March 28, 2008

Falling On Your Own Sword

Many times I've read this story of David & Jonathon's friendship and considered how awkward it must have been to know that your father hated, envied, and wanted to kill your best friend. And the more I read this story the thing that painfully stands out to me is the all-consuming power of Saul's jealousy and bitterness.

Much of the language used in the Old Testament confuses us at times ("a tormenting spirit came over Saul", "the Lord had left him and was now with David", Saul "began to prophesy"). I think it is vital that we get the big picture here - that we don't miss the real issue. Repeatedly, at every turn and crossroad, Saul chose to hang on to his jealousy and bitterness. His life was consumed with pride and fear. These are not characteristics of a man after the heart of God.

But as I'm reading this story once more this morning, I began to be puzzled by the fact that Saul, on his way to hunt down David and destroy him, falls to the ground and begins to prophesy. Again, I know we don't have even an ounce of understanding as to all that it meant to prophesy at this time, but I think there is possibly a very simple parallel for us to learn from.

Could it be this was God giving Saul this one last and final chance? Could this have been the Lord's way of saying, "Saul, I'm not finished with you. If you'll turn back to me, I can restore you. I can use you." Was this Saul's last shot at allowing God to break his chains? If it was, he wasn't paying attention.

I think that God sends these messages to His people all the time - "Wake up! Your bitterness is eating you alive and you don't even know it. You're destroying yourself and my Body. Turn back. Lay it on me and leave it there."

This past Sunday I had an encounter with someone who was letting me know what it was that was keeping them from worshipping - what it was that they just couldn't stand anymore. It broke my heart because even though this person's complaint/issue may have been something to consider, it was just a mild symptom of the disease rotting inside them. Bitterness. And solving and attending to every issue on this person's list would not have healed the wound. Why? Because the deepest wound causing this infection is self-inflicted.

If we don't face this disease and hunt it down in our heart before it metastisizes, it will eat us alive. And just like Saul, we'll wind up falling on our own sword.
I've already made the decision: it's not going to end that way for me!

March 15, 2008

Don't Go There

I have to admit, it's a little tempting. You know, that escape route that leads to security, stability, and a routine paycheck and retirement. I'm sure the older you get and the longer you allow yourself to just hang around it becomes more enticing. I guess it's actually not tempting in the way I'm tempted to eat the whole carton of Ben & Jerry's, but the kind of temptation that says, "Relax. You've earned it. Just sit back, don't make such a fuss. Don't rock the boat or stir up the water. Set it on cruise...and just fake it through one more day."

To those who are closest to me - who care about my well being and the spiritual condition of those I serve and shepherd - please smack me upside the head if you ever sense I'm even drifting close to this life. Please don't let me walk through my days like I'm on Repeat - saying the same things, driving the same route, making the same jokes, retracing the same steps - not interested in breaking free from the mundane monotony that comes from living, working, surviving for a paycheck. That is prison.

Please hear me: that is NOT who I am or where I ever intend to go. My soul just grows weary from watching it - seeing the ripple effects of what it does to the sleeper and those around him or her. Please, for the sake of everyone, WAKE UP!

[Pause - in hopes the sleeper will wake up]

In my way of seeing it, as someone who has decided to work for the King and His Kingdom, I can spend my days being spent for one of a couple of things: programs (the events/tasks/routines that make up my days & ministry); paycheck (this is the way of stockpiling artificial security); or people (go and make disciples). Only one of those is worthwhile. Only one of those are on the King's agenda. If it ever begins to be about one of the other's time to re-think it all. It will be time to have the guts to say, "Maybe it's time for a complete overhaul in life." That time comes for many, you know. And it's much more dignified and honorable to face it rather than run from it.

So, if the temptation begins to entice or lure your heart into thinking that security, stability, and coasting on into the finish are an acceptable course to follow...don't go there. It's way too painful for everyone in the end.

March 12, 2008

The Whole Point

I sold my Jeep yesterday. Hooray! And yet again I sold something very quickly to the very first person who came and looked at it. People are going to start thinking I'm a good salesperson, which is far from accurate. But with the sale of Big Red comes the brand new search for my next Jeep. And here's where God likes to teach me a little thing called "patience".

I've read Philippians 4 more times than I can count. Be anxious about what? Nothing? Don't worry about anything? Are you crazy? I mean, come on. There are just those times, situations, circumstances, where you have to freak out a little - put some good old fashioned panic into the mix and get down to business. Right?

That's what I'd like to think. But God seems to always desire to teach me just the opposite. I hear my wife used words like "hasty" and "rash". I grit my teeth. I know she's right. I feel greater frustration. Not only impatient, but wrong again! How many times will I run ahead of the Father like a little 3 year old trying to cross the street when his mom is screaming, "WAIT!" Slow down, Brian. You'll miss it if you don't. And then I remember why. Why it's so important to stop...slow down...not get anxious...resist the worry...refuse the hastiness...and rest. Give God the opportunity to guide and provide. Give yourself the chance to discover His faithfulness all over again. Refuse those useless reactions and choose to pray. Novel idea, I know.

Yes, I've read it and meditated on it a thousand times. "Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. And when you do the peace of God, which is greater than all human understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." And I will continue to come back to these words my whole life until it comes to me just as naturally as breathing. I will wait on the Lord. That is the whole point.

March 6, 2008

Mostly Cloudy...Slight Chance of Nothing

I don't know if you're like me, but if I go so many days without seeing the sun I start to lose it. Not that "I sure would like to go to the beach feeling" but a serious mental/emotional meltdown. Yes, I've been told to remember that the "sun's still up there, it's just hidden by the clouds". To this, I have come up with no tactful response. Other than to say, "So what?"

Life can be awfully cloudy. What I mean is, there are so many things that we can run after, succumb to, or fall in love with that begin to darken our skies. We don't even realize it at the time - that we're becoming sun-starved and our heart is becoming more pasty white than our skin ever has. This tendency typically leads us to the place we refer to as the valley. And as we all can attest, we'd rather not go to the valley.

But here is the importance of visiting such low places every once-in-awhile: the valley is where I am quickly reminded that anything and everything else other than Jesus Christ is a hailstorm waiting to happen. A cloudy day will seem like paradise compared to the place we're led when we start driving off into the sunset thinking that there could possibly be some satisfaction out there outside of Him. Save yourself the pain and agony. That place doesn't exist!

Some of us are led into the valley by Christ - He takes us there to strip us, refine us, and to burn something into our hearts. Maybe He wants us to know a fraction of what He must have felt during 40 days in the desert and the temptation during and immediately following. I won't dare speculate on all the reasons why God leads us there, other than to say His desire is that we exit the valley different than we entered it. Yet, some of us find ourselves in these places because we've fallen in love with things of lesser value...or even fallen asleep. The response to this is simple: WAKE UP!
"Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:14)

Yes, the sun is still there behind the clouds. But I say, "So what?" Go where you have to go - do what you've got to do - to get your face back into the sun. We weren't made to live in the dark.