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They Weren’t Supposed to be the Heroes….except in God’s mind.

Discussion/Devotional thoughts of the Day…

 20  Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21  Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22  If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23  and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? 24  Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. 25  Hosea put it well: I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. 26  In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.” 27  Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by (God’s) personal selection. 28  God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.    Romans 9:20-28 (MSG)

They appear in some of my favorite books an movies, Bilbo Baggins, (not to mention his nephew Frodo), Thomas Covenant, Nicholas Seafort, the apprentices Pug and Thomas and Jimmy the Hand. Arthur Dent…..the quarterback in Longest Yard, the general in “the Last Castle”.

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films.

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is, I suppose, a special genre…. that of the Anti-hero.  The ones who succeed despite themselves, matter of fact it is their weakness, and their mistakes, that endear them to us… and because of which, they find success.

But they are also my favorite people in scripture, REAL PEOPLE – like Gideon, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Hosea and of course, the last person anyone would have thought would have been a hero (except maybe in his own mind) – the apostle Peter. They too are the people that were not considered the brilliant, the connected, the famous, the wealthy and powerful.  Yet God used them, incredibly, as He formed them, empowered and equipped them to do what others could not do.

And everyone is surprised… as if God can’t work through the means He chooses.

Which brings me to you and I.

We are God’s artwork, His masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10)  We may not be much (or some of us, like Peter and I – often – too much!) but God uses us, and uses us to do extraordinary things.  It may be what we accomplish, it may be what we endure.  It may simply be the example of trying to cling to God’s hand with our last remaining bit of strength – then realizing we are safely nestled in the palm of His other hand.  It could be that we are the forefront of a major revival – one where the church is reformed because we were the remnant not to surrender to dreams of past glory, or the machinations to create a future one.

We don’t know – we cannot… we can only trust in God… we can only walk with Him, dance with Him, be cleansed and strengthened by Him…loved by Him.

That is the time – when He receives glory, for the like the cornerstone which the builders rejected – we are found to be an essential block (in my case blockhead) in His building the New Sanctuary… the Body of Christ, those who have been brought to trust in Him, and cleansed by Him.

We are His people – we are His clay…

and He is at work in and through our lives.  AMEN

Realizing and Revealing the Lord is With us: We can depend on Him!

Realizing and Revealing that

The Lord is with us…and

We Can Depend on Him!

Judges 7:1-15

 

 

When God removes all that we think we need, may we find great assurance in His Presence, a presence so strong that others, even our adversaries cannot help but comment on the grace and peace seen in us!


There is a nightmare that many people have, or so I have heard, the night before a big presentation, or some major point in their life – where they are the center of attention.  It’s been described this way – there you are, the center of attention and everyone is looking at you, staring at you – and you realize you borrowed the emperor’s new wardrobe.

If you don’t know that story… you all of a sudden realize – you forgot to get dressed after taking a shower.  Clothes are a good thing – and to be left without them in a dream isn’t as bad as being without them in public!  But those dreams are often considered symbolic of our fears – that we will be found, we will be proven to lack something – that we will be defenseless against criticism – and that we be seen as losers.

I have the strangest feeling that Gideon knew that anxiety, that guy wrenching fear.  Probably even before his army was reduced from 32,000 men down to 300.  “God
,” I can hear Gideon saying, “what are you thinking?  I have nothing left, and you want me to do what?

In this season of Lent, it is time to ask, to even plead that God help us give up those things we depend on, rather than depending upon His love, His mercy, His wisdom. Like Gideon – this is a time to realize – how much we need to depend on God, and indeed how

WHAT DO WE DEPEND ON, WHAT IS OUR GOD?

As I consider the conversation between God and Gideon, as I dwell on it, I have to wonder what I want to take into battle – and why?  For a general, for the leader of an army – it would be the men, the size of the army, the advisors – I would want to have the best.

For us, what do we want to take with us? What do we depend on?  It may be other people, those who lead us, or those we have come to trust.  It might be the technology, or the books, our smile, or ability to think on our feet.  What do we depend on so much, that we would not give credit to God for delivering us out of the situations we find ourselves in, or the situations where we, like Gideon, are called on to rescue people from the oppression brought about because of sin?

We have to remember that – Lent is not just about our realizing the presence of God in our lives in our time of need – but also our seeing that revealed to others.

It is so easy for us to forget about our need and our ability to depend completely on God.  we are caught up in a world that proclaims to us a different gospel – a different message of salvation.  If we want to get of the jam we are in, we are programmed by our society to do what all Americans do. If we want it done right, you do it yourself!

If we watch our supports stripped away… will our trust and our dependence on God still remain?  The answer isn’t found in us, in our faithfulness.  It is found in His.  This is at the core of Lent – realizing that in our weakness, we find, quite joyfully, the love of God making as we realize His presence….

DO WE REALIZE WHAT OTHERS SEE?

That can be when the most miraculous of all things happens, as it did for Gideon.  Sent by God into the camp to be encouraged, he hears something absolutely wonderful – something that causes him to drop to his knees in worship.

13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” 14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!” Judges 7:13-14 (NLT)

Note that it is God who gives the victory, we can’t ever forget that.  When we talk to someone, and they come home and are reconciled to God as the prodigal is, when we baptize someone here, it isn’t their own strength or power that saves them.  It wasn’t their own ability to discern the truth about God’s heart towards them.

It’s simple – God works through people like you and I, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives – to reveal God giving the victory, God freeing His people from what binds them. We may never see the results; we may never understand the depth of the victory.

Or when we do, we’ll shake our heads, and realize how great our God is… and we’ll bow and worship and praise Him.  Even before we see the final result of the victory. Even as we only see the foretaste of it, as we realize the promises made sure for us in our baptism, as we kneel at the altar, and realize He has called us here… to dine with Him, to commune with God.

Even before we see heaven, and the glory of God in which we dwell… through His love, through His guidance, we can begin to understand the incredible promises that come, as He comes, as He pours grace onto us.  When we begin to realize what it means “that the Lord is with us”….

and as our lives reveal that promise is for them, as well

As our lives are lived out, in the peaceful presence of God which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds kept in Christ Jesus.   AMEN!

Realizing and Revealing the Lord is With You, assuring You of His Presence!

Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us

Assuring us of His Presence!

Judges 6:33-4:1

IHS

 

May you be so blessed as God reveals His presence in the journey of your life, that you find your journey so full of mercy and peace, that His presence in revealed to others.

 

Gideon’s Fleece Overlooked

 

Have you ever watched a favorite movie, or read a favorite book, and come across a scene that you did not remember?  A part of the plot that made the scene, that was critical for really comprehending the entire story.

Where we walk with Gideon tonight, as he realizes the presence of God is really, really with him, is a story familiar to many of us, even if we don’t remember who Gideon was, or where in the Bible this story is found.  Because this is where we get the phrase about “putting a fleece before the Lord”.

It’s where we get the concept of asking God to make clear which way we are to go, which road we are to take, if this is really God’s plan for our lives.

And if that is the concept we have, we are going to see a missing piece to the story tonight.  One that will correct our understanding a little, and in the end, bring us even more comfort, as we realize His presence in our lives, and how He saves people, rescuing them from what oppresses and binds them, revealing how He loves and provides for His people.

Gideon was Enveloped/Clothed/Came Upon

When we left Gideon last week, he had desecrated and destroyed an idol that had kept the people of God in bondage.  He started, with God’s guidance, the rescue that the people of God had cried out for, even in their unbelief, even in the midst of their rebellion.  This had a tremendous impact on God’s people, even to the point that Gideon’s father, who once was proud of hosting the idol’s altar, challenged the idolatry publicly, defending his son.

The battle to rescue God’s people tonight shifts, as now the battle goes from spiritual to physical.  Side question to consider sometime – why do we find the physical battles in life more “serious” or more “threatening” than the spiritual battle?

In order to take on the physical – and I love how the New American Bible phrases this – the Holy Spirit envelops Gideon – other translations use clothe, or comes over, the picture is wrapping around for protection and warmth.  Gideon’s walk with God takes on a new dimension, a new vocation; he is called to be one who speaks for God, who leads God’s people, while God rescues them.

It is the same kind of language that describes our Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us then.  We are clothed with Christ, the Holy Spirit comes upon us as is talked about in Acts and we are sealed in the Holy Spirit in Ephesians.

Gideon  wanted confirmation… of God’s presence

          He got it… and went..

 

Even as Gideon begins to live within what we would call the life of the baptized, he, like us, still struggles with the idea that God would dwell with Him that the Holy Spirit would continue to be there.  Perhaps like Paul he struggles with the things he wants to do, but does not and the things he knows He should not do, but does.

That is why Gideon needs to have confirmation, to know not only that God is with Him, but also that God is with Him in this particular journey, in this mission to save God’s people.  He needs to know, even as he looks at the life of Israel, that God isn’t giving up on them, that this is really God’s intent.

It would be as if we were to send out a missionary to Cambodia – or wait an even more challenging place – Washington D.C. to save all the people there, wouldn’t the one chosen to go really want to know God’s desire – that God really desires to save them?  Are you really serious God – do you really want to save these people of Cerritos and Artesia, La Palma and Whittier and Bellflower? That you want to use people like us?

Lord, do you still want to keep your promise?

Do you still love them? Do you still love us?

The lambskin was treated as it needed to be, to become proof of God’s love, of His presence of God’s will.  Proof to assure Gideon of the promise.  Just as another Lamb, the very Lamb of God became proof of God’s love, as God prepared to send those apostles out. even as He sends us out.  As we go out, to neighborhoods, to offices, to workplaces, in response to people crying out to be rescued, to be loved, to see that which enslaves defeated…

That they would come to know that which we know… even as we celebrate the presence among us of the  Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… and grants us peace.

AMEN?m

The Lord is With Us…removing our idols!

Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us

Removing our Idols

† IHS †

As you experience and know the grace, mercy and peace of living in God’s presence, may the idols you cling to, that weigh you down, simply fall aside..

 

Can you imagine the Sanctus, sang by people of every tribe, every language, every ethnicity, as they pour into the space around the throne of God?  As we seem Him in all of His glory?

As we hear the people of God, all in awe of our Father’s appearance and of His glory. Can we our voices added to theirs as we all sing Holy! Holy! Holy! with such awe that almost sucks the breath out of us, combined with a joy that goes beyond anything that we could ever imagine?

Our attention will be so focused on the Lord God Almighty, that I doubt we will notice the other parts of the scene, the 4 seraphim, the 24 elders, and though we will move and sing as one being – I think all of our attention will focus on the love of our lives, our Father…. The Son, the Holy Spirit….

Everything else, all the things of the world… will have ceased to exist, they won’t matter.

Including our idols,

including our idolatry.

The Idols fall away…

That is the lesson tonight! As we look at Gideon’s walk with God, we consider this Lenten journey – what it means. We realize how it changes our lives to accompany Christ on His walk to His cross.  As He bears the punishment we deserve, if only because of the number of times we have shattered the 1st “commandment”,

Because I am the Lord your God, who rescued you, you shall have no other gods… you will not make or worship idols.

Far too often, our lives resemble that of Israel.  Imagine – as people walk up to the front door of your house, there is a monument to your favorite idol, to the thing that you most often put in God’s place, the things or people or achievements that we spend most of our time either working for, or enjoying, or chasing after.

Rarely are we as simplistic as Gideon’s dad was, just placing our idol, or an altar to that idol in our front yard.  We may be more sophisticated in how we chase them, of how we pursue them, but they are idols none the less.  We may even be as blunt and transparent in how we chase after these things – at least in the view of others, or if we look at how we spend our money, our time, our thoughts, and who or what we turn to, as we deal with a crisis.
What is it that binds us, that ties us up, that stops us from being with God?

The thing about idols that I don’t think we understand – is that if you have an idol, you don’t own it – it owns you.  That’s the thing about gods, if they are a god, not only do we depend on them, we are entrusted to them – we become their property.  We find ourselves to connected to them to break the connection, to dependent on them for our success, our ability to deal with, usually by ignoring it, the aspects of life that cause us anxiety.  We become addicted to them, and knowing its wrong struggle to find a way to break free.

That is why we are like Gideon’s father, who finds himself, a child of God, one who could well remember God’s reign over Israel; the proud owner of a home with the community altar to Ba’al.   An altar to worship the god of fertility.  Are we, like Gideon’s father, willing to make a stand, only after they are removed?

How can we overcome our attraction – even our addiction to those idols we have?  That is the part of our quest for lent, to rid ourselves of the things which stop us from realizing and revealing that the Lord is with us!

The Secret to Ridding ourselves of Idols.

I began this devotional message talking about our being in the presence of God, as we dwell in His presence before His throne, for a reason.

The only way to break the power of something over us, is to have something more powerful grab ahold of our attention, of our focus, of our very lives.

Remember – those idols wouldn’t stand a chance of attracting your attention, when you dwell in the presence of Almighty God, as are gathered in His presence around the throne of God.  We joke about you can’t take it all with you, but the real truth is that you wouldn’t want to!

You would look pretty silly, in the presence of God, illuminated by and dwelling in his glory, to be lugging a bag full of false gods, or to be bowing before things you have made yourself, or that others made. It wouldn’t be just silly, it could be even considered pathetic, sad, something that would bring us to tears.  Even as we talked about on Sunday, as Paul would cry and wail as he had to share that some people chose to be enemies of Christ, and the cross where our lives were linked with His.

 

The cure for idolatry is simple – it’s to realize we live, we dwell in the presence of God.  TO remember that doesn’t just happen when we go home to be in the Father’s presence, but we now dwell, fully, in the presence of God – the Holy Spirit.

It is found as we gather together, in Christ’s presence, as we worship Him, as we hear that we are freed from our sins, and from all of the world’s unrighteousness and injustice.  As we pray, as we spend time in scripture – both devotional reading and studying it together, as we come to the altar, and celebrate the foretaste of our homecoming feast – the feast of the lamb. It is found, as we realize and reveal to others, the Lord is With Us!

There is no idol that stands in the presence of God!
Gideon, dwelling in the presence of God, hearing God’s desire, did what we are called to do, and did away the idols that bound the people of Israel.….

Free not just of idolatry, but of every sin… for we dwell in the presence of God…

For we dwell in His peace. AMEN?

 

The Lord is with you, strengthening you…

Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us..Strengthening Us!

Judges 6:1-24

 

† HIS †

 

As you dwell in the grace and mercy of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize how He strengthens you, just by being there…with you!

 

The Lenten/Gideon Journey

    Am I in the winepress, or just in MIdian’s Hands

As I look at our world, and just Southern California over these weeks since I have returned from China, I think I understand more than ever, the attitude of Gideon, hiding in the winepress.

As the injustice, in and evil in the world floods our lives, I can be easily saddened as the people of God and their leaders are often looking more to other gods, or as St Paul talks about – we make idols of our appetites.  Either we dismiss the impact of sin, or we go to the opposite extreme, demanding perfection and condemning where we see others failing to be perfect.  We are more focused on how things “look” here, than on bringing people into the presence of God, to be cleansed by His flood of love.

My instinct, as I see this world, and consider my role in it, our role in being the ones reflecting this light in the darkness is so close to Gideon’s words, as he hides in the winepress and is greeted by the Lord.

“Lord, if you are with us, then why?   Where are Your Miracles Lord?  Why aren’t you rescuing this people from their sin and the oppression of evil and temptation?”  Why Lord?  What are You going to do about all this, Lord?”

The answer we hear, when we take the time to listen, is even more staggering…

“Why, I am sending you, of course!” 

Uhm – Lord – have you looked at us recently?  Don’t you know we are not one of the big mega churches; we don’t have hardly any young people, and we don’t have a lot of resources, how are we supposed to save the world….”

Call to remember the promise!

If you carefully at this passage, there is something odd to consider.  Gideon recounts easily the miracles of the past, the times where God rescues His people. But what isn’t remembered are the promises, the contractual obligation that God enters into, to be with us, to be with His people, to protect them, to deliver them, and yes, even to chasten them.

As Gideon wavers at the command to go with the strength you have, as he questions the wisdom and knowledge of God, there is a reminder about that strength.

“I will be with you!”

 

That assurance, “I will be with you”, is the bottom line of every covenantal promise of God, of everything God does in our lives.  It is what not only what those who walked with God before us realized; it is what the people of God whom Gideon mentioned realized.  He is with us!  He will save us.. He has come, to deliver and restore and heal us!

Still sometimes, we don’t get it… and he asks for a sign, even as he goes and gets an appropriate offering.  He trusts enough for the offering, but not yet enough to take on the challenge of being the one who God will use to rescue His people.  Sound familiar?  Yes Lord, I trust you enough to go to church on Sunday, and even a few Wednesday nights a year, but show me a sign that you are going to send me to…that you want me to invite “them” to church, that you want me to reach out and show you love to..

I sometimes think we determine that it isn’t God we don’t trust in, but ourselves.  Yet didn’t He choose us… to be His kingdom of priests?

 

I need something to overcome my fear, my anxiety, my doubts about, “why me”, or at least I think I do….

What I need to really here, what I really need to see revealed in my life… is the truth of “I will be with you!”

The Promise fulfilled

    We aren’t doomed when we encounter Christ’s glory

 

Each week, along with Gideon, we get to hear John’s incredible first chapter and especially verse 14.

14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.

 

When we realize that Matthew tells us that Jesus, the Word Made Flesh and living with us” promised He would never leave us, even until the end of the age, this means that we to live with Him, and He is still full of grace and truth.

He is here, as we hear His word, as we feast on His body and blood.  He is meeting our needs to know His presence, for that is our own strength.  Even as Gideon strength, and Moses for that matter was found in their realization that it was God directing their steps, we need to realize that as well.  We desperately need to realize that, for then, our strength is enough to do whatever it takes.

We aren’t alone, He is here!

That is where our hope lies, that is how life is different, that is what we need to realize, not just as we approach the altar, but the breakfast table, our workplace’s front door, the restaurant, or gas station, or when we turn on our computer to check email’s, or read or watch the news.

I will be with you!  – and with us, He is our strength…..

As we take on the impossible, as we confront the evil that would oppress us, as we deal with our own sin, let us find our strength… in the One Who creates, redemption and sanctifies His people.

For His is with us!

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