Tuesday, September 25, 2018
When I was little, I couldn’t wait to have the power to make my own decisions. I mean, Come On! I couldn’t eat what I wanted, make my own bedtime or cut my own hair, though that last one did happen anyway, with mixed reviews. My pre-school picture looks a little like Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber. Worse yet, my parents had control over me. I remember fantasizing about telling my folks what to do; ordering them to make popcorn and watch cartoons at every opportunity. Alas, that dream was never realized.
When I got older and moved out, the pretty shine on that dream started to tarnish. There was no power without a commensurate set of consequences. What’s more, I realized that power was just an illusion. I traded my parents’ rules for the judicial laws, the tax code and the rules on bouncing checks at the bank. But for that one hour, before real life hit me, the power felt great. Our own power can be such an illusion.
In Judges 7, God is trying to make it clear to Gideon that he doesn’t need to rely on the power of his army or his strategy or his positive thinking to win the battle. He needs to rely on the power of God alone, and to prove his point, he has him pare down his army from 32,000 soldiers to just 300. While it is true that God did not even need those 300 men, he chose to use them to prove his point, and to let Gideon participate in the miracle he was about to perform. When you read the chapter *SPOILER ALERT* God causes the enemy army to become confused and turn on itself, allowing Gideon to have the victory. He does the fighting for them.
In 2 Chronicles 20:15, the Bible says, “He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The battle is God’s. It’s not mine, though it certainly FEELS like mine. So, if the battle belongs to the Lord, why don’t I rely more on his power than my own?
Here are some reasons in the form of lies the enemy would have you believe about power: The circumstances are too great for God to move. God isn’t interested in this petty thing. If I let go of my power, all the plates I am spinning will fly out into space and also possibly put my eye out. I must hold tightly to any power I have because if I give it away, someone else will win and have power over me. God doesn’t love me enough to step in. God is mad at me.
If we think there is no enemy behind these thoughts, we have clearly missed a big part of the plot in the Bible. The enemy would love to have us trade in our rights as heirs with Christ through the power of the
Holy Spirit for a sense in which we can control with our own power. This is kind of like trading in a Ferrari for a unicycle. You might think you are peddling toward the battle, but you will grow tired long before you even get to it. Sometimes I have worried myself to exhaustion about a thing before the thing actually happens. And sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Nevertheless, I can become battle weary on my unicycle miles from any actual battle.
If I am honest, when I fail to rely on the power of God, it’s because I really don’t trust him. I don’t believe he will come through; at least not in the way I want him to. I’m not sure he will consult me about how this should be handled, and I don’t want to give up the power I have over the result. Correction: I don’t want to give up the PERCEIVED power I have over the result. How do I know I’m still holding on to my own power in the battle at hand? It keeps me up at night with worry. It has me intervening with a sense of anxiousness, trying to fix the problem so that I can finally rest. It finds me making plans and strategies and gathering a bigger army, just like Gideon.
But then the Lord reminds me it isn’t by big armies that this battle is won. Not better weapons, not worry, not more and more and more thought. It is by trusting that this is his battle. That he will win it in the best possible way, even if it doesn’t match my plan. He will fight for me.
And sometimes, just like the 300 men led by Gideon, God will let me participate in the battle. What does this look like? Sometimes God will heal a relationship by giving me the grace to forgive someone. Forgiveness tackles the big lie that says you will lose power to the other person if you forgive them, but the truth of the matter is that forgiveness is incredibly empowering and freeing. This dance that God and I do sometimes is the most sacred of dances. It becomes clear that I will never change circumstances or people with more words, more threats, more pleading or more frustration. But God will change the world with forgiveness and love. This is the power of the Gospel, friends. And it is the most powerful thing that can happen to a person.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
In our mission to be a safe church for seekers, we sometimes hear those attending say that they don't know who someone is. We want you to get to know the faces you see around AC3 . We are starting with the Triad, and last time we introduced you to Dan Hazen. Next up, we have Nate Crain, one of our AC3 Board Members.
|Nate and his wife, Amanda|
- How I clear my mind after a challenging day:
Spending time with my best friend, my wife.
- Change I’d like to see among Christians today:
- How I found my way to AC3:
My Dad knew someone at AC3 through a job and we were looking for a new church the summer after I graduated high school in 1998.
- Moment I saw significant change in my servant life:
2009 when my first son Jonah was on the way.
- Advice I’d give to Younger Me:
It’s not all about you.
- 3 disciplines/habits that keep me connected to community:
Being involved in a marriage group and a men’s group.
- Gifting I most admire:
Thinking before speaking.
- Favorite serving experience:
Filming video blogs with Rick and Dan.
- What book left a lasting impression on you?
Radical and Crazy Love.
- 3 disciplines/habits that keep me connected to God:
My morning chair time with God.
- What is your favorite sport to watch? Team to follow?
- If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What is your idea of a dream vacation?
Amanda and I, no kids and location doesn’t matter.
- Beach or Mountains? Why?
Beach. Less bugs.
- Favorite season? Why?
Summer. Better golfing conditions.
- What are your top 3 hobbies?
Golf, Golf, and Golf.
- Morning person or night owl?
If I have to choose....morning.
- You have a day with NOTHING planned and no responsibilities!
What do you do? Golf.
- What is the last thing you binge-watched?
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Have you ever wanted to do something or known you needed to do something; however never moved forward to get it done? It probably was because you, like the rest of us, waited for a sign. My biggest hold-up in moving forward has always been not seeing the sign or signs signaling the time was right. In this place of waiting, I get comfortable and even complacent. I begin to not look for the signs, or worse, ignore them. Other times I see the signs that say “Go!” I acknowledge, then turn and ask God for more signs.
When Gideon was face to face talking to the angel of God, he witnessed the offering he made burn up with a touch of the angel’s staff (Judges 6:20-21). After a brief panic over his own mortality, he asked for more signs to be certain it was really God. God commanded him to tear down his father’s Asherah pole and make it into an altar. As Gideon goes forward, God protects him and his servants while they carry out the command (Judges 6:25-27).
It is after this exchange that God sets Gideon on the path to free the Israelites from Midianites and Assyrians who have been attacking them and leaving them with no means to live by. Once again, however, Gideon needs a sign; in fact, he asks for more than one. Gideon proposes, “…I will place wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and the ground is dry, then I will know you will save Israel by my hand…” Sure enough, there was a bowl full of water and yet the ground was dry (Judges 6:36-38). Still not convinced (or maybe stalling in his complacency) he asks for another sign: “Please allow me one more test with the fleece...” Sound a bit familiar?
Ok, so we don’t have Asherah poles, but we have witnessed times in our lives and the lives of others when God has guided and protected when His prompt was followed. Yet, when the next task comes around and God prompts us toward; what do we do? We wait for a sign. Rarely does God ask us to do anything as drastic as taking on a whole army with only 300 untrained soldiers, yet we seek more signs. The Bible has many examples of his people asking for signs beyond Gideon; Moses did even as he stood talking to the burning bush (Acts 7:30) and Rahab asks the spies for a sign (Joshua 2:12). Asking and looking for signs is not the problem per say, the challenge is knowing when God is waiting for us to …signal first…by saying “Yes God, I’m ready”.
Written by Christian Love
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Constructive Connections is a fiction series. They are beginning tales of how each person is crafted by God to fulfill a purpose, to enhance the narrative of life. By contributing unique talents to serve one another, a tower God calls us to construct begins to form for His joy.
3:27. Eyes pop open, dark room surveyed, heavy breathing sounds from the foot of the bed, red lines spell out “03:27 am”; the marker of morning. I feel my heart: Steady beat. Inventory the body: All seems well. Roll over and check the phone: Dark screen.
“Stupid 3:27,” I mumble and roll back over.
Every morning without fail, I wake up at 3:27 am. There has got to be some reason for the wakeup, I just can’t figure out what it is. Heater kicking on? No. Loud early rising neighbor? No. There have been cold times I’ve spent a minute wrestling the blanket thieving Golden Retriever. After I give up…3:28 am. I even remember waking up at 3:27 in Africa on the mission trip with our church. Continents away, 3:27 am happens.
Mowing the lawn. That is where my head is. Not my lawn…Jacob Meyer’s lawn. Informed by our church prayer chain, I found out he’s had another surgery. It went as planned, but he’s going to have a long recovery. I don’t know him real well, but I know how long my lawn is growing and I’m sure Jacob is not getting out to mow his own lawn with a push mower for a while. I saw a pic of him and his chocolate Lab on social media. He hunts ducks, I think. Noticed the camo motorboat and a large red Igloo taking up a whole seat. Must have to spend quite a long day hunting to need that much room for food. Probably no hunting for him for the next few months.
Poop. How is he going to scoop the poop from his lawn? It seems like it’s an easy enough task, but big dogs, big…you get the picture. Bending, scooping, tossing; it all takes core muscles. From what I understand, all those have been compromised by the surgery he had.
I remember when my dad had a similar operation. I’ve been living with him my whole life and I’ve come to expect to do the chores. But when he was fresh from the hospital, he needed assistance getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, and tons of other stuff.
Thinking about Stanley, the guy I sat and shared a chimichanga with yesterday. His cardboard stated, “Will work hard for food! Give Me A Chance!” Could he help Jacob? I brought many a chimichanga to share with the guys down at the river camp on my lunch breaks and thought about paying one of them to do the lawn for Jacob. They might not be in the place to help. I know that is an assumption. Sure, I’m full of judgment and assumptions, but I also think about logistics. How would they get to the house? Do they know how to pump the gas tank without flooding it? Would Jacob be ok with strangers on his property?
I can’t help thinking, “Where is our church?” Jacob serves in the food bank and is a stage actor for service plays. Our church members are good at praying. We are good at offering pity and “Did you hear what happened to such and such?” in between doughnut holes and coffee. But Jacob needs help with living tasks of the everyday. Who cooks or shops for him while he’s recovering? According to his social media feed, his kids are halfway across the country. And I know that he has been divorced for several years. How does he get good food that doesn’t come from the frozen food aisle? Who can get better eating frozen dinners?
My dad is a disabled vet. He came back from the war with PTSD and he could no longer serve because of injuries. Mom left shortly after he came home. Being 15 and in charge of my dad was an intense crash course in growing up fast. What I saw in the days that followed his return home was lack of help from his friends, lack of help from family. I didn’t know how or who to ask for help. My dad couldn’t ask for help. I’m 28 and still taking care of Dad. He has good days and he has not so good days. But because we live together, we support each other.
But Jacob. I wonder how he asks for help? Does he ask for help?
Stanley, with his thin stubbled face and kind eyes, said something that stuck: “We all need help sometimes. Jesus only provides so much. He came to earth to teach his kids how to notice and investigate what neighbors need…and to pick up the slack!”
Investigate. I think I’ll stop by Jacob’s house after work and bring him a chimichanga and his dog a ham bone to gnaw on. Maybe I’ll get a list of things he needs done around the house. I’ll ask around church and figure out how we can work together to “pick up the slack” and be better neighbors.
But I think I’ll wait till the sun comes up and the real alarm goes off at a decent hour.
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
Written by-Jen Love
Monday, September 10, 2018
When I consider the ways in which God is growing me I am always brought to tears. Not just itty bitty glistening tears that fall softly around the wrinkles of my eyes. No, I am talking about floodgate tears, the ones in which I am humbled by the mercy and grace bestowed upon me. Like Gideon, I have found myself hiding in a cave not wanting to deal with events, troubles or my own version of Midianites. And like Gideon, I have called out to God to “fix” things. And of course, my response mirrors that of Gideon “not me, I am not worthy, I am a no one from a no one family from a no one clan, you have the wrong guy.” (Judges 6:15 paraphrase) And there my friends is the lie that I keep telling myself: not me- there is someone better. God wouldn’t use me in powerful ways. Like Gideon, I am hesitant to believe that God can use me. Yet, Yahweh gently stirs in my soul and says “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:16) There is a call to action, a call to answer and even through my tearstained eyes I see a call to be brave.
However, the next thing in Gideon’s story is not what I expect. There is simply an exchange in which Gideon needs clarification that he is indeed speaking with the Angel of the Lord. This dialogue only lasts as long as it takes for Gideon to prepare an offering. When he is satisfied that he is indeed speaking with the Angel of the Lord, Gideon accepts his calling. Call it dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s but Gideon is getting his house in order. How many times have I allowed my sarcastic mouth, fiery temper and short fuse to rush in instead of waiting on the Lord? The answer, too many to count! There is something about Gideon we can misunderstand here at this juncture- he may appear reluctant, Yet, when we truly look at his character we may find that he is thoughtful, diligent and brave.
In contrast to Gideon, I tend to be headstrong, temperamental and short-sighted. I am a mess held together by scotch tape and the Holy Spirit. I need to wrap caution tape around myself because of the disaster that I am. Please don’t misunderstand me, I deeply believe God can do a good work in me I just forget from time to time. I get so caught up in my shortcomings that I fail to recall that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13) And this is where I find myself similar to Gideon. There is a boldness that we see in Gideon. Gideon and 10 of his servants tear down the altar to Baal despite being built by his own father. Gideon destroys the altar, cuts down the Asherah Pole and builds a proper altar just as the Lord commanded. (Judges 6:25) Gideon does this work during the night, he is afraid. He is concerned with the consequences but not consumed by them. He is afraid yet he completes the task set before him by the Lord. He is brave.
The definition of the word brave is this: ready to face and endure danger or pain: showing courage. Nowhere in the definition does it say brave: the absence of fear. You cannot be brave if there is nothing to be scared of. There needs to be a catalyst for our bravery. An opportunity to glorify God in what we have taken a risk for. An opportunity to step out of the cave and face the situation at hand. Gideon did just that, he was ready when the people discovered his handiwork the next morning. God sets before us missions, tasks and opportunities to use our gifts. He takes us as we are and transforms us when we are obedient to the call. God finds us in our doubt, our reluctance, our apathy and transforms us. He does that for me. I offered my headstrong nature and God gave me humility. I repented (and continue to) my temper God gifted me with a discernment I have never known before. Like Gideon, I know God is mighty. I know that it does not matter the backstory of my birth or if I am the least in my family. What matters is who am I to God and the purposes I can serve when I am obedient to His calling on my simple life. My simple life that mirrors an innate boldness.
Answering God’s call to live an audacious life has transformed me into a person who forgives deep hurts and grudges. I trust God with my marriage, with my children, and with my health. I surrender my life to God’s will and then I bravely confess my inability to stay in that posture of surrender. I am a work in progress. My story is still being written. I am still a mess with my caution tape and tears. I keep a box of kleenex by my bedside because some days the act of getting out of bed is an act of bravery. And that’s what brave people do, we get out of bed.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Have you ever been afraid? I don’t mean the jump back scream because something jumped out at you afraid. I mean the hunker down, incapable of taking any action kind of afraid. This fear can come from a whole host of sources: Changing jobs or positions, moving, looking at the piling up bills, or facing conflict. While there are times of danger where fear is a natural and proper response, more common is the fear that is simply false and debilitating.
Recently I came across a piece of driftwood at a local beach that served as an image for me of what happens when this false “fear” (False Evidence Appearing Real) is allowed to go unchecked. In the roots of the downed tree was an affixed rock about the size of a fist. When I say affixed, I mean so stuck that after years of drifting in water and baking on the beach it was still unmovable. This is what these false fears can do to us. We cling so firm to our safety that we too become stuck and immovable. While in these times of fear we can make the best excuses, we deny that we are stuck, and even worse, look to blame others or God.
Gideon was stuck in fear. He was so afraid of the Midianite raiders that he was threshing wheat in a winepress. The task of threshing wheat is meant to be done in the wind where the chaff is separated and blown away, so we see Gideon was in hiding. He wasn’t the only one; his whole people, the Israelites, were stuck. Stuck in their fear of the invaders was only a superficial fear. It is not that the invaders were not a real threat, but they were not truly the source. The real source was that God had given the Israelites what they wanted; to be left alone.
While working in the winepress, “The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior’” (Judges 6:12 NIV). Gideon does exactly what we usually do; he challenges the angel. “If the Lord is with us, why has this happened to us? Where are all his wonders…” (Judges 6:13) and so on. Gideon, like us, wants to put the blame on anyone other than himself, even God if he must. He even goes so far to accuse God of “abandoning” them, as if to say, ‘why don’t you do something Lord?’ Gideon was stuck, he did not like it, but he felt safe and was more willing to defend the perceived safety than to deal with the real issue.
That is when God turns the mirror on Gideon, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel…. Am I not sending you” (Judges 6:14). This is not enough for Gideon though, and first makes excuses “Who am I Lord?” and “My clan is too small and weak” (Paraphrase Judges 6:15). Even when God promises: “I will be with you,” Gideon still wants more proof, testing God time and time again. “Will you stay here while I go get a food offering?” (Judges 6:17-18), then again later testing the Lord with fleece and dew; not once but twice (Judges 6:36-39), as if to say, “prove it”.
How many times do we do what Gideon does? We blame other people, outside circumstances, and even God for the messes we have gotten ourselves into. We become so embedded in our perceived safe place, we refuse to deal with the thing we fear so we can have real peace and safety. Is there any excuse we can think up that God cannot handle? There is nothing we have done, nothing we can do, no place we can go, that God cannot save us from ourselves or the things we fear. “If God is for us what can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31).
In close, I ask again what is it you are fearing so much that you are, like the rock in the tree roots, stuck in a bad place that is just rotting away. What excuses are keeping you there? Who are you blaming? Recognize now that it is our job to get up and get going and trust that God is with us and will strengthen us. Now, I have a pile of bills to face and some career choices to make, but with God's help I know I will be strong enough.