Monday, April 30, 2012

Limiting My Options

God had given an incredibly difficult job to Gideon.  He was to deliver his fellow Israelites from Midianite oppression.  This was no small task, given the numbers of those opposing him.  Initially, Gideon protested that he couldn’t do it.  But when God promised to help him win the battle, Gideon began to call his army together.  Thirty-two thousand warriors are gathered to prepare for battle.  Even that number had to seem like nothing in comparison to the innumerable horde they were facing.  But they forged ahead with their planning anyway.

But then God did the unthinkable.  Citing a concern that the Israelites would boast in their own power after the victory, He had Gideon send over two-thirds of the recruits home!  If Gideon had any doubts about facing the Midianites with only 32,000 men, imagine what was going through his mind knowing that he was down to 10,000.  But God wasn’t done yet.  The next test trimmed the group of 10,000 down to a comparatively tiny handful of only 300 fighting men.  Whose side is God on anyway?  Is this His way of helping?

I don’t know how it is for you, but when God calls upon me to do something, my thoughts usually focus on counting my resources.  Do I have the abilities and the assets to meet the need?  How can I arrange those abilities and assets to best address the problem?  But when I consider that approach, I realize that I am focusing on me instead of focusing on God.  Like Gideon, maybe it would be better for me if God would limit my options instead of increasing them.  Instead of me praying to God for more of this or that, perhaps it would be better to pray that God would arrange circumstances so that I would trust Him more than I trust in myself.

Do I really have faith if I only respond to God when I think I can handle it?  I show real trust by facing life’s struggles when I know I can’t do it on my own.

God loves you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

He Who Has An Ear, Let Him Hear

A police officer in a small town stopped a motorist who was speeding down Main Street. "But officer," the man began, "I can explain..." "Just be quiet," snapped the officer. "I'm going to let you cool your heels in jail until the chief gets back." "But, officer, I just wanted to say..." "And I said to keep quiet! You're going to jail!" A few hours later the officer looked in on his prisoner and said, "Lucky for you the Chief's at his daughter's wedding. He'll be in a good mood when he gets back." "Don't count on it," answered the fellow in the cell. "I'm the groom" (

Oh, the troubles we get into when we don’t take the time to listen! The Scriptures repeated counsel us to listen carefully. We learn that hearing is linked to learning. “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). We discover that it is shameful to respond without listening first. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13). James calls us to listen quicker than we speak. “...But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19).

God pleads with us to listen! Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth (Psalm 78:1). "Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me! (Psalm 81:8). Eternal life is tied to listening to the voice of the Savior. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).

Let’s renew our resolve to listen before speaking. Let’s be more diligent to listen to God and one another.

God loves you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


For seven years, the people of God had been oppressed by the Midianites because they had failed to listen to Him. Their suffering was terrible. The Midianites and their allies would periodically come and take whatever they wanted, such as food and livestock. The Israelites were powerless to stop them. All they could do was hide in their dens and caves while the pillagers had their way. Finally, in the depths of their despair, the people cried out to God for help (Judges 6:1-6).

God heard their cries and sent an angelic messenger to an Israelite whom He had chosen to become the next deliverer of His people, a man named Gideon. At the time of his call, Gideon was busy threshing grain in a secret place in hopes of keeping it from being taken by the Midianites. From God’s perspective, apparently Gideon had everything he needed to accomplish the task that God had for him. In fact, the first words Gideon hears from this surprise guest are: “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12).

It seems that Gideon’s perspective of the situation didn’t mesh with God’s perspective. I can imagine him looking around to see if the messenger was talking to someone else. After all, since when do “valiant warriors” hide in winepresses to do their harvesting? The floodgates of Gideon’s oppressed heart open wide and he gives vent to his frustrations. From his perspective, it appeared that God had abandoned His people (Judges 6:13). Why else would they be enduring such painful struggles?

Tough times can distort our perception of God’s presence in our lives if we are not careful. Like Gideon, we can also have a hard time seeing past the pain and struggles of life to get a clear view of the valiant warrior of God that He may be calling us to be. Perhaps we should learn to view our lives from God’s perspective instead of our own. Only then will we begin to see as we really should.

God loves you!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sluggish Faith

The disciples of Jesus were shell-shocked following his death on a Roman cross. Some were hiding behind locked doors, perhaps fearing that they would be the next ones crucified. Some women had made an early Sunday morning trek to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His dead body and had returned with a wild story about an open tomb, a missing body, and dazzling angels. The apostles themselves dismissed their story as unbelievable nonsense. Two disciples, traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, encountered the risen Lord but didn’t recognize Him at first. When Jesus asks them what they were discussing, they begin recounting the events of the last few days, including the crucifixion of their Leader. You can almost hear the disappointment in their voices as they say: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel...” But Jesus had heard enough. He rebukes their foolish lack of faith. “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”” (Luke 24:25-26). The teaching and signs had always been there but their faith had been too sluggish.

I’m hesitant to be critical of these early disciples because I am all too familiar with my own sluggish faith. I think of the lessons that I am still learning in spite of Jesus’ clear teaching and example. I know that there are times when I deserve the same rebuke. There is no need to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-33) -- but I still worry. The Lord has promised never to abandon me (Hebrews 13:5) -- but I still don’t depend on Him like I should. I serve a Risen Lord Who has secured my own resurrection (Romans 8:11) -- but the thought of death still causes me to have mixed emotions.

Father, please forgive my sluggish faith! Like the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit, I plead: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

God loves you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Heart Transplant

Former vice president Dick Cheney received a new heart recently. He underwent heart transplant surgery at a hospital in Virginia. Cheney has had a long history of heart problems, beginning in 1978 with his first heart attack at age 37 and followed by four others. In 2001, he had a pacemaker installed. In 2010, he had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted to help his heart pump. Cheney had been on a heart transplant list for over 20 months. At last report, he seems to be doing well following the procedure although he has a long road to full recovery.

A bit of a flap has arisen in the media regarding this story. Some are questioning whether Cheney, at age 71, was too old to receive a new heart. “Talking heads” are wondering if he received preferential treatment. Questions are being raised. Should the heart have gone to someone younger? Was there someone with a greater need for a new heart? Would this have even been a story if it had involved someone else? Rather than simply rejoicing that an incredibly difficult surgery was successful and that someone with a long history of heart problems has been given a new lease on life, we have to try and find something negative. It’s this kind of thing that tempts me to avoid the news if possible.

I’m just thankful for a God who is willing to give a new heart to anyone of any age. Speaking to His wayward people in the days of Ezekiel, God reveals His desire to give each of them a new heart: "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). God wants to remove our wicked heart and transplant a new one in its place, no matter how old we are. May our plea echo David’s plea: “Create in me a clean heart, O God...” (Psalm 51:10).

God loves you!