Friday, February 26, 2016

5 Lessons from Gideon

Gideon hid in a hole when times got rough.
Jonah tried to run away from God rather than obey Him. 

I hate to say it but I totally identify with these two men in Scripture. I’ve hidden and I’ve run away. It didn’t work for them and it hasn’t worked for me either.

The best thing about these accounts is that God pursues both Gideon and Jonah. He gives them second and third chances. God has always pursued me with love and patience, no matter how many times it took to get my attention.

Let’s begin with Gideon’s story, told in Judges 6. I don't know about you but, sometimes, I feel pretty comfortable down in a hole!

1. God’s always nearby.
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. Judges 6:11

Gideon was scared to death and I bet he felt pretty hopeless. I’m sure he thought God had turned His back on him and walked off. But God was there, sitting nearby, under a tree. Unfortunately, Gideon couldn’t see Him because he was hiding down in a hole.

There have been plenty of times I wanted to dig a hole under the bed. Several years ago, my husband and I entered December with the possibility of one or both of us being laid off on December 31. I assumed the worse and decided it was all hopeless. I couldn’t see God because I was deep in the hole of fear. Well, Charlie was laid off but I wasn’t. I was still panicked, but we tightened our belts until we were almost cut in half and we managed until Charlie found a new job. Just like with Gideon, God was nearby.

I don't know what "Midianites" are attacking your life: financial problems, broken relationships, physical or mental illness. I beg you to lift your eyes above your circumstances and look for God. He is there! It might not be easy, it might not be comfortable, and you might sometimes let fear get the better of you, but God never leaves you or abandons you.

He was and is always faithful!

And, by the way, what were the angel of the LORD's first words to Gideon? “The LORD is with you."

2. God sees the best in us.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:12

Mighty warrior! Are you kidding? Not too many mighty warriors hide in winepresses. In fact, over the next few verses, Gideon describes himself as the least of the least. Gideon doesn’t think very highly of himself.

In November, 2005, I was pretty down on myself. I had just been laid off and felt pretty useless and worthless. Over then next few months, God shocked me, “ I’m with you, Bible-study author.” I responded much the same way Gideon did, “Are you kidding? I can’t do that! I don’t know how!”

When God looked at Gideon, He saw his potential. He knew what Gideon could be if he surrendered himself to God. And, later in the story, Gideon became what God proclaimed him to be: a mighty warrior. And, guess what – a couple years later, I became what God said I would be: a Bible-study author!

You might feel like a coward or loser, but trust me, you are not! When God looks at you, He sees your potential in Him. God saw Gideon as a mighty warrior because He knew Gideon would be one. What does God call you? Great parent, mighty nurse or doctor, excellent friend or family member, outstanding Walmart associate. Whatever you are God sees you at your best. Close you eyes and see yourself as God sees you. Tape those words to your bathroom mirror and the rear view mirror in your car.

You ARE who God says you are!

3. God’s big enough to take our questions.
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?...But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:13

Gideon may have been terrified of the Midianites but he wasn't afraid to question God. The oppression around him convinced him that God had abandoned him; he blamed God!

I promise you, I'm not afraid, either. I've asked Him "Why," "When," "What are You doing?" and several others. Even Jesus asked God, "Why have you forsaken me?" from the cross (Matthew 27:46).

You might have lots of questions about your life. Go ahead and ask them - but then listen for the answers. Gideon didn't turn His back on the angel of the LORD after he questioned Him. He listened for His answer. God can use our questions to teach us and to reveal Himself to us.

4. God enables us to act when He calls us.
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”  Judges 6:16

Gideon thought he was totally unqualified and that God had called the wrong person. But God answered his fears, “I will be with you." God wasn't going to snap His fingers and defeat the Midianites. He was going to walk beside Gideon as he went into battle.

Ninety percent of the time, God doesn't deliver us miraculously. When lies attacked my family, I begged for deliverance but God promised His presence. 

You are never without His presence. 

You might wade through the floods but you won't drown because God is with you.
You can walk through fire but you won't be burned because God is with you.

These promises are in Isaiah 43:2-3 and they have carried me through many a crisis. 

God reveals His faithfulness to us through our circumstances, just as He did to Gideon. Sure, Gideon reluctantly lifted his eyes but God understood his doubt and fear, just as He understands ours. 
  • Hold on to God's promise of His presence. 
  • Believe in His power to enable you. 
  • Have faith that He is victorious through Jesus Christ.  
Next week, we'll learn from Jonah!

This post is drawn from my Bible study, Storms of Life. This might be a great Bible study for your ladies group.

If these words bless you, please share!

Raccoon photo:
Who me?:
God is with you: 1illustratinglady

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Review: Intentional Warfare by Mary Scro


What do daily spiritual battles look like? How do we fight an enemy who desires to separate us from God? “Intentional Warfare, Winning the Daily Spiritual Battles,” seeks to answer these questions. Mary Scro’s goal is to alert believers to the enemy’s attacks and to guide them to become battle ready. She encourages the reader to be intentional about training for battle.

Scro uses the acronym W A R F A R E to outline the aspects of battle training and the weapons that enable believers to be victorious in their daily lives. This structure makes the principles she teaches easy to understand and to implement.

I enjoyed how Scro wove scripture and personal experience in a way that enabled me to relate to her struggles and to gain confidence in my ability to be victorious. Questions at the end of each chapter encouraged me to apply the lessons to daily life. 

This book increased my understanding of spiritual warfare and better prepared me for the battles I face each day. I recommend it to believers who want to become more aware of the enemy’s tactics and better trained to win the day-to-day battles.

I received a copy of this book for review in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

1 Prayer; 4 Truths

Note: this is adapted from my study, Storms of Life.

Jesus was fully man and fully God. As a man, can you imagine the agonizing struggle of facing the cross? Could he have refused? I think that, at some point, the fully-man Jesus had to totally submit to the road to the cross. In this, Jesus modeled perfectly the path we all must walk in total surrender to God’s will, even when it is painful.

When Jesus falls to His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, we might be a bit surprised at His words. We might expect Him to show His godliness by expressing His courage and joy at the path before Him. Instead, we see a beautiful picture of the humanness of Jesus and His struggle to submit to the torturous hours He faced. Jesus models four truths that help us pray during hard times.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

1. Abba, Father...  Abba, an Aramaic word, is an affectionate, intimate name a child might use for his father. We might say Daddy or Papa. In this moment of intense pain, Jesus needed His Daddy! He needed to feel the tender love that He could only find with His Daddy.

Can we use this intimate name when we come to our Lord and Father? Some think that's disrespectful but I believe with all my heart that God yearns for us come to Him with such love and trust.

"But you received the Spirit of sonship - or daughtership, and by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"  (Romans 8:15, my paraphrase)

In hard times, dwell in this truth: God is your Daddy. He is always there to hold you and to comfort you. It's OK to cry on His shoulder!

2. Everything is possible for you... What an expression of faith! In the dark hours ahead, Jesus would be abandoned, humiliated, tortured, and die an agonizing death. Even so, He expressed complete faith in His Father's control and power.

I admit that deep faith is hard to come by when life is falling apart. Sometimes it's I can do to whisper, "I think I believe, help me believe more!" (paraphrase of Mark 9:24). But when we hand our weak faith to God, He strengthens us. He helps us to rest in His sovereignty.  There is great comfort in knowing God is there and that He is in control. 

3. Take this cup from me... Does this surprise you? Jesus didn't want to suffer. He'd prefer something else. He wanted His Father to come up with another way to accomplish salvation.

Another way. We all beg for another way when hardship approaches. Several years ago, during a crippling family crisis, I spent many hours face down on the carpet and I begged God to take the suffering away. It's hard to accept that pain is the path He chooses for us.

Don't be afraid to express your feelings to God. Jesus wasn't! God is your Daddy. You can pour out your heart to Him. Cry, scream, collapse in exhaustion. Wherever your heart is, God will meet you there. 

4. Yet not what I will, but what you will. With these few words, Jesus, fully man and fully God, bowed in full submission to His Father's plan for the salvation of mankind. Was He overjoyed? I imagine not. But He was surrendered. When He walked toward His disciples and the waiting soldiers, He was strong and focused on obedience.

I'm not sure I can ever pray those last words with the conviction Jesus did. My heart rebels when I hear Him tell me that I must walk through the storm. But my heart's desire is to surrender to Him and He honors that. He comforts me, strengthens me, and promises me His continual presence. God doesn't promise deliverance, He promises His presence.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

Through every word of Jesus' prayer, His eyes were fixed on His Father. He looked to Him for comfort, for assurance, and for the strength to submit. This is the key to our walk with God, through good days and bad. Fix our eyes on Jesus.