Rescuing Gideon 3

This is the third l blog about the story of how God rescued Gideon in Judges, Chapter 6.  We left off with Gideon telling God how he cannot be the person to save Israel and with God letting him know that, indeed, even though Gideon may not be enough, Yashuea was most certainly up for a rescue.

Even after God confirms that he wants Gideon to do this thing, Gideon is still uncertain, so he sets up a couple of fleeces to make sure.  Now, a fleece, by the dictionary definition, is the coat of a sheep. But in Biblical text, a fleece becomes something of a test you do and pray over to God that will confirm that what you are “hearing” from God is actually from him.

This concept actually comes from this story about Gideon.  Gideon wanted to be sure he was getting direction from God.  So many lives at stake; it is not difficult to understand that he wanted to be sure God was in it.

So he tells God he wants a sign (v. 17).  He gets an offering for God that consists of goat meat, bread without yeast, and broth from the meat.  Remember, the angel is still there waiting for him, and he tells Gideon to place the meat and bread on a rock.  The angel touches the meat and bread with his staff and the rock lights on fire, consuming the bread and meat.  It is at this point that Gideon finally realizes the man with the staff is, in fact, an angel,  and he becomes terrified with the realization.

I have to pause here, because at this point we see Gideon’s cause for hesitation.  All this time he does not know who the stranger talking to him is.  He could be some kind of nut job.  He could be the enemy.  Who knows?!  So, Gideon realizes, finally, who the stranger is, and that shifts his reality a bit.  I know it would mine!  He is terrified with the realization.

The angel tells him not to be afraid and then gives him direction on tearing down the alter to Baal Gideon’s father has, and when Gideon has torn down their idol, Israel, or what I like to call “the villagers” send out a lynch mob to kill Gideon.   You can read further about that part of the story in verses 15-31.

Meanwhile, the Midianites, Amaelekites, and other eastern peoples join forces and head over the Jordan to the Valley of Jezreel, no doubt preparing for mischief.  Now, remember there were so many of them they are described as “thick as locusts,”  And this is where things start to get interesting.

The term “fleece” takes on a new meaning, because Gideon is still not sure that it is God wanting him to do this big thing, so he puts a wool fleece on the threshing floor and says, “if the dew is only on the fleece and all the ground is dry [in the morning], then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but at this point in the story I’m thinking, “Buddy, God has been pretty patient with you.  Think maybe you should just SHUT UP, and do?”  I mean, God’s patience MUST be running a little thin, right?

Nope.  God does the thing Gideon proposes, and the next morning the dew is only on the fleece while the ground around it is dry.  STILL, Gideon is not sure, so he says in verse 30, “Do not be angry with me.  let me make just one more request…This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”  No surprise there that he is asking God’s patience.  Even he knows he is pushing it, but he is obviously driven by his need for certainty, and I have to admire his tenacity.  How many times do we give up rather than make sure?  How many times do we go with what is easiest rather than persevering with really knowing for sure what Abba wants us to do before we act?

Next morning the fleece is dry while all the ground around it is covered in dew.  At this point, Gideon locks and loads on this whole concept, and he steps out to do what God wants him to do.  So we have a new definition and process for making sure direction comes from God, and we have a new leader.  But what else is present here?

God is imminently more patient with us than we are with ourselves and with others.  He is willing to do whatever it takes to convince us that we are truly the ones he has chosen for whatever task he has asked us to take on.

AND

He is so gracious about it.  He will let US ask HIM to perform components of a fleece that will show us that he is speaking or that the direction we need to go is, in fact, the direction he wants us to go.  Now there are some things about fleeces that can cause us problems.  First of all, we do not really need them, because if we are God’s children in relationship with him, we have the Holy Spirit to direct us.  Gideon did not have the Holy Spirit, because Jesus had not come yet, paid the price for our sins with his life, the resurrection had not occurred, nor the ascension, and Jesus had not yet sent the Holy Spirit.

We have the Holly Spirit IN us as his children, so we can speak directly to him and our spirit can “hear” him speak to us.  In throwing out fleeces, we run the risk of not relying on his “voice” in our lives and in not trusting him to show us and walk us through our uncertainties.  This is fundamental to our growth and our journey.  We must learn to consult God and then listen for his direction.  That is something a fleece can negate.

Also, it is important if you feel you are hearing the Holy Spirit speak to you and you want to confirm with a fleece, that you are not biasing a fleece.  In doing the fleeces he did, Gideon had nothing to gain by the actual fleece process.  So he ran a test on something completely unrelated to the situation he was in.  The dew on the wool or on the ground had absolutely nothing to do with him taking on Israel’s enemies.  Sometimes when we do fleeces we run the risk of stacking the deck, so to speak, so that we benefit somehow in the process and the outcome of the fleece becomes not about confirmation, but us gaining something.

Finally, I think that this part of the story is impactful, at least for me, because it shows me yet another part of God’s nature.  I can see his love for Gideon in this section and his understanding of Gideon’s hesitation.  I didn’t mention in the above, but in the scripture, which I encourage you to go read for yourself to get every morsel, Gideon asks the stranger to wait while he goes and get the meat and bread.  So the angel is standing for a long time.

Gideon has to go get the goat, kill it.  Make bread, cook it.  All this time the angel is standing there waiting to indulge Gideon’s battle with his inadequacies and misgivings.  There was a time when I would have struggled with god doing such a thing, but I have seen him do it for me over and over.  I’m often rather obtuse, and so often though I see my cup runneth over, I still question him on whether or not anything is in it.

We are human beings.  God knows this.  He made us.  We are finite.  He knows this, so he knows what we have to start with and what he has to work with.  The thing that we need to remember is that God is not human.  We cannot understand his thoughts or ways unless he gives us that understanding.  He is not finite.  He is infinite, and we must work to not forget that.  We only need know he is the beginning and the end, so we will never out tap his resources.

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Rescuing Gideon 2

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So if you have been reading my blogs (and thank you very much), you will have read Rescuing Gideon.  The story of Gideon is so good!  There are so many life-applicable truths within!

I spoke in my last blog about accountability.  Gideon was so ready to say to God, “How could you abandon us like this!!!”  I can hear him, wailing the sentence in desperation. That’s most likely because I have heard myself doing the same.  But the truth of the matter was that Israel was suffering the consequences of their actions.  God had told them, “Don’t worship any other god before me,” and they didn’t listen.

I have heard this come from people so often, and once again I must cop to the fact that I have done so as well.  I try to do my own thing. I make decisions that either I haven’t consulted God on or have simply thumbed my nose at him when he told me to go a different route.  And then I rail at the outcome.  “God how could you let this happen to me?”

Dontcha love me, Abba?

And the answer is never changing.  “I love you with an everlasting love.”  But it’s the second part that humbles me. “Therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (Jeremiah 31:3 ET).  And the reason it humbles me is because I know he is saying he is faithful in spite of the fact that I have not been faithful to him.

There have been many times in the past when I have stepped outside of God’s will for my life; times when I have willfully and purposefully disobeyed.  And he has ever been faithful when I have come back.  He has loved me with an everlasting love.

As he loves you.

But here is the kicker.  When I disobey; when I go off on a trail of my own making, there is grace and forgiveness just for me when I cry for help.  BUT there are also consequences.  There are ramifications for my willfulness, not because God wants to punish me, but because he has tried to protect me from that which would render those consequences.  But he isn’t going to force me.  I am not a hostage.

You have heard of cause and effect, right?  Step back from your life for a moment and look at where it is at right now.  Whatever is going on didn’t just happen to you.  Where your life is right now is a result of a web of choices made over time by you and those in your life who have impacted you.  Good.  Bad. They are effects of a decision somewhere that caused them.

And that is what Israel refused to lock and load on.  They did it over an over again.  They refused to see that the bad things weren’t just happening to them.  Their history is a record set on repeat.  Over and over the same scenario played and is still playing.  They cry out to Yashuea.  He rescues them.  He tells them to love him over everything else.  They get lazy, selfish, and indulgent.  They replace him with idols.  He warns them of the consequences of their actions, and they choose to ignore Him.  Back to bondage.

Rinse and repeat.

And here is the thing.  We do the same thing.  I do the same thing.  Gideon just said what everyone was thinking.

And what did God do?  He gave the thing perhaps humans crave most in times of crises.  He gave Gideon something to do.  He gave him a plan of action.

God tells him, (some theologians believe it was actually Jesus who came and sat under the tree and spoke to Gideon because of the way the text is presented) “Go in the strength you have, and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”

Whoa.

God puts the responsibility back to Gideon.  He doesn’t waste time mincing words.  He just tells him, “Go get it.”

Gideon, after lamenting to God; after letting God know how much he had failed Israel (remember this is from my perspective of Gideon’s perspective), God gives him a solution and turns it back to Gideon.  If I were writing the dialogue I might insert here, “You are so sure I abandoned you?  Let me fix that.  I will send YOU.”

And Gideon…

Well maybe he didn’t like that thought so much.  Again if I were writing the dialogue based on Gideon’s thoughts, I would imagine him thinking, “Whoa.  Wait a second.  I was just asking for help and letting you know where you failed us.  I never planned on you sending me.  That is so not gonna work…”

What the scripture actually states in verse 15 is a list Gideon presents to God of why he is not the one to go.  Reminds me a lot of what Moses said to God.  And it reminds me a lot of things I have said to God.  “How can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in  Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord says, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” (verse 16)

This is a beautiful piece of the story.  Do you see it?  This is ancient story, applicable to right now.

How many times have we, you, me, cried out to God, and in hubris and desperation, have combined a cry for help with an accusation.  And God being, well, God, doesn’t grab us by the throat (although I confess he has had to grab me a time or two as I tend to be rather stupid).  He just, in one action or statement, presents us with a solution.

But here is what Gideon missed.

God gave him a solution and he also empowered him.  “Am I not sending you?”(v. 14)  This is huge.  When the God of the universe says, “Am I not sending you,” I assure you, the question is rhetorical.  He is not asking who is doing the sending.  He is saying, “You have all you need because I am sending you.”

Makes the hair stand up on my arms, frankly, because I know for a fact he has done the same with me, and I have missed it every stinking time.  There was power in that statement.  There was the power of the God of every generation packed in that statement.  The power of a God who decides the final outcome.

And here is where I leave you for this missive…

There is a reason Gideon’s story is in God’s Word.  There is a reason your story is in the world.  God has a plan for you.  In spite of you.  He is not limited by anything finite.

And neither are you.

We are who we allow God to make us.  And no matter how many times we “rinse and repeat” our scenario before we realize that obedience is freedom and God has committed to loving us eternally with a faithfulness that outlasts our disobedience, He never removes his commitment to grow us in him.

 

Rescuing Gideon

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The other day I was chatting with a friend about various and sundry spiritual topics, and as the conversation developed, I mentioned Naaman and then Gideon.  We were talking about how God sometimes requires us to do things that fly in the face of our logic, and I mentioned both Naaman and Gideon as examples of individuals from whom God required an action that was completely illogical.  Naaman had to dunk in the Jordan to get rid of leprosy, and Gideon had to cull even further an army that started out too small for the enemy numbers they were facing.

My friend just sat and stared blankly at me.  I said, “You do not know who Naaman and Gideon are?”  He shook his head.  Now, ordinarily I would not expect a person to know these two characters from the Bible, but this man is a longtime  Christian.  He is active in his church.  I would venture to go so far as to call him a pillar in his church.

This conversation disturbed me, and I have had it sitting at the back of my thoughts poking me every time I would attempt to erase it with more current events.  The question that is linked to it is, “If he does not know who these men are, what has he been studying?  These are important stories in the Old Testament.  Any person who has spent time in the Word will have come across at least Gideon who is mentioned not only in the Old but in the New Testament as well.

I guess the reason I have been so burdened by this is that I am seeing a disturbing progression in our Christian culture.  We are moving away from the Word of God.  We are spending far too much time listening to speakers pontificate about the subjects of “Godliness” and far too little time actually delving into God’s Word.

I am not knocking people who speak and preach, as long as they are preaching the Word of God.  But in a time when we are encountering a culture completely single-minded in its pursuit of happiness, which make no mistake, is the pursuit of self wrapped in a shiny new package, we need something concrete to which we can compare all things of the world, as well as the reminder that this life is not actually all about us.

I have been a counselor for around 20 years, and the thing I hear that disturbs me most, comes from Christians, and it blows my mind, is this idea that “God did this to me.”  I have sat trying very hard to keep my jaw from dropping as individuals tell me about their lives and the choices they have made then end with, “And I have been very angry at God for doing this and allowing this to happen to me.”

I sit there and think, “God please tell me I do not say this.  Please tell me I do not sit and blame you for the choices I have made, and more specifically, blame you when the crappy choices I have made do not pan out.”

We are losing our prayer warriors.  They are our parent’s generation.  They are also the ones who have delved into the Word of God, and if we don’t strap on some depth and jump into what God says…

And if we continue to make horrible choices for our lives outside of God’s will for us, and then blame Him when things don’t go the way we planned…

We are in big big trouble, folks.

It is not enough to say, “I am a Christian.”  It is not enough to say, “I believe in God.” If that is all we have, we will fail.  We will fail ourselves, our children, and we will fail God. We cannot continue to ride the disciplines of the generation before us.  And I guess that is what is really bothering me.

As children of God we are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be accountable (Romans 14:12).  We are not expected to work our way to heaven, but we are expected to give our lives to God to do with as he sees fit (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  We are not expected to understand why God does what he does (Isaiah 55:8), but we are expected to obey (2 Corinthians 10:5).  And we are not expected to know everything, but we are expected to know what is available, and that is the Word of God (Luke 11:28, Ephesians 6:17, 2 Timothy 3: 16-17, Hebrews 4:12).

I have heard people talk about how they can’t get into the Bible, because after all, it has changed so much, and we really can’t know that it is God breathed.  I tend to not honor that statement with a response simply because any person who is diligently seeking Him, God will reward (Hebrews 11), and if we are actually reading the Word it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).

I’m going to be doing a couple of blogs on Gideon, not just because of my conversation with my friend who did not know who Gideon was, but because Gideon is a Hall of Famer.  He is listed from Hebrews 11, which is called the Faith Hall of Fame.

The story takes place in Judges Chapter 6. Israel has once again moved away from God and is doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord” (v.1).  So God does what only He can do.  He says, “Fine.  You want to do your own thing and disobey me, go ahead.”  And he hands them over to the Midianites for 7 years.

Now the Midianites were bad dudes.  They were so oppressive that the Israelites hid from them in caves.  And even Israels’ crops were destroyed by these guys along with the Amalekites and other eastern peoples.  They destroyed everything in their path like locusts.

When I think of the Midianites I get a flash of an image from Mad Max with all these mean and nasty people on motorcycles getting ready to tear up anything in their path (though, of course motorcycles did not exist back then, so it would have been on camels).  The Word says there were so many it was impossible to count and they left not a single beast of Israel’s alive.

So Israel was so tormented, they cried out to God.  Took them 7 years, but they finally wore down and called for help.  God heard them, as he always does, and he sends a messenger to tell them, “Hey, I am God.  I am Yashuea, your rescuer, and I have done all these things for you.  I told you to worship me and not the god of the Amorites, but you didn’t listen!”

Then he sends an angel to speak with Gideon, who is in the process of threshing wheat in a wine press, because to do so in the open would leave him open for an attack.  I think it interesting that the angel just sits down under a tree.  I picture him sitting there watching Gideon work.  And then he says in verse 12, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Now, before we continue I just have to ponder this a minute.  An angel appears and sits down under a tree, no doubt in the shade.  He is just hanging out watching Gideon sweat and toil, and I wonder if Gideon feels someone watching him and looks up.  This big dude (I have seen angels, and I know they are huge), no doubt in disguise of some sort, or he would have scared the crap out of Gideon, says, “Hey the Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  And what does Gideon say….?

“If the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?”  Sound familiar?

Seriously, I have to wonder about this exchange.  I mean, did Gideon just not know with whom he was conversing?  And then he says, “How could the Lord abandon us?” (My paraphrase).  That took a lot of nerve.  Or maybe just a despair and frustration cocktail.

Anyway, he certainly said what was on his mind, and we see a lack of accountability was alive and well back then.  I have heard similar commentary from others, and from myself.  God always reminds me, as he did Israel, that He has not gotten me into the pickle I am in.  My choices have gotten me where I am.  It can be as simple as moving to a place where I am unhappy, and realizing that I never consulted him on whether or not HE would like me to make the move.

Been there.  Done that.

Or it can be the choice of partner.  Having been a hairstylist for many years, I have heard countless women lament their marriages and blame God for the fact that the marriage did not work out.  When if fact, God did not choose that partner, the woman lamenting the marriage did!  And when things don’t work out it’s, “How could God do this to me!”

My response is, “God didn’t do this to you, honey.  You did it to yourself, and now you want God to make it like it was his perfect choice for you.  God is not a genie.  He is the God of the Universe.  He is Yahweh.  He is the beginning and the end.  And he is also

Yashuea, the Rescuer.

He loves us so much. He loves us with a love that will not end (Jeremiah 31:3).  He WILL rescue us, but we must own the consequences of our actions, and we must not do it our way, as Gideon will find out.  I suspect, having been sifted myself, that part of the complication for Gideon’s process, was to develop him, to grow him, and that was as important to God as rescuing Israel.

 

 

Faith and Promises

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I believe I mentioned in a past blog that I have been working on memorizing Hebrews 11.  This week I have completed my goal.  40 verses.  And through the process, I have gained intangibles that I believe will produce fruit for the rest of my life.

For one thing, this one chapter has cause me to consider the application of faith not just in my own journey but in the journeys of those mentioned in the text.  Abraham, Enoch, Moses, Noah, Joseph, Abel, Isaac, Rahab, Sarah, Jacob, and many more.  A lot of big hitters in that text.  And those whose journeys were specifically mentioned had a couple things in common.

They did what was asked of them, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time.  They were told to build an ark, move to a land  that was promised but that they had no possession over, sacrifice their only offspring through whom their promised descendants were supposed to be reckoned…

And they never received the promises made them in their lifetimes.

Cogitate on that for a minute.

“They were stoned, sawed in two; their lives were taken by the sword; they went about in  sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated-the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in the deserts and mountains, in caves and in holes in the ground.  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised them.”  Hebrews 11:37-39

I won’t lie.  This depresses me a bit.

But  it also humbles me to the core.  Who am I to complain about the inconveniences in my life when these people experienced all horrible things to provide the experience of faith for their offspring?

Verse 40 renders explanation.  “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

What does that mean?

I looked it up in a the Amplified version, as I had been doing my memorizing in the NIV.  And it says for verses 39 and 40, ” And all of these, though they had divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in mind for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them]”.

Ok, so this gives a more expanded concept, and it reminds me that God doesn’t see the timeline JUST in order.  He sees it in ALL order.  Ever looked at something from the front and thought that was all there was to it, but then when you took a step to the right or left you realized there was much more dimension than what you originally saw?

I apply this concept to Hebrews 11.  These people and what they lived look to me (from the front view) as birth, life, and death.  They were born.  They lived and received promise, they walked out their faith, and then they died before receiving what was promised.  To that construct, the lack of fulfilled promises is discouraging to me.  But when I step a bit to the side, I can begin to wrap my head around the concept that God’s perspective is not only linear, and the complete fulfilled promise was that we all partake of His promise of everlasting life.  Not only that, but I can see that God, back when He was directing these saints, had me in mind…

and you.

Abraham and Sarah’s promise that their descendants would be numerous as the stars and grains of sand is still being fulfilled.  Had Abraham and Sarah not had faith that God WOULD fulfill the promise he made, we would not be reaping the benefits of their faithfulness now.  What about all of the saints referenced in this text?   They were given promises that are still, today, being played out.  The deaths of those who were fighting for the Gospel to reach all peoples were not in vain.  The promises are still being walked out.  And those promises have become ours.

Another thought occurred as I contemplated this.  If God were to say to Abraham, “Hey, how about I send you back to where you were in the promised land, and instead of coming home at the point of death, you can just hang on there until I finish fulfilling the promise I made you?”

I’m guessing Abraham would be like, “Uh, well, if it’s all the same to you, Yashuea, I will stay here in heaven with You.  I’m good.” Why in the world would he want to stick around for the fulfillment of a promise, when he had the option of heaven.  And ultimately, heaven really is the promise fulfilled for those who serve God, right?

So in thinking this way, I have to rethink my understanding of my Dad’s promises to me.  Sometimes He makes me promises that He fulfills in my life immediately.  His Word houses promises throughout that I find occurring in real time in my life.  “I will never leave you or forsake you,”(Hebrews 13:5) is one that comes to mind.  That is a promise he renews each day I’m alive and I find it answered as I drift off to sleep every night.

But there are other promises that are, perhaps, generational.  And they take much time. I truly believe that the promises given the saints in Hebrews 11 are now mine, and every generation of saints hands off the baton to the next.  We all share in those big monumental promises of God.  We all contribute.  We run our race, and we have faith that even if we do not see the end result, God will not waste us.  He will use us for the fulfillment of promises. And that is where faith becomes very active for us.

Because we are so finite, we tend to think the best promises are the ones that we see fulfilled in our lives. They are wonderful, and God loves to give to us, but the promises that matter the most are those we contribute to, I think, rather than the ones we see only for ourselves.

If you have not spend time memorizing scripture, I encourage you to do so.  Just a verse at a time.  It will have a profound impact on your walk that will ripple throughout the moments in your journey.  This section of scripture has been a game changer for me.  It is massive in warfare.  It has given me hope.  It has bolstered my endurance.  It has expanded my theology, and it will continue to educate me long after I move on to other scripture.

 

 

Got Doubt?

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“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (My accent)

So Thomas.

Thomas is perhaps best defined by his interaction with Jesus at the end of John 20.  Like Peter, Thomas strikes me as an individual who tended to live his passions on the outside of himself.  He seems to me to be one in the group who tended to speak what others were thinking.  However, in this scenario, the others in the group had an advantage, as they had seen Jesus when he appeared after the resurrection.  Thomas had not been present.

So one can understand Thomas might be demanding visual proof that the others did not.  They had already had it!

The commentary I read about Thomas pointed out something I found very apt.  It stated that doubt was not a way of life for Thomas; meaning, it was not his state of being. We see that when Jesus tells the disciples his life is in danger and Thomas says in Luke 11:16, “Let’s also go, that way we may die with him.”

No.  Doubt, for Thomas, was the beginning part of his process for making decisions.  Doubt allowed him the option to question things.  And that is part of the wonderful ability God gives his children to reckon the experiences of life with Him, learning about Him in their own stories.

I have many people in my life who are much wiser about theology and, I would venture to surmise, are far more understanding about the ways of God.  I am grateful for their input into my life, as they have helped grow me dimensionally.  However, I am not interested in having the same walk my siblings or my parents have with God.  My journey is different from theirs, and I have never been a person who enjoys going along with a crowd just to be part of something.  I want the experiences in my life to be real and to have meaning.  Otherwise I don’t see the value in them.  And if I have to have a God who can only be defined by someone else for me…

Then quite frankly, I won’t have a whole lot of respect for Him.  See, I am a doubter.  Straight up.  I question everything.  And a God who cannot handle my questions is really no God at all, at least not one I can count on to weather the storms in life.

I have looked death in the face too many times and have had to do it alone every time.  So  to have to depend on someone else to define for me who God, is unrealistic.  And to be honest, He has shown himself in such rugged, searing ways to me while I was hanging over a cliff of one type or another, that I would not suggest someone who has not experienced a lifelong battle with mental illness must experience Him in the same way.  The rescue for me will be different than the next person.

I think the place where people get hung up in the scenario with Jesus is when Jesus says in verse 29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Does this statement negate the fact that Jesus loved Thomas so much he made a point of going to him and giving Thomas the exact proof Thomas needed to put a period at the end of the sentence rather than a question mark?

There is lots of room for opposing views about this text.  You must ask God what he would have YOU get from the story.  That is the living part of the the process of reading God’s Word and asking him to breath through it into your own life.  For my part, I can rather easily see the admonishment.  I am not knocking established church structures by an means when I say what I’m about to say next.

I grew up in a church setting.  I have the solid understanding of the workings of Christianity due to that upbringing.  I think that it is easy to blame a church for making us too “religious” or “indoctrinated,” when the fact is that with a church body it is more likely we become lazy and sedentary, like we are being chauffeured through our journey rather than being an active part of the adventure.  What I found some years ago was that if I did not question things; if I accepted someone else’s teaching without asking God about its value in my life, I became susceptible to being disillusioned.

As a child I was instructed in church about Thomas and how bad it was to doubt.  And I carried that around with me my whole life.  Thomas was a bit of a loser because he doubted and did not receive blessing because he did not believe without seeing. That was my inherent understanding of this story.

I have come to realize through my own journey of doubt and struggling with belief, not with believing that God is real, as I have always known that.  No, the struggle has been in believing the second part of the scenario with Jesus and Thomas.

I struggle with believing that when I am not measuring up; when I am not believing without seeing, that He still loves me and that His blessing is waiting for me.  He comes to me in a way He knows only I will understand and shows me the thing about Himself I need to believe.

The end goal is to believe automatically without having to see.  When we can do that we are far more prepared to face the battles coming our way.  We are able to allow God to work swiftly and mightily in our lives, but that does not mean we will not be blessed if it takes us longer to get it.  The walk is about trusting God so much we immediately step from our precipice of doubt off into belief without the stuttering transition that requires proof.

I have been memorizing Hebrews 11.  I am just a few verses shy of having that goal accomplished.  I cannot tell you how much God has used that section of scripture in my life over the past few months.  I have learned, for myself, that the scripture is a sword set aflame by the Holy Spirit.

I tested it.  I know it to be true.

I doubted.  I asked, and God sent this process for me to learn.

Had I believed from the start, I think the blessings would have come sooner, but they are not diminished by my doubt.  My understanding of God has changed fundamentally because of what I have learned through my doubt.  I have come not to see him as “The Father,” some stern being, brandishing a flaming torch and a big stick.  I have come to see Him as my beloved parent.  He is my Abba, Yashuea, my Rescuer.  I never would have learned who He is in me and for me had I not asked questions.

Thomas is a character who was so important he ended up being encapsulated in the longest standing text, ever.  There is a reason for that, and I do not believe it was just to define him as “Doubting Thomas.”  He was just as complex and dedicated as the other disciples, but he did struggle, it seems, with reconciling the tangible with the intangible, believing without seeing.  I have no doubt the lessons Thomas learned, once learned, became so concrete they could not be moved from his life with a sledge hammer.

I see myself in the story of this man, and I find I want to defend him.  But he does not need me to defend his life.  Even his death attests to a life lived so completely in Christ.  He was stabbed with a spear in India while establishing a church.  My goal is to remember that doubting is valuable for anything the world would throw at me, and unnecessary for that which Yashuea would.

 

 

Blessed Is She

blessed-in-believing-1024x749

 

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

Luke 1:45

Here is what is cool about this quote…it could be spoken from three perspectives.

The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah begins in Luke 1.  Picture it, Zechariah finally gets his opportunity to do the thing he has been trained to do-to go in and stir the incense in the Holy Place in the Temple.  The scripture says he was an old man, as Elizabeth was an old woman.  There were so many priests that were trained to do this act that Zechariah most likely got only one shot in a life time of preparation and waiting.  He goes in, and low and behold the Angel Gabriel is standing there to deliver a message.

Gabriel tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a baby, and not just any baby.  We know the impact John the Baptist had on the world with his life.  And Zechariah is told by Gabriel that John can never take anything into his body that alters his functioning state because John is going to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I am guessing that being so filled will cause him to exhibit behavior that will make him look drunk.  Interesting, eh?

So Zechariah says, “Are you sure?  Cuz I’m old and so is Elizabeth.”  I wonder if Gabriel was surprised at Zechariah’s response.  I mean here is the Angel that “stands in the presence of God,” taking time out from doing so to be sent to give this message, and this little old man is questioning his message.  So Gabriel tells Zechariah he won’t be able to speak until the baby is born.

That’ll fix him.  And I wonder why God has not done so with me.  I have questioned his instructions so many times I can’t count them.  The arrogance in questioning an angel with a message from God was dealt with in silence.  What about my arrogance?

And we come to another detail in the story I find fascinating.  I very seriously doubt that the prayer to have a child was on either Zechariah’s or Elizabeth’s lips that day.  I mean that ship had sailed, right?  They were old.  And that is rather confirmed when Zechariah questioned Gabriel.  So what does that tell you?

I don’t know about you, but that tells me that God does not forget our prayers.  And only He is capable of answering them at the right time, even if we have given up, or physical realities dictate different.

There is so much more in this story that is beautiful and profound.  But I want to jump ahead to Mary who, pregnant with Jesus, visits Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s child jumps in the womb when he encounters the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.  I love that.  It’s amazing to think of what that moment must have been like.

And then we get to the scripture I quoted at the beginning of this post.  “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”  We know from the scripture that it is Mary Elizabeth is talking about.  At least it seems that way when you read it, but maybe Elizabeth was talking about herself.  Read it again with that perspective in mind.  Then it becomes a testimony doesn’t it?

And then there is one more perspective from which to look at this verse.

When I got to this page in my Bible, there is a little notation next to this verse I wrote far enough back I can’t remember doing it.  It says, “That’s me!”

So let’s look at it as a promise for us.  “Blessed is (your name) who has believed that what the Lord has said to (your name) will be accomplished.”

I will be chewing on this verse this week.  I have been warned about a stronghold of discouragement that is so easily implemented as a way of seeing life, and make no mistake- it is of the devil.  I struggle with the three D’s, Despair, Discouragement, Disillusionment on a daily basis because I have mental illness that has me on a natural course of life that resembles the visual landscape of a Tim Burton movie.  So the danger of the devil getting me to buy into a stronghold in one of these areas is very real.

I am struggling in a job that does not fulfill me intellectually, and that is something I am mourning on a daily basis.  For now, the doors continue to close on other options.  So what does that mean?  I know within myself, I am not able to affect something I am not encountering to my core.  A wrestler trained to go to ground with tactics will not do well in a boxing match, and that is pretty much my daily encounter.  So, I am asking over and over, “Is today the day, Abba?”

The bottom line, though, is that if He needs me to box when I’m trained specifically to wrestle, I will do it.  I am doing it, and I’m just praying His grace covers all my shortcomings, for they are many.  And I look at this story and I know He still has my prayer; the one I prayed to do the passion of my heart.  And I know that I am blessed when I believe that what He promises me, He WILL work in my life.  It may be a day when I am not even thinking about it.  I may be a day when I have given up on that prayer ever being answered.

Do you believe that what He promise, He will fulfill?  “Blessed is she who believes that what the Lord says to her will be accomplished!”

Out of the Boat

I have been thinking of the story of Peter and his attempt to walk to Jesus.  No biggie, except the scenario was happening on water.  I have heard Peter criticized for not making it to Jesus.  He sees Jesus and says, “Hey, I want to come to you,” and Jesus says, “C’mon!”

So Peter climbs out of the boat onto the water, and starts moving toward Jesus.  Then he looks down is realizes, “Hey, I’m walking on water,” and down he goes.

So here is what gets me.  Why look at Peter and say he looked away and didn’t have enough faith.  I know it’s because Jesus says to him, “Oh ye of little faith,” as he is pulling him out of the water, and you can’t argue with the fact that he didn’t make it to his destination because he lost focus but thing is that he was the only one who got out of the boat!

I imagine the scenario.  It’s dark.  The boat is being tossed around on rather unfriendly waves, and suddenly the moon shines on the water and there is a figure walking on the water towards them.  I don’t know about you, but that is pretty creepy!

So they realize it is Jesus and Peter say, “I want to come to you,” and so he climbs out of the boat and goes for it while the rest of the group crouches in the boat.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I have rather often stayed in the boat, and I have always admired Peter for going for it.  He had a tendency to do that, and rather often paid the price, but I think it so interesting that Jesus didn’t try to change that about him.  He just tempered it.  Peter went on the be huge in the world of Gospel spreading.

So here is what I take away from this story every time I read it…

Get. Out. Of. The. Boat.

Get out of the boat.

Test your faith.  Explore it.  Embrace it.  But don’t let anyone define for you how much you have to have before you can walk to Jesus.  Because He will always catch you.  His hands never slip when they grasp you. And this world has enough people just sitting in the boat watching.

Let’s go walk on some water.