Doing Things the Right Way

“They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinidab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart,” 1 Chronicles 13:7

David was the new King of Israel. Meaning well, David decided to bring the powerful and mysterious Ark of the Covenant from a remote location back to Jerusalem. In the midst of singing, dancing, many instruments playing and raucous jubilation, “the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark of God. Then God’s anger was roused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God,” 2 Samuel 6:6b-7.

You can only imagine how quickly the climate shifted from the heights of celebration to the depths of shock and despair. The party ended. Scripture also tells us that David “was now afraid of God” and decided to stop transporting the Ark. It stayed right there for the next three months in the private home of Obed-edom.

I have often wrestled with this story. It seems harsh, unfair, and quite frankly, reactionary by God. But when you understand the full picture, it changes the story. A lot.

Check out 1 Chronicles 15:13. After three months of wrestling with this event, King David discovered why it happened the way it did. He decides to move the Ark of God again, but listen to what he states to the Levite tribe as they prepare: “Because you Levites did not carry the Ark the first time, the anger of the Lord our God burst out against us. We failed to ask God how to move it properly.”

God had given previous instructions as to who and how the Ark of God was always to be transported. In David’s eagerness to do what was right, he overlooked the right way to do it. The Ark was never to be put on an oxcart and it was not to be “handled” by anyone other than a Levite–those designated by God to care for the temple and religious activities.

What a great reminder that God has declared standards. There are ways His work should be done. In our age of efficiency and pursuit of measurable results, we can easily overlook the godly way things should be done. Human wisdom is no match for God’s declared ways, though we often revert to that instead of God’s best plan. It still matters how we get God’s work done–not only that we do.

By the way, on this second try, all went well.

“So all Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres,” 1 Chronicles 15:28

Now that’ my kind of party!

This World is not my home

Life is hard–even when things are pretty good. The little things are what throw me, especially when they come in waves. Like the last few weeks…

I’ve been driving a 93 Lincoln Town Car for the last year, a wonderful providential gift from the Lord. There’s a really cool story that goes with that. Suffice it to say here that I told my wife Susan one day, “I just need to get a different car and the next one is going to be white!” (The Florida sun burns off every other color if the car sits out.) Two days later, an acquaintance from Texas texts us and tells us they have a car we can have if we want it. “But,” they say, “you may not want it because it’s white.” Listen, a Town Car was choice number 178 in a list of my most wanted cars, but if that’s what God had to give me, I was going to take it. It’s actually been a great car.

Having driven the Lincoln for a year, I had been looking at used vehicles. I had been saving for five years! I finally made a private party purchase to replace the Town Car. It drove like a dream the 35 miles home. Susan and I were thanking God for allowing us to find a great deal on a pretty nice car — a 2012 GMC. The next morning, as I was driving to register the car and transfer the title, the engine started on fire! That was five weeks ago and it’s still isn’t running. It may be a total loss.

And there are so many other things, like the prominent hotel chain that can’t figure how to cancel a $620 charge on my card–after a week of trying. Or the repair shop that charged me $1500 dollars for…nothing! and won’t communicate with me at all. Or the ongoing thyroid struggles Susan is dealing with that affects about 37 other systems and symptoms in her body. Or the sizable reimbursement check from a family member that got lost in the mail. Really, it is lost!

Then I remember Jesus’ words, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” John 16:33. The Devil loves to toy with us, the world wants to assault us, the hosts of evil look to discourage us. But when I think of the tantamount victory of Jesus on Easter, my issues don’t seem so big.

I’m reminded of an old gospel quartet chorus:

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’ open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

Ragamuffin

Brennan Manning describes a ragamuffin as one who is dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. None of us like to think of ourselves this way, but for many of us, it’s a mighty accurate description. Though I may look good on the outside, I’m fighting like crazy on the inside. Even as I produce notable accomplishments for Christ’s kingdom, I find myself struggling for spiritual survival much of the time. Yes–dirty, bedraggled and beat up is a pretty good description, not only of a ragamuffin, but of me.

Of course, this shouldn’t be any surprise. We’re in a war!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 6:12.

This is not a theoretical war–it’s real! It’s not something far off like Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen–it’s in our mind, heart, homes and closest relationships! It affects us every day. To pretend the war doesn’t exist is to sentence your life to ruin or insignificance. To fight the battles in human strength is futile. We must use the weapons and equipment Christ has provided as described in Ephesians 6.

We Christians are quite proficient at presenting ourselves as victors. We aren’t too fond of revealing our real selves, the ongoing struggles, the temptations we fight nor the battles we lose. But remember, even in the losing, in the fray of battle, in the wrong moves, missed opportunities, stupid choices, areas of weakness and remorseful decisions, God loves us and is waiting to make something beautiful in the midst of the mess.

Want to see a GREAT movie that shows it well? Watch Ragamuffin (it’s on Prime)–the true story of Rich Mullins. It’s unsettling, sobering, inspiring, and real.

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)

Thinking Little of Yourself

I have often thought little of myself. That is, I’m not of any great significance so what difference can I make or of what value are my thoughts, words, or input? After-all, I grew up on a farm in tiny Woodstock, Minnesota. Can anything good come out of Woodstock? My town was 213 people–we had twice as many cattle on our farm than people in our town! I grew up carrying corn cobs into the house for the kitchen stove, used a two-hole outhouse, took baths in the barn, and the first phone I used was a wooden box on the wall with the ear-piece on a wire you held to your ear. I milked cows every day and wore hand-me-downs from my older brothers until I left for college. We talked simple, ate farm food, were unrefined and lived by biblical wisdom and old-fashioned values.

None of us thought much of ourselves. We actually didn’t think about ourselves hardly ever! Life was about hard work, standing up for family and enjoying the little things–like fresh boiled corn on the cob and a good night of fast-pitch softball at the local diamond.

That’s why this little statement in 1 Samuel 15:17 grabbed my attention. The prophet Samuel said to King Saul, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel?”

Saul was shocked when he was anointed to be Israel’s first king, mostly because he thought so little of himself. His tribe of Benjamin had a not-so-distant shameful history and his family was small and of no significance. Saul probably never thought much about being a person of influence. And then one day, while on a stray donkey hunt, God arranges a divine appointment to inform him of Heaven’s plans.

Years later, when Samuel makes the above statement, Saul has strayed from his devotion to God. He’s “playing by ear” and doing his thing the way he wants to do it. It’s fascinating that Samuel would refer back to Saul’s view of himself in a moment of undeniable waywardness.

This got me to thinking…. How dangerous is it for me to “think little of myself?” Yes–I know, pride goes before a fall, God gives grace to the humble, etc. I’m certainly not diminishing any of that. But how often to do I downplay the significance of my role because of how I feel about myself. After all, if God has called, anointed and equipped me, who am I to diminish what God has planned for me to do?

Saul thought little of himself and failed desperately. I want my simple beginnings to be a strength that God can use, not a weakness upon which I will stumble.

How about you?

Saul’s Fall

I’m intrigued by the life of Saul, first king of Israel. Though not God’s best plan, since Israel demanded a king in their rejection of God, he chose Saul and anointed him to be the ruler of Israel. He was filled with the Spirit and promised a great future IF he would obey all that the Lord told him to do. His first act as King was a raving success as he freed the city of Jabesh-gilead from the ruthless Ammonites. Scripture says, “The Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul” (1Samuel 11:6) enabling him to succeed in his first act as king.

Things took a turn quite soon, however. Saul began to rest on human wisdom rather than God’s declarations, to reason away sin by deceiving himself, to fear people more than God, and to “fudge” on practicing complete obedience to God’s demands.

1Samuel 15:22-23 record the prophet Samuel’s words clarifying Saul’s sin:

“What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as King.”

What a sobering reminder of what God expects of his servants:
1. Obedience–so much more than religious activity that can often give us a false sense of spirituality.
2. Compliance–the opposite of rebellion and stubbornness, powerfully destructive fruits of the flesh.
3. Loyalty–the antidote to rejection.

I never want to live a life of regrets like Saul.

Lord, by your grace, help me to obey, comply and practice God-honoring loyalty to you.