Dec 11, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF GIDEON PART 5: THE SIGN OF THE FLEECE

Background

As a result of his encounter with the Lord, Gideon did two things: one negative, and one positive. First, he got rid of the idols; then he built a proper altar to the Lord. There is a principle illustrated here supported throughout scripture: we must not just turn AWAY from sin; we must also turn TO God. One without the other means certain failure.

It is at this critical time, after Gideon turns away from the worship of idols and establishes the One true God in his heart, that all of the enemies of Israel (and Gideon) prepare to attack. Now, at the right time to accomplish His purpose, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon Gideon and he blows a trumpet to summon the rest of his clan to follow him. He then sends messengers throughout the area of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, and they came up to meet him. (Judges 6:33-35).

Notice the difference in the responses to the two summonses. I believe it has a bearing on the reason for Gideon’s unusual request we know as the “Sign of the Fleece”.

Gideon’s own clan answers the trumpet to FOLLOW him. They were already aware that something was happening between him and God because of the affair with the Baal idol. The others in Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali probably knew nothing of this. They came to MEET with him in response to his messengers.

“35He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.” (v6:35)
Why the sign of the Fleece did not put the LORD to a foolish test

First of all, it is doubtful that the residents of these tribes would then follow some unknown man into a battle against a far superior force just because he sounded an alarm. For all they knew, he could be an opportunist intending to sacrifice himself and the armies of the Israel in a deluded effort for self glorification.  Secondly, remember the Spirit of the Lord had come upon Gideon.  Are we to think that with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, he would put God to a foolish test?

Now, with 32,000 men present, Gideon seeks a sign from God to prove to all present that He will indeed deliver Israel through him. In this famous request for a sign, Gideon first proposes to put a fleece (a tanned sheepskin with the fleece left on) on the threshing floor:
“36Then Gideon said to God, ‘If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, 37behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.’ 38And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.

39Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.’ 40God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.” (Judges 6:36-40)
The men needed this. Gideon needed this. I believe God granted the sign to confirm Gideon before the people, and because from the beginning, this was part of His plan; not Gideon’s or Israel’s. God was the supreme commander, not a consultant. He was gracious to Gideon and the men with him, understanding their fear, and rewarding their willingness.


How much more empowered, rewarding and successful our lives would be if we would seek to pull along side God and accomplish His plan, rather than asking Him to bless ours!

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

Oct 25, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF GIDEON: PART 4

Letting God Make Our Lives Count


There are some sure signs that God is involved in an endeavor with us:
  • Our doubt turns to belief and fear to courage.
  • Things we depend on, or things that take the place of Him in our lives start getting removed.  God doesn't let us do great things in his Name while we are giving time and honor to other gods, whatever they may be. They don’t get second place. They get no place. 

Ancient Winepress.  Photo from Biblewalks.com, used by permission.

Doubt
     We find Gideon in a wine press, not sure of who he is speaking with. Whoever this is turns toward him from where he sits under the oak tree, and instructs him to go in the strength he has and save Israel from Midian. Gideon then rightly asks, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the Least in my family.” (Judges 6: 15, NIV).

Belief
     The LORD tells him that He will be with him, and that Gideon will strike down all the Midianites together. But Gideon, still skeptical, asks God for a sign that it is really Him speaking with him. Gideon asks the Angel of God to wait while he prepares an offering. Once he brings the offering back, the Angel of God instructs him to put the unleavened bread and the meat on a rock and pour out the broth. When the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the bread with the tip of his staff, fire came up from the rock and totally consumed the meat and bread. NOW Gideon is convinced: “ ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!’ But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’ So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace…”(v. 22-24).

Fear
     So, now Gideon was ready to go off and defeat the Midianites, right? Not quite. There was the matter of the family idols, the false gods, still standing in an honored place there. God instructed Gideon to tear down his father’s alter to Baal and to cut down the Asherah pole that was standing beside it, and to build a proper alter to God in their place.

 Gideon did so, but at night because he was afraid of the men of his family and the men of the town. He had reason to be fearful. In the morning when the men of the town got up, they found Baal’s alter demolished and the Asherah Pole cut down, and there in its place was a newly constructed altar with a sacrificed bull lying on it!

Courage
     The night operation was successful, but the stealth operation failed. Apparently there were a few witnesses, because when the men of the city investigated, someone told them that Gideon was the culprit. They then demanded of Gideon’s father that he hand him over to be killed for this sacrilege. But Joash, Gideon’s father, perhaps taking courage from Gideon’s almost-brave act, answered:
“ ‘Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.’ ” (v.31).
     After this courageous and obedient act, Gideon is now ready to go deliver Israel from the Midianites!….right? Well…not quite…

-Surefoot


Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Oct 7, 2009

A Few Essentials

  • Offending a brother and then telling him it's because of his pride that he noticed, is like throwing a puppy in the creek and then whipping him for getting wet. 

  • If you've read the Old Testament, you should know that you do not want to be the one whose unjust actions God uses to "prune", "discipline" or "break" another brother. Your time will immediately follow.

  • I heard this today: "You cannot serve God according to your will; it must be according to His.

  • Are you discouraged or frightened by your circumstances? God told Gideon to do the equivalent of confronting 450 weapon wielding gangsters in his neighborhood by himself...and with only a flashlight and a band instrument!

  • Don't wait until the dragon is trying to toast you to try to dig your sword out of the saddlebag.

-Surefoot

Sep 9, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF GIDEON: PART 3






Things May Not Be What They Seem

A fable was tossed around the Internet about a blind lady who had her seeing eye dog with her on a flight. The flight was diverted and delayed. Once on the ground, she was asked by the pilot if she would like to disembark briefly. She told the pilot no, but her dog might like to stretch his legs. So the pilot, in his sunglasses, takes the seeing eye dog for a little walk. This was not well received by boarding passengers.

The situation in Israel was dire. Food and livestock were scarce because of the seven-year Midianite and Amalekite oppression. Gideon is threshing wheat (pounding the stalks of wheat to separate the grains from the outer shell and stalks) in a wine press to prevent the Midianite raiders from discovering him and separating him from his food and his head from his body. They had already killed his two brothers at Tabor.

The Angel of the Lord appears, sitting under an oak tree near the city of Ophrah, where Gideon is threshing, and says “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12, NIV). At this, Gideon, not realizing who he is speaking to, cynically answers,

“…if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:13, NIV)
Gideon was one of at least three sons of Joash, a man of some wealth and standing in Ophrah (within the tribal allotment of Manasseh), who had an altar to Baal and an Asherah pole beside it. The people of the city came to this altar at Joash’s house to worship these idols.

God had just sent a prophet to inform the Israelites of the reason He had given them over to their enemies. From the beginning, God had told them the He was their God, and that they were not to worship the Amorite gods; but they had not listened. And here is Gideon, whose father has an idol worship center at his home, bitter and complaining that God, if He ever did do any miraculous things, certainly doesn’t now, isn’t with them, and has abandoned them to these Midianites.

Can we see anything in this that applies to us? Any similarities in the way God deals with us as His family? Ever been a father? Ever had to discipline your kids? Did you ever wish your kids would realize that you had their well-being in mind when you instructed them? Do you ever blame God for your circumstances? Here are a few things that come to mind from this account:

In Israel’s hopeless condition, when they cried out to God, even while some were still worshiping idols, God reached out to deliver. He did this for His own Name's sake and out of love for them. God's dealing with Israel is instructive to us and serves as a reminder of His first loving us with a love so deep and profound that it culminated in His offering up His only Son for our sins when we had no hope or desire for Him:

“ You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV. See also Ephesians 2:11-12)
When the Angel of the Lord hailed Gideon as a “mighty warrior” He was not being sarcastic, but knew what Gideon was to become in a few days. This was actually an encouragement. Our paths can be radically altered by trusting in God, especially in the midst of fears and doubts.

It is easy to blame God when bad things happen, especially if we are in a condition where He is somewhere near the bottom of our “to-do” list rather than in the preeminent position He deserves. This way we don’t have to face our own condition before a Holy God and deal with the question of whether or not the source of the problem lies within us.

We are going to see that contrary to the way things seemed to Gideon, God was acting for His own Name's sake and out of love for His people and had not abandoned them. We will see Him patiently working with Gideon, a cynical, skeptical, fearful man to radically change his life. The result would be the emergence of a fearless trust in God and the deliverance of an entire nation.
-Surefoot
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Aug 25, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF GIDEON: PART 2


Setting the Stage

It had been nearly two hundred years of cycles of idolatry, oppression by neighboring enemies and God's deliverance, followed by times of peace. God accomplished these times of deliverance through four judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar and Deborah.

Then, Israel again left off serving the Lord and "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (Judges 6:1) and was now being savagely oppressed by the Midianites. The Midianites, descendants of Abraham through his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25) had been almost completely destroyed by Israel while the nation was still wandering in the desert. Undoubtedly, the Midianites had not forgotten even after two hundred years.

The biblical account (Judges 6: 1-6) tells that raiders from Midian in alliance with Amalekite raiders (Exodus 17: 8) and other eastern peoples, would enter the territory after the crops had been planted specifically to ravage the land; to ruin the crops and destroy all the livestock, not leaving anything for the Israelites to use for food.
"They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it." (Judges 6: 4-5, NIV)"
Once rich from the produce of the land God had blessed them with, they were now reduced to severe poverty. The wealth they had gladly accepted from God (while refusing to acknowledge and worship the source of those blessings) was now, over a period of seven years, being utterly destroyed by those whom God had originally intended to dispossess. Midian sent Israel into such poverty that the Israelites finally (it took seven years of this?) cried out to the Lord for help. So God sent them a prophet to explain the situation.
"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me." (Judges 6:7-10, NIV).
"I said.....but you have not listened to me." We can bring many sorrows on ourselves by not obeying what God has said in His Word. We can find many instructions in His word to guide us in our everyday lives, but the foremost, on which all others depend, is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. (Mark 12: 28-34 and Matthew 22: 36-40) The Israelites were demonstrating their lack of love for God by casting their cares as well as their sacrifices on the altars of idols. We can do the same.

Even as christians, we can sometimes delude ourselves into thinking that we are doing what God wants. We work hard, we persevere, we do not tolerate wickedness, we are so knowledgeable about doctrine that we can immediately spot a fake, and even endure hardship for the name of Christ. These are good things, but, if they don't spring from our Love of Him, we have fallen from the high ground. Take a look at Revelation 2:1-5:
1"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place."
Our Love for Him comes first; the rest follows. Let's get our focus where it belongs. Love Him. And yet, it's critical that we realize that even our love for God originates with Him, and is a result of His first loving us:
"This is love: not that we loved God, but he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4: 10, NIV)

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Image, Baal Ugarit_Louvre (2006)

Aug 12, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF GIDEON: PART 1


"Where Am I and How Did I Get in this Hand Basket?

Israel had served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Moses’ servant, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, the General of the armies of Israel. After that entire generation had died, a most amazing thing happened: the Bible says that the next generation after Joshua died grew up with NO knowledge of the LORD or anything He had done for Israel (Judges 2:10).

How is this possible? How, in only one generation (think of the lifetime of your father) could all knowledge of God and his great miracles in Egypt and the Red Sea and Jericho be completely forgotten? The answer is simple and sobering: they didn’t listen to God’s command to teach their children the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:1-20; e.g. v4-7, NIV).


4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Wouldn’t it have been a simple thing to tell their kids about the great God, the LORD, and teach them His commands? Yes, but the things of God were not on their hearts; they became preoccupied. The Jewish historian Josephus put it this way:


After this, the Israelites grew effeminate as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to the cultivation of the land, which producing them great plenty and riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlement, and indulged themselves in luxury and pleasures; nor were they any longer careful to hear the laws that belonged to their political government: whereupon God was provoked to anger, (Antiquities, Book 5, Chapter 2).
As a result of not being taught by their parents about God, that generation began to worship the only gods they knew anything about, the ones served by and talked about by the people that were still in the land that God had intended for them to dispossess. God was angry with the Israelites because of this and actually fought against them when their enemies attacked.

The object lesson for Christian families today should be obvious. The LORD must be mentioned and discussed in our homes with our children; the stories of His miraculous works told and re-told; his Law, accounts of His intervention and involvement in our own lives and the assurance of His love for us in Christ Jesus recognized, lived out and taught daily. -surefoot
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

May 10, 2009

Finding God's Will for Me

I had a friend in college who had their entire life planned out: first undergraduate studies; then Masters Degree, after which a great job; then marriage with two kids, a nice house and a couple of pets; after that, perhaps some doctoral studies. This Christian friend gave no consideration to the will of God in their life, and I assumed expected God to stamp the whole thing “Blessed” and to say “Have a nice life”.

Much has been written and discussed about the question of God’s will for our lives, and is sometimes made more complicated than it needs to be. I hear everything from “No one can know God’s will to “Just say it and get it”.
To the one who loves his Heavenly Father, knowledge of His will is important because we want to please HIM. However, what we usually want to know is limited t0 something like this:

“What does God have for me in my life? Where should I go to school? What kind of job will I have / which job should I take, or to whom should I, or when should I marry?” (Nobody says “whom”; I just put it in because it’s correct grammar; actually, there are usually a few “dude’s” and “like’s” sprinkled in).
As Christians, desiring to know these things is normal; and being concerned about the path God would have us take is admirable, but we should consider a few things about why we want to know God’s will for us. Motives matter.

Sometimes we want to know out of a sincere desire to have a felt need met by God; so we are wondering when or if He plans to grant our desires.

Sometimes we ask so that we can have an outline or blueprint from God as to what our lives will be so we can lie back and let it all happen without worrying about it.

Sometimes we ask God to know His will for us so we can then decide if we want to do it. In other words, we have already decided what we are going to do and want God to be our consultant. One of my favorite cartoons is from B.C., where two men are shown on a raft. The first remarks that they are pretty far out, and says they should head back to land. The second says “Shouldn’t we pray about it?” The first begins to pray “Which way is back?” When we truly desire to know and seek God’s will we are agreeing with the fact that He has the plan and the final say, not just input into the decision making process.

Our reason for seeking God’s will should not be simply out of curiosity, but it should be so that you might know it to do it.
17"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching,
whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17 NASB)

We should want to know God’s will so that we can please Him in every respect; to be found always engaged in the things He has for us to do while in these bodies. This desire comes from none other that our loving relationship with Him, so we shouldn't expect to hear from God if we are not truly interested in Him and what He wants.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NASB)
The scriptures are full of examples and direct statements of God’s will for our lives in general areas. In fact, all instructions to christians in general that we find in scripture may be taken to be God's will for us. So, our first goal should be to obey what we already know. Here is one example:
1Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your
sanctification;
that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (I Thess 4: 1-8)
This is not to say that we must have obeyed all scripture without fault before God will reveal His will to us. Remember John 7:17. It is the attitude of the heart to want to know and obey God, believing that He hears and will answer. James puts it this way:

5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1: 5-7 NASB)

The challenge of applying what we know His will for us to be in general, and knowing God’s will in particular circumstances, is part of the adventure of the Christian believer’s life, and is one of the reasons prayer can often be a struggle.

So, Find out what God’s word says about what He wants. There are some things that are God’s will for all believers that are found in the scriptures. You have to take the time to read the scriptures to discover them. (The key to studying the Bible: “BTB”, Bend The Binding).

God has a specific plan for your life and will guide you in it:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

8I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, loving kindness shall surround him. (Psalm 32:8-10 NASB)
We are subject to weakness and deception in our thinking, but this is no reason to leave off praying to know His will. God is pleased to give wisdom to the one who asks in faith. (James 1:5-7) In praying to know God’s will in a particular circumstance, remember that what he truly reveals to you in prayer will not conflict with scripture.

God has his own purposes and plans, and may not reveal to you all or any of the details of his plan for you in a single instant. It will more likely be a process; one which requires you to be diligent in prayer and in the scriptures, and to give attention to Him personally. (Let’s not forget the reason we want to know His will). His will for you involves your entire life, now and after you go to be with Him; not just what job you are going to take, and where you are going to go to school. Get this right and you will find that He is guiding you in the other things as well.

What happens if I fail to find or stay on the path God has for me? We have a promise from God. In Psalm 23, inspired by the Holy Spirit, David says “You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake.” We may bounce around a bit within the path, but God will see to it that we find and stay on the right way, and perhaps through many adventures. You can make it easier by reading and obeying the Word. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105 (NASB).

So, be willing to know and willing to do. Trust and Obey.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

Mar 20, 2009

Being Overwhelmed




Recently I experienced a series of catastrophes, hardships and disappointments. I was not sleeping well; I was worrying and on edge. These came relentlessly in wave after wave.

I can hear it now, "If you had been reading your bible and praying, these things either would not have happened, or at least wouldn't have been as painful." Here's the thing: I was praying. I was reading my bible, and getting more out of it than I had in a long time. I was experiencing some of the greatest fellowship with the Lord that I had ever known. And yet, the hardships began to come in wave after wave; circumstances that were out of my control and that were combining to oppress my waking and sleeping moments.

As things began to slowly fall apart for me, I remember thinking, "I can do this. My soul finds rest in God alone. He will see me through these things." My mind went to passages I had read about the Lord never leaving us or forsaking us. I found comfort in the Psalms, especially Psalm 62, and still the trials continued. I felt like I was trapped on a high tower, and someone was, one by one, sawing off the legs...while my God observed.

The breaking point for me came while I was at work, when because of an equipment failure my company was in danger of losing everything. It was then that I cried out to the Lord:

"ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY ME?"

Exactly two seconds after that was out of my mouth, my mind went to the account of the Israelites in the wilderness with Moses. They grumbled against the Lord and accused Him of bringing them out of Egypt and into the desert to kill them. I had always disdained this way of thinking by the Israelites, who had seen God's goodness and might, yet when He allowed things to get tough so that they could be trained by EXPERIENCE to trust Him, they proved to be short sighted and faithless. Can you imagine a friend, your spouse, or your son or daughter accusing you of doing something wonderful for them just so you could take it away again?

So, in the heat of battle, I folded for awhile. Then I began to remember the Lord's words, that whom He loves, He disciplines. It was then that I began to recall my own words that if someone saw me going through a trial, that they would not just pray that I would be saved from going through it, but that I would learn all that God had for me in it.

Some matters that concerned me so much are getting better, and for this I am praising the Lord. Some are still around for me to trust the Lord. And He is trustworthy, and knows how much I can stand.

Here is a list of some things that I am either learning or being reminded of because of these things:
  1. In this life I am assured of trials as well as blessings.
  2. Since I belong to, and am part of the Lord's family, I am treated as such. God is not being cruel to me by trying me.
  3. Trials are allowed by God and are not meant to destroy me, but to train me.
  4. My struggles bring glory to God when I demonstrate my trust in Him and wait for Him instead of acting (and speaking) rashly.
  5. Struggles teach me patience and build character.
  6. Therefore new trials that come my way will not be easier than the last.
  7. My trials should allow me to understand and sympathize with the trials of others.
  8. The comfort the Lord brings me in these times should be the same comfort I use to comfort others going through hard times.
  9. I am never too old or too spiritual to be tried and trained.
  10. Knowing what the Bible says about God's love and fatherly treatment of us must be coupled with a life that has experienced the same. It's one thing to say that God is all we need; it's quite another to find that God is all we have.

Scripture References:
27and you grumbled in your tents and said, 'Because the LORD hates us, He has
brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites
to destroy us. (Deuteronomy 1:27 NASB)
5My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. 6He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 7On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. (Psalm 62: 5-8)

Mar 4, 2009

Preventing Spiritual Failures

Most of the time I can see it coming. An outlandish thought, followed by a thoughtless plan, followed by a reckless act. I make some attempt (usually I think a valiant one) to resist temptation, but at last I succumb, and end up doing a one-point into the ground.

I tell myself that I'm mature enough in my faith that these temptations should not present much of a struggle. So why do the simplest temptations sometimes trip me up?

This question is as old as the Garden of Eden, and if it were me, eating a good-looking fruit would have seemed to be the right thing to do at the time too. I know God says "X", but I want "Y" so I choose "Y".

Often times I think I allow myself to be lulled to sleep while the enemy camps in my yard, casing my house. I watch him walk to the door, and tell myself "I'll get the gun out later if I need it."
Because of one distraction or another I will leave off reading God's Word (because "I know that; I've read it countless times") and My prayers become routine and thoughtless. I overestimate my own strength, underestimate my enemy, and forget where my help comes from. And I'm definitely not taking seriously the Lord's warning to be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8).

Charles F. Stanley wrote a great article on temptation, "When Temptation Knocks" where he says Jesus' successful approach to resisting temptation is the example for us. He has scripture (what God says) for every temptation readily at hand; not as an incantation to repeat, but as the knowledge and confession of what God says (and therefore supports) about the matter. It tells us About what God thinks about what we are about to do, (so we can flee from that) and who it is we are offending (so we can flee to Him).


"He never drew on his own wit. He never even relied on His own power. He simply responded with the truth of God’s Word. That’s all it took. Nothing fancy. Just the plain truth directed at the deception behind each of Satan’s requests. Jesus verbally confronted Satan with the truth, and eventually Satan gave up and left." (Charles F. Stanley, "When Temptation Knocks")


The Bible is full of passages on this subject because the will of mankind has always been at odds with the will of God. Here are a couple of passages I find helpful:

"6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." (I Peter 5:6-11 NASB)

AND

"10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full
armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:
10-17 NASB)

"8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. "(I John 1:8-9 NASB)

Don't wait until the Dragon is trying to toast you before you try to dig your sword out of the saddlebag.


When Temptation Knocks http://ww2.intouch.org/site/c.dhKHIXPKIuE/b.3604505/

Feb 12, 2009

Our Restless Search for Equilibrium



It's been said that our bodies are constantly seeking a state of equilibrium or "homeostasis" in a continual attempt to regulate against outside forces so that they remain internally unchanged. Frankly, I'm glad of this, at least as far as my physical body is concerned. For instance, I wouldn't want something like an argument to raise my blood pressure until my head exploded. This is a great mechanism God has built into our systems, but I wonder if this is only part of the picture. There must be a constant battle between our body's quest for balance and outside forces that strain that balance to allow our bodies to grow and become it stronger.

Perhaps this is true in our Christian lives as well. We don't want any outward force to cause any inward turmoil; no questions to disturb our notions; no tribulations wherein we must be patient; no trials that would force us to our knees, calling out to God. We just want equilibrium. If we are not alert, we begin a restless search for the things that we believe will preserve this condition, which is both ironic and sad.

Thankfully, we have a great and loving Heavenly Father that fully understands His children. And He is faithful, if we are really His, not to let us stay in that condition for long. The Book of Hebrews puts it this way:




"3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
"MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE
LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6(FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons;
for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Hebrews 12:3-8 NASB)
If we are healthy, we will grow. The tribulations we suffer, when God allows them, will produce that spiritual fruit called patience, and the patience will produce in us PROVEN character, and that proven character will produce Hope (Romans 5:4) But, how will this be accomplished if our focus is on seeking only the things, circumstances and people that will ensure our comfort, while disdaining any and all trials that come our way either as a result of the general human condition or by way of the loving discipline of the Lord?

These trials are vehicles for us to learn of God's great power and great love for us who believe. When we look to Him in these times and trust Him with our lives (as we have with our souls), we learn that He is as trustworthy as He says He is in His word. And God puts a high value on our trusting and obeying Him. In Moses' complaint to the Israelites he says:


"31and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.' 32"But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God," (Deut. 1:31-32 and following NASB)

Instead of looking for that equilibrium by trying to regulate our lives against outside forces, why not trust God to use whatever He desires to produce in us that true balance and rest we need?

Aaran Keyes and Stuart Townsend recently wrote a great song based on Psalm 62: "My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone". You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmx9p6vAL1g. Read Psalm 62 before you listen. Also check out "When Trials Come" by Keith and Kristyn Getty http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB1cFQcBC7g.

Jan 1, 2009

Troubleshooting My Christian Walk

We sang a song in church when I was a kid that I thought was so corny. The music style seemed like an old Barbeshop tune, and the words didn't seem to have the loftiness of other hymns. It wasn't until recently that I took the time to take a close look at the words.

It was then that I realized how complicated I was making my life as a christian, when it really is as simple as the title of that hymn: "Trust & Obey".

This simple direction can be found throughout the scriptures. Among them, these passages:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on
your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge
Him
and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6
NASB)

Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5 NIV)

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. (I Corinthians 9:13 NIV)

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (I Samuel 15:22 NIV)


So simply put, trusting God comes first, then obedience to His Word. ("Trust & Obey" as the old hymn says) not the reverse (Romans 1:5).

Whenever I see that my growth as a Christian seems stunted, I'm generally unhappy, and when it seems like what I read in the Bible is just words on the page instead of the Living Word, I have to ask myself, " Is there an area in my life where I am disobeying (that includes delaying obeying) what God has already revealed to me from His word? Is there something the Spirit of God has been urging me to do (or stop doing) that I have ignored or put off?


Trust & Obey
(Words John H. Sammis; Music Daniel B. Towner)

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.