Golden Calf, or That's One Weird Dog

I have a weird pet. True story. Some folks have a dog, or a cat. Some folks have fish; is that even a pet if you can’t pet it? Some folks have snakes or lizards- again, not sure it’s a pet if you can’t pet it. Then we get into the odd pets- horses, llamas, exotic animals and such. But I have, probably, a weirder pet.

It makes travelling kind of awkward, but it’s just so handy to have around. I mean, it’s not practical, really, but I just feel so much better when I’ve got the little guy with me. I dress it up to disguise what it really is, because people would freak if they really knew. Some folks have dogs. Some folks have cats, or birds, or fish. I’m a golden calf kind of guy.

Exodus 32:4 (NKJV) “And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”

I don’t remember how I got him. One day he was just there. God had given me riches for my provision and for the provision of my family, and one day, boom, there was this little golden calf. And I think I’ve started a trend. Maybe it’s not trending on social media, I wouldn’t know since I’m not really on it, but I think more and more people are catching on to the golden calf craze. #goldencalf ? I don’t even know what that means. I’m such a nerd. Anyway, back on topic.

Our God is a good God, and He provides for His children. And He’s provided,not just for centuries, or millennia, but for all of time. More than that, really. Before time began, God had a plan for you and me, so technically, God has provided before forever was ever an ever. Try saying that five times fast.

In the scripture above, He provided riches for the children of Israel as they left Egypt. Scripture says that the Israelites plundered the Egyptians. They left Egypt with great riches, and the riches designed to serve them ended up becoming their master.

It’s easy for me to read Exodus 32 and shake my head in disbelief that God’s people could do the things they did and behave the way they behaved. A golden calf? Really? Right after all God did? Right after all they saw and were brought through? All the miracles and signs and wonders and they made a false god? Really? They made it with their own hands, and they’re going to bow down and worship it? Really? Like in real life they did that? It’s not even a cool and powerful animal. It’s a stinkin’ calf! Come on guys!

But every time I get all uppity and start thinking, ‘How could they do that?’ I have to face the fact that I’ve done much the same. I’ve taken what God intended as a good thing, as a provision for me and my family, and exalted it to a place it should never be exalted. I’m not really up front about it and obvious with it. I mean, I dress up the golden calf so that it doesn’t look like what it is. I dress it up to look like something normal, something acceptable.

Like my job. I’ve gotten my priorities out of whack with my job before. I dressed it up so it looked acceptable, but working 60-70 hrs a week to ‘get it done’ and ‘hussle’ and to be the #1 guy, and all that…I was serving what God had provided for my provision. I was bowing myself down to it and serving it instead of putting it in its rightful place. Hobbies, relationships, even ministry- man, I can make a golden calf out of just about anything. I can make anything bigger than it’s meant to be and end up serving it instead of using it as the resource that God intended.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re looking around and you notice you’re surrounded by little weird golden calves- you’re overextended and serving what was meant to serve you. What do you do? I think realizing it and admitting it is the first step. You have to confess your sins to God before you can ever move forward. And that act of realization and confession with repentance, it does something on the inside. It produces that subtle shift in your heart. It puts you on the offense against those little golden calf jokers.

It doesn’t stop there, though. You have to destroy the golden calves. I’m not saying quit your job or quit all your hobbies. Hang with me. You destroy golden calves by saying ‘No.’ Saying no is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. That devious little golden calf will look at you with those big calfy eyes, and it’ll be hard, but you have to say no. It’s easy to say yes and to go with the flow. If I’d let it, work would consume me. I have to say no. I have to set boundaries. Saying ‘No’ to all those wrong things that want to rule you allows you to say yes to the right things, and you can’t say yes to the right things when you’re dragging golden calves around.

So, my fellow calfers…calf caretakers…ranchers? Are you a rancher if all you have is golden calves? Anyway. I hope this was helpful to you. It was an eye opener to me when I realized that I was getting out of whack with what I was serving and what I was saying ‘Yes’ to. I’ve had to start saying ‘No’. If you’ve got some calves, it’s not too late. You can start today by confessing the truth to God, and then saying ‘No’ to all those little calves that want to rule over you.

Quick Bites: Good Things

No matter what the circumstances look like today, remember that good things are in your future. There is an otherworldly goodness available for your yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Hebrews 9:11 (NKJV) “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

Christ came not to condemn, but to give good things. Pick your head up. Good things are your inheritance.

Quick Bites: Uttermost, or It's a Trap

There’s a great scene in Star Wars where this fish looking dude exclaims, “It’s a trap.” The enemy had set a trap for those who dared rebel against the forces of evil and darkness. Our enemy does the same thing.

God could never forgive me of this.
There’s all kinds of variations of that sentence that the enemy tries to bind you with. Maybe it’s just me, but I can start to think that God forgave me of those sins, but not this one. Or, God saved me, but then I did this, so I’ve still got red on my account.

Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV) “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

But I want to remind you that Jesus died, was buried, and ascended to heaven, and He made the way for all your sins to be forgiven. The Uttermost. Every single tiny little bit. Not just some. Not some sins from a specific point in time, or of a certain variety of sin. All your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus when you confess them and ask for forgiveness. Stop living in condemnation. That’s a trap. And you don’t have to fall for those shenanigans.

Quick Bites: Enduring

Honest Confession Time: I’m all about the promises, but I’m not all about enduring to get to them. I want the promise without the pain, reward without the trial, sunshine without the dark times of doubt and questions. I want sunny days and full harvests. The end.

Hebrews 6:15 (NKJV) “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”

But in every hero story, both in literature and in the Bible, suffering comes before the singing, rain comes before the harvest, winter comes before the spring, battle comes before the victory. Abraham had to endure. He endured patiently. Jesus had to endure. King David had to endure. Paul had to endure. Your story is heroic. Choosing light over darkness is a heroic stand, and the seed of all great stories. Your story is a great story, and it ends with unimaginable victory.

Endure. Keep pushing forward. If you can’t push forward, then hold on to what you’ve got and stand. Do whatever it takes to stand with God your Savior. There is a promise on the other end of enduring.

Restart vs Starting All Over, or I Interrupt a Lot

“Stop. Stop the video,” my son instructed his sister. “Now we have to start over from the beginning.” You could hear the exasperation and disappointment in his voice.
“Oh, man. I’m so sorry guys,” I apologized.

My kids were making a video for one of their Youtube channels, and I had just interrupted their scripted scene. Mind you, they’re young and their scripted scene just looked like throwing stuff in the floor and jumping on the couch. I must have interrupted their filming 3 or 4 times. I was the Wreck it Ralph of YouTube recording.

Every time they’d get interrupted, my son would say, “Now we have to start over from the beginning.” It took me a minute before I understood what he meant. They would start their video over from the very beginning of their script every time something unexpected happened. A sound was weird- Start all over. Mom or Dad interrupted- Start all over. Something didn’t go right- Start all over.

Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV) “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

I chimed in, “You don’t have to start over. You can just pick up where you left off, and edit the videos together.”
“Really?” he asked. “Oh, man. That’s so much easier.”

Restarting is much easier than starting all over. Restarting is picking up where you left off. Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that when I sin that I start over from scratch. I thought that’s how sin and forgiveness worked. I could be forgiven, but I thought forgiveness was resetting and starting all over, and all my good works up to that point was blown away. But that’s not how God works. He’s not unjust to forget what you’ve done. Forgiveness is a restart, not a reset.

When forgiveness is a reset, it’s easy to get disheartened like my son was getting, thinking that he had to start all over from the beginning. If you trip and fall in the parking lot at work, you don’t have to go all the way back to the door and start again, right? You get up where you are, dust yourself off, and keep walking to your car. Thank God, forgiveness is a restart. Forgiveness is getting picked up and cleaned up, and starting from where you left off.

Finding Your Purpose In Life: Simple Version

Maybe I’m the only weirdo out there who struggles with “What’s my purpose in life?” What’s that one thing I’m supposed to do? It’s a heavy question and that question can put a lot of pressure on you. If you struggle with the same questions, hopefully the following will help you and take some of the pressure off:

Titus 1:3 (NKJV) “…but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior…”– Emphasis mine
Matthew 25:14-15 (NKJV) “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Emphasis mine

Paul was given his specific purpose from God. On the road to Damascus, Paul had a supernatural experience. It was in that experience that the Lord Himself gave Paul his purpose in life- “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” Acts 9:15. If God has given you a specific task as He did Paul, the answer to ‘What is my purpose or mission in life’ is already answered. Good for you. Go forward and tackle your mission with all you’ve got. Maybe He’s only given you one piece of what to do: “Go there.” Ok, go there and read what follows.

Me- I keep waiting for one of those supernatural ‘This is what I’m supposed to do in life’ experiences. Maybe you’re doing the same thing. The problem is if we sit around waiting for that, we’re going to miss out completely. I think for most of us, or most of the time, we’re given talents, gifts, and abilities, and it’s up to us to make something of them. We scream out to God, “What is my purpose in life?”, and I think He answers, “I’ve given you talents. You show me what your purpose is.”

For me, that was a radical shift in thinking. “What is my purpose” is less a question to God, and more a question to myself. Do an inventory: what are your gifts, talents, and abilities? What are your interests? What do you want to do in life? Use the answers to those questions to answer the question that God is asking: “I’ve given you talents. What is the purpose of your life going to be?”

Quick Bites: Buffered, or Jesus

Most of my posts are a bit long, but I’ve decided to keep this one short and sweet. I may start a series of ‘Short and Sweet’ posts called Quick Bites. We’ll play it by ear. With that being said, here we go:

2 Timothy 1:1-2 (NKJV) “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Timothy 4:22 (NKJV) “The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.”

At the beginning of 2nd Timothy, there is Jesus and grace. At the end of the book, there is Jesus and grace. The whole thing has Jesus and grace as its bookends. That got me thinking: my story is much the same.

For those of us who have believed on His name, behind us and before us we are buffered by Jesus and by grace. It’s the beginning of our story, and it’s the end of our story. It is our current present, our redeemed past, and our sure future. Where Jesus and grace are present, there is hope and life. Enjoy the overflowing life that He brings to you.