Monthly Archives: July 2013

“The Disguise of the Divine”

It’s been a delightfully ordinary day so far. Walmart trip – check. Grocery store – been there. Bank – did that. Laundry – in progress (always in progress, right?). Unloading dishwashing – done.

Ordinarily I don’t find such delight in ordinary tasks, but I’ve been challenged to adopt a new perspective. I bet it happens to you too – when God makes the same messages to coincide, and you know it’s not a coincidence (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true!).

Yesterday, our pastor taught us about the steadfastness of Joseph as he waited (and waited some more) in prison (Genesis 40 – 41). Joseph could have become bitter about the injustice of his situation except that he trusted that a trustworthy God was directing his story. Could there be anything more mundane than an ancient prison cell day after day, year after year? And yet, as our pastor said, Joseph remained true to the hope that God could transform the mundane into the miraculous.

After church, I came home to catch up on my “Gideon” study. Here’s what I read:

Today’s tasks, even the most mundane of them – are often preparation for tomorrow’s calling.” (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon, pg. 47).

Gideon was threshing wheat when the angel of the Lord appeared. He wasn’t looking for a divine encounter. He wasn’t hold up a banner that read “Here I am – Send me!”  Gideon was just doing his thing. And as Priscilla Shirer writes, “The mundane, the routine, the commonplace – these are often the contexts in which God will reveal Himself to humanity” (pg. 42).

I think of Moses’ calling in Exodus 3:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush….”

And the calling of David in 1 Samuel 16:

“Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’

Samuel said, ‘Send for him….’

Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’”

Consider that Jesus called Peter, James and John while they were in their boats: “‘… from now on you will fish for people,’ He said.  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5: 10 – 11).

And the calling of Matthew seems about as unexceptional as it gets: “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.

Gideon was farming, Joseph was jailed, Moses and David were tending sheep, and the disciples were doing their daily tasks when the miraculous movement of God interrupted their monotony.

“Ordinary is often the disguise of the divine.” *

God calls you and me to be faithful with the assignments that He’s entrusted to us. For me, in this season of life, that requires ordinary things like laundry and grocery shopping.  For you, perhaps, the season of life that you’re in requires you to display perseverance with integrity in your workplace day after day.  And we’re waiting. Waiting for the ordinary to evolve into the extraordinary.  Waiting for a call to reach into the commonplace.

But  – here, HERE is the place where simple is sacred. As Priscilla Shirer says, the mere fact that Gideon had wheat to thresh (or Moses had a flock to shepherd, or Peter had a boat) is evidence of God’s blessing. What did Joseph have in jail? Not much, except a dream. And the gift of faith.  God’s presence gave him patience and perspective.

HERE is the season of life in which I must remember, and say “thank You,” and worship.

The load of laundry? That’s evidence that we have ample clothing.

The full dishwasher? That’s proof that a meal was prepared and enjoyed last night.

It’s ordinary. And it’s divine. I choose to see God here. Maybe one day He will call me to something more than life as I know it now. Or maybe that’s not His plan. He has a purpose, and it’s sufficient. It’s good. It’s worthy of my praise and my faithfulness.

I think of Brother Lawrence who became well known for his faithful attention to God’s presence in the midst of any activity. Brother Lawrence didn’t compartmentalize his awareness of God’s presence to just “spiritual” endeavors. He practiced God’s presence as he washed dishes. His highest calling was to worship. And that calling brought delight into his duties.

“We can do little things for God,” said Brother Lawrence.  “I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Today I’ll set my mind on the grace of grocery shopping, the delight of doing dishes, and the worship opportunities in the midst of work.  These tasks give me the opportunity for today’s praise and tomorrow’s preparation.

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4837.Henri_J_M_Nouwen

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

* Gideon, pg. 42

Conversations with Brother Lawrence is written by Larry Slater. http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Brother-Lawrence-Larry-Slater/dp/1467905062

A Lesson from Gideon

I’ve been anticipating Priscilla Shirer’s latest Bible study, Gideon, for several months now, and it’s finally here! With an amazing group of ladies at my church, I’m eager to be challenged, encouraged, and strengthened through this study.

Gideon has inspired me for a long time, ever since I heard an unforgettable sermon about this “mighty warrior” and his story recorded in the Old Testament book of Judges.  I was in a forgettable season of life when I first heard how God called Gideon out of obscurity and oppression. As he addressed a group of people desperate for a word of hope, the chaplain’s message brought Gideon’s story to life. My husband and I volunteered occasionally for the Sunday chapel services at a local rehabilitation hospital, and our “congregation” consisted of patients who were recovering from traumatic, life-changing injuries. Believe me, I counted my blessings as I witnessed their physical suffering, but somehow I felt a kinship with their doubt and discouragement. As I was recovering from the eating disorder, I was getting better on the outside, but on the inside remained a mess of regret and insecurity.

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Go in the strength that you have.

The angel of the Lord gave these affirmations to Gideon as he threshed wheat in a winepress (where no one threshes wheat, but it served as an adequate hideout from the Midianites).

God had chosen reluctant Gideon to lead Israel out from Midianite oppression. I can just imagine Gideon spinning around to see who the angel was speaking of — this “mighty warrior.” Can you sense his surprise when he realized….

Who, me?

God knows full well that we are not mighty. The psalmist put it this way: “He (God) remembers that we are dust” (103:14).  And yet, throughout stories of Scripture, we see that He purposely chooses to use the weak (see the calling of Moses in Exodus 4 and the testimony of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1).

Why me?

Moses had doubts (“Who I am that I should go…? Ex.3:11). Gideon had excuses (“My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Judges 6:15).

God had a purpose.

The Apostle Paul discovered the answer to why me?  “(God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

God can turn the weak one into a warrior. But He always starts with weakness. THEN, the power of Christ rests and redeems.

I trusted that God would bring redemption out of this seemingly useless time of my life. I sensed that He was calling me forward in my healing so that I could someday share it with others. When I was sitting in the rehabilitation gym, I was afraid.

How do I move forward?

Go in the strength that you have.

I don’t have any strength.

YOU don’t. But this is not about you.

While preparing him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God assured Moses that Pharaoh would only let them go “Because of My mighty hand…” (Ex. 6:1).

Moses was the leader with skin on, but God was the deliverer. Future generations would know and worship the mighty God.

Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand” Ex. 13:3

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Deuteronomy 5:15

“But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship.” 2 Kings 17:36

God calls us to commemorate, to remember, to worship. It’s all about Him.

Dr. Tony Evans aptly said, “God is the source. Everything else is a resource.”

God is our source, our strength. I learned that day, from that sermon, that it was time to step away from my hideout; time to take the focus off of me and focus instead on His might.

Maybe it’s your time too.

You may be weak, but in the power of His Spirit, you are a warrior. It’s a promise!

As Lysa TerKeurst recently posted, “We need to let our identity, not our insecurity, be the first thing to walk into any situation.”

Our identity is who we are in Christ. It’s our esteem of ourselves turned Godward.  On the other hand, our insecurity is our esteem of ourselves turned inward.

I often walk into situations where I feel pretty inadequate (facilitating a Bible study, volunteering at the hospital, facing the chores & errands of any given day, having awkward conversations with my tween-age daughter). An inward focus urges me to run in the opposite direction. And yet, a Godward focus compels me to move in the direction of dependence upon Him. I am chosen, accepted, beloved, and redeemed. God promises to fulfill His purposes for me. My weaknesses are reminders to look to “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” My cracked places indicate that there is light within.

Perhaps future generations will look upon my life and your life, weaknesses and all, and know that God is mighty.

He doesn’t ask us to have it all together. He simply asks us to “Go…” and His presence is enough.

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior ….. Go in the strength that you have.”

Resources:

Gideon’s story is found in Judges 6 – 8.

For more on Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study, http://www.lifeway.com/Article/bible-study-priscilla-shirer-gideon-weakness-strength

Follow #lessonsfromgideon on Twitter

I’ve found encouragement through the series “OUT of Insecurity” by Holley Gerth. Visit http://holleygerth.com/

Fantastic inspiration here too – http://lysaterkeurst.com/

What an amazing promise …. Christ in you, the hope of glory! (Read more in Colossians 1)