Old dreams and new jobs

Ten years ago, I officially fell in love with my first local church.  I sat in one of the pastors offices and I told him: “I’m all in. I’ll do whatever this church wants.” I was young(er) and cocky(ier) and sure about who I was. I told him my gifts, where I wanted to serve, but explained I would do whatever our body needed.

In life, there are a few moments when you are sure of what God wants you to do.  That was one of them for me.

It didn’t work out.

Cows are cool but not God

While we’re on the subject of Jeroboam, let’s talk about this golden calf situation.

So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28 ESV)

And let’s talk about how this isn’t a new story.

Rewind to when the people were actually brought out of Egypt, they were a little confused by why they were in a wilderness, and while Moses was up chatting with God, they got frustrated and as a result Aaron took the lead:

Well, when you say it like that…

Sometimes I feel like I would devote my whole life to destroying idolatry in myself and others.  But then other times I wonder, do I have an idol discrimination issue? Are there idols I hate and idols I’m willing to invite over for tea?

Here’s the litmus test for me today from the Word of God: do I want people to worship God even if it costs me my glory, even if it causes me discomfort?  Or am I willing to allow, even encourage others to serve idols if it benefits me?

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After Solomon’s rule, the people of God divide into two kingdoms, with two kings: Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

Jeroboam is thrilled about his new role as King.  The only problem he has is that the Temple, (where people can go to offer sacrifices to God), is in Rehoboam’s kingdom.  Jeroboam is nervous that if the people go back there to worship, then they might get ideas about returning and his time as king would be over. So, Jeroboam makes two calves of gold and he puts them up in his kingdom and he tells the people “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

Messed up, dude. Messed up.  Seriously, Jer.  You’re so concerned with your kingship, your glory, your interests that you would actually facilitate God’s people worshipping idols?

When you read this is sounds INSANE.  It is so clearly horrifically offensive to God and you can see the darkness of the human heart.  When you see a guy building golden calves for people to worship because he’s so insecure about his interests, it’s really clear that that’s pretty sinful.

And this is why I love the Old Testament. It’s full of stories that make you go: uh, what?? And then you realize that they’re this really clear external picture of what is going on internally in all of us.

Our New Testament lives are full of stories like this if we have eyes to see.

Sandra & Ted have two kiddos: Suzy and Lucy. Suzy is wrestling with what she believes. She often finds herself asks her parents ‘why’? with a genuine hunger the understand the heart behind the rules her parents give.  Sandra is often embarrassed by the questions Suzy asks and Ted is infuriated by them, viewing them as disrespectful.  Lucy, Suzy’s sister, on the other hand, worships her mom and dad.  She is desperate to please them and is terrified of their disappointment.  Sandra and Ted often joke about the convenience of her people-pleasing tendencies.  They point to Lucy as an example for Suzy. 
As for Ted and Sandra’s house, they will serve the approval of mom and dad because it makes their reign and rule a lot easier.

Joseph was working on a new book about finances.  He was thrilled at the content, convinced it was from God and could really help set people free from their love of money.  6 months before his book was to be released he saw a book in Barnes and Noble with the exact same content.  It was doing tremendously – on the best seller list – and everyone was raving about it. Every time he heard someone mention it he felt resentment bubble up in his heart.  Every time he heard another story of how someone was feeling free of their love of money, he was annoyed.   
Joseph would rather people worship the idol of money for an extra six months, than see them be set free through someone other than himself.

Bob often brags to the guys at work about his wife.  She puts his and the kids needs consistently first, always making sure everything gets done.  One night she confesses to him that she hasn’t spent time in the Word for months and she can’t remember the last time she felt close to God.  She is fearful that she is falling away from God.   Bob comforts and encourages her telling her she is the best wife and mom in the world and that God is really pleased with her service.  She doesn’t need to worry so much about that kind of stuff.  After all, isn’t loving one another fulfilling the whole law?  Isn’t caring for people well the only thing that really matters? 
Instead of being willing to do whatever it takes to help his wife prioritize her worship and intimacy with God, Bob is willing to watch her worship the idol of family as long as he benefits from her idolatry.

Well, when you say it like that…

Don’t do God any favors

What a week. What a month. What a decade.

The theme of the past ten years of my life has been loss.  Losing relationships, losing dreams, losing parents, losing friends, losing health.  And this isn’t a sad post, because in every loss there has been great gain.  Loss has hollowed out channels in my heart for grace to flood in with truth and leave in its wake new life.

Loss has forced me to hold up the people and the things I love with open hands and offer them to the Person I love most.  Sometimes I have sacrificed them to Him with joy and peace, and sometimes its felt like they were torn from my clenched hands.

When God doesn’t work

God doesn’t work.

This was the heretical-on-a-number-of-levels thought I had the other day.

See, I did everything ‘right’. I spotted the signs of my God-hunger and received the information that maybe I was running on empty, trying to operate in my flesh and looking to those around me to meet needs that are designed to be met by God.