This is the third installment in a five-part blog series on how homosexuality can legitimately exist within the confines of Christianity. I believe that as Christians, we are not only called to accept the LGBTQ individuals who cross our paths, but also, in the true form of Jesus, to embrace them. I believe we are to seek and welcome them, both into our hearts and homes with no expectations… no going on record as to their ‘questionable spiritual standing’… no coming at them with judgments disguised as concern… but instead, only with our pure unadulterated love. And through this series, my hope is that by providing a scriptural basis for this kind of love and acceptance, we can all finally feel free to love all people just as Jesus commanded of us.
But before I can get us there, I need to provide some backstory on God’s chosen people, the Israelites, during their exodus out of Egypt.
The children of Israel were held in captivity as slaves for hundreds of years until God sent a man named Moses to rescue them from the oppressive rule of the Pharaoh and lead them to the fertile farmland He promised their forefathers. Seems easy enough, but it wasn’t. Why? Because just as it oftentimes does today, free will and the accompanying sin nature of the people interfered with the perfect plan of God.
The outcome for the Israelites was forty years of wandering through rough wilderness. Forty years that, had their hearts been full of faith and thanksgiving, could have taken just eleven days.
You may be asking yourself, what could have possibly gone wrong that could turn an eleven-day journey into one that took forty years? You might be trying to envision what the same predicament could look like in your own life. You see yourself stepping onto a cruise ship holding a suitcase packed for a seven-day tropical adventure, only to discover once inside that there was no exiting the boat until that baby had made it fully around the world four times. Just crazy, right?!?
For those of you who might be thinking, hogwash, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen… I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong. It can happen to any of us if we’re not aware of the subtle price of entry: putting our faith in the things that can be seen instead of the limitless potential of God.
You see, God had been moving mightily in the lives of the Israelites long before they had even left the land of Egypt. Because the Pharaoh was unwilling to free the people, God was able to perform a great number of signs and wonders that were not only intended to persuade the Pharaoh to contend with Moses’s repeated requests to release the people, but also to display His awesome presence and undeniable power to those, who had up to that point, had no personal experiences with Him.
The children of Israel had heard all the stories that had been passed down through the generations that spoke of a very engaged God, a God who had made a covenant with their forefather, Abraham. They knew that God had intimately known them by name… advised, protected and directed their steps. But over the years, Israel had gotten so consumed by doing life their way, that they stopped calling out to God. They stopped asking for direction and listening for His voice to guide them. And so eventually He stopped speaking to them. For this reason they found themselves in a foreign country, living as slaves, badly beaten and abused.
But when things finally got so unbearable in Egypt that they couldn’t take it anymore, they remembered their God. They called out to Him and God heard and set into action a plan of rescue that included a series of mind-blowing miracles. These supernatural phenomena were intended to serve as abundant proof that He was who they had heard He was… and that He was, despite their own failings, trustworthy and true to deliver on the promise He had given them through their forefather, Abraham hundreds of years prior: the promise of a homeland that possessed goodness beyond their wildest dreams.
But in order to make good on that promise, God had to get His people out of the clutches of a Pharaoh. So, He brought a series of ten plagues on the Egyptian people that made it clear to the Pharaoh that He meant business. But prior to each plague, God told the Pharaoh of what disaster was to come if he didn’t contend. He warned through His servant Moses; if you don’t let my people go, (for example) I will bombard your land with frogs. And when the Pharaoh said oh, but heck no… Behold! Millions of frogs invaded his land. This scenario played out ten separate times. And each time, Moses predicted different outcomes that came to fruition… all evidence (to Israel) of the One very real and powerful God who was fighting for them.
After the plagues, Israel left Egypt whole-heartedly trusting the God who had just saved their badly beaten behinds… thanking Him all the way to the Promised Land. And, they lived happily ever after, right? I mean, after ten rounds of realized predictions, they should have had all the faith they needed to trust God for the journey ahead, wouldn’t you think?
The simple answer is… no. So… God didn’t stop there. He wanted to give them even more proof to fuel their faith: He made His presence visible as they walked; as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire in the sky by night… He provided for them nutritious sustenance everyday that fell, like edible snow, from the sky and their clothes and sandals never wore out. But as if all that just wasn’t enough, as they were leaving Egypt He gave them an experience with Himself so monumental that it should have instantly rendered their trust in Him unshakable: experiencing the impossible made possible.
After the Pharaoh finally allowed Moses to lead the 6,000 men plus women and children out of his land, he had a change of heart and sent an army of men, horses and chariots after them. And when the children of Israel saw them they panicked. In a moment of fear they forgot about all the things they had seen the Lord do to get them out of bondage with the plagues. And they reverted to rebellion saying to Moses, what have you done??? Why have you lead us out of Egypt to die at the hands of Pharaoh’s men??? – Exodus 14:10-14
As if having a thundering army of avengers behind them, Israel had yet another impossible circumstance before them... a Red Sea, which they believed if they kept advancing into, would surely kill them if the army of men didn’t first.
But that was not what happened at all. In one of the most spectacular moments in all of human history, the unthinkable happened. When Moses stretched out his staff over the sea at the Lord’s command, the water parted just long enough to allow His people to pass through, before crashing back down and drowning every one of their enemies.
Yes!!! We have an amazing and awesome God, you’re probably thinking. But how does any of this relate to our series on homosexuality? And how does this story answer the hard questions we Christians often don’t know how to answer related to the LGBTQ community? Like… is it our duty to communicate God’s dissatisfaction of the lifestyle choices of every homosexual we encounter? And if we don’t, are we doing them a grave disservice by not encouraging them to change their ways to save their precious souls?
The short answer, I believe, is no (unless they come to you asking for Godly wisdom and advice). And the reason, my friends, is because just like the children of Israel, who had never had a personal experience with God, the majority of the people who comprise the LGBTQ community haven’t had one (yet) either. And how can we expect anyone to change course without first having that? Especially when scripture seems to support that God doesn’t?
Think about this… God very generously gave His people, not one... not two… but 10 show-stopping and unforgettable experiences with Himself, with every plague, before He ever asked them to follow Him anywhere. Each plague gave them an opportunity to see Him in action… to start to know and trust Him. But more graciously, it allowed them time… much needed time to accept the reality that He was likely leading them into an unknown future. Because after over 400 years in Egypt, He would soon be asking them to leave behind everything they had ever known to follow Him.
Yes, they were living as slaves. But I hope you can agree, my friends, that change is always hard. For this very reason many of us are guilty of staying in jobs we hate for years, decades and even lifetimes, because staying unhappy is always easier than the risk and effort required to make a major change in life.
While we know that God’s way is always a better way to live, I think we need to allow those still in Egypt time. We need to let the Lord reveal the necessity of their change of direction… or their departing from Egypt. And we need to trust God’s timing as this plays out in the lives of all of God’s people, including the LGBTs and Qs.
I can further support this truth with scripture from the book of Hebrews (and Psalms) that speak of the exodus and God’s dissatisfaction with the Israelite’s failings of faith.
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“1. Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
2. on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
3. Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 4. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” – Hebrews 3:7-15 ESV
There are four aspects of this scripture that supports the claims of this message.
1. God speaks. If you speak to Him and listen to hear His response, a heavenly word will come! Our God is not just some invisible, intangible, and inaudible essence in the distance. He is with us and can be felt, sensed and heard from… all the things His children require in order to develop a very real relationship with Him. And just as He illuminates the sin in our lives, and moves us to repent, He can be trusted to do the same in the lives of all others… including those in the LBGTQ community.
2. God is patient. He provided ample time and experiences with Himself for the Israelites to change their ways and fully follow Him in faith. The Israelite's time in the wilderness was considered a rebellion because even after 40 years, their hearts were still hardened to Him. For this reason (indicated by the word “therefore”) He was very disappointed and angered by them… and rightfully so. That said, let’s trust God’s timing related to the LGBTQ community.
3. God wants us to be careful when engaging with others. Because the sin of others can create a stumbling block for us… causing us to blindly sin ourselves (by judging the sin of others). On the flip side, we must also be careful not to cause others to stumble with our sin (in the case of with homosexuals, with our judgments), further perpetuating a snowball effect that can drive them further away from finding Jesus (than they were before). Just as Jesus spoke to His disciples, to those who have been given more (wisdom), more is expected. (Luke 12:48) So, as Christians, when we fall into this sin trap, I believe it is even more of an infraction against God than when those who aren’t as far along in their journeys with Him do. That said; let’s stop inadvertently creating a barrier between God and the LGBTQ community by falling victim to sin ourselves.
4. God’s call for us is to encourage everyone, always, because every day is called today!!! My friends, we must remember that the enemy of our souls is a liar! And He is always going to try to get our focus on the sin of others because by doing so that slippery serpent accomplishes two things. First, he causes us to sin against our God by judging others unrighteously (and by not loving as Jesus commanded). And second, when he directs our focus onto the sin of others, we are not able to focus on overcoming our own. Jesus also spoke of this truth when He warned His disciples they should concern themselves with removing the log from of their own eye, before worrying about a splinter in the eye of another. (Matthew 7:3-4)
Dear friends, I know this life is not easy and can be confusing at times. But I want to encourage and commend you today. If you have made it all the way through this blog post it shows me that while you (like me) are nowhere near perfect, you realize that and you are trying. Trying to honor God more fully. Trying to accept those who are not like you more fully. And trying to love everyone… as Jesus commanded us to… fully and sacrificially.
I am here to tell you He is at work in us and through us, brothers and sisters. Sometimes it’s not a fast as we’d like, but let me assure you that you are in the process of being transformed by the hand of God. And whether you’re a person of different nationality, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, transitioning or questioning… scripture says God’s invitation is open to everyone, His plans cannot be thwarted, and He will finish the good work He’s begun in everyone who places their faith, not in this world, but in name of His son… Jesus.
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” – John 14:21 NLT
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 ESV
“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” – Job 42:2 NKJV
Thank you for joining me for today’s blog and I welcome you to meet me back here next week where I will explain the law (and God’s purpose for it), how Jesus fulfilled it… as well as how justification, salvation and obedience are all at work in the lives of all Christians today.
I remember when I first attempted to read the entire Bible, starting in the Old Testament. It took me several failed attempts just to make it past the “begots”. But eventually I did and I was feeling pretty darned good about myself until I realized there were other major hurtles within the first few books that I simply did not know how to cross.
I went in looking for warm and fuzzies. I went in looking for love and miracles. But truly, in my absolute ignorance of the Word at that time, I was totally caught off guard by the hard stuff. You know what I’m talking about… the wrath. The judgment. The suffering and sacrifice. It not only confused this sheltered farm girl who was literally unable to watch (the tv show) ER without getting stressed, but it also physically turned my stomach.
Y’all, I’m here to tell you… I closed that glorious book so fast it would have made your head spin and I didn’t come back around to it for decades. Why? It was because I, like so many others out there I’m sure, didn’t understand the bigger picture. Nor did I understand the reality of how destructive sin really is… including my own.
Truth be told, as tragically comical as it is to me now, I didn’t even see myself as a sinner at all at that time in my life, although, I was super-guilty of the vast majority of them. So surely, the concepts of a “sin offering” and “slain lamb” were certain to blow my sweet little oblivious mind.
All that to say, I think every Christian remembers the moment when the truth of our own stinking, destructive and even yes, abominable, sin sinks in… and we finally accept our guilt, falling at the feet of God, aware and deeply sorry. That kind of realization doesn’t come easy or overnight. But it is governed by God, the only One who knows when we are mature enough to fully handle it.
That said, when we as Christians try to force repentance and righteousness on the guilty, whether they be gays or, more commonly, the prideful or ungrateful… it simply doesn’t work. Because only God’s timing is perfect, as is His patience and conviction.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9
What Does the Bible Say About Sin?
In the beginning, the Bible tells us man sinned against God. And the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as a sin. But what is it, really? And what does it mean for us today?
In Greek, the word sin could better be translated as ‘to miss the mark’ of God’s perfection, or to 'fall short'. But friends, the Bible not only uses this word as an action verb (something that we do). It also uses it as an adjective that describes the fallen nature of mankind’s spirit (inherently sinful), and also as a noun that defines who we became in the garden the moment Adam and Eve defiantly rebelled against God so that they might be more like Him, knowing both good and evil (of flesh).
The Bible says that man and womankind were created in His image, and God put everything within the garden under their rule except for one thing… the fruit that grew from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Lets think about this truth for a minute. Why would a God who had just essentially exalted man as king, by creating a perfect palace for him to live in and rule over forever, have placed within that garden anything forbidden? It’s because the presence of that tree was the one thing that separated God from man. It was the one thing that established His ultimate authority. By honoring God’s command not to eat from the tree, what Adam and Eve were saying was that we believe You are our God and we accept that we are under Your loving authority.
The forbidden fruit not only established Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and placed them under His authority, but it also protected them. You see, evil already existed as is evidenced by the words “knowledge of” and the presence of a serpent who deceitfully presented Eve with the truth that she actually had a choice (to obey God or not).
In choosing obedience Adam and Eve would have rested securely under God’s umbrella of protection forever. However, in choosing rebellion against God, essentially establishing themselves as a fellow “God of their own lives”, they forced themselves out in the rain, detached from Him and unprotected. With one bite they fell from the grace of God and found themselves in the middle of a spiritual war that was raging all around them that they were completely unaware of while they enjoyed the peace and joy that is life with God (in the Garden). But once they opted-in to this battle, without an ounce of power to fight evil forces on their own, they became naked, exposed and vulnerable to an enemy that was (and still is) hell-bent on killing, stealing, and destroying them (and us today).
What Does the Bible Say About the Cost of Sin?
I think it helps when considering the character of God to make a list of words that describe Him. And in doing this simple exercise, it quickly becomes very clear exactly who He isn’t...
Our Heavenly Father is: Therefore... He Absolutely Opposes:
Perfection, Purity & Truth Destruction, Corruption & Lies
Abundant, Never-ending Life Physical Death, Spiritual Death
Light & Love Darkness & Hate
A Creator, Purposeful Multiplier of Life Listlessness, Nonproductive Activity
Holy, Righteous, Fully Good Unholy, Unrighteous, Sinful
Virtuousness, Justice Immortality, Injustice
Friends, I could go on and on here. But the one thing I hope you take away from this short list is the absolute qualities of God. There is no gray in, with or through Him. He is the epitome of a type of integrity that we simply could never comprehend on this side of eternity. He is fully worthy in His holiness. And the moment Adam and Eve let go of the tail of His coat, humanity became so unworthy that we could not only no longer walk side-by-side with God, but would die at the mere sight of His radiant presence. (Note: If this is hard for you to understand, think for a moment about darkness. In the presence of light, darkness completely vanishes. Darkness simply cannot be or exist when subjected to the presence of light. And in the same way, the very presence of God destroys all that is evil. And yes, tragically, this included us.)
So I hope you can see now how the cost of our sin was death. And not only did we subject ourselves to dying a physical death, but also an eternal death (since God’s original plan was for us to live forever with Him). But even then there was still hope for us because despite our rebellion against Him, God still loved us so much so that He made a way…
In His great mercy He poured out an antidote… the blood of another in place of ours. The Bible refers to this as concept as atonement, or the reparation or expiation for sin.
We see this clearly displayed for the first time in the garden when God brought forth skins to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness. Animals were slain, blood was spilled, and lives were taken for the sake of the covering of their sin. And then they were cast out of the garden into a future of certain toil and suffering. But the Bible tells us that before the foundation of the earth was laid, our foreknowing God already had a plan set into place for our total redemption... the atoning sacrifice of His perfect Son, Jesus.
What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” – Leviticus 20:13 ESV
Okay. So God’s word reveals that homosexuality is not just a sin, but also an abomination. The Hebrew form of this word relates to something that is disgusting or despicable and is associated with the practice of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of false gods.
I think it is worth mentioning here that the context of Leviticus 20 largely relates to the sexual practices associated with idolatry, which included human sacrifice (at worst) as well as sexual immortality (in general). The broader definition of sexual immortality could be interpreted to include sexual acts that even heterosexuals can be guilty of within their own marriages, as well as within the confines of non-biblical divorce and remarry.
The Bible tells us that adultery falls under this category of sin and Jesus, Himself, tells us that adultery can be accomplished just as easily with the mind as with the body.
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28
Now, relating specifically to abomination, I think it’s very necessary to see what other sins are described this way within the scriptures in order to understand the full meaning, context, and implication.
Proverbs 6 tells us that there are six things that the Lord hates… and seven, which are an abomination to Him:
“There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Proverb 6:16-19 ESV
Let’s break this list down to get a better idea of what it’s really saying here:
1. Haughty eyes = the one who is arrogant and prideful.
2. Lying tongue = the one who tells lies.
3. Hands that shed innocent blood = the one who takes the life of another.
4. Heart that devises wicked plans = the one who plots against the will/plan of God.
5. Feet that make haste and run to evil = to one who walks/advances in the direction of unrighteousness.
6. False witness = the one who tells lies about another (especially about God).
7. Sows discord among brothers = the one who creates conflict among others.
The first thing I’d like to point out here is that as Christians, we are most certainly guilty of one or more things on this list and often frequently. The more spiritually mature of us will certainly commit fewer indiscretions (in range and frequency) over time. But make no mistake; most of us have in the past and will in the future commit an abomination, despite our knowledge and deepest desire (of the heart) not to do so.
One of my favorite passages from the writings of Paul shows how conflicted a Christian’s heart is while on this side of eternity. He knows all too well the desires of the Holy Spirit for all of us; the call to righteousness. But in his human weakness, he writes that even he, a marvel of a man and apostle of God, messes up more often than he’d like. He writes:
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” – Romans 7:14-20 NASB
I think this passage of scripture is a beautiful gift the Holy Spirit gives to us because it addresses the big, fat elephant in our hearts… the sin nature we became hard-wired with the moment we were born into a fallen world. And brothers and sisters, whether you’ve gotten your big, hairy monster well trained over the years, so that it sleeps almost all the time, or yours is undisciplined, unruly and always stirring, leaving huge piles of crap everywhere it goes… we must all remember… we all have one.
So does this mean we should just give in to our sinful natures then? As Paul would also say… by no means! We must fight the good fight. We must resist, calling on the Holy Spirit to help us conquer the influence of that elephant every moment of every day! But we also must know that without its supernatural empowering, we would all be hopeless slaves to sin! Praise be to Jesus for the life-changing gift of the Holy Spirit!
Now, back to the list…
The second thing I would like to point out is that for the most part, all these sins can be easily hidden, kept to ones self, and denied when we are accused. But for the homosexual who is in a relationship, it’s visible to all… all the time. For this reason, friends, I believe that homosexuality is the redheaded stepchild of modern day sin. When the truth is, abomination is not exclusive to “those people” rockin’ the rainbow garb… its universal. It’s humanity.
The last thing that caught my eye when perusing this list is that the sin of lying actually made the abomination list twice. Let that sink in for a moment and I’m certain that it will convict your heart, just as it convicted mine. Little-white. Or big-whopping. Consciously or unconsciously. It doesn’t matter. God clearly hates it and it’s the one infraction that many of us are most guilty of committing on a daily basis.
Now that we’ve covered the topic of abomination and how that relates to all of us, I would like to take a moment and try and explain in layman’s terms why I believe that God so strongly opposes homosexuality.
As a writer, I personally know the absolute necessity of a powerful first sentence. And in my humble opinion, there has never been a more powerful first sentence than that found on page-one of the Bible:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NASB
This line, my friends, truly takes my breath away. It gives a glimpse of God’s own heart… and provides many unarguable truths about His character. He is an intentional and productive Creator. And He’s not just sitting around knitting afghans with His time and energy. He’s building solar systems. He’s giving life to a future existence beyond human comprehension. And we get all that… From. One. Line.
Wow!!! Are you with me, friends?
By no means am I trying to minimize the sin of homosexuality. But just from this one line, I think we can all see how the sheer reality of it opposes who God is at His core. Everything He touches grows and multiplies life, both in the physical and spiritual, present and eternal. And the reality is, homosexuality just doesn’t accomplish what God created man and woman to do together. People cannot spring up from their union. Souls cannot be brought into existence from their union. And they cannot, from God’s viewpoint, come together to make one flesh as God had purposed. (Note: If you are having a hard time understanding this last point, consider a pair of shoes. Even if they are the exact same size and design, two left shoes or two right shoes, will never come together to be a fully functioning pair.)
That said, homosexuality is sinful to God because the reality of its potential contribution to society and eternity falls short of His plan for mankind.
Why do I even bother mentioning this? It’s because like I said, I clearly remember how I used to be before I came to know my true sin nature (or more importantly… who I am now, in Christ). It’s because I remember how hard it hit my heart, when I realized that I was an unrighteous sinner standing before a righteous God. When, for so long I actually thought God was proud of me for being better than most since I was apparently secure in the fact that I had never robbed a bank. How’s that for an oxymoron?
So, hear me when I say, my friends, when we call our homosexual friends out on their apparent sin… we are getting them somewhere spiritually. Backwards. Therefore I’m here today for the purpose of giving you permission to back off… to hold your tongue and the hands of the LGBTQ community in unity… as a flawed people who are doing our best to advance in our walks with the Lord… little-by-little, day-by-day.
Because while all sin is grave and yields an abundance of disastrous consequences to us during our time on this planet… I believe God’s eternal love is FAR greater than our innumerable (death-deserving) shortcomings. He loves you, anyway. He loves me, regardless. And His grace is capable of saving everyone in the LGBTQ community and moving them toward repentance just like He has done and is doing with you and me. But first, He must get the opportunity to develop a real and life-changing relationship with them… a relationship that is facilitated when we are capable of loving like He does. Said simply, my friends, we must be a lighthouse of love illuminating the darkness of this world. Because without the light of the Son shining through us, how can we ever expect anyone to find his or her way to the Father?
So… to all of you out there who, like me, have been found guilty and yet have been redeemed… I believe the call to us is to rise up and love our LGBTQ friends and family fiercely, completely and without judgment… just as we love ourselves, just as Jesus commanded us to do during His time on earth. And I believe we can stay true to God’s word in the process by allowing Him to speak through us the greater truth of the patient love that is our savior, Jesus.
And for those of you following along with this series, please join me back here next week where we will further explore what the Bible says about the importance of time and God's perfect timing as it relates to the process of spiritual transformation.
A few months ago I heard a message from a dear pastor on how Christians should love the LGBTQ community. While I was in agreement with the vast majority of his encouraging message, there was a small part that (though it was filled with well-intended love and careful consideration of scripture) just did not sit well with my spirit.
The specific subject of discussion was how to show support to those who are in committed homosexual relationships. What does it say when believers show up in support of an LGBTQ couple? Are we Biblically “allowed” to attend a same-sex wedding or housewarming party? And let’s not forget the conundrum that’s had us all in unresolved debate since it dominated the headlines: Are we, as followers of Christ, supposed to bake the flipping cake, or not?
As it relates to the union of two homosexual individuals in marriage, this pastor’s opinion was that while we should always love and support the person, we must be careful to never show support of the sin. And in his opinion, this should exclude the Christian community from attending same-sex weddings.
Friends, before I go a step further, I have to say that I love and deeply respect this pastor. There is no question in my mind that he is the Lord’s anointed. His knowledge of the word and his personal relationship with God are so strong and deep that they could be evidenced by the spiritually blind. That said, prior to this, I had never questioned a single word that had ever come out of his mouth. But in this one instance there was something… something that prevented me from swallowing this message as absolute truth. I kept chewing on it. Over and over until… an inkling of a possible resolution came to my mind.
What if, I wondered… he is right?
But… what if, I thought… I’m right too?
What if the truth/standard by which a pastor must live is different than the everyday Christian neighbor, friend, and family member?
The Bible says that the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head of that body. And just like our Savior, Jesus, is our spiritual shepherd as we walk through this life--- priests, ministers and pastors are our physical shepherds. As an overseer of the church, acting in the position of leadership… is it possible that since pastors are in a position of authority, their physical boundaries must be more rigid and defined?
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV
And, as the body--- the hands and feet of Christ (who are called to serve everyone, but especially the persecuted, lowly and lost), it is possible that the everyday Christian might be held to a different standard by God… one that is permissive of total inclusion, unconditional love and support?
I believe the answers are yes and yes.
Why? Because I see attendance at homosexual life-events as an opportunity to be present and make a favorable impression for the Kingdom of God. I also see our “yes” as a ticket into a mission field that is certain to harbor souls that desperately need to see evidence of God’s love (and presence among them). But also, because our “no, due to religious reasons”, often wounds hearts and creates an even larger stumbling block for those “rejected by the faith” as they journey into a life-affirming relationship with Christ.
But what does the Bible say about all this? And more importantly… what would the perfect man, Jesus, do?
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:13-14 ESV
These questions sent me to the scriptures searching for answers. And what I believe the Lord has shown me through His word has floored me… so much so that I feel called to share it since I believe there are so many of you out there who, like me, have hearts that are broken for this frequently abused, accused, and overlooked community, but who simply do not know what to do about it.
We love our Savior. And above all we want to honor Him. We want to uphold His laws and precepts. But we love people, too… all people (just as Jesus told us to do). And every time we browse the net or tune-in to the world on the topic it becomes crystal clear there are vastly opposing viewpoints. And because we don’t fit into the extremes, a lot of us good-hearted, truth-seeking, scripture-reading Christians do nothing at all (except shake our heads at the Christians literally throwing Bibles in the faces of their gay children and tolerance-promoting priests that go as far as to say homosexuality is not a sin).
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:21-24 NIV
Friends, my prayer is for revival among the LGBTQ community. And my hope is that regardless of whether their bio-moms and earthling-dads still love them after they come out or start to transition, that not a single soul who associates with being LGBT or Q ever has to question whether their heavenly Father still loves them or not.
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…
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 8:31-32, 35, 38-39
Through my personal studies of scripture, I have concluded Jesus wouldn’t just want us to attend a same-sex wedding, but also to take an exceptional gift as a love offering. Furthermore, I have come to trust that if asked of Him, Jesus, Himself would have not just made the gay couple a cake--- He would have baked every last one of the fruits of the spirit into that sucker (free of charge) before sending it on its way with a dinner invite--- and an offer to join Him at the temple or for a sea-side Bible study.
I believe with a heart full of passion that there is a unifying message of lavish love that God needs delivered to this abandoned community. But church, I can’t deliver it alone. So won’t you please join me here next week were I will cover in greater detail what scripture says about our sins and the sins of others? It is my hope that the knowledge within will encourage and equip you… and give you every drop of assurance you need to be all-in with these cherished people who, just like you and me, belong to the Kingdom of God. As they, too, were purchased with the highest price, paid in full… the perfect blood of Jesus Christ.
“to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” – Ephesians 1:6-10 NIV
"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 our 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 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