Kitchen Duty!!

Taken around the kitchen in Netherlands.

Image via Wikipedia

I like washing dishes. By hand. With lots and lots of hot soapy water. I don’t care if it’s just one plate, or a mountain of dishes with pans of slop.

I also like using the dishwasher, though. The organizational challenge is enjoyable. Sweeping is fun too, as is mopping. Dusting is loads of fun, as well as cobweb hunting. Polishing is fascinating, and toilet scrubbing is exciting.

Okay, I’ll stop there… though I could go on.

I didn’t use to like cleaning, or chores in general actually. I hated it, and did all I could to get out of it, even to the point of waging a three year war over dishes with my mother. That was the old life. I was lazy, sloppy, and lethargic when it came to work. 😛

But the odd thing was… if you gave me a stick and a briar patch to clear, I’d labor with dedication and fervor for hours a day, even for weeks, until I was done. Just don’t call it a chore. Call it a fortress in construction. Hollowing out ‘houses’ in monstrous blackberry patches remained one of my favorite pastimes for the majority of my childhood. Building any kind of fortress, climbing trees, running my feet off, digging holes, lugging logs all over the place, making swings, all were dearly loved pastimes.

But they were all work. Hard, sweaty, grueling labor.

And I liked it.

Why not the others? It’s a mystery of human nature, I guess. It’s more complicated than I’m willing to ferret out. All I know is this: it wasn’t good, and I’ve changed.

I chose to be different, and through God’s Spirit working in me, I became a new person.

I am living proof that it is a choice. You can decide to enjoy practically anything, good or bad. It is a gift that God has given us, the ability to choose our desires.

We can choose to love Him. We can choose to love ourselves. We can choose to love work. We can choose to love chocolate. We can choose to love beans and peas and brussels sprouts and liver and all that delicious stuff.

Is it hard? Oh yes.

But God made us to do hard things. Life is not worth anything without challenge, without difficulty, without pain. Hardness is where we meet the grace of God… where we meet Him.

Honestly though, choosing to enjoy washing dishes once is relatively easy. At least compared to other hard things you could be doing. You don’t meet God much that way.

The real hard thing, though, the bit which makes all these little hard things become one great thing, is to change who you are to become someone who likes things.

Be the person who is content in whatever situation he is in. No matter how filthy, no matter how hard, no matter how ‘undesirable.’

Be the person who is willing to do the job no one else wants to… who is really willing, even eager.

You see, changing who you are is the greatest and hardest thing of all. Choosing to identify yourself in something you aren’t, crafting yourself, molding yourself into an image of something you want to be. That is what great men do.

That is what God does in you.

I challenge you then, mold yourself into the image of Christ by choosing to enjoy glorifying Him in the little hard things.

Right now.

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Christ in Pain

Holy Spirit painting

When the chips are down. When the rubber meets the road. When all hell breaks loose, literally. When “things don’t quite turn out.” When your life is wrecked, devastated, turned upside down. When your heart is torn into shreds and fed to the dogs. When the worst thing you could imagine… happens. How is God glorified in that?This is really a re-phrasing of the age-old question: How can a loving God allow death and suffering in His world? And although the answer to that is inestimably crucial, the answer is too much for the scope of this article. If you don’t know the answer, please, please email or comment and let me know, and I will be more than happy to explain it. Knowing this is vital, absolutely critical.

But when I phrase it this way… the question opens itself up to being rephrased again, and to really reaching into the heart of a struggle that I see many Christians battling with. A turmoil I see in the lives of people I love. So… you know who you are… this is for you. * smiles *

When everything is against me. When the world opens up at my feet to swallow me…

How do I glorify God in that?

You see how it’s connected? Think about it. God hates sin. He hates evil. He hates death, suffering, misfortune. He uses it, yes, but He doesn’t like it. It is not a part of His perfection which He wants for us (and which He will give us in heaven).

So how is He glorified in it on Earth? And as Christians, where do we fit into that? We are commanded to glorify Him in everything we do, in every circumstance. And really, if you think about it, what else should we want to do?!

So… how do we do it?

It’s hard.

No… scratch that. It’s not.

It’s impossible.

Really. It is. It is superhuman, supernatural — absolutely completely a miracle.

And that is the key. See, in our own strength we can’t glorify God in circumstances like that. We can’t do anything that would bring Him honor or praise or bless Him in any way. So… we do things we can’t do. Impossible things. It’s really as simple as that.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

What is peace?

Look at a glass of water or a still lake. Look at it… placid… smooth… unrippled. Untouched, unbroken. It is at peace.

Drop a pebble in. It breaks, the surface begins going everywhere, reacting to the stone. It is troubled.

God’s peace is this: Doing what is right regardless of circumstances.

Some people say it is freedom from harm. Which isn’t true. The Holy Spirit brings about peace, as well as troubles and harm (unless being stoned and drowned and beheaded and robbed and broken and tormented doesn’t count as harm…). If peace is freedom from harm, then He contradicts Himself. God forbid.

It might be more accurate to say that it is freedom from fear of harm. But even that isn’t true, because fear is not something you can really get rid of. It is a God-given impulse of our flesh, and we can’t rid ourselves of it any more than we can remove our need for water and food. What really matters isn’t being unfearful, but being courageous.

Courage is doing what is right despite being scared.

That is peace. It is choosing not to let circumstances control you. It is not reacting to things that happen to you — but choosing to respond instead. It is not letting your heartbreak determine what is on your heart’s throne. Doing that is impossible.

The pain is there. It will be there.

But that pain isn’t bad. Not if you glorify God in it. Then it becomes a wondrous thing.

When the very thing which is a punishment and consequence of rebellion against God brings glory to God, when imperfection blesses perfection… that is glorifying God.

So in essence, the way you glorify God in trials is simply to do what you would have done if you didn’t have trials. Make sense?

You still love. You still have joy (not necessarily happiness, though). You still serve. You still forgive. You still trust. You still pray. You still draw closer to God. You are still a little Christ, a little light of His.

And the very fact that you are doing all that while being tormented is what brings God ten-fold glory. Because it is impossible.

Now, you might have noticed that I didn’t give any Scripture references in this whole blog post. It quotes from the Bible extensively inline, refers to Scripture constantly, and is built solidly upon multiple studies of several topics, but I didn’t give any references. So, I am curious if any of you have any Scripture quotes which apply to this which you would like to share in the comments. Or even if you don’t want to share them, go ahead anyway. 😉

A comment form is right below, and you can get Scripture here: www.sir-emeth.com/bible

Have at it. 🙂

Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! 😀 ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. 🙂

Eccentricity, Mathematics, and Peculiar People

Examples of orbital trajectories with various ...

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I am eccentric. Quite so. In fact, almost invariably so. And I quite like it.

Now, when most people notice my eccentricity (and they do), they generally comment on how weird it is, and then make some comment about fitting in or having to still be able to communicate with people or something along those lines.

They miss it.

Totally.

Why? Because they have a messed up perception of eccentricity and weirdness in general.

What does eccentric mean? What does it really mean?

Well if you go back to the roots, you find that it is founded in mathematics. An eccentric circle is a circle with a different center from another circle.

Not having the same center; — said of circles, ellipses, spheres, etc., which, though coinciding, either in whole or in part, as to area or volume, have not the same center; — opposed to concentric.

This is still a valid definition in use, and it directly affects the other definitions.

Not terminating in the same point, nor directed by the same principle.

So someone who is eccentric isn’t random, arbitrary, or capricious at all. Being eccentric means living with a different set of life principles than those you share company with (either by being in the same circles, or by working on the same things, whatever). You share some things in common with them, but you don’t share a common starting point or worldview.

The modern definitions of eccentric have become synonymous with unpredictable heterodoxes. The whole concept is one of any deviations from the societal norm being wrong by default.

So… which is good? To be eccentric, or not eccentric?

To be eccentric of course! We’re commanded to!

Or are we?

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

What does peculiar mean?

Appropriate; belonging to a person and to him only. Almost every writer has a peculiar style. Most men have manners peculiar to themselves.

It means you have something unique and special about how you do things… another way to say you have a different set of principles. You have a different center and goal.

So now we know we’re supposed to be eccentric, peculiar, and odd, at least as far as the world goes. Our goal is to have Christ and His Word as the center of our lives, wherever that leads us. Even if it means we disagree with other Christians… if God’s Word is our reason for it, then it isn’t a sin to disagree: the Bible is our center, and that’s what matters. Listen, test your center, always, but don’t be afraid for it to be different from other centers.

So what about communication then? If you’re so off-the-wall that no one can relate with you… what then? How do you impact them?

Good question. 🙂 I’ll write about that later, but for now, you can get started with your ideas in the comments. Go!

A little writing… what is love?

What is love?

 

The first cry of a newborn child, echoing in her mother’s heart like the ripples of a new fountain, which never cease to tremor and fill her life with the simple joy that now, she is a mother.

 

The beauty of a rose on a hillside, the grass nestling it against your cheek.

 

The tired ache of a husband, old beside his wife’s grave, longing for the vanished part of him which he will never have again.

 

The joy at the end of a new book, which is now a part of your soul, the people within it, a part of your life.

 

The still shifting of the wind against your frame as you stand on a hill, gazing out over the nation which you have called your own.

 

The slow rising of warm tears, melting your sight as you fall into the depths of her smiling eyes at last.

 

The blood falling to the ground from your friend’s throat, bubbling with the last breaths of the life he gave for you.

 

The pressure of a father’s head against his son’s shoulder in the last embrace of his boyhood, on the threshold of his first step into marriage.

 

The soft touch of a girl’s hand on her baby brother’s sleeping cheek, preceding a small, clumsy kiss through which her soul pours.

 

The sweat loosening the grip of the hand holding the sword between the tyrant and the enslaved.

 

The grume of the earth falling from the pick, the torn hands bringing bread from toil for another, a beloved, to eat.

 

The shrinking of a heart from an invader, saving the promised treasure for another.

 

The pain of a blow struck in the face of a mocker, defending the right and preserving the pure.

 

The glint in the eye over the grim smile of the man who turns away and doggedly chooses yet again the path of righteousness.

 

The tender and committed smile as the ring slips on the young girl’s finger, never to be removed.

 

The shaking hands clenched in prayer, drenched in tears for the sorrow of another’s toils and trials.

 

The comforting word returning upon the bitter lash of a weary tongue.

 

The hope pouring from the crushed visage of a man hanging and broken into the heart of a weary child, seeking rest.

 

The gentle word reaching into my secrets, laying bare to my shuddering sight the vile, mired flesh of my failures.

 

The strong voice beating into a rebel’s heart, washing and driving against his fears to turn him from death.

 

The touch of the creator’s hand on a broken life, never to leave it again.

 

Love is…

 

I Want to Forget

I have a pretty bad memory. Honest. Yes, I’ve trained it to be able to memorise things rapidly and securely, but I needed to do that because my natural memory is so bad. I’m so bad I can forget the topic of a conversation halfway through the third sentence. I’m even having a hard time remembering all the examples I came up with to illustrate my bad memory!

But I also have a tremendous memory.

A memory that can remember every intricate detail of all the things I most desperately want to forget: my sinful proclivities.

Knowledge I do not want to have, knowledge I wish I never had, is ingrained into me with the tenacity of a demon.

And I wish I could forget.

To never know the vile words I know. To never have seen the sights I’ve seen. To never have heard the sounds I’ve heard. To never have handled the things I’ve handled.

I am repulsed by my past. I abhor my flesh. For even now my nature longs after and craves those old sins, despite my absolute rejection of them and hunger for God. Do I live in them any longer? No. But they still tempt me.

And those bare temptations vex my soul and grate on me. I hate that I ever gave in to them. I hate that those desires linger in me.

Oh, to forget and be innocent!

How I yearn for Heaven, when I shall not be tempted any longer!

How I long for my new body… when my mind will be cleansed from the gutter!

But yet… I have a hope in this Earth, in this life.

God’s word.

It cleans, it washes, it scours, it cuts, it drives away, it renews, it builds, it tears down, it remakes, it heals, it purges, it empowers, it enlivens. And so, it can give a little taste of Heaven to us on Earth. It can fill our mind with rejoicing in God to such a degree that it chases away the profanity within us.

And so I hope.

And I plunge myself into the waters of the Bible.

And slowly, slowly, I change.

Oh God

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

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“Oh god that’s so funny!” Phrases like this, using the words “oh god” in a light and jocular fashion, are commonly seen and heard in normal conversation and in media.

“Oh god…” Phrases like this one, using these words as an expression of horror, shock, terror, or awe, are also commonly encountered, especially in movies.

And in general at least, Christians decry these usages.

Why?

If you ask someone about it, they will point to the Ten Commandments, in particular the third one:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

They will also often equate taking God’s name in vain with blasphemy. These two are not identical or interchangable, however. They are very closely related, but not equivalent. Blasphemy is only one way someone can take God’s name in vain.

Blasphemy attacks God. It is an action in the opposite direction of reverence God – it slanders Him.

Taking God’s name in vain is much broader than this, though. To take God’s name is not limited to merely taking it into your speech. It includes your life.

When someone claims to follow God, whether he says he is a Christian or not, he is taking God’s name upon him and his life. This is even more true of someone who claims to be a Christian. And if you claim the name of Christ in this way, and you then view or treat or speak of His person as if He is somehow light or ineffectual, then you are taking God’s name in vain. You aren’t blaspheming, not necessarily, but you are violating the third commandment.

God is. God’s name is His personhood, His attributes, His very being. Every part of His majesty, glory, power, love, and Godhood is in His name.

Thus to reject His ability to change and transform your life and His promises of reward and blessings for those who submit to Him is taking His name in vain. God is worth it. God is able.

And now, take a step back and think…

We are created in the image of God!

That means that we all bear the name of God in our nature – in our very bodies, whether we like it or not. And so anyone rejecting or neglecting Him is taking His name in vain.

But wait… can any of us truly and completely accept every part of God into our lives? That is the definition of perfection! And we cannot be perfect, so this command is impossible to obey!

Yes. It is.

Just like the first command is impossible. Just like every command that God gives us of this sort is impossible. We can’t do it.

But God can. And He does. And He will.

It will take all our lives, but we’ll get there. In heaven, at last, the work will be complete. And we will rest from sin and failure for eternity. Think about it!

Here on earth we strive towards that goal. We struggle, we fail, we yearn, we mourn, we falter, we continue, we fight. But through it all we are living and breathing obedience to this command: Take not the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

For it is our hope, our faith, and our love for God that keeps us going. It is our desire to fulfill these commands, and God counts that to us for righteousness… the fulfillment of those commands.

Isn’t that awesome?!

A lot more than a couple words dropped carelessly, isn’t it?

Every idle word that men let fall from their lips without thinking about it will be called into judgment, because those words come out of our hearts. God will not judge people because they used the words, but because they slighted Him.

So instead of throwing a fit about someone using two words, be saddened by the heart behind those words, and from your own heart, say the same, but with the truth of God behind it. When tragedy strikes, and you cry out, Oh God! When sorrow fills your heart, and you whisper, Oh God… When you look up at the glory of the heavens, and you sing out, Oh God! When you are full of joy and merriment, and you laugh, Oh God.

Mean it.