Humble versus Insecure—and the value of “But, Lord…!”

cat-1106968_1920 (1)To begin with, Moses was humble; Saul was insecure. 

Moses had his insecurities, for sure.  There are at least five (count ‘em, five!) “but, Lords…!” in that whole discussion about who was going to do the talking to Pharaoh.  However, Moses was humble enough to be honest with God about them, and in so doing, God provided for him in the very midst of those insecurities.  In fact, we see Moses’ character develop into quite an assertive leader.  And it started with humble honesty.

King Saul, on the other hand, had a crippling fear of man; that is, he was ruled, not by what God thought, but by what the people thought, or what he thought the people thought.  We see this several times throughout Saul’s tenure, but an interesting thing happens after one particular battle which was quite successful, at least in Saul’s eyes… Continue reading “Humble versus Insecure—and the value of “But, Lord…!””

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Take me, break me, make me

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Now here’s a character I really relate to—Saul.  No, not the apostle, unfortunately.  His story turned out pretty well, considering he wrote over half the New Testament and all. 

I’m talking about the Old Testament Saul, and the making of the erstwhile monarch of Israel.  It’s not like he asked for the position, after all, and despite all the positive social markers, he had a serious fear-of-man-self-preservation complex going on.

Thus, I can relate.

Here’s what’s going on:

The prophet Samuel has told Saul to wait for him seven days at Gilgal.   Samuel will arrive, present the offerings to God, and then Saul and his army will go wipe out the enemy de jour. This was a clear mandate, unmistakable in its direction and timing.  No discussion needed.

But there was a problem.  Samuel didn’t show up.  And on top of that:

“The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore!”

Which, granted, would be a bit intimidating.  It certainly was for Saul’s men, who suddenly must have heard their wives calling them home for lunch or something. Consequently, Saul’s army began thinning out, and fast.  The king made a decision:

“So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. 

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.”

Oops.

Needless to say, Saul’s explanation was less than effective, and Samuel’s edict was unfortunate, as was the rest of Saul’s reign.

“’How foolish!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. Had you kept it, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.’”

Saul didn’t know it, but God had had him uniquely positioned for a serious breakthrough.  But Saul blew it.

Whereas our modern-day markets and media value tangible results, heavenly success is measured in terms of obedience.  If Saul had remembered his history, he could have leaned on the exciting story of Gideon and his paltry three-hundred, or even Moses at the Red Sea before the onslaught of Egyptian chariots.  Instead, the first king of Israel decided to interpret his situation by his own (very limited) appraisal. 

Sadly, his assessment left out one incredibly big Resource.

Because our God specializes in seemingly no-win situations.  He will bring me to a breaking point where I have a clear choice between obedience or expediency. When that happens, it can mean that sometimes—or many times—He will actually let me be broken, shattered, shards on the floor.  Careful where you step.  Part of the dream is over there; a piece of my heart is in that corner.  Where’d I put the broom?

What I desperately need to remember in those periods, (and they do come), is that obedience proceeds breakthrough.  That is, God will do the breaking, then I have to walk through it.   This gets a bit uncomfortable for a time; nevertheless, I am never alone.  Ever.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

There’s that word “through” again.  (Selah…)

I also need to remember that the condition of my heart in obedience before God is more important to Him than the size of my “army”…or church…or bank account…or any relationship.  My focus needs to be, and stay, on the clear directive.

Because God will show up; He always does. 

1 Samuel 13:5,9-10,13-14; Psalm 23:4 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved

Slip, slidin’ away.

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Anyone who happens to be in my age bracket might recognize that title as the tag line from from a song by the inimitable Paul Simon.  It reads almost like a modern-day psalm of lament, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re already having a bad day, but Simon makes a good point in that, although we can influence our situations, ultimately we are not in charge.

Of course, that’s not a popular thought, regardless of one’s faith-affiliation or lack thereof.  We want to be in charge, desperately want it.  Especially when our circumstances threaten to dissolve into further chaos around us unless we “take action”.

King Saul, the first king of Israel, was very much like that.  He was told in no uncertain terms that he was to wait for Samuel, but like many of us, waiting was not his forte. 

“…but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.   So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. 10   Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived…”

Oops.  The king had fired up the grill a little too soon.

This was just one in a series of epic fails for Saul’s leadership.  Not that I can boast much better.  It can just be so dang hard to be patient when what I see as “success” is so different from God see’s as success—which is, foremost, OBEDIENCE.  Faithful, patient obedience, which speaks volumes of how much we trust Him for whatever outcome He determines, even if everyone else heads for the door.

In fact, that can be easily become one of the mottos in our decision-making:

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Never a good way to lead, and definitely not the way of the cross.  I specifically remember a time as the leader on our church worship team, when God told me to repent (great word) of leading by appeasement.  Make everyone happy as much as possible.  Then try to keep them that way.  Good recipe for a mental health break down, let me tell ya.

Not that we shouldn’t let others share an opinion, offer suggestions, or even voice some serious concerns about potential consequences.  But as one poster once asserted—“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!” 

And the main thing is loving my Lord by trusting obedience, leaving the result of that obedience in His hands.  Because as someone once said: God is rarely early, but He’s never late.

I don’t want to fire up the grill too soon before the Main Guest arrives.

1 Samuel 13:8-10  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Read your history book, er…stone.

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At some point into King Saul’s tenure, things were not looking too good for the Hebrew nation, which, BTW, was nothing new up to that point in their embattled but miraculous history.   Come to think of it, it has been typical of their existence ever since.  

The good news was that the prophet of the Lord, Samuel, the same guy who had in recent memory anointed Saul as king over God’s nation of Israel, said that his plan was to show up in town seven days hence, and that Saul was to wait for him there.  The bad news was that the very powerful enemy (one of several) was now r-e-a-l-l-y ticked off at the still-fledgling nation, and was mustering an army against them.  As might be expected, Saul’s men were getting more than a little nervous, and began breaking ranks, slipping away into the hills and surrounding places, which was understandably a bit disconcerting for the king of Israel, (who struggled with his own self-image issues anyway—can anyone relate?) 

But wait!  There was even worse news!  Samuel, whose job it was to offer prayers and sacrifices to the God of Israel and bless them for success in battle, hadn’t shown up like he said he would!  He was late, or maybe he just wasn’t coming after all!

Hardly…

God’s sense of timing is not like ours.  To quote a good friend, Jon McKinney, “God is rarely early, but He’s never late.” This was a test, this was only a test. Unfortunately, Saul bombed it.

In fact, most of this life is a test as well.  In this episode, God was exposing an inherit flaw in Saul’s character—Saul was more concerned about himself, his safety, his victory and honor among the people (remember that old inferiority complex?) than he was about trusting God and honoring Him through patient obedience.  If only Saul had remembered his history lesson about his predecessor named Gideon (see earlier blog on that one, or better yet, read it in the Bible, Judges, chapter 7), he would have realized that God does not depend on numbers, but on our faith and His own grace and power. 

And how do I respond when my circumstances are telling me that God is somehow late, or worse, that He is breaking His promise?  Part of our faith is demonstrated by how we interpret our circumstances in light of our relationship with God.  Part of our love for God is revealed by desiring to honor Him through our obedience in the midst of those circumstances.  It’s not about “my” victory, but about His ability; not “my” reputation, but His.

Thx for readin’—dawnlizjones

Step away from the baggage, and no one will get hurt.

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Remember the days of playing “Hide and Seek”?  (Yeah, I also remember “Red Rover, Red Rover”, potential broken bones and all, so let’s stick with “Hide and Seek”.)  I’m not sure if I ever actually won, probably not known as the most ingenious covert operative, but I might posit that most of us have become fairly adept in our daily lives at hiding our true selves in various ways, …even from our true selves!

One of the many things I love about the Bible is the complete candor and mirror-like reality of its stories.  The heroes (with the exception of only One) are nuanced and flawed, their follies and foibles paraded befor us not only to see, but to be related to.  And I do.  Heartily.  One such character is the first king of Israel, a fellow named Saul, described as tall, dark, and handsome (okay, that’s not me), but evidently with a supreme inferiority complex, (that’s where I fit in).  Here’s a young buck that God has chosen to be king, God’s prophet proclaims him to be king, and he even LOOKS like a king!

Pick up the story as the prophet, Samuel, comes to anoint him before the nation of Israel in a special ceremony:

“So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the LORD, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the LORD, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the LORD, “Where is he?” And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”  *

Cracks me up.

Interestingly, earlier in the same chapter we are told that God gave Saul a “new heart”, which informs me that when God chooses me to accomplish something, he will also prepare me inwardly for that job.  However, it doesn’t just stop there.  That “new heart” must be nurtured and protected or else the weeds of old ways of thinking and outdated patterns of feeling or processing experiences will creep back in again.  That’s when I’m tempted to duck out of sight, so to speak, to hide myself from fear of past shame or failure.

The truth says the opposite.  As forgiven children of God, only when we step out from behind the baggage of our past can we then step into our full destiny, trusting His work in and through us whether that puts us in the spotlight or not. 

In other words, since God, through His Son Jesus, has already come to seek us, we no longer have to hide.

*I Samuel 1:20-23  Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) (Kindle Locations 15566-15569). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.