Tag Archives: God

Grace for the Lame

Grace for the Lame (CaD 2 Sam 9) Wayfarer

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
2 Samuel 9:3 (NIV)

In the small community where we live is a local non-profit organization that serves adults who are physically and mentally challenged. Many of these adults live on their own or in local group homes. They have a tremendous amount of autonomy, work locally, and learn to live as independently as possible. If you spend any amount of time in our town you will eventually meet and interact with a number of them. I have always found it a unique aspect of our community that we collectively embrace and assist them. Just a few weeks ago one of our special neighbors approached Wendy uptown and asked for a ride. Of course, she drove him to the store even though it was out of her way and didn’t fit her schedule.

Back in 2008-2009, our daughter Taylor was serving a mission in Morocco. She and a teammate connected with a local center that served handicapped children and they spent time serving at the center and loving the children. Through her eyes and stories, we learned how different the experience can be for those with disabilities in other cultures. Families are often ashamed of their disabled children and the culture makes an effort to hide them away from public view. Little assistance is provided for the centers that serve the disabled or those who are caretakers. I’m sure Taylor and her team were an amazing blessing to the children and the administrators of the center where they volunteered.

I thought about these contrasting experiences when reading about David’s kindness to Jonathan’s lame son, Mephibosheth. I am quite certain that a lame man in David’s day was far more likely to experience the shaming derision of the community as Taylor experienced in Morocco than the community embrace that our town attempts to give to the adults from the local center. Mephibosheth’s personal shame and self-condemnation are apparent from the moment he opens his mouth: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

David’s grace to the lame son of his late friend reminded me this morning of the grace that Jesus has afforded me. I am spiritually lame in so many ways. I am undeserving of the King’s favor, and yet I am invited daily to His table to enjoy provision, relationship, healing, encouragement, strength, and most of all forgiveness.

Today, I am thinking about the grace David showed Mephibosheth, the grace Jesus has shown me, and how I can pay it forward in a tangible way with those in my spheres of influence.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

My Intentions, God’s Design

My Intentions, God's Design (CaD 2 Sam 7) Wayfarer

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (NIV)

  • When I was five I intended to grow up and be an astronaut.
  • When I was seven I intended to grow up and become President of the United States.
  • When I was ten I intended to go into the navy and become a naval aviator.
  • When I was thirteen I intended to become a lawyer and politician.
  • When I was sixteen I intended to become a great evangelist like Billy Graham.

It was never my intention to live in Pella, Iowa. It was never my intention to spend thirty years in the research and assessment business or to be a business owner. It was never my intention to be divorced and remarried.

As I look back on my life’s journey I find that there are many things I intended to do that were clearly not part of God’s plan for me. David wanted desperately to build a temple for God, but that was not God’s intention. God intended for David to become the warrior leader who would establish the throne and prepare the way for his son to build the temple. There are many things in my life I never envisioned which I now believe God both knew and ordained for me.

Just last week Wendy and I were discussing a man we have observed who is aggressively striving after his own intentions, who appears to have failed miserably on many counts, and also appears to be in denial regarding it all. Wendy remarked that the man reminded her of Shakespeare’s Macbeth who destroyed his life intending to fulfill what he believed was his prophesied path. But, that’s one of the things I love about following God: He eventually redeems even our foolish wanderings and failures for His purposes.

Today, I am reminded to be discerning between my intentions and God’s designs. I desire to lean into the plan God has for me and follow the path laid before me. I have no time to waste blazing trails that lead, at best, to nowhere or, at worst, to tragic ends. I don’t want to end up thinking along the same lines as Macbeth who concluded at the end of his tragic strivings:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything (CaD 2 Sam 1) Wayfarer

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 (NIV)

One afternoon while in high school I sat at the counter in our family’s kitchen and was having an after-school snack. My mom had gotten home from work and was opening the mail. All of a sudden her hand went to her mouth (her signature gesture when she was going to start crying) and she began to weep. At first, I was scared, but then I realized that they were tears of astonishment.

My sister was in college. Times were tight. My folks were struggling financially. I hadn’t known it because I was a clueless teenager, and no one else knew it because my parents had not said anything to anyone. But, God knew. They received an anonymous envelope with cash in it and an anonymous note about God’s provision. Wouldn’t you know it, it was just the exact amount of money they needed to send my sister on her college choir trip.

“Timing is everything,” they say.

Along my life journey, I’ve been both amazed and incredibly frustrated by God’s timing. I have witnessed what I consider to be miraculous events of God’s timing like my parents’ cash gift. I’ve also been through long, difficult stretches of life’s journey when my timing was definitely not calibrated with God’s timing. What I wanted, and felt I/we needed, was perpetually not provided. This has usually led to grief, doubt, silent tantrums, and anger. In pretty much every case, a dose of 20/20 hindsight from a waypoint a bit further down the road made me grateful for God’s wisdom in NOT letting me have what I thought I wanted.

In today’s chapter, we pick up the story of David, who had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel as a boy. But, the timing of his ascension to the position was not immediate. Saul occupied the throne and David refused to usurp the throne or depose Saul, choosing to defer to God’s timing. If you’ve been following along with the story in 1 Samuel, you know this led to David being branded an outlaw, having a price put on his head, fleeing to neighboring countries, and living for years on the lam. Now we read of David’s response when he hears of the death of Saul and Saul’s son Jonathon, who happened to be David’s best friend.

I was struck by David’s grief this morning. Believe me, David was also frustrated by God’s timing. We’ve recently journeyed through some of the blues-like psalms David wrote in the wilderness expressing his anger and frustration with the situation. Yet, when his enemy Saul is finally killed and the way is finally opened up for David to walk into his anointed calling, David recognizes that his anointed calling comes with a price. David grieves for the king who had been “God’s anointed” king before him. He grieves for his friend Jonathon who also died and gave David a clear line of accession without political rival.

Today I’m thinking about God’s timing in my life. I’m exploring how I see God working in my journey on the macro level. I’m thinking about paths I desired to take that God blocked, paths that remain closed, and paths that have opened up that I didn’t expect. More than ever, I want to follow David’s example as I proceed on my own journey. I want to wait, trust, acknowledge, and honor God’s timing.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published on April 28, 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Path and Purpose

Path and Purpose (CaD 1 Sam 20) Wayfarer

So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.”

“As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”
1 Samuel 20:16, 31 (NIV)

Along my life journey, I’ve been aware of the paths on which I was led. God’s hand has guided my steps. In a few cases, the direction and guidance were as unmistakable as an exit sign on the interstate. In most cases, I was simply moving forward step-by-step, and it’s only in looking back that I realize that I was being led the entire time.

A strong sense of purpose is one of the tell-tale motivations of an Enneagram Type Four, so I get that I may sense it more deeply and recognize it more clearly than those who are motivated in other ways. I believe deeply that every life has purpose which may also be the reason I observe and consider the paths I see others taking.

I have always observed with fascination when children’s paths and purpose are placed upon them by parents and family. I have observed some individuals whose life was tyrannized by parents who demanded their children walk the path prescribed for them. It appears to be more common when family legacies, businesses, and kingdoms are involved and at stake. How fascinating it’s been to watch England’s Prince Harry try to separate from the royal family while living off the privilege of the very life he says he wants nothing to do with.

But those are the big examples. They come in quiet, everyday examples as well. I know at least one individual who was specifically raised to take over the family business, a fate for which he had no desire and for which he was never really suited. He eventually attempted to commit suicide.

What I found fascinating in today’s chapter was the motivations of father and son, Saul and Jonathan, which bring the story to a climactic event. King Saul is trying to have David killed, and he tells Jonathan that he’s doing it to preserve the throne and kingdom for Jonathan himself. And, I tend to believe that it’s more about Saul’s self-centered pride than it is about an altruistic desire for his son’s future. Jonathan, meanwhile, knows that his father is a poor leader, knows that David is God’s anointed, and appears to approach the situation with a desire for God’s purposes to prevail. Jonathan makes a covenant with “the house of David,” meaning that he is choosing loyalty to David and his descendants. He is abdicating any “right” to ascend his father’s throne.

This has me thinking back to my own path in life, and to my own choices as a parent. I’m blessed that my parents allowed me to choose my own way and placed little, or no, expectations on me (Thanks, Dad and Mom! I’m grateful.). Likewise, my heart’s desire for both Taylor and Madison was that they follow the path God had for each of them. I’ve always tried to provide guidance and wisdom, but I always believed that my role as a parent was to steward them to become the person God intended for them to be, not tyrannically demanding they become the person I envisioned or desired for them to be. I’ve discovered that entrusting my children to God doesn’t end with choosing a college or a major. It’s a life-long process.

In the quiet this morning, I am so respectful of the choice Jonathan made. Breaking with family, especially a son choosing against his own father, can be incredibly difficult. With the covenant he makes in today’s chapter, Jonathan seals his father’s fate, as well as his own, and his descendants. In so doing, he opens the path to God’s stated purposes and the eventual ascendence of David.

But the story isn’t finished. As I’ve experienced in my own life, sometimes God’s purposes take years to germinate, take root, and grow before the fruit appears. Saul is still on the throne. David is now headed into the wilderness, living life on the lam. God’s path almost always leads through the wilderness. I’m looking forward to following David and reminding myself why.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Plunder

Plunder (CaD 1 Sam 15) Wayfarer

“The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
1 Samuel 15:21 (NIV)

Plundering has been an aspect of warfare for as long as people have made war on one another. In fact, throughout history, there have been people groups who made themselves rich by attacking weaker people groups and plundering all of their possessions as their own. Part of the horrors of the holocaust, less than 100 years ago, was the fact that the Nazis drove Jewish families from their own homes to death camps, and then plundered all of their possessions. American soldiers also plundered as they fought their way through Europe to Berlin. Plundering has always been a part of warfare.

In today’s chapter, it’s important to place Samuel’s directive to King Saul in this light. The Amalekites were a nomadic people who had violently opposed God and set themselves against God’s people since the days of Abraham. We read about the Amalekites warring against Abraham, Moses, and Joshua as well as in the days of the Judges. When Samuel gives Saul the instruction to destroy the Amalekites, the ancient Hebrew word refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to God. In other words: No plundering. Destroy it all.

Of course, this directive would not have been popular with the fighting men who saw plunder as the reward for putting their lives on the line. Plundering was viewed as a right and privilege of warfare. There would have been grumbling and complaining. There might even have been talking amidst the troops of desertion or rebellion. This is a test of Saul’s leadership.

He fails.

Saul compromises on carrying out the directive, allowing his men to plunder “the best” of the Amalekites’ hoard. He then “set up a monument in his own honor.” When confronted by Samuel, Saul tries to justify his actions before confessing that he feared his own men. Samuel then declares that God has rejected Saul as king.

I noticed a small detail in the text that I believe might often be overlooked. When Saul is justifying his disobedience he twice tells Samuel that they took the Amalekite plunder in order to sacrifice them to “the LORD your God.”

As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Saul distances himself from God, and God’s command. This is your God, Samuel. We did this to make sacrifices to your God.

This got me thinking this morning about my own relationship with God. I have long observed individuals who relate to God as other. Jesus, however, was quite specific about His desire to be one with His followers just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in the mysterious union of being that is beyond human comprehension. I don’t consider God to be other, I consider God to be intimately personal, connected, and one with me, and me with God, in ways I can’t even comprehend.

As I wrap up my quiet time this morning and launch into a busy new work week, I’m not leaving God behind in the quiet. As St. Patrick’s prayer so aptly communicates, God goes with me, within me, before me, beside me, above me, behind me, on my right, and on my left. This, in turn, changes the way I think about the entire week.

I’m living to surrender and serve Christ, not plunder this world.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

God in (and Out of) a Box

God In (and Out of) a Box (CaD 1 Sam 5) Wayfarer

…the following morning when [the Philistines] rose, there was [their god] Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
1 Samuel 5:4-5 (NIV)

For many years, I’ve had an idea for a book about the things the contemporary church continues to get wrong. If I ever do write this book, one of the chapters would be about church buildings themselves. From an early age, I was taught to treat a church building as a sacred space. The church building was and sometimes is, referred to as God’s house or the house of God.

In yesterday’s post/podcast I spoke of treating God like a good luck charm. I like to think of our perception of church buildings as God’s House as the notion of “God in a box.”

The problem with believing the church building is “God’s house” is, of course, that Jesus was very clear that He was changing the paradigm. In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus addressed her question about the “right” place to worship God by saying, “…believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Jesus doubled down on this when He and the disciples were leaving the Temple in Jerusalem. His disciples commented on the magnificent Temple and Jesus replied that it was all going to be reduced to rubble, and it was just 40 years later.

Jesus’ taught that the “church” was not bricks and mortar but flesh and blood. When the Jesus Movement was changing the known world in the first two centuries, it had no churches or temples, no basilicas or cathedrals. The “church” was millions of followers who met, almost clandestinely, in people’s homes. It was only when the church became the Holy Roman Empire that the institution decided that God needed opulent cathedrals. The motivation wasn’t divine. It’s what human institutions do to centralize power and control masses of people. Jesus’ successful paradigm was that of Spirit-filled people loving, serving, and sharing in every home, neighborhood, and business. God was released from a box and carried by flesh-and-blood “temples” everywhere in the world. Jesus was wherever His followers happened to be. In Jesus’ paradigm “sacred space” was now the coffee shop, the office, the home, the pub, the park; It was wherever a believer, filled with Spirit and Truth was physically present in the moment. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Wherever two or three of you are together, I’m there, too.”

The Holy Roman Empire put God back in a box. Then they made sure that only an institutionally educated and approved class of elites were qualified to be God’s representatives. Way too many people still believe that God is confined in the building on the corner and that only educated men in robes represent Him.

Today’s chapter is also about “God in a box.” The Ark of the Covenant was literally a box that represented God’s presence among the Hebrew people. The Hebrews reduced the notion of God’s holy presence to a good luck charm that would secure victory. They were defeated and the box was taken by the Philistines who put the Ark in the sacred space of their patron god, Dagon, underneath Dagon’s statue. Mesopotamian peoples routinely saw battles as not just contests between peoples, but contests between deities. The Hebrews’ God was now subject to Dagon.

But, God will never be contained inside a box of human design. The statue of Dagon fell, its head and hands breaking off. This was significant because heads, hands, and limbs were often cut-off and brought home by victorious armies as proof of victory and as a way of tallying up the body count. It was an omen the Philistines would have instantly understood. There was also a plague of tumors that broke out among the Philistines, which is ironically the outcome God warned His own people about in Deuteronomy 28, should they stray from His ways.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded that if I truly believe what Jesus taught, then my home office where I’m writing/recording these words is sacred space because God’s Spirit indwells me. I take Him with me everywhere I go today. God’s temple isn’t a building, it’s my body, and that should change my perspective on everything in my daily life.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Love and Justice

Love and Justice (CaD Rev 16) Wayfarer

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
Revelation 16:1 (NIV)

This past Sunday, Wendy and I returned from spending almost two weeks at the lake. We are blessed to be able to work remotely and, it’s nice to get our work done and then be right there on the water when we’re finished. Over the past several trips to the lake we have been making our way through all of the Marvel Universe movies in chronological order of the Marvel Universe’s story arc. It’s been interesting to watch the movies in their proper order. There’s so much we picked up on in retrospect that was completely lost on us when we first saw each film in the theater.

I’ve personally loved this current age of superheroes in which Hollywood has made the comic book heroes of my childhood come to life on the screen. It’s been a lot of fun.

I remember in college when some buddies of mine introduced me to an entirely different genre of comic books. They were not the bright cape-wearing superheroes in spandex but dark and gritty heroes that stirred completely different kinds of emotions within me. They were anti-heroes. I confess that one of the anti-heroes that became a favorite of mine was the Marvel character Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. Frank is a former cop whose family was brutally killed by the mob because they witnessed something they shouldn’t have seen. Frank becomes a vigilante bent on revenge. In a world in which corruption, power, and bureaucracy seem to protect evil from justice (e.g. we still don’t know who was on Epstein and Maxwell’s client list), there was something in the Punisher’s story that appealed to a very base desire for justice within me. I’ve asked myself many times what it is about the Punisher that resonates so deeply within me. Some would call the character of Frank Castle an “avenging angel.”

The metaphor of an “avenging angel” comes from the Great Story, of course. In particular, it comes from today’s chapter, which is why it brought the Punisher to mind. Seven final plagues, bowls of God’s wrath, are poured out on the earth, the unholy trinity [satan (dragon), anti-christ (beast of the sea), and anti-holy-spirit (beast from the earth)], and their unrepentant followers, including the “kings of the earth,” who continue to curse God through this period of judgment.

The bowls of wrath, once again, parallel Moses’ plauges on Egypt. The followers of the Unholy Trinity break out in festering sores, seas and rivers turn to blood, demonic frogs are unleashed, darkness descends, and hundred-pound hailstones fall from the sky. In the middle of these plagues, John records this:

Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:

“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

And I heard the altar respond:

“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments.”

Wait a minute. The altar responded? Yes! If I go back to Revelation 6:9 it is under the altar that the souls of the martyrs (the innocents who were killed simply because they were God’s people) cry out. In Revelation 8:3, the prayers and cries of the innocents, unjustly suffering under the dominion of the Prince of this World and the kingdoms of this world throughout the history of the world, rise like incense before God’s throne.

This is the day of reckoning. Evil, injustice, pride, arrogance, and corruption are getting their “just desserts.”

The words of the psalmist came to mind:

We are given no signs from God;
    no prophets are left,
    and none of us knows how long this will be.
How long will the enemy mock you, God?
    Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
    Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

Psalm 74:9-11 (NIV)

Today’s chapter is the answer to the psalmist’s question. “I will wait no longer. The day of my wrath has come.”

At the end of today’s chapter, the “trinity” of God’s judgments and plagues on the earth are complete. Three is one of God’s numbers, the number of the Trinity. Seven is the number of “completeness.” Three sets of seven metaphorically “complete” God’s judgment on the earth.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that the Great Story is a story of good versus evil. On this earthly journey, I have encountered both good and evil. In the news and in my social media feed I see both good and evil. The Great Story reveals God who is good, which means God is both loving and just. The final chapters of the Great Story tell of evil being finally and justly dealt with, once and for all.

And, I confess, this appeals to that same part of my soul that identifies with Frank Castle’s story in The Punisher.

In the meantime, this wayfaring stranger continues to press on in this earthly journey, one day at a time, following Jesus and determined to love my enemies and bless those who curse me, even as my soul cries out for justice on the earth.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Different Ways

Different Ways (CaD Jud 7) Wayfarer

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’”
Judges 7:2 (NIV)

History is filled with stories of military deceptions. In World War II, the U.S. created an entirely fictitious army group so that the Germans would think that the invasion of Europe would be focused on a different part of the French coast far east of the beaches of Normandy. They even used inflatable tanks and vehicles so that German reconnaissance planes would verify the misinformation that had been fed to spies and planted in radio communications about the “First U.S. Army Group.” The Germans were so convinced by the deception that when the invasion finally did happen at Normandy, they kept reinforcements at the false invasion point for seven weeks, allowing the Allies much needed time to resupply and bring in more reinforcements.

Today’s chapter is a classic case of military deception allowing a smaller force to rout a much larger enemy. Before the battle, God purposefully whittles down the army Gideon has gathered to fight in Midianites from 20,000 to just 300. Using the powers of illusion to stoke the Midianites’ fear, the enemy is thrown into chaos and begins to flee, believing that there is a much larger force about ready to attack.

So, on one hand, today’s chapter is just one in a number of great stories about military deception. What’s fascinating to me was the fact that it was God who was leading Gideon. It was God who told Gideon to get rid of 19,700 of his troops and attack with just 300. Today’s story is one in which it’s very easy for me to focus on the event and lose sight of the context.

At this point in the Great Story, we’re still in the toddler stage of human civilization, and God is trying to teach His people to trust Him and to follow Him. God has a motivation in reducing the fighting force. He knows human pride and hubris. A giant army defeating a similar or smaller force requires little faith, just good tactics. A force of 300 routing an enemy of thousands? Well, that requires a considerable measure of faith.

Throughout the Great Story, God reminds me again and again that the Kingdom of God does not operate like the Kingdoms of this world:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55:8

So [the angel] said to [Zechariah], “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.'”
Zechariah 4:6

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about the ways that the kingdoms of this world operate. How ironic that government, media, social media, big tech, and the corporate world are all worked up about misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. Illusions, deceptions, and talking heads, it all begins to feel a bit chaotic to me.

So, as a Jesus follower, I shift my focus from the chaos of this world. I take captive my thoughts, opinions, fears, and anxieties. I consciously choose to direct my thoughts toward love, joy, and peace, and the things Jesus calls me to do as a disciple. I’m to make people my priority. I’m to love the person I’m with, even if that person happens to be a stranger in an elevator or a check-out guy at the gas station. I’m to look for opportunities to serve others and then do it. I’m to be kind. I’m to be generous. I’m to forgive.

God wanted Gideon to see what He could do with just 300 men. Jesus wants me to see what He can do through me if I will trust, follow, and love well.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Willingness

Willingness (CaD Jud 6) Wayfarer

That same night the Lord said to [Gideon], “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.
Judges 6:25-27 (NIV)

I recently read the story of Angie Fenimore’s Near-Death Experience (NDE). Her body died and she descended to a hell-like place. This is an excerpt of her story:

I knew that I was in a state of hell, but this was not the typical fire and brimstone hell that I had learned about as a young child.

Men and women of all ages, but no children, were standing or squatting or wandering about on the realm. Some were mumbling to themselves. The darkness emanated from deep within and radiated from them in an aura I could feel. They were completely self-absorbed, every one of them too caught up in his or her own misery to engage in any mental or emotional exchange. They had the ability to connect with one another, but they were incapacitated by the darkness.

But worse was my growing sense of complete aloneness. Even hearing the brunt of someone’s anger, however unpleasant, is a form of tangible connection. But in this empty world, where no connections could be made, the solitude was terrifying.

Then I heard a voice of awesome power, not loud but crashing over me like a booming wave of sound; a voice that encompassed such ferocious anger that with one word it could destroy the universe, and that also encompassed such potent and unwavering love that, like the sun, it could coax life from the Earth. I cowered at its force and at its excruciating words:

“Is this what you really want?”

Suddenly I felt another presence with us, the same presence that had been with me when I first crossed over into death and who had reviewed my life with me. I recognized that he had been with us the whole time, but that I was only now becoming able to perceive him. What I could see were bits of light coming through the darkness. The rays of light penetrated me with incredible force, with the power of an all-consuming love.

I had to ask, why me? Why was it that I could see God while the vacant husk of a man next to me could not? Why was I absorbing light and being taught, while he was hunkering down in misery and darkness?

I was told that the reason is willingness.

Read or watch Angie’s complete story.

In today’s chapter, we have the beginning of the ancient story of Gideon in which God calls Gideon to lead the Hebrew tribes against their enemies. What struck me as I meditated on the chapter was the structure of the interchange between the Angel of the Lord, and Gideon:

  • Gideon expresses doubt that God is even around.
  • Gideon expresses doubt that God would call him, since Gideon is from the weakest clan in Manasseh’s tribe and Gideon is the “least” in his family.
  • Gideon asks for a sign.
  • God provides a sign and Gideon builds an altar in response
  • God tells Gideon to tear down his Father’s altar to the idol Baal and the idolatrous Asherah pole next to it, and then sacrifice a bull on the altar Gideon had built to the Lord.
  • Gideon does it, but for fear of his people, he does it at night.
  • When called out by his people for this deed, the Spirit of God comes upon Gideon and he calls his people to rise up against their enemies. Despite his doubts and fears, his people answer favorably.
  • Gideon expresses doubts and asks God for another sign. God answers.
  • Gideon expresses doubts and asks God for another sign. God answers.

Last year when I was making this chapter-a-day trek through the Psalms, I discussed the fact that the ancient Hebrews loved to plant metaphorical structure in their writing. In the Psalms, the central theme to the song lyrics is often at the very center, with corresponding or contrasting themes before or after.

Today’s chapter has similar symmetry if you outline the chapter. There are two episodes of Gideon’s doubt and a request for a sign that God answers. There is a command to tear down his father’s idols and offer a sacrifice to God, which Gideon does, despite his fears. Then God miraculously raises Gideon to a position of leadership and his people agree to follow. Then there are two more episodes of Gideon’s doubt and request for another sign.

In other words, the only thing that Gideon brought to this story was his willingness, despite his fears, to tear down the idols and make a sacrifice to God. This made me think of God telling Angie that the reason she was able to see His light in the darkness, and all the poor souls around her could not, was because she was willing to see Him.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but think of myself and my own fearful doubts about the things to which God has called me. I am no different than Gideon. My journals are full of letters I’ve written to God expressing doubts, focusing on my weaknesses, recalling my many shortcomings, and asking for signs. I want to see the signs before I believe. God always reminds me, ironically, of “doubting Thomas” who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw the nail holes from the crucifixion and the place where the Roman spear pierced his side. to whom Jesus answered his doubts as he did Gideon’s before saying, “Blessed are those who never see the sign, but still believe.”

And that is where I find myself standing at the beginning of this, a new day in the journey. Am I willing to step out in faith and pursue the things to which God has called me? Or, will I stand still, distract myself with other things, and wait for a sign?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“Git ‘er done!” (or not)

"Git 'er Done!" (or not) [CaD Jud 1] Wayfarer

The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.
Judges 1:21 (NIV)

As we approached the end of my sophomore year in high school, my English teacher called me up to his desk. He had his grade book on his desk in which he wrote down the grades of all the assignments for every student in class for that semester.

“Your grade this semester is right on the line between an A and a B,” he said. He then pointed to a blank box on the grade book. “You never turned in your third book report this semester.”

He was right. I didn’t really learn the joy of reading until late college and after. I was a terrible reader when I was younger. I didn’t like reading.

“You’re right,” I told my teacher. “I didn’t do it.”

“That’s all you have to say?” he asked.

I had only been a follower of Jesus for just over a year at this point, but I knew what Jesus expected of me was honesty.

“I could stand here and make up an excuse like ‘the dog ate my paper,” but the truth is that I simply procrastinated the assignment and didn’t get it done. I’m sorry. If that means that I get a B instead of an A, then I get that you have to give me a B. I understand that’s the consequence of my not doing it.”

Looking back, that was kind of a small step forward in a larger spiritual journey for me, the journey of honesty, transparency, and confession. A journey I’m still on, for the record. I’m further down the road on that one, but I definitely haven’t arrived.

Today’s chapter kicks off the book of Judges which comes right after the book of Joshua which we just finished. It’s a continuation of the story, so it feels right to keep going. The Hebrew tribes conquered the Promised Land, divided the land, and settled into their allotted territories. Joshua is dead.

But the assignment isn’t finished.

Joshua’s conquest took control of the largest and most strategic cities and peoples living in the region. The Hebrew tribes were dominant in the area, but the inhabitants still remained in smaller areas, cities, and villages. It was now up to each tribe to finish the task and drive the remaining inhabitants from their tribal lands.

The author of Judges begins the story with a record of which tribes succeeded at this assignment, and which did not. Judah and Manasseh were the two largest tribes with the largest fighting forces. They had some early successes, but their campaign stalled.

Whenever I’m reading a chapter of the Great Story and I notice repetition, I always try to pay attention. Here’s what I noticed today:

  • “but they were unable to drive the people from the plains”
  • “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites…”
  • “But Manasseh did not drive out the people of…”
  • “…they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.”
  • “Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer…”
  • “Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron…”
  • “Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko…”

There are even more, but you get the picture. The tribes failed to complete the assignment, and that’s exactly what the author of Judges wants me to know because everything else I’m going to read in the subsequent stories is the consequence of this very fact.

There is a formal liturgy used by both Catholic and Protestant institutions called the Litany of Penitence. I occasionally use it in my personal time with God. It opens with this line:

I confess to you and to my brothers, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what I have done, and what I have left undone.

In a moment of spiritual synchronicity, I also read James 4 in the quiet this morning, in which James tells followers of Jesus:

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Some mornings, Holy Spirit makes the lesson quite clear. Procrastination comes easy for me. Part of it is the way I’m wired to go with life’s flow. There is a part of it, however, that is much more than that; Its willfulness, laziness, and a nasty habit of not finishing what I started. Unlike Larry the Cable Guy, I often fail to “git ‘er done.”

Ironically, my high school English teacher gave me an A for that semester, and that’s why I still remember the story. That teacher (who was, ironically, Jewish) has always been a reminder to me of a gracious and forgiving God who says, “if you confess your sins, I am faithful and just, and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

In the quiet this morning, I once again confess that I’ve still got a ways to go in both honestly owning my own shortcomings, and faithfully finishing tasks on my list.

And so, I enter another day in the journey. Time to get to work on the task list.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.