Strength For The Weak

October 31, 2019

Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,  David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight.  Hebrews 11:32-3

It’s easy to assess a weak person as forever weak. They are often pigeonholed from their youth. When considering whom to choose for a position where strength is critical, the weak are usually not considered.  Natural strength and ability is prized but the assessment for who is qualified is sorely lacking.  I must remember that the weak are made strong as God showcases His strength through willing hearts.  The degree of their weakness is immaterial.  If they trust God, are fully dependent and expectant, then watch out!

The children of Israel were always outnumbered and yet, with God, their weaknesses were paired with God’s unparalleled strength. Gideon defeated the Midianites with fragile pitchers – just pieces of earthen pottery.  Samson slayed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.  Historically, ill equipped saints were given beyond the natural to enable them to overcome incredible odds in the supernatural. Think of the widow and her son who were on the edge of starvation.  They had a handful of flour and a little oil left to make their last meal. God’s hand touched their meager amount of ingredients and there was an unending supply.

God’s tactical strategies do not include the assessment of a person’s strengths.  He takes a person who loves Him and trusts Him, and though they may be weak and without resources, He completes what is lacking to make them a supernatural kingdom force.

What battle are you fighting today?  I’m in one myself. The advantage, in the natural realm, is not mine.  I can see that.  It may not be yours either.  Put the equation on paper and a disastrous outcome is sure.  If you live with someone who prizes intellect, a scientific mind who thrives on logic and solid evidence, predictions of gloom will fill your home.  Faith must be fought for.  And fight, we must.  The battle can be against the arguments of faithless children of God. This should not be but it is.

God is for you.  Not against.  Stand up and expect a miracle.  Put it all on the line.  Offer Him what you have even if it’s far from enough.  I love J.D. Greer’s quote.  Our strength is more of a liability than an asset.  When God wants to use us, He often begins by weakening us.

The most important thing I have in my hands is helpless dependence on You.  Amen

Who Is Afraid of Whom?

October 30, 2019

By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed. Hebrews 11:30

The story of Rahab is far bigger than her hiding two spies on her roof.  If I remember her only for this, it’s hard to fathom why she is in this Hebrews 11 lineup of faith giants.  I need to look at the bigger story.

  • She embraced Yahweh before the spies ever came to her house. The fame of Israel’s God had spread throughout the land of Canaan.  Rahab was the only one who heard the stories and trusted God in response.  She left the Canaanite gods.  She changed sides.  I don’t know if her faith was public but it was heading that direction as her story continued.
  • She disobeyed the king of Jericho when his henchmen came looking for the spies. She said that the spies had already left when, at that moment, they were still on her roof.  She knowingly acted against her king and her own people.
  • She made a covenant with the spies, not only for herself but for her family. That meant that she had to convince her family to change sides too.  She put her life on the line.  Any one of them could have reported her.  Family does betray family on matters of religion after all.

The Hebrew word used to describe Rahab in Joshua 2 literally means “a prostitute woman.”  She might have been involved in cultic prostitution related to Canaanite religious practices.  Yet in spite of her past, her conversion was real.  God’s plan for her life was not thwarted by her life of sin. Her faith changed her destiny and her standing before God.

Finally, her message to the spies validated her faith and is legendary and instructive.  “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan.  As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you.  The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.”  Joshua 2:9-11

Here is the irony.  Rahab reveals that the stories about Yahweh were famous throughout the land of Canaan.  God, and His people, were feared.  Yet forty years earlier, Moses sent 12 spies to Canaan to see how easy, or difficult, it would be to take the land.  They were seized with fear over the giant-sized men and the seemingly impenetrable city walls.  Their fear incurred God’s wrath and He cursed them with forty more years of wilderness wandering. What a tragedy.  They feared the people who feared them!

This is my takeaway ~ The enemy we are often afraid of ~ is really afraid of us.

With You on my side, whom shall I fear?  Amen

Looking Like A Fool

October 29, 2019

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled by the Israelites for seven days. Hebrews 11:30

Looking foolish appears to be a theme within the narrative of scripture.  A great man like Naaman was commanded to dip into the dirty Jordan seven times for healing.  Noah was told to build an ark when rain was unheard of.  Jehoshaphat was told to abandon his military training to lead a charge with only a choir of singers.  And the Israelites were told to walk around Jericho for seven days in anticipation of the city’s walls falling down.  To obey God required the laying down of self-interest.  Naaman was humiliated by the order.  Jehoshaphat probably wondered if he heard such an outlandish command correctly.  Noah sustained ridicule for 100+ years as he labored to build a wooden monstrosity.  And while the Israelites didn’t have to march around Jericho for a hundred years, seven days is still a long time to look ridiculous.

Did each and every person who marched believe, with every step, God’s prophesied outcome?  I doubt it.  No more than I believe God every single moment when He leads me to do something scary.  I take a deep breath.  I obey.  I sustain some criticism.  Weakened, I go back to the Lord for renewed strength.  The process starts all over again.  Obedience is solitary and is usually way out of the realm of what is logical and predictable.

No wonder faith is what has to precede radical obedience.  Without faith, compliance is impossible.  The risk of looking foolish is real and is a faith-killer.  I must lay down my reputation and live for an audience of One.  Only His plan, and my obedience, matters.  I don’t need to know how things fit together to follow God’s lead either.  I may not know until glory.

Hebrews 11 chronicles the stories of a few faith giants.  They were heroes because they offered themselves to God for a mission that would grate against the mainstream.  People didn’t understand.  Way before Jesus, it had already been proven that the way is narrow for those who follow God.  The gate is wide, however, for conformists and rationalists who follow their own rudder.

The plans of men may impress a crowd of the like-minded and the wayward but plans of God only impress other children of God who walk by faith.  Trophies and adulation are given for temporal accomplishments but crowns will be given to those who sustain more than a little mocking from the throngs on the road to destruction.  Walk on with Jesus – if you bear the bruises of others’ words.  You are in good company.  Your former heroes are, right now, worshiping at the feet of Jesus.  They are in awe of God’s stunning story-line and how privileged they were to play a small part in the advance of God’s  kingdom.  Sense the cheering of this great cloud of witnesses.

Yes. Fathers. Mothers. Even brothers and sisters from centuries ago. Let their voices resound in my heart.  Amen

My Walk Out Of Egypt

October 28, 2019

By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.  Hebrews 11:29

The children of Israel walked between the walls of water until they reached the safety of the other side.  The Egyptian army also walked between the walls of water but the walls didn’t hold.  The towering walls collapsed and drowned all the enemies of God’s people.  Where was faith involved in the deliverance of the first and the destruction of the latter?

Paul answered the question in his letter.  “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1–4 

They were baptized into Moses, both in the cloud and in the sea.  This means that they acknowledged Moses as their God-sent deliverer.  They followed his God in the cloud and walked confidently into the divided sea that had been separated by the wind of Yahweh’s breath.  Moses was a shadow of Christ and points to what would be required of me to be delivered from the slavery of sin.  I would have to embark on my own journey out of Egypt and proceed into the Red Sea through faith in Christ’s finished atonement.

What happens to spiritual enemies who are out for my destruction?  Like the mighty Egyptian army, they pursue like a flood.  I may hear the roar of the lion and the wheels of their chariots bearing down, they may even maim and kill the body, but I will be safely delivered to the promised land through my Deliverer.  They, without faith in Christ, will meet sure destruction.

Faith is credited to me as righteousness just as surely as if my name were written in Hebrews 11 if I look to Jesus to save me.  When I trust Him, when I receive His love and forgiveness, and when I lay down all self-effort (my own kind of horses and chariots), I am led out of slavery and into the promised land.  It is paradise restored.  The yoke of slavery is permanently shattered and its irons lay on the ground.  Such a beautiful thing happens next.  He who forgives all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases, who  redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion, satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:3-5 

Oh Lord, the traumatic memories of slavery in Egypt no longer line my face. Thank you.  Amen

Careful With Every Detail

October 25, 2019

Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.  Hebrews 11:28

When God chooses a leader, He chooses him with great care.  Moses’ response to God’s instructions about the first Passover would mean the difference between life and death for every firstborn in an Israelite family.  With great detail, God gave instructions.  With great detail, Moses carried them out.  No carelessness.  No second-guessing about appeared to be important and what seemed to be of little significance.  He was not burdened down by the extent of God’s instructions.  If the details were important to God, the details were important to him.

Such is the essence of faith. When God speaks, I obey no matter what.  I do not sift through God’s commands and apply a value to what seems compelling.  I do not take shortcuts according to my own interpretation of God’s words.  By faith, I trust that every single thing He speaks is critical whether I understand it or not.

Moses could not know all that that was in the heart of God as he listened to God unveil the detailed instructions for his people.   He could not know that Christ would be our Passover and would one day be sacrificed for us.  He could not know that as each household chose a lamb without blemish, that the Messiah would also be a Lamb without sin.  He could not know that killing and roasting their lambs as God instructed would paint a picture of the suffering and killing of another perfect Lamb on a hillside outside Jerusalem.  He could now know that every detail of Passover instructions from Yahweh would correspond perfectly to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Yet in spite of what he did not know, Moses knew God.  His faith was built on awe and respect.  His faith bid him to obey God to the very last detail. Whatever God promised would come to pass and each seemingly insignificant element would hold remarkable symbolism down through the ages. In heaven, God’s plan of redemption will be celebrated and each facet of this first Passover will astound us all over again as we sing the song in Revelation chapter five.  Our voices will blend with the choir of angels.

“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

What Happens In Your Invisible?

October 24, 2019

By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:27

What happened in Moses’ invisible world took him far.  He left his adopted family, forfeited his place in the line of royalty, and then took on the responsibility for leading over 603,000 children of Israel out of Egypt and across the desert to their new homeland.  He endured stresses most of us will never feel, suffered the love/hate relationship with a fickle people who worshipped God one day and Baal the next, and he did all this while enduring the many griefs of his own personal story.  What carried him through it all and gave him the strength to endure?  Connection with the One who was invisible.

What happens in the unseen realm, in the life of every child of God, cannot be underestimated.  It’s what propels us into the line of fire, some even into martyrdom.  It gives iron to the weak.  A revelation of God, through Christ and through His Word, shapes things not visible to the naked eye.  Right now, as you are reading this, the Holy Spirit is working in your own invisible realm to guide your thoughts, personalize this scripture, and lead you to be different five minutes from now than you are now.

As you and I interact with God and His Word today, here are just a few of things that will happen that are imperceptible to others.  God will reveal Himself and enlarge our view of Him.  God will disclose things to our minds, and hearts, that will bring inner change.  God will give me a word to speak that will plant heaven’s seeds on earth’s soil.  (It will prosper because His Word trumps all other forces at work.)  God will re-direct me when I am starting to wander off into wrong lines of thinking and feeling. God will revive me through a whisper when I sink under the pressures I can’t yet anticipate.  God will reward my obedience with peace and confidence.  All of this is invisible.

Scripture speaks of God’s child residing in peace and safety.  Does God keep His promise when I look into my external circumstances and see turmoil and danger?    Let us not doubt.  Peace and safety are the bedfellows of any of us who keep our eyes on the invisible God.  Like Moses, we  are constantly changing in the presence of the Almighty.  We endure.  We do not fear.  We rise out of the ashes.  We think soundly.  We speak wisdom in the presence of the foolish.  And like Peter and John, we stand before others and give testimony in such a way that others perceive we have been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Let these scriptures be our benediction.

 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and in the presence of Christ Jesus, who made the good confession before Pontius Pilate, to keep all His precepts without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal power and dominion! Amen.  I Timothy 6:13-16 AMP

Who In The World Does This?

October 23, 2019

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:24-25

I’ve heard more than a few stories of people who come into a great deal of money and choose to leave their small-town acquaintances, and even their family behind, to live in the better part of town.  They are ashamed to associate with those who represent their humble beginnings.  But Moses?  He flips this on its head and does the exact opposite.  He leaves his life of privilege.  He publicly nullifies his adoption into the royal family and chooses to associate instead with a nation of slaves.

The writer of Hebrews wanted us to know that Moses did this when he was grown up.  Why is that important?  Because he was not young, naïve, or gullible.  He was forty years old; mature, well-educated, full of knowledge and experience.  He changed his life and identity in the most profound way possible in the prime of his life.  Who does this?  Who leaves honor and privilege to embrace a nation of outcasts?  Only one who has encountered God.  Moses, upon learning He was Jewish, could have considered it bad news and something to grieve.  But when he met God at the burning bush, a lot more happened than him getting a new mission.  He got a new heart.

It’s amazing what people do when their heart has been changed by an encounter with Christ.  Brilliant doctors with lucrative practices have given them up to go to the missionfield to build mission post hospitals.  College professors have given up tenure at major universities in order to go to seminary to become pastors.  Young women have given up the love of their life in order to go into fulltime ministry as single people.  Such choices make no sense at all to a world who watches.  It appears that they have thrown their life away, and for what?!  But they are living examples of the story Jesus told about hidden treasure.  The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.  Matthew 13:44

Jesus is the treasure.  Before discovering Him, we live with priorities and affections diverted elsewhere.  We value what the world values and we fit in.  Jesus turns it all upside down when He reveals Himself and opens our eyes to His glory.  Nothing and no one can equal His worth.  We become His peculiar people, choosing to be outcasts, singing all the way home as love-sick worshipers.

I am the singer of a new song about the real King in the only kingdom that matters.  Thank you!  Amen