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

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Rear-view mirror grace

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One of the (many) things I love about the Bible is the unadulterated openness of the ungodliness of some of God’s most godly people.  I really love it.  It gives me hope.  It also makes me appreciate the honesty of God as well as His patient love and affection.  Some choose to see only His anger and frustration.  Well, heck, if I had been the parent of these kids for several millennia…well, best not to go there.

Here’s another good example.  Many of us Continue reading “Rear-view mirror grace”

The closing

wood 2In January of this year, the gavel at Wall Street fell for the first time on 20,000.  20,000 what, I’m not quite sure; I just know that it was the historic high water mark of the Dow Exchange to that point. 

Now, I have lived through more than one recession, and my parents through “the” Depression.  Our personal investments are modest, but I suppose we have done our middle-income capitalist part of moving the American economy forward through our adult years.  One thing I do know is that once you invest, at least wisely and conservatively, it is important to leave it there; that is, it will need to weather some ups and downs.  Constantly pulling it out and plugging it in somewhere else, similar to the relationships showcased in the grocery store tabloids, is not typically considered wise investing.

Alright, I know this is not a perfect analogy, but it does help me to understand this other concept that comes from the Old Testament prophet, Malachi.  God is lamenting over His people (again) concerning their unfaithfulness, and since at this juncture they don’t even recognize how they have been disloyal, which is even scarier, God has to spell it out for them:

 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands…?’”

It’s those words, “what have we gained” that really get me.  They (like me) miss the whole point when I look at my temporal ledger sheet instead of my eternal one.  OUCH.  Our culture’s mantra “he who dies with the most stuff wins” tries to infiltrate my thinking in very pernicious ways, and I’m not just talking about material stuff here.  In other words, I’ll be the first in line to protect my reputation, my relationships, my home, hearth, job, etc.  But, (and here’s the rub) what if God calls me to an act of obedience that puts even those things in direct opposition to His expressed purpose?

In the first century church, Paul puts it this way:

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Those are tough, tough words.  But intelligent investing can be costly and takes sacrifice.  It takes diligence and wisdom and counsel and (here’s a fun one) patience persistence in the face of those who choose to buy on credit and go into moral debt.  And our culture is deep, deep into moral debt.  Just turn on the news.  

The same Old Testament prophet goes on to say this… 

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

newspaper-1834656_1920And when it comes to smart investing, it’s the end result that counts.

Malachi 3:14; Philippians 3:8; Malachi 4:2   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.