I Did It My Way

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Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Michael Bublé sang it and is one of the most often requested songs for funerals. Paul Anka wrote lyrics in English to a French tune and pitched “My Way” to Old Blue Eyes. We applaud people who do it their way. But should we? While the rugged individualist charts his own course, he seldom does it God’s way. 

God, through Samuel, directed King Saul to attack the Amalekites, the enemy of God’s people. God specifically said, “totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them . . .” Not the people and not even their livestock (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul and his men were somewhat obedient. “Saul and the army spared Agag [the king] and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs, everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy” (v. 9). They were unwilling to be obedient. God’s heart was grieved by Saul’s disobedience (v. 11). He sent Samuel to chastise the king.

When the prophet arrived at the camp, Saul greeted him saying, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions” (v. 13). And Samuel said, in today’s language, “Oh, really? Then why do I hear sheep bleating and cattle lowing?” (v. 14). And Saul answered that they saved the best of the animals “to sacrifice to the Lord” (v. 15).  He essentially sang Sinatra’s song – “I obeyed the Lord – my way.” Samuel replied, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (v. 22). And from that point on, God rejected Saul as Israel’s king.

No, this is not one of those warm and fuzzy devotionals. I feel an urgent need in my spirit to tell you to stop trying to do life your way. Do it God’s way. Be fully obedient to the Lord. Partial obedience is disobedience. James gave us two keys to doing life God’s way: “Submit yourself to God” (4:7) and “Humble yourself before the Lord” (4:10).

I’m not pointing fingers at you without pointing them at myself first. This morning I prayed, “Lord please give me a word for your people – and for me.” I know I need to learn the discipline of obedience, submission, and humility before God. This honors and pleases the Lord who – despite what Sinatra and all the rest believe – created man. Self-made men and women are on the road to self-destruction. Beloved, will you do it God’s way?

Give Careful Thought

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Repetition in the Scriptures is like a holy highlighter.  I keep going back to Haggai – the short 2-chapter Old Testament book of prophecy because I cannot shake a powerful repetition here that we should not ignore. In these 38 verses, God repeats three words five times: “give careful thought” (1:5, 7, 2:15, and twice in 18). They are all situated in the same general context. “Give careful thought” to what is happening to you and around you. They are a word of chastisement amid the encouragement we talked about a couple of days ago (9/2/20)

Haggai declared in these passages “You plant much but harvest little. You eat and drink, but are never full. You put on clothes, but cannot get warm, You earn wages, but you have holes in your pockets” “You expected much, but it turned out to be little.” “You thought you had plenty, but you did not.” (paraphrased). Even the crops had failed. Why? “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (1:9). Remember that these were exiles returning from 70 years of  Babylonian captivity to find Jerusalem was decimated. After a good start, the people abandoned the temple restoration and instead rebuilt their own homes. There they stayed, settled and lethargic.

I know – you’re wondering when this is going to turn into the encouraging word for today. Well, today the word is  “give careful thought.” The Israelites needed to “give careful thought” as to why they were finding disappointment in every endeavor. It was because they had turned away from wholehearted obedience to God to serve themselves. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that this is the condition of the U.S. And a glance in the mirror tells me this is often the cause of my own issues as well. It never fails that when I don’t seek the kingdom of God first, things start to fall apart. Just a gentle suggestion here: might your struggles – like mine – have their roots in disobedience? Notice that the Israelites didn’t stomp their feet and shake their fist at God in rebellion.  They just got more involved in their own stuff and slowly shifted their focus. Beloved, do you need to “give careful thought” to what’s happening in you and around you? The best part is – when we turn back to wholehearted obedience, blessings follow.