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Shake That Dust Off

November 20th, 2010

Or be Buried Under It

Sometimes God teaches us in the weirdest ways.

What is God’s work like? It’s like this: he makes great plans for us. He prepares big blessings for us. He brings them to us. And we turn them down. Then he withdraws while we fumble around and waste our lives. He remains with us, but he limits what he does for us, because to endorse what we do would adversely affect his own perfect nature.

Okay. That’s the background.

I joined a church. I started working as an armorbearer. I started working on books with the pastor. I started working in the kitchen.

The book projects disappeared after a new PR exec was hired. I was driven out of the kitchen after a new kitchen manager was hired. I still work as an armorbearer, but I have learned that the good things I want to do in that capacity will be very limited, so I am maintaining a reduced role.

It’s a little crazy. I’m a published author with a literary agent and a lot of ability, and I work fast, and I was willing to work for nothing. As to the kitchen, I was making the church $200 per week, and I could have earned them a lot more, and my food got raves. But I could not get permission to do the good things I wanted to do.

Yesterday I realized God was showing me what his life is like.

God has all sorts of blessings in store for us, waiting like fleets of shrink-wrapped Rolls-Royces in hidden warehouses. He wants to shower us with them. He wants to give us great careers, wonderful spouses, healthy families, and intimate relationships with him. He wants to turn us into powerful warriors who are able to harness the same might that built the galaxies. He wants us to see our prayers answered. He wants to work miracles through us. He wants to make tumors vanish. He wants to raise our dead.

And we say, “No, thanks! We have a better idea!”

I tried to bless my church, but I hit resistance, and now I have to sit back and do nothing, even though I still want to be a blessing.

Blessing a Christian, even for another Christian, is like trying to feed an angry baby. Even if you get the spoon in, they spit the food all over the kitchen. You can only succeed where God has chosen and prepared the field of battle in advance. You can only succeed when he has given you flesh and spirit allies. And you can only succeed where people are willing to shut up and accept the blessing.

You see this demonstrated over and over in the Bible. God had a great idea, but Eve thought she had a better one, and the result was a long-lasting curse on all mankind. God had a great idea, but the rebellious angels thought they had a better one, so they interbred with humans and gave us forbidden technology, and the result was the flood. God had a great idea, but the ten spies thought they had a better one, and the result was that hundreds of thousands of people died in the desert, a few miles from the Promised Land. The prophets brought the Jews great ideas from God, and the Jews thought they had better ideas, so they murdered them. God gave the great idea of undeserved power and help to the Christian church, and we decided we had a better idea: we would get God’s help by being good, without the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The result was two thousand years of impotence before Satan, who has ruled as a god even though he lost his title at the crucifixion.

We were supposed to raise the dead and cast out demons and heal the sick. By and large, we have failed. Miracles became so rare in the early centuries of Christianity that people began traveling to places like Lourdes because they could not get help in their own churches. We now have a Catholic church that gives the official title of “saint” to a person who performs three measly miracles! That’s ridiculous! Every Christian should see more miracles than that, every year!

We are weak and blind and poor and lame, as supernatural beings, because we preferred our own brilliant notions to God’s tired old plans.

Before the Jews existed, men rejected Yahweh. The Jews came along, and they rejected Jesus. Christians came along, and we rejected the Holy Spirit. We are no better than the people we gloat over. We are pathetic. We have no humility. We think we’re superior to our predecessors, but we’re as blind as everyone who came before us. It’s like I always say: if Jesus came back today, we would trample each other trying to be first in line to crucify him.

If Jesus came back right now, he would tell us (as he did two thousand years ago) that he came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. He would tell us it was essential to our growth and success. He would tell us to pray in tongues, worship, pray with our understanding, praise God, fast, and study. He would tell us to quit worrying so much about doing good and worry about BECOMING good, through the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. And we would tell him he was crazy, because we like to think we can earn our blessings. Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago so he could give us power and help through our faith, and we still want him to give us what we earn by our own effort, and we think that’s more righteous than being given things we don’t deserve. We think God helps those who helps themselves, but that’s not in the Bible. That’s pure pride. That’s Satan talking. God helps those who believe and obey in their hearts.

Did Lazarus earn his resurrection? Did the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda earn his legs back? Find me a person in the New Testament who received a healing because he or she obeyed the law. The most blessed person in the New Testament was Cornelius, and he got God’s attention by praying, giving to the poor, and fearing God, not by approaching perfection under his own power. He was a Roman soldier! He made a living ordering people to kill other people! God saved him and all his house, and he poured the Holy Spirit into them. Meanwhile, many of the religious Jews studied the scriptures all day and tithed on the worthless crap they grew in their herb gardens, and God blew right by them.

Jesus burns with desire to give us power and blessings we can’t deserve, and we are determined to get by with the garbage (Paul called it “dung”) we get by our own strength.

Read the Bible. I’m not making it up. See what Paul said about earning salvation and blessings. It can’t be done.

One of the things I wrestle with as a Christian is the issue of giving up on other people. I’ve heard all sorts of testimonies about Christians who struggled for decades with sinners, trying to get them to change. After years of abuse, they finally saw results. Glory to God. But are we supposed to behave that way? I don’t think so. God doesn’t behave that way.

God told the disciples that when they were rejected in a town, they should shake the dust off their shoes and leave. God removed Lot’s family from Sodom and Gomorrah and drowned those cities in burning sulphur. God killed Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts. God destroyed the temple in Jerusalem twice. The doctrine of unlimited patience seems inconsistent with the Bible. If God himself doesn’t abide by it, why should we?

I think you show patience until you realize you’re wasting your time (which belongs to God), and then you move on. You continue to pray, but you reduce your earthly involvement. Otherwise, you end up endorsing stubbornness and rebellion, and your own character becomes corrupted. Repeated failure leads to learned helplessness, and after that, backsliding is inevitable.

Paul said more or less the same thing. He mentioned a man who slept with his father’s concubine. Paul didn’t just abandon this man; he turned him over to Satan so his body could be destroyed and the punishment would drive him to repent. What if Paul came back and did that today? Christians would shriek at him. You’re supposed to embrace EVERYBODY, ALL THE TIME! INCLUDE, INCLUDE, INCLUDE! Turn the other cheek! Imagine a multimillionaire TV evangelist telling Satan to come get somebody! It will never happen.

I’m sorry, but I side with Paul. You give people a reasonable amount of time and effort, and then you cut them off and let them fail. Otherwise, you’re an enabler. You’re helping Satan prevent them from growing up.

There is a dangerous idea spreading in churches: you are not supposed to say anything negative. Find that in the Bible for me. Read the prophets. Their writings were corrective, not laudatory. God didn’t raise prophets up to say, “Way to GO, Jews!” He raised them up to let people know they were headed off cliffs. Jesus himself was very, very negative much of the time. He whipped the moneychangers. He called the Judaism of the Pharisees “the synagogue of Satan.” He ridiculed the rabbis publicly. He even called Peter “Satan.”

Without criticism, there is no growth. The inexpressible value of criticism is the sole reason God wants us to be humble. A humble person will accept criticism and improve. A proud person will be like a clay jar that has been fired with flaws uncorrected. His neck, like the neck of the finished jar, will be stiff, and he will only be fit for the garbage dump. Hell is full of positive thinkers.

Find me a happy prophet who doesn’t criticize. I don’t mean a lying weasel who travels from church to church receiving big offerings for telling pastors what they want to hear. I mean a prophet in the Bible. There isn’t a single example. It’s even reflected in our language. Look up the word “jeremiad,” which was named for Jeremiah. It doesn’t mean “pep talk.” And you might be aware that one of the Bible’s prophetic books is called “Lamentations.” Find me the book of Congratulations. I must have overlooked it.

Gossip is wrong. Complaining with no godly purpose is wrong. But warning people isn’t merely right; it’s a commandment. God himself told us we would bear the sins of people we did not correct. Whom should I listen to? God, or itinerant Pastor Happy McFeelgood?

It’s right to offer constructive criticism, and it’s right to avoid getting overly entangled in situations you can’t fix. Imagine if Moses had stayed in Egypt and tried to reform the Pharaohs. He would have died there in obscurity, and his mission would have gone unfulfilled.

I believe God is telling me to respect my mortality and my limitations. Even with God behind me, there is a limit to what I will accomplish in this world, and I have to be a good steward of my time and effort. I am supposed to be helpful and patient and hardworking. I am supposed to pray for people (although sometimes that means praying God will discipline them). I am not supposed to get sucked into black holes that consume my valuable days and waste my faith and wreck my morale.

I am going to die. I’m pretty old already, and I don’t have that much time left to do God’s will. I have to allot my time and effort correctly, as led by the Holy Spirit. Stewardship principles apply to everything; it’s not just about money. The world is full of needy people who will listen to me and let me help them. Should I ignore them while I spin my tires with the stubborn? How will I explain that at the judgment seat?

If it annoys people that I say what I say, so be it. Find me a prophet who didn’t annoy people. Man-pleasing is one of the worst sins. We are told to take up our crosses, and that we will be persecuted (largely by other Christians). That tells me that it’s inevitable that plain-speaking Christians will anger other people. Big deal. Other people are puny, and they will die. The one I am trying to please will live forever, and he has infinite power to defend and reward.

I think I understand this lesson correctly, and I am grateful for it. I wish I were not so slow to learn, but there it is.

Now, if anyone wants to scourge me or put me in a cistern, I would appreciate it if they would call and make an appointment.

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8 Responses to “Shake That Dust Off”

  1. Milo Says:

    Hey Steve, I wouldn’t read into your discovery too hard if I was you.
    Our expectations and reality always seem to clash and disappointment is as regular and normal as success.
    Treat every day as an adventure and an opportunity and accept the disappointments as part of the ride.
    There are plenty of faithful people on the planet that have a much rougher go than we do.
    These are the folks I think of with my prayers.

  2. Aaron's cc: Says:

    I’ve tried to excise the common expression “weird” from my usual speech due to its pagan origins. Better to say “strange” when one means that instead of possibly designating an outcome to “wyrd”, a separate power of fate.

  3. Greg Says:

    Steve,

    Long-time reader since Little Tiny Lies and the original print of Eat what you want…

    Your understanding of the Catholic Church is based upon?

    The Nicene Creed is the basic doctrine of Christianity. Why not rejoice in all the fellow followers and believers in Christ?
    If you agree with the Nicene Creed, then what your church does and what mine does is a question of application and as far as I’m concerned -quibbling.

    Why are you so sure that what you are doing is 100% IAW the Boss (as this is what comes across in your posts), where is your humility? We all fall short my friend and we always will.

  4. redneck Says:

    Thank you again for letting the message fow though you. I look forward to all your new posts.

  5. Steve H. Says:

    A careless and unfounded accusation of pride is as bad as pride itself. It’s probably worse, because it combines pride and the bearing of false witness.

  6. Steve B Says:

    “Why are you so sure…”

    It seems one of the greatest sins in today’s church is to speak as one with authority. To speak with conviction and confidence. We’ve become so conditioned by relativism and inclusiveness that we’ve become a generation of hand-wringers.

    How can you be sure? If it’s what it says in the Bible, then, as a Christian, that is your confidence that it is the truth.

    I personally don’t see a single thing wrong with the views expressed in this post. Mostly because it mirrors my own experiences and understanding of Biblical principles.

  7. Norm DuPont Says:

    Steve, I too have been a long time reader, and have seen many changes in direction and interest in your blog over the years. I was very happy that you found Christ and enjoyed your enthusiasm in your walk with the Lord. I feel the following book will help you with what your experiencing today. It certainly worked for me, to help me cull out what is important and what is not.

    Classic Christianity by Bob George.

    Life’s too short to miss the real thing.

  8. Steve H. Says:

    One of the ways corruption creeps into the church is through misplaced reverence for the mistaken pronouncements of our exalted predecessors. The only real authority is the Holy Spirit, who (according to the Bible) tells each of us what the scriptures mean. Jesus got in trouble because he spoke with authority yet had not pursued formal studies. The gospels say this.
    .
    Nonetheless, there are times when I come across as though I considered myself an authority, and usually, that’s because I am too carried away to keep typing “I think” and “in my opinion” over and over.