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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God is My Shepard: Insights From the 23rd Psalm

 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

(The Message)

I always think of Psalm 23 as “The Death Chapter.”  I mean, it seems that it is rather often spoken at grave sites and funerals.  Whenever there is a traumatic scene where a funeral and a church are involved, they are reading the 23rd Psalm.

I am a fan of Jason Upton.  I listen to him a lot, and he has a song called Psalm 23.  He has a way of singing scripture that leaves it raw and yet whole.  I realized recently that when I listen to this song which, as you may have guessed, is about Psalm 23, I do not listen to it in the context one might think. Oblige me as I pontificate…

I have recently come to think of this scripture differently than as “The Death Chapter”.  I realized one day that I was using it was warfare.  It is not some lazy little portion of scripture that sits by idly until we need comfort.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it is comforting, and comfort is good!  But, it is also a club we can pick up and fight with.

Most people, no matter the spiritual background, are familiar with the 23rd Psalm.  “The Lord is my Shepard…”  reverberates through the memory banks and transcends many other texts we have heard.  And yet, how much do we actually use the scripture?

The version of the scripture I have posted above is lesser known from the Message, but no less poignant.  I think it paints a very vivid image, and for those who are unfamiliar with the Message, don’t discount it because of its construction.  It was written with much knowledge of both Greek and Hebrew and is exceedingly eloquent, textual, and vivid.

“…you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.”

Wow.  I love the wording of that.  There are so many days I just need to STOP.

Stop the push and pull.  Stop the obligations and expectations.  Stop the performance and the accomplishments.  Stop resisting.  Stop fighting. Stop the fatigue.

Stop.  And catch my breath.

What do you stop?  What do you do to catch your breath?

And not only do I, we, have permission to stop, but then He will send us in the right direction.  And I think it is not coincidence in the set up of that scripture there.  Is it possible we miss the right direction because we do not allow ourselves to catch our breath?  Maybe we don’t hear what God is saying and how he is directing because we won’t slow down and take a breath.

“Your beauty and love chase after me.”

Again.  Wow.  That brings me to tears just to read.  It seems fantastical that not just God, but specifically, his Beauty and his Love chase after me, us.  Wow.  Just wow.  You know why I say that?

Because I know what a vile little shrew I so often am.  I know that that there are times the fallible people around me can hardly stand me, so how can the perfect God of the universe not only look at me but have his love and beauty chase me around.

Seriously?

Hard to wrap my head around.  But here is the lesson therein.  We are so busy looking to others and seeking approval that we are lovable and beautiful and worthy, when Psalm 23 says that God’s beauty and love is chasing us around.

What does that even mean?

I will tell you what it means to me.  It means that each day I live, I am renewed with the beauty of Almighty Yahweh.  It means that no matter how I am treated or even how I treat myself, his love endures through every moment of my human life.  It is like a heat seeking missile, and as long as I draw breath, it will find me.

Verse 4 says, “I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.”

If you are a person who deals with the darkness of life on a regular basis, no matter how fearless you are by nature, there comes a point when the human factor simply isn’t enough to combat some of the monsters crouching in the dark.  This chapter is about stepping into those dark places knowing that the kind of fear that is elicited from what lurks in those depths can only be negated by God alone. Knowing that even though you walk into darkness, with God you will walk back out into the light again at some point.

It is God walking with me that helps me step fearlessly into what would consume human strength.  That is how this scripture moved from a poem to a living breathing torch full of permission, comfort, protection, and hope for me.  It now breaths into the icy chill that life sometimes is, bringing a flicker of light to the dark night.

It is not difficult to understand why this Psalm is popular at funerals, for it is often at funerals where we find ourselves in the darkest night of loss we can image. That is why the scripture is iconic for the lost and mourning, and why it endures not only as solace but as a weapon.

 

 

Gideon: Rescuer

We left Gideon (in the last blog) finally convinced that the direction he has been getting is coming from God.  Through this revelation we have learned about fleeces in the context of testing and can understand their use when trying to make certain the direction we feel we are getting is coming from God.

Now, we look at the action part of this story.  Gideon is now ready lead an army as God has directed.  Judges 7 starts out with God giving direction by telling Gideon he has too many men.  In verse 2 we find that the reason God doesn’t want Gideon to use a big army is because God wants to show Israel that he is the rescuer and deliverer.  He wants to make certain they know, when it’s all said and done, just whose hand delivered them.

He has Gideon announce that any of the men who are afraid to fight must leave and go home.  22 thousand take off, leaving 10 thousand men (v. 3).  Still that is too many, so God has Gideon take the remaining 10 thousand to the river for a drink.  Those who kneel and cup the water into their mouths are sent home. Those who get down on their bellies and lap the water like dogs are kept.  That whittles the numbers down to 300 (v.7).

Meanwhile, in the enemy camp, one individual is telling his friend about a dream he has just had where a loaf of barley bread comes tumbling down a hill and plows into a tent and causes it to overturn. The friend interprets the dream and explains that the dream is about Gideon and that the whole camp has been delivered into his hands.

Gideon, who God has sent on a reconnaissance mission hears the dream AND the interpretation and knows that it’s a done deal.  He rallies his band of warriors, telling them God has delivered the enemy into their hands, and they head out (v. 15).

I think this next part is ingenious.  God has Gideon divide the army into three companies.  He has each of them carry a trumpet and an empty jar with torches inside them.  They surrounded the camp and all together blow their trumpets and smash their jars crying, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”(v.20)

The enemy is caused to be thrown into a state of confusion (Nice having God on your side isn’t it?), and they turn on each other.  Long story, short, the enemy is vanquished.

A couple of interesting things I ponder in this last part of Gideon’s story.

First, why were they to cry “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon“?  I mean, God made it a point to stack the deck so far against Israel, just to be able to show that HE was what the victory was all about.  So why have them throw Gideon’s name in there?  Why had the person in the enemy camp dreamed that the sword of Gideon was coming for them all?  Why not the sword of the Lord?”

Second, what does this story show us in the here and now?

For the first, I am certain there are many ideas on why God did that and none of them wrong.  For me, I like to think that God cared about Gideon, personally.  I believe that he saw Gideon’s heart and knew there was no hubris.  So, he was good with allowing acknowledgement for a man who was so willing to do what he asked in the humblest manner.  Plus he was wise enough to check and make sure that he was actually getting his direction for God.  There was, after all, so much at stake.

And the second part can then dovetail off of the first.  For me, much of that practical application is a directive on how to best serve God.  I so often hear people, and I have done so as well, asking what they should do or how to know what God wants for them.  I think that this story shows that it is never about how insurmountable something appears.  If we have God on our side, he can always make a way.

We must seek him, ask and wait for confirmation that it is he who is directing us.  Once we have confirmation, we must look to him to show us exactly how to go about accomplishing what we are doing, always remembering it is never about us and our skills.  The victory always belongs to the Lord.

Through that acknowledgement, we may find ourselves winning something far greater than our original goal.  We may find our names being announced alongside that of Yashuea, the Rescuer.

 

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

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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.