One Little Part

The other day a good friend of mine was having some troubles with his vehicle. After some investigation, he found it was one small electronic component that was causing the problem. Now, he could have lived with the inconvenience of connecting and dis-connecting the battery every time he used his vehicle, but he chose to order the part and fix the problem. It is amazing how just one little part affected the whole operation of his vehicle. 

As I continue to read through the book of Judges, I realized just how many parts made up its whole. The “judges” chosen by God were all picked for a specific reason. While some only receive a quick mention in a verse or two, others have a couple of chapters dedicated to telling their story. Gideon was one part (one judge) out of many who God chose to lead his people back to him.

As we are introduced to Gideon (chapters 6-8), we learn a few things about him that help us understand who was as a person, a person most of us can relate to. While I cannot imagine what a face-to-face encounter with an angel of the Lord might be like, I can connect with his response to his greeting. Here is how it played out: “he said, “The LORD is with you mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

For the past seven years the people of Israel had fallen into a pattern of sin and had been living under the oppression of the Midian nation. Life was hard, they lived in the mountains to hide as best they could from the power of the Midianites. Gideon lived through seven years of oppression along with the other people and, as most normal person would, he had doubts about where God was. Can you relate to the place Gideon was in his heart and mind? Do you sometimes have doubts that God is near to you?

Today we have the privilege of seeing the larger picture of God’s incredible provision of grace, mercy, and love as we read through the book of Judges. Each time the people fall into the pattern of “doing evil in the eyes of the Lord”, God is always near and provides a way back to him. God used Gideon (one small part) in incredible ways (more details in chapters 6-8) and led the people through 40 years of peace. 

Like Gideon, our faith in God can ride through valleys and hills. We all want to live on the “mountain tops” in our faith and life but inevitably there are times when we fall into the valley. The same God that heard the cries of the Israelites so many times is the same God today that hears our cries and gives us strength and power to climb out of the valley back to the top of the mountain.

God provided the judges in Gideons day to help bring them back to himself but today we have an even more powerful way back to him and that is through his son Jesus Christ. He died for our sins and is the one who presents us are pure and holy before our father in heaven. 

Gideon played his part in helping the people find their way back to God; we too are called to be a witness (one little part) in leading others to Christ. Where are you today? Are you walking through a valley or are you standing on the top of a mountain? No matter where you are, you are not alone, God is with you. Pray about how you can be a “part” used by him?

Yo-Yo’s, Life & Faith

I have never been able to master the skills of tossing a yoyo, in fact, I gave up the practice many years ago after sustaining some self-inflicted bruises and having to sweep up some freshly broken pottery. This seemingly simple toy, when placed in the hands of a skilled yoyo master can both mesmerize and inspire the inner child in all of us.

As I started reading through the book of Judges, I felt a bit like a yoyo spinning and moving in what seems like an unpredictable direction. Following the death of Joshua, the nation of Israel was without a leader, someone who could keep them focused on moving forward in their life and faith in God. The absence of a leader set into motion an up and down cycle of sin, punishment, repentance, and ensuing rescue. Their rescue came when God chose for them a “judge” or leader who led them back into knowing who God is and into his endless grace and mercy for them. 

Chapter by chapter as we read from a distance about the lives of the Israelite people, we find ourselves spinning through this yoyo like cycle of ups and downs with them. The final words of Judges lay out for us the cause of all that happens through the rest of its narrative, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit”. (21:25)

Judges chapter 2 highlights the foundation of why “everyone did as they saw fit”. The generations of people who followed that of Joshua had lost sight of who God was and what he had done for the nation of Israel in the past. Chapter 2:11-12 recounts what happened next, “Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them”. This, as we see throughout the book is the beginning of the cycle (sin) that leads into punishment, repentance and rescue of a God who continued to love them. 

The seemingly unpredictable direction I mentioned earlier becomes more and more predictable as we read along. God himself was always in the picture. The people may have been blinded to his presence at times, but God never left them. Each time the nation cried out for help, he rescued them by providing a judge, a leader to draw them back toward him and live in peace once again. 

As believers today we live and serve the same God that was looking over the nation of Israel, a God who loves and cares for every created being. At times, the lives that we live today fall into a similar cycle lived out in the pages of Judges. When we do as we see fit for our own lives, when we let the heart of the world overtake the heart of Christ in us, we draw ourselves further away from God our Father. What do we do when things come crashing down around us? Well, as the cycle continues, we cry out to God (who has never left us in the first place) and He restores our heart, our soul and mind through his incredible mercy and grace. 

Our rescue is forgiveness and restoration through Christ’s love, a love that has no limits. Life will sometimes become tangled and spin out of control like a yo-yo, but in the hands of a master (our Father in heaven) comes beauty and inspiration. Do you need to cry out to God today? He is near to you; He will answer the call from your heart with love and forgiveness.

Melting Point

This past summer as one of the particularly long heat waves passed through our area, we discovered that two of our Costco sized bags of chocolate chips melted and transformed from little, tiny morsels into large solid blocks of chocolate. Our chocolate chip cookies turned into chocolate chunk cookies. It seems that everything has a melting point. 

Six times in the book of Joshua we read about the idea of people “melting in fear”. (2:9; 2:11; 2:24; 5:1; 7:5; 14:8). In context of each of these verses there is a very real sense of fear surrounding life and death as people have witnessed the incredible power of God through the continuance of his promise to bring his people into the land promised to them through his covenant with Abraham. 

Chapter 2 of Joshua recounts the interaction between Rahab and the spies where she explains to them, “When we heard of it, (the crossing of the Jordan) our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” As we read this today, we recognize the transformation in Rahab’s life that speaks to a “melting” or “softening” of another kind. We don’t know a lot about Rahab, but we do know that at some point in time she recognized God for who he is and gave her life over to him, her heart was softened.

What started as a real fear in the sense of life and death became a life changing experience for Rahab. A new sense of understanding and fear of the Lord became a new reality of reverence and awe for a God who saves and protects those who love and follow him. Later in scripture (Heb 11:31; James 2:25) we hear of Rahab as an example of faith, one who stands out because of her actions in service to God. 

In life and ministry, I have had the opportunity to hear many incredible stories of life transformation as God continues to work in the hearts of his people. Each story, unique in their own way demonstrate the incredible power of love, forgiveness, and acceptance as people put their hope and trust in the Lord. Unfortunately, I have also heard stories that are surrounded by a paralyzing fear that keeps people at a distance from God. They fear that their life choices and actions are unforgivable, and that God could never love or forgive them.

The scriptures are filled with stories of forgiveness and redemption; Rahab’s story is only one of many. David is another example, and he shares these words for all of us:

He (God) does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The God that we serve is so full of mercy and grace and no matter who we are and what we have done there is forgiveness available to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. 

The stories we have in scripture have the power to inspire and change lives. Our stories, just the same, have power to inspire and encourage others who may not know how great the love of God is.

When was the last time you shared your story? How has God has worked in your life to draw you close to him? Take some time to pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to share your story with someone, you never know the kind of change it will bring in someone’s life.

Like Minded

Like-minded people tend to share the same opinions, ideas, or interests. You might say that when two like-minded people get together there is a “meeting of the minds”. There are many constructs in this type of relationship where like-mindedness can help build healthy relationships with others. 

In Psalm 101 David describes many qualities that contribute to what might sound like a tall order to live by when it comes to living a life of Integrity. Verse six highlights one in particular that caught my attention, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the Lord, that they may dwell with me; the ones whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” This is a statement of character and ultimately a guide for building ourselves a line of defense against the evils and temptations of this world. David is giving us some incredibly wise relationship counselling through these words. As king, David knows that if he surrounds himself with like-minded people, (persons who share in his devotion to live a life of integrity under the call of the Lord) both himself and his reign will prosper. David’s words describe a plan to have people in his life who will hold him accountable, people who minister or speak into his life when trial or temptation come along; and as a king who could do as he wishes, these things could (and in some cases did) happen. David’s integrity was constantly challenged as a king. The bible records many of David’s failures but at the same time gives us a picture of heartfelt confession and repentance of what he had done. 

The lives that we live are influenced greatly by those around us. No matter where we are in this world there will always someone or something that will try and break past the walls of integrity that we work so hard to maintain. 

As a parent, I try to give wise counsel to my children much the same way David prescribes when it comes to the friends that they surround themselves with. I work diligently to try to live by this same counsel. 

Like David, I have received the promise of forgiveness when I call on the name of the Lord. Through the amazing gift of grace that is freely given to me today through Christ, I am forgiven. You and I fall short of perfection and integrity as we live, but if we live and share life together in Christ we may not fall so far. 

The Wash Cycle

LaundryHave you ever wondered what goes on inside a washing machine? Probably not. If you’re like me you throw the clothes in, put a bit of soap in and let the machine do the rest. Some of these machines can be complicated if you look at all the settings and cycles that are available. Each cycle (regular, permanent press, knit, delicates, light, medium and heavy, extra rinse, extra spin) have a purpose. Ultimately, if the machine is working as designed, when you reach the end of the cycle you have clean clothes.

When you read through the book of Judges you will find a pattern of events related to Israel’s continuous cycle of sin and restoration. If we were to label this cycle we could describe it like this: relapse, ruin, repentance, restoration, rest, relapse. God raises up 13 unique judges to bring his justice into the lives of the Israelites, 13 different cycles. Some of these cycles varied with intensity, in verses 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33-34, 10:6, 13:1 (seven instances) we are introduced to the cycles of relapse and ruin with the words “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. If we were to run these stories through the wash cycle we would choose “heavy, extra rinse and extra spin”. There were also times when you could categorize this cycle of life for the Israelites as “light” or “delicate”, a time when scripture does not record much about the actions of God’s people, presumably these could be the times of rest.

One of the highlights of reading through Judges is the picture of hope that we can see in God’s faithfulness, to forgive and provide for his people, a truth that still holds today. We see over and over the significance of the people coming before God (repentance) seeking his forgiveness and the power of God to forgive and restore them as a nation. Today we often fall into the same patterns of life like the Israelites, we tend to run amuck on our own, forgetting how God has complete control in the happenings of our lives. The illustration of the wash cycle always ends with fresh smelling clothes, clean and ready for work and play. When we put our hope and trust in God, when we come to Him in faith and ask for forgiveness, we are washed of those sins.