Saturday, October 22, 2011


I’ve been learning a lot about the “D” word lately.
I recently had surgery on my right foot and Achilles tendon which requires a lengthy recovery period. I can’t put any weight on it for six weeks and I have to keep it elevated. This means that have to sit around with my foot in the air and let everyone else do a lot of the stuff that I would normally do myself. I recently noticed that the cushions of my couch are starting to conform to the shape of my backside. Of course it had to be my right foot so I can’t even drive.
It’s driving me up the wall, but I am very reluctantly learning a few things.
Allowing yourself to be served is as important as allowing yourself to be used as a servant.
Being served by others has forced me to recognize my limits. I’m one of those people who really just hate to ask anyone to do anything for me. I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t want to be needy. The real disadvantage to this is that all of us will eventually come up against some task that will overwhelm our individual resources. When this happens to me I then fail to fulfill my obligations because I don’t want to depend on anyone else by asking anyone for help in doing a job that was never meant for just one person. The task then remains incomplete or inadequately completed. The ironic twist in this situation is that the ability to depend on others actually makes me more dependable when a group of individuals comes together to complete the task as one.
This is the essence of fellowship. The members of the Body are supposed to depend on each other.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:23-25)
We each take up a little bit of the slack in each others’ lives to make it less of a burden, because life is truly a burden for some. Dependence requires contact with others that prevents us from retreating into our shell of isolation that we are naturally prone to do, and which, by the way, Satan uses to great effect. Dependence allows us to appreciate the gifts of others. We see skills and abilities in others that were previously unknown to us.
This is also an area where many churches fail. We each see ourselves as caring individuals, and we see others as being just as caring. The problem is that we assume all of our caring friends are acting on their caring motives, while they quietly assume that we are doing the same.
And no one does anything, and a quiet sigh of lonely resignation is breathed over the phone that does not ring, or the knock on the door that never comes.
Waiting to say “Hi” to someone or pray for them when you see them at church is not enough. If no one seeks them out between Sundays there is simply no reason for them to return. Thinking good thoughts about someone does them no good unless I tell them I am thinking of them to find out what’s really happening in their lives.
Several years ago I read a news account of a man in Germany who was found dead in his apartment. The saddest part of the story was when they noted how they knew the approximate date of his death. He died sitting at his table reading the TV guide for a date seven years before the day anyone noticed he was gone. All that was left of him was a skeleton in rotting clothes. His monthly stipend had been automatically deposited in his bank account, and his rent automatically deducted. He depended on no one, and no one depended on him. No real value was assigned to his life by others so he was simply forgotten.
We live in what is becoming an increasingly “virtualized” world where electronic and social media have expanded our social “reach” by allowing us to communicate instantly with anyone in almost any part of the world. This is not a necessarily a bad thing, but it does promote an illusion of social intimacy that does not exist in reality. We need to hear a real voice. We need to see a real face. We need to feel the touch of a real hand.
We need to be familiar to someone else.
And the word “need” is correct. We were made to “need” and be “needed”.
The concept of “need” in human interaction is meant to nullify the effects of our inherent forgetfulness.
Dependence is a big deal.
It is a core concept of the Christian faith.
We depend on Christ for our eternal salvation.
Christ depends on us to carry out His desires here on earth.
But there is a world of difference in the type of dependence that is expressed in these two aspects of that concept.
Our dependence on Christ develops out of our inherent need. Our survival depends on the salvation that only He provides.
His dependence on us develops out of His desire to save us from ourselves. He calls upon us to give to others what He has given us to benefit everyone. He doesn’t need us to accomplish this, but He gives us the opportunity knowing that it will benefit each of us as much in the giving as in the receiving of the gift.
I have come to understand that my desire for independence makes me a lesser person. In terms of my faith and fellowship it separates me from those I need in order to be complete. In the words of John Donne,
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.
I cannot be an adequate servant if I am unable to allow myself to be served. I will never understand the needs of others if I only look at life through my own eyes.
Give yourself up.
Be Dependent.
©Dan Bode 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


God is Sovereign.
This is a fact that will affect every one of us in the end whether we like it or not. The word “Sovereign” is typically used in reference to royalty. It means the person in royal authority has the final say and complete control over those subjects within the kingdom. While the word does describe God’s authority over His creation I think it falls short of the full implication His presence means to us. For God to be Sovereign means that He does not delegate or diminish His own authority to anyone. For God to be Sovereign means that He has full authority over everything. That means everything. Every person, every animal, every blade of grass, every molecule of oxygen we breath. His Sovereignty permeates every aspect of every moment of our lives. Because of this He can be seen in every aspect of His creation, He can be heard in every expression of joy and every cry of pain because He knows them all.
The human limitation to sovereignty demands that we acknowledge the sovereign ruler in order for him to have authority over us.
The Sovereignty of God knows no such limitation. My belief or acknowledgement of His authority has absolutely no bearing on the reach of His power. This has never stopped man from trying to express himself as his own highest authority. From the beginning man has striven to prove his autonomy. In every society that is known there has always been some evidence of worship offered to some deity, but there is always some way to manipulate that deity to reflect the will or characteristics of the people who “serve” them.
This is not true of God. God gave us absolutes that would reflect His sovereignty. Yet the hallmark of man’s existence is in his desire to look at everything in terms of a relativistic mind-set.
God created us with a need for His presence, but the moment God showed us His authority we began to seek the means of our independence from Him. We rebel against Him because we want equality with Him, not submission to Him. The Tower of Babel was built by man’s desire, and destroyed by God’s Sovereignty. We demand proof of God’s power with miracles, yet when faced with the facts of those miracles we still refuse to acknowledge His power over everything. We call the miracle a great trick, but we choose to ignore the power of a God who would pierce the wall of creation to directly intervene. Our rebellion originates with our discovery that God cannot be manipulated. God alone once ruled the nation of Israel, yet they decided that they would rather have a human king. They wanted a king who had the same frailties and faults as they themselves did. They, being as human as you and I, wanted a king who could be manipulated.
The story is told of how man one day decides he no longer needs God. Man looks upon his scientific abilities and accomplishments and determines that he is self-sufficient. Man can create life on his own and God is no longer necessary. So, man comes before God and says, “God, I have reached a point where I no longer need you. To prove my point I am going to create life just like you did, and you can create a life too and we can compare the results.”
“All right”, says God, “let’s get started.” He then picks up a hand full of dirt.
“Ok!” says Man. Man also bends over and picks up a handful of dirt, but God stops him.
“Wait a minute,” He says, “you go make your own dirt.”
This really is the essence of where man is today. Man thinks he can stand on his own, yet he fails to realize that no matter where he goes or what he does God is already there. God already knows all the facts, God has already been through all the joy and the pain, God already knows all the circumstances, and God already knows all the outcomes.
His Sovereignty will be our saving grace, or our ultimate condemnation. The choice between heaven and hell is ours, but they are ultimately the only choices we have. No matter what we do or say in life our final disposition will always be in the hands of God, not Satan, not angels, not people. Only God will ever have the final say. He has always reserved that for Himself.
Another fact about the Sovereignty of God is that He never forces it upon us.
In human terms if you are a citizen of a true monarchy you are subject to that monarchies rules. There is no vote on whether you think the laws are worth adhering to or not. You must follow those laws or face some form of condemnation.
God, on the other hand, never forces Himself on us.
We have a choice to follow some other teaching if we wish, or just go off on our own. We have a choice in this life to do whatever we want. However, His Sovereignty is proven when we discover at the end that while He gave us free will our only choices are:
1) God
2) Not God.

And if you choose door number two, no matter what name you put on it, whether it be Satan, money, power, oneness with the universe, sex, etc., if the name you fill in the blank with is not God then you will not be in His presence in the end.
God’s Sovereignty is final, and it is our only hope. It is a fact during every moment of our existence whether we are doing the dishes, or kneeling piously at the altar in church.
When I was 15 my father committed suicide.
The day of his funeral I came home and found a letter from him in our mailbox addressed to me. It was only two lines:
“Things have been a little crazy lately. I’ll be all right in a few days when I get my head screwed on straight. Love, Dad.” It was postmarked the day before he shot himself.
I still have that note somewhere. It’s packed away where I don’t see it unless I am looking for something else in the dust covered boxes packed in storage. Though it’s not always visible, the words are always there in the back of my thoughts to remind me of the consequences of waiting until the end to deal with the inevitable. My most fervent hope is that my father’s last thought was “Jesus help me…” because it is only with God’s help that I will ever see him again.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans 14:11-12 we are told:
It is written: "`As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Paul is not vague. He says every knee will bow. Our desire to stand on our own arrogance and accomplishments will mean absolutely nothing in His presence. He completely overwhelms all that we are or ever will be. There is nothing else.
This is the Sovereignty of God, and because God in his Sovereignty is all powerful, and just, He also extends to us His Grace.
His Sovereignty demands justice, justice determines guilt, and guilt demands punishment, so He meets our punishment with the sacrifice of His Son, which gives birth to Grace. And it is His grace alone that insures our ultimate survival; I have nothing to contribute to my own salvation.
God doesn’t operate on the same principals as we do. The wisdom we think will save us is nothing compared to His power, His sacrifice and His love. We want the benefit of heaven without the cost. We assure ourselves that everyone we love will be in heaven without acknowledging what we really deserve, and in doing so we are attempting to tell God who is deserving of His reward as though we are worthy. We waste our energies by listening to, and participating in, things that demean those whom we don’t think are living correctly. Because God is Sovereign it is His determination not mine. Our job is not condemnation, for we are ourselves condemned; our job is reconciliation, for we are truly reconciled who have accepted Him as Sovereign. We must learn to set aside all that we know – our highest wisdom – to allow God to fill us with His foolishness.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1Cor 1:25)
As I write this many things are happening in the world around me:
A popular high school student is killed in an auto accident,
A high school student kills several classmates with a gun he brought to school,
A baby is left in a dumpster,
A high school girl chooses to become a missionary,
A young couple joyously prepares for the birth of their first child,
A man is coming home to a wonderful family he loves with all his heart,
A broken marriage is being mended.

As far apart on the spectrum of human experience as these events may seem they are all happening in the same world, a world in which God is still Sovereign no matter the circumstance. A world in which as the ultimate Sovereign Lord, He can still heal the pain that is the result of man’s “wisdom”.
I want everyone to think of me as a nice guy, but all those whom I allow to think this don’t see me as God does. Most people see only certain facets of me rather than see me from all sides at once. They don’t see my hypocrisy, they don’t see my sin, they don’t see that I am simply as human as they are and that despite every flaw of my human condition God still allows me to call Him my Sovereign. I couldn’t even do that without His permission. Because of His power, authority and love I must always be aware that I cannot treat this relationship in a casual manner.
Because of who He is, and all He has done, I cannot give him anything less than my entire flawed, broken, and tumbledown life and say, “This is all I have to give.”
And, because of who He is, after He has stepped down from His throne and lifted my head to look in my eyes He replies with a smile brighter than the sun,
“This is all I ever wanted.”
And with those words begins a relationship that is characterized by the names of God:
King of the Jews
King of Heaven
King of Glory
King of Peace
Abba (Daddy)
Dan Bode©2001