A Dull Saw Cutting in the Wrong Place
The Garage of Shalom has significance that goes beyond tools.
I turned back to God because I was suffering the consequences of my own mistakes, not because I cared about his kingdom. I wanted to change–a little–but that wasn’t the main thing that motivated me. Mainly, I felt that I was losing when I should win, and I was tired of it.
It wasn’t all that long–maybe a year–before God made me understand that human beings were ruled by iniquity, and that I needed to rid myself of mine. But I still thought a lot about money and succeeding at the things I wanted to do. I believe I saw cleaning myself up largely as a means toward that end. I didn’t see correction as the end.
I would not say I was a mercenary person. If I were, I would be practicing patent law right now. But change was not my top priority.
What I have found is that the more I focus on internal correction, the more things around me become ordered. They matter less, which may seem odd, but they fall into line anyway.
I had a bunch of tools. I had tried getting into tools in fits and stops since about 1985, and things had really taken off in about 2007. I got a big table saw that year. I got a MIG welder. Before too long I had a lathe, and I was thinking about a mill.
I couldn’t really use these tools, though. I hadn’t laid the groundwork. I didn’t have enough storage. I hadn’t spent enough on accessories and dust collection. I spent money on the relatively glamorous stuff and skimped on the boring things that made it all work.
Over the last year or so, correction itself has become the thing I want most, and suddenly, the garage is coming together.
I fixed my planer so it produces almost no dust. I made new parts for my jointer’s fence and finally connected the dust port correctly. I shimmed up my table saw extension so large parts don’t jam when they slide over it. I ordered new wheels for my drill press and band saw so the defective ones that were on the mobile bases wouldn’t cause me problems. I added a new rolling tool box. I got a proper shop press.
Things are moving right along.
Last night I sat in here watching tool Youtubes. This is probably the best use there is for a television set. The educational potential of the Internet is unlimited. It sure beats slumping on a couch with a giant bag of Cheez Doodles, watching imbeciles pretending to be vampires or superheroes.
The thing I love about this place is the peace, and you can’t have that without order. The floor is relatively clean (and I can see it). There are horizontal surfaces around me which are not completely covered with junk. Almost all of my tools are stored properly. The mess is mostly confined to one small area I call “the devil’s corner.” But that corner looks better and better with time.
It’s really something; sitting in a shop I ordered (with God’s help), having total strangers teach me for nothing. It’s so much better than being in the house, thinking about all the things I would be doing with my tools if only…
For a long time, I have been wary of becoming a person who works ON tools instead of working WITH them, but the truth is, you have to work on the tools before you put them to use. Otherwise, you end up working on them while you use them, and in the process, you waste time, damage the things you work on, and get off-mission. Learning as you go is desirable and unavoidable, but when it makes it impossible for you to do the thing you originally showed up to do, it’s too much.
If I say I am a tool, I invite sophomoric remarks, so I will say that I am an instrument. I was created for a use. I can’t do what I was created to do unless I have been aligned and sharpened and cleaned. If I go right to my mission without preparing myself, I’ll do a terrible job, and I am likely to do more harm than good.
To use tools well, I have to fix the tools before I approach the work, and to accomplish my purpose, I have to be repaired and armed to a sufficient degree before I begin. I don’t have to be perfect, but I have to be serviceable.
This is what Jesus meant when he said we had to take the logs out of our own eyes before trying to take splinters out of other people’s eyes. He wasn’t saying we should not judge people. He was saying that we needed to judge ourselves first, so we would see clearly when helping other people.
The “judge not” crowd doesn’t really care about self-righteousness or love. They have two main motivations. The first is to be excused from the conflict that arises when we stand up for what is right. People want to hang around with their ungodly friends and be accepted, so they want an excuse to chicken out; they don’t want to have to speak when someone else is making a mistake. They crave popularity. The other motivation is a desire to keep sinning. They see salvation as a license to use drugs, engage in every type of sexual sin, and generally lead ungodly lives, and they don’t want that taken away from them. They want God’s approval AND a life of sin.
Avoiding conflict, in and of itself, is not a worthy motivation. It’s cowardice. I know; I’ve done it many times. Clothing it in God’s word is even worse.
We are expected to examine ourselves continually and confess our imperfections to God. If we don’t do this, we will have problems. We will get diseases. Many of us will die. We will be defeated and dominated by ungodly people as a matter of routine. We will be like woodworkers who came to work with dull tools. Useless and weak.
Here is what Paul said:
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
The reason communion is called “communion” is that it is an opportunity to become like God; to have characteristics in common with him. To be one with him. It’s not about salvation. You can’t be one with God if you are ruled by iniquity. You can’t be free of iniquity unless you confess it and ask him to rid you of it. When you take communion, you’re supposed to judge yourself so you can be improved. If you don’t, God will do it for you, and you don’t want that.
Every one of us has a workshop inside him, and we are supposed to put it in order. We are not supposed to do this alone. God does most of the work. Most of our work is humility, honesty, and faith. You will have a hard time finding anyone in the Bible who impressed God by working hard.
The more work you do on your shop, the more you can do with it.
People who aren’t ready for money beg God for money and try to force his hand with moronic prosperity offerings. People who aren’t ready for spouses beg God for them. Women who have no business having babies beg God for children. We don’t spend much time asking God to make us ready for the good things we want. We practice the Miley Cyrus version of Christianity: give me money and power while I’m still a child, so I can destroy myself and become a notorious idiot.
Peace doesn’t come from money or achievement. It doesn’t come from marriage or raising kids. It comes from submission to God. You should put inner correction at the top of your wish list, if you want to receive the things that are on the top of it now. Otherwise, they will be curses to you.
I look forward to seeing the good things that come from accepting correction, but what I really want is the correction itself. If I have that, my other needs will be taken care of, because I will be the kind of person God can trust with good things.
If you look at scripture, you will find that this advice lines up with it, so quit sending money to TV preachers and practicing positive thinking. Those things don’t work in the long run. Do what God actually told us to do. That ought to work, shouldn’t it?
My church is about to rent a new building. I think it’s a terrible idea. A big house in Miami will have an electric bill of four to five hundred dollars a month. It costs money to mow grass and trim hedges. Everything costs money. The new church is probably as large as five big houses, and our attendance is getting smaller. I know of a big family that won’t be with us much longer. Where will the cash come from? You don’t move to a bigger building when attendance is shrinking. Someone has to pay for it.
On top of that, renting is slavery. You’re paying someone else’s mortgage. You’re buying someone else a building. You can’t leave. You can’t stop paying. You serve the landlord and his property manager.
People think mortgages are unavoidable. Is that true? Does that sound like faith? Is God unable to give us money to buy things outright? Perry Stone has a huge ministry, and he pays for things up front. Is his God better than yours?
I know an excuse when I hear one. A lease is better than nothing, but it is far from optimal, and it should be considered a sign that you’re doing something wrong.
We want the big building, but we don’t want to listen to correction. The music needs to be turned down. The services are too long. There isn’t nearly enough prayer. Very few people are praying in tongues. There is no discernment. There is no self-judgment. We have no foundation, but we think we can build a big temple.
Yesterday we were told that we will have to give more. Actually, we don’t have to do anything. And we can’t. Most people in the church are poor, and because they accept the prosperity gospel instead of God’s keys to prosperity, many are going to stay poor. How are they going to pay a four-figure electricity bill plus rent plus salaries? We have services where about forty adults show up. Something like forty percent of the church’s most devoted volunteers tithe. Can sixteen or twenty people of low to moderate income support a big building?
We don’t have the kind of gifted speakers who can pack churches. We don’t have a music team that can keep people happy for ninety minutes. A churchgoer may not mind listening to certain speakers with rare talents talk for two hours, but we don’t have anyone like that. Our music team doesn’t rehearse much, so, to be brutally honest, they’re doing a C job, and the volume level gives people headaches and tinnitus. We don’t examine ourselves, so we keep doing things that hurt attendance. But somehow we expect people to fill a new church. They’re not filling the one we have!
Is that unbelief? No, it’s honesty and clarity. Yes, Moses and the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea when things looked impossible, but they didn’t jump in on their own initiative. They waited for God to send them. You can’t expect God to support you when you’re wandering around in a place where he never sent you.
Imagine what would have happened had Paul disobeyed the Holy Spirit and gone into Asia Minor to teach. He probably would have been tortured to death, and no one would have been converted. You can’t draft your own mission. It doesn’t work that way.
We don’t examine ourselves, so we’re walking into a trap. Maybe God will pull us out of it in spite of ourselves, but I almost hope not, because that would encourage us to continue being proud and unteachable in the future. If you want to hurt a wino, don’t drive past him with your windows up. Pull over and give him a hundred dollars. He’ll be lucky if he survives the night.
I can’t reach everyone. Maybe I can reach you. I know it will pay off for you. It’s paying off for me.