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Monday, June 23, 2014

Go In Strength

Self-doubts and self-confidence lead us to excuses of why we cannot do things.  Excuses like: "We can't do this because it is too hard" or "We can't do that because we're not qualified."  We put many of our self-doubts as the reason for our stopping and not doing anything.  But this underlying self-confidence issue is not new to humanity.

About 3000 years ago, the Israelites had been ignoring God, going their own way, doing their own thing, when the Lord raised up leaders to judge and rule and demonstrate obedience to God and His ways.  One such judge was Gideon.  But he was not what you may have expected.  He had every excuse in the book and lacked self-confidence.  Even after all-powerful God had singled Gideon out to be the one to lead Israel with the sobriquet, "mighty warrior," Gideon expressed major doubts about his abilities.  God lets Gideon know first off "The Lord is with you" in verse 12 of Judges 6.  When I hear that statement I get encouraged, but Gideon apparently did not.  Many times when we attempt new things we want someone with us.  Someone to encourage us, strengthen our resolve, help us make it happen, get through whatever it is we are facing.  Here, God Almighty gives Gideon these words of encouragement that He is with Gideon.  We, too, can have these Words encourage us.  When we are spending time with God, being intimate with His Word, Praying, allowing His Spirit to lead and guide us, we will hear from God and His promises: "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV) or "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD." (Psalm 31:24 NIV) or " strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10 NIV).  His Words, His "voice", His Scripture is there for us and is "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."  Let us pray and heed the lesson that when God tells us He is with us we will acknowledge His presence and His words of encouragement not doubt.

Similar to his forefather Moses who used the excuse that he was not good at public speaking, Gideon claims "my clan is the weakest" and "I am the least " in his excuse to Almighty God.  These statements demonstrate Gideon's lack of confidence and not humility.  How many times do we self-disqualify ourselves with these types of words?  Are we letting our past get in the way of our today?  Take heart brothers and sisters,  "forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13,14 NIV)  The truth is if we are trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and we acknowledge that He is God, we are now called His children!  We do not need excuses like Gideon or even Moses used.  

And finally God sent Gideon out with the affirmative, "Go in strength."  What words of encouragement.  What a way to uplift and motivate.  But God was not telling Gideon to go forward in his own strength but rather go in God's strength - wow.  Even better.  Isaiah 40:31 is a powerful promise, "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.."  

Hold on to Him, trust in Him.  Go in God's strength.  If we are afraid because we feel weak or not up to the task, we don't need to worry, God will give us strength - infinite strength from an all-powerful God.  "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." - Psalm 73:26 (ESV)  So whatever tasks you may have to face today, go in strength.  Whatever calling God has placed in our lives, go in strength.  I pray and trust that the God of all grace will be with you and that you will heed the words to Gideon, "Go in strength."


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

True Rest

Recently there was a bear in the news who managed to have a little downtime in a hammock.  While this bear became an overnight viral Internet sensation via social media, there is a great little lesson for us in this humorous story.  You can check out the story here:
The bear seemingly needed a break; a chance to get off his feet, a change of pace.  The image is hilarious and makes us laugh but in reality we can take a moment to think about where we need to take a rest.

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a question: Are we so filled up with doing that we lose sight of resting?  Our culture is a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" type that demands our workaholic lives be spent in search of more - whatever.  Whether it be money, upward mobility, stuff, sex, drugs, excess, etc.  We get caught up in what this world has to offer - and rest is not part of this culture.  Sure, we may take vacations, but we end up doing lots of things on these vacations.  Excursions, explorations, adventures are all words used on these "getaways."  And while there can be moments of rest they are punctuated by doing.  So what about rest?  True rest.  

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28 to "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  Start with that first phrase - come unto me.  True rest starts with surrender.  Are we listening to His call?  Are we willing to come before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and hear what he is telling us?  All we have to do is come to Him.  So how do we come to Him?  Are we taking time to be with Him in solitude, in the quiet?  Perhaps early in the morning, or in the stillness of the night before we fall asleep?  Are we coming to Him when we are happy, sad, joyful, or in desperation?  All He asks is that we come to Him.

We all labor - sometimes at things that seem like they could be relaxing or in the hopes that we will find that solace, that break, that getaway.  But we all labor.  And we let the labor build up again, we let ourselves "do" more.  We can all relate.  

I am sure you have seen folks who look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  The years of care are worn into their faces.  Or we know of a family whose child is facing a terminal diagnosis - that is heavy laden.  The loss of a job, family member, stress at work, at home.  All these can add up to a very heavy burden.  And we know this because we too have heavy burdens.  

But the payoff, Jesus gives rest.  But not as we know it.  Not just some quiet moment, but eternal peace - a peace that passes all understanding.  True rest, because the future, eternity, is taken care of.  You have seen those whose faces and lives beam with this calmness, the true rest of Jesus.  And yes they face the same life worries, cares, and like we all face.  Are we seeking His rest?  Seeking to show the world that Jesus gives true rest?  

So what a great reminder from this funny bear.  We all need rest - but the rest that Jesus gives.  Stop trying to rest and rest in Jesus.  Go to Him, run to Him, call to Him, come to Him.  Are you weary?   Are you heaven-burdened?  He will give you rest.  You may still be working, you may still have the same problems but His rest transcends, His rest is what we need and crave.  Enjoy His rest, seek His rest.  Rest.  True rest.