07-24-16 In the Days of the Judges: The Art of the Deal

Thank you, thank you, to all of you who were praying for our Vacation Bible School this past week.  Yes, the building looked amazing (and thank you to everyone who helped out with that), but more importantly, things ran very smoothly and everyone had a wonderful time.  But far more important than that, we had several children who were strongly affected by what we discussed throughout the week, and three who specifically gave their hearts to the Lord.  In an important addendum to that, I had some intensely constructive conversations with four different families at the Ice Cream Social this past Friday evening (I even got to pray with three of them), so our VBS continues to minister to people, even after the week is all over.  We can only attribute the effectiveness of the program to the Holy Spirit, going ahead, alongside, and after us at every step.  So thank you for praying!

Now for the bad news -- since the Worship Team wasn’t leading the singing this week (traditionally, we let the VBS kids do that), nobody thought to turn on the air conditioning early on Sunday morning.  By the time that anyone realized that, we were fighting an up-hill battle to get the temperature in the sanctuary under control, and it got up to around 80° in there by the end of the service.  Yes, there were a handful of women who happily declared that they were finally comfortable for once, but the rest of us were sweating and/or falling asleep halfway through the service.  Man, I really tried to make that sermon interesting...

This week, we continued in the Book of Judges, looking at the story of Jephthah in chapters 11-12.  Now, there are a lot of ways to examine that story -- you can talk about the evils of human sacrifice, you can talk about the importance of making vows (or the importance of not making vows), etc., but when it really comes down to it, the story is about making deals.

See, Jephthah had had a rough life, and he’d gotten through it by mastering the art of the deal -- the ability to propose, “If you do X, then I’ll do Y,” in such a way that both sides think that they got the better end of the deal.  He made a deal with his own Gileadites, tried to talk his way around the Ammonites, and ultimately tried to make a deal with God.  At first blush, it sure sounds like he was trying to be all holy (“If you help me win, then I’ll sacrifice whatever comes out of my house”), but he’s really trying to play the odds and hope for a lesser sacrifice.  I mean, what are the odds that the first thing you’d see coming out of your house would be your best bull...?

Hint:  if you’re really holy, A) you trust God instead of making deals with Him to buy His help, B) you simply sacrifice your best, instead of leaving it up to “chance” to decide what you should sacrifice, and C) you don’t say, “Oh, by the way -- you go first, God...”

But let’s be honest -- a lot of us have done some derivation of that very same thing, making deals and putting our own spin on things instead of trusting God’s character.  We say, “God, if you’ll just heal Bucky, then I promise that I’ll ______________,” as if anything that we’d fill into that blank could be something worthwhile that we didn’t already owe God in the first place... but that changes our whole perspective on the interaction.  I mean, we’re thinking that God now owes us, instead of us inherently owing God.  Or if God doesn’t end up healing Bucky, we feel justified in “losing faith” because God didn’t do what we assume that He should have, what with that deal that we made.

At the core of it, we cease to trust in God’s character and authority, and we thus cease to trust that His leading and answers to prayer are intrinsically wise.  Instead, our life with God devolves into perceiving an endless series of interactions and deals -- feeling that you have to play things just right to get what you need.

So how are you looking at your relationship with God today?  What do you feel that you continually have to earn from God?  What do you feel that God sorta, kinda owes you?

Lemme tell ya -- thinking like that never ends well...