Drift Wood

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Never fails.  I set a goal to blog every week, and some big life thing happens that seems to stretch out forever.  It has, yet again, been two weeks, and I have not posted.  So, I endeavor to do so now!

I mentioned in past blogs that I had memorized Hebrews 11.  I finished it before 2016 ended, which was my goal.  Since then I have been seeking where to go next for memory work.  It’s not like there aren’t a lot of options, but I want what is best for me right now.

I expect I will head into James.  It is a short book, and there is so much in it on how to live, that I think it is just a MUST.

For this week, however, I am working on Hebrews 12:1-2.

In recent past, I quit my job and am still moving.  I never do one thing at a time.  Change comes as a tidal wave for me, or it doesn’t come at all.  I have been on automatic pilot, as a result, and I know God is okay with that.  There have been many times in my life where I was simply riding the waves, not really exploring anything that would deepen my walk, and I know that God gives such seasons of grace for us to just survive and lean on him, sheltered in his wings.

At such times, I have a vision of myself on a piece of drift wood, passed out, as I ride the crest and fall of every wave.  I am so thankful for the drift wood, which is God’s grace and protection; the shadow of his wings to use another image.

Now, however, I am being called back to exploration.  Time is past for automatic pilot, and it is time to re-engage in God’s word, as it is so very powerful, and soldiers do not advance without their armor and their weapons.  That would just be stupid right?  I know that his word is mightier than any sword.

12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Yet how many times do we head out into the things of the world without all our spiritual gear?  And then we wonder what the heck happened.  Why did I get hit?  Why wasn’t I effective?  God, where are you and why weren’t you there?

The Bible says he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  So what happens?  Well, we are running off to battle every day, missing our gear.  If you do not have your helmet on, you might easily take a head wound.  No breastplate, and you will likely receive a chest wound.  If you are not carrying your sword, which is truth that can only come from the word of God and his enlightenment through it, you are not going to be able to defend yourself.

It kills me the number of Christians who are committed to God, yet never read his word.  But, for many years, I was one of those people.

I think it intimidated me.

I also think it overwhelmed me.

I have learned some things in working with God’s word that help.  The first thing I do is pray that God will give me insight into what I am reading.  Sometimes I go to the stories of the Bible.  There are so many.  I grab a name like, say, Samuel, look it up (if I don’t know where to find him) in the back of my Bible, and go read about this person.  I have also started memorizing scripture, as it gives me a solid reference point.  I have also found that recall for scripture is much quicker when I have it memorized, and recall is necessary in a spiritual battle.

The danger with being on automatic pilot is that we run the risk of staying, and when God calls us back to service, which includes delving into his word, we choose not to listen.  We are too busy being absorbed in our frailties, and the idea of getting up off our drift wood to swim to our destination, is not something we want to do.

You understand what I mean when I say “petrified Christians”?  These are people who have literally become part of their drift wood.  They are apathetic or rigidly unbending.  What they are not, are contributors to the kingdom of God.

We cannot allow ourselves to stay in that place where we do nothing and try to coast.  God will either bring something along that rudely dislodges us from our drift wood, or, if we tenaciously cling to it, He will leave us there to atrophy.

So, let us endeavor to seek God’s word one visual bite at a time.  You are welcome to join me in memory work.  At the beginning of this missive, I had planned to move into James, something you can certainly do, but I think after writing this blog, I may need to stay in Hebrews.  As I mentioned previously, Hebrews 12:1 is my verse for the week.

Join me!

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He Sings Over You

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Do you know God sings over you with joy?  I am trying to imagine what God sounds like when he is singing.  I just can’t, and to further try to imagine His singing being about me just short circuits my synapses.  I come back to one question.

Why?

Why would he sing over me?

This little scripture is power packed with story.  Judah finally had a king in Josiah who was willing seek the ways of God.  They had had two kings, Manessah and Amon who were just vile.  They had led God’s children, who were so easily “led down the garden path” in spite of the fact the God had proven his love and provision for them over and over again.  So Josiah was attempting to reverse the worshiping of Baal and paganism to bring them all back under God’s blessing.

In that time the prophet who was delivering God’s messages to the people was Zephaniah.  And if you read the book of Zephaniah, which is, in fact, the message God gave him to deliver to the people, it may be short but much like the above referenced verse, it lays it all out with no frills and is powerful.

The first two chapters are about God letting the people know just what he is going to do to them for disobeying him, and I have to tell you I think this may be where the phrase, “putting the fear of God in” came from.  Zephaniah pulls no punches as he explains the day of judgment coming for Judah.

In chapter three there is what I perceive as a pivotal part of the dissertation in verse 3, where Zephaniah says, ” Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”  Makes me think, “Okay, so God is maybe going to spare those who have attempted to follow him.”  And it also tells us that it wasn’t the whole of Judah turning away from God.  There were those who maintained his ways and walked in humility and righteousness.

Finally, in the third chapter we see that God has referenced hope, and in verse 17, not only is there hope for Judah but this scripture speaks to all the generations.  In it is not only the promise of forgiveness but so much more.

Do you know God is with you?

It sometimes seem that the limb we are swinging from is one we are on all by ourselves, and rather often we know we have gotten there of our own doing.  But sometimes we find ourselves out on a limb swinging away due to someone else’s decisions that have impacted us, and whether the wind is a freezing Nor’easter or a mild Zephyr, the fact that we are out there blowing around on our own renders volume or temperature superfluous. Verse 17 is help in so many words.

The first line is simple, “The Lord your God is with you.”  Stop there if you must.  That should be enough to help move you to the knowledge that you are not hanging but grasped in the hands of Almighty God, and coupled with his promise from Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave you or forsake you should give you nothing if not hope that you are not alone.

The second part of verse 17 tells us that God is more than able to rescue us from catastrophe that befalls us.  “He is a mighty warrior who saves,” and I don’t know about you, but this living life thing is brutal.  When I am promised God, the mighty warrior to save me, I’m going to hold out my arms and await the rescue.

Not only will he rescue us, but “he will delight in us.”  He will take great delight in us.  Wow.  Can’t think of any reason I gave God this week to greatly delight in me.  As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any reason, ever, for God to take great delight in me.

And yet the scripture says he does.  It is true, this scripture was written specifically to Judah, but these scriptures are prophetic, which means they span time and space.  That means the application and lesson may be about a certain time, place, and people, but the meat is for all of God’s children to read and learn from.  The story endures for us to experience and learn.

So not only is God with us and delights in us, but the next part of verse 17 says he will “no longer rebuke you in his love.”  The NIV Life Application says, “he will quiet you with his love.” This translation speaks to me more, as I find the concept of quiet correlative to rest and solitude.  It is generally what I need most when I am at the end of myself, and to think that God’s love can reach out to that which is fractious in me and quiet it with his love, is so very appealing, hopeful, and humbling.

Then the verse says the thing that just blows my mind, “he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Seriously?  Singing?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally struggle with confidence.  I know who I am; my strengths and weaknesses, and I will pat myself on the back when I know I have done well at something I have worked for, but I NEVER sing over me.  I would not even consider there to be something I have accomplished that would warrant me singing my praises…

So I cannot begin to fathom why God would.

But, then, I don’t think this little line is about accolades and pats on the back.  I believe that this little line is about the essence of the creation he made; you. Me.  It is the fact that he rejoices over each one of us, because each on of us is his favorite creation and he loves to delight over us.  He loves to sing over us, and I firmly believe that he sings blessing, protection, strength, and hope.  In fact, I think he sings things over us we do not have vocabulary to define.

God is with you, saves you, delights in you, quiets you with his love, and

God sings over you with joy.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.