Selah

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I have been in a holding pattern on this blog, it seems.  I originally started writing it as a means of sharing what I am learning in my delving into the Word of God.  That does not mean I have answers for anyone else by any stretch, but if something I have learned makes sense to someone else, so much the better.  AND I have so benefited from what others learn in their study time that I just wanted to share what God is doing in my life and what I am learning as well.

I have been in a place of sifting for the past two years. The sifter has been my job.  The Bible talks about sifting in more than one place, but the experience I have been in is referenced in Luke 22: 31-32.  31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

I have been in places of sifting off and on in my journey with God for over 3 decades.  The experience is painful, and I do not pretend to understand why it is necessary in the sense that maybe for me God determines it necessary to sift me repeatedly when he may not one of his other children.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner. That is very possible, but what I am seeing now, as I look back a ways down the path from which I have come, is a process taking shape.

You see in the scripture where Jesus is talking to Simon Peter, he tells him that Satan is wanting to sift; is asking to be allowed to sift, and he is given permission.  That tells me a lot.  For one thing, God does not do bad things to his children, but he allows it.  Is that semantics?

Well, yeah, but it is important.  I believe, in my finite little human mind, that it is all about adding dimension to us, and more specifically, to our faith.  After a lifetime of being in relationship with God, I have learned a few things about him and how he handles me.  I am exceedingly stubborn and self-sufficient, prone to hubris.  Those are not admirable traits in the walk with God.  I have been learning the hard way for a lifetime that I MUST rely on God, and I cannot attempt to procure my ending myself.

Because I tend to not “get it,” I believe God has allowed Satan to sift me, because even though God is working on these undesirable traits, he knows I can take it.  He knows I have been conditioned enough to handle the obstacle course, even though I’m gonna complain and groan my way through it.

So, I have been in a job that challenges my most fundamental character trait, my sense of justice.  What Satan has done, since he has also known me my whole life, was to make sure I felt helpless, and at every turn I was thwarted, betrayed, and impotent to stop what I was seeing, because he knows that combo triggers my animalistic nature.  I am no flight person.  It’s fight all the way, baby.  (Thank You Jesus, You gave me a husband who is a tough guy with a gentle nature!  He is wise!)  But he also knows, I have an illness that gets triggered in such fights.  He also knows if he goads me to take it all on on my own…I will.

I am happy to say that I began calling out to God from the beginning.  I struggled with my fundamental nature and my wanting to step out on my own and take things into my own hands, which, I confess, I did.  A lot.  But I also stepped back and asked for guidance.  I asked for help too.  Maybe not enough.  And I know for sure that I did not exhibit God’s grace at all near the end of the the two years.  I began falling apart mentally, as Satan knew I would because of the nature of the illness that impacts my life, but I did not fail to turn to God.  I cried out over and over for his rescue.

Yeshua, my rescuer.

What I have been learning VERY slowly is that God is not interested in me winning the human race.  All the things that people hold up as successful, God is not interested in cultivating in his warriors.  He is not interested in how many church services I attend or how many messages I take in from famous speakers.  He does not care how much spiritual jargon I can spew or how many “encounters” I can say I have had with him if it does not change me to be more reliant on him.

I’m gonna tell you right now, this was ugly.  I have been praying since the first month I started my job to be released.  I committed to two years, and he has held me to it, to the day.  But he is faithful, and even though I made a mess of so many things in trying to get away and stop the wheat threshing I have been experiencing, he has been faithful in releasing me.

Satan has been right there with me as well, even sending someone along to tell me what a sinner I have been.  The truth is that I have sinned.  It’s really not about my sinning.  I’m human.  It happens.  He knows better than anyone that if he wants perfection, he better not send me.  But, my heart is good, and when he told me to love the people I worked for, he knew I would do it.

He knew I would screw up as well, which is why he provided Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  He did it so that I would know that my sin in the midst of serving, in a place I never would have chosen for myself but that I went to in obedience, he would erase and work out all of it in spite of my blunders and mishandling; because my heart longs for him and I confess what I break.

One day I woke up and asked as I had every day, “Is it done?  Is it over?  Can I leave?”  One day he said, “Do it,” and so I did.

I will never know if there was another reason, really.  I know He told me to go, cleared the path so specifically that there was no misunderstanding.  I was an intellectual stepping into a world political agendas absent of common sense.  The people I worked with were beautiful and many from families I have known my whole life.  I will never know if there was a purpose outside the sifting I encountered.  The facility will close back over itself, absorbing my empty presence as though I was never there.  But Oh Man, did it grow me.  I learned, really learned how to swing a sword of truth in a sea of deceit.

Maybe that is what I was sent to do.  I didn’t do it well.  Bad form rather too often, but there were specific moments when God told me very directly to speak to those who seem to be rather full of their own significance, not considering those they are to be leading, and I did.  I will never know what God will do with that.  It’s really none of my business.

Footnote…

I gave my resignation when God impressed upon me to do so, and interestingly enough, it was before I had another job.  So I step from one stone of faith onto another I can’t see.  I have no idea what is round the corner, but I can tell you that, sin and all, I passed the sifting.  Satan did not take me out.  Oh, he pulled out all the stops, but in the midst of the fog I fell back on the foundation that was reinforced by God’s direction that I memorize the 40 verses of Hebrews 11.

Faith

I choose to be sure of what I hope for and I choose to be certain of what I cannot see.

I am sure that God is faithful to finish what he started in me (Phil 1:6)

I am certain he has a plan for a hope and a future just for me (Jer 29:1)

Selah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising the Dead

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If you were to ask my sister what she wants most in life, she would likely tell you she would like to raise the dead. Seriously.  I can’t think of a more worthy desire than that can you?

But my sister believes she has been unable to raise the dead.  Now, no matter your faith origin, you have to admit that raising the dead is up there in the category of mythology with all the super heroes.  She is not a myth, so she does not raise the dead.

She is wrong.  And I am going to explain why…

This blog is not generally where I write about mental health topics, mainly my misadventures with mental illness.  I have another blog where I write specifically about mental health.  This blog is about my faith and what I learn about my walk with the Creator.  I keep them separate because I have two different audiences I serve, but here is the rub…

I fully believe that I am resilient after edging on three decades of hard core battle with mental illness because of hope, and I cannot sustain hope when I’m sitting on the metaphorical (or literal) edge.  I can’t purchase it, and I can’t fabricate it.  Yet hope is what lifts me to my feet when I am down.  Where do I get it then?

I get it from God.  His brand of hope is best.

Those of us who are “entertaining” mental illness have had encounters with the psychiatric community.  The United States has high stats for mental illness and abysmal treatment by comparison.  There are just too many holes in a model that perpetuates relapse.  So we and our loved ones are continually searching for effective treatments in the form of medicology and psychology.

Let me explain what it is like to encounter the need to be dead over and over until it is your normal.  It is a dread that rolls in like fog.  You can see it from a distance, and terror overtakes you as you are reminded that you will experience  a hundred deaths before it is over, and if you manage to physically survive, you will have lost more than you had before it hit.  You know this to be true, and you accept it.

It is one thing to experience a round of depression (and please don think I minimize such an experience), but it is quite another to experience the black nothingness of despair, disillusionment, and discouragement that hits because the chemicals are just not playing nice with one another.  Over and over again.

There are two natural environmental things I can compare this experience to.  One is standing in a large cave or enormous room in pitch black.  The other is standing in the total white out of a blizzard.  I have been in both, and if you have you will remember that the longer you stand in those two environments the more you lose your place, your equilibrium, your bearings.  Panic sets in, because we are not made to not have our senses alert us to what is going on, and in the two scenarios I mentioned, the senses become heightened to the point of shutdown.  This total loss of equilibrium is what it is like upon entering the black night of depression that leads ultimately to the loss of desire to live and the desperation that accompanies suicide.

My sister wants to raise the dead.

And she does.

Do you hear me, Jayme?  This is a word for you.  You are raising the dead every time you get on that phone or meet that person in crisis who is just d.o.n.e. done.  Every time you intervene.

Just as Sarah’s womb was dead with no life, and God sent an angel to help “raise” it to life to sustain a life, you walk into that world every day, and you help raise the lives of those whose will to live is dead back to life.  You bring them hope.

You have done it for me twice in 2016, and that is one year out of nearly 3 decades of mental illness for me.

You are raising the dead.

God is faithful.  I know you didn’t need me to tell you that, but I know he wants me to tell you this, not only for me, but for those many many people who can’t thank you or won’t realize until much farther down the road what you have done for them.

The dry bones may have come to life in Ezekiel, but Jesus said in John that “you will do greater things.”  You are not watching dry bones dance.  You are reaching in and pulling people out of the dark.

You are raising the dead.

Thank you for working in crisis intervention.  Thank you for being willing to go where few go and God has sent you.  What you are doing is rippling out beyond where you can see.

Happy New Year.  May you be blessed and encouraged as you continue in that very special vocation of life restoration.

I love you.

 

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 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.

 

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.