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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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.