“What if?” — Two Words Can Change A Life

What if something as small as two words could change the trajectory of your life, improve your relationships, bring increased joy and renew purpose. Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but honestly, I’m not.

Twelve years ago, my husband and I refused to retire and chose to repurpose our lives instead. We shifted from business owners to working for paychecks and shedding the load of business responsibilities. Then just five years ago God interrupted our pleasant lives with what seemed like an impossible proposition. There was a sudden urgency to publish a “children’s” book.

Others encouraged me. However, the pressures of full time work, ministry obigations, and family life squeezed the majority of my time and energy. Eventually, I resigned from work to give writing and publishing complete focus. After jumping into the deep waters of unknown outcomes, persevering through disappointments, frustrations, and many tears, Olivia & Me was published in 2017.

What a journey! It was like running a marathon without training. Whether stubbornness, frugality, or simply the quest to learn, determination ultimately pushed me into the diverse and “techy” processes involved in website development, writing, formating, book design for interior copy, graphic design for covers, coordinating with printers, and forming marketing strategies.

Now just five years later, the eighth book, Great and Awesome God is in the publishing queue. When we are willing to give God our “Yes, Lord!” anything is possible!

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him: though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:23

Stumbling

Honestly, stumbles and trips still occur almost daily. Even now, I struggle to overcome many obstacles — some internal and others external. But “what if” my roadblocks became highways to success.

These two little words are capable of changing anyone’s perception, even mine!

We all know the voice of our internal critic.

  • You are not enough!
  • Nobody will buy these.
  • You will make a fool of yourself.
  • This is nothing but a waste of money.
  • You have no training for this.

However loud your harassing voice, we all have the ability to silence it.

  • What if God is enough!
  • And what if people buy them and are encouraged?
  • What if others grow spiritually, even if at times I might look foolish?
  • Or what if the money spent becomes an investment into the eternal futures of people?
  • What if I seek training, engage in writer’s groups for support, and God does fill in the gaps with His wisdom and the help of others?

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.'”
Luke 18:27

These two little words exceed any positive thinking strategy. They open a heart and mind to trust God for His possibilities worked in and through our lives. The only thing we have to offer Him is a segment of our time and limited resources.

Possibilities

Although creativity infused my life in a multitude of ways and I had once played around with oil paints, my inner critic told me (in no uncertain terms) I could not illustrate a book. After my husband bought $350 worth of watercolor paints and supplies for me, I cried, absolutely convinced it was a waste.

One step at a time, God led me like a little child to create color charts by blending one color with another and to watch numerous online tutorials.

Alone one day, when no one could watch me fail, I sat with a broken HB2 pencil and began to sketch the image of a baby. To my astonishment, a beautiful face began to appear on the paper! What if this was possible, thoughts broke through the inner voice of condemnation. What if God is all I need . . . and more!

These two little words, “what if,” transformed my pessimistic mindset to one of God possibility.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Ephesians 3:20

There Is More

We all face daily challenges.

As covid restricted personal contact with people, my confidence took a nose dive — especially in the area of markteting. In person meetings gave people opportunity to see me, hear the message, and develop trust. On line, however, seemed cold, detached, and artificial. To propel me through the challenges, God connected me to Christian Book Academy, where I found support, prayer, and strategic tools.

What familiar chant does your critic play through your thoughts, pointing out roadblocks and limitations. It may be saying something like:

  • Your marriage is doomed to fail.
  • Your business is about to collapse.
  • You will never survive that blunder.

And more and more . . .

Last week God encouraged me to make a list of critical and negative thought patterns. Then with a stroke of the pen, He led me to create a different outcome beginning with “What if . . .” What if God works through us to establish a beautiful, healthy marriage? What if this downturn is actually for a longterm benefit? With God, even my greatest mistakes become what if possibilities for character develop and lessons learned.

“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:21-22

Faith Rising

This may sound foolish, but by the end of the exercise, I was high-fiving, fist-pumping, and cheering in triumph around my living room. (Fortunately, there were no cameras present!) God strengthened my faith, blowing the lid off perceived limitations.

Everything becomes possible with God on our team!

I would encourage you to make your own list. Then give God room to fill in the “what if” over your situations, relationships, businesses, dreams, and desires.

I pray that by sharing my simple experience you will find courage to transform negative thinking into God thoughts over your life. May you have faith to believe in God possibilities. What if your roadblocks are God’s highways to something great? What if your difficult season propels you something better than you could imagine?

May we al give ourselves permission to believe the “what if” thoughts of God!

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Learning, Growing, Teaching, Repeat

Though many of us feel incapable of teaching, life is a perpetual cycle of learning, growing, and teaching, repeated through generations. We see the pattern played out in virtually every aspect of our lives. In our homes, workplaces, educational centres, and sports arenas to name a few. In fact, every facet of understanding demands, at various levels, a willingness to learn, grow, and teach.

Most of us tend to shy away from formal teaching roles. However, we all have developed skills and obtained knowledge that others could greatly benefit from.

The sponge-like capacity for learning dominates the behavior of all children. Somehow as we grow older, we lose the inquisitiveness of childhood. If we become complacent, our knowledge base actually diminishes.

Recently someone said, “If you say you know when you don’t know, you will never know.” The statement exposes the unwillingness to learn will keep us from knowing what we desperately need to understand. Learning is the first step in all developmental processes.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Psalm 32:8

Learning

The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.
Brian Herbert

Because God is the Creator of all things, He knows how everything works and functions. Wisdom leads us to look to Him to guide and direct our learning process. I’m not just talking about spiritual things. One God idea proves of more worth than all human wisdom.

A few months ago, I began to hold business meeting with God. I can’t tell you how many “God ideas” He has inspired! Though previously I constantly prayed and surrendered the aspects of my business, welcoming Him into these weekly meetings has transformed it in indispensible ways.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”
Psalm 25:4

I believe God waits in anticipation for us to turn to Him with a hunger to learn. He desires to teach us how to parent our children, how to create artistic designs, how to produce or repair mechanical things, how to overcome obstacles in relationships or workplaces, and how to establish healthy life patterns.

Nothing is “hard” for God! He has the answer for the most difficult problems we face. Whatever we are attempting to learn, God already possesses the knowledge and understanding for us. The choice to learn, He leaves with us.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
Psalm 86:11

Growing

Every expert started as a novice.

Often, learning includes a multitude of skills and abilities stacked, like building blocks, one upon the other. The process often takes many years of experience, including successes and failures.

I chalk up far more mistakes than successes. I have also learned a great deal from my mistakes. Failing at something is often as helpful as succeeding!

A significant portion of training assists others bypass our mistakes. It builds bridges so others don’t have to fall into the same river we almost drowned in.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

This verse clearly illustrates the learning process: learning, receiving, hearing, and putting into practice. When we willingly stay humble and teachable, we open the doors to learn, receive, hear, and watch others to grow and develop even in areas which are personal weaknesses or deficiencies.

Nothing substitutes for practice. Practice! Then practice! And practice again! Anything we desire to develop our skill in will require practice. Growth will spring from our practice ground.

Teaching

Let’s not stop here! One more step completes the cycle — teaching.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Colossians 3:16

Oh course, God refers directly to teaching biblical truths. However, these principles apply to every aspect of life.

Only a smidgen of teaching is performed by “experts.” Everyone possesses knowledge and skill in any one of a number of areas. We have responsibility, before God and others, to share that knowledge.

Let us each consider for moment:

  • what skill am I developing
  • how could I share that skill with others
  • who might appreciate knowing this skill

Like music flowing from the heart, sharing our knowledge can and will become a joyous activity — Spirit-led songs flowing into the hearts of others

Repeat

“The best learning I had came from teaching.”
Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom recognized that as we pour ourselves out into the lives of others, we learn even more. We receive encouragement and inspiration to delve in deeper, improving our skills at a greater level.

The ultimate goal in everything we do is to draw others into a deeper relationship with God. The greatest learning, growing, and teaching comes from walking with others in their life journey. This side-by-side cycle of growth and development, both personal and corporate, offers ample opportunity to share faith.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:26

As the Holy Spirit teaches us, we teach others. Others will automatically learn from us as we learn from God. This incredible cycle of learning, growing, and teaching imparts a life-giving community of mutual benefit for everyone.

Let’s applaud where we are already successfully sharing skills. May we also seek God for knew ways to build bridges of understanding. May our greatest joy be in partnering with the Holy Spirit, leading people through ever-increasing circles of learning, growing, and teaching.

Bless you!

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The Power of Networking With People

The Power of Networking

Although connection and community have always been important, the power of networking with people is becoming increasingly significant.

We all seem to arrive upon the life’s landscape with an independent chromozone. Every parent has heard their little one unequivocally announce, “I do it myself!” Every parent has also watched the ensuing struggle to learn — often through scraped knees and bruised shins.

Hopefully, we all eventually realize life was never meant to be a solo journey. We overcome as we form strategic partnerships. We need others!

My natural introverted nature resists reaching out and developing the communities that God knows I need to successfully press beyond personal incapabilities.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
Ecclesiates 4:9-10

Networking in the Workplace

As an author and communicator without formal training, I lean heavily upon pioneers who have paved the way. Old in years never guarantees wisdom or maturity. Those much younger may carry a wealth of knowledge and creative insight all would benefit from.

Pride might be the greatest inhibitor to developing strong workplace networks. Humility elevates and promotes each other for mutual benefit.

I have reaped the rewards from these workplace networks:

  • Enroll in courses and training modules.
  • Seek the critique of others.
  • Create support groups for mutual development and encouragement.
  • Openly and freely share knowledge.
  • Strive for team excellency.

Though it might seem counter cultural, our greatest success comes by advancing others. Let us develop a culture of promoting and applauding those around us.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:27

Jesus’ workplace revolved around ministry — ministry He could have easily accomplished alone. Yet, he chose to train and advance others, launching them into similar areas of ministry. The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, could easily be viewed as a manual for elevating and promoting others in the workplace. In everything He did, Jesus demonstrated the power of networking with people, even messed up people.

I would be amiss to not mention the faithful group of women who sacrifically promoted Jesus’ work. They supported Him financially and practically.

Networking in Community

Jesus maintained several layers of community, refusing to function in isolation. His circles included:

  • His three closest friends and collegues (Mark 9:2)
  • A slightly larger group of twelve shared ministry and life — eating and travelling together, even seeing Jesus exhausted, hungry, and pressured (Luke 6:12-16)
  • Seventy-two sat under His teaching and entered into ministry (Luke 10:1)
  • Finally, the crowds who followed were released from demonic possession, healed of diseases, and restored to relationships (Luke 14:25)

What are your community circles? Do you have a small group of close friends who walk beside you through ups and downs? Do you have a larger network of comfort and support among your family or church? Are you connected where you live, impacting the lives of others for the advancement of the Kingdom of God?

I recently read that the greatest human need is for connection. Without personal networks, we feel deprived and empty. Only in and through interconnected relationships will we achieve all God desires for us. The power of networking with people comes alive in integrated healthy community circles.

” . . . I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20-21

Networking presents risks. As much as we need these networks, we have all been wounded or taken advantage of by communities that meant to assist and support. Within the context off community healing also effectively flows.

Networking in Prayer

I have vividly seen the value of many network communities. However, the greatest aspect of united agreement flows out of joint networking within prayer circles. Here again, we look to Jesus and those who followed Him.

  • Jesus took His eleven disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32)
  • Eight stayed prayed from distance (Mark 14:32)
  • Three followed closer, overhearing His prayers and seeing His travail (Mark 14:33)
  • About one hundred and twenty of His followers waited in the upper room, continuously in prayer after his ascension (Acts 1:12-15)
  • The early church devoted themselves to corporate prayer (Acts 4:42)

Prayer networks require committment. I have learned to purposefully create prayer teams of support for the projects I work on. I also commit to network in prayer with women who mentor me as I mentor others. Our foundation is prayer. Christian churches and organizes also maintain local, national, and international prayer initiatives.

These prayer circles support while being supported. Nothing significant for God ever occurs apart from the power of networking in prayer.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Never too Busy to Network

One of the biggest excuses standing in the way of healthy networking is over-activity. To receive the full benefits of the power of networking, adjustments and prioritizing our schedules becomes essential.

The second hindrance to strong community networks might possibly be personal insecuity. One of the reasons I hesitated so long to begin a women’s group was the feelings of intimidation and insecurity. Gulp!!! By pushing aside our fears, past failures, and pride we will reap the benefits of amazing networks waiting for us.

Finally, everything Jesus taught ran countercultural. Networking is a prime example.

As application points, let’s look honestly (and without condemnation) at how we are personally interacting within networks.

  • Do I carry wounds from network communities that I need healing from?
  • What networks should I prioritize in work, community, and prayer?
  • Do I need to relinquish independence or insecurity to move into healthy communities?

“Lord Jesus, I ask You to knit us together into vibrant, healthy, thriving communities. Move us forward together so we all reach our ultimate potential and efficacy. I ask You to clearly demonstrate the power of networking Your way. Amen.”

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Rules Matter! Run to Win the Prize

Rules matter, guiding every area of life. Competitors must run according to the rules in order to win a prize. In far too many competitions, someone becomes exposed for breaking the rules in an attempt to reach the top of the podium. Why is twisting and bending any or all regulations so common — not just in athletics but in every aspect of life? Whether in sports, politics, business, or even ministry, people willingly risk disqualification or loss of reputation to attain perceived goals.

“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Here, Paul lays out strategic guidelines for success for virtually any area of life. Rules matter!

Know Your Lane

Whether in baseball, motor sports, swimming or track events, each participant runs within an assigned position or designated lane. Lanes ensure safety for the competitors and fairness in the competition.

What lane has God called you to run in? Is it within business or finance? Maybe your lane focuses on caring for and loving your family or community well. Is it shepherding a church? Or perhaps teaching or writing? Are you running in your designated lane?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

God calls each one of us according to His perfect purpose and design for us. He equips and empowers us to fulfill specific roles. When we know and intentionally run in the lane God has called us to, our lives become exciting and fulfilled.

Whether you a professional dragster or an elementary school sprinter, knowing your lane determines your starting position and the course ahead! If you are unsure which position God has called you to run, ask Him for clarity and allow Him to show you.

Rules matter. The most important rule is staying within the lane God provides.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Discipline and Self-Control

We will all start the race at some point, but too few will complete it. Perhaps, a lack of self-discipline or self-control hinders us from staying the course. Whatever the goal or purpose, these qualities will help successfully carry us from start to finish.

A good start doesn’t guarantee a great finish! Sacrifice marks the road to victory. Just as rules matter, so does character.

“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3

Though not a contest, entering God’s “race” comes with a physicaly, emotionaly, and often financial cost. However as we run our race, we experience many benefits. God brings out the best in us, deepening our character.

Titus lists qualifying characteristics of those who lead the pack:

“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
Titus 1:8

These attributes form the personal character needed for a great finish to any race we begin.

Oh, my fellow runners, let’s not slow our pace or deviate from our course. May we remain faithful to run with perseverance, character, and hope.

Champion Others

The race we run resembles a relay or a marathon more than a solo sprint. Others run with and beside us. Still more will follow in our footsteps.

As we devote ourselves to run our race, may we champion others — encouraging, training, and developing those co-laboring with us.

We have opportunity daily to choose whether to wear the mantle of encourager or that of a critic. May any encouragement be sincere and all critqueing be given with humility, inspiring listeners to press beyond their expectations.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2

May we refuse to look over our shoulders, judging others for running in a different manner than we would. Criticism inevitably causes us to lose personal momentum, veer off track, or even break godly guidelines of good stewardship of gifts and resources. Rules matter!

What strategies for success can we pass on? How can we help someone else meet and surpass their goals? What tools, resources, or influence can we share?

May we humbly and willingly both receive and pass on the baton of encouragement, creating a synergy of wins.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Through the days, weeks, and years of training, a competitor strains toward the goal, the highest prize possible— the top mark, the highest rank.

Every earthly award will eventually break or lose its luster. In a few short weeks or years, it will fade into insignificance.

As Christians, we run or compete, not for human recognition, but to finish the course God has set before us. Everything will pale in comparison to hearing the King of Glory say,

” . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .”
Matthew 25:23

Let us not become distracted. Rules matter! Staying the course matters! Character matters! Passing the baton and keeping focus matters, too. But maintaining sight of eternity guides us along a straight and purposeful path “heavenward.”

Run Well

Maybe you feel like you have tripped up too badly to continue. Today, I encourage you to restart and refocus. No matter how tragic your fall, with God’s help, restart. Move back into your lane and step-by-step aim for the finish line.

None of us know how much time we have left to run. Today, God offers us a fresh start and a new opportunity to gain ground. He is the God of second chances.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . “
Ephesians 5:15-16

You can do it! God is on your side, while forerunners in heaven and on earth cheer you on!

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Spring is Here Signalling a New Generation of Growth

Spring is Here!

Everyone from the far north announces when spring is here. Snow melts; puddles appear. Even the muddy messiness is a welcome reprieve. Preparation by gardeners and farmers began months ago. Proud growers splatter social media with images of seedlings flourishing under growlights lights and in greenhouses.

Most people look forward to spring. Maybe not the muddy part, but certainly the clean, fresh, green part! We watch and listen for the return of waterfowl and songbirds, building nests and laying eggs. We google over sprigs of green bravely emerging from the cold, once barren, earth. Spring brings promise.

Spring comes slowly only to leave quickly, followed by the steady rhythm of other seasons.

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.”
Song of Songs 2:11-13

Solomon never endured the lengthy, frigid winters we do. Yet, he welcomed spring with a song, “Winter is over! Spring is here!” He relished the sights, sounds, and aromas of the season of awakening and fresh starts.

Fresh Start

God often refers to autumn and spring rains as refreshing and rejuvenating the earth. The spring rain carried a promise of future harvest.

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.”
Joel 2:23-24

Spring symbolizes new beginnings. Those fresh sprouts of green will eventually produce a harvest. In the Bible, an overflow of grain, new wine, and oil speaks of abundance flowing from fresh starts and new beginnings. Each symbolic, not just of earth and soil, but people with soul coming into spiritual overflow.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-14

Can you feel it? God’s promise of abundance and blessing?

The Patience of Spring

All us dirt-between-the-fingers gardeners know that to plant a seed or see a fresh sprout rising from the dust doesn’t mean harvest has arrived. Spring may be here, but harvest follows much later.

The sower plants with patient expectation. The patience of spring represents another more important waiting.

“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

Just as the spring rains cause the dead sprigs to burst into life, spring announces the promised return of Jesus Christ. When He comes, death will forever be cast aside as He breathes fullness of life into His own.

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
James 5:7

Farmers know we need more than just a few spring showers to produce a harvest. Timely summer rains bring the crops through to completion. But, no rain carries as much significance and promise as the early spring rain.

Ask for Rain

The patience of waiting partners with fully trusting in the Lord’s provision. The sower plants, waits, and seeks God for the increase. Within patience flows asking — asking God to provide His rain at strategic times.

Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.”
Zechariah 10:1

Spring follows winter as surely as day follows night. But God encourages us to ask for His showers of blessings. Zechariah reminds us to be bold in our asking God for the full provision of spring.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry gournd; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

God remembers we are made from dust. We forget what a dry thirsty people we become apart from the constant “showers” of the Spirit. The spring rain points us to Holy Spirit being poured out on humanity — on us and our children — saturating and reviving all that has grown cold and barren.

Faithfulness

More than anything else, spring reminds us of God’s faithfulness. We might easily forget in the cold, dark night of winter, but as the sun rises higher and higher warming the land and restoring life, we remember again that God is faithful.

“Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The LORD will indeed give what is good and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”
Psalm 85:11-13

As wars and corruption flood the earth, throwing nations and peoples into uproar, God’s reminder that spring is here brings hope. As we lift our gaze to Him, we remember His faithfulness, seeking a greater outpouring of His Spirit. Even when justice and righteousness seem distant, God is faithful!

The muck and mud always gives way to beauty. God’s righteousness will always prevail, preparing the way for intervention in our lives and in our world, until His ultimate return to gather the real harvest.

Spring signals a new generation of growth. Look down enough to avoid the muck and mud, but keep looking up to God who is forever faithful!

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Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

An embroiderer weaves the thread looking at the good side everyone will see, but flipping the beautiful project over reveals an ugly side. On the good side, symmetry and order create an attractive design. On the opposite side, the ugly side, threads criss-cross in weird angles and knots hang limp.

Illustrations of the good-side-ugly-side of things are revealed in innumerable ways around us.

Instinctively, we all try to hide our ugly side, even pretending only the good side exists. Jesus consistently flipped over pretty facades to reveal hidden uglies underneath. He wasn’t, and isn’t, sadistic, taking pleasure in tormenting or humiliated people.

Jesus purposefully flipped and turned, looking for those responsive to His teaching and drawing the humble to maturity and order.

The true masters of needlework produce artful pieces, beautiful on both sides. Although I tried, I never reached that level of excellence.

Good or Ugly?

At times, we may be quick to form opinions and cast judgments. The good side might not be as good as we first think. The ugly side might not be as bad as we think, either.

John the Baptist called people to repent in preparation for Jesus’ coming. Tax collectors and sinners, the ugly side of society, responded to his ministry. The religious elite held fast to a different view.

“(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”
Luke 7:29-30

Those who fought to maintain a strict apprearance of looking good ended up nullifying everything — even God’s divine purpose for their lives. Strutting in distinguishing robes and high hats to fit their high heads, they failed to realize the cost of their unyielding pride.

When the good-side people rejected John’s call to acknowledge their bad side and turn their lives around, they forfeited all God had waiting for them.

This Generation

Jesus spoke directly to His generation. They dismissed the invitation to turn — to humbly admit their ugly side, so He could bring out the good side. No one could twist His meaning for some future time, although similarities would exist for every generation.

“Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?”
Luke 7:31

Jesus broadens His focus beyond a limited group of religious leaders to “this generation.” All of us!

What He reveals isn’t pretty! The more we attempt to hide our ugly side, the uglier it becomes. The longer we wait, the greater the mess we create in and around ourselves.

The Ugly Side

How ugly is the ugly side? Down right ugly! Immature, idle, stage-seeking, groupy ugly! Ouch! Truth stings!

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.'”
Luke 7:32

What would Jesus say about me? Forget about brushing this indictment off to others. If Jesus flipped me over publicly, what would He find and others see?

Where are the areas in my life where I childishly resist taking responsibility — where my attitude or behavior exhibits immaturity? Am I idly “sitting” around when there is Kingdom work to do? Do I seek a platform to be heard or a spotlight of attention? Do I expect others to adjust to my command to “dance” or “mourn?”

As I read this passage this morning, I knew God wanted my full attention. Maybe, He desires to speak to you as well, but I’m just sharing about a little flipping Jesus is doing right here with me.

The Good Side

Even as I felt the pain of my ugly side being exposed, I heard God’s sweet voice of grace inviting me to the good side — the beautiful side displaying His creative hand at work. Again, I felt His nudge to harmonize my life with His good, I mean really good, purpose and plan.

May you hear and feel Him too. May you sense Him drawing you from childish ways into maturity, taking you by the hand, lifting you to our feet, and mobilizing you to a place of fulfillment. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone, including you and me, to miss out!

Jesus gently draws us away from the crowds and distractions of business and busyness — away from conforming to like-minded, going-no-where thinkers. Instead of setting our own pace and demanding others march to the beat of our personal drum, He welcomes us to the good side.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . “
2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Point of View

Honestly, it is okay if Jesus or others point to my ugly side. By His grace, He continues to take that ugly old side, with warped and knotted ends, and recreates it into a beautiful design no one could imagine. Through Him, even my ugly becomes new!

Oh, may we not resist His perfecting touch! May we each look into the mirror of His doing and see the miracle of the “good side” — His new creation worked in us.

May the tune of our song align with His truth:

“The old is gone!
The new is here!
All this is from God!”

Oh, sing it saints! Sing it again and again until it settles in your soul. Sing it mature, active, humble followers of Jesus. Don’t try to hide your ugly side from God or others, but let the world see your truly good side.

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When God Says, “No” Keep Going

What is your tendency when God says, “No?” You created a wonderful plan, have the resources to implement it, and all doors appear to be open. Will you trash the idea and go a different direction? Will you press on, pursuing your goal at any cost?

I have a stash of seemingly great ideas! Or at least, I think they are great. Actually, some may even be God-inspired ideas. Even godly people with fantastic God-given ideas hit roadblocks. I find the proof in the Word of God, the Bible.

King David came up with an excellent idea to build a permanent place for the Ark of God.

“After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.'”
1 Chronicles 17:1

Wow, David! Great idea! Build a place for God’s Presence. David confided with others who also thought it was a good idea.

“Nathan replied to David, ‘Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.'”
1 Chronicles 17:2

But God disagreed.

When God says, “No”

“‘Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.”
1 Chronicles 17:4

Good plan! Wrong man!

Honestly, it hurts to not be chosen, overlooked for a position, or have a creative idea only to have someone else fulfill it. This brings back painful memories of being chosen last for a sports team or not at all in a group as a child. It also includes being disqualified for a desired position or facing the rejection of others as an adult.

God’s “no” meant He had something permanently better for David.

God basically said, “David, thank you for wanting to build a house for me. Actually, I’m going to build a lasting house for you.”

God loves flipping things around and turning things for the good. No matter what we attempt to do for God, He comes back with a bigger, better blessing for us. It may not be immediate, but it is guaranteed.

Solomon, David’s son, became the immediate fulfillment, but Jesus ultimately completed it.

“. . . I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him . . .”
1 Chronicles 17:11-13

Praise

David’s response might seem difficult; he rested in God’s answer.

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD.”
1 Chronicles 17:16

David wasted no time and energy in self-loathing or questioning. He sat, resting in God’s Presence. Praise flowed from the position of rest.

“There is no one like you, LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”
1 Chronicles 17:20

I love this attitude! When God says, “No” to us, will we become distracted from fixed focus on Him? Or will our hearts be fully devoted to give Him praise? In the posture of adoration, David humbly received the blessing God promised.

“And now, LORD, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised.”
1 Chronicles 17:23

Without dispute, David accepted the closed door with grace and dignity. When we are willing to receive from God both the pleasant and the difficult, we demonstrate quiet trust and confidence in Him.

Prepare

David picked the exact place to build the tabernacle. Interestingly enough, the place marked the spot of David’s greatest failure but quickest turning back to God.

Then David said, ‘The house of the LORD God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
1 Chronicles 22:1

Insecurity might cause some people to place stumbling blocks in the path of their successors. Confident assurance, however, leads others to level the way, giving all who follow the greatest advantage and full opportunity to achieve their calling. When God says, “No,” we quickly discover internal motivations.

When we examine David’s responses, we find him to be a true gem! He

  • Appoints stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and craftsmen (1 Chronicles 22:2,15-16)
  • Provides large amounts of iron, bronze, cedar, gold, and silver (1 Chronicles 22:3-4,14)
  • Designs the specific plans (1 Chronicles 22:5)
  • Orders Solomon to carry it out (1 Chronicles 22:6)
  • Clearly declares God’s intention over Solomon’s life (1 Chronicles 22:7-11)
  • Prays a declaration of blessing and transfer over Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:11-13)
  • Appoints leaders to assist Solomon ( 1 Chronicles 22:17)

Who wouldn’t benefit from such extensive support? This list causes me to examine how I could better help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams. When we put God first and others ahead of ourselves, we discover may creative ways to motivate and encourage.

Peace

Many of us might be tempted to quit when we run into set backs — get off the road, park the bus (or car or eighteen-wheeler), and find a quiet beach somewhere to do nothing. Bad idea!

God reminded David of his successes — a fearless warrior leader, bringing peace and rest for his nation. None of it was accomplished through striving. Complacency didn’t bring it to completion either.

But now, God needed a leader of peace and rest to do the future great work of building the temple.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side . . . I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name.”
1 Chronicles 22:9-10

God has given each of us a specific place and purpose. Sadly, I believe too many of us carry a large portion of our God-given destiny to the grave unfulfilled. How many talents and years are wasted wishing we had someone else’s call or gifts.

Freedom comes from trusting God to help us do all He has called us to do.

Promote

David did everything humanly possible to ensure Solomon’s success, not just because the idea to build a temple was a good idea, but He desired God to be glorified through it.

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.”
1 Chronicles 22:19

Who’s name do I promote? God’s or my own?

When God says, “No” let us confidently promote Him, remembering everything is for His glory. We can do nothing apart from Him. We accomplish everything (even the smallest things) through His grace and goodness. Every point of success results from His blessing in our lives.

David affirms his son, Solomon and the importance of the work ahead. He calls him to give God pre-eminence in everything. Then God’s Name would be exalted.

When God says, “No,” let us each remember that His closed door for us might be the wide open door someone else is waiting for. We prefer when He throws opens those doors wide and gives us the go ahead signal. But today, David’s example helps us to keep on going, doing what we can, when we can, how we can.

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Identify and Overcome Any Roadblock or Obstacle to Success

I’m working to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success. Why? I feel stuck or unproductive in a critical area of my work.

Do you stall out? Or have you hit an invisible wall impeding your progress? We all face these situations and seasons. I’ve been working through my own recently. Fortunately, we also possess the ability to overcome.

Jesus met with serious opposition at the beginning of His ministry. His baptism by John created the launch point. What occurred immediately afterward, however, determined His trajectory.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please.'”
Matthew 3:16-17

God affirmed Jesus as “my Son,” declaring His love and pleasure with Him. Yet, immediately the Spirit led Jesus into a difficult place, a wilderness, where again and again the devil questioned Jesus’ identity and value.

This may well have created a serious obstacle for anyone of us. If Jesus would have listened to the enemy, His ministry would have been terminated instead of propelled into motion.

What internal “voices” or external pressures are you facing?

I will share a few of mine!

Self-Doubt

We resist the same enemy Jesus did. The devil attempted Jesus to doubt His identity and value — to question His worth.

Every forward movement encounters opposition. “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t do that!” “No one will listen to you.” “You have nothing to offer.” It is familiar rhetoric that haunts many of us.

Most of the time, I’m pretty good at recognizing this ploy. But sometimes, I take the bait and become paralyzed by my insufficiency.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7

Honestly, acknowledging my inability releases me to do and be all I am meant to be, without the pressure of attempting to measure some preconceived standard. If I believe I am the next great thing the world needs, pride dooms me to failure. Every success I achieve, I achieve through Christ in me.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

When self-doubt blocks you, admit your weaknesses and move on. Step over any feelings of unworthiness and draw from God’s power and ability at work in and through you. Don’t allow self-doubt to become an obstacle to success.

Fear

Fear takes on many forms. Though people perceive me as being bold and perhaps even fearless, I encounter this roadblock more than I would like to admit. Often, it creeps in so subtlely I fail to recognize fear as being the root of my stagnation.

Though it sounds foolish, I may fear both success and failure simultaneously. In school, other students criticized me as much for my successes as for my blunders. Those voices of childhood, even though they occurred decades ago, sometimes still derail me from reaching peak potential.

Fear intimidates. Fear paralyzes.

“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

If we ask God, He will expose the root of our fear. Whether He points to the fear of not measuring up to the opinions of others or the fear of being vulnerable, identifying the source helps us to move beyond it.

Perfectionism

God knows we are imperfect. We know we are imperfect. So why is perfectionism such a big deal? Or at least, why is perfectionism such a big deal for me?

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
Ecclesiastes 11:7

When I make perfection even remotely my goal, I may begin the work, but never complete it or boldly present it to others. Perfectionism focuses on flaws. It holds us to impossible standards, clouding everything we do with disappointment and discouragement.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15

Timothy’s mentor and “father” in the faith encouraged him, “Do your best!” Our consistent best will keep the momentum going. It will elevate us above obstacles.

We could all glean from these words, applying it to whatever we are working at. “Do your best!” Let’s put perfectionism behind us and simply attempt to do our best.

So many times, I look at my work, knowing it is far from perfect. But I also recognize that at this point in my life, this is the best I have to offer. When I resolve to accept my imperfection, I step past perfectionism as the obstacle to success.

Discouragement

When things don’t turn out like I hope, discouragement creeps in. Often shame or regret ride the same wave with discouragement.

Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“Don’t be discouraged!” God says to each of us. “Don’t give it room or entertain it in your mind!”

Whatever we do that is good and upright, let’s remember God is with us. He never calls us to something He will not equip us to do. He strengthens and helps us to carry it out.

Whatever door of opportunity God opens for us, He empowers us to confidently walk through it. Let us not allow discouragement to become an obstacle to success.

Busyness

Ineffective management of my time often creates the greatest roadblock to accomplishing my goals. Usually, this results from an over-booked, over-extended, and over-loaded schedule.

Distractions continually bombard — some avoidable, others unavoidable.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

Jesus encourages us to establish godly priorities and set healthy boundaries over our time. I find these tips helpful:

  • Say “no” to some things to give the option to say “yes” to the most important things
  • Recognize and avoid time wasting distractions
  • Tackle the most difficult work during peak performance periods
  • Minimize where I can so I can maximize for the greatest effect
  • Rest before work, eat before effort, exercise before assignments

We cannot regain time once it passes. Time is precious to God.

Obstacle to Success

My list includes only a few of the roadblocks that create obstacles to success. We each will face our own recurring roadblocks to impede progress.

Your list might read differently from mine. Procrastination, insecurity, or past shame may rank high on a few lists. Through Jesus Christ, we all can be victorious no matter how long or short our lists appear.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whatever God has set before us, wherever He has positioned us, let us thank God. He gives us the ability to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success.

Your labor is not in vain! God is with you.

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Expanding and Contracting: Adjusting to Change

Expanding and contracting often occur subtlely around us. Gradual changes may go unnoticed, hidden in the busyness of daily lives. However, extreme shifts rudely jar us awake, demanding immediate attention.

Last night our house popped noisily as temperatures plummeted almost as quickly as a downed aircraft. Sleep refused to come during the racket. I felt powerless, and a little irritated, as I pulled the warm sheets over my head. As I hunkered in my bed, the creaking and cracking persisted through much of the night. The process continued later in the day as the sun shone its warming rays upon the roof and walls, striving for supremacy.

Here, on the northern prairies, such temperature fluctuations occur often. Neither my house nor I respond well to sudden shifts of anything — temperature or otherwise! I prefer gentle smooth transitions, especially ones I foresee and can control.

Some of life’s expanding brings joyous benefits — a successful business or growing family, a larger home or increased wages, even an extra day off work or hour in bed.

Our living space contracted recently when we moved from a house to a condo. My husband and I welcomed the downsizing of our home and the responsibilities that went with it.

Other times, both expanding and contracting brings grief and loss. It may require a move away from family and friends or the termination of independence. Whether the changes come swiftly or more slowly, I’ve discovered four major keys to navigate the stretch and shrink points of life successfully: flexibility, contentment, consistency, and peace.

Flexibility

Whenever I read in The Gospels about Jesus calling His disciples, I wonder in amazement. Would I have responded so quickly to His call?

” ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Matthew 4:19-20

Imagine! One moment you cast your nets — the same nets you cast yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The next to leave them all behind. Your father taught you the business and passed it hopefully to you. In fact, the business grew successfully over many generations.

Suddenly, in the wink of an eye, everything changed! They left their boats, family, security, familiarity, and comfort, stepping into nothing but uncertainly.

Would I have so quickly responded to the sudden expanding and contracting possibilities? Would you? Their friends did, too!

“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Matthew 4:21-22

Perhaps the attribute of flexibility qualified them for future success and service. Maybe the willingness to be flexible prepared them to flow through the pending seasons ahead. I wonder if the first test of being an unwavering follower of Christ just might include adaptability to change.

Though I often vocalize my discomfort with the stretching and shrinking as much as my creaking house, I recognize the necessity of remaining pliable through change.

Contentment

When I face contracting and expanding in an area of my life, Paul’s words encourage me.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (and) can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12-13

We, like Paul, must learn contentment. No one begins life perfectly content. We cry at the discomfort of empty bellies and wet diapers, demanding a remedy. We learn how to scream for our needs to be met now. But as we grow and mature, we learn contentment.

Through contentment, we remember we are part of a bigger picture — an eternal whole. Contentment recognizes the shifting context of all that is earthly. Whether life flows smoothly or bumps along, we realize the temporary nature of things around us.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6:6

Paul encourages Timothy to possess two vital attributes — godliness and contentment. This dynamic duo propels us forward so that whether we are expanding or contracting, we win.

Consistency

Certain areas of consistency help to smooth some of the more pain-filled changes and hurried transitions. These include daily rhythms of prayer and worship, Bible reading and meditation on Scripture. It also encompasses Christian community and fellowship.

Daniel demonstrates this so clearly. Jealous and overly zealous colleagues attempted to destroy Daniel. They persuaded the king to issue a decree demanded everyone in the kingdom worship only the king or face deadly consequences.

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room were the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.”
Daniel 6:10

“Just as he had done before.” Daniel refused to allow external circumstances to interrupt his daily routines. Even though life-threatening events swirled around him, he maintained his spiritual priorities.

During even difficult extremes of expanding and contracting, we are also wise to remember our “whole” being. God created us with a spirit, soul, and body. Consistently nurturing ourselves helps to level the impact of often extreme fluxes of change.

Remember to eat well, sleep well, and exercise well. (A life pattern I’m still developing!) Which leads me to the next point of peace and rest.

Peace

In our former home, I found my cheerful place of peace to be in front of the bowed picture window. From there I watched many sunrises. At the beginning of each, I sat, reading my Bible and praying. Hopefully, someone else now finds comfort sitting in a chair and resting peacefully in front of the large window.

In my new home, the windows all face west. Beautiful views of the sun cresting the horizon remain outside my range of vision. But thankfully, peace isn’t a place. Peace is a Person — Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Do you know what immediately happens when I hear the pops, creaks, and snaps of change around me? My heart instantly becomes troubled and my mind fills with fear.

These words of Jesus comfort me. No matter what kind of expanding or contracting occurs in my life, Jesus Himself gives His perfect peace. His peace bears no resemblance to the world’s version. His peace flows deep, runs wide, and dissipates all worrying, fussing, and fretting.

Maybe you feel a little like I did last night. External “noises” refuse to subside or allow you time to rest. Unwelcome changes press heavy, attempting to squeeze the breath from your lungs. In this moment, may I ask you to slow down — to stop and breathe in His peace. Jesus extends it to us by the bucketful.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

And when you exhale, whisper a small prayer, a weighty petition, or a genuine thanksgiving.

Not Alone

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of choosing most of the upheavals and downward swings awaiting us. But we can choose to remain flexible, to learn contentment, and developing consistency, while relying on God’s strength and wisdom to carry us through peacefully.

The first place, and perhaps only place, to look is heavenward. Nothing rattles or surprises God. With clear vision, He saw this day, anticipated all you need, and prepared you for it. He has no intentions of abandoning you now!

Be strong. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

So let the old house creak and pop. Don’t resist or hide from it. Together, may we rest and trust God who has us all under His gentle care.

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Winning and Losing — Gideon — A Great Warrior

A Great Warrior

When I look at Gideon, a great warrior in the Bible, I ask, “What constitutes great leadership? What propels a person beyond the normal? Why do some people fall from leadership, while others rise above?”

Did Gideon’s father and mother see greatness in their squirmy, newborn son when they chose his name. Gideon means great warrior, great destroyer, one who smites and cuts down, leaving only a stump. He entered the world while Deborah, another magnificent judge, led Israel to victory and renewed worship of God.

How quickly Israel forgot, abandoning their God for lesser things! So God, for a season, abandoned them to their enemies. Hordes of Midianites swarmed upon their land, completely decimating everything in their path.

“Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.”
Judges 6:2

LIzard in Cave

While hiding like lizards in the caves, they cried out to God for help. God responded, sending a prophet to confront their idolatry and wickedness.

Every time someone spoke his name, Gideon was reminded of the greatness encrypted on His life. However, the evidence of such greatness hid as illusively as the people within the mountain caves.

Gideon’s Call

God often speaks suddenly when we least expect it.

“When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.'”
Judges 6:12

“Warrior!?” I can almost imagine Gideon looking around, sure that someone else was hiding with him in the winepress.

Though, God spoke truth about his identity and purpose, Gideon hesitated and resisted. He even quarreled with the LORD. “Look! God isn’t with us! He has absolutely abandoned us!”

Gideon saw only depressing and oppressive circumstances. God looked and saw Gideon, a great warrior. Gideon preferred to settle — to seek whatever shelter, safety, or comfort he could, hoping someone else, anyone else, would correct the situation.

Iguana

The LORD is With You

God listened to Gideon’s complaint for a while.

“The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Judges 6:16

“You, Gideon, a mighty warrior, arise! Strike down all your enemies.”

We may try to debate, hesitate, and procrastinate when God presses us into the impossible. Yet God invites us to situations where only He can see us through.

“The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Judges 6:14

God doesn’t pump up Gideon’s ego or remind him of all the wonderful attributes he possesses. God points to Gideon’s inadequacy. The Hebrew word for “strength” used here has a double meaning. First, koah means power or strength, but it also refers a long, slender reptile considered unclean to Israel.

Lizard in Water

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29

What made Gideon a great warrior wasn’t his name, his character, or his stature. God made Gideon a great warrior. May we always remember that it is only through Him and by Him we accomplish anything, big or small.

“I will be with you” should be the only God response we need! Godly leaders know it takes God’s strength to overcome “lizard” tendencies. He brings worth and value to everything He does and everyone He calls. He is enough!

The LORD is Peace

When Gideon acknowledges the littleness of himself and the power of God’s Presence, he swings into action.

“So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace . . .”
Judges 6:24

Worship shifts us from apathy and self-protection to God direction. The only peace any of us experience comes through following God whole-heartedly. In following Him, we fight. Most of us won’t face the battle Gideon faced, but we all have the same enemy, satan, who seeks to obliterate us, our families, and our nations.

Sleeping Chamelion

Every step we walk with God into the battle, He fills and surrounds us with His peace. Peace holds the implication of the permanence of wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety, and prosperity. But in moving toward peace, we must deal with our unclean, “lizard” nature that operates contrary to God.

Cut it Down

Gideon’s name comes from the Hebrew verb “gada,” also meaning to hew down or cut off, mostly of religious regalia and holy trees. Strikingly, there are no nouns formed from this verb, suggesting that whatever was cut off, was even cut off from speech itself. Gideon, a great warrior, must first become a hacker who hews down familiar idols!

“That same night the LORD said to him . . . ‘Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height . . .'”
Judges 6:25-26

“Cut it down, Gideon! Destroy all foreign worship that you, and your own father, and your own community depended on. Then build Me an altar,” God commands.

Despite fearing the outcome, Gideon obeyed. During the night, Gideon stepped into the beginning of his call. That very night, courage pushed through, little strength proved enough. In dark obscurity, the evidence of his greatness shone.

The Battle

“Now all the Midianites, Amalakites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.”
Judges 6:33

The moment we choose to live for God, we can expect the enemy to push back and the battle to intensify. Godly leaders know when to fight. They refuse to back down.

Iguana - WIld

Gideon sounded the trumpet, calling his people to battle. God immediately thinned Gideon’s army of thousands to three hundred. He wanted everyone to know this was His victory, not man’s. What a victory it was! A hundred and twenty thousand enemy swordsmen fell that day. Only two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, with fifteen thousand remained.

Gideon kept up the pressure.

“Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them, routing their entire army.”
Judges 8:12

Finish Well

Gideon’s story didn’t exactly start well. It doesn’t end extremely well either. Gideon followed God after much deliberation and hesitation. He finished the same way.

God instructed Gideon. “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Gideon almost finishes the task. His army annihilated the joint forces of the entire eastern army except for the remaining two kings — Zebah and Zalmunna.

“Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, ‘Kill them!’ But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.”
Judges 8:20

Lizards

Gideon passed the sword to his young son, expecting someone else to finish what he had both the power and authority to fulfill. Gideon started his journey by prodding God to choose someone else, anyone else. Now, at the end, he pulls back again. How tragic.

“Zebah and Zalmunna said, ‘Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off the camels’ necks.”
Judges 8:21

Victorious Power

The word Gideon’s enemies used for “strength” refers to the LORD’s mighty hand that delivers His people.

“Now this I know that the LORD saves His anointed. He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.”
Psalm 20:6 NKJV

Even before Gideon completed his mission, he became distracted by the gold ornaments around the camel’s necks. After asking each of his fighting men for a gold earring from their spoils, he created a new idol, an un-god, to worship, repeating the sins of his fathers and perpetuating it to his sons.

“Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it here, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.”
Judges 8:27

Anger rises in me as I read these verses. Through God, Gideon broke the generational strongholds of idolatry his father committed. Through God, Gideon united Israel to fight and defeat enemy invaders. Gideon even destroyed the leaders who murdered his own brothers (Judges 8:19).

Warrior Lizard

Instead of returning to the altar he built and dedicated to the LORD, Gideon reached for the ornaments of gold. He turned back to his “lizard” ways, worshiping frozen gods made with human hands.

What if? What if Gideon would have walked with God in whole-hearted devotion rather than reluctant obedience. How different his story would end!

The End

We may draw many key principles from Gideon’s wins and losses.

God challenges me through Gideon’s failure in several ways:

  • Step into whatever open door God provides without excuses or hesitation.
  • Do not shun opportunities, ministries, or leadership roles that He opens.
  • Acknowledge and repent of my own “lizard” qualities of fear, insecurity, and misplaced dependence.
  • Keep my focus on Him, knowing He is the Source of all things good and great.
  • Never quit fighting this war between good and evil — whether before the battle, in the battle, or after the battle.
  • Pursue God with wholehearted devotion.
  • Do not depend on someone else to finish what God has called me start.
  • “Build a proper kind of altar to the LORD (my) God,” returning again, and again, to worship Him.

What about you? What challenges is God speaking to you through Gideon’s wins and losses?

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