Saul

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I want to talk about Saul: the first anointed king of Israel. Before I can get into this interesting character study, let me give a little background for those who may not be familiar with this particular king. I think it’s important to get the gist of where he came from.

Just before 1 Samuel 10, we find that the children of Israel basically grew bored with following the leadership of God’s appointed judges. They wanted to be like all the other surrounding peoples and nations, who were ruled by kings. I guess they figured, “If a king is good enough for them, it’s good enough for us too”. The children of Israel took their petition to their recognized spiritual leader, Samuel. Now, Samuel never did anything without consulting God first, and this petition was a pretty big deal. Essentially, they were making a decision to follow the leadership of a man, over the leadership of God Almighty. But God took it all in stride.

“Sam,” I imagine God saying. “Don’t worry about it. It’s cool. They’re not turning away from you; they’re turning away from me. You’re in the clear. So, I’m gonna give ’em what they want. But…you be sure to explain to them exactly what kind of man they are about to get. Be sure to remind them that they asked for him.”

This kind of reminds me of a certain presidential election. I’m just sayin’…

To make a long story short, Samuel–led by God–chooses and anoints Saul, son of Kish, to be crowned the first king of Israel. Saul was handsome; he was strong and he was tall. Think…DuWayne “The Rock” Johnson; but with hair. The people were elated!

But Saul had some issues. He wasn’t very uhmm…disciplined. Saul loved the Lord (or so he claimed). He just had a problem with following the Lord’s commands to the letter. He would blatantly disregard the instruction of Samuel–who, by the way, was God’s representative of the day–to worship God in whatever way he saw fit. Not surprisingly, God eventually removed his presence from Saul.

Saul’s wishy-washy faith and obedience reminds me of how we sometimes behave, today. We like to serve God in our own special ways, totally disregarding his plans and his guidance. And then, just as Saul did, we grow jealous and agitated over those who seem to be blessed instead of us.

Did you know Saul grew so jealous of David, that he literally tried to pin him to the wall, with a spear…twice?

#HATER

We really cannot serve God any old willy-nilly way, and expect him to honor and bless us. It just doesn’t work that way. Think of it like this: you charge your 11-year old son with the responsibility of cleaning the kitchen five nights out of the week, for $5.00 at the end of the week. This kid washes a single dish and one fork on Monday, but expects to be paid $5.00 on Saturday! Sounds insane, right? That’s how we treat God; exactly how Saul did.

I propose a change. If we want to hear from God, and receive his blessings, we need to get to know him. That’s what relationships are for. You get to know a person; come to understand what their wants and needs are; and then cater to those needs or wants. God loves us, and wants the best for us. We simply have to follow him whole heartedly. That’s really not a hard thing to do, when we remove our selfish tendencies and lethargy. When we follow God, the way he wants us to follow him, watch out! The blessings come suddenly and often.

 

Minas

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I love the parable in Luke 19:11-27. It’s so fitting for life today. I’ll give you a minute to go ahead and read it…

*elevator music plays in the background*

Ah! Okay, so God is the king in this parable. The disgruntled servants represent humanity. People don’t naturally choose to follow the Lord, for any one of many reasons:

  • There is no God
  • God’s too strict; he’s got too many rules and regulations
  • Following God is boring; the bible is boring
  • I don’t have time to devote to him

God blesses everyone with talents. Some may not easily recognize their God-given gifts, but we all have something we are born with. Sports superstars are blessed with athleticism; law enforcement officers are blessed with protective instincts; extraordinary musicians are blessed with the musical ear.

Even ordinary people are blessed with gifts. There’s that one friend who is always upbeat, no matter the situation, blessed with the gift of encouragement. There’s the neighborhood comedian who’s always good for a laugh, blessed with the gift of high spirits. There’s the congregation grandmother, who always cooks a meal for someone in need without ever being asked to do so—how does she always seem to know—blessed with the gift of hospitality. We all are born with a gift.

In the parable, the lord charged his servants with the task of putting their individual talents (or minas) to work so that, upon his return, his investment would yield increase. Like the servants in this parable, we are charged with the task of putting our talents to work for the Lord; we are expected to advance his kingdom.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

The first faithful servant, in the parable, increased his lord’s mina investment tenfold. Likewise, the second faithful servant increased his mina fivefold. I liken these two servants to a modern-day CHH artist—that’s Christian Hip Hop for you squares—with a ministry of 10,000 following believers, and a small-town preacher with a thriving congregation of 200 faithful members. Both the artist and the preacher began as God haters. But…they submitted to the Lord, discovered and accepted their given talents, and put them to work to further the kingdom of God. Both work hard, constantly mindful of God.

But the parable also displays an example in the lazy servant. This unfaithful accepted his talent and knew the character of his lord. Yet he willfully chose to do absolutely nothing with the talent. Even more disturbing, was his logic behind his loathsome behavior. He simply figured there was no point in even trying to put the talent to work!

This is where Colossians 3:25 turns a corner and says, “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”

In our modern society, particularly in the entertainment industry, many people recognize their God-given talents, but blatantly choose to use them in ways contradictory to God’s intended purposes. Then, there are those who recognize their talents, but squander them by doing nothing at all. In the parable, the two faithful servants were rewarded double their efforts, while the lazy servant was stripped of the little he was originally given.

Where do you fall within this parable? When you look at your life today, can you see the hand of God blessing your faithful efforts? I’m not talking about material possessions. Are you reaching people in your day-to-day living? Can you openly live the Christian life in public, and see God’s favor manifest in your walk? Or…does it seem as if even the little bit you have is in danger of being stripped away? Does it feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to catch a break? Can you even acknowledge God?

What are your talents, my friend? If you recognize them, are you using them to advance God’s kingdom? Many people read this famous parable and erroneously think its core message is about money.

“If God gives you $10, go out and turn it into $100, in the name of Jesus. Then watch him bless you with more. Wooo!”

No. This parable is about using the talent God has given you to go out and spread his kingdom, in whatever you do. If you find yourself struggling through a valley, let me encourage you to first seek the Lord. Through prayer, ask him to reveal your God-given talents. Then put those talents to use, in a way that will honor him. Only he can guide you through it. And his timing is always perfect, so don’t be discouraged.

Remember, in the parable , none of the servants liked the lord to begin with. But, the faithful submitted, remained true and were richly blessed later. Because of their integrity, their minas were multiplied. This isn’t just a story, friend. This is life.

Celebrate The Small Victories

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So…here I am. It’s 11:20p.m. and I should have been asleep at least an hour ago. I do need to get up in the morning to work my regular day job, after all. I can’t sleep, because tonight reality finally smacked me across the face. Although the world might not recognize it yet, I’ve officially been granted the title “Published Christian Author”. I’m not talking about a general title for a single blog post, or a few contributing lines to someone else’s project. No friends, God finally granted one of my heart’s deepest desires, by guiding me through the simultaneously tedious and exciting process of starting and completing a book.

Paraclete’s Promise: The Fantastic Fantasies of Timothy” is the realization of a dream come true. You see, I originally wrote the story over ten years ago, long before I surrendered to Jesus. In truth, my writing skill was horrible, my story-telling technique was flimsy and my grammar skills were downright deplorable. But, that didn’t stop me from throwing the story out to publishers. I received so many rejection notices, that  I actually tried to toss the manuscript out. But something kept me from destroying the master file and first print (I actually took a copy to Staples and had them bind it for me). Of course today I recognize that “something” as God’s providence. He knew what he was planning to do in my life all along.

God set this whole thing up from the very beginning. He knew I’d surrender my life to him someday. He knew I’d promise to use my writing talent to serve him. He led me to the wonderful community of Christian writers – Faithwriters. He used them to hone my writing skills through challenges, small contests, positive feedback and amazing relationships with the community’s owners-Mike and Bea Edwards. He knew I’d someday be ready for a real contest with impossible rewards at stake.

Our god is so awesome, he not only gave me an incredible writing victory, he opened a door that I never imagine being able to walk through. God took pieces of nothing and sewed together an opportunity that I could never deserve, especially when there are so many talented and well deserving writers out there. And when the time was right, he made it perfectly clear to me, that I needed to rewrite my original story formally titled, “T.J. And The Magic Box” and change it into a tale that would glorify him throughout its entirety.

For almost six months, I’ve been so focused on seeing the project completed, that I never stopped to consider all the miraculous lanes God opened up for a clear drive toward the goal. I kept working at the project and waiting for the bottom to drop out; waiting for a loophole to open up and swallow my dream; doubting God’s Sovereignty. But in reality…tonight’s reality…I see that he’s bringing his plan together.

To date, I haven’t spent a single dime toward the publication of my book. That’s a miracle all by itself! The contest prize of publication, the fine staff at Xulon Press, the patience and support of my family, the prayers coming out of my church congregation, the subtle inspirations that seemingly appeared out of thin air. All of it was orchestrated by God. I see that tonight. I don’t know what he has planned for the future of this published book, but I trust in him and give exaltation, honor and praise where it is due. God gets all the credit. I simply obeyed his commands and did what he told me to do.

Friends, I celebrate every small victory that led up to tonight. I celebrate God’s guidance in those victories. If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it. God can pull a miracle from nothing at all. I may not know where he’s taking the next leg of my journey to, but I’m excited to see where I land.

I want you all to enjoy the story God’s put in my heart to write. Check the  link above for the opening chapters. If you like what you see, the book can be purchased on Xulon.com, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and Apple.com.