"When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4
Although I’ve never set out to count it myself, I’ve heard it said that the Bible urges us to “fear not” a total of 365 times… once for every single day of the year. While this number may or may not be accurate, I do believe we all need this one reminder from God each and every day. And we all know exactly why… because there are so many mind-spinningly-jacked-up things on this planet capable of driving us totally crazy with fear, if we let them.
At the very second I write this there is a loony in North Korea with a nuc threatening our nation, while our nation is angry, divided and fighting itself. Innocent children are being stolen and trafficked, and shot inside their schools, while others are dying from contracting the flu virus there… or from intentionally and purposefully eating a Tide pod. And, the truth is, all these terrible and worrisome things are the equivalent of a single grain of sand on the seashore of life as we know it. These are trying times we are living in. And the direct result is a troubled society burdened by consistent worry, persistent anxiety, super-charged stress… and you guessed it, paralyzing fear.
So what do we do? We isolate, self-medicate or retaliate. We try to distract ourselves with consumerism or accomplishment or our own brand of obsessive behavior. We self-sabotage. We destructively break things…. sometimes ourselves… sometimes the hearts of others. We carry on. We try to stay calm. We buy more antibacterial soap, apply hand sanitizer three times an hour, and go Krogering with masks covering our faces (not that I’m saying precautions aren’t good and sometimes necessary). All the while we keep our eyes fixed on our TVs, computers, and smartphones and our ears tuned into news radio and podcasts, for yet another dose of dread that is wrapped in each enticing drop of bad news that trickles in like IV fluids to our veins.
Simply stated, if left free to roam within our hearts, minds, and spirits, fear can and will lead to a life of devastation and stagnancy, and is the one thing that most commonly prevents God’s children from living in the fullness of His grace, glory, and peace.
With all that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the command against fear is one of the most frequently communicated commands Jesus gave us during His time here on earth.
The fact that messages like “fear not”, “take heart” and “have courage” were so frequently repeated by Jesus does not mean these are the most important commands (because Jesus told us through His disciples that the most important commandment of all is to love). “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22:36-40
But, this repetition clearly does say something very significant about our predisposition and susceptibility to fear. We are born into this world hard-wired with all the makings of becoming tortured, fearful souls, and God Himself is the only way for us to avoid living that kind of painfully consumed life.
That’s why His command not to fear is an actual command, not just a recommendation or a very strong suggestion. God is known to be the Great Comforter, but the only way we humans are able to experience His perfect peace (which translates into a life without fear) is by developing that progressive relationship I mentioned in a previous blog… learning about Him and experiencing His presence working in our lives… while we journey through times of trial and wilderness with our eyes, ears and hearts fixed solely on Him, rather than the chaos of the world around us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 3-4
To dig into this a little bit, I thought we could revisit the story of Gideon. An angel of the Lord gave Gideon the weighty instructions to tear down a Baal alter. And scripture tells us that Gideon was so frightened by the likelihood of retaliation by the people of the city, (lead by his own family none-the-less) that he fearfully accomplished his mission in full-on stealth mode.
“On that very night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well-constructed altar to the Lord your God on the top of this mound. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.” So Gideon took ten of his male servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his father’s family and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it at night.” – Judges 6:25-27
Now, up to this point Gideon had already received several divine signs and wonders from God, yet he was still afraid. Furthermore, God Himself had guaranteed Gideon supernatural protection while accomplishing His missions, and yet… even so, he was still afraid. In fact, he was so terrified that he was incapable of carrying out God’s wishes in the light of day. Why? Because at that time Gideon had had very little personal experience with God, therefore His relationship with God was in its young and immature phases. At this point in the story, it appears that Gideon still had training wheels on his faith… and God appeared to be neither surprised nor disappointed by his weakness. And the reason, I believe, is because God knew and understood Gideon’s heart just like he knows and understands ours today.
The most important thing (to God and to us) was that Gideon listened and followed through! Despite the fear, Gideon did it anyway, to the best of his ability. And, by boldly doing it afraid, Gideon gave God the opportunity to fulfill all of His promises. As a result, Gideon’s faith grew stronger after this and every single experience he had with God, leading up to the biggest battle of his life… after which God made him king of Israel.
Wait. Did you hear that? In the beginning, Gideon was an unremarkable young dude called to a higher mission (he knew he alone was incapable of accomplishing). Therefore, he was obviously shaking in his handmade sandals. But by taking fearful steps in faith he was able to receive God’s supernatural guidance, protection, and sovereignty… to the point where he was eventually made royalty and given a crown!?! This, my friends, is the glory, grace and power of our amazing God.
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” – Luke 16:10
After Gideon’s victorious battle, just as God had promised, the people of Israel came to him to make him their ruler. “Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.” (Pay attention here, this is where it gets good!) But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my sons will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” – Judges 8:22-23
By doing it afraid, with the Lord leading his way, Gideon was able to grow out of his fear by trusting God so much so that he chose to surrender his entire life to Him.
“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
Gideon knew it was not by his own might that Israel was saved, but instead by the power of the almighty God. And furthermore, he knew that he as a simple man was not capable of ruling over Israel without the same divine intervention that had restored his people from the hands of a powerful enemy. So Gideon was simply letting God do what only God could do. He laid all power, control, and his entire sense of “self” at the feet of God and elected to serve the Lord instead of his own agenda. And as a result, he opened himself up to God’s perfect will (i.e. power, control, and future), not only for the good of himself, but more importantly… for the good of all of Israel. This is how God, our Father, wants us to live. And, we can look to the life and words of Jesus for the perfect example of the selflessness God desires from all of us.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." – Mark 10:45
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
One of my favorite quotes is one by Lao Tzu, when he stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The Bible tells us that life is a journey… one that eventually leads to salvation and eternal life for all believers. But what is not certain is whether or lives will start with fearful moments that lead to increased faith, divine miracles, and end in absence of fear… or begin with fearful moments that lead to more and more destructively fearful moments, and end in a half-full life.
The difference, my friends, comes from doing it afraid. It comes from taking one step in faith, followed by another… and another… through fear, high water and sometimes even through the valley of the shadow of death.
Remember, Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” – John 10 – 10
Fear originates in darkness and therefore is in direct opposition of God, who is the true essence of love, light and life. And just as the presence of light makes it impossible for darkness to remain, God is is equally capable of chasing out fear from our hearts and replacing it with love, peace and certainty. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” - 2 Timothy 1:7
This week and everyday I urge you to choose to focus your eyes, ears, and hearts on the words and life of Jesus. He is the only good news that can prevent us from drowning in all the bad that gushes over us every day. By choosing to look to Him, we are truly capable of living a life of abundance that conquers all… “yes, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want you to remember the Good News I told you. You received that Good News message, and you continue to base your life on it. That Good News, the message you heard from me, is God’s way to save you. But you must continue believing it. If you don’t, you believed for nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 1-2 ERV
For more juicy details relating to the story of Gideon, be sure to refer back to my blog, Thinking Outside Of The “I”, if you haven’t already read it. And, if you feel you are being called to do something that scares you… something you know you, yourself, are not humanly equipped to do, I have four words for you. Go. Saddle. Your. Donkey! Cast all your faith on your Father and move forward in trust and humble expectation of a miracle, because where human capabilities end, the Glorious otherwise impossible begins.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
"Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time. Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear: I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41:13-14
See, there’s that beautiful, comforting, and totally intentional repetition again… “Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you.” He tells us this twice in a row because He really wants us to know it, trust it, and expect it… because our Great and Gracious Father always keeps His promises. How unbelievably fortunate are we then, my friends? #livelikeachsah #onceforgiven #twiceblessed #thanksbetojesus #theend
Like all relationships, a personal relationship with God is a progressive thing. This simply means that over time it expands, deepens, and strengthens. This is the only way we can grow closer to (and through) the Lord. And I believe there are four key components that allow this evolution to take place within us.
4. And last, but certainly not least, Sharing.
I’d like to talk a little about each of these four actions, and how they have a supernatural ability to unlock the kingdom of heavens, and all God’s power, to all who choose to do life with Him.
The Bible tells us in so many ways that the one way to unlock the abundant provision of God (sometimes referred to as the Universe) comes from the all-encompassing action of having unwavering faith (sometimes referred to as positive thinking). I am here to tell you right now... there is no grand or elusive Secret. There is only God… and His truth (that we are fortunate enough to have through His word) that demonstrates time and time again, the mysterious link between our thoughts and our reality.
Take the children of Israel for example. Even after God had broken them out of the bonds of slavery that had oppressed them for hundreds of years in Egypt (through a series of almost unbelievable miraculous events), they still lacked the one essential thing that they needed to open themselves up to receive all God’s wondrous generosity for their lives, and that one thing was faith as they followed Moses (who was lead by God, Himself) through the wilderness.
Not only did they grumble and complain profusely, but they also expressed grave distrust in God’s ability to fulfill His promise to deliver them into a land that was apparently so darned wonderful, it was described as “overflowing with milk and honey”. “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.” – Exodus 3:8
Jesus once told an officer, whose servant was deathly ill, after he humbled himself before Him and asked for a miracle to save him, "Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you." And his servant was cured that very moment.” – Matthew 8:13
But unfortunately the Israelites did not possess and demonstrate this kind of necessary faith. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" - Exodus 14:11-12
As you might have guessed, Jesus’s words rang true here as well… and just as they believed, so it was done for them. They believed they were going to die wandering through the wilderness and sadly, that’s exactly what ended up happening. Not because it was God’s plan for them. Not because He had failed them… but because they failed to put their trust in Him. Because they failed to believe. Just to be clear, the trip from Egypt to Canaan should have (and could have) taken 11 days. Let me say that again… only 11 days. But because of their own mindset… their fear, ungratefulness, rebellion and general disbelief… it took them 40 years to arrive. 40 effing years! And as a result, most of the first and eldest generation died before they ever got there. But true to His nature, God still kept His promise by leading their children safely into the same land He had offered all of them. #thesecretisout
But what does this mean for us today? It means God is ALL POWERFUL and we have access to His power through our faith. Jesus said, "For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” - Matthew 17:20
Brothers and sisters, when Jesus says “nothing”, believe me when I say… He. Means. Nothing. So, the most important thing we can do during our time on this planet is to believe… and believe fiercely. We must believe in Jesus… that He was the Messiah… and that He died on the cross to save us with grace only He could extend. But we must also believe in the sovereignty of God… The Great I Am, who is not only the ruler of the heavens, but Who is also sovereign over our lives every minute of every day. He holds the entire earth in his loving hands, along with every other planet in our solar system, our galaxy and beyond… past, present, and future… to infinity. Forever and ever… True righteousness comes by faith alone, and with God’s righteousness comes unlimited possibility. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
ASK & RECEIVE
The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about Gideon, and I think it would be good to revisit his story again at this juncture because he was a man who did some serious asking and receiving from God. Just a little recap… Gideon received a divine encounter with an angel of the Lord, astonishing signs from God for the purpose of increasing his own faith, as well as supernatural protection and guidance during the biggest battle of his life, as well as during his entire reign as King of Israel.
Lucky guy, am I right? Well, brothers and sisters… hear me when I tell you luck had nothing at all to do with it… and everything to do with the gifts of love the sovereign God bestows on all His children. In God’s kingdom, divine encounters aren’t just reserved for the elite. And miracles the likes of what can be read about in the Bible, weren’t just performed by Him from the beginning of time, through the birth and resurrection of Jesus (and birth of His church)… they happen each and every day on this planet in the lives of His people.
I am here to testify that each and every human being that walks the earth is capable of having mind-blowing experiences with the Creator of all things, the first of which is spiritual salvation, which is freely given to all those who believe in Jesus and ask to be saved by Him through the washing away of sin. All we have to do, just like Achsah, is ask boldly… and wait with a spirit of humble expectation to receive. Just as Jesus tells us, "Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8
Okay, so now we fully believe in the miracle of Jesus. We’ve asked for forgiveness and received salvation as well as full access to God, His kingdom and all His power though the Spirit. But then what? The Bible tells us that all who truly believe are to share the good news of Christ.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'” – Mark 16-15
“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” – Psalms 96:3
“Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
As we’ve discussed, the Bible provides us with a history of God’s consistent and reliable, albeit unpredictable, reign over the world. It highlights all the #amazing things He has done since the beginning of time. But also, it reflects the limitless way God can work in our lives today. This is the way God wants us to know Him and remember Him… but also, the way He wants others to come to know Him through our shared stories and testimonies about our experiences with Him. And that’s the beauty of it. Something that God did specifically for you… can forever change the world and the lives of others… as long as your story continues to be told.
“Hear this, you elders; listen, all you inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation.” – Joel 1:2-3
Why? Because sharing is caring, my friends… and caring is how we spread the love of Jesus and answer His most important call to us. “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-40
With that, I would like to tell you about an upcoming addition coming to www.achsahliving.com that I am super excited about called Achsah Stories. Achsah Stories is where I will feature you and all your miraculous encounters with God. “For I want very much to see you, so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” – Romans 1:11-12
While all of us may not be natural born writers, this is a gift I believe God has given to me. And, it is my greatest hope to use this gift to help you and others fulfill God’s call to the glorious kingdom gift of sharing Him.
I am as certain as I am breathing, that there are some of you out there with amazing stories that are just waiting to be told… and that need to be shared… so they can go to work for the kingdom of God.
So, if you find yourself reading this right now, and that unbelievable story “of how He” just jumps right out of your heart… great. Email me about that! But some of your wheels are still spinning, let me impart some further clarification that may trigger a breakthrough….
How about that time He parted some kind of impossible Red Sea for you…? Or, like in Achsah's case, when He turned a life-threatening lack into an overflowing of abundance? Or that time something wonderful and unforeseen happened, that had His miraculous fingerprints all over it? Or, that time He supernaturally guided you with a sign… or by an occurrence too flipping fantastic to be chalked up to coincidence? Or… that time when He clearly answered a question you desperately need answering? When some kind of clarity He imparted to you yielded an audible “Holy-WOW!”. Or, that time that when you clearly heard Him speak to you… or HE revealed Himself to you… or loved you in a way that would have otherwise been impossible?
If God has rallied and shown-up for you, whether in a small (but miraculous) part of your day or in a large (and big picture) way, and you’d like to proclaim the tale of His loving-kindness to the world, to be a light and hope for others… won’t you please walk those beautiful feet of yours up to the nearest mountaintop or computer desk and email me? And tell me… what’s your story, my friend?
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” – Isaiah 52:7
As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, today we are going to explore the concept and occurrence of spiritual signs from God. The Old Testament is chock-full of them, but what does that mean for us? Does God still perform them in our modern-day world? And, if so, is it okay to ask Him point-blank for one? To answer these questions, we need to explore what the Bible has to say on the subject.
Before I go any further, I want to interject that this topic can be very controversial among Christians today. I’ve heard pastors that I dearly love and deeply respect speak very strongly against this or any kind of “questioning of God”. Many advise that asking for a sign is dangerous territory and should be avoided at all costs. But in my personal experience, and through my own study of God’s word, I have to say I kindly disagree. Why? Because I believe God has given His people permission to ask for exactly this type of supernatural communication from Him, as reflected in His word.
This is what God told His people about the relationship He wanted to have with them: “The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who forms it to establish it, Yahweh is His name, says this: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.’” – Jeremiah 33:2-3
I think it might be worth our time to break this down a little bit.
“Call to Me”. I understand this to mean; call out to Me by name, and present yourself and all your needs to Me. Just like our earthly Fathers, God wants His children to come to Him to speak our hearts and minds, but most importantly, to ask for help and guidance (for our own good and safety).
“And I will answer you and tell you.” While God is not promising a specific outcome here (like a loop-hole for landing a quick couple of mil on your next trip to Vegas), He is promising something far greater… a very real and personal response from Him. Get a load of this. The almighty God, the same One who sits on His throne in heaven this very instant, desires to interact and communicate directly with you... Yes, you understood that right. It’s tremendously outrageous, but absolute fact that God wants to have a one-on-one relationship with us. And, how do we get to know someone we don’t already know very well? (Well, other than cyber stalking them on the Internet?) Why, by spending lots and lots of time with them, of course… and by asking lots and lots of good… you guessed it… questions. By doing life with God, and seeking His “answers” or input on the decisions we make (both big and small) we are able to maximize our earthly efforts and potential.
“Great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” Wow. Seriously? Is it possible that the same God who orchestrates every aspect of life on our planet (from mitochondria to mankind) is promising you and me access to His supernatural intelligence…? Is he really offering us, mere mortals, His mind-blowing spiritual council, guidance and wisdom? And the answer… is a resounding yes my friends! This truth speaks to both the heart the splendor of our awesomely loving God. Oh, how great He is… “When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?” - Psalms 8:3-4
But… how do we know that these scriptures are still valid? And, how do we know they specifically apply you and me today? The answer is simple… because God is equally transcendent and consistent.
Some of my most cherished verses from the Bible are the ones that portray God’s character. And of those verses, there are tons that focus on the amazing truth that God does not change. He is the same today as He was even before the time of the creation. He said of Himself: “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” – Malachi 3:6
Additionally, it is written:
"Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." – Samuel 15-29
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” – James 1:17
It’s important for us to know that God is not like us. He is perfect. He is whole. He is complete. He needs nothing… because he already is, was, and will be everything for all of eternity. But still, He created the imperfect man to be catalysts, conductors, and generators of His love. All that said, He knows us and loves us and he wants us to know and love Him in return.
Second only to life itself (both present day and eternal through the gift of Jesus), God’s greatest gift to humanity is a collection of stories about Him and His people, given so that we can get to know Him. The Bible is a God-breathed account, meaning; He supernaturally spoke through mortal men (who acted merely as scribes) to accomplish writing the greatest (true) love story this world has ever seen. For this reason, we can trust that every single word written within it is true. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” - 2 Samuel 3:16
So let’s review. Now we know that God wants us to know Him, and wants us to call out to Him for answers to the incomprehensible things about life we do not know. And… that all scripture is inspired by God and therefore is both eternally true and suited for our learning. But does all this mean that God gives us the green light on asking for a sign? Well, not exactly. But that’s where our guy Gideon comes back into play.
To briefly recap for those who may be new to the blog; the last couple of weeks I’ve been discussing the story of Gideon. After being visited by an angel of the Lord, Gideon was sent on a mind-numbingly-terrifying mission. First, to destroy an alter (which he probably suspected would put his own life in jeopardy). Second, to lead an army of men to save Israel from the Midianites, which would require a battle he was in no way qualified to fight (which he knew would definitely put his life, and many others, in jeopardy). To learn more about how God made Gideon and his men more than conquerers in this battle, be sure to check out my last post, Thinking Outside Of The “I”.
One of my favorite songs of all times is one by the Mamas and Papas entitled, This Is Dedicated To The One I Love. There’s one line in that song… “The darkest hour is just before dawn” that rang true for me even as a small child sitting in the back of my mother’s cherry red Malibu. And, I believe this was definitely true in Gideon’s case in those moments leading up to the biggest battle of his life. Can you imagine the onslaught of fear that must have overtaken him? But, in his fear he did the one thing God wants all His children to do… he turned to Him for help through the act of prayer. But what is unique about Gideon’s story is that he asked God for something very specific in his prayer. And what he asked for was a sign… in the form of a very unusual wondrous work for the purpose of increasing his own faith. And then what happened? The great and glorious Lord rose to the occasion for Gideon not once, but twice, displaying His crazy-amazing supernatural abilities.
“Then Gideon said to God, ‘If You will deliver Israel by my hand, as You said, I will put a fleece of wool here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that You will deliver Israel by my strength, as You said.’ And that is what happened. When he got up early in the morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung dew out of it, filling a bowl with water. Gideon then said to God, “Don’t be angry with me; let me speak one more time. Please allow me to make one more test with the fleece. Let it remain dry, and the dew be all over the ground.’ That night God did as Gideon requested: only the fleece was dry and the dew was all over the ground.” – Judges 6:36-40
As I mentioned, this part of Gideon’s story is one of my absolute favorites because it shows how compassionate, understanding, and patient God is when it comes to His people. I mean really, how spectacular is it that in Gideon’s weakness, God was willing to show Gideon His limitless power not once, but twice? But even more amazing is what God was able to accomplish through Gideon by doing so… and additionally what He continues to do today.
First, God wanted Gideon to know and trust him, and through this amazing act of assurance and love He no-doubt accomplished this by instantly increasing his faith.
But it wasn’t just about Gideon. Sure, his faith was elevated high enough to help him accomplish the mission at hand and he probably felt a heck of a lot better about life in the moment. But to God, it wasn’t just about gaining Gideon’s trust. It was about gaining Israel’s trust… it was about saving Israel (His chosen people) both physically and spiritually. But also… it was about gaining your trust and my trust, today, as we read about Gideon’s amazing experience with God through a story that has been passed down for generations.
As we learned in my last post, this impending battle that frightened Gideon to the point of prayer was already won before it ever began. So God’s decision to reveal Himself in this way had no affect on the outcome of the battle at all. He revealed Himself in this way to be remembered this way (by all of us… as the wondrous God who loved Israel despite their straying ways, and loves us equally today) so that they would (and we will) return to Him… and cast all their (our) future hope, faith, and love onto Him alone.
There are many things we can learn from Gideon’s story. And I believe one of them is God’s response to our requests for a sign. Since God understood (and entertained) both of Gideon’s requests, I have to believe He is willing to give us the same consideration today. Not that everyone’s outcome will be the same. I believe that God communicates with all His children in their own unique way. But I do believe that when His people come to Him with a pure heart, asking for some kind of a sign for direction… or even for a glimpse of His shadow when they are in need of the assurance of His presence, I believe God can and God will.
The reason I believe this so strongly is because over the years I have asked for and received many miraculous signs from God. And each and every time it’s happened, I have been truly thankful for the answered question, but astonished and grateful beyond words by the feeling of limitless love that has come along with the divine gesture.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been sharing an almost impossible situation our family was in when we discovered the house we purchased and extensively renovated was uninhabitable. For more on how God honored my request for a sign with two unmistakable wondrous works indicating that this home was His choice for us prior to purchase, be sure to check out the first blog in this series entitled My Journey Into Achsah Living.
In closing, the most important thing to consider before asking for a sign is the sincerity of the request. The why. So before you go asking, I suggest first knowing the specific intentions of your heart… because therein, I believe, lies the key to unlocking the limitless power of God. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” – Jeremiah 17:10
While no one should ever expect to manipulate or control God in any way, I believe waiting with a heart full of humble expectation to receive a divine sign from God is not only portrayed in the Old Testament, but is also completely within the rights given to us by Jesus (portrayed in the New Testament). He died on the cross to provide us entry into the heavens after this life, but also, to grant each of us access to the power of God through the Holy Spirit in this life. So this week and every day for the rest of yours… I challenge you to claim it. Speak it. Believe it. There are many amazing benefits that come along with being the child of a King. So take your seat beside Him who empowers you. Ask boldly and wait humbly, to receive His every good and perfect gift. Both in this life, and beyond… “He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:6-7
Please join me back here next week, where I will elaborate more on what God intends us to do with all these revelations. In the meantime, if you’ve had a supernatural experience with God, please feel free to share and post a praise in the comment section so that, just as with Gideon, the ripple effect of God’s loving kindness will keep flowing far beyond you as you glorify Him. As the psalmist David writes... “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, All you descendants of Israel. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” – Psalm 22:22-24
In memory of precious baby Colsen, heavens eternal and remarkable gain…
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” – Luke 23:42-43
First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you for all your prayers for the health, healing, and restored life of precious baby Colsen. And even though I regret to tell you he has gone to live with Jesus in paradise, I want to reassure you that God heard each and every one of your beautiful pleas.
“’For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’” – Jeremiah 29:11-12
I believe with all my heart that the only time God doesn’t answer our prayers in situations like these, is when He has something far bigger, better… and grander in mind for us. And for baby Colsen yesterday, that magnanimous something meant leaving this earth (and all of us) behind, to go into the full glory of our Lord and Savior.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” – Ephesians 3:20
Even though, in my mind, I know all of this is true… my wounded heart has been struggling over the last couple of days, just as I imagine many of yours have been too….
“My eyes are worn out from weeping;
I am churning within.
My heart is poured out in grief
because of the destruction of my dear people,
because infants and nursing babies faint
in the streets of the city.” – Lamentations 2:11
And, if I’m being totally honest, there have been moments (in my unquestionable human weakness) that I couldn’t help from asking Him… “Why?” Even though I know the Bible tells us of the reality of God’s “hidden things”; that is, the vast depths of Him and His purposes that we are not meant to understand (but are to continue to trust Him with all our might anyway), my troubled heart begged anyway… for something as small as a little seed of understanding or as gigantic as a glimpse into the throne room of God.
“The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29
And do you want to know something wonderfully outrageous? God, in all His perfect love and graciousness, answered me.
Yesterday afternoon I was at our local Co-op, and in a moment that is hard to explain, the Spirit suddenly opened my eyes. I stopped. And I looked around at all the bustling… at all the faces… many, many faces that were creased by age, brows that were marked by time and burden, hair that was faded and white, and backs that were once straight, now bent. And then the Spirit asked me a very clear and pointed question: “Are they (the ones who have lived the longest in our troubled world), the most fortunate ones?”
And in that split second, while holding a lunch tray in my hands, my remarkable realization (that was as clear as the air miraculously filling my lungs) was absolute. And my answer, my friends, was “No.”
When I heard the news about baby Colsen’s passing late last night, I was instantly reminded of that very moment. And again, the astounding truth flooded over me that he has been saved… twice.
His beautiful soul will never have to experience the fear of a vaccination, or of an armed gunman invading his school. Baby Col will never know the tormented pain of having his heart crushed by the loss of a loved one. He will never have to suffer any kind of physical acute or chronic pain. He will never have to experience the flu, cancer, or any type of disease... or the slow physical decay that comes with age (or watch someone he loves suffer through any of the same). His perfect eyes will never witness racism, or hate crimes, or any of the brokenness that can be seen any night of the week on the news. And his heart will never feel sadness, rejection, or anger… but instead, only perfect love for all of eternity.
As hard as it is for us to lose him, my friends, we must know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that baby Colsen has been shown unfathomable favor. For, because of the grace and might of God and His son Jesus, his battle was won for him before he experienced any of the casualties of war that come with this life.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:12-18
It’s times like this, brothers and sisters, when we must cast our eyes fully on God, so we are innately aware of the (sometimes hard to see but) greater truth. And that truth is, we are spiritual people living in a physical world. This world is not our home. And our souls only purpose in the journey of our lives… is to be reunited with our Creator, and to help others to do the same.
But even knowing all this, it’s still so easy to get caught up in life, choosing to focus on all the wonderful things, so that we are often times tricked into thinking that this life is the prize. But God wants us all to remember in times of loss (and everyday), that He is the only prize… the ultimate gift, of which there could be no earthly comparison.
So friends, even though our souls are hurting and overwhelmed by a great earthly void today, we can take heart knowing that sweet baby Colsen has been lifted up by love, held tightly by the perfect hands of Jesus, and given back into the loving arms of his joyous mother, Alexis Chatham-Teel, whose heaven just got even more unimaginably perfect.
“Father, God… we praise You for that.”
But dearest prayer warriors, our work here is not yet finished. I ask you to continue to lift up the Chatham/Teel family, friends… and all those Alexis and Colsen have left behind; including Chad (husband/father), Camden (son/brother), Teresa (mother/grandmother), and Mark Chatham (brother/uncle), and so many more…
Beloveds, I ask you to pray to God to give them the strength to endure through this time… even to the end of this age, when the sun will never set again and the Son will finally reign forever. Oh, what a magnificent day that will certainly be for all of us…
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39
In loving memory of Alexis Chatham-Teel and the life and teaching of Billy Graham.
"When we all reach the end of our earthly journey, we will have only just begun." – Billy Graham
In a world that seems to spin faster and faster with each and every passing day, it’s so shocking and unexpected in those rare moments when time appears to stop in its tracks, frozen solid… by grief. And that’s just what happened to me today, my friends, when I learned about the sudden and unexpected death of my beautiful cousin, Alexis. My cousin… who was only thirty-two years old and who was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with baby number two. A baby named Colsen, who is currently in NICU, fighting for his life…
Just last week, the world celebrated the life (and glorious after-life) of one of God’s great servants, Billy Graham. And I was right there with them. What’s not to celebrate, right? He lived nearly one hundred years on this planet… and no doubt, each day to its fullest potential by winning countless hearts and lives over to the Lord. All those who loved him and his teaching found peace in knowing that his life hadn’t ended… it had only begun, just as he had said. He had also been quoted as saying this related to the imminence of his own future death: "Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God." – Billy Graham
And while I know this is true for him and all of us… this time, with my vibrant and young cousin, who was on the brink of giving birth (and actively participate alongside God in the miracle of life), it feels so different. It feels hard. Really hard. I want to rejoice in the fact that she is now in a much better place and accept with a heart full of peace that God’s ways are (thankfully) not our ways; they are far greater, capable of rendering beauty even out of ashes and the frequent devastation we experience in this world. But right now, it just seems too difficult to me to do myself. Tragedy like this is impossible for you and me to endure… but nothing is impossible for God.
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." – Matthew 19:26
That’s why it’s so very important for us to always (but especially when we find ourselves in these moments) cast all our trust, hope, and faith on God… and let Him and His word carry us through the difficult times.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though the flocks disappear from the pen
and there are no herds in the stalls,
yet I will celebrate in the Lord;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
The Lord my Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights!” – Habakkuk 3:17-19
So, with a heavy heart I am calling out to God today, to be with Alexis’s family and friends… especially her husband, Chad, and son Camden (age 5). I am calling out to God for His peace that passes all understanding… and for His glory that is known to transform loss into the brilliant and unexpected gain of the masses.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.” – John 16:20
I’m also calling out to God to thank Him for Alexis’s life and the unfathomable impact she had during her short time on earth. I know she touched the lives of so many around her, in many ways many of us will never know. But I thank God that He knows. And I thank Him that He celebrated each and every one of her victories, which through Him, have made an everlasting mark on humanity. And… I thank God that once she fulfilled each and every one of His tasks and purposes for her life, He called her Home. And her reward… looking into the eyes of the God, Who I know welcomed her with an enormous hug not possible on this side of eternity, and a joyous musical serenade of a trillion angels, far too beautiful for us mortals to even imagine.
"Do I fear death? No. I look forward to death with great anticipation. I am looking forward to seeing God face to face. And that could happen any day." – Billy Graham
What I know Billy Graham meant to say here was, “any marvelous day”.
"Death for the Christian is the doorway to heaven's glory. Because of Christ's resurrection we can joyously say with Paul, 'Where, O death, is your victory?'" (1 Corinthians 15:55) – Billy Graham
At this very instant, I am thankful to God (and to Jesus, who paid the ultimate price to abolish death) Who made it possible that we don’t have to wonder. I’m thankful that we know with great certainty, that Alexis has been given an eternally glorified body (and quite possibly, her very own set of wings). She is happy and smiling through a grand celebration above all earthly celebrations… with her awesome heavenly father on one side of her… and her loving (late) earthly father, Mark Chatham, on the other. And I thank God that she is finally alive… so much more than all of us who mourn her earthy presence today.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” - 1 Thessalonians 4 13:14
So goodbye, for now, Alexis. Until I see you again… give Uncle Mark a great big hug for me, Billy Graham a high-five, and sweet Jesus… all my love.
And to all you prayer warriors out there… I’m asking for your help! Baby Colsen needs prayers for health and healing… and lots of them! The Bible tells us that when God’s children come together in prayer asking according to His might and will, miracles happen!!! So I’m inviting you to join me in praying for the almost impossible… for a God-sized miracle… for baby Colsen to live and serve as a living testimony of God’s unfailing goodness. And if you’re so inclined, please SHARE and spread the word so as many brothers and sisters as possible can join in on our prayer crusade.
“Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18 19-10
Lastly, for those of you who have been journeying through the life and times of Gideon with me… thank you. And, I invite you to join me back here next week, where I will resume that study.
Until then, I want to leave you with this… this week and every day, may being available be at the top of your to-do list. May you strive to be interruptible. May you intentionally work toward being present. Because life… it is fleeting, and the present moment is the only gift we can really count on. So, close down your laptop and leave work early. Turn off your TV. And open your eyes and arms and hearts to the ones you love. And cherish them. Really and truly… cherish them. But above all else, my friends, take the time each and every day to cherish Him.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” - 1 John 4:9-11
It is so very common in our modern-day world for looks to deceive. In my first two posts, I shared the details of my family’s experience with buying a home that was on the brink of collapse. We bought the home with the realization that it was in need of a major overhaul of systems (such as heating, electrical, and plumbing), as well as total kitchen and bathroom updates, and new lighting, floors refinished and paint both inside and out. Trust me when I say our to-do list was a long one! But interestingly enough, it was only after we had sunk all our cash into accomplishing these planned renovations and it appeared near perfect, that we learned we were not even close to being finished with the renovation because the home, at its core, was still structurally devastated.
Now, backing up a little bit. I will never forget the meeting we had with our contractor prior to construction, (which of all places) took place in the basement (where the monstrous problems were hiding). Our contractor talked Dave and me through every stage of his proposed plans for making our house the home of our dreams. And when he finished, we were sold. But before we all shook hands I interjected a thought, “I’d really like to start with taking down this wood paneling and taking a peek behind the drywall,” I said, “just to be safe.” It was a great idea, and everyone, including the contractor, agreed. But somehow, this divinely inspired lightening bolt of an idea fell through the cracks. So alas, it ended up being one of the last steps of our renovation instead of the first… at the point where our already limited options had officially dropped to zero.
No doubt, if we had learned of the true hidden condition of the house prior to our investment, it would have changed everything for us. With the home’s tragic condition, we were informed we could have taken legal action to have our purchase contract voided and returned to the Sellers. Or, at the very least, we could have reprioritized our budget, and chosen instead to make the required repairs first, while we still could. But it didn’t happen that way. And, I came to realize over time, it didn’t for a very wonderfully specific and intentional reason: to allow us to see the miraculous hand of God.
The Old Testament is busting at the seams with stories about the impossible situations God’s people have gotten themselves into, as well as one miraculous wonder after another as God Himself literally made the impossible possible to save and redeem them.
The story of Gideon is one of those stories (and one of my top-three stories in the Old Testament). In my post last week I told the first part of his story… Gideon had been visited by an angel of the Lord who told him that he had been chosen by God to save the children of Israel. But he wasn’t so sure that this angel was in fact authentically sent from God.
So, what did he do? He asked the angel for a sign of confirmation, and he was shocked and amazed when he saw a miracle of the Lord performed before his very eyes. “When Gideon realized that He was in fact encountering the angel of the Lord he said, ‘Oh no, Lord God! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” –Judges 6:22
While this should have been enough to convince Gideon that he had the supernatural protection and power of God surrounding him and his mission, it wasn’t. While he performed the task that the angel of the Lord had sent him to do, the Bible tells us, “So Gideon took 10 of his male servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it at night.” –Judges 6:27 For more on this part of Gideon’s story, stay tuned for my future blog post entitled Do It Afraid.
Just as He still does with His people everyday, God had called Gideon to do something that scared him. Let me rephrase that, God had called Gideon to do something that scared the ba-geezus out of him. See, God had asked him to tear down a Baal alter, to destroy a temple all of the people had chosen to worship instead of the one true God. So even before Gideon had snuck out that night to do so, he knew the people would be so p.o.'d with him, they’d probably come after him to kill him.
But still, he followed the angel of the Lord’s orders anyway. And that’s when (what I imagine to be debilitating) fear crept its way inside Gideon’s heart. He had only done a small part of what God had asked him to do and already he was sinking in doubt… because on top of destroying the alter (which was already terrifying enough), he, a man without any battle experience or knowledge, was also supposed to defeat an army of 135,000 skilled warriors. Say what???
What Gideon did next was the best thing he could have done; he went to God and asked Him for reassurance in the form of a sign. Which God quickly bestowed upon him, not once… but twice. For more on this part of Gideon’s story stay tuned for next week’s blog called, What’s Your Sign?
After God had performed two wonders to assure Gideon of His presence and power, He proceeded to advise him on selecting an army of men. Gideon had 32,000 men at his disposal. However, God told Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: ‘I did it myself.’ Now announce in the presence of the people: ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ So 22,000 of the people turned back, but 10,000 remanded.” -Judges 7:2-3
Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many people. Take them down to the water and I will test them for you there. If I say to you, ‘This one can go with you,’ he can go. But if I say about anyone, ‘This one cannot go with you, he cannot go.’”
The test was simple; go to the water and drink. In the end, those who brought the water up to their mouths to drink were chosen to stay and fight. Those who instead lapped up the water like a dog, were asked to go. Any guesses on what God’s plan for the size of Gideon’s army might have been? 5,000? 3,000? Seriously. He must have left Gideon at least 1000 men to help him conquer a massive army of 135,000… Wouldn’t you think?
In the end, the actual number of men chosen by God for Gideon’s army was 300, but the grand truth of the matter is he would have been victorious even if God had chosen to leave behind only three. Because when Gideon’s men blew their 300 trumpets, and the Lord set the swords of the men of the Midianite army against one another (meaning in their miraculous confusion, they started annihilating themselves), their doom was certain and inevitable.
By breaking down the statics behind Gideon’s circumstances, we can really see the true impossibility of a human conquest and the magnitude of the miracle all of Israel was able to experience as a result of Gideon’s mission.
Gideon’s Army Size Number each man would have to kill out of 135,000
32,000 5 men
10,000 14 men
300 450 men
The thing that fascinates me most about this story is the part where God, in all His knowledge and wisdom, knows that if He had given Gideon and the men of Israel even 10,000 men, they would have totally taken the glory for themselves, believing they had won the battle through their own might and power. And while that seems ridiculous that their egos would have allowed themselves to believe they were tough enough to win straight-up with 10,000 men against 135,000, most of us are guilty of doing the same type of thing every day. “I won the court case.” “I saved the girl from drowning.” “I tripled my net worth… or social media following.” But God’s number one desire for all of us is that we know Him through His works, so that we will come to Him and live abundantly within His perfect grace and love. “He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes” –Deuteronomy 10:21
So in case you, like Gideon, have been wondering if anything good can come out of all the bad stuff that keeps happening in our world at massive rates everyday, I hope you remember this…
Where there’s an impossible situation… God is near. And He is saying, “I am your God. I never change. I love you and I want you to know me. Stand back, while I show you what only I can do for you… and the limitless ways what I’ve done for you can change the hearts and lives of others.
Hear me when I say this friends… the battle between Gideon and the Midianites was already won before it ever began. It won’t be easy, but no matter what kind of battle you are fighting this week, I hope you remember to call out to God and then stand back and wait for His invisible fingerprints to transform you and your situation.
I hope you will join me back here next week where we will explore my absolute favorite part of Gideon’s story. It was a game-changer for me, and I think it will be for you too. In the meantime, I leave you with this: Ask not what you can do, but what the Creator of the Universe can do through you.
In my last blog post I shared about an experience my family had with God after realizing the home we had purchased and extensively renovated was (despite its deceivingly fully-updated aesthetic) uninhabitable. Up to that point, we had spent months and countless dollars replacing old systems and investing in improvements that could largely be considered cosmetic. So, when some wood paneling was removed in the basement (a last step, weeks before we were scheduled to move-in), followed by some mold-encrusted drywall, we were floored to discover there was nothing holding the house up at all. The wood frame had been completely eaten away due to water the house had been taking on since the very day it was built.
After emergency steel beams had successfully been installed to secure the house from falling down and we had a chance to catch our breath, we asked the contractors, “Why? Why would such a relatively young house (that had otherwise been built like Fort Knox) be in jeopardy of effing falling down?” And the answer was simple. “Because the wooden frame had been built below grade.”
After a considerable amount of education on the “rights” and “wrongs” of construction practices, I came to learn that a home (especially one with a finished basement) must be constructed of concrete past the point where it rises above soil level… or else, no matter how well-built it was otherwise, it would sink as heart-breakingly and unexpectedly as the Titanic. For those of you who don’t know the kind of havoc taking on water can wreak on a home beyond the expected slow rot… it also creates the ideal environment for termites to feed and breed, and a playground the likes of Magic Kingdom for black and other deadly molds.
Those who know me best know that for as far back as I can remember, God has had a unique way of speaking to me through numbers. Three’s to be exact… and, the more of them, the better. So when I originally saw this house online prior to purchasing it, and saw that the square footage was listed 3,333 SF it was as if the heavens opened up and God spoke directly and joyously to me “This, my daughter, is the home I have chosen for you. Go forth quickly and buy it!” So when I happened to do the math and discover the house was also 33 years old, I was not surprised in the least. It was confirmed and I was thankful we had finally found a home after many months of looking… one that was specially chosen for us by God. And, since God was leading the way, no doubt we would have a perfect renovation that cost half of what we budgeted and half the time to boot. Right?
Wrong. Throughout the Bible, God gives His people many wonderful and astounding promises. Salvation. Hope. Peace. Eternal Life. I could go on and on. But never-the-less, God’s word is clear: along the way we will all experience suffering and pain resulting from our inevitable rendezvous with a little thing called trouble. Or more accurately stated… blessings in disguise. Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have come to overcome the world.” –John 16:33
While I admit I was initially shocked and confused when I learned of our predicament, I quickly learned that “easy” is not always the way God works. But over time I realized, an “easy” journey would have missed the point entirely by diminishing God’s perfect plan for us of seeking Him intimately and witnessing His amazing (read: mind-blowingly supernatural) way of delivering us out of our wonderfully impossible situation. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
This experience brings to mind another one of my favorite stories from the Bible about Gideon. Gideon and his fellow Israelites were given into the hand of the Midianites and therefore living an excruciatingly hard life that was devoid of God and His ability to abundantly provide for them simply because they had abandoned Him and His teachings. It wasn’t until Israel had nothing left that they finally remembered Him and called out to Him for help. And you want to know something cool? Even after years and years of their rebellion, which even included the worship of false gods, God immediately heard their cries and came up with a plan to save them.
God sent an angel of the Lord to Gideon saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” But Gideon, who was interestingly enough born out of the weakest clan of Israel, quickly questioned Him asking why, then, had all the bad stuff happening to them. Gideon said to Him, “Please sir, if the Lord is with us why has all this happened? And where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.”
God responded simply by telling Gideon that He had chosen him, the smallest and youngest in his family, to save Israel. “But Lord, how can I save Israel?” Gideon asked. And God gave him and all of humanity the golden-ticket answer wrapped again, in love and lots of Biblical promise: “I will be with you,” the Lord said to him. And with My help, “You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.” -Judges 6:11-16
The Bible says so much about the power that is readily available to us and within us, if we only call out to God and pour out all of our love, hope, and most importantly… trust into Him.
In closing, I want to leave you some verses to consider this week about God’s immediate availability to all His children, especially in times of trouble. And I challenge you to never forget that at His core, God is many (read: beyond infinite) wonderful and miraculous things. It brings me so much awe-filled gratitude when I ponder the unbelievable fact that the mastermind Artist and Scientist and Engineer and Doctor… (this list could go on indefinitely) behind the Creation of the universe and every living thing within it, is also at His heart a fierce and powerful Mother Hen, who will fight any enemy (even to the death), who jeopardizes the welfare of His beloved (and cherished even beyond our wildest dreams) baby chicks. Even though they, just like us, are fully incapable of achieving even an ounce of flight without Him.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46:1
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” –Exodus 14:14
“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed: for I know who I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” -2 Timothy 1:12
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord had anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”-Isaiah 61:1-3
I invite you to join me back here next week where I will talk more about Gideon’s story, while exploring every small child’s favorite question… the illustrious and elusive “why”. In the meantime, if you find yourself in an impossible situation this week… the cancer came back, a foreclosure letter came in the mail, or you fear the child is past the point of saving… for whatever reason you find yourself without a drop of heavenly water to make lemonade, in the spirit of Achsah herself I urge you: Keep Calm my brothers and sisters, and Go Saddle Your Donkey! “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” –Ephesians 3:20
My husband Dave and I, along with our 2 year old daughter Aaris, were led to relocate to Lexington KY from Nashville TN in 2014, and to purchase a house that (we learned only after we bought it and invested our entire life savings into it), had such severe structural issues it was on the brink of falling down. Seriously. And, for the very first time in my life it was crystal clear to me that there was nothing humanly possible (read: nothing my controlling efforts could have done) to save us from our undeniably morose checkmate of a situation.
It is said that the impossible is where God begins, and in our experience, those words couldn't be more accurate. Through one hell of a challenging journey that was mostly uphill, I learned to not only lean on God each and every day, but also, to let Him carry me when I felt I couldn't press on. And, I grew to believe a little more each day, that when I couldn't, He could, if I would only surrender it all and let Him. As a result, we experienced more miracles than we could count in those trying but invaluable times as we watched God single-handedly fix a home we were incapable of fixing, while simultaneously fixing faith we didn't even know was broken.
For over a year and a half, nearly every thing we owned remained in storage. We rode it out one short-term lease at a time, in a small empty apartment containing not much more than our beds, a futon, and a table with four chairs. Our kitchen drawers (that were once so filled with kitchen gadgets and utensils I could barely close them) held four forks, four spoons, four knives and one spatula. I stirred my soup, scrambled my eggs, and prepared every single thing we ate with that one endlessly versatile tool that I still cherish to this day. Talk about one real-life lesson of want verses need. And surprisingly, I was still happy… and in many ways, I was undoubtedly happier than I was before.
I spent a lot of time studying God’s word during those times, specifically the Old Testament, and one day (in a moment I’ll never forget) the story of Achsah shone out like a beacon of light into darkness to me. Not amounting to more than a few lines in the first chapter of Judges, Achsah’s story was so relatively small it could have been easily missed. But instead, those three God-breathed paragraphs changed everything for me.
In a nutshell, Achsah was a woman who had been offered up for marriage by her father, Calab, to the man who could reclaim the city of Debir, which was a land seething with giants and enemies. In walks Othniel, who I imagine to be one handsome hunk of a burly man and quite the catch for Achsah, who ultimately did just that. The two of them wed and were given a plot of land by her father to build their new life on immediately. Sounds peachy, right? Well, not so fast… because the land had one fatal flaw (much like our house). It had no water (while our house had too much, leading to black mold, termites and extensive rot). And no water for them meant no life (too much for us, no livable house).
So what did Achsah do? Scripture tells us she got on her donkey, rode that thing right up to her father and asked to be blessed… once again. She asked for a single spring of water, the one thing she so desperately needed to sustain her families future. But Calab, the loving and capable father he was, abundantly gave her two springs. –Judges 1:12-15
In much the same way I quickly realized our heavenly father gives to us far beyond what is actually needed. He wants to satisfy our wants too (and does so daily whether we acknowledge it or not). Because, as we already know… His gifts are as endless as His capabilities. Jesus said it best when He said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” –Matthew 7:11. And, even further when He said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –Matthew 19:26.
So what did all this mean to me? It meant boldly asking. It meant fiercely believing. And it meant waiting with a heart full of thankful expectation. And then one day something miraculous happened. We actually moved out of our apartment, and into a home that takes my breath away every time I cross under its threshold. Not because it’s a beautiful home, far grander than I deserve (although both are true). But because I know it was specifically restored for my family and I, by no one other than God himself (not to take-way from the revolving door of what felt like about a ba-zillion contractors). That day, and every day since His miraculous restoration of our home, it is almost as if I can actually hear the Lord speaking to my heart, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” -Jeremiah 32:27
In the end, just like Achsah, it turned out we received twice the blessings we asked for while in the midst of our most desperate time of need. We pleaded before God, asking for a home we could live in, but our biggest gain came from the rare opportunity to be standing in the shadows while God turned the Red Sea up on end for us, letting us pass through into a land simply dripping with milk and honey, just as He did for the children of Israel. No doubt they felt fortunate in that situation that their lives were saved. But the most valuable blessing that miracle lent them was an experience with God that left them (as well as all those who have read about it throughout the generations), filled with awe, hope and faith. So, how lucky are we then that scripture tells us that God never changes, therefore these divine encounters are possible for all of us. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17
While I sit in my office and write these words, the early morning sunlight streaming through a window filled with barren dogwood branches, into the home we fondly refer to as “Villa Achsah,” I am filled with thanks to be the daughter of such a loving and capable heavenly Father. And, my greatest hope comes from the amazing opportunity of living each day in the fullness of His grace and provision. And that, my friends, is what Achsah Living is all about.
I look forward to sharing my life with you and others who seek Him, as well as every good and perfect gift He has to offer all of us, both in this life, and beyond. In the meantime, I’d like to encourage you. Whoever you are, and whatever you need (or even want)… get on your donkey (or in your car, or on your knees), go boldly my brothers and sisters… and ask our Father. He is all ears and all smiles… waiting for the opportunity to bless you too… once again.