in Christ, and in His promises to us.

Habakkuk 2:4  “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

God was NEVER to be used as a means to an end.  He *is* the beginning and the end.  Follow Him because He is Truth.  Allow yourself to be made better from the inside out.  The time for whitewashing the tombs is over.

The hatred for Christians?  The building resentment?  It’s not over.  It’s not going to be over any time soon.  Choose you this day who you will serve – and think it out.   Our days of easy service are coming to an end.

*http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/politics/kentucky-clerk-same-sex-marriage-kim-davis/index.html

Bunning said he, too, was religious, but he explained that when he took his oath to become a judge, that oath trumped his personal beliefs, the station reported. “Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said.  That would be idolatry – putting something above God.

Something that bothers me

Slightly OT for this blog, but this bothers me…

As a parent, I want to give my children every advantage that I can.  My husband works so I can stay home and do the things like drive my kids to places where they can be around other kids, go to the charter school HS, sit at home and keep an eye on the smaller one… you know.  The things.  I watch their diet, nag them about exercise, and keep a sharp watch on what they see.  Filling them with good stuff and keeping the bad stuff out – that’s my job.

But there’s part of life that is now a huge advantage for my kids, and it breaks my heart.  Not because I don’t want my kids to have it, but because it breaks my heart that other kids don’t.  It shouldn’t be an advantage.

My kids have a mom and a dad.  They know both of us!  My kids have a mom and a dad – they see us both every day.   My kids have a mom and a dad, and we love them.  My kids have a mom and a dad, and we love each other (and are demonstrative about it).  My kids have a family that puts the group ahead of individuals, where the members of the family enjoy doing nice things for one another, and work to take care of each other.

All that *should* be normal.  It’s not.

There are so many things in my kids’ lives that should be normal – and they’re not.  Did you see that study about how having a parent who read to the kids when they were little was a huge boost?  Why is that a huge boost?   Who isn’t doing… oh.  Oh.

Usually I try to write blogs where I give some idea of “what comes next” or some such, but I don’t have anything.  I just wanted to say – I notice.  I notice that the bar of achievement has been set so low that what you want to do is not trip over it.

The haves and have-nots of the society that my children will inherit won’t be the haves and have-nots of just money or power…. they will be the haves and have-nots of the riches of a loving family and good childhood.

I don’t regret for one second that my kids have these things, but oh. My heart bleeds for all those children who do not.

Mistakes Were Made: Well-Meaning Pharisees

The older I get, the more I see that every command in the Word of God is given for the benefit of mankind – nothing is there because God arbitrarily wanted it that way.   All is given for our good.  And the Law (OT and NT) is good.

But the Law does not save.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The efforts we make, to follow the Law, to do right, to use our lives to the glory of God – those efforts are good.  But as those efforts are not, in themselves, gospel, when we hold our efforts up for imitation, when we hold up our personal convictions as universal rules of behavior, we slide away from the Truth.  In our well-meaning stumbles, we recreate the error of the Pharisee.  So in love with our own righteousness, we lose the understanding that only shed blood is sufficient to cleanse us from sin.  So intent on being good, we forget that there is only One who is good.  We lose the ability to humbly admit our failures.

Being human, anytime we strive for anything, we want to look good.  Think of athletes, striving for athletic perfection… if they slip, do they want it known?  Same thing goes for those striving for righteousness.   No one wants to fail at what they care about.

Because we fail … we invent new rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible.  Drunkenness is forbidden… so we decide never to have a glass of wine.  No dancing, no movies, no playing cards.

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

The temptation to sweep sin under the rug, to never admit that we are tempted by evil, is great.  It’s so much easier to whitewash the outside than deal with the ugliness on the inside.  Dragging our ugliness and darkness out to be dealt with is embarrassing and painful.  And it forces real change, which is intrinsically uncomfortable.

For the past thirty or forty years, it seems like there has been a never ending parade of those who we had called heroes… we see them unmasked as hypocrites.  We see those who we were so proud of, because they were winning at tithing tiny dill seeds… we find out that they failed in justice.   And because we followed them, because we identified with them, we are tarred with the same brush, the assumption of hypocrisy.   True or not, the label sticks.

We forgot that we can’t do life without Jesus.  Our efforts at perfection?

 Isaiah 64:6 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.

And we become Pharisees.  We allow ourselves to believe that we’re good people, and that as good people, we can make the world over into a better place.  Not from the inside, by introducing others to the joy of salvation, the beauty of the path of sanctification, the love of Christ… no, we focus on the outward.  We focus on what “good people” do, and then we try to force everyone to comply.

The late 19th and 20th century were the crucible of this belief.  In the 19th century, they called it the “White Man’s Burden” – to see all the world “civilized”.  This at least had the germ of goodness, because it included the spread of the Word of God.  But it incubated the belief that humans could make of this world a paradise, and that belief was taken by the secularists and they ran with it.

Read early 20th century fiction – you’ll see how the modern way of doing things is deified.  Not that I burn to do my family’s laundry in a tub, but there was no difference made in mechanical improvements and “improvements” in the way we raise our children, or feed them, or work, or how we arrange our personal lives.   One trial failed, and the next “new and improved” method took over.

We’re still doing it, and if you don’t believe me, what do you call Common Core or Round-up Ready Corn?  We throw baby out with the bathwater, all because somehow we, fallible humans, are somehow going to make everything perfect.

We forget that the Lord told us that we’d always have the poor – so we leave behind the duty of charity, the demands of loving the others in our community, for the ideal that we can make poverty disappear.  Ahem, that “someone else” can do that, and we’ll just throw a bit of money at the problem and have our duty done and over with.   A hundred years ago, our foremothers decided Prohibition would keep those dreadful drunken men from hitting their wives… now the same drugged men hit their baby mamas.  God would have us administer justice and mercy – but it’s so much easier to clean up the outside, and anyway we can’t *make* people accept Jesus (we tried that too), so what are we supposed to do?

What is inside always spills out, doesn’t it?

We’re Pharisees, and we don’t want to admit that we are, by nature, Fallen.

So what do *we* do?  I think… I think we admit that we’re just folks, saved by grace.  I think we admit that the only real change comes from within, from the way that the good Lord rips out our filthy old heart and puts in a shiny new one.  I think we admit that we all struggle with the old tendencies that come with living in these flesh suits and that sometimes we fail.

I think we admit that we get angry and sad and sometimes we could just about do with a drink… whether we choose to partake or not.

1 John 1: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

And I think, though it kills me, that we admit that *we* can’t make people come to Christ.  Everybody, from your beloved to your child to the stranger checking out the cauliflower, has their own relationship (or lack thereof) with Christ – and every one of them has to do that on their own.

And I think that this deal where the “good people” tried to make everyone else “good” on the outside while the “good people’s” insides weren’t in order, I think that is about to reap the whirlwind.  And all our insides are going to be revealed, for good or ill.

We earned it.   We were well-meaning Pharisees.  I guess we just stop being Pharisees and hold on to the Lord with everything we have, knowing that every day we should strive to obey the greatest commandment… and that every day we will fail.

Deuteronomy 6:You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

And what more, in the end, can we wish for?

Maintaining the Social Information Conduits

Skill set Acquisition:  Networking

Networking:  The process of creating and maintaining relationships

Networking has become a dirty word in some circles because of how it’s been ravaged by business use.   Personally, as an introvert, I find networking difficult.  I like people, but I forget to do the touchstone maintenance on relationships.  But networking is a skill borrowed by the business world from the world of family and friends.   It belongs, properly, in the social realm.  (I recommend reading Miss Manners’ rants about the side effects caused by business stealing actions which belong to the social sphere).

I’m supposed to love my neighbor… and if I don’t know a thing about my neighbor, that makes that difficult.  I would pray for Cousin Sue if I knew she needed praying for, but if I never speak to Cousin Sue (or Aunt Betty, her mother).  Our communities are broken – we are friends transiently with people with whom we work or do hobbies, but bonds of blood become neglected – as does physical association.  (Do you even know your neighbors’ first names?)

I’ll explain.  Think of a cobweb.. every strand connected to every other strand, but there are matrixes where many strands come together.  The strands are maintained by regular conversation.  “How are you?” “How are the kids?”  “Oh, Great Aunt Sue has lumbago?  Terrible.”  But if you don’t do that maintenance, the strands dry up.  And suddenly you realize that you haven’t heard from that friend (or relative!) for ten years.  And maybe someone you cared about died – and you missed the funeral.  Or someone was sick, or needed help… and you could have helped, but you didn’t know.

This used to be women’s work.  And yes, I’ll get this right out front:  Some part of its ruination is how easy it is for social conduit maintenance to slide into gossip.   That’s (my mother tells me) what goes wrong in small towns… everyone knows everyone’s business and has an opinion.   If you don’t want to slide into gossip, it’s easy enough to ask yourself, “Can I help X with this issue, and if so, has God made it my business to do so?”  If not, do the socially appropriate thing and return to your muttons.  (In other words:  Drop a sympathy card in the mail, bake a casserole, show up with some flowers or a kitchen appliance, say congratulations… you get the idea).   Having enough to do of your own does prevent many a sin – it might not be Biblical, but idle hands ARE the devil’s playground.   Worse still, an idle mind.

Returning to the personal:  This is something I’m stepping up to, a skill I’m reluctantly learning.  My mom is the Grand Central Station of information for my family, but she’s in her 70s.  I *could* be in direct contact with my cousins, it’s not that I don’t like them.  I do, quite a lot.  My husband has an enormous family.  We used to let his mom be GCS … but she’s been gone to Glory these 14 years.   We have a wide circle of friends.  And I love each and every one of them.   So then, if they are going to feel loved, I have to stay in contact.

And it’s not just my job as a middle-aged woman to do this!  It’s also my job as counselor/encourager.  If the people in my various circles have drifted off, then they won’t feel comfortable coming and finding me when they need a shoulder.   This is particularly important for those who don’t know Christ.  How can I give them whatever words God has for them, how can I show them God in my life, how can I be a blessing to them… if they don’t feel free to come talk to me?

Another skill set, another “job” to add to the rest.  Fortunately I enjoy it, once I get over myself a bit.  :)

 

Confess, don’t repress

I wind myself up trying to be perfect pretty frequently.  To be all things to all people, to get all the things done, to reach out to everyone, to be creative and studious and friendly and … um, you get the idea.  And then I have a fine fit of self-flagellation when I fail.

This time, as I was coming back out of the swamp of despair, God was on me to be more confessional, to spend more time in prayer with Him, to be more real.

Why wouldn’t you be real in prayer?  With an omniscient God who already knows?

Because you’re prideful?  Because you’re trying to shove your desires and raw self under the couch because you’re ashamed?  Because you’re trying to “fix yourself” in front of Him who created you?  Because you want to have control of one little corner of your life, and if that’s by denying yourself before you even ask… well, that’s still control.

All of that.

I figure I must have a real wide streak of Pharisee in me, because God has had to drag me out of the path of Pharisee-dom (various denominations) more times than I can count.  It always hurts, burns down to the core, and makes me ashamed.  How could I?  (Begin self-flagellation routine).

Today, I’m thinking… maybe one of the reasons God insists on me being real with Him, being raw and just saying what I’m thinking right away instead of trying to clean it before I take it to His feet, it’s because what He’s gifted me with is the role of intimate friend and counselor.  It would be too easy to act like I have it all together.  It would be too easy to be (as Pastor Dan was preaching tonight) a referee only calling fouls and not in the game.

My calling is to be there to walk with folks through whatever they’re going through, to love unconditionally, to encourage and exhort and counsel – not to be the ref.  I’m supposed to be the coach, if anything.   A big hug, a little advice, and a smile as I send (x) back into the game.

If I for one minute forget that 1) I’m not better than anyone and that 2) there but for the grace of God go I (for I have been greatly blessed and protected) then I can’t do my job.  I become Scary Church Lady, not a conduit for the love of Christ.   It’s not everyone’s job to exhort and encourage, it *is* my job.  And there are prerequisites and a skillset.  (About which I’ll talk soon, I have a post in draft, it’s all tangled with kittens – I’ve been fighting to make it somewhat linear).

Now my job is to catch myself up short when I try to repress all the wants, all the ugly, all the “things I don’t think fit who I am want to be”.  It’s all to go to Jesus.  Good for my humility, I expect.  /shrug.

Confess.  Don’t repress.  (God knows anyway).

PS Those of you who know me, know – I don’t have boundaries.  Well, I do.  But they’re farther in than most people’s are.  I am really like this, and it really weirds people out all the time.

Witness: God’s Got This

I feel like I should witness for this week, because the “God’s Got This” groove has gone beyond the normal… God has had every moment of the past couple of weeks, as crazy as they’ve been.  A week ago, I was looking forward to DH’s bday party and our anniversary, for which I had already made a lovely dirndl but needed a blouse… which I hadn’t set a stitch in.   11yo had a bday party to attend sometime the 17th or 18th, but I hadn’t gotten an invite yet, 14yo wanted to have a sleepover/hangout day with one of his friends who moved away and was here for a few weeks, but leaving next week.  My presents for DH hadn’t arrived in the mail yet, and I was going to have houseguests that I’d only met in passing, years back, plus a family party.  (Or two).  The kids have daily swimming lessons, and there’s all the usual life stuff.  You *could* say that I had cause to be running in circles, absolutely stressed out of my mind. But apparently God didn’t see fit for me to feel like that……

Friday last (10th) one of my old HS friends messaged me on FB, asking if I was planning to hit the reunion that night or the next day.  I wasn’t, I never go – though I live in my hometown – but for her?  Sure.  Kind of hoped that DH would be down to go with, but he hates reunions more than I do.  So I got the bump to collect BFF, who was feeling down with chemo, and we had a nice time acting exactly like we did in HS… standing on the edges and wandering off after the music got too loud.  Worked out for her – she’d have otherwise gone out with her hubs and stayed out too late, an hour was perfect.

Saturday we did yard work and skated into church at the last possible second… but we got there.

Sunday we had DH’s cousin and son in town, and we’d planned a BBQ for the family here in town.  Cousin showed up early, we had a chance to chat before everyone got here, we had a great dinner with family and there was much laughter.  They slept over, left Monday AM.

Monday I managed to get the kids to their swimming lessons and get the errands done.. which was a good thing, because I wasn’t able to leave the house on Tuesday.   (So on Tuesday I sewed…)  Presents showed up.  Woot!  Wrapped presents since I couldn’t leave house.

Wednesday I acquired an extra teenager for 36 hours.  Again, I wasn’t going to trot around and do errands with extra children languishing in my care, so I stayed home… although I had a pile of things to get done before this weekend.  But yay, I had food in stash for all of us on Thurs night, and then DH came home super late on Thursday, bringing MORE food home, enough that we fed the teenager’s dad dinner too when he came to pick up the boy.  (Meanwhile, 11yo’s BFF’s mom texted me with details about the party – never did get that invite).

Friday DH was off… so we stayed in bed late as usual and took the kids to swim, then had a nice family lunch and all those errands got -poof- done.  Grocery store, shopping for bday presents for 11yo’s BFF and DH, oil change and pedicure… in less than four hours all told.   Didn’t think I was going to get feet suitable for the pretty shoes I want to wear next week, but there’s a nail place across from the jiffylube…

Saturday was DH’s actual bday, but we moved the party to Sunday because 11yo’s BFF’s blowout was yday.  Still – every little detail perfect.  Like, I only needed buttons for my blouse, everything else was in stash (!) so after dropping 11yo off, I drove back home along the same road, picked up buttons, took a brief detour to grab some special beer for DH (and that brewery – gotta take DH there, he’s going to love it), the blouse finished off perfectly… seriously every detail.  Even washing the extra dishes by hand at 1030 at night because I didn’t want to face them this morning (and got nudged) and then this morning I’ve baked a carrot cake, made breakfast, have dinner in the crockpot, and the only things left to do for DH’s bday are some minor housecleaning, taking a shower (post housecleaning) and frosting the cake.

EVERY

SINGLE

DETAIL

has been taken care of.  When I wanted soooooooooooo badly to run around and scream into the night and be stressed about stuff because I couldn’t run my errands early or do stuff because I had people in the house or couldn’t go out or … and then it’s all gotten done and all gotten taken care of and all I’ve done the whole week (10 days?  Two weeks?) is answer the nudges… and you know there’s a LOT more detail.  It’s like every minute of my day has been planned for this whole time.

I’m gobsmacked.  I’m grateful.  I’m incredibly appreciative of God’s provision.  And I’m learning how to be more trusting of Him and His ways.

So – there’s your witness.  You call this everyday life?  I call this chaos, controlled only by the Father.

And now, off to scrub the bathroom down a bit.  :)

Keoni and Dr. McGee

Weirdest title ever, I know.  ;)  We could just call it late-night musings.  Y’all could talk to me… we could have a conversation?

Listening to Thru the Bible this week, Dr. McGee is going through his introduction to the book of Micah.  He talked about how there is a point at which nations have a no-turning back moment, a moment when, not because God lacks grace, but because the nation lacks the will to climb back into the Lord’s hands.  (Today is 7/17/15 http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/thru-the-bible-with-j-vernon-mcgee/listen/)*

Serendipitously, Keoni’s latest blog post is about America jumping the shark.  http://hawaiianlibertarian.blogspot.com/2015/07/are-we-there-yet.html  And that’s how I’ve been feeling … like this latest thing is just the straw on the camel’s back.  I mean, nothing is surprising me now.  Planned Parenthood selling baby parts?  Eh.  They hook pimps up and ignore child molesters already… Trans folks okay in the military (has anyone thought about how they’ll figure out the fitness qualifiers)?  Just another day in the neighborhood.

God’s just not *wanted* around these parts, and that’s darn clear.   One day I feel like “popcorn!  What’s next?  What could *possibly* be next?” and the next day I’m mourning, wanting a pile of ashes and some torn clothes so that I can sit and weep over what’s been lost.

I know I’ve been watching the skies and heavily into eschatology for years now, am I just crying Chicken Little once again?  (FWIW I am, at this point, looking for the demonization and marginalization of committed Christians before I am betting on the Trumpet’s sound.  Of course I have no clue and don’t claim to.  After all my time and study, I agree with my hubs.   LOL that happens to me a lot!).

I’m a pre-tribber, and y’all know that by now.   I’ve got work to do every day God gives me on this earth.  But I’m wondering if those days are getting short… one way or t’other?

Oh well, if there’s one lesson God is pounding home to me in this season, it’s that He’s got this!  Whatever comes, I can trust in Him for everything, big and small.

*Y’all know that Dr. McGee has been with the Lord since before I got out of high school, hopefully.  Serendipity.